Proverbs 31:1 MEANING

Proverbs 31:1


(1) The words of king Lemuel. . . .--More probably this should be translated," The words of Lemuel, king of Massa." (See above on Proverbs 30:1.) "Lemuel," which most likely signifies (dedicated) "to God," has been, like Agur, supposed to be a designation of Solomon, but with no good reason.

The prophecy that his mother taught him.--Mothers were looked upon with great veneration in the East. (Comp. Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 6:20.) The mothers of kings especially were treated with marked respect, receiving the title of "queen-mother." (Comp. 1 Kings 2:19; 1 Kings 15:13.) This seems to be the reason why the mothers of Jewish kings are so constantly mentioned, e.g., 1 Kings 14:31; 1 Kings 15:2; 2 Kings 12:1. At the present time the mother of the Khedive ranks before his principal wife.

Verses 1-9. - Part VIII. SECOND APPENDIX TO THE SECOND COLLECTION, containing "the words of Lemuel" on the subjects of impurity and intemperance. Verse 1. - The superscription. The words of King Lemuel, the prophecy which his mother taught him. Who is intended by "Lemuel king" is much disputed. Those who connect the following word massa ("oracle") with the preceding melek ("king"), translate "King of Massa," as Proverbs 30:1 (where see note). Of the country, or the king, or his mother, we have absolutely no information. The name Lemuel, or Lemoel (ver. 4), means "unto God," i.e. dedicated to God, like Lael (Numbers 3:24); hence it is regarded by many authorities, ancient and modern, as an appellation of Solomon, one from infancy dedicated to God and celled by him Jedidiah, "beloved of the Lord" (2 Samuel 12:25). But there is nothing in the contents of this section to confirm this idea; indeed, there are expressions which militate against it. Possibly Hezekiah may be meant, and his remarkable piety somewhat confirms the opinion; yet we see no reason why he should be here addressed under a pseudonym, especially if we consider that he himself was concerned in making this collection. On the whole, it seems best to take Lemuel as a symbolical name, designating an ideal king, to whom an ideal mother addressed the exhortation which follows. Solomon's own proverbs contain many warnings against the very sins of which this mother speaks, so that the section is conceived in the spirit of the earlier portion of the book, though it is assigned to a different author and another age. The prophecy (massa); the inspired utterance (see on ch. 30:1). This maternal counsel forms one compact exhortation, which might with more propriety be so termed than the words of Agur. His mother. The mother of a reigning king was always regarded with the utmost respect, taking precedence of the king's wife. Hence we so often find the names of kings' mothers in the sacred record; e.g. 1 Kings 2:19; 1 Kings 14:21; 1 Kings 15:2; 2 Kings 12:1. It is difficult to say what reading was seen by the LXX., who render, "My words have been spoken by God, the oracle of a king whom his mother instructed." There are many wise women mentioned in Scripture; e.g. Miriam, Deborah, the Queen of Sheba, Huldah, etc., so there is nothing incongruous in Lemuel being instructed by his mother in wisdom.

31:1-9 When children are under the mother's eye, she has an opportunity of fashioning their minds aright. Those who are grown up, should often call to mind the good teaching they received when children. The many awful instances of promising characters who have been ruined by vile women, and love of wine, should warn every one to avoid these evils. Wine is to be used for want or medicine. Every creature of God is good, and wine, though abused, has its use. By the same rule, due praise and consolation should be used as cordials to the dejected and tempted, not administered to the confident and self-sufficient. All in authority should be more carefully temperate even than other men; and should be protectors of those who are unable or afraid to plead their own cause. Our blessed Lord did not decline the bitterest dregs of the cup of sorrow put into his hands; but he puts the cup of consolation into the hands of his people, and causes those to rejoice who are in the deepest distress.The words of King Lemuel,.... Not what were spoken by him, but what were spoken to him; or declaring what his mother said, as what follows shows; of this king we have no account elsewhere under this name. Grotius thinks that King Hezekiah, whose mother Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah, whom he supposes to be a wise man, from whom she had learned much, instructed her son in the following manner; but gives no other reason for this conjecture but that this chapter follows the collection of proverbs made by the men of Hezekiah; but they are expressly said to be Solomon's, and the words of Agur more immediately follow them; and besides Hezekiah does not appear ever to be addicted to the vices this prince was; much more probable is the conjecture of Bishop Patrick, that he was a prince of another country, perhaps in Chaldea, since a Chaldee word is three times used in his mother's address to him, and another word in a Chaldee termination; and he supposes his mother to be a Jewish lady, that taught her son the lessons herein contained. But the general sense of Jewish and Christian writers is, that Solomon himself is meant; whose name Lemuel is either a corruption of his name Solomon, a fond pretty name his mother Bathsheba gave him when young, and he thought fit to write it just as his mother spoke it; as mothers often do give such broken names to their children in fond affection to them: or it was another name of his, as it appears he had more than one; it signifies "to God", one that was devoted to him, as he was by his parents and by himself; or one that belonged to God, was his, as Solomon was; he was beloved of God, and therefore called Jedidiah, 2 Samuel 12:24; one to whom God was a father, and he a son to him; and he was chosen and appointed by him to succeed his father David in the kingdom, 2 Samuel 7:13. Hillerus (a) makes the word to signify "over against God", or "before the face of the first", or of God and was a type of the "angel of faces", or of God's presence, Isaiah 63:9;

the prophecy that his mother taught him; either in his youth, or when he was come to the throne; to whom she had access, and with whom she used freedom; and particularly when she saw he was inclined unto, or going into, the vices she cautions him against. Her instruction is called a "prophecy", because she delivered it on a foresight of the sins her son would be tempted with, and liable to fall into; and this foresight was either through her natural sagacity, or under a spirit of prophecy; or rather it is so called, because any wise saying, or doctrine of moment and importance, and especially if it was by divine inspiration, was so called; see Proverbs 30:1; as Solomon tells us what his father David taught him, so here what his mother Bathsheba instructed him in; and it would have been well if he had taken the advice she gave him, and he gave to his son; see Proverbs 4:3.

(a) Onomastic. Sacr. p. 268.

Courtesy of Open Bible