One of my favorite and most uncomfortable memories as a Bible professor was when I had Old Testament scholar, Tremper Longman, give a guest lecture on the Song of Songs. Tremper specializes in ancient near Eastern love poetry. No, he’s not some creepy old guy who gets off on ancient erotic fiction. He’s an authority on the Song of Songs, and he interprets the biblical Song in light of other ancient love poems—as it should be.
I’ll never forget feeling the tension in the classroom as he went into detail about the real meaning of the poem. “His body is polished ivory,” says the ESV, but according to Tremper, the Hebrew word for body refers to the man’s midsection and the image of ivory is intended to invoke the original form of ivory: an elephant’s tusk. Yes, that’s right. The wife in Song of Songs 5:14 is admiring her well-hung husband.
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