Time for another “X-rated” Bible study.
Today’s passage comes from Song of Solomon 1:3:
Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth
Many modern translations suggest the “good ointments” referred to in this opening passage are Solomon’s perfumes. If that were the case, the application would be something like, “OK. So I guess I should wear cologne?”
But a closer look at the text reveals a far more erotic meaning.
The Hebrew word translated into “ointments” is shemen (or semen) A quick look at a Hebrew Lexicon reveals that the word primarily means “fat” or “oil” (as in olive oil). It is often metaphorically used to mean fruitfulness.
And the Old Testament usage of the word is never used to mean “perfume.” It is nearly always used to refer to the oil that is poured out on a sacrificial offering or oil that is used for anointing.
Hmm… So with that definition in mind, can you think of an “oil” that would pour forth from a man? One that would symbolize fruitfulness?
And can you think of something you would pour that oil onto? Something that was presented as an offering? Like… I don’t know… a wife offering her body in submission to her husband?
No doubt, the Hebrews would be familiar these connotations of anointing and sacrificial fragrance. But here Solomon is using these words in a sexual context. The suggestion is that her lover is anointing her with his good “oils.”
But here’s where things get interesting:
There’s a play on words that is masked in the English. The Hebrew (transliterated) reads:
lereah semaneka towbim semen turaq semeka al ken alamowt ahebuka
One doesn’t need to be a native Hebrew speaker to see the obvious wordplay between semaneka (oil), semen (oil), and semeka (name).
In Hebrew, someone’s name always meant more than just a label. It meant someone’s identity and reputation.
So the point of this passage is to associate the man’s semen with his semeka.
Then comes the twist. I believe this is the entire point of the passage:
The words semen and semeka are switched in function. Normally, it is a man’s semen that would pour forth or be emptied out. But the text says it is his semeka (his name, his identity, his reputation) that is emptied out upon her.
In other words, a man’s identity is the same as his semen.
The woman longs for her lover to pour forth his “name” upon her. Which is a poetic interpretation of him pouring forth his semen upon her.
There are few things more emotionally satisfying for a man than to empty himself and pour out his semen into (or upon) a woman.
A man can intuitively grasp this. But most women don’t get it. Tragically, neither does the modern Church.
But if you think about it, what makes a man? Biologically, it’s having a penis and testicles. But what is the function of those members? To produce and pour forth semen… the good oil, the fat of life, the seed of fruitfulness.
I believe what we have here is God giving wisdom to his people. God views semen as a very good thing. And He wants men and women alike to feel the same.
NOTE: I am indebted to an article I stumbled upon entitled “The Annointed Wife” by Paul Fox for bringing some of these associations to my attention. While I can’t say I agree with all his secondary conclusions, I believe he correctly identified the primary image the passage is conveying.