The “virtuous woman” is the subject of Proverbs 31, perhaps the most beloved of the chapters in Proverbs because it addresses the most central figure in life apart from our Creator—one’s mother. Like chapter 30, the authorship of Proverbs 31 has been debated down through the centuries; however, I feel there is much about this chapter that commends itself to having been authored by King Solomon.
Proverbs 31:1 – “The words [discourse; law] of king Lemuel, the prophecy [burden; tribute] that his mother taught him [instructed; discipline; chasten].”
There is no record of a king named Lemuel in ancient Israel or Judah and many scholars believe Lemuel might have been a nickname Bathsheba gave to her son Solomon. Having lost her firstborn son in infancy, the one conceived in an act of adultery with David; one can understand why Bathsheba would dedicate Solomon to God and, in her heart, name him Lemuel (The literal meaning of Lemuel is “unto God” –lit. dedicated to God). For the sake of our devotional studies in Proverbs, I propose we view this chapter as Solomon’s memorial to his mother.
Verse 2 of Proverbs 31 records the Queen mother’s appeal to her son in a three-fold question:
Proverbs 31:2 – “What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows [dedication to God; binding covenant between mother and God]?”
Allow me to probe the meaning of the three questions proposed by the king’s mother.
1) “What my son?” (31:2a) – i.e. – What more can I say to you my son and king?
2) “What, the son of my womb?” (31:2a) – She reminds the king that she knew him in her womb; before he drew his first breath. She gave him life and loves him as no one else could love him.
3) “What, the son of my vows?” (31:2a) – Like Hannah dedicated her son Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11), Bathsheba had dedicated her son while he was in her womb. She remembers the first stirring of life and how she had prayed for him. She had dedicated her son to serve the Lord!
We are not told what moved Bathsheba to make an impassioned plea to her son. Perhaps her motherly instincts sensed the moral dangers Solomon would face. She knew all too well the temptations that beset a man of power, possessions, and popularity. The plea of the Queen mother resonated in her son’s heart and he memorialized her virtuous qualities as an example for all women.
John Quincy Adams, the 6th president of the United States said concerning his mother, “All that I am, or ever have been, in this world, I owe, under God, to my mother.”
Read the entirety of Proverbs 31 today. It is my prayer the king’s praise of his mother will move husbands, sons and daughters to encourage mothers with words of affirmation and thanksgiving and move mothers to aspire to the qualities of a virtuous woman.