Summary: How is a Christian suppose to smell? According to Paul, he is to smell sweet and pleasant, like the perfume of God in Christ.

Napoleon and Josephine adored violets. She often wore

the extremely expensive violet scented perfume as her trade

mark. Only the wealthiest people could afford it. When she

died in 1814, Napoleon planted violets at her grave, and just

before his exile to St. Helena he made a pilgrimage to it. He

picked some of the violets and put them in a locket which he

wore around his neck to the end of his life. Here were lovers

who were linked by their noses, and a special fragrance kept

that memory of their love alive even after death.

Solomon would not be surprised by this, for his love song

is filled with the fragrance of love. From the beginning to

the end the nose is playing a prominent role in the romance.

Solomon may not have known that we breathe about 23,000

times a day and move 438 cubic feet of air. He may not have

known that man is capable of detecting over 10,000 different

odors, but Solomon knew that the sense of smell has more to

do with love than most people ever dream of. His love song

is filled with perfume, incense, fragrant spices, flower and

spring garden smells of all kinds, and also the smells of trees,

plants and fruits. I doubt if there are so many references to

romantic smells, in so short a space, in any literature on


Rather surprising is the fact that the first reference to perfume

refers to the male. In verse 3 the female lover says

pleasing is the fragrance of your perfume. Not only is his

wearing of perfume surprising, but it is plural-perfumes.

The male lover has more than one kind, and he is giving her

multiple pleasant sensations. The mystery is easily solved by

a study of the role of perfume in the ancient world. We use

deodorants, after shave, and cologne today, but we are

conservatives compared to the ancient world where men use

more perfume than women do in our day.

John Trevenar in, The Romantic Story of Scent writes,

"The men of the ancient world were clean and scented."

Keep in mind, we are talking about the Biblical world where

it was hot and dusty, and you could perspire at the drop of a

toga. Smelling good was so much of a part of that world that

we have detailed records of how they perfumed themselves,

and even washed their clothes in perfume. Two of the three

gifts the wise men brought to Jesus were frankincense and

myrrh. These were two of the oldest and most expensive

perfumes in the ancient world. When Mary and Joseph fled

to Egypt they were hot, and Joseph would have used as

much of the perfume as Mary, for it was vital to a man to

smell good.

We could spend hours just looking at the evidence to

confirm the reality of Solomon's song, but let me just share

one paragraph from Diane Ackerman's, A Natural History

Of The Senses, which was published in 1990.

Ancient he-men were heavily perfumed. In a way, strong scents

widened their presence, extended their territory. In the

pre-Greek culture of Crete, athletes anointed themselves with

specific aromatic oils before the games. Greek writers of around 400BC

recommended mint for the arms, thyme for the knees, cinnamon, rose,

or palm oil for the jaws and chest, almond oil for the hands and

feet, and marjoram for the hair and eyebrows. Egyptian men, attending a

dinner party would receive garlands of flowers and their choice of

perfumes at the door. Flower petals would be scattered underfoot,

so they could make a fragrance stir when guests trod on them.

Statues at these banquets often spurted scented water from their several

orifices. Before retiring, a man would crush solid perfume until

it was an oily powder and scatter it onto his bed so that he could

absorb its scent while he slept. Homer describes the obligatory

courtesy of offering visitors a bath and aromatic oils. Alexander

the Great was a lavish user of both perfumes and incense, and was

fond enough of saffron to have his tunics soaked in its


Her elaborate research has led to dozens of pages of this

kind of information, yet she says, as a world authority on

odors, "The most scent-drenched poem of all times is the

Song of Solomon." This song makes the fragrance of love a

major issue, and Christians who do not heed this revelation

lose a valuable tip. For centuries Christians ignored this

book and did not take it seriously. They developed the idea

that it was worldly to use perfume and smell good. They felt

it was more holy to be dirty. The Puritans did not go that

far, but they did reject perfume as worldly. To this day, the

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