Under The Huppah
We’ve been exploring the ideas and concept of sex as it is portrayed in the Bible, and we’ve been looking at how God created marriage and relationships to function. Today we’re going to be in the Song of Solomon ch.4. *Warning* It might get a little steamy in here once we start diving in to chapter 4. If you’ve not yet read the Song of Solomon then you are missing out! It is fantastically erotic, while still maintaining and demonstrating the biblical standards of relationships and pre-marital sex.
If you read from chapter 1 you see a relationship between the woman and Solomon blossom. You see them court each other, and you see as their passion for each other builds and builds. Solomon and this woman are not shy about their feelings for each other they are passionately in love with each other. This isn’t a relationship of convenience or out of an arrangement made by their parents, these two are genuinely and deeply in love with each other and their passion is, as is natural for a couple in love, building up as sexual passion. If you read chapters 2-3 you'll see where they’re whispering sweet nothings to each other.
These two want to have sex, and they’re not shy about their sexual desires, they can barely restrain themselves but still they don’t quite yet crossed that line. Twice, once in ch.2 and once in ch.3 the woman says, “Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” Solomon and his love want to have sex, but the woman calls to her friends, the daughters of Jerusalem, to help her remain faithful to God’s intention for sex in the context of marriage. She says “do not awaken love until it so desires.”
She doesn’t mean, don’t have sex until you feel like it, she is saying, don’t have sex until love has made it permissible. What is obvious to the Hebrew reader, that may not be obvious to us today, is that love only makes sex permissible in the unity of marriage. In fact she asks them to swear by the gazelles and the does of the fields. Why those animals? Well it’s because gazelles and does are quick to run from danger as soon as it approaches. She is saying, do not let temptation pounce on you. As soon as the temptation to engage in sex before marriage appears, do as the gazelles and does and run away quickly.
God Blesses the Bedroom
After fighting their natural temptations to be sexually intimate with each other, the two are finally married at the end of chapter 3, and what proceeds in chapter 4 is the culmination of all their sexual desires coming to fruition the night following their wedding.
a. Song of Solomon chapter 4
1 How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from the hills of Gilead. 2 Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn, coming up from the washing. Each has its twin; not one of them is alone. 3 Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon; your mouth is lovely. Your temples behind your veil are like the halves of a pomegranate. 4 Your neck is like the tower of David, built with courses of stone; on it hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors. 5 Your breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies. 6 Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, I will go to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of incense. 7 You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you. 8 Come with me from Lebanon, my bride, come with me from Lebanon. Descend from the crest of Amana, from the top of Senir, the summit of Hermon, from the lions’ dens and the mountain haunts of leopards. 9 You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. 10 How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much more pleasing is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume more than any spice! 11 Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride; milk and honey are under your tongue. The fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon. 12 You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain. 13 Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates with choice fruits, with henna and nard, 14 nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with every kind of incense tree, with myrrh and aloes and all the finest spices. 15 You are a garden fountain, a well of flowing water streaming down from Lebanon. She 16 Awake, north wind, and come, south wind! Blow on my garden, that its fragrance may spread everywhere. Let my beloved come into his garden and taste its choice fruits.
Phew! 50 Shades of Grey has nothing on the Song of Solomon. The Song of Solomon is 50 Shades of Colour; sexual intimacy and passion fully embraced in the way God had intended it to be experienced, between a married couple. The Bible makes it clear that sexual intimacy is meant to be experienced in its appropriate context. The Bible has dedicated an entire book on this topic alone!
Solomon and his wife now follow the age-old tradition of consummating their marriage the night of their wedding day. They’ve just been married and committed their vows to each other, and now they are in the bed chambers about to become sexually intimate for the first time. Ancient Israelites had quite a few different wedding traditions than what we have now, but one tradition that is of particular importance in our series on sex is that of the “Huppah”.
In the Jewish tradition it was common for a couple to be married under a “Huppah.” This was usually a cloth or a sheet, or sometimes a tallit (the blue and white poncho kind of thing that Jewish men wore) tied to four posts. The ceremony for the couple, took place under this Huppah. The Huppah represented a few different things to the Jews, but I’ll only mention two.
One: The Huppah represented the tabernacle in the desert. This tabernacle was the house of God, that housed the shekinah glory, the glory of God in physical manifestation. What this symbolized was that God’s glory would be present in the marriage and unity of these two individuals. That their marriage would house the glory of God
Two: The Huppah represented the cloud of covering. In the Exodus story, God descends to Mt.Sinai to present Israel with the Ten Commandments; a covenant for salvation. When God made the covenant with Israel His presence descended like a cloud that covered the whole Mountain. This was a symbol of God presiding over another covenant that the two individuals were making. These two people were making a covenant with each other to honour their marriage but they were also, together, making a covenant with God to protect and respect the sanctity of marriage and sexual intimacy, God’s gift to humanity.
When the wedding ceremony was over it was tradition for the Huppah to be moved from the ceremony site to the bedroom. It was then placed over the couple’s bed, and the crowd of family and friends would wait outside of the couple’s home until they had consummated their marriage; until the two ratified the marriage covenant through sex. Once it was consummated there would then be another celebration to celebrate the completion of their marriage covenant.
In the Jewish tradition, God’s glory and blessing was not just present over the ceremony, it was also present in the bedroom. I’m not sure if very many of us has ever thought about it in these exact words, but sexual intimacy between a married couple glorifies God! Marriage in the sight of God was and continues to be a covenant. A covenant of commitment, a swearing to be committed to each other for eternity in a godly relationship.
If you study covenants in the ancient context you’ll see that covenants consisted of two parties, making promises in the witness of someone greater, and those promises were then sealed through an action. The couple are the two parties, making the covenant in the witness of God, who then seal the covenant through sexual intercourse. Sex is not an individual act to be taken out of its context, sex is the act that seals the covenant of marriage.Every time you have sex with your spouse you are symbolically recommitting the covenant you made to each other before God.
This is why sex is so sacred and so important. It’s something we should not be participating in before the covenant promises are made before God but it’s also something that we need to include in our marital relationship because it is the renewal of that covenant. God Blesses the Bedroom.
Sex is Romantic
When we understand the spiritual nature of sex, that sex is not meant to be a simple act of the gratification of lust, or the act of producing babies, but that sex is meant to be the act that ratifies and solidifies the covenant of marriage then can we begin to appreciate and celebrate the physical nature of sex. To fully unlock the extent of enjoyment God created the sexual experience to be we need to understand both the physical and the spiritual nature of sex. Matt Chandler writes in his book “The Minling of Souls”,
“When you're making love to a soul and not a physical body, there's this unbelievably, powerful, fulfilling, beautiful thing that occurs."
Yes, both Solomon and his wife were filled with sexual passion for each other, and now that they were married they were free to unleash their sexual passion, but Solomon understands that sex is meant to be Romantic. Solomon is finally going to be able to express the sexual urges he’s been holding back since they began their courtship, but he doesn’t go straight into it. “Finally together, alone, on the precipice of long forbidden intimacy, he looked deep into her eyes—into her soul really—and said, “You are beautiful” (Matt Chandler, The Mingling of Souls).
1. Listen to what he says.
1 How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from the hills of Gilead. 2 Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn, coming up from the washing. Each has its twin; not one of them is alone. 3 Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon; your mouth is lovely. Your temples behind your veil are like the halves of a pomegranate. 4 Your neck is like the tower of David, built with courses of stone; on it hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors. 5 Your breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies.
Somewhere down in history Solomon’s poetic descriptions seem to get lost in translation but rest assured he was certainly romantic! Now guys, while I strongly recommend each of us to be followers of God’s word, telling your significant other her hair looks like goats, and her neck looks like a tall tower might not be in your best interest. But look at how Solomon took the time to be romantic. Like I said, the imagery may not translate well to us now, but what we can see clearly is a progression of Solomon’s descriptions. He begins with the head and works his way down, slowly. They are finally alone, and Solomon takes the time to tell her she’s beautiful, and not just tell her, but describe to here exactly in what ways she is beautiful.
They’ve both saved themselves for each other, they haven’t had sex yet as to not awaken love before it was time, and now that they are married they can fill unleash the floodgates of their passion that have been bubbling over. Yet before Solomon jumps in to have sex he pauses. “They weren’t even undressed yet when Solomon remarked on her captivating presence. He wasn’t quick or rough. He hadn’t even touched her yet. He spent the first moments where intimacy began to build by saying ‘your soul is beautiful’” (Matt Chandler, The Mingling of Souls).
The Romance doesn’t stop when the your vows are over. Sex is romantic in the appreciation of each other, the assurance of love for each other, and the dismantling of insecurities through the vulnerability of true nakedness that is sexual intercourse. The intimacy of nakedness isn’t wearing no clothes, it’s whole beings present before each other; thoughts, dreams, hopes, fears, soul, mind, and body. Sex is Romantic because like when verse 7 says, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you,” it ignores all flaws and imperfections, is aroused by raw physical body, and appreciates the beauty of the soul behind the body.
Sex is Reciprocal
Verse 6 says, “Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, I will go to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of incense.” Solomon says, I am going to love on you all night long. Ideally, the sex is so loving that it builds itself up, fuels itself, and keeps stoking the passion as it proceeds. I want this next thing to be clear. It may sound awkward but I’m going to say it anyways. Here it goes. Ladies, you are allowed to enjoy sex. Of course, I’m talking about enjoying sex in the context of marriage, but the statement is true nonetheless. Sex is Reciprocal and women, you are allowed to enjoy sex too.
Sometimes because of the way we have treated sex, and because of the way the world has approached sex, especially with pornography, it has made it seem like sex was a construct for male satisfaction. But sex wasn’t created for men, it was created for both men and women. This is what Solomon’s wife says in verse 16,
“16 Awake, north wind, and come, south wind! Blow on my garden, that its fragrance may spread everywhere. Let my beloved come into his garden and taste its choice fruits.”
Solomon said, I plan to love you until day breaks, and she responds with, “awake north wind, and come, south wind!” In Jewish literature north wind represents strength, and vitality. What she’s saying is, I hope this isn’t going to be a one and done kind of situation. I hope you can deliver on your promise to me love me until day break. The opposite is true for the South Wind. It represents gentleness. She says, continue to love me gently and passionately. Matt Chandler writes
“She wanted it to last because she was enjoying it too; drunk on passion right alongside him; enraptured, aroused, and reciprocating his love. Sometimes women can have intimacy issues because they know their husbands’ desire for sex, but somehow they’ve come to see sex as dirty or forbidden. Or maybe they’ve come to think that it is sinful for a woman to enjoy sex or that it makes her unholy or unfeminine or immodest. When a husband and wife really connect sexually, the passion can be overwhelming. Sex may not happen the same way every time, but when you’re both totally in sync, firing on all cylinders, and the sexual encounter is taking place after an obvious connection that is emotional and spiritual, it is entirely different from simply ‘having sex.’ Obviously there are ways that lust and unrestrained appetites can masquerade as passion. We need to make and effort not to confuse passion with quickness or forcefulness. A married couple may progress into a degree of vigorousness in sex that they mutually agree is appropriate, of course, but the romance and the tenderness must remain.”
Sex is Reciprocal and it is in no way dirty, or unholy for a woman to enjoy the gift of sex that God has given. In fact, Shuanit Feldhahn in her book “For Women Only”revealed the findings of a professional study done on men and sexual intimacy. This study found that 97% of men said “getting enough sex" wasn’t, by itself, enough—they wanted to feel wanted. It also, found that even if they were getting all the sex they wanted, 3 out of 4 men would still feel empty if their wife wasn’t both engaged and satisfied. What we read in this chapter of Song of Solomon isn’t just the passion of newlyweds who’ve waited to have sex until they were married, it’s also the careful and intentional effort to ensure that sexual intimacy isn’t a one-sided experience.
Sex is Holy
One way that sex shows us the gospel is the unselfish giving of oneself to another. The selflessness of mutual satisfaction to make sure that sexual intimacy is as God intended romantic, reciprocal, and fulfilling for both men and women. And because sex points us to the gospel, we can also learn that sex is holy.
12 You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain. 13 Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates with choice fruits, with henna and nard, 14 nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with every kind of incense tree, with myrrh and aloes and all the finest spices. 15 You are a garden fountain, a well of flowing water streaming down from Lebanon.
What we know about Solomon is that he was an incredible gardener. One of the wonders of the ancient worlds was Solomon’s hanging gardens. He planted gardens all over Jerusalem, and in fact he even planted forests! He knew his way around plants. What he does in the passage above is list the rarest most expensive and most sought after plants, flowers and spices. By comparing his bride to those things he is saying, “your body is an impossible garden, the dream garden, the stuff of mythology.” Because you can’t grow cinnamon in the same place you grow pomegranates. "As he passionately drank in her body, and as their souls became mingled together in the purest of marital sex, he proclaims in these verses, 'your body is the most perfect place, and it’s being discovered for the first time'" (Matt Chandler, The Mingling of Souls).
Her body was “a garden locked up, a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.” Something that was not explored before their marriage. Set apart for him. Holy in the bible is defined as something that is set apart for a special use. Sex is Holy because it isn’t meant for everyone. Sex is meant for our spouse and our spouse alone. It is meant to remind us of the God who gave it to us, who takes joy in union with his people.
We don't need to try and over-spiritualize sex to see it as holy; we just need to approach it the way the Bible ordained it and be grateful for sex. Seeing sex as holy will help us love our spouses more greatly. Gary Thomas in his book “Sacred Marriage” said,
“Sex is about physical touch, to be sure, but it is about far more than physical touch. It is about what is going on inside us. Developing a fulfilling sex life means I concern myself more with bringing generosity and service to bed than with bringing washboard abs. It means I see my wife as a holy temple of God, not just as a tantalizing human body. It even means that sex becomes a form of physical prayer—a picture of heavenly intimacy.”
We shouldn’t be afraid to have open conversations about sex because God Blesses the Bedroom. God presides over the covenant of marriage, every part of it. He blesses the exchange of covenant promises, the wedding vows, and He blesses the act of sealing the covenant, the marital sexual intimacy. Sex isn’t a standalone act that is to be removed from the marriage equation; it is the sacred act within a covenant of unity.
Because God blesses the bedroom we can begin to understand and celebrate the physical act of sex understanding that Sex is Romantic. Romance isn’t an means to an end. Romance doesn’t end at the exchange of vows. Romance continues throughout the marriage experience, appreciating and loving each other in nakedness. Both literal nakedness, and the nakedness of the soul, where we are exposing the vulnerability of who we are, mind and soul. Sex is romantic in the appreciation of each other, the assurance of love for each other, and the dismantling of insecurities through the vulnerability of true nakedness that is sexual intercourse.
Sex is Reciprocal. Sex isn’t an experience meant only for male gratification, God created sex to be pleasurable for both men and women. One way that sex shows us the gospel is the unselfish giving of oneself to another. The selflessness of mutual satisfaction to make sure that sexual intimacy is as God intended romantic, reciprocal, and fulfilling for both men and women.
Sex is Holy, set apart for a special use. It isn’t simply the gratification of lust, or the necessary process for natural reproduction. Sexual intimacy in marital union is two people demonstrating to each other in flesh and blood what God is like. Sex is the Holy act of ratifying that marital covenant. Sex is Sacred, Sex is Holy, Sex is about the Gospel.
God help me to view sex the way you view it, as a gift of unity to be shared only in the covenant of marriage. As a single person help me respect the gift of your covenant and not awaken love until it is time. As a married person help me to view sex as romantic, reciprocal, and holy. Help us to treat our partners with love and devotion and to approach sex in the holy way it was meant to be approached. We thank you for the gift of marriage, and the gift of marital unity through sex and intimacy. AMEN