In the time of the great Flemish painter Rubens ladies that were well endowed were regarded as beautiful. Reuben not only painted these beautiful women, but also has given the word Rubenesque to those ladies who continued to look like the ones he painted.
In our days the models that are seen in New York present the opposite of the Rubenesque beauty. They are skinny, silhouetish and most often starved. Yet many young girls aspire to look like them because that is what is considered beautiful today.
The Bible refers to beauty and also criticizes it. It introduces so many women as beautiful – Sara, Rebecah, Tamar, Esther. Because of their beauty they were tantalizing, fought for and many times they were rewarded their desires. Many of them were known for their elaborate adornments. The Apostle Peter who writes: Your beauty should not come from the outside adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:3-4)
I find it amazing that among all the books of the Bible there is one book called the Song of Songs that is for all practical purposes a love song. In my first church when I was in my late twenties and single, I was surprised that one of the requested books for the bible study was the Song of Songs. I had a wonderful time studying the book so that I could explain the intricacies of the Hebrew poetry. Meanwhile my elderly sisters had a good time laughing at the compliments that the lovers give to one another, especially the gentleman’s. I have preached many sermons at weddings from this book, but we have avoided some of the more obtuse compliments. Few brides want to hear compliments like these: I liken you my darling, to a mare harnessed to one of the chariots of Pharaoh (1:9) or your hair is like a flock of goats (4:1) or your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn (4:2) or your neck is like the tower of David (4:4). He becomes more intimate when he talks about her breasts as the two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browses among the lilies. Most brides want to hear I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley (2:1), or my lover is mine and I am his (2:16) or how my more pleasing is your love than wine and the fragrance of your perfume than any spice (4:10) or the favorite All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you (4:7).
Even those odd compliments that drew laughter from my sisters were wonderful compliments in the days when this love song was written. Nevertheless, beauty is often in the eyes of the beholder and it changes from culture to culture and from era to era. God, who is the creator of beauty, is also aware that beauty can become vanity which is what he tells Samuel: Do not consider his appearance or his height, for have rejected him. The love does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (Sam 16:7).
Compliments in a loving relationship are extremely important. Use them graciously in your cultural context and you will be blessed. Even though Solomon was the wisest man on this earth, refrain from using some of his compliments that will surely get you into trouble.