A close-up shot of a delicate lily blossom, bathed in soft golden light, symbolizing purity and grace, reminiscent of the biblical figure, Lily, with an air of mystery and divine beauty.

Who Was Lily In The Bible? A Detailed Exploration

If you opened this article, chances are you want to know more about the mysterious woman named Lily that is mentioned just once in the Bible. You likely have questions like: Who exactly was Lily? Why is she only mentioned one time? What significance does she hold?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Lily mentioned in the Bible is speculated to symbolize purity, beauty and love. She appears in Song of Songs amid romantic poetry, leading many to believe she served as an idealized image of the perfect, faithful woman and lover.

In this comprehensive guide, we will analyze the limited information the Bible gives us about Lily. We’ll explore scholarly theories about her meaning and symbolism. By the end, you’ll have a deeper understanding of this enigmatic biblical figure.

Examining Lily’s Single Mention in Song of Songs

The Overall Meaning and Purpose of Song of Songs

The Song of Songs, also known as the Song of Solomon, is unique in the Bible as a book focused on romantic and erotic love. Most scholars believe it depicts a poetic dialogue between King Solomon and his beloved bride, celebrating their intimate relationship and upcoming marriage.

However, some interpret the lovers allegorically as representing God’s love for Israel or Christ’s love for the Church.

Looking Closely at the Text Mentioning Lily

The only direct mention of “lily” is in Song of Songs 2:1-2 (ESV):

I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women.

Here, the woman compares herself to a “lily of the valleys.” She sees herself as a beautiful flower blooming in a lowland region. The lily was associated with splendor and glory in ancient Israel.

In the next line, she compares her lover to a lily surrounded by thorns. He stands out as superior among the other young men, just as a graceful lily contrasts with tangled brambles.

Though brief, this poetic metaphor powerfully conveys the mutual admiration between the two lovers by linking them both with the regal yet delicate lily.

Significance of Comparison to Flora

The Song of Songs contains many vivid botanical images including flowers, fruits, trees, vines, and spices. Some key examples include:

  • Rose of Sharon (Song 2:1)
  • Apple tree (Song 2:3)
  • Flowers blooming in spring (Song 2:12)
  • Vineyard blossoms (Song 6:11)
  • Pomegranates (Song 4:3,13)

The natural beauty of plants and gardens evokes the romantic atmosphere between the lovers. Comparing the woman and man to prized flowers like the rose and lily highlights their supreme value in each other’s eyes.

In ancient literature, women were sometimes called “lilies” as a compliment to their purity and loveliness. So the title “lily of the valleys” for the bride in Song of Songs may also imply she is the best of women, according to the groom’s perspective.

Lily as an Idealized Symbol of Purity and Beauty

Parallels to Other Ancient Near East Literature

The lily flower is often used as a symbol of purity and beauty in biblical and other Ancient Near Eastern texts. For example, an ancient Egyptian love poem compares a woman’s beauty to lilies stating “she shines before me like the newly-opened lily; her brightness outshines the glittering rays of the sun.”

This shows the long-standing association of lilies with ideal feminine beauty and virtue.

There are also parallels in the Song of Songs which compares the Beloved to “a lily among thorns” (Song of Songs 2:2). This implies the woman’s pure inner virtue contrasts starkly against more corrupt women around her. Later verses such as “His cheeks are like beds of spice yielding perfume.

His lips are lilies, distilling liquid myrrh” (Song 5:13) also link lilies to the Divine Feminine and the sacred marriage imagery in this text.

Connection to Feminine Virtues

The delicate white flowers have come to exemplify feminine virtues like purity, chastity, humility and nobility. This arises from long cultural traditions idealizing female virginity prior to marriage.

Biblical stories about virtuous heroines such as Esther and Ruth reinforce such archetypes relating floral metaphors like lilies to feminine identity.

Artworks depicting the Annunciation and Virgin Mary herself often include lilies symbolizing her perpetual purity and sinlessness. Madonna Lily varieties are even named after her. Through such cultural imagery, the lily flower takes on connotations of feminine divinity, innocence and morality transcending temporal corruption.

Linking Lily Imagery to the Divine Feminine

Lily symbolism ultimately represents a bridge between female virtue and the Divine Feminine embodied in scriptural heroines like the Shulamite Bride. The floral motifs reflect how spiritual traditions have tended to associate female chastity and beauty with proximity to the sacred.

Calling the Beloved “a lily among thorns” implies she channels divine grace and illumination despite surroundings dominated more by earthly passions.

So while seemingly a simple poetic device, referring metaphorically to women as lilies actually implies a deep theological underpinning. It sets feminine figures like the Shulamite Bride as representatives of Sophia or Divine Wisdom.

Their purity and beauty thus symbolize humanity’s spiritual yearning for sacred reconnection. So through such imagery lilies take on layers of meaning and become symbols for the Great Goddess herself.

Alternative Theories and Interpretations

Viewing Lily as a Literal Person or Individual

Some scholars take a literal view of the lily in the Bible, seeing it as referring to an actual person or individual. Under this interpretation, the lily symbolizes a woman of faith and beauty. Possible candidates include the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, or another female disciple of Jesus.

The lily’s growth from the thorns is seen as this woman emerging from hardship and sorrow to serve God in an exemplary way.

Other literal readings focus less on identifying the exact woman and more on the lily representing the ideal woman or wife. Her fragrance, beauty, and endurance connect her to feminine virtues praised in Scriptures like Proverbs 31.

So the lily epitomizes godliness, nurturing, and the blessing of a noble character in a woman.

Seeing Lily as Allegory for God’s Love and Grace

Many scholars favor a figurative approach to the lily, seeing it as a symbol or metaphor rather than a specific female individual. In this allegorical interpretation, the lily embodies God’s redemptive love which transforms brokenness and pain into salvation and joy.

Just as a lily grows from thorny ground, God’s grace emerges to revive people battered by life’s troubles. The lily’s radiance amidst gloom speaks to the power of divine love to illuminate the darkest places.

So rather than signifying one special woman, the lily represents God raising up all who trust in Him. It offers hope of comfort and restoration to everyone afflicted.

Feminist Readings

Feminist perspectives offer thought-provoking takes on the lily. Some see the lily as symbolizing the strength and nurturing power of the divine feminine. Through Her love, the Goddess uplifts feminine beauty and spiritual authority too often suppressed in male-centric religious traditions.

The lily blooming from the thorns represents sacred femininity defiantly rising up despite a painful history of subjugation.

Other feminist scholars highlight the life-giving maternal aspects of the lily. As a flower associated with fertility and birth, the lily honors divine motherhood and the commencement of new life. It celebrates regenerative female energy as a wellspring of creativity.

So the lily growing from thorns signifies the magnificent capacity of the feminine divine to bring forth and restore life even out of desolation.

The Enduring Mystique and Intrigue of Lily

Influence on Art, Poetry and Literature

Despite her brief mention in the Bible, Lily has inspired numerous works of art, poetry, and literature over the centuries (Wikipedia). Her name invokes beauty, purity, and fleetingness. Paintings such as Lily of the Valley by Paul Gauguin and poems like Amy Lowell’s Lilies demonstrate her rich symbolic value.

More recently, Lily was a central character in Lauren Kate’s fantasy romance novel Lily. These timeless cultural references reveal an enduring mystique around this enigmatic woman.

Comparison to Other Mysterious Biblical Figures

Like other minor biblical characters such as Lilith and Asherah, Lily captures our imagination despite limited information about her. However, unlike Lilith who developed an elaborate mythical tradition over centuries, Lily remains more obscure and thus tantalizing (My Jewish Learning).

While the Queen of Sheba has developed fame for her wisdom and relationship with King Solomon, Lily is distinctive in her uncertainty and openness to speculation. Ultimately, the lack of details may contribute to her mysterious appeal.

Legacy of Tantalizing Obscurity

As poet Amy Lowell wrote, Lily has become “a lost, lovely mystery” throughout history. Despite attempts to identify her with various women in the Bible like Rachel or Bathsheba, her origins remain obscure. This uncertainty has sparked debate but ultimately leaves us without definitive answers.

Perhaps this is part of her fascination – we can imagine and fill in the gaps however we like. Her obscurity makes Lily an elusive yet captivating character who endures as a hazy dream just beyond our grasp.


In the end, the Lily of Song of Songs remains an evocative but ambiguous presence. While theories abound about her purpose and meaning, the limited biblical text gives no definitive answer. Yet this mystery is a large part of her power and allure.

By analyzing Lily in context and surveying diverse interpretations scholars have offered, we illuminated this cryptic woman as best as possible. From symbolizing idealized feminine virtues to representing God’s grace, she has inspired many resonances while always escaping a final, concrete identity.

Whenever we encounter Lily nestled in the poetic lines of the Bible, she compels us to use imagination and intuition to find personal meaning. Her intrigue continues to sprout new connotations much like the lovely, changeable flower she is named for.

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