Proverbs 31:4-5

Lemuel’s Mother’s Advice Concerning Alcohol


1. This counsel comes from the mother of King Lemuel.

2. All we know about Lemuel is that he was a king. We don’t even know where he reigned.

3. But he had a wise mother who was concerned about her son in the position of a king. She realized that that position came with its own unique set of temptations.

4. Hence, she sought to give him some motherly counsel to keep him from making some serious mistakes in his reign—mistakes that could ruin his life and the kingdom!

5. Her first topic of advice had to do with women. “Don’t give the strength of your youth unto chasing loose women. That lifestyle has destroyed many a king.”

6. Her second topic of advice has to do with alcohol. An honest reading of this text makes it clear that alcohol is NOT for the believer.

7. This wise woman continued to warn her son even after he was an adult—and a king at that! She warns him about wine and women: a dangerous combination.

4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:

1. This proverb (like vs. 3) is a synonymous parallelism.

a. That means that both parts of the verse are saying the same thing, using different words.

b. The parallels are (1) kings and princes = royal families and (2) wine and strong drink = alcohol)

c. For the purpose of the proverb, they are virtually the same.

d. You might paraphrase the thought by saying, “Alcohol is not for royal families.”

2. Wine and strong drink are seen in this passage as the same thing.

a. We like to break up alcohol use into different categories today.

b. On the one hand we have wine and beer (lower alcoholic content) and hard liquor, i.e., distilled alcohol (whiskey; bourbon; etc.) which has a much higher alcoholic content.

c. But that is NOT the distinction made in Bible times.

d. In the Bible times, the distillation process had not yet been invented. There was no “hard liquor” in those days.

e. What the Bible called strong drink was actually undiluted wine.
• Today, we consider wine (undiluted wine) to be on the low end of the alcoholic content (9-11%). That is what the Bible calls “strong drink”… and was forbidden.
• They knew nothing of alcohol such as whiskey (with 40-50% alcohol). That was off the charts.
• Did the Jews drink wine? Did Jesus and His disciples drink wine? The answer is “yes and no.”
• NO they did not drink wine the way it is drunk today – straight.
• YES they did drink wine—but they diluted it with between 3-10 parts water.
» When diluted, it had a negligible alcohol content.
» They USED wine to purify their stagnant, water which had a high alkaline content.
» If they drank their stagnant water plain, it would cause stomach problems.
» I Tim. 5:23 – That’s why Paul told Timothy to “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.”
» He wasn’t telling Timothy to stop drinking water; but not to drink water exclusively (straight out of the cistern). It would hurt his stomach.
» USE a little wine to purify the water and soften the high alkaline content… this prevented the water from ruining one’s stomach lining.
• Adding 3-10 parts water diluted the alcohol content to such a low degree that you wouldn’t get drunk… or even a buzz.
• So, did Jesus drink wine? Yes—but NOT the way they drink it today. That was considered barbaric.
• Undiluted wine was what the Bible calls “strong drink” and that was forbidden. There is no way a person can read the passages in the Bible about strong drink and put a positive spin on it.

f. Thus, in our proverb (a synonymous parallelism), wine (when undiluted) is used as a synonym for strong drink. They are the same.

3. Lemuel’s mother’s advice: It is not for kings.

a. This should not be understood to mean that it’s not for kings, but it is fine for everyone else. That’s not the point.

b. The point is that it is especially not for kings.

c. Kings were leaders; others looked up to them; they were to be examples for the nation.

d. Kings were not always good examples—but they SHOULD have been. Sometimes their behavior was abominable.

e. Lemuel’s mother wants her royal son to be a GOOD example.

f. Therefore, (if you want to be a good example) wine and strong drink is not for you!

g. As believers, others are watching us. We want to be a good example—and we certainly don’t want to be a stumbling block.

5a Lest they drink, and forget the law…

1. Here, the king’s mother gives Lemuel some reasons why he (as king) should not drink wine or strong drink.

2. WHY should a king avoid alcohol?

a. Because it will make you forget God’s Law.

b. If a king is going to rule over others; he should be able to rule over his own self.

3. Does the Bible forbid EVERY use of alcohol?

a. NO! They needed it to purify their water.

b. There was a legitimate use for fermented wine.

4. But what does the Bible say about drinking undiluted wine called “strong drink” in this passage?

a. It causes a person to forget the law. For Lemuel, that meant the law of his land.

b. A king could not function as king and faithfully execute his duties as King.

c. In monarchies, often the king was all three branches of government: legislative, judicial, and executive branch.

d. The government was on the shoulders of a king.

e. If he drank strong drink, he would forget the law.

5b And pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.

1. Here is another warning concerning wine and strong drink: it will cause a king to pervert judgment of the afflicted (oppressed).

a. A king often functioned as a judge (like Solomon having to judge who was the real mother of the living baby).

b. If you were suffering affliction (someone murdered your son; or broke into your home; etc.) and had to appear before a judge to decide the case, would it matter to you if the judge was a little woozy from drinking? You want a judge to have CLEAR thinking… not clouded and fuzzy.

c. If you were falsely accused of murder and your life was hanging in the balance, would it matter to you if the judge understood what your defense lawyer said?

d. Keep in mind that our passage tells us that alcohol causes a man to pervert “judgment” (justice – righteousness).

e. Would it matter to you if the alcohol had twisted and perverted the judge’s ability to tell right from wrong… if it affected his ability to discern “justice”?

f. Since we are told that drinking causes a person to forget the law… and to pervert justice, anyone would be outraged if a judge came to adjudicate an important case under the influence of alcohol.

g. If your life, your freedom, your property, or your family was hanging in the balance, you would want the man deciding the case to be clear in his thinking.

h. Here we are told plainly: alcohol PERVERTS that.

i. It twists a person’s sense of justice – right and wrong.

j. Isa. 28:7 – The same warning is given to priests and prophets: “But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.”

2. What Lemuel’s mother told him about alcohol was important wherever he reigned as king. But once this proverb was recorded in Jewish Scriptures, and applied to Jewish kings, it had a whole new meaning.

a. That was because in Israel, the law of the land was also divinely inspired Scripture and a reflection of the holiness of God… and the righteousness of God.

b. In Israel, a king drinking strong drink would forget God’s Law; He would forget the truth of God’s Word.

c. And today, strong drink causes us to forget about God’s Word in general: what the Bible says about purity, holiness, and morality.

d. It loosens a person up so that he is no longer thinking about God and God’s Word and is open to other things… sinful thoughts, words, and deeds.

e. It causes us to pervert judgment or justice. It causes us to be unable to recognize clearly the difference between right and wrong.

f. It is no wonder that people who are under the influence of alcohol do things they would NEVER do in their right mind.

3. It is true that this passage does not openly forbid alcohol.

a. That’s because fermented wine had some valuable and necessary legitimate uses.

b. Therefore the Bible never says, “don’t touch it under any circumstances.”

c. But the Bible does give us enough information about it to make a wise, sensible, and discerning decision.

d. This verse doesn’t technically say, “Alcohol is always sinful.”

e. But it does say this: If you drink it, it will cause you to forget God’s Word and it will pervert your sense of right and wrong.

f. Isn’t that enough? Isn’t God really letting us know what He wants us to do?

g. If a mother says to her little boy, “Johnny, if you play in the road you will get hit by a car,” isn’t that the same thing as saying, “Don’t play in the road?” Isn’t it clear what the will of the mother is? A little child would understand.

h. But many evangelicals today don’t understand what the Bible says about alcohol for obvious reasons: they don’t want to know… because they want to drink.

4. In many things, the Bible teaches us by using principles: principles that are universal and apply in all cultures and in all ages.

a. We want to glean a principle from this passage that applies to alcohol and even BEYOND alcohol.

b. The main point of this proverb is that when something causes us to forget God’s Word and causes us to pervert justice and causes us to be unable to discern right from wrong—we should AVOID it.

c. Prov. 3:1 – “My son, forget NOT my law!”

d. I say this because marijuana is fast becoming legalized across the country… first medicinally and then totally legal.

e. I can virtually guarantee that once it’s legal, it won’t be long before evangelicals are accepting the use of marijuana.
• It won’t happen overnight. But there will be some on the fringe who will accept it… and then gradually it gets closer and closer to mainstream.
• They will argue, Jesus drank wine; this is the wine of the 21st century.
• They will argue, I’m not getting stoned, just a little buzz.
• After all, it puts me in the mood for worship.
• Once the church band gets rocking, the marijuana really makes me feel holy.
• It calms me down. It makes me feel good… warm and loving. I find that I never lose my temper on marijuana.
• It’s legal. The Bible doesn’t forbid marijuana. Why not?
• God created it; it must be good.
• And for evangelicals who now justify the use of social drinking, they will have nothing to say. You can use the very same arguments to justify marijuana use (once it’s legal) that they use for alcohol today.
• You fundamentalists are legalists and joy killers!

f. Why should we avoid marijuana… or wine for that matter?
• Here’s one reason: it will cause you to “forget the law, and pervert the judgment.”
• That should be reason enough.