by Latricia C. Bailey
“These are the wise sayings that King Lemuel’s mother taught him:
I prayed for a son, and you are the son I gave birth to.
Don’t waste your strength on women.
Women destroy kings, so don’t waste yourself on them.”
Proverbs 31:1-3 (ERV)
A mother’s job can be both rewarding and challenging. King Lemuel’s mother’s role was certainly such. In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel tells of his mother’s wisdom and the careful advice she taught him to use while he served in his role as a king. Many scholars and commentators believe that King Lemuel, a king of Massa, was actually King Solomon, one of the wisest men in Biblical history. The name Lemuel when translated means “towards (lemo) God (el). Yet others believe Lemuel was actually King Hezekiah, or maybe an imaginary man. While no one really knows who he was and if he indeed was real or not, we do know that his mother had wise words for him to live by.
The advice King Lemuel’s mother gave him was necessary and vital to him. Momma warned him to stay away from women that meant him no good. They would be his downfall if he messed with them. She knew how manipulative women could be if they desired to be such, and wanted Lemuel to be cautious in choosing a woman who was wise. “Grace and beauty can fool you,” she said (v. 30). If He was indeed King Solomon, then his mother would have been Bathsheba, the woman who King David slept with in an adulterous affair. This would make her know firsthand how messy a woman could be, and the right person to warn him about women. Momma encouraged her son to choose a woman who lived her life for the Lord because this kind of woman would be praised.
She also told him to stay sober and not drink because it isn’t wise for kings to drink wine or want beer. “They may drink too much and forget what the law says” (v. 5). Most drunk people forget about what’s right or wrong, and may often break the law driving drunk or being disorderly. Momma told Lemuel to fight for the defenseless and be an advocate for them. As a king, he would need to know how to stand up for what he knew was right, “and judge all people fairly. Protect the rights of the poor and those who need help” (v. 9).
Whether or not King Lemuel was Solomon or Hezekiah or a fictitious character, the words of Proverbs 31 are clear in their advice from his mother, and I believe he honored her with her very own words: “She speaks with wisdom and teaches others to be loving and kind. . . a woman who respects the Lord should be praised. Give her the reward she deserves. Praise her in public for what she has done” (vv. 26, 30-31). That’s what Momma used to say.