Proverbs 31:1-3

The Words of King Lemuel

1 The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him. 2 What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?

Introduction:

1. Proverbs chapter 30 was written by an unknown man named Agur.

2. Proverbs chapter 31 was written by another unknown man named Lemuel.

a. All we really know about him is that he was a king.

b. We don’t know where he reigned or for how long.

3. His words of wisdom are broken up into three sections dealing with wine, women, and justice.

4. Note that his words of wisdom came to him from his mother.

a. His mother taught him these truths—and he recorded them for us—under the direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

b. Notice also that Lemuel is a grown man. He is at the age where he needs to hear words of wisdom about wine and women.

c. He is a king. He also needs to hear words of wisdom about how to reign—in righteousness and justice.

d. And it is his mother who gives him this advice.

e. Mothers will always be mothers—even of grown children.

f. Mothers will always have words of wisdom to offer their children… even when they are adults and in prominent positions, like a king!

5. This is a bit out of the ordinary because one would think that this kind of wisdom would come from the father to his son.

a. Much in the early chapters of Proverbs were words of wisdom from Solomon (as a father) to his sons.

b. Prov. 1:8-9 – “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: 9For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.”

c. This thought is repeated by Solomon in the early chapters.

d. But in chapter 31, Lemuel receives instruction from his mother.
• Perhaps his father was dead.
• Perhaps his father did not have any words of wisdom. He may have been a fool.
• Perhaps his father was a pagan king who married a Jewish woman.
• We just don’t have any information about Lemuel’s family.
• Lemuel wrote down what his mother told him.

6. Vs. 1 states that the words of Lemuel were part of the “prophecy” (oracle) that his mother taught him.

a. Prophecy: Oracle; burden; a weighty message; often used of prophetic portions of Scripture.

b. It is the same word used in Prov. 30:1 – The words of Agur – also translated “prophecy.”

c. This was a heavy burden on Lemuel’s mother’s heart that she felt she had to share with her son.

7. Of course, what we have in our Bibles are the very words God intended for us to have.

a. God used many human sources for truth that was recorded in His Word.

b. He used many different human authors: herdsmen and fishermen; kings and prophets.

c. These human authors quoted from some unlikely sources: A pagan poet; well-known traditional truths about the weather; and (here) a king’s mother.

d. But the words that ended up recorded in our Bibles were ultimately inspired by the Spirit of God.

e. The ultimate Author of this book is the Holy Spirit. Regardless of their human source, they are “not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth” (I Cor. 2:13).

8. Vs. 2 – Here Lemuel’s mother is addressing her son… attempting to capture his attention.

a. He is called “my son” and “the son of my womb” and “the son of my vows.”

b. Evidently she made a vow concerning her son. We are not told what it was.
• Was she the wife of a pagan king who vowed to God to bring up her son to know the true and living God and to walk in his ways?

c. This kind of vow was not unheard of in the Old Testament.

d. I Sam. 1:11 – Hannah made a vow to God concerning her son Samuel.
• “And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.”
• Lemuel’s mother may have made a similar vow concerning her son.
• She wanted Lemuel to KNOW that she had made this vow to the Lord.
• She had special plans for this son. Therefore, now that he was a young king, she wanted to warn him concerning certain pitfalls that had become the downfall of other kings.

e. She seemed to realize that when a young man is suddenly thrust into the position of great wealth and power—it can easily go to his head.
• We have countless examples of this from Hollywood. How many young actresses who became rich and famous as children turned out well? Many destroyed their lives in drugs, alcohol, and immoral living.
• This is the case with young men who become rich and famous athletes and musicians too. It often does not turn out well for them.
• Lemuel’s mother seemed to realize this and she had a heavy burden on her heart that she had to share with her son.

King Lemuel’s Mother’s First Line of Advice

3 Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.

A. “Give not thy strength unto women

1. Her first warning comes concerning his relationship to women.

a. Evidently he is a relatively young and inexperienced king.

b. As a young man thrust into a position of power, wealth, and fame all at once, there would be many temptations.

c. He could have any woman in the kingdom—he was the king!

d. He could live the life of a playboy… a life of pleasure… seeking to satisfy his flesh with sexual pleasure and a life dedicated to pure hedonism and debauchery.

e. Perhaps Lemuel’s mother had heard that her son was already beginning to be involved in this kind of lifestyle.

f. This may help us understand the expression: “What my son!”
• It appears to be a lament, like, “What can I say to you my son? What have I heard of you?”
• Perhaps Lemuel’s mother has a heavy burden because she has heard rumors about her son.

2. “Give not thy strength unto women.”

a. The warning was that he should not dedicate the strength of his youth towards chasing women.

b. The temptation would be there because (unlike most men in the kingdom), he had the wherewithal and opportunity as king to do so if he wanted to.

c. One wonders why his mother is giving this warning and not his father. Could it be that his father was guilty of this sin and morally disqualified from giving such a warning?

d. If that was the case, it is understandable why his mother would have such a burden on her heart to see that her son NOT follow in his father’s footsteps.

e. A man “gives his strength” unto women when he wastes his strongest years (as a youth) chasing women.

f. The songwriter urges young men to “give of your BEST to the Master; give of the strength of your youth.”

g. Our “best” and the “strength of our youth” is to be reserved for the Lord… not wasted on loose living.

h. Prov. 5:9 – “Lest thou give thine honour unto others, and thy years unto the cruel.”
• Here the warning is of giving “thy years” (the best years; one’s youth and strength) unto others.
• Prov. 5:10 – You could lose your wealth and your labors end up elsewhere.
• This is terrible when it happens to an ordinary individual; it is far worse when it happens to a king.
• Later on in history, in Daniel 5, we read of the loose living of King Belshazzar: a great feast with wine and women.
• That night he lost his kingdom to the invading armies of Media and Persia.
• Wine and women (as well as defiance against God) caused this Babylonian king to lose his kingdom.
• Lemuel’s mother did not want this sort of thing to happen to the son of her vow.
• She obviously didn’t know about Belshazzar (he hadn’t been born yet), but she must have heard of similar horror stories of other kings in other lands.

3. Deut. 17:17 – The Law of Moses forbade a king from “multiplying wives to himself.”

a. The warning came from Moses and Scripture.

b. Now it is coming from Lemuel’s mother.

c. It is good for mothers to teach and warn her children from the Scriptures… that when they grow up it will not depart from them.

4. There were many similar warnings in Proverbs.

a. Prov. 22:14 – “The mouth of strange women is a deep pit: he that is abhorred of the LORD shall fall therein.”

b. Prov. 2:16-18 – “To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words; 17Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God. 18For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead.”

c. Much of Proverbs chapters five and seven deal with this subject.

d. Lemuel’s mother gives her son a similar warning.

B. Nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings

1. Vs. 3 is a synonymous parallelism.

a. We have seen dozens of these in the book of Proverbs. It is a common form of Hebrew poetry.

b. In a synonymous parallelism, both parts of the proverb are making the same statement, using different language. It is designed for effect – as well as to elaborate and add another shade of meaning to the principle.

c. The next two verses of this proverb are also synonymous parallelisms.

d. It is vital to know this in our interpretation of vs. 4 dealing with wine.

2. The parallel is as follows:

a. Lemuel’s “strength” is parallel to his “ways.”

b. And “women” is parallel to “that which destroyeth kings.”

3. Just as Lemuel’s mother advised him not to give his strength to women, in the second part of the proverb she urges him not to give his “ways” unto women.

a. Ways: Path; road; route; journey.

b. It is used metaphorically of one’s pathway in life… the road one takes in life – the direction of one’s life.

c. The admonition his mother gives is that Lemuel not make womanizing a “way of life.”

d. In other words, “Don’t go down that road! It leads to no good.”

4. The next part of the parallel is that the “women” being pursued find their parallel in the expression “that which destroyeth kings.”

a. Her point is that chasing women has been the downfall of many kings before.

b. We all know the sad story of Solomon.

c. I Kings 11:1-8 – “But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father. Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.”

d. Many wives was the destruction of Solomon.

e. Adultery was the destruction of Solomon’s father, David. It was because of his sin with Bathsheba that God said, “the sword shall not depart from your house.”

f. Yes, kings can easily succumb to the temptation of women.

5. This is certainly an appropriate and needful warning to all men—whether you are a king or just an average Joe.

a. A lifestyle dedicated to lust and loose living breeds destruction.

b. It destroys one’s health and strength; it destroys families; it ruins careers; but most importantly it ruins a believer’s walk, fellowship, and usefulness in God’s service.