Rise Up, My Love (254): What Are Some New and Old Fruits We Can Give?

Song of Solomon 7:13 “…and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved.” The term translated “pleasant fruits” in the KJV is the Hebrew word meged which means “costly” or “precious,” and the idea of fruit is interpolated, since it is not in the original text. (So, do you suppose it was really sushi? Just kidding!) Sapan is the Hebrew term translated “laid up” and means “to hide or to conceal.”*

Since the phrase “pleasant fruits” used in 4:16 is most often thought to be alluding metaphorically to marital bliss, most commentators interpret these costly delicacies—so carefully hidden away by the bride for her husband—to be the offerings of her own personal affections. As a wife, I can easily imagine that a husband would prize the offerings of love more highly than gifts of fresh and dried fruits, but—whether taken figuratively or literally—the invitation is a triple delight!  🙂

First, Solomon’s wife offers all types of that which is pleasantly appealing. Second, she offers both old and new delights. And third, she offers fruits which she has lovingly stored away just for him. “All manner of pleasant fruits…” All—every—not just some or a few favorite, but some of each of those that delight. Nothing held back; nothing excused; nothing missing. Oh, that our hearts might produce and store up for our beloved all the fruits that will delight him!  “New and old…” Here is a woman who knows what her husband loves but who continues to be freshly creative in finding new ways of pleasing him. Based on her experience of what he has loved in the past, she prepares for him a wealth of his “old favorites,” but that isn’t enough to satisfy her! She has experimented with new fruits that she believes will delight him also. Isn’t that the true nature of love? It is ever constant, yet constantly expanding…ever soothing by its familiarity, yet ever fresh and refreshing.

And spiritually, what could the new and old fruits be? Well, it has been said that “love is the golden thread that binds all together,” so surely it is a new fruit as well as an old fruit. Love is the first fruit, and the last fruit. It is the first work, and without it, any other work becomes “tinkling brass” without meaning or “a sounding gong” without melody. The bride has certainly demonstrated love in her plans and preparations.

What else? New fruits…old fruits. If I were thinking literally about my household, I would say that new fruits are mangoes and kiwis and old fruits are dates and raisins. Do you think that’s what the Bible is talking about? Let’s think beyond the literal story to its possible allegorical, spiritual meaning. New fruits…new efforts, new converts brought to Christ, new zeal and deepening commitment, fresh understanding about who he is and what his Word means, new enthusiasm to serve him, new appreciation for all his blessings and protections, new awareness of how much his presence means to us, a new sense of reverence for the majesty of his person, which rises in us like a great tidal wave sweeping over our souls.

Ah, how he longs for us to go on in our faith, learning new things about him and recognizing the new mercies that he lavishes on us morning by morning! How he wants us to conquer new territory, praying with Jabez: “Oh that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, and that your hand would be with me, and that you would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain” (1 Chronicles 6:10, NIV). New surrender, new courage, new hope, new strength, new confidence, new endurance. How our Lord longs for us to prepare such gifts for him!

And, what about old fruits? What might they be? Old honors and successes…not clinging to them in pride, but instead recognizing that it is not we ourselves but rather Jesus who does all things well and works through us to perform his good pleasure… looking ever forward to Christ alone as the goal and prize for which we strive. Old forgiveness…taking the sins that he’s forgiven and casting them behind our backs forever, refusing to ever speak or even think of them again…not only the sins that we’ve committed but the sins that others have committed against us.   Old saints, ripening for heaven, and old parents (whether saved or unsaved) who brought us up…do we truly give them the place of reverential honor that they deserve? Or, do we tend to blame them for our failures and despise their ever-increasing frailty and need for help? Wow. I believe God wants us to honor our earthly fathers and mothers as a reflection of the honor we feel for our heavenly Father. That’s a big one, but that is certainly an “old fruit” that we could store up to please our Lord!  Not only is it the cup of cold water given to a child in his name that pleases our Lord, it is the cup of kindness poured out to the elderly…that extra sacrificial time we take to bring them into our homes, to read to them, to talk to them, to pray with them, to bring them into our confidence. I had two very aged and needy parents when I wrote this (years ago now), and there was nothing that meant more to my father than just having me sit at his bedside, hold his hand, and spend some time with him. If we try to minister to our parents with the same tender love with which we’d attend Christ…that is a gift for him!

Indeed, in all of life, may the good that is produced in and through us be “laid up” all for Jesus, and for him alone.

“Thou God and I, none other:
Oh far from men to be!
Nay, midst the crowd and tumult,
Still Lord alone with Thee.
Still folded close upon Thy breast,
In field and mart and street.
Untroubled in that perfect rest,
That isolation sweet.”
(—L.M. McPhee, in The Romance of the Ages)

* Paige Patterson, Song of Solomon (Chicago:  Moody, 1986), 111.

Rise Up, My Love (253): Ever Wondered What Mandrakes Are?

Song of Solomon 7:13 “The mandrakes give a smell.” What in the world are mandrakes? They are only mentioned six times in Scripture: once in this verse and five times in Genesis 30:14-16, where Rachel bargains with her sister Leah, exchanging the privilege of sleeping with their husband Jacob for the mandrakes that Leah’s son Reuben found in the field. Why all the fuss about mandrakes, and what are they?

For a starter, it’s inconceivable to me that a woman would exchange a night of physical intimacy with her husband for anything! I believe God intended marital expression to be sacred and beyond price, as intimated in chapter 8: “If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be condemned.” How would you feel if your spouse “hired” you out for a bunch of whatevers?

That preposterous and degrading deal aside (an insight into the petty selfishness of our human nature, since we’ve all fallen prey to the temptation to exchange our souls for some trite pleasure from time to time…), let’s go back to the use of the term “mandrake” in Solomon’s song. The word translated “mandrake” is the Hebrew duda’im. It is consistently translated as “love apple” in the The Interlinear Bible and as something which induces love in Brown-Driver-Brigg’s Hebrew and English Lexicon (1).

In the final analysis, no one knows for sure what these “love apples” were, but the top two choices for “preferred guess” are either what we commonly call “may apples” today, or the Mandragora. May apples are common throughout temperate regions. In fact, we have colonies of them in our woods. In the spring each plant sprouts into a leafy one-foot umbrella with a single white blossom sheltered underneath, which becomes a yellowish, edible fruit about the size of a nutmeg in late May or June. The flowers have a very mild but pleasing scent, although the children and I have never found it perceptible from the path…only by studied trial. Also, may apples are edible but not especially flavorful, certainly nothing exotic or gourmet like the morel mushrooms that also sprout up in our woods about that time! It’s inconceivable to me that Rachel would have found anything in May apples compellingly attractive enough to tempt her to sell her husband’s affection!

On the other hand, the genus Mandragora has six species still common to the Mediterranean region which were used in antiquity as addictive aphrodisiacs. The Mandragora is a poisonous, perennial member of the potato family (Solanceae) (2).  It has tuberous roots that look almost like clusters of large grapes, and according to the World Book Encyclopedia(3) , these roots were often used as “narcotics, anesthetics, and in so-called love potions.” It is said that these mandrakes had a “very distinct and agreeable odor” and that “among the Arabs it was called both ‘the servant of love’ and the ruffah eshaitain or ‘Satan’s apples’ (4).”

It is conceivable to me that such a potent and powerfully addictive plant could arouse the passionate demands demonstrated in Rachel. In the Song of Solomon, there is no hint of evil or inordinate passion. The verse only mentions, “The mandrakes give a smell,” and perhaps the proper interpretive amplification of this comment might be, “It is the time for sharing love. Can’t you tell? Even the air is filled with the scent of love!” This is a good thing, and love should be everywhere about us. That is the bright and positive side of a good relationship.

On the dark side, perhaps this verse should cause us to reflect for a minute on our desires. Is there anything in our life that drives us…that controls our behavior…or is threatening to do so? Is there anything so powerful in our lives that we would choose to pursue it over pursuing time with our Lord and our spouse? Any person, any pass time, any passion? I find myself from time to time feeling the heavy hand of temptation luring me toward some lust. It can be something as simple but almost universal as the temptation to overeat. It can be the subtle pleasure of spending money on myself for something I want but don’t need. It can be the idle enjoyment of a wasted hour when there was much work to be done. It can be the deadly draw toward fascination with any man who is not my husband. The world, my flesh, and the devil conspire to surround me with temptations and lusts that are as powerfully addictive and attractive as the ancient mandrakes.

I wonder, are we being tempted by any mandrakes in our lives today? Don’t be driven to trade your spouse’s affection for a handful of “mandrakes,” whatever they are. What attractive scent is arousing passion in you? Food? Money? Leisure? Sex? Don’t trade your soul or your spouse’s love for a pot of poisonous (but narcotic) pottage! If there is good, find it, and let it arouse right desires. Eating is good; just don’t overeat. Money is good; just don’t overindulge. Leisure is good; just use it to restore rather than debilitate. Sex is good; just make sure that it’s with your mate! When the scent of mandrakes in your life is arousing you, learn to say, “Rise up, my love, and come away with me! Let me give you my love, and all the good things I’ve prepared for you!” Live for your Lord, and if you’re married, live joyfully with your spouse. (1) Brown, Francis, D.D., D. Litt. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. 1997, 188 (cf. pg. 188,“love-producing…as exciting sexual desire”).
(2) The Encyclopedia Americana.  Danbury, Connecticut: Grolier Inc., 1995, 227.
(3) The World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book—Childcraft International, Inc., 1980, 103.
(4) Paige Patterson, Song of Solomon (Chicago:  Moody, 1986), 111.
(Photos from Wikipedia)