“kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.” The imagery in Song of Solomon is unabashedly sexual. Although sex has traditionally and until very recently been something that was not openly talked about and was kept “behind closed doors,” in the biblical world sex and sexuality was openly understood and referred to, and sexual desire and acting on that desire was considered normal and natural. In the biblical culture, sex was to be enjoyed.
There were a number of reasons that sex was considered normal and natural, and was openly expressed. One reason was that the biblical world was agricultural, and sex between the livestock and animals that were around was in open view to the people of all ages. Also, most families lived in small houses, so the parents and children at home slept together in the main room of the house. Thus, sex between the father and mother was considered normal and was just ignored by any children who were awake. Similarly, the attraction between men and women and the aggression men often showed towards women was considered normal (for example, this was why Boaz had to instruct his men not to “touch,” sexually touch, Ruth who was a lone and unmarried woman among them. Ruth 2:9). So women were kept separated from the men and dressed modestly in public. The desire that men had for women was also openly expressed by the fact that prostitution was common (and women were sometimes known to “display their wares” to attract customers). Also, some of the pagan religions had cult prostitution as part of their worship service and added adherents through the attraction of ritual sex. Thus Israelites living by a Canaanite city or people living near a Greco-Roman city such as Corinth would be exposed to that kind of open sexuality on a regular basis.
Looking at sex and reproduction as normal and healthy (and also because life expectancy was shorter in biblical times) was one reason why girls were given in marriage very young, sometimes as early as 12 but very often by 14. Thus, just as a young woman’s breasts and body shape were fully developing and she was drawing the attention of men, she was given in marriage.
Sex was considered natural and pleasurable, and that is reflected in the Song of Solomon. All the senses get involved: taste (Song 1:1; 2:3; 4:11; 5:16); smell (Song 1:2, 12, 14; 3:6; 4:14); sight (Song 1:10, 15; 2:14; 4:1-5; 5:10-15; 6:5-7, 10; 7:2-8); sound (Song 2:14; 5:6); and touch and sexual touching (Song 1:13; 2:6, 16-17; 4:6; 5:1; 6:2; 8:14). Sex in pleasant surroundings was a was sought after and enjoyed (Song 1:16-17; 3:9), and openly expressing one’s desire and excitement was part of the love between the couple (Song 4:9-10, 16-17; 5:4-6; 6:5, 8-9; 7:9-12; 8:6). Proper timing for lovemaking and the exclusivity of the beloved was also stressed in the culture and part of the honorable love between them (Song 4:12; 8:8-9). Also, although it was common for a man to have more than one wife, the desire to be “the only one” existed in both men and women and was sometimes preserved in the culture (Song 6:3; 7:11).