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. 201
    Tori says:

    Excellent post Melissa! This book has always intrigued me but I have been leary to dive in, because I had no idea how to study it or where to begin. You gave me a great starting point!
    Beautiful pics of you and Colin….could the two of you be any more gorgeous?!!
    Happy two years Tuesday!

  2. 202
    Brandy says:

    Hey Melissa, good to here from you. The pictures are beautiful!!! thanks for sharing. Hope you had a blessed and happy Valentine's day.

  3. 203
    Breahn says:

    This is amazing! It is hard for me to fathom Christ loving me like that… but I know it's true. The pictures are so pretty too! Thank you for blessing me so much!

    Love, Love, Love,
    Palestine, Texas

  4. 204
    brandiandboys says:

    great having you back, melissa! you've been missed.

    as always, love the insight you bring.

  5. 205
    Anonymous says:

    This is beautiful! I love that everything we need to know about is included in God's word.

    P.S. As a MBI alum, I'd love to know which professor that was! HA! 🙂

  6. 206
    Regan says:

    "I don’t feel threatened but thrilled that He loves my beautiful female neighbor as much as He loves me." Wow, that really spoke to me Melissa. So much of my insecurity lies in not measuring up to the person next to me so thank you for encouraging me to delight in the fact that my Savior loves us all equally no matter how unlovely or inadequate I may feel.

  7. 207
    Kim Safina says:

    I remember you!!!
    Valentine Eve Blessings to my "favorite" mascara comrade!

    Can you imagine sitting and listening to the Megilloth being read or sung publicly??

    The first time I heard the Song Of Songs was from a boy when I was in high school. He called me and said he wanted to read to me over the phone ~
    I have to admit it ~
    I hung up on him and just about freaked out!
    Never dated him again!

    Fast forward to university and
    marrying my husband, Dave would read it or tell me I was a gaselle and he a young stag and then we would laugh until we cried.

    Dave and I have always used our PRIORITY TREE to fulfill our marriage. When your priorities are in order, there is no worry or fear about the I do's or I will's!!!!!! We don't need a "Holiday" to celebrate our love and passion for oneanother. It is all about Our Priority!
    Priority Tree
    1. GOD
    2. SPOUSE
    4. Family
    5. Friends
    6. Work

    I shared some of our HIStory as a guest speaker. You can hear some of it on just type in Kim Safina and look for Jingle Bells!!!

    I think all the Siesta's should read Song of Songs.
    IT truly is filled with a beautiful "address" writing of scripture.
    And if
    You think Song of Songs is difficult to read, wait until your future children are sitting at the dinner table asking questions about specific things!!
    Be prepared to RECALL those scriptures. Blushing doesn't get it with children. BE PREPARED!

    My oldest son, David, is studying Hebrew,Greek and in the process of writing a book. He has 4 chapters down and his work is amazing. We had some great conversation this weekend as he was visiting. I had to pull out several different translations of study to converse with him.
    Thanks for the Hapax Legomena.
    Much needed and appreciated!!!

    Both of our sons have shared how much they admire & appreciate Dave and My marriage relationship and what an inspiration we are to them and others. Those words have been the best gifts our marriage has received in our 27+ years since saying I do.

    When I was single, my LOVER was Christ Jesus.
    When I became married, my LOVER is still Christ Jesus and #2 Priority is my husband. Dave knows that Christ Jesus is my #1.
    And I know that Dave's #1 GUIDANCE & TEACHER is Christ Jesus and I am wife/lover in the #2 position. It works!!!!!

    I love you Melissa and send
    (((( HUGS )))))) & Anniversary blessings to you and Colin.
    Wow,have two years already passed ~

    HAPPY " 2 " ANNIVERSARY !!!!

    Cuddle up and be the Gaselle with the Stud. LAUGHING OUT LOUD!!!

    With "Heaven Bound" blessings,
    Kim & Dave Safina
    youtube Kim Safina
    Jingle bells

  8. 208
    Anonymous says:

    You are just beautiful. Beautiful. Passion love filled with anticipation is great. But my favorite love is unfailing love. There is a depth and security, stability even, that unfailing love provides. And unfailing love is usually discovered in weakness. In our greatest times of need and raw emotion love is always waiting to be found. Always. Even if we can't perceive it.

    I've been married for 16 years now. I'm 34. And as much as I love anticipation, I'd have to say the security of unfailing love breeds an even greater passion. Christ is author of it and His passion for us to experience this love positions us for the taking again and again throughout life and marriage.

  9. 209
    Lori says:

    Thanks, Melissa…that was a powerful post, and I love what you said…."He sealed me first."

    Congrats on your 2 years! The pictures are wonderful. So sweet.

  10. 210
    Anonymous says:

    Thank you Melissa and really love your post on translating Hebrew & Greek, BRING ON MORE !! please? And this was really great since very few preachers are bold enough to tackle Song of Songs in mixed company ! The photos are beautiful too.

  11. 211
    Anonymous says:

    I know you may work at LPM, but I'm thinking professor here. Teach us more Melissa. Don't stay gone so long. I love your posts. May Jesus awaken our love for Him more and more.


  12. 212
    Anonymous says:

    Oh, loved the post and the pictures! And I loved Beth's three posts. 🙂

    Mpls, MN

  13. 213
    Deanna Gott says:

    Very Moving. Very true. Thank you for reminding all of us that Jesus is the best Lover!

  14. 214
    Melissa says:

    Thanks for the post, Melissa! I plan to share it with my 17 year old daughter today.
    Great pics!
    Asheville, NC

  15. 215
    pete wilson says:

    Brilliant post Melissa!

  16. 216
    Anonymous says:

    Fee!!! What a blog…..I love that you have shared this with us. I don't know about anyone else, but I need to think on this and digest it…..

    Thanks for the great pics. I love the black and white one.

    Also, did you know our favorite mascara has been discontinued???? What did you go to now???? Sorry to throw this out there when your blog was so serious…..

    Bible Bunny in NO MI

  17. 217
    Melanie says:

    Melissa, thanks for sharing – what a great post. Your pics were just beautiful.

    And Sweet Pea Mom, my prayers are with you. May God do a mighty work in your marriage. He can do it; He has in mine.

  18. 218
    Pat from Kansas says:

    I'm glad you are enjoying your classes. Thanks for sharing both the post and the pictures.

    Pat from Kansas

  19. 219
    Redeemed says:

    Beautiful words, beautiful photos!

  20. 220
    notmalcolm says:

    Loved the post! God is SO amazing and speaks love, wisdom, and warning to all areas of life! He is the author of the intimacies of married love, after all. Oh, by the way, I hope Collin knows how lucky he is to have you! 🙂

    To a joyful future with your soul mate,
    Valerie Eades

  21. 221
    Rebecca says:


  22. 222
    shronie says:

    You seem delightfully contented in your marriage & that is so wonderful to see. "All this & heaven too"…

    Thank you for educating us in the Song of Solomon….I'm so grateful for my Savior's deep love for me!

    Sharon in Katy, TX

  23. 223
    barbara head says:

    Right on, Melissa!!! You, my sweet one, are truly gifted. Thank you for this post. I have studied this book before but always appreciate a fresh word. If there is one thing I have learned from you mama over the years, it is that "love" is an action word.

  24. 224
    Lisa B says:

    Very well written and the truth! Thanks for sharing it is pure beauty! Thank you!
    Lisa B.

  25. 225
    Leslie Lauren says:

    These pictures are absolutely beautiful, Meliss. I've definitely missed hearing from you, and am so glad you gave us so much to think about and go deeper with!!

    Can I confess something? When I attended Deeper Still in Orlando, one of the jokes that was mentioned was when women will lay perfectly still in bed, for fear that if they move one muscle, their husband will think they are awake and want to "engage" with them. The entire audience erupted with applause, with every woman seemingly agreeing to experiencing that act at one time or another as being a "chore." I sat dumbfounded, because in the nearly 8 years I've been married, I've never once felt that way. Never!!

    Don't be discouraged, your relationship with your husband is your own, and you and only you (with our Abba's help) have the power to make it what it is. I realize there are plenty of women who might say I don't yet have enough years of marriage under my belt to know what I'm talking about, but for what it's worth, know that there are women out here who feel differently about the subject.

    Love you 🙂

  26. 226
    JanRae says:

    Melissa – I always look forward to your post…I sure wish we could hear from you more often. I love that you shared this with us. I agree with are Incredibly Precious.
    Congrats to you and Colin on two years!!

  27. 227
    Anonymous says:

    Well said Melissa. I've been married 4 months now!

  28. 228
    Christina says:

    Melisa, Thank you so much for this post! Sometimes a women needs to hear and remember the trueness of God’s love. I feel like this relates so much to your mom’s book that I just began to read and desperately needed Valentine’s Day when I felt my husband’s desire for me diminish. With extreme insecurity quickly setting in, I drove myself to the book store to purchase her book. After reading some and crying myself to sleep, your post this morning was a breath of fresh air and a reminder of where to turn to feel the love that never fades. Thank you again and Happy Bleated Valentine’s Day!

  29. 229
    Bobbie says:

    You have a BEAUTIFUL heart for God and your man! Thanks for such a great post and sharing it with all of us. AND…the pictures are fabulous…AND…yes, Beth those eyelashes run in your family!

  30. 230
    Anonymous says:

    Wonderful pix of you and Colin. Hopefully, this next comment will not come across as shallow as it sounds but you have good hair!! LOL!

  31. 231
    aussie monica says:

    beautiful. profound. photos are gorgeous.

  32. 232
    WifenMother says:

    That is beautiful and filled my heart with joy. Thank you for sharing your insights.

  33. 233
    Lis says:

    Wow! and the pictures! WOW! #1 is just awesome of both of you and the black and white photo shows just how absolutely beautiful you are!

  34. 234
    Emmy says:

    Amazing post! Amazing pictures!

    Happy Anniversary! Can't believe it has been 2 years!

  35. 235
    Anonymous says:

    How I appreciated this post Melissa!! I tried studying the Song of Solomon on my own and failed miserably. I tried to find some resources that would just help me along, but was inundated with a wide diversity of opinions and thoughts, some very narrow, that I didn't know where to begin. Having struggled with past issues of sexuality, my desire was to go to the Bible and find some direction from the Lord on sexuality and marriage, in other words, get a glimpse of this mystical experience as God views it, to redefine my misperceptions.

    So, all this to day, thank you for giving us a glimpse of this book. Let us know if you ever decide to write a book or study on Song of Solomon, it would be much appreciated.

    Blessings and happy anniversary to you both!!!! -JH

  36. 236
    MiChal says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post! Do you have some good resources you can share the names of?

  37. 237
    Mia says:

    Mia Jo
    40ish, Married
    1. Most recently in my workplace and with friends. Beautiful, intelligent, talented women, who all have something they don't like about themselves. Including myself, always battleing with those annoying extra 10-15 lbs.

    2. I just about higlighted the whole page where "Beth La Ham" talks about the loss of favor and approval and harmony being excruciating to people with insecurity. That's me, I hate to feel anyone doesn't like me or disapproves of me or that I've hurt their feelings in some way.

  38. 238
    Sandy says:

    Your posts always cause me to think deeper. This one was no different. I found it to be almost haunting. This stirring emotion called Love…created by our God who is Love. Such a mystery.
    I hope you will write more, Melissa.

  39. 239
    Mary Beth says:

    Well written Melissa. It reinforces what I just learned from taking Kay Arthur's bible study, Back to the Garden. A must for every woman.

  40. 240
    Anonymous says:

    you should read your mom's book on insecurity.

  41. 241
    Joyce says:

    Thank you for sharing.
    The word "desire" seem to stand out in my mind. I took a moment to look up the word desire and this what I found:
    the emotional element that leads to consequent action, and in which the natural impulse is stronger than the reasoned resolve.
    Three blessings of love are a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith.
    I desire to know God more through the a relationship with Him. It is a very powerful word "desire".

  42. 242
    Kristen says:

    Thank you Melissa…

    Being a married woman for almost 20 years… passion, romance do change over time… but love also becomes deeper, more intimate… evovling as we do… not remaining the same.

  43. 243
    MyFathersDaughter says:

    That was awesome! Thank you for sharing! What gorgeous pictures…
    Guard your heart and your marriage everyday. God has brought my marriage through infidelity and I never dreamed our vows would be broken…especially with a woman 15 years older than my husband who disquised herself as my "friend". Funny thing is, she was actually our Sunday School Teacher when we joined that church. This went on for about 2 1/2 to 3 years. And I am now happy to report that God has moved mountains and my family is stronger now than it has ever been. 14 months and I'm still in counseling and I am so thankful I chose to believe God for what He can and will do over the option everyone else wanted me to take: divorce.
    Satan WILL NOT have my family!

    God Bless you, Melissa and may God continue to bless your marriage.

  44. 244
    Becky says:

    thanks for the post, I've been wondering how you were doing. Sounds like you're fine…good.
    About your post…Darn woman, that is deep. wheeeeeww, but I like it.
    Erotic? Love & Jealousy are allies? and…imtimancey an act of workship?(never heard that one before) Love is powerful and it's fear of fading. Now that is powerful, I think we women who have been married over 20 yrs think about that one more due to our age and the yrs spent with our man.
    Like you said, Christ love is NEVER quenched,NEVER depends on our youth or anything else. PRAISE THE LORD!
    A dvine Romance….that is my journey, one of my goals. I love Him becsuse he first love me, I' am seal. again PRAISE THE LORD! Aboslutely YES, I need Him more than any human being on this earth. He Is Life.
    Thanks again, and by the by happy Anniv. Go have some chocolate dessert with coffee.
    This post has made alot of us think, and remember our own 2nd Ann. and the feelings we had at that time. Thank you sweetie, and while you are working hard at school, don't forget to have fun.
    until the next post.

  45. 245
    DeborahC says:

    Such a beautiful translation of God's Word. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  46. 246
    Jayne says:

    Thank you for the post. I love your translation of the S.S. section. Your thoughts are inspiring and encouraging. God Bless!

  47. 247
    Casa Bliss says:

    Melissa, This post moved me. Thanks so very much for sharing!!!
    Much love to you and Colin.

  48. 248
    Anonymous says:

    What beautiful words. It's something every woman needs to hear, married or not. Thank you for sharing your fears and truth. Jesus is the real deal, the real lover of our souls. Precious stuff.

  49. 249
    cheryl says:

    I am new to the blog but have been been encouraged by your mother's bible studies for years.
    What wisdom in your message. Thank you for sharing the beautiful pictures of you and your beloved.
    I kept thinking as I was reading, how Beth's heart must be overflowing with joy and pride in you and your sister and how God is using you both in mighty ways. What a legacy of faith in your family. I'm excited to see what God has in store for all of you.

  50. 250
    Shellie Paparazzo says:

    That is so cool. I hope I can go to bible school someday. Right now I'm too busy with my kids and don't have any money! Love the pictures! You are both so gorgeous!

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