Love is as Strong as Death: A Valentine’s Day Post

Dearest Blogworld,
It’s Melissa over here on the other side of the World Wide Web.
Do you even remember me?

It has been FOREVER.

I’ve missed you.

So, what have you been up to?

I’ve been translating Hebrew. And Greek. And more Hebrew. And then even more Greek. And so on and back again. For now, since it is LOVE weekend, I want to tell you about my Song of Songs class that I recently completed. Without a doubt, my Song of Songs class was one of the most fascinating courses I have ever taken. I spent the bulk of the second half of last semester preparing for this class alone. Why the bulk of my time? Well, because the Song is composed of 9.2% Hapax Legomena. Hapax Legomena are words that are only used one time in a given corpus. This means that about one in every ten words used in the Song have never been used anywhere else in the Hebrew Bible. This makes translating the Song of Songs, well,

__Fill ___in___the_blank__with__your__own__Adjective__.

By the way, Hapax Legomena would be a really fun phrase for you to throw around on a date. Super dorky and dorky can be super attractive, right? I wouldn’t leave you without some dating advice on Valentine’s Day! Grin. Anyway, since several of you have been asking me to share some of what I am learning, I thought I would take the chance to walk you through a segment of the text I translated for my final paper.

So let’s just get right to it. If someone hasn’t broken the news to you yet, the Song of Songs is what most Scholars call “erotic poetry”. For some of you this is quite a thrilling thought, for others it is crude and crass. For those of you in either camp, what do you make of your own personal reaction to the Song’s place in the Canon? Or maybe this is a better question: do you think there are any significant theological implications that could be derived from the inclusion of erotic poetry in the Bible?

Rumor has it that ancient Israelites were forbidden to read the Song unless they were thirty years old or married. Oh and by the way, if you are either offended or irritated by me right now, will you please do yourself a favor and close out this blog immediately? I don’t want to upset anyone on Valentine’s Eve.

Now that I am dealing with the remnant, let me tell you, when you slow down enough to really dwell on the metaphors in the Song, things get super heated. I once had a Professor at Moody Bible Institute teach the Song of Songs with a garbage bag over his head the entire class period. He had cut out little holes for his eyes and mouth. Now I know why. Anyway, as I’ve been translating the Hebrew through this class I’ve literally had to fan myself on several occasions. I wrote my paper on the intersection between the erotic poetry in Song 8.1-7 and wisdom literature, like Proverbs or Ecclesiastes, for instance. I won’t bore you with all the technicalities but I do want to share with you part of the message of the passage I worked on. Here is my own English translation of a segment of the text from the Hebrew (vv. 3-7)

3 His left hand is under my head,
and his right hand embraces me.
4 I charge you daughters of Jerusalem,
Do not awaken or arouse love,
until it desires
5 Who is this coming up from the wilderness,
leaning on her lover?
Under the apple tree I aroused you,
there your mother conceived you,
there she conceived you, she gave birth to you.
6 Place me like a seal on your heart,
like a seal on your arm,
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as severe as Sheol.
Its flames are flames of fire,
An almighty flame.
7 Floods are not able to extinguish love,
nor can rivers sweep it away.

The passage begins as the main female character, the Shulammite, describes her lover’s embrace in v. 3. She says, “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me” and then out of nowhere she gives the daughters of Jerusalem (and us, the reader!) a warning:

I charge you daughters of Jerusalem,
Do not awaken or arouse love,
until it desires.

There is a timeliness to love, she says. A right time and a wrong time. We must not prematurely awaken love. We don’t know what the consequences entail but we get the feeling there are indeed consequences. As the woman and her lover are walking away from the countryside from their private rendezvous toward the city they pass by a tree and the woman says, “Under the apple tree I aroused you; there your mother conceived you, there she conceived you, she gave birth to you.” That the woman has awakened her lover’s desire at the same place he was born hints that she has been bound to him all along, ever since he was born.

But having been bound to him from the past is not enough, for she commands him next, “Place me like a seal on your heart, like a seal on your arm”. In the ancient world seals were pressed down or rolled across soft clay to make an impression and that impression signified an association with or even an ownership of the object being sealed (Tremper Longman, Song of Songs in New International Commentary of the Old Testament, 209). When the woman commands the man to place her like a seal over his heart she is seeking to possess the man, or as Longman says, “to allow her to own him, but not in any cheap kind of commercial sense; she wants him to willingly give himself to her” (210). The seal imagery also suggests finality, for once her seal is placed on his arm and his heart, the impression is for good. She is seeking an everlasting love, one that has encompassed the past and promises the future as well. She gives the reason for her command in the next verses which are arguably the most famous in the Song:

For love is as strong as death,

Jealousy as severe as Sheol.
Its flames are flames of fire,
An almighty flame.
Floods are not able to extinguish love,
nor can rivers sweep it away.

Notice that she is not saying that love is a victor over death but that love and death are equals. She is not saying love is stronger than death but that love is as strong as death. Moreover, love and jealousy are allies in this verse, not enemies. This is strange, right? Not a line you would expect in a Hallmark greeting card. Love is compared to some dark images here. Indeed, some of the darkest images that the Ancient Israelite could have imagined: death, Sheol (the abode of the dead), flames, and even chaotic waters. The mightiest waters, the most chaotic cosmic forces, cannot extinguish love’s flames. What do you make of these kind of images and metaphors?

I don’t know about you but I can truly resonate with the woman’s desire to possess her man with a seal. When I was engaged I remember having this fear about what would happen when all the desire and anticipation started fading. It made me sick to my stomach to even think about. I would hear married women speaking about how it was an “act of worship” to be intimate with their husbands and I would literally feel ill. I would think to myself, is it really going to be that hard?! I had such a fear of the intensity of our desire fading that it made me dread marriage in a sense. I wished that I could have pushed some kind of imaginary hold button and frozen the intensity of our yearning for one another for the rest of time. Love is not only powerful in its budding but it is powerful in its fading or even the fear of its fading. To feel love and passion at such extreme heights is like being on a drug and to sense it fading even a notch is like a crash. Human love, like death, is mortal to its core and mortality is fickle. Colin might wear a wedding ring but my name isn’t inscribed on his heart and I have no promises that I will be the object of his desire for the rest of my life. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, I have his promise that he will remain married to me for the rest of time. I hear you. But I don’t have the security of knowing that I will forever be his one and only desire. And let’s face it, we’re just human beings. We’re human beings who are surrounded by a whole lot of men and women who have broken these same promises. It’s frightening stuff we’re talking about here. But, like the poet says, love is like death. And death is scary. Sexual love is one of the greatest triumphs of the human experience. Yet you and I both know (*or ourselves are*) people who have been scarred and marred by the tragedy of sexual love as well.

On Valentine’s Day, a “holiday” some of us love and some of us pass off as a silly day driven by Greeting card companies, we are supposed to celebrate the gift of human love, especially romantic love. And I ain’t gonna lie, I am a sucker for romance. Have I mentioned that Colin’s and my two year anniversary is on Tuesday?! You know what they say, time flies when you’re having fun. Romance is an incredible gift from God. Its power is true mystery. I’ll spend some serious time thanking God for the love of my life tomorrow.
But above all else, I’ll thank God for Jesus Christ because I know of only one feeling that is greater than being wanted and loved by my man and that is the rest and peace I have found in Christ’s scandalous love for me. The flame of his love for me can never be quenched. His desire for me is never dependent upon my youth or my (fading!) sexual allure. I don’t feel threatened but thrilled that He loves my beautiful female neighbor as much as He loves me. I don’t sense the panic to mark Him with any sort of seal because at last, He sealed me first. This isn’t about Colin’s love falling short in any way, shape, or form. This is about needing something more than any human being on this earth could offer me. Some folks call it a divine romance. I don’t have words for it. All I know is His refrain has been reverberating since He came in the flesh several thousand years ago to save this world He loved:
“You are my beloved, and I am yours.”

The mystery is great-

But I am actually speaking with reference to Christ and the Church (Eph. 5.32)

And although you have not seen Him, you love Him. (1 Peter 1.8)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

You are so loved.


P.S. Here are some semi-recent photos of Colin and me!
Remaining Photo Credit goes to Leigh Germy Photography…


267 Responses to “Love is as Strong as Death: A Valentine’s Day Post”

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  1. 1
    Sandy says:

    Very moving blog-well written, thanks for sharing!!!

  2. 2
    Sarah Schneider says:

    I just got engaged and I found this post truly helpful, raw, and insightful. Yet so exciting! I love truth.
    thank you.

  3. 3
    Darla says:

    WOW! i have only been mature enough to read this recently, and still have issues in mixed company..bless that professors heart with his garbage bag!

    Congrats on your two years!! i just love you all so much!

    I love that even this book is inspired by God, and that shows a beautiful piece of HIS heart..we need to heed the warnings as well.

    Happy Valentines are loved SO much

  4. 4
    Princess Bride says:

    That was absolutely beautiful, Melissa! Thank you so much for the reminder of just how much and deeply Jesus' love for me, as well as others, is. I needed that so much, especially this Valentines Day weekend.

    I am all alone with no man in my life and have been reminded of that fact over and over this weekend. But, the reality is that I am not alone and never will be alone with Christ. I am His princess bride. He is my valentine. 🙂

    Happy Valentines Day!

  5. 5
    Kris Ann says:

    Thank you! This is such beautiful imagery of love.

    Beautiful pics,too!

  6. 6
    Laurie says:

    I love your post. I love the photo of your silhouettes and the one of you looking off and laying your head on his chest! So good! And he got your Stargazer lilies?! What a man? Definitely a keeper. Happy anniversary and v-day!

  7. 7
    Anonymous says:

    Wow, Melissa, your post is moving, and like being in class with you. Thanks for sharing your mind and heart. I was just finishing the post from your mom on insecurity, and then read this and am piecing them together right now. "How wide, and long and high and deep is the love of Christ", Eph. 3:18 the only lasting security is in Jesus. amen. (bless you on your anniversary) it gets better each year. going on 29 years. love, Pam in San Diego

  8. 8
    Heather says:

    "scandalous love"…gave me chills!! Your photos are beautiful, and so is your writing. Made me feel all giddy lovey dovey!

  9. 9
    Stephanie says:

    I like that verse where the author says that love is like death, is just as powerful as death. In my own experience, I've had to wrestle down my own pride in order to really show my love to my boyfriend. And also in loving Christ, we must die to ourselves. I'm getting baptized on Valentines Day, which I'm so excited about, and the symbolic image of me falling back into the water makes me think of dying to myself for Christ. Love really is in a sense like death… but in a very good and freeing way. 🙂

  10. 10
    lareinaelena says:

    wow! So glad you shared that with all of us! Beautiful. Amazing. I think I am going to print this out for the time when my daughters hit their teens and start to get confused about life and love.

    Thanks so much.

    Happy Valentines Day! Beautiful flowers!

  11. 11
    sweetie says:

    Thank you so much for the beautiful message of Valentine's Eve. Ellen

  12. 12
    Kimberly says:

    Thank you so much Melissa for writing that post and for the reminder about how Jesus is our lover FOREVER, REGARDLESS of whether we are lovely or not. Thanks again.:)


  13. 13
    Heather says:

    What a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing it. I love thinking about the enormous, never ending, unlimited love of Christ. Mind-blowing love. We cannot even fathom. Happy Valentines Day!
    OH- and I love the pictures, too! 🙂

  14. 14
    thetaskathand says:

    i LOVE LOVE LOVE this blog post! so well put, melissa. i just can't get over how much i enjoyed reading this and how much i could relate! i remember wishing i could seal my husband and be sure that he was always and forever mine alone. thankfully, the Lord has given me a man who tells me daily, "i will never leave you! you are mine and i love you!" i don't know what i'd do without him. now as we wait our first child, we're learning another level of God's love for us. we learned part through our marriage and now we're learning even more about God's love as we watch our baby grow and we wait for its birth. God is so good and so loving! i'm so glad He's our love teacher.

  15. 15
    Yolanda says:


    You are incredibly precious!

    With love,

  16. 16
    Jill says:

    You probably have heard the song, "You won't relent"…but it uses the phrases you explained today in this post…great song…I always imagined the Jews quoting this scripture as the Germans stole their lives…but today you made me see another perception. Thanks.

  17. 17
    Cindy says:

    A beautiful reminder that Jesus is our forever love.

  18. 18
    Terry in Indiana says:

    Beautiful message on love…human and divine! Thank you for reminding us that God is the author of love and, as precious as my husband is to me, I belong to Jesus!

    Also…what great photos of a beautiful couple! Enjoy your lover this Valentine's Day…and always!

  19. 19
    Fran says:

    I always love hearing from you Melissa. You always cause me to think differently about something. Or maybe to think about something I've never thought of. I like that.

    Hope y'all have a fabulous weekend!
    Congrats on the anniversary. The pix are just beautiful and you both look like you are still in love as ever.

    Hugs from TN,

  20. 20
    Kelly @ Love Well says:

    For the past month or so, I've been listening to Mark Driscoll's Song of Songs series on the Mars Hill website. (Please tell me you've heard these, Melissa.) WOW! To say God is speaking to me through this most erotic of books is an understatement.

    In many ways, I wish I had understood more of these truths before I was married. For example, the admonition to not awake love/desire until the right time; why do we only preach virginity as if its the end-all, be-all? I wish the church had told me to protect my heart as well as my body.

    God's Word is amazing to me. Thanks for sharing your research.

  21. 21
    A Skin Bag for Jesus! says:

    Wow! Love the depth of what you shared! LOVE the visual! And the incredible reminder of our Savior's seal and His everlasting undying love for us!

    P.S. Your pictures are beaUtiful!

  22. 22
    Karelin says:

    Hapax Legomena sounds like an action figure my son would play with… *;) Great post. Aloha!

  23. 23

    Beautiful post Melissa thanks for reminding that Jesus first loved us and that His Love for me will last forever I am single but I am truly blessed to be Loved by the One and Only Jesus. I loved the pictures you are beautiful your whole family is beautiful. I loved the one of you and Colin when he was looking up awesome pictures.
    Happy Valentines Day
    Love you here in seistaville

  24. 24
    Silver Sass (Ginger from Alabama) says:

    Okay Melissa…..when you and Colin are ready for a break, come to Montgomery and enjoy a baseball game. My husband's team has MANY more games and hopefully…one day….we'll have a warm, pretty weekend to sit, watch, and even enjoy the upcoming spring season. Open invitation.

    Wetumpka, AL

  25. 25
    Kristie says:

    having just finished your mom's book–and now reading this post…wow! Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus!

  26. 26
    Wylie @ Shout A Joyful Noise! says:

    This. Was. Awesome!!!

  27. 27
    the4leegirls says:

    Love those lashes on that last picture girl…well done.

  28. 28
    Miss Laura says:

    As a single woman still trying to "get it", I thank you for sharing this. I'm speechless…..

  29. 29
    Beth says:

    Oh, Lis. This is a fabulous post. Stirred up so many feelings in my soul. Beautifully said. Almost haunting. Makes me love my man more…and long for Jesus even more.

    You have a gift.

  30. 30
    Patty says:

    Being a woman who is divorced, I really loved what you wrote at the end:

    "The flame of his love for me can never be quenched. His desire for me is never dependent upon my youth or my (fading!) sexual allure. I don’t feel threatened but thrilled that He loves my beautiful female neighbor as much as He loves me. I don’t sense the panic to mark Him with any sort of seal because at last, He sealed me first"

    All I can add to that is thank God for loving me first. If it were not for that kind of love God has for us all, I wouldn't have made it through my divorce.

    It is indeed a sacred romance and I just come to the point to accept it, receive it and lastly this is what God showed me today in His Word, Isaiah 62:5, As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride so God rejoices over you. This just makes me smile.

    I don't understand why God would love us with a scandalous love but I am glad He did or does.

    Thank you for this post and sharing your pictures!

    Happy Valentine's Day!

  31. 31
    Leah @ Point Ministries says:

    Love the pictures…so unique, so beautiful.

    I think you should write a Songs Bible study, Melissa. What a blast that would be to facilitate!!!


  32. 32
    Beth says:

    AND one more thing. I do so DEARLY love that man of yours. I was just staring at him in those pictures, wishing you guys were sitting here at the dining table with Yours Truly, your own "Little Doods."

  33. 33
    Letty says:

    Very insightful perspective into this particular book of the Bible.I will read it through different eyes next time. Sad that we lose so much in translation from the very descriptive Hebrew and Greek words to the not so abundant English.

  34. 34
    Beth says:

    OK, this is my last time and I'll shut up. (I'm temporarily bored and I'm really into this post.) To The4Leegirls, would you believe those lashes are real? Amanda has them, too. She just does not feel the need to put on a ton of mascara like Lis and I do. I think it just comes with having thick, course hair.

    Y'all are so fun.

  35. 35
    Anonymous says:

    love,love your posts Melissa
    I am taking a seminary class also and love the way you put things into context. This is first time for me to take a class like this, and it is easy to get caught up in the technical (?not sure that is the word I want to use).
    Anyway…beautiful blog and beautiful pictures
    I bet you make your mama proud!

  36. 36
    Melissa says:

    Mom, I loved that you posted three times. Makes my day. Wish Colin and I could go on a double date with you and the Piab tomorrow. Who knows what kind of fun that could entail. We love you madly, our very own sweet little nugget.

  37. 37
    Beth.. One Blessed Nana says:

    Beautiful post, Melissa. I will celebrate my 25th anniversary tomorrow – yes, on Valentines Day!

    I have been praying about a devotion I have to give on Monday night and felt the Lord leading me to Ephesians 1:13 about being sealed with the Holy Spirit. THen I came here and you talked about the seal and what it means. What a beautiful confirmation from my precious Savior! THank you!

    In Him,
    Beth Herring

  38. 38
    Anonymous says:

    Thanks!!! After listening to several friends wax philosophical about Valentines Day and all its evils…it was refreshing to "hear" a loving look at it!!

    I LOVE the pics!!!!

    Rhonda – Lima OH

  39. 39
    Teresa Cecil says:

    I love it! So beautifully written and so true. You are truly gifted Melissa and can't wait to see what God is going to do with you! What an awesome God we serve!! Love the pictures too!

  40. 40
    Darla says: more thing…i love to read your findings while studying…since your first post! love love love it!

    Beth, you are cracking me up! girl what you want to do to kill that boredom..i colored my hair red(er)…feeling the red thing! Hahahaha

  41. 41
    michellemabell says:

    How I love when I learn something new and definately I have never heard of Hapax Legomena before…
    Can't wait to use it on some unsuspecting person someday…lol

    Such a great post…I just love it. Beautiful and mysterious too. How I love poetry and I think it is so cool that this little book is tucked away here in Scripture.

    Thank you for the great lesson Melissa.
    I hope you post again soon!
    (And the pictures are just beautiful.)


    Michelle in VT

  42. 42
    Anonymous says:

    The pictures you posted speak volumes…your message reveals the heart of a very mature young woman.
    I thought of your Mom's post written on her 31st anniversary…went back and read it. You come from good stock!!
    Happy anniversary on Tuesday…and many many more.

  43. 43
    Alisha says:

    Would love to hear more on your study of Song of Songs. I've never heard anyone speak on the book. Except my husband who tried one year to use it as poetry for Valentines Day. It didn't quite come off like I think he would have hoped. We actually laugh about the gesture now.

    Love is so important to the Lord. He speaks about it all the time yet in our world where we have perverted love (emotional and sexual) to the extreme I must admit I don't know if I truely know what God's love looks like or how to portray that to the world and to my own husband. We are afraid alot of times to think that God is loving and passionate at the same time. Some think its creepy because the word passionate brings up alot of wrong thinking from our own past wrong experiences. Hope that makes sense without being to graffic.

    Anyway. Someone needs to write about this more and since you've just studied it…..

  44. 44
    Sandy says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this post and these beautiful pictures!

  45. 45
    Yolanda says:


    I wanted to sit and relish this a second time but now my man is calling my name or I'd sit right here. I plan on doing so the first thing in the mornin' with my first cup of coffee.

    Looking forward to coming to Atlanta in April for the Insecurity teaching.

    Much love,

  46. 46
    Miss Laura says:

    Hey Gang, it's Miss Laura, again ! Earlier today, I was trying to write a piece on my blog for Valentine's Day. When I read this, I saw not reason to; I just re-routed my followers here. Melissa, your words are from the very heart of God Himself ! Bless you for you obedience to the Holy Spirit ! You have no idea how this writing has helped heal me and so many others. Your entire family is truly touched by God ! SO GRATEFUL !

  47. 47
    Anonymous says:

    Dearest Melissa,
    Thanks for sharing…I usually post my name but this time shall remain anonymous. I am thinking I may have met the man I am going to marry and am happy to say I can proudly wear white dress with pride. It's been a long time waiting…(smile). God has done a wonderful healing in my heart of the 8 yrs of sexual abuse I endured as a child. I am praying that if I do marry I will be able to know how beautiful a sexual relationship can be just as God intended as you so beautifully expressed here…Blessings to you.

  48. 48
    Miss Laura says:

    and one day, when I grow up, I will learn how to spell….. LOLOL!

  49. 49
    Luv2Praise says:

    Beautiful blog Melissa. I so loved the poem and how it reminds me of how deep our quest for "true love" is. I know, after 24 years of marriage, that the highs, the lows, the disappointments and the heartaches will come and have come for us. But the passion is still there and even though we are going through some family issues now, there is no one that I would rather have by my side than my husband.

    But the truth of the matter is the only one who can meet the needs of our marriage is our one and only Savior. When all else fails we seek out our Lord, he never fails us! Thanks for the beautiful study of Songs and the reminder of how much we are desired by HIM!

    By the way, you and Colin are just beautiful together. Love the pictures. Happy Valentines Day – Sister!!!


  50. 50
    Anonymous says:

    Thank you for re-focusing Valentine's Day for all of us who lack the present temporal love. Thanks for reminding our hearts that True Love is about so much more. What a blessing you have been this eve. Thank you.

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