Praising Physical Beauty
Song of Solomon is probably best known for the descriptions of physical beauty contained there. There are four of these descriptions in the song. Three times the Shulammite is complimented (4:1-7, 6:4-9, 7:1-9), and one time, her beloved is praised (5:10-16). These descriptions make some folks uncomfortable. These descriptions have caused some even to suggest that perhaps Solomon’s Song is pornographic. I have also seen the opposite reaction when one chose to depict all that was said about the Shulammite literally. She looked like a monstrosity - a mixture of goats, sheep, pomegranates, deer or gazelle, a tower, etc., instead of a human woman (See below).
What is said, though unfamiliar to our “western” ears, is simply a poem praising the beauty of the one he (or she) loves. I will not be able to explain every description in this short article, but please understand, he compares his beloved to the beauties of nature created by God (Gen. 1-2). Just as some suitor might tell his girlfriend, “Your eyes are bluer than the sea,” the Shulammite was told a similar thing in chapter seven, verse four! She is spoken of in majestic terms in verse five. This would be the equivalent of calling a beautiful girl a “fox” or some other description today. Solomon’s song spends time complimenting the Shulammite for her physical beauty. She also compliments her beloved in the text for the beauty she sees in him.
Why say such things, and why describe a woman in this way? Is it not obvious? He loves her and therefore compliments the beauty of the one he loves! She had a low opinion of her beauty (1:5-6), so her beloved (and later husband) showers her with praise.
Husbands, how are you doing at praising your wife for her beauty? Did you praise her before you were married but have since ceased? This man didn’t do it. When we read Song of Solomon 4, 6, and 7, we read him complimenting her before and after the wedding! Husbands, don’t forget this lady is the wife of your youth, and a part of you (Eph. 5:28-29). Pay her compliments! Praise her! Ladies, do this for your husbands as well. Husbands love to be complimented, so act as the Shulammite and do it (Song of Sol. 5:10-16). If you are having marriage problems, or feel like you are drifting apart, maybe part of the problem is a lack of communication. Perhaps you are not communicating your love or your praise to your spouse. This is the point of those four sections in the song. It is not pornographic, nor something meant to stir up evil desires. Instead, it is intended to be sincere praise showered upon two who genuinely love one another.
Just as husbands and wives today need to compliment and praise one another, I find it interesting that Christ does the same for the church. The church, considered Christ’s bride, is honored by being called “glorious” and without a flaw (Eph. 5:27). The picture of Christ and the church is a picture of a husband and wife and the love they share for one another. It is a picture of genuine, sincere love that ought to be true in the lives of all of those who are married.
To those married, may your love deepen and grow through the years. As you mature, may you grow closer together, and may it be that the beauty you saw in the wife of your youth only enhance through the years. True beauty is within. May we thank God for that beauty we see in our spouses.
Jarrod M. Jacobs