Bowels – Song of Songs 5:4

The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s, is one of the most debated, profound, and poetic books of the Bible. Its meaning isn't always obvious, even to students like me who believe it to be a frank and straightforward look at healthy marital love. Gleaning from commentators like G. Lloyd Carr, Marvin H. Pope, Dennis F. Kinlaw, and others, I have learned that the Song contains more eroticism, suggestion, and romance than even my substantial assumptions. This is an example.
a toilet

Song of Songs 5:4b

  • KJV: And my bowels were moved for him.
  • NIV: my heart began to pound for him.
  • NASB: And my feelings were aroused for him.

Judging from the KJV, you get the feeling that the lover got so excited she pooped herself. Seriously? Her bowels? Where on earth does that come from?

The KJV, in its archaic day, properly evoked the imagery, but its wholly unfortunate wording means its translation is lost today.


Actually, in a literal sense, the KJV does a fair job of translating the word. The word means internal organs, and in Jonah 2:1, it’s even used for the story’s famous aquatic digestive organs. In a nonclinical sense, Jonah spent three days in a great fish’s bowels.

However, several other verses use this same word to depict other internal organs. Specifically, the more procreative ones.

Look at God’s messianic promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:12, as cited in the KJV: “I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels and I will establish his kingdom.” In today’s terminology, bowels here might be more accurately — if more colloquially — balls. The more circumspect “your own flesh and blood” in the NIV and “who will come forth from you” in the NASB avoid the unpleasantries of referring to sexual organs, but the word is still there in the Hebrew.

It works on the female side, too. Psalm 21:6 includes, “Thou art he that took me out of my mother’s bowels.” In Ruth 1:11, Naomi asks, “Are there yet any more sons in my womb?” God tells Rebekah, “Two nations are in thy womb,” in Genesis 25:23. Each of these uses the same Hebrew word.

With these in mind, the lover’s expression becomes clear. The NIV and NASB correctly capture the emotional undercurrent of the message, but they utterly fail to capture its intensity or flavor. The KJV, in its archaic day, properly evoked the imagery, but its wholly unfortunate wording means its translation is lost today.

As Carr indicates, “The focus of the thrill is specifically sexual.” She’s basically saying, “My uterus was yearning for him.” This was a particularly horny version of butterflies in her stomach.

Whether or not these butterflies triggered a bowel movement I’ll leave you to decide.

Originally posted 2015-11-30 08:00:25.

Photo credit: dirtyboxface / Foter / CC BY-SA
About Phil (251 Articles)
Philip Osgood is a Christian husband, father, and writer who considers himself a passable video game player, fiction reader, camping and hiking enthusiast, welder, computer guy, and fitness aficionado, though real experts in each field might just die of laughter to hear him claim it. He has been called snarky, cynical, intelligent, eccentric, creative, logical, and Steve for some reason. Phil and his beautiful wife Clara live in Texas with their children in a house with a dog but no white picket fence. He does own a titanium spork from ThinkGeek, though, so he must be alright.