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God’s Word for You

Proverbs 31:1-3 His mother taught him

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, November 7, 2019

Since I have completed most of Proverbs 31, we may as well take in the opening verses of the chapter here.


1 The sayings of Lemuel, a king.
  An oracle that his mother taught him:

Lemuel is not a name that we see anywhere else in the Bible. It has similar word-elements as the names of Hammuel (1 Chronicles 4:26), Jimuel (Genesis 46:10), Nemuel (Numbers 26:9), Kemuel (Genesis 22:21) and of course Samuel. Most commentators ascribe this last chapter to Solomon, and we can take Lemuel in any of these ways:

1, Vowed / devoted to God (by his mother).
2, A childhood name for Solomon, still used by his mother.
3, A diminutive using elements of Samuel’s name, since Samuel was devoted to God’s service by his mother (as was Solomon?).

I have wondered whether it might even be a nonsense word, if (for example) Solomon had trouble as a child saying his own name, which is a fairly common phenomenon. Many word elements in this chapter are Aramaisms, that is to say, they come from Hebrew’s sister-language, Aramaic (for example, bar “son” in verse 2, malachin “kings” in verse 3). Finding Aramaic in a Hebrew-speaking home is a little like finding German or Norwegian phrases in an English-speaking home today. Perhaps Solomon’s mother Bathsheba had a little bit of “the old country” that never quite disappeared from her speech, and Solomon picked up on this. Finally, it makes sense to take Solomon as the author of this last chapter, since there is advice for a king in what might be a flawed chiastic pattern (ABC BCA):

A, Don’t spend your energy on the wrong women (Proverbs 31:1-3)
B, Don’t misuse alcohol (Proverbs 31:4)
C, Don’t pervert the rights of your people (Proverbs 31:5)
B, Let your hard-working people relax with alcohol (Proverbs 31:6-7)
C, Speak up for the rights of your people (Proverbs 31:8-9)
A, Seek out a heroic wife (Proverbs 31:10-31)

2 What, my son? What, son of my womb?
  What are you doing, son of my vows?
3 Do not spend your strength on women,
  your power on those who destroy kings.

Verse 2 is really three questions, all with an unexplained “What?” I have supplied “What (are you doing)?” but some have suggested the equally appropriate “What (shall I say to you)?”

Proverbs began with 9 chapters about finding the right kind of wisdom, often using a wayward woman as an example of poor judgment, the wrong kind of wisdom, and evidence of flawed faith or a lack of faith. Now Bathsheba turns her son’s attention toward an actual wife: Don’t go chasing after the wrong sort of girl. Some women want power for themselves and for their own purposes that might bring down a kingdom or a dynasty. Such was the warped abuse of power in Jezebel, Queen of Samaria (1 Kings 16:31—2 Kings 9:37).

Any Christian man has an obligation to find a good, God-fearing wife (Ephesians 5:23-33). If he is a leader in any way, including a pastor or a teacher, his wife can mean the difference between a long and successful ministry and a short one that may end in shame and regret (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6). With a king, this obligation should have been felt even more keenly. Solomon chose poorly in his wives, using marriage as a political tool rather than as a blessing for faith and family.

When my wife talks about dating with our sons, almost everything she talks about is related to faith. She and I want them to think about finding a mate in terms of sharing a life of faith together. If your spouse does not share your faith, it will mean a lifetime of defending your faith, of battling over your faith, and worrying about the potential danger of losing your faith. These things do not make a happy or successful marriage. Commentators on the Proverbs who don’t see any relationship between the first and second lines of verse 3 (there are many of these) must have no clue about marriage. A king or government leader who has spent much of his strength chasing women is a man who neither values nor understands marriage. Marriage and the family are the basic building blocks of community, country, and human civilization. A king, president or other ruler who doesn’t care about marriage is like an athlete who thinks that fingers, toes and limbs are expendable. Pretty soon, he will have nothing left to work with. What, my son? What? What will become of a leader who doesn’t care or pay attention to what destroys kings?

We can all learn from Bathsheba’s wisdom; think of her in this chapter as your own mother, guiding you for the years to come.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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