The Song of Solomon has much to teach us about love. Rob Bell, in his Nooma video “Flame” points out that Solomon uses three different words of love throughout his Song. Most are familiar with the multiple versions of “love” in the Greek (eros, philios, agape), but few know that the Hebrew has three as well.
The first is raya, a deep friendship. This kind of love is similar to our word “soulmate”. It is a love that is irrespective of gender and is based on commonality, shared experience, and camaraderie.
The second is ahavah, love of the will. This love is the love of choice. We talk a lot about this love in churches. I have preached that this is “real love”, to choose to put someone else’s needs above your own. And while this is an important and often missing aspect of love, it is not the only type of love we experience.
The third is dod, the love of passion, sexual attraction, and physicality. It is romance, arousal, and the most worshiped kind of love in our culture. In fact, modern media seems to be obsessed with this particular kind of love to the detriment of the other two.
Solomon uses all three of these words for love throughout his Song because all three are important aspects of our relationships. In fact, Bell notices, without all three, our marriages don’t work. Imagine a marriage missing it’s raya. This marriage is a chore you chose to do every day, with occasional bouts of romance but no real friendship for the day to day living together. Or a marriage without it’s dod, a boring affair where the two are close friends with common interests but no attraction to each other beyond familiarity. And of course a marriage without ahavah is rather common in today’s society, leading us to the current 53% divorce rate. This is a marriage based on physical attraction that leads to friendships, but no self-sacrifice and no foundation.
Which aspect of love are you experiencing the most these days? Which one is missing or weak? How might you build that aspect up in your friendships, marriage, and even relationship with God?