A Garden Reunion (Song 6:1-7:13)
In chapters 6-7, the woman finds her lover again in an idyllic garden setting. The poem shifts to the man’s perspective as he heaps praise upon his beloved and revels in her physical beauty. These chapters are perhaps the most sexually explicit of all; the lovers are enraptured with one another and more eager than ever to consummate their love.
These poems are loaded with imagery and symbolism as the man attempts to capture the immeasurable beauty of his beloved. His comparisons are obviously contemporary to ancient Israelite culture (please don’t tell your wife she looks like a pomegranate), yet the poetry is still able to capture the reader’s senses. It evokes sight, touch, taste, and smell as the man grapples for any metaphor to describe how he feels.
In 7:10, the woman remarks, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.”
An apt summary, if a bit understated.
Verse 7:10 is notable because it contains a word that exists only twice elsewhere in the Bible – all the way back in Genesis 3 and 4:
Desire. (תְּשׁוּקָה tesuqa)
Contrary to its use in Song of Songs, where the word clearly refers to a sexual desire, tesuqa does not have a positive connotation when used in Genesis:
- Your desire (tesuqa) shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you (Genesis 3:16, ESV).
- If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire (tesuqa) is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7, ESV).
In Genesis, tesuqa is a disordered, corrupt desire. It is the husband’s and wife’s struggle for power and authority in their relationship; it is Cain’s desire to give into the temptation that waits for him like an intruder knocking at the door.
In the Song of Songs, tesuqa is redeemed. The lovers’ desire is self-giving, innocent, and lovely. There are no sinful temptations, no ulterior motives, no clamor for authority. This is the pure, holy desire that God created for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Perhaps the lovers in the Song of Songs represent a restoration of that which was lost: holy desire. Maybe God’s intention is for husbands and wives to recapture that same holy, self-giving, innocent, and lovely desire, and thus restore for themselves a little bit of Eden.