The fairest fairy tale wedding of George Clooney and Amal Alamudin engendered heartfelt sighs from around the world, including many from yours truly. It also inspired one of my favorite FB posts in a long while.
It seems a good time to look, through the Comic Lens, at the most romantic scripture in the Bible: the Song of Solomon.
This text’s boldly sensual language is giggle-worthy, not only as we imagine our newly wedded beauty-fullest couple in their beyond-swanky Venetian honeymoon digs reading lines to one another as a prelude to amour:
How beautiful you are, my love, how very beautiful!
Your hair is like a flock of goats, moving down the slopes of Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes that have come up from the washing,
all of which bear twin and not one among them is bereaved.
- Song of Solomon 4:1-2
Of course in the ancient world, being compared to goats is probably a huge, sexy compliment, even though it’s rather lost on us, so it makes us laugh from ignorance. There’s a lot of that kind of laughter that this text invites, because so many of its erotic metaphors are so coarsely pastoral: breasts are like fawns, eyes are like doves, the belly is a heap of wheat and the neck like the tower of David. I’m not sure folks today would find a wedding – or anniversary – card with such language a terribly welcome gift.
There is another reason the Song of Solomon invites our laughter – richer and more authentic.
When I had the great privilege of having Fr. Lawrence Boadt, author of Old Testament 101 staple Reading the Old Testament, guide me through the Holy Land in 1995, he shared a very interesting tidbit about Solomon’s Song.
Seems anthropologists, documenting the life of contemporary isolated middle eastern villages far from the internet and other modernizing influences, discovered something interesting (among many interesting things).
The wedding celebrations in these isolated villages are remarkably similar to those of their ancient forebears – not much at all has changed. Now, as back then, the vow-taking “ceremony” is actually less important than the consummation of the union that takes place just afterwards. And, for the villagers (all of whom are invited and gladly so, for their lives are otherwise pretty boring and tough), what is BEST about weddings is the party that follows the consummation. Food, dancing, booze! (It’s the kind of blow-out that happened in Cana where, when the wine finally ran out, a testy Jesus was asked to produce more.)
So, a quick consummation is much to be desired, and might not be that easy. For one thing, the couple is most probably inexperienced, as both are (or at least are supposed to be) virgins. Secondly, the couple may have just met one another that day.
And then there’s the problem of location. Now, as back then, this major, delicate event takes place in a tent, not the most private place in the world. You can hear everything, both inside and out, and it can make it hard for the couple to concentrate and get into the proper (and necessarily) frisky mood.
So, these anthropologists discovered, villagers surround the newlyweds' tent and chant some outrageously lascivious poetry to stimulate the action and drown out distracting sounds.
Seems that the language of these “get it on” poems is almost identical to that of the Song of Solomon.
What we have in our Bible is a most practical volume! It provides focused instruction on how to get the wedding feast started earlier than later (as well as, of course, help insure the tribe, always on the verge of extinction, will have a next generation).
I can’t help but laugh imagining the A+ list of invitees at last month’s nupital gala, thirsty and anxious to dig into the lobster and lemon risotto, standing by the door to George and Amal’s top-of-the-line palatial honeymoon suite uttering:
How fair and pleasant you are, O loved one, delectable maiden!
You are stately as a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters.
I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its branches!
-- Song of Solomon 7:6-8
The new Mr. and Mrs. Clooney strike me as traditionalists deep-down, so it could have happened….