|Volume 25 Number 9 September 2023
Brian R. Kenyon
William Ross Wallace wrote the famous line, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” A mother’s words, when heeded, can change the world! May God send us more godly mothers! In Proverbs 31:1-9, we have “The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him” (Proverbs 31:1). We know nothing of Lemuel or his mother except what we have here. Lemuel means “unto God” or “belonging to God.” A queen mother was very influential in Bible times (1 Kings 1:11-13; 15:13; 2 Kings 9:22; 11:1). Although this is God-breathed Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17), there is no explicit “Thus saith the Lord.” This obscurely known mother’s advice made it into the pages of inspiration for good reason!
This mother’s son mattered to her! “What, my son? And what, son of my womb? And what, son of my vows?” (Proverbs 31:2). “What” has the force of “What shall I say?” The repetition of “son” in this introductory verse shows the seriousness of what follows. Emphasis is on the need for unbroken concentration, attentiveness and receptivity. Lemuel was a son whom she had pledged to God (1 Samuel 1:11, 27). This royal mother gave her son two warnings and some instruction from which all of us can learn.
Warning against Women
“Do not give your strength to women, Nor your ways to that which destroys kings” (Proverbs 31:3). All women are not what is meant by this verse but only those who can destroy (ruin) him (Deuteronomy 17:17; 1 Kings 11:1-2; Nehemiah 13:26). When a person is obsessed with lust, his or her senses are blurred and his or her judgment is gone. A king especially must keep his desires in check or else he will undermine the foundations of his authority and the principles of sound government (King David, 2 Samuel 11:1-27). Every man must avoid women who lead to destruction (Proverbs 2:16-19; 5:3-13; 6:24-26; 23:26-28), and the principle applies to all Christians (1 Peter 2:11).
Warning against Wine
He who would rule well over a nation must first rule well over himself. “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, It is not for kings to drink wine, Nor for princes intoxicating drink; Lest they drink and forget the law, And pervert the justice of all the afflicted” (Proverbs 31:4-5). “Wine” does not always mean intoxicating (Isaiah 65:8 refers to the grapes), although, here it does, as the parallelism with “wine” and “strong drink” shows. Intoxicating wine is a natural ally of women seeking to harm a king and an equal threat to a king’s ability to rule well (Proverbs 20:1; 23:29-35). The legal responsibility of the king is what is at stake. When drunk, kings are likely to forget the law and thus be rendered unfit to try a case in righteousness (Deuteronomy 1:17; Proverbs 24:23-26).
King Lemuel’s mother did acknowledge legitimate medicinal uses of wine. “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, And wine to those who are bitter of heart. Let him drink and forget his poverty, And remember his misery no more” (Proverbs 31:6-7). Timothy was told to “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23). Today, of course, we have much more effective (and some less addictive) medications, but alcohol is still used in medications (Luke 10:34). All must avoid intoxicating beverages (Proverbs 20:1; 21:17; 23:29-35). Drunkenness is condemned (Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 6:10; 1 Peter 2:11). Getting others drunk and/or approving of drunkenness is also condemned (Habakkuk 2:15; Romans 1:32).
Instruction to Defend the Weak
“Open your mouth for the speechless, In the cause of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously, And plead the cause of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9). The king is supposed to speak up for those who could not speak for themselves (Psalm 29:14; 72:1-4; 1 Samuel 19:4). The king is also to seek justice for those to whom it would be easy to deny. God has always had a special place in His heart for the people who are often abused (Psalm 10:14, 18; 68:4-5; 146:9). God’s people are also to take up for those in need (Luke 10:30-37; Galatians 6:10; James 1:27).
This world needs more moms with convictions like King Lemuel’s mother and the courage to teach these convictions to their children! We love our mothers! You have blessed us!