Proverbs 31:1
The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.
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(1) The words of king Lemuel. . . .—More probably this should be translated,” The words of Lemuel, king of Massâ.” (See above on Proverbs 30:1.) “Lemuel,” which most likely signifies (dedicated) “to God,” has been, like Agur, supposed to be a designation of Solomon, but with no good reason.

The prophecy that his mother taught him.—Mothers were looked upon with great veneration in the East. (Comp. Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 6:20.) The mothers of kings especially were treated with marked respect, receiving the title of “queen-mother.” (Comp. 1Kings 2:19; 1Kings 15:13.) This seems to be the reason why the mothers of Jewish kings are so constantly mentioned, e.g., 1Kings 14:31; 1Kings 15:2; 2Kings 12:1. At the present time the mother of the Khedive ranks before his principal wife.

Proverbs 31:1. The words of King Lemuel — Of Solomon, by the general consent both of Jewish and Christian writers: this name signifies one from God, or, belonging to God, and such a one was Solomon eminently, being given by God to David and Bath-sheba as a pledge of his reconciliation to them after their repentance. Possibly his mother gave him this name to remind him of his great obligations to God, and of the justice and necessity of his devoting himself to God’s service. It must be acknowledged, some have doubted whether Lemuel was not a different person; but, according to Dr. Delaney and many others, without sufficient reason. “I know,” says that judicious divine: “that some modern critics, contrary to the unanimous judgment and tradition of all antiquity, have raised some scruples upon this head, as if Lemuel were not Solomon, but some other king, they know not who. I have examined them with all the care and candour I am capable of, and conclude, upon the whole, that their objections are such as my readers, of best understandings, would be little obliged to me either for retailing or refuting.”

31:1-9 When children are under the mother's eye, she has an opportunity of fashioning their minds aright. Those who are grown up, should often call to mind the good teaching they received when children. The many awful instances of promising characters who have been ruined by vile women, and love of wine, should warn every one to avoid these evils. Wine is to be used for want or medicine. Every creature of God is good, and wine, though abused, has its use. By the same rule, due praise and consolation should be used as cordials to the dejected and tempted, not administered to the confident and self-sufficient. All in authority should be more carefully temperate even than other men; and should be protectors of those who are unable or afraid to plead their own cause. Our blessed Lord did not decline the bitterest dregs of the cup of sorrow put into his hands; but he puts the cup of consolation into the hands of his people, and causes those to rejoice who are in the deepest distress.That his mother taught him - Compare Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 6:20. If we refer the chapter to Israelite authorship, we may remember the honor paid to the wisdom of Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah; if it was the honor paid to an Edomite or an Arabian, we may think of the Queen of Sheba, whose love of Wisdom led her to sit at the feet of the son of David. CHAPTER 31

Pr 31:1-31.

1. On the title of this, the sixth part of the book, see [649]Introduction.

prophecy—(See on [650]Pr 30:1).Lemuel’s lesson concerning chastity and temperance, Proverbs 31:1-5. The proper use of wine, Proverbs 31:6,7. An exhortation to righteous judgment, Proverbs 31:8,9. A description of a virtuous wife, Proverbs 31:10, with her husband’s confidence in her, Proverbs 31:11. Her work and careful provision for her household, Proverbs 31:12-20. Their furniture and clothing, Proverbs 31:21,22. The properties and praise of a good wife, Proverbs 31:23-29. The vanity of beauty; the good are to be praised, Proverbs 31:30,31.

Of king Lemuel, i.e. of Solomon, by the general consent both of Jewish and Christian writers; to whom this name doth very fitly agree, for it signifies one of or from God, or belonging to God; and such a one was Solomon eminently, being given by God to David and Bathsheba, as a pledge of his reconciliation to them after their repentance; of whom it is expressly said that the Lord loved him, 2 Samuel 12:24, and who was by God himself appointed to succeed David in the kingdom. Possibly his mother gave this name to mind him of his great obligations to God, and of the justice and necessity of his devoting himself unto God’s service and glory.

The prophecy; so called, either,

1. More especially, because she did either by natural sagacity, or by Divine inspiration, foresee Solomon’s danger, and what sins he was most likely to be either inclined or tempted to commit; and therefore thought fit to give him these precautions, Or,

2. More generally, as all godly discourses or counsels are called prophecies; of which see on Proverbs 30:1, and elsewhere.

His mother, Bathsheba, who having truly repented of her adultery, did not only avoid it in herself for the future, but seriously endeavoured to prevent that and such-like sins in others, and especially in Solomon, whom the remembrance of her sin might possibly provoke to an imitation of her example. But when she gave him these instructions is but matter of conjecture. Probably it was either,

1. When she first discerned his inclinations to those sins of which she here warns him, to which she saw he was like to have many and strong provocations. Or,

2. After he was made king, and had more plainly discovered his proneness to these excesses, although he had not yet broken forth into those scandalous enormities into which he afterwards fell.

The words of King Lemuel,.... Not what were spoken by him, but what were spoken to him; or declaring what his mother said, as what follows shows; of this king we have no account elsewhere under this name. Grotius thinks that King Hezekiah, whose mother Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah, whom he supposes to be a wise man, from whom she had learned much, instructed her son in the following manner; but gives no other reason for this conjecture but that this chapter follows the collection of proverbs made by the men of Hezekiah; but they are expressly said to be Solomon's, and the words of Agur more immediately follow them; and besides Hezekiah does not appear ever to be addicted to the vices this prince was; much more probable is the conjecture of Bishop Patrick, that he was a prince of another country, perhaps in Chaldea, since a Chaldee word is three times used in his mother's address to him, and another word in a Chaldee termination; and he supposes his mother to be a Jewish lady, that taught her son the lessons herein contained. But the general sense of Jewish and Christian writers is, that Solomon himself is meant; whose name Lemuel is either a corruption of his name Solomon, a fond pretty name his mother Bathsheba gave him when young, and he thought fit to write it just as his mother spoke it; as mothers often do give such broken names to their children in fond affection to them: or it was another name of his, as it appears he had more than one; it signifies "to God", one that was devoted to him, as he was by his parents and by himself; or one that belonged to God, was his, as Solomon was; he was beloved of God, and therefore called Jedidiah, 2 Samuel 12:24; one to whom God was a father, and he a son to him; and he was chosen and appointed by him to succeed his father David in the kingdom, 2 Samuel 7:13. Hillerus (a) makes the word to signify "over against God", or "before the face of the first", or of God and was a type of the "angel of faces", or of God's presence, Isaiah 63:9;

the prophecy that his mother taught him; either in his youth, or when he was come to the throne; to whom she had access, and with whom she used freedom; and particularly when she saw he was inclined unto, or going into, the vices she cautions him against. Her instruction is called a "prophecy", because she delivered it on a foresight of the sins her son would be tempted with, and liable to fall into; and this foresight was either through her natural sagacity, or under a spirit of prophecy; or rather it is so called, because any wise saying, or doctrine of moment and importance, and especially if it was by divine inspiration, was so called; see Proverbs 30:1; as Solomon tells us what his father David taught him, so here what his mother Bathsheba instructed him in; and it would have been well if he had taken the advice she gave him, and he gave to his son; see Proverbs 4:3.

(a) Onomastic. Sacr. p. 268.

The words of king {a} Lemuel, the {b} prophecy that his mother taught him.

(a) That is, of Solomon who was called Lemuel, that is, of God, because God had ordained him to be king over Israel.

(b) The doctrine which his mother Bathsheba taught him.

1. The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy &c. Like Agur (Proverbs 30:1) Lemuel is some unknown king, whose oracle or prophecy is here preserved for us among the “words of the Wise.”

The rendering of R.V. marg. King of Massa, is arrived at by neglecting the accents, and taking the word massa, oracle, as a proper name.

Professor Sayce (The Higher Criticism and the Monuments, pp. 478–80), who adopts this rendering, calls attention to the fact that Massa is “mentioned in Genesis 25:14 among the sons of Ishmael, and is there associated with the Nabathæans, the Kedarites, and the people of Dumah andTeman”; and that “in Genesis 10:23 Mash is along with Uz one of the four sons of Aram.” The country of Massa “corresponded roughly,” he says, “with the Arabia Petræa of the geographers,” and the Nabathæan and other inscriptions found on the rocks and tombs of Northern Arabia show that the early language of the country was Aramaic, as it continued to be not only in O.T. but in N.T. times “till the sword and the language of Islâm” changed it to “Arabic” as we now call it.

“That the proverbs of a king of Massa should be included in the literature of the O.T. is of interest from several points of view. On the one hand it makes it clear that the books with which the library of Jerusalem was stored were not confined to the works of Jewish or Israelitish authors. On the other hand it indicates that the language spoken in Massa was not very dissimilar from that spoken in Palestine.”

VII. The Words of King Lemuel. Chap. Proverbs 31:1-9We have here another short Appendix. King Lemuel records, as his oracle, or wise teaching, the counsel given him by his mother (Proverbs 31:1). With terms of ardent affection (Proverbs 31:2) she bids him beware of lust (Proverbs 31:3), and excess of wine (Proverbs 31:4-7), and urges him to befriend the helpless (Proverbs 31:8), and to judge righteously (Proverbs 31:9).

Verses 1-9. - Part VIII. SECOND APPENDIX TO THE SECOND COLLECTION, containing "the words of Lemuel" on the subjects of impurity and intemperance. Verse 1. - The superscription. The words of King Lemuel, the prophecy which his mother taught him. Who is intended by "Lemuel king" is much disputed. Those who connect the following word massa ("oracle") with the preceding melek ("king"), translate "King of Massa," as Proverbs 30:1 (where see note). Of the country, or the king, or his mother, we have absolutely no information. The name Lemuel, or Lemoel (ver. 4), means "unto God," i.e. dedicated to God, like Lael (Numbers 3:24); hence it is regarded by many authorities, ancient and modern, as an appellation of Solomon, one from infancy dedicated to God and celled by him Jedidiah, "beloved of the Lord" (2 Samuel 12:25). But there is nothing in the contents of this section to confirm this idea; indeed, there are expressions which militate against it. Possibly Hezekiah may be meant, and his remarkable piety somewhat confirms the opinion; yet we see no reason why he should be here addressed under a pseudonym, especially if we consider that he himself was concerned in making this collection. On the whole, it seems best to take Lemuel as a symbolical name, designating an ideal king, to whom an ideal mother addressed the exhortation which follows. Solomon's own proverbs contain many warnings against the very sins of which this mother speaks, so that the section is conceived in the spirit of the earlier portion of the book, though it is assigned to a different author and another age. The prophecy (massa); the inspired utterance (see on ch. 30:1). This maternal counsel forms one compact exhortation, which might with more propriety be so termed than the words of Agur. His mother. The mother of a reigning king was always regarded with the utmost respect, taking precedence of the king's wife. Hence we so often find the names of kings' mothers in the sacred record; e.g. 1 Kings 2:19; 1 Kings 14:21; 1 Kings 15:2; 2 Kings 12:1. It is difficult to say what reading was seen by the LXX., who render, "My words have been spoken by God, the oracle of a king whom his mother instructed." There are many wise women mentioned in Scripture; e.g. Miriam, Deborah, the Queen of Sheba, Huldah, etc., so there is nothing incongruous in Lemuel being instructed by his mother in wisdom. Proverbs 31:1Superscription:

1 Words of Lemuel the king,

   The utterance wherewith his mother warned him.

Such would be the superscription if the interpunction of the text as it lies before us were correct. But it is not possibly right. For, notwithstanding the assurance of Ewald, 277b, למואל מלך, nevertheless, as it would be here used, remains an impossibility. Certainly under circumstances an indeterminate apposition can follow a proper name. That on coins we read מתתיה כהן גדול or נרון קיסר is nothing strange; in this case we also use the words "Nero, emperor," and that we altogether omit the article shows that the case is singular: the apposition wavers between the force of a generic and of a proper name. A similar case is the naming of the proper name with the general specification of the class to which this or that one bearing the name belongs in lists of persons, as e.g., 1 Kings 4:2-6, or in such expressions as, e.g., "Damascus, a town," or "Tel Hum, a castle," and the like; here we have the indefinite article, because the apposition is a simple declaration of the class.

(Note: Thus it is also with the examples of indeterminate gentilicia, which Riehm makes valid for למואל מלך (for he translates למואל symbolically, which, however, syntactically makes no difference): "As analogous to 'Lemuel, a king,' one may adduce 'Jeroboam, son of Nebat, an Ephrathite,' 1 Kings 11:26, instead of the usual form 'the Ephrathite;'" and בן־ימיני, Psalm 7:1, for בן הימיני; on the contrary, כהן, 1 Kings 4:5, does not belong to the subject, but is the pred.)

But would the expression, "The poem of Oscar, a king," be proper as the title of a book? Proportionally more so than "Oscar, king;" but also that form of indeterminate apposition is contrary to the usus loq., especially with a king with whom the apposition is not a generic name, but a name of honour. We assume that "Lemuel" is a symbolical name, like "Jareb" in "King Jareb," Hosea 5:13; Hosea 10:6; so we would expect the phrase to be מלך למואל(ה) rather than למואל מלך. The phrase "Lemuel, king," here in the title of this section of the book, sounds like a double name, after the manner of עבר מלך in the book of Jeremiah. In the Greek version also the phrase Λεμουέλου βασιλέως (Venet.) is not used as syntactically correct without having joined to the βασιλέως a dependent genitive such as τῶν Αράβων, while none of the old translators, except Jerome, take the words למואל מלך together in the sense of Lamuelis regis. Thus מלך משּׂא are to be taken together, with Hitzig, Bertheau, Zckler, Mhlau, and Dchsel, against Ewald and Kamphausen; משׂא, whether it be a name of a tribe or a country, or of both at the same time, is the region ruled over by Lemuel, and since this proper name throws back the determination which it has in itself on מלך, the phrase is to be translated: "Words of Lemuel the king of Massa" (vid., under Proverbs 30:1). If Aquila renders this proper name by Λεμμοῦν, Symmachus by Ἰαμουήλ, Theodotion by Ρεβουήλ, the same arbitrariness prevails with reference to the initial and terminal sound of the word, as in the case of the words Ἀμβακούμ, Βεελζεβούλ, Βελίαρ. The name למוּאל sounds like the name of Simeon's first-born, ימוּאל, Genesis 46:10, written in Numbers 26:12 and 1 Chronicles 4:24 as נמוּאל; יואל also appears, 1 Chronicles 4:35, as a Simeonite name, which Hitzig adduces in favour of his view that משׂא was a North Arab. Simeonite colony. The interchange of the names ימואל and נמואל is intelligible if it is supposed that ימואל (from ימה equals ימא) designates the sworn (sworn to) of God, and נמואל (from נם Mishnic equals נאם)

(Note: In the Midrash Koheleth to Proverbs 1:1, the name Lemuel (as a name of Solomon) is explained: he who has spoken to God in his heart.)

the expressed (addressed) of God; here the reference of ימו and נמו to verbal stems is at least possible, but a verb למּה is found only in the Arab., and with significations inus. But there are two other derivations of the name: (1) The verb (Arab.) waâla signifies to hasten (with the infin. of the onomatop. verbs waniyal, like raḥyal, walking, because motion, especially that which is tumultuous, proceeds with a noise), whence mawnil, the place to which one flees, retreat. Hence למוּאל or למואל, which is in this case to be assumed as the ground-form, might be formed from אל מואל, God is a refuge, with the rejection of the א. This is the opinion of Fleischer, which Mhlau adopts and has established, p. 38-41; for he shows that the initial א is not only often rejected where it is without the support of a full vocal, e.g., נחנוּ equals אנחנוּ, lalah equals ilalah (Deus), but that this aphaeresis not seldom also occurs where the initial has a full vocal, e.g., לעזר equals אלעזר, laḥmaru equals âllahmaru (ruber), laḥsâ equals âl-laḥsâ (the name of a town); cf. also Blau in Deutsch. Morgenl. Zeitschr. xxv. 580. But this view is thus acceptable and tenable; a derivation which spares us by a like certainty the supposition of such an abbreviation established only by the late Palestinian לעזר, Λάζαρος, might well desire the preference. (2) Fleischer himself suggests another derivation: "The signification of the name is Deo consecratus, למו, poetic for ל, as also in Proverbs 31:4 it is to be vocalized למואל after the Masora." The form למואל is certainly not less favourable to that first derivation than to this second; the is in both cases an obscuration of the original. But that "Lemuel" may be explained in this second way is shown by "Lael," Numbers 3:24 (Olshausen, 277d).

(Note: Simonis has also compared Aethiopic proper names, such as Zakrestos, Zaiasus. Zamikal, Zamariam.)

It is a beautiful sign for King Lemuel, and a verification of his name, that it is he himself by whom we receive the admonition with which his mother in her care counselled him when he attained to independent government. אשׁר connects itself with דברי, after we have connected משׂא with מלך; it is accus. of the manner to יסּרתּוּ equals יסּרתהוּ; cf. הטּתּוּ, Proverbs 7:21, with גּמלתהוּ, Proverbs 31:12 : wherewith (with which words) she earnestly and impressively admonished him. The Syr. translates: words of Muel, as if ל were that of the author. "Others as inconsistently: words to Lemuel - they are words which is himself ought to carry in his mouth as received from his mother" (Fleischer).

The name "Massa," is it here means effatum, would be proportionally more appropriate for these "Words" of Lemuel than for the "Words" of Agur, for the maternal counsels form an inwardly connected compact whole. They begin with a question which maternal love puts to itself with regard to the beloved son whom she would advise:

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