Who was King Lemuel in Proverbs 31?Question: "Who was King Lemuel in Proverbs 31?"
Answer: King Lemuel is mentioned as the author of Proverbs 31, at least of the first nine verses. Proverbs 31:1 introduces this section: “The sayings of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him.” So, as Lemuel was growing up, his mother gave him sage advice, which he later arranged in poetic form and recorded for the ages. The whole process was supervised by the Holy Spirit, and the result was “an inspired utterance”—Holy Scripture (see 2 Peter 1:21).
We don’t know much about King Lemuel, other than what is revealed in Proverbs 31. The name Lemuel means “for God” or “devoted to God.” Based on the one passage attributed to Lemuel, we know that Lemuel was a king, he had a wise mother, and he wrote some poetry. Many commentators have surmised that Lemuel is actually King Solomon—in which case the mother would be Bathsheba. It could be that Lemuel was a pet name for Solomon, used by his mother in tender address, and that Solomon wrote down her advice in the manner she would have expressed it. Another theory is that Lemuel is actually King Hezekiah. A third theory is that Lemuel and his mother are fictional characters created by Solomon as a picture of an ideal king and queen mother.
The counsel from King Lemuel’s mother is good advice for any leader of men. She warns Lemuel not to fall into the trap of immorality; chasing after women will sap a king’s strength (Proverbs 31:3). Then she warns her son against the dangers of alcohol; a drunken king is never a good king. A ruler who craves beer and wine will pervert justice and act lawlessly (verses 4–7).
Finally, King Lemuel’s mother instructs her son about the necessity of true justice: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, / for the rights of all who are destitute. / Speak up and judge fairly; / defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8–9). May the Lord grant us many rulers like King Lemuel who heed this advice of a queen mother on ruling well.
Recommended Resource: Proverbs NIV Application Commentary by Paul Koptak
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Questions about Proverbs
Who was King Lemuel in Proverbs 31?