When reading the Bible it is a great tool to know who the author is, their style and purpose for writing AND to know the audience to whom they pen their words. Example: Often times we read Proverbs 31, before we finish the last verse we are rolling our eyes (us women) and with exhausted breath we exclaim, “MEN!” Thinking Solomon writes this as a jab towards women while painting the framework for the domestic super-heroine. With a cape of noble character flowing, as she stands at the city gate, arms strong, at O dark hundred, holding in one hand a spindle and in the other the deed to the field she just bought, whilst onlookers swoon in envy. Yes, the Proverbs 31 woman is a champion among women!
HOWEVER, the opening verse begins with: “The sayings of King Lemuel, an oracle his MOTHER taught him.” (Emphasis mine) The very next verse causes us to reach for a Kleenex, “O my son, son of my womb, O son of my vows…” Some say that the Proverb was written by two different authors, but scholars find no evidence to support the switch of authorship, so I say, the portion of scripture that you either love and embrace or avoid and look away from, were the words of a woman, to the audience of a man. That man felt these words strong enough for himself and strong enough for others.
Interestingly so, among the Jewish culture it is not the young women who are taught to memorize this, verse by verse, but the young men. Now as you re-read the 31 verses of the 31st Proverb, can you see it slightly or even dramatically different? Now can you hear the cheering of a faint voice in the background, the voice of a woman who lovingly desired her son to succeed, succeed as king, succeed as one who speaks up and judges fairly and one who helps his wife succeed (see verse 28, he praises her, he commends her to shine) and thus succeeds as husband. (Go MOM!)
Knowing the author, knowing the audience.
Proverbs by a woman.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies… she gets up while it is still dark … considers a field and buys it… plants a vineyard… sets about her work vigorously… provides food for her family… opens her arms to the poor… makes coverings for her bed…makes linen garments… watches over the affairs of her household… speaks with wisdom and faithful understanding is on her tongue… her children rise and call her blessed, her husband praises her…” Proverbs 31 also known as WONDER WOMAN! I am lucky if I get the bed made, make sure there is milk in the frig, and the household doesn’t run out of toilet paper. When my son does rise around noon, it normally isn’t ‘Blessed’ being yelled, but “M-O-M!” By the end of the day if the smoke detector has not sounded the alarm due to my cooking, to me THAT is a victorious, virtuous woman. I stand tall, hands on hips, and chin lifted high. Give me a cape!
Often when we read Proverbs 31, we normally hear King Solomon’s voice rattle off the poetic lines, as we roll our eyes “OH BRUTHER!” The words express the ‘PERFECT’ woman. We think “Of course, a MAN wrote this!” However, this instruction is coming from the authors MOTHER! “The words of Lemuel, King of Massa, which his mother taught him:” (Pro. 31:1, emphasis mine) The next 30 verses are instruction coming from his mom. Instruction to a man from a woman. Strong words of wisdom in action. I became aware of this the other day as I was reading the proverb, wait just a hog-tied moment, back up… who wrote this?
All of Proverbs is known to be of King Solomon “These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, transcribed.” Pro. 25:1, except the last two chapters. Chapter 30 is attributed to ‘Agur, son of Jakeh.’ While the well-known chapter 31, as mentioned above, ‘Lemuel, King of Massa.’ There are many speculations of who this ‘Lemuel’ is, there is no other mention of him in all of scripture. Many scholars believe he is just that, some King from Massa. While other scholars believe he is indeed Solomon. Ancient Jewish tradition identifies Lemuel as King Solomon. Some claim that Lemuel is a pet name given to him by his mother at a young age, he uses this name while in reference to what his mother told him. Some also believe there is a ‘break’ within the chapter, verse 1-9 are segmented out, not flowing to the following verses 10-31. While others believe this to be one continuous writing, flowing from verse to verse. I leave this to you to research and decide on your own. However…
Let’s take a look as if it really was Solomon that wrote Proverbs 31, being reminded, there is no strong doctrinal standing that it is. Who was Solomons mother? Bathsheba. Our first thought is not of Bathsheba being the wise mother full of virtuous advice, it is of the first sighting of her by King David from the roof top. From there we know the story of lust, deceit and murder, (we can read their story in 2 Sam. 11-12) To gain a true understanding of what followed, we read David’s heart in Psalm 51. The title above this Psalm reads: “A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David committed adultery with Bathsheba.” Verse one, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love..” The key verse, “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.” (v4) Can you hear his heart? Although Bathshebas’ repentance is not recorded, some believe she too repented and was forgiven, because when she conceived Solomon, Nathan the prophet said they should name him Jedediah, which means ‘blessed of God.” Evidence of repentance? I’d say so.
Interesting side note, there isn’t a lot said about Solomons upbringing, but we see later, when Solomon was King, Bathsheba had Solomons’ ear. 1 Kings 2:13-20, Adonijah, Solomons half-brother came to Bathsheba and asked, “Please ask King Solomon–he will not refuse you–to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife.” (v17) Bathsheba agreed. “When Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, the king stood up to meet her, bowed down to her and sat down on his throne. He had a throne brought for the king’s mother, and she sat down at his right hand. “I have one small request to make of you,” she said. “Do not refuse me.” The king replied, “Make it, my mother; I will not refuse you.” (v19,20) Not exactly a mammas boy, but there was a strong respect.
At one point God asked of Solomon “Ask for whatever you want Me to give you.” (2 Chro 1 & 1 Kings 3) Solomon responded that he wanted wisdom and a hearing heart to lead the people, God granted that. As the saying goes, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” It seems apparent from this proverb, perhaps Bathsheba too had a great influence. The opening line to this proverb I find paints a strong picture. The word the author uses for ‘taught’ has a much broader sense then just to teach, or share instruction, as a professor points with a yard stick to the words on the blackboard. It reaches further to chastening. Meaning to make someone aware of their failure. The instruction is motivated to purify or refine. To cause someone to be more humble for moral improvement. Sound like a mother?
Bringing forward a current thought, James Dobson states, “The two greatest needs of a child is love and limits.” Limits come in many forms, perhaps Bathsheba knew this. When we read through the beautiful words of Proverbs 31, let us read them with new insight, (regardless of the author) the words are of a mother’s heart. “O my son, son of my womb… do not spend your strength on women, your vigor on those who ruin kings. It is not for Kings, O Lemuel, not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what the law decrees… Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves… speak up and judge fairly, defend the rights of the poor and needy… a wife of noble character who can find… a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised, give her the reward she has earned…” Wonder Woman? No, just the qualities a mother wants for her son. In the traditional Jewish culture, it’s not the women who memorize Proverbs 31, but the men. “A wife of noble character who can find?” (v 10) Shedding new light; a mom to a son.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Heb. 10:24)