5

Song of Solomon 8:1 reads thus (NKJV):

Oh, that you were like my brother, Who nursed at my mother’s breasts! If I should find you outside, I would kiss you; I would not be despised.

In other words, she wishes the ones she loved were her brother so that she could kiss him outside without being "despised." Does this suggest that it was frowned upon for couples to kiss before marriage? Thanks in advance for answering!

1
  • 1
    Note that the "despised" at the time the KJV was composed did not have the same meaning that it has today (NKJV did not change the wording, despite the common usage changing quite significantly since KJV was composed). Nowadays, "despised" basically means "hated"; back then, it held meanings more like "looked down upon" or "disdained" (it also covered "scorned", which evolved into the modern "hated" later). You seem to understand it meant it was merely "frowned upon", not a cause for hatred, but I just wanted to be clear on this. Jul 1 at 0:41
2

Song of Solomon 8:1

Oh, that you were like my brother, Who nursed at my mother’s breasts! If I should find you outside, I would kiss you; I would not be despised.

It does seem to indicate that if she kissed someone not her brother outside, she would be despised. It should be read from the mindset of the wishful thinking of an innocent girl with no sexual connotation.

In contrast, Proverbs 7 describes a brazen woman:

10 Then out came a woman to meet him,
dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.
11(She is unruly and defiant,
her feet never stay at home;
12now in the street, now in the squares,
at every corner she lurks.)
13She took hold of him and kissed him
and with a brazen face she said:
14“Today I fulfilled my vows,
and I have food from my fellowship offering at home.
15So I came out to meet you;
I looked for you and have found you!

Does this suggest that it was frowned upon for couples to kiss before marriage?

In the public, I'd say so.

6
  • I see. What about non-public settings? Could couples that weren't betrothed/married show affection in private, or was that reserved for marriage?
    – The Editor
    Jul 1 at 17:36
  • Sorry, I do not know.
    – Tony Chan
    Jul 1 at 17:48
  • Probably it was okay if it didn't lead to intercourse, but that's a big "if". Jul 3 at 19:23
  • @CoryHaffly Thanks! Do you know any sources, or are you speculating your best guess?
    – The Editor
    Jul 3 at 21:32
  • @CoryHaffly I didn't know this until yesterday, but I came across the Jewish principle called Negiah. According to Wikipedia, it "forbids or restricts sensual physical contact with a member of the opposite sex (except for one's spouse outside the niddah period, and certain close relatives to whom one is presumed not to have sexual attraction)." Assuming Negiah was the norm in Bible times, would this disprove the thought that pre-marital physical affection was acceptable? Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negiah
    – The Editor
    Jul 14 at 16:07
1

Affection, especially public displays of affection in the eastern societies, are divided into two categories as this verse makes clear:

  • sibling, familial and friendship affection such as between brothers and sister or between mother and children, or between close friends, etc. This kind of familial affection in public is encouraged and condoned.
  • affection with sexual overtones such as between married people in public is strongly discouraged. It would be very rare to see a husband and wife kiss in public and if it did occur, it would be frowned upon.

Thus, in the Song of Solomon, the woman wishes to express here love and affection for the man by kissing but because of her strong (sexual) desires for him (SS 2:7, 3:5, 8:4, see also SS 2:5, 5:8), must refrain from doing so.

Note the comments of Benson -

Song of Solomon 8:1. O that thou wert as my brother — Most intimate, and free, and familiar with me, as brethren and sisters commonly are; ... When I should find thee without, &c. — In the open streets; I would kiss thee, &c. — And thus express my affection to thee openly, without fearing any scandal or contempt; such expressions being usual among persons so nearly and dearly related.

7
  • I see. What about non-public settings? Could couples that weren't betrothed/married show affection in private, or was that reserved for marriage?
    – The Editor
    Jul 1 at 17:35
  • @TheEditor - affection in private was another matter and often done but the Bible is strangely silent about this. The closest we come is the public kiss of Jacob to Rachel in Gen 29:11 & 21.
    – Dottard
    Jul 1 at 21:41
  • Ah, that's interesting! Of course, while Jacob's kissing of Rachel could also fall into the category of familial affection to some extent, as explained in 29:12-14, we do see a to-be-married couple kissing here in some sense. What extra-biblical sources testify that affection in private was often done? (I assume this question, while extra-biblical, is still relevant here, as extra-biblical sources referencing the culture of Bible times can provide commentary on the historical context in which it was written.)
    – The Editor
    Jul 3 at 2:12
  • Regarding your comment that "affection in private was another matter and often done," what source(s) would you reference? I'm fine if it's biblical or extrabiblical. Thanks!
    – The Editor
    Jul 8 at 15:27
  • @TheEditor - look at passages like Gen 26:8 and the numerous verses about "fondling".
    – Dottard
    Jul 8 at 21:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.