The Power of Smell

Separation in the Song  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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In the building of love, during courtship, their fragrance of one another grows their love for one another.


The Power of Smell

12 While the king was on his couch,

my nard gave forth its fragrance.

13 My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh

that lies between my breasts.

12 עַד־שֶׁ֤הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ בִּמְסִבּ֔וֹ נִרְדִּ֖י נָתַ֥ן רֵיחֽוֹ׃

13 צְר֨וֹר הַמֹּ֤ר׀ דּוֹדִי֙ לִ֔י בֵּ֥ין שָׁדַ֖י יָלִֽין׃

The Song of Songs is about a love affair. It is not, unlike so many scholars’ opinions, primarily about sexual love. Yes, of course sexual love is in the Song, but the love of, say Song 1:2, is not sexual, but pure and all inclusive. It is much bigger than sex. Robert Alter, in the introduction to Bloch and Bloch’s commentary, or book, on the Song, states that “love”, in Song 1:4 and the other places in the Song means “love making.” {Bloch, 1998 #319@?} Any clear reading of the Song points out that the couple is after much more than sex. They are pursuing one another in the pursuit of intimacy. Sex is a part of that intimacy, but it is not the whole of that intimacy.
One problem with the idea that “love” means “making love” in the Song is that the reader misinterprets the text. He or she takes the Song and reads it is a post 1960’s sexual revolution world. The reader begins to see sex everywhere, all the way till some, like Case, start to see cunnilinguis and other more perverted forms of sex throughout the text (where there is no sex).
Such is the case with the verse for today. “While the king was on his couch, my nard gave forth its fragrance.” This verse begins this section. The king (as Exum says, this is an encouraging picture for her man/lover, not actually a real king. This is poetry) lwas lying on his couch. The beloved’s fragrance wafts over him.
The key is that the second verse follows the first verse. “My lover is to me a sachet of myrrh wresting between my breast throughout the night.” This is not sex. It is the mans aura or aroma making her, as she says in Song 2:5, sick with love. She is overwhelmed by the “smell” of him. We use the same imagery. “His scent lingered with me.” “I carried her aroma with me all day and all night.” What does she mean here in the Song? She means that the man is capturing her and remaining with her long after his presence has left her. That is what happens to people in love.
This is not a sex scene. It is a scene of remembrance. The aroma is between her breasts. Yes, it is intimate. The woman is desiring the man and the desire, like it does for all hormone filled young people, moves sexual. But what she really wants is him.
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