Raisins and Flagons – Song of Songs 2:5

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.
cup of raisins

Song of Songs 2:5a

  • KJV: Stay me with flagons…
  • NIV: Strengthen me with raisins…
  • NASB: Strengthen me with raisin cakes…

Given the raisin-oriented interpretation across translations, it’s likely no surprise that “flagons” is the odd man out. Other verses in the Bible with this word are similarly off.

Hosea 3:1 refers to those who “turn to other gods and love raisin cakes” in the NASB, and the NIV only differs by prepending it with “the sacred”. Meanwhile, the KJV calls them those “who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine.” More with the flagons. What gives?

2 Samuel 6:19 records David giving out a “cake of raisins” (NIV) to citizens among other things. The NASB says, in essence, the same thing. The KJV remains focused, translating it as “flagons of wine“.

These raisin cakes were made in two shapes — a nude female with oversized sexual features or a triangle representing the vulva.


Isaiah 16:7 refers to wanting “the raisin cakes of Kir Hareseth” in the NIV, and NASB, but the KJV avoids the word altogether. “For the foundations of Kir-Hareseth shall ye mourn” it says. So it’s like they don’t even buy into the flagons concept consistently.

One thing is certain; these items are food tied to religious festivals. David’s gifts accompanied a great party, which triggered a fight with his wife about indecency, and the Hosea and Isaiah references tie these treats to cultic celebrations.

Meanwhile, Jeremiah 7:18 describes people making cakes to portray the well-known fertility goddess Ishtar, also called the Queen of Heaven. The extensive sexual rituals this cult centered around apparently included — get this — raisin cakes made in a couple shapes.

One was Ishtar herself, a nude female with oversized sexual features. The other was a triangle representing the vulva.

Not very subtle, I admit, but these simple pastries were unsurprisingly popular and well-known throughout the region, even in other cultures like the Hebrews. You didn’t have to worship Ishtar to know, recognize, and enjoy the triangular treats and even appreciate a secularized version of the sexual message they portrayed.

As a result, it’s highly possible that these seemingly innocent raisin cakes were actually rich in erotic symbolism.

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Photo credit: Migle Seikyte / 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.