Pomegranates and Paramours: A Study of “Song of Solomon”

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Although I’m a Christian, I didn’t learn about the Song of Solomon or Song of Songs until I went to college. It was a book of the Bible that was neglected in my childhood but maybe that was for good reason; after all, this text is arguably one of the most erotic works in a religious text. From a pedagogical perspective, it might be hard to talk about salvation alongside cunnilingus.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Bible, Song of Solomon is one of the five wisdom books in the Old Testament. However, this book doesn’t teach wisdom, at least not in the traditional sense. It teaches erotic love and intimacy. Song of Solomon doesn’t have a definitive plot but it does switch perspectives from the “black” woman expressing her desire for her lover, the man describing his lover’s beauty, the man and woman visiting each other, and inclusions of how others view this woman’s looks. The literal interpretation of Song of Solomon is that a man and woman are expressing their love for one another through song and verse. Others interpret it as an allegory for the relationship between Christ and the church. In Jewish tradition, Song of Solomon is recited at Passover to commemorate the exodus out of Egypt, and to show God’s relationship with Israel. For this particular series, I will dissect the literal interpretation.

Although the text mentions several fruits, such as grapes and apples, pomegranates are mentioned several times:

Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon; your mouth is lovely. Your temples behind your veil are like the halves of a pomegranate. (NIV, Song of Solomon 4:3)

Your thighs shelter a paradise of pomegranates with rare spices–henna and nard … (NLT, Song of Solomon 4:13)

I would lead thee, and bring thee into my mother’s house, who would instruct me: I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate. (KJV, Song of Solomon 8:2)

pomegranateWhy pomegranates out of all fruits? According to a 2011 study conducted by Queen Margaret University researchers, drinking pomegranate juice was found to lower cortisol levels, which leads to increased testosterone in both men and women. When testosterone levels are elevated, moods, as well as sexual desires, are heightened, too. In addition, throughout history, pomegranates were always associated with love. For example, the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, was said to have planted the first pomegranate tree. According to the Rites of Demeter, pomegranates, especially their color, were associated with many different meanings, one of them being submission.

In Song of Solomon, the body is closely associated with fruit, as both become edible things. The lovers want to partake of one another. What the pomegranates in Song of Solomon demonstrate is that love is synonymous with tasty consumption.

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