Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my beloved among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. Song of Songs 2:3

Our Western ears don’t immediately understand the symbolic meaning of what is being expressed and some research is helpful. (Hubbard in Constable’s commentary) “‘Shade’, ‘fruit’ and ‘apple tree’ are all ancient erotic symbols …”

Various cultures have different euphemisms for lovemaking. We also discover that the roles of men and women in romantic relationships have changed: “In the Song, as in much of the other ancient Near Eastern love poetry, the woman is the one who takes the initiative, and who is more outspoken … Our contemporary attitude where the girl is on the defensive and the man is the initiator, is a direct contrast with the attitude in the ancient world” (Hubbard).

When did the concept of the woman being the initiator change? And why?

We’re more affected by our culture than we realise. We tend to assume that our cultural understanding is the ‘correct’ one or the Biblical one, when this may not be the case.

Christianity began in the Middle East and spread to Western cultures. When Emperor Constantine converted to Christian faith, it became an organized religion and the Bible began to be filtered through a Western mindset. Christian archaeologists and historians are sometimes surprised by what they find—artwork showing female priests or churches containing zodiac symbols. What did these symbols mean to people in their day? Were they merely decorative?

I wonder how much we are influenced by our culture rather than God’s Word? It makes us cautious about insisting that our cultural view is the most accurate.