Dreamstime

I don’t know how many women today would be turned on before lovemaking if her groom told her that her neck was like a tower. But the Groom in the Song goes for it, telling her,

“Your neck is like the tower of David, constructed in layers. A thousand shields are hung on it—all of them shields of warriors.”

(Song 4:4)

Her neck is likened to a military structure.[1]

What’s the deal with towers and why is this a sweet nothing? We see the advantage of a tower throughout the Old Testament canon. As Carol Meyers explains, “Whether as an isolated structure in the field (Isa 5:2; Mic 4:9; Gen 35:21) or as the stronghold of a city (Judg 9:46–49; Neh 3:1; 12:39), a tower represents strength and protection.”[2]  Meyers notes how we don’t ever read about an actual tower of David, the military commander extraordinaire, so this is more of an abstraction. [3] It would be the tower of towers. In this verse, this sweet nothing whispered to the bride before lovemaking on her wedding night associates her neck with top-notch military language: tower, David, a thousand shields, warriors.

This is how the Groom sees her.

The word tower pops back up again in yet another wasf about the bride. In ancient Arabic love poetry, wasfs delightfully describe multiple body parts, often using metaphoric comparisons. Here he says that her neck is a tower of ivory, and her nose is “like the tower of Lebanon looking toward Damascus” (Song 7:4). This Damascus reference is again alluding to military advantage, whether referring to an actual tower or to the mountains of Damascus being towering. Damascus was situated on a high plateau and was a “major military threat to Israel between the reign of Solomon and the Assyrian conquest in 732 B.C.E.”[4]  Meyers continues regarding the military language used in Song 7:4: “The ‘pools’ in Hebron to which the woman’s eyes are likened are most likely artificial pools—reservoirs— constructed for military, not agricultural, purposes…And the ‘gate’ of Bat Rabbim is part of the military defenses of a city and also a public place, a place frequented by males (cf. Prov 31:23) and not by females.”[5]  What is all this about? How does this challenge our own view of gender imagery?

This brings us to our power verse, Song 8:10:

“I am a wall and my breasts like towers. So to him I have become like one who finds peace.”

There she is, standing strong, using her own voice to describe herself as a wall. Now her breasts are towers. Something that is associated with male desire and motherly nurture is described as a militant force. And another plot twist: “The one to whom all the military allusions have been made secures the opposite of what they represent.”[6] In his eyes she finds peace.

But that is just it. All this military language from the male world ascribed to the woman and her own appropriation of it goes back to what Anna Anderson says about our symbolic nature—the homecoming after the war. Woman is a type of the second order. Grasping this typology, really understanding it, changes how we see. Is not that the advantage of the tower? Perspective! Sight! What strength there is against enemies and temptation in the advantage of sight!

Peter implores husbands to treat their wives with honor, as they are the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7). Is this a contradiction? No, Peter is likely referring to the physical differences women have in strength, but mostly in conjunction to their resulting status in the world. Men throughout history have held their power over women, and Peter says, No, you are heirs together and your own prayers will be hindered if you treat your wife the way the world does. See her as Christ sees his bride. Her whole body and presence points you to true strength—in receiving the love of the Lord, you have the strongest advantage. Her very breasts point to your absolute dependence on her for life, just like the collective bride is absolutely dependent on Christ, who nurtures her by his Word and sacrament in his church. She sees. She feeds. She is a city on a hill (Matt. 5:14).

Her neck is a tower in this world. It holds the head and sets the eyes in the direction in which they will see. Her nose is a tower of Lebanon, for the church. It has the best vantage position—others have to align themselves with her to secure peace. And her breasts are towers. She has found peace in the eyes of her Beloved and is sharing her strength with her brothers and sisters, feeding them with the Word.

This is the church. Zion. The last woman standing.

*Adapted from my book, The Sexual Reformation, from the chapter, The Last Woman Standing.


[1] This reminds us of the military language saturated around the word helper/ ezer that is first used to describe women as man’s ezer (Gen. 2:18), and also used to describe God as Israel’s ezer (Ex. 18:4; Deut. 33:7, 26, 29; Pss. 20:2; 33:20; 70:5; 89:17; 115:9–11; 121:1–2; 124:8; 146:5; Hos. 13:9).

[2] Carol Meyers, “Gender Imagery in the Song of Songs,” HAR 10 (1986): 213, https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/159572290.pdf.

[3] Meyers, 213.

[4] Meyers, 214.

[5] Meyers, 214.

[6] Meyers, 215.