PROVERBS 31:1-31 – “Mother Said…”

PROVERBS 31:1-31

Proverbs began with the parental instruction (1:8) and with the Lady Wisdom (1:20). And Proverbs fittingly concludes with the instruction of a mother (31:1-9) and the image of a woman of heroic strength and generosity (31:10-31).



Here, King Lemuel (a foreign king; not an Israelite, nor an Israelite king) records the words that his mother spoke to him.

Does his mother’s advice extend to the end of the chapter? It cannot be discounted. “The subject of 31”10=31 … is surely appropriate to the concern and experience of a queen-mother” (Hubbard, 485).

As Lucas notes, “although [a] mother’s teaching is mentioned in 1:8 and 6:20, only here in Proverbs does she herself speak” (Lucas, 194).

Lemuel’s mother instructed him on two topics, both having to do with the virtue of temperance:

First, as king, don’t sacrifice what you have because of sexual desire. Proverbs 5:1-23; 6:20-35; 7:1-27 all point in the same direction, as do numerous Biblical and more modern events.

Second, as king, don’t use your mouth to take in alcohol, which numbs the brain; instead use your mouth to give wise judgments, thus caring for the needy. On being wary of alcohol, see also Proverbs 20:1; 23:19-21, 29-35.

Lucas reads the advice in this way:

“Drinking to excess to forget your problems may be defensible to some degree for the poor who lack the power to solve their problems, but it is indefensible for a king who has a duty to use his power to solve their problems for them (cf. Ps. 72:1-4, 12-14)” (Lucas, 194).

Dave Dunham does well in reminding us that,

“Drunkenness leads to ‘debauchery’ or recklessness. The Christian, however, is to be filled not with alcohol but with the Spirit of God. We are to be ‘drunk on the Spirit’ so to speak. The fruit of being drunk on the Spirit is the exact opposite of being filled with alcohol: self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).”

I will give the last word to Hubbard, who makes a wonderful point, one which Christian leaders in the church, marketplace, or home should take note of:

“The perspective on the role of the Monarch is remarkable. Not a word about amassing military might. Not a word about amassing military might, negotiating shrewdly with foreign emissaries, or garnering economic advantage through trade agreements. The whole passage focuses royal responsibility on the need to ‘judge righteously’ and ‘plead’ ardently for ‘the cause of the poor and needy.’ Equity, not aggrandizement is the first duty of leadership, according to Lemuel’s mother. What wisdom! What a woman!” (Hubbard, 489)

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