Understanding Love: Ahava

“Love” is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot in our culture.  Marriages crumble each and every day because one (or both) individuals in the marriage forget what it truly means to love another person.  Therefore, we wanted to write a series based on the subject of love, and focus specifically on what it means to love another person – especially a spouse.  We first wrote out definitions of “love” from dictionaries of different time periods and focused on 1 Corinthians 13.  We then wrote about an Old Testament period Hebrew term used for “love” or “compassion”.  Today, we look at another ancient Hebrew term for love – ahava.

The Hebrew termʾahăbâ (pronounced “ahava” in every piece of literature we’ve read) is rooted in another term ʾāhēb.  The term is used is various parts of the Old Testament, but we would like to focus on specific uses in the Song of Songs.

Songs 2:4 – He brought me to the banquet hall,
and he looked on me with love.

Songs 3:5 – Young women of Jerusalem, I charge you
by the gazelles and the wild does of the field:
do not stir up or awaken love
until the appropriate time.

Songs 8:6 – Set me as a seal on your heart,
as a seal on your arm.
For love is as strong as death;
ardent love is as unrelenting as Sheol.
Love’s flames are fiery flames —
the fiercest of all.

Ahava is “strong affection” for another, and as you can see above, the author of Song of Songs states that this type of affection is quite strong.  While some scholars reference ahava as being potentially sexual in nature, there’s a separate hebrew word for that we’ll cover later. *wink wink*

Song of Songs 8:6 gives a good understanding of this type of love within a marriage.  The author indicates that “ahava” is as strong as death.  Love, as seen here, is perceived to be eternal.  When used accordingly in the marriage relationship, there is a devotion toward one another that cannot be broken by anything other than death.  Situations will arise.  There will be other difficult seasons that contain heartaches.  But an acting out of ahava in the marriage shows that the marriage bond is so strong, so secure, that it is truly the most important relationship for both the husband and the wife.

This particular passage also indicates that ahava is like fiery flames.  Some authors indicate this could be translated as a flaming arrow, the fiercest of all.  Again, this shows that ahava, when truly acted out within the marriage shows the unique oneness of the relationship.  This type of love is not only used as a shield against whatever situations may arise that can cause marital turmoil, but also may be used as a weapon.  An arrow is a weapon fired from a great distance in the heat of battle.  The analogy here is simple: when the marriage relationship is firing on all cylinders and unexpected turmoil attacks the marriage, the ahava is so strong the marriage comes out unscathed.  Additionally, when the marriage relationship is firing on all cylinders, the couple sees little threats at a great distance, and their love for one another is so strong they send fiery arrows towards any and all visible threats, with the purpose of keeping the marriage pure and strong.

Applying ahava love today within marriage seems simple, but it’s really quite difficult.  It requires something of the husband and the wife.  It requires each person to see the beauty of the marriage relationship.  It requires the husband to love his wife as Jesus loved the church, willing to give his life for her.  It requires the wife to show a tremendous amount of respect to her husband.  It requires both to submit to one another.  It requires a genuine desire for relational unity and oneness.  And when that oneness is there, it makes our study for the subject of dod (dode) so much more exciting.  We’ll pick up there next time.  Until then…


What do you and your spouse do to keep marital threats at bay?

For a deeper study on The Song of Songs, we can strongly recommend “Intimacy Ignited” by Dillow/Pintus.  Men, I (Justin) understand the cover may not look “manly”, but this is a great read for you both!

2 thoughts on “Understanding Love: Ahava

  1. That’s so interesting…my husband just led our community group through a study of Song of Songs (pretty sure not many groups study that one). This definitely adds to my understanding of what we just studied.

  2. We named our daughter Ahava. We pronounce it Uh-Hey-Vuh. We love the Hebrew connotation. Also we love that Hava – Eve, means Mother of All. So far she is awfully fierce in her convictions and is also exceedingly motherly. We were very careful in choosing her name, prayerfully. (We often call her Hava for short.)

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