1. Song of Solomon 4:11 (ESV)
  2. Exposition

Why do her lips drip nectar, and why is there honey and milk under her tongue?

Song of Solomon 4:11 (ESV)

11 Your lips drip nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue; the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon.

Nectar and honey from the honeycomb are sweet and desirable. The reference to the honey dripping from her mouth creates a sensuous picture which is good and positive.1 The desire of the man to have his own mouth and lips in contact with hers is explicit. Milk and honey are delights to be savoured and consumed.2 The taste of the woman’s lips combines with the scent of her oils to form a powerful concoction.3

The imagery in this poem has many parallels with Proverbs 5:1–23, where a father warns his son of the temptation and dangers of love outside of marriage. In Proverbs 5:3–6 the forbidden woman’s lips are also described as dripping honey, but there it is a deceit, since what looks sweet is actually poisonous.4 Even in Proverbs 5:1–23, the joys and goodness of lovemaking are clear, but they become destructive when taken outside of marriage.

Milk and honey are items of the Promised Land which replace, in Israelite experience, a wondering in the desert.5 The young man is calling the woman out of the wilderness of separation, into the fulfilment of consummation. The presence of milk and honey under her tongue compares her to the Promised Land itself, a symbol of fruitfulness, prosperity, and rest.6