As is typical of the metaphorical nature of poetry, the Song of Songs describes sexual activities indirectly, without giving any explicit references. As a result, interpreters often hesitate to define the exact practices portrayed in any given verse. For example, both Song 2:16 and 6:3 describe the male lover as “he who grazes among the lotuses.” Many scholars read these verses as some type of sexual activity, but do not specifically define the action. Using comparative evidence from Egyptian and Sumerian love poetry, as well as contextual analysis of these verses within the Song as a whole, I argue that these verses depict a particular type of love-making, cunnilingus. According to my reading, Song 2:16 and 6:3 focus exclusively on the sexual pleasure of the two partners, disregarding other potential benefits of sexual intercourse, such as reproduction, giving us a rare glimpse into a particular sexual practice in ancient Israel.

In: Vetus Testamentum

Abstract

Rather than the commonly understood chaotic ending to Judges which illustrates the need for a king, the exchange of women in Judg 21 mediates the conflict between the Israelite tribes, creating a peaceful resolution to their civil war through the reestablishment of kinship loyalties. By applying anthropological concepts of gift exchange and alternative marriage practices to the final story of Judges (chs. 19-21), especially to the resolution of that story in ch. 21, we can see the rapprochement achieved through the gift of virgin brides which strengthens relations between the tribes. In light of this assessment, the monarchic refrain (Judg 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; and 21:25) was likely added during the latest stages of development to frame the final two stories to emphasize the need for a strong central government—kingship. Only with this refrain does the reconciliation of the warring tribes realized through the traffic of women appear insufficient.

In: Vetus Testamentum