There’s a fascinating, difficult to translate Scripture that could forever change your marriage. It could even give your attitude both to pleasure and to God a major shake-up. Few people hearing of it for the first time would guess it is in the Bible. We’ll dive into the deep end of this passage, then quickly move on.
Here’s the NASB’s attempt to bring to you this astounding Scripture:
… rejoice in the wife of your youth…
Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
be exhilarated always with her love. (Proverbs 5:18-19)
The original Hebrew is so strongly worded that in grasping for suitable words, a renowned Bible scholar decided that even the expression “love-ecstasy” was not intense enough (Reference).
“Be exhilarated always with her love”
The word here rendered “exhilarated” usually means either to be intoxicated, or to go astray, to be deceived. The link between these diverse meanings is that normal, rational behavior has been over-ridden. Be it alcohol, passion, enticement, or foolishness, something has so overwhelmed a person that cautious, controlled thinking has gone out the window.
This passage is saying, within the sanctity of marriage deliberately intensify your passions until you can hardly think straight; regularly so inflame your feelings for your partner that you lose control. Husbands are instructed to bring themselves to the point where they are driven by desire for their wives; to so incite their passions that they are continually mesmerized by their wives’ sensual charms.
“Ever be captivated by her love,” says the NIV.
“Always be transported with delight… ” is how the Amplified Bible puts it, and it renders the very same word in the next verse “be infatuated.”
“Let her breasts satisfy you at all times”
The word translated “satisfy” usually means to be saturated or to drink one’s fill; to have one’s desire fully satisfied. This line therefore seems to be saying Drink your fill of marital pleasure; continually find total satisfaction in your wife. According to a highly esteemed Hebrew dictionary, even this word can sometimes mean to be intoxicated. I haven’t found undeniable proof of that meaning in Scripture, but it would be ludicrous for me to imply I could match wits with Hebrew scholars. Moreover, since the word often means to drink to the full, it’s easy to imagine how it could sometimes be used to imply drunkenness. If so, for the original readers, the close proximity of this word to the one we examined above would presumably have intensified the thought of delirium (Reference).
James Moffatt translated the last two lines:
let her breasts give you rapture,
let her love ever ravish you.
“Cool it!” is what one might have expected God to say. Instead, God’s Word urges each married man to make a continual effort to get intoxicated on his wife’s love. It goes way beyond saying don’t commit adultery. It virtually tells husbands, Go overboard; get as high as you possibly can, as often as you can. Continually stir up your passions so that you find your wife’s delights overwhelmingly seductive. It’s saying don’t merely let nature take its course; get so focused on her, so enamored by her that she blows the circuits of your brain.
Already this is beginning to sound impossible to some readers, so we need to take a few seconds to examine our source of information. We are delving into the words of Solomon, a man whom Scripture says had unique wisdom. Intellectually, he stood head and shoulders above everyone else. Far more significantly, however, we are reading the Word of God. Unlike Solomon’s normal experience, he had locked into God, received divine insight, and was supernaturally guided as he expressed the specific truth God wants humanity to grasp. We are reading the revelation of Almighty God, the One who not only has infinite intelligence and is the Creator of sex, but the very Person who designed and made you and knows every molecule in your body and every thought that has ever passed through your head. He alone knows precisely your potential and your every limitation.
Suppose you buy a new car. After a few months, you finally get around to looking at the manufacturer’s manual. You are astounded to read the speed the book says the car is capable of. You have never pushed the car to its limits but the figure seems incredible. The truth is that your car is capable of what the book says, or you have every right to keep hounding the manufacturer until he makes your car able to reach those speeds.
You can come with this degree of confidence – and greater – to the Scripture we are seeking to understand.
We need to explore more of this fascinating Scripture, but we cannot proceed before helping those readers who feel hurt and offended by the very concept. Tragically, these dear people have been so deluded by fiction that they believe it should not be necessary to almost force oneself to feel passionate about one’s wife. Some shrink from even admitting to themselves that they must stir themselves up because they fear that proves they have an inferior marriage and/or wife.
Like sex, marriage was God’s invention. In this Scripture, the One who made it all is telling us to delight in our marriage partner. If the foolishness of romantic fiction were correct, God was wasting his breath. There would be no need for such an instruction. At most, the Lord would merely say, ‘Follow your heart.’ Obviously, the One who knows everything there is to know about the perfect marriage has a different opinion to some of us.
One final matter before plunging back into this Scripture: I am writing as if your partner enjoys marital relations. Tragically, this is often not the case. If one’s partner finds sex traumatic, one’s marital and spiritual obligation is the opposite of what we have been saying – to control one’s urges, not stir them up. If your partner rarely finds sex enjoyable, please go straight to my article When Marital Relations are a Short-Cut to Hell.)
Moffatt weakened his translation by entirely omitting an expression found in the Hebrew text. As recognized by other Bible versions, to make the translation complete we would have to render it:
let her breasts give you rapture at all times,
let her love ever [or always] ravish you.
As originally penned, the verse emphasizes that this infatuation with one’s spouse should be continual. This is true not only throughout the years, but throughout the day. It applies as much to when one’s wife is absent as when she is present. Job resolved that he would never look with desire at any woman other than his wife (Job 31:1). Obviously, to keep his vow this attitude had to dominate his behavior not only when his wife was near, but whenever any woman was in sight.
True godliness is always positive. Far more than failing to break the commandments, true godliness is the pursuit of love and goodness. It’s not just dodging the world’s filthy stains, it’s glowing with the beauty of Christ. Married people’s sexual obligation is not merely to avoid promiscuity; it’s to do everything in their power to delight in their partner. Viewed from another angle, God’s way to fight temptation is not merely by avoiding the negative, but, wherever applicable, by excelling in the positive.
Yes, be ho-hum about a sex siren’s pose. Find the latest assortment of “beauties” as insipid as dishwater, but banish the slightest trace of a “been there, done that” attitude towards the wife you’ve seen a thousand times. Find unclad super models as bland as raw potatoes, but thrill at the intimacy of your wife letting you see her hair in curlers. Let Miss Universe have a crocodile smile, plucked chicken skin and ostrich legs, but tingle at the thought of holding the hand that wears your ring. Let your heart skip to the moon at the sight of stretch marks caused by your baby.
That’s God’s challenge.
Paula put it this way:
I long ago stopped thinking of the man I married as my “husband,” in the sense of someone to be taken for granted. He is my heart-throb, my lover. I treat him as I were young and single and he were the spunk I wanted desperately to win over; as if I were trying to entice the man of my dreams to marry me.
Paula counseled a new Christian battling temptation to be unfaithful to his wife:
If you channel your sexual energies toward your wife, the enemy will back off. Years ago, my husband went outside of our marriage to satisfy his lust. He won me back through romance and laughter. He sought to become my friend again. I did not make it easy for him. In fact, I resisted strongly but he followed Scripture’s admonition, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). Like most women, I turned out be a push-over for romance. My husband said that if it crossed his mind to make a sexy phone call to another woman, he called me instead. He began to map my curves in his mind and told the enemy that this is the only woman he desired. This is amazing when you consider I weighed more than 250 pounds (114 kilos) at the time!
Consider Brenda, a pregnant mother eagerly anticipating motherhood, which she expects will be hard, tiring work and yet exciting and fulfilling. She gives birth to a beautiful baby who, as far as babies go, is perfect in every way. But Brenda has Post-Natal Depression. The anticipated excitement vanishes. The unfortunate problem is not with the baby. The problem – in this case a medical condition – is within Brenda. This is what it is like with people bored with their partner. The problem is not with the partner. The problem is within the person who is bored. It is true that a change of partner would temporarily transform the situation, but this only masks the problem. It is like a woman with a sickness – perhaps a liver problem – that results in certain foods making her feel unwell. She will feel better with a change of diet, but the sickness is in no way cured. The problem is with her, not with the previous diet, and if the cause of the problem is not dealt with, it will only worsen. In time, not even the new diet will mask the problem.
God wants married people to be good at sex
Fashion, and all sorts of influences outside our control, shape our perception of what is attractive and desirable in a partner. These influences usually dominate people’s sex lives. It is clear from Scripture, however, that there is no need for this. Through Christ we can decide what we find captivating. We can gather all the firepower of sex and, like a guided missile, lock on to our partner’s coordinates, so that, fleeting distractions aside, our passions are always and only targeted at our partner. If we have let ourselves lapse into wrong habits – such as becoming addicted to porn or sinful fantasy or solo sex – undoing the damage will demand much effort, but as we persist, progress will be made.
The way of the world is for you to love a woman because you find her physically desirable. God’s way is the reverse: for you to find a woman physically desirable because you love her. You love her not because of spontaneous feelings that assault you but because marriage means you have committed yourself to love her for life. Therefore you don’t permit your passion to slide. You continually stir up your feelings for her.
Initially, attraction to a person releases chemicals into our blood stream, giving us a pronounced high. This is divinely designed to give us the initial push, but we are then expected to put in the effort to maintain the momentum. Many of us are like a child on a tricycle, too lazy to peddle and expecting to be pushed all the time. There can be no virtue in merely being driven by chemicals in our body. And as you know, God is into virtue in a big way. Moreover, Scripture keeps stressing patience/persistence as being of immense importance to anyone who would go God’s way.
Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
2 Thessalonians 3:13 And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.
Romans 2:7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.
The world almost measures a man’s virility by how many women he gets high on. In contrast to the world’s delusions, the Inventor of sex reveals that the extent to which a man is attracted to women other than his wife is a measure of how sexually dysfunctional he is. A man’s sexual prowess should be measured by how much more his wife excites him than any other woman. If he thinks he needs a younger, sexier partner, it’s because he is sexually inadequate. He is like someone pathetically drawn to loud, gaudy objects because his foolishly abused senses have grown too dim to appreciate real beauty. Chances are he is prematurely becoming a spent force sexually because he has squandered his sexuality on immorality. The cause is often not blatant, physical unfaithfulness but mental sex outside marriage. Stealing pleasure from thoughts and sights he has no right to indulge in has ruined his appetite sexually. The devastation of this sinful folly could well be irreversible. This man’s only hope is that God is merciful to the repentant and that God loves the slighted wife.
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One Woman’s Confession
A woman sent me the following and later kindly permitted me to share it with you. Perhaps seeing the situation reversed will help jolt some of us out of our complacency:
I love my husband with all of my heart but I feel like my views on what’s attractive in a man have been twisted beyond recognition. Though I have not looked at porn, the media continually portrays the perfect guys as being sincere and muscular. I’ve allowed the years of exposure to blind me.
I am now married to the sweetest man I have ever met. He’s not the most built man alive but I love him more for who he is than for his looks. I feel like trash to realize that I think that if he were more muscular or something else the media portrays as “good looking” it would improve the way I view him. And I don’t want to be like that at all!
I’m tired of looking at people from a twisted perspective and expecting the impossible. Not everyone can be 200 pounds of pure muscle and nice at the same time.
I feel like I’ve failed my husband and am nothing more than the average shallow woman. I want to fix it so bad that it hurts and I don’t want to crush his already low self-esteem by telling him how I’ve allowed my views to become distorted. I can’t keep living like this; I have to change for him and myself.
I want the views that have been built up within me to be torn down so I can be closer to my husband. The Bible says that all things are possible through Christ. I have to hold on to that and pray that the views that have built up for so long will be stripped away so I can see my husband through untainted eyes. I know that I am incredibly undeserving of such a loving husband, but I have to do everything in my power to show him that I love him.
I suggested that she spend a month “fasting” from television and spend the time asking God to change her. With the way most of us are addicted to television, I thought that was a big ask but she replied:
I think that’s a really good suggestion. The last thing I want is this world’s views determining what I should and shouldn’t like. And I’m willing to give up anything to bring my husband and I closer together.
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Worldliness is not, of course, the only possible cause of sexual difficulties. Merely growing older has a significant effect. For men, the decline usually begins from their mid-twenties, just as athletes begin to decline. Medical conditions or clinical depression or stress can devastate one’s sex drive. With any decline can come the temptation to bolster one’s flagging desires the wrong way and/or mistakenly blame one’s partner. For instance, some men troubled by impotence experience a temporary revival with a new partner, but it is short-lived. This phenomenon is rather like how in a crises an injured person might lose consciousness of his injury and do things he would not normally do, but it is not long before this extraordinary situation fades and he discovers the injury is still very much with him.
If you are getting bored with your partner, it’s probably because you were divinely designed for variety. Our Maker’s intention is not, of course, that we go the way of the fool by seeking a new partner, but that we break monotony by using the intelligence and creativity he has endowed us with. A highly predictable, minimal effort routine is expected of animals. You, of course, belong in an entirely different class. As far as we know, of everything in the entire universe ever made to mate, we are by far the most sophisticated; God’s crowning jewel. From you is expected something truly worthy of the term lovemaking; a celebration of marital love and sensitivity extending far beyond a physical act. It’s like meal preparation, in that doing the bare minimum produces food that is bland, boring and always the same. Pour enough care and imagination into the task, however, and all the sameness and dullness disappears. You are made to love your partner with not just your animal instincts, but with the height of your intellect. You are divinely designed to express to your partner the depth of your feelings by pouring your love and intelligence and creativity into preparing, as it were, a rich variety of five course gourmet meals of romance. Let lovemaking regularly degenerate into merely a physical act – a mindless, predicable bread and water event – and of course you’ll get bored; but blame your laziness, not your partner.
The cost of this type of love is so high that it’s in the same league as the reward. Early in your relationship, the effort and emotional cost was so great that you were probably relieved to discover after your honeymoon that you could get away with less. For instance, when seeking a partner, men in desperation often do highly unnatural, embarrassing, groveling things that women find romantic – demeaning things that turn women on and turn men’s stomachs. Little wonder that men are happy to let this fall away. The problem is that a less costly relationship is a less rewarding relationship. Yes, you can lower the price, but in so doing you diminish the returns. What we get out is proportional to what we put in.