A Mother's Message

Bible Book: Proverbs  31 : 1-31
Subject: Mother's Day; Mother

The chapter begins in verse 1 by saying, “The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.” As Warren Wiersbe states, “Some students think that ‘King Lemuel’ is actually King Solomon, but we have no proof of this.” Others believe that he was Hezekiah, or perhaps the brother of Agur who speaks in Proverbs 30. The name “Lemuel” means, “belonging to Almighty God” or “for Almighty God.” So though we may not know who this man was specifically, we do know in a general way that he was a king that had Hebrew connections and a name (or nickname) that suggested a relationship with Almighty God.

However, the identity of the man Lemuel is not as important in this chapter as the insight of the mother of Lemuel. For this is “the prophecy that his mother taught him.” This word “prophecy” means a burden or an utterance. So this is the burden that was on his mother’s heart. This is the utterance that she shared with her son.

As The Pulpit Commentary states, “We have not many words from women’s lips in the inspired record, and we may therefore esteem the more highly those we (do) possess.”

What does a mother say to her son? I found a list in the May 8th issue of PreachingNow of some things that Mom would never say…

Things Mom Would Never Say
1. “How on earth can you see the TV sitting so far back?”
2. “Yeah, I used to skip school a lot, too.”
3. “Just leave all the lights on . . . it makes the house look more cheery.”
4. “Let me smell that shirt – Yeah, it’s good for another week.”
5. “Go ahead and keep that stray dog, honey. I’ll be glad to feed and walk him every day.”
6. “Well, if Timmy’s mom says it’s OK, that’s good enough for me.”
7. “The curfew is just a general time to shoot for. It’s not like I’m running a prison around here.”
8. “I don’t have a tissue with me . . . just use your sleeve.”
9. “Don’t bother wearing a jacket – the wind-chill is bound to improve.”
(From PreachingNow – 5/8/2007 – The Online Newsletter of Preaching Magazine)

So what would a mother say to her son? She is actually asking that same question in verse 2 when she says, “What, my son? And what, the son of my womb? And what, the son of my vows?”

It could actually read: What (shall I say) my son? And what (shall I say to) the son of my womb? And what (shall I say to) the son of my vows?

The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary says, “The thrice-repeated … question is put for the purpose of exciting attention. The passionate repetition (is) of a subjective nature: what shall I say, what (shall I) advise thee to do? The question, which is at the same time a call, is like a deep sigh from the heart of the mother concerned for the welfare of her son.”

As Lemuel recalled, the burden of his mother’s heart was to speak to him about making the right decisions in life.

First - She Speaks To Him About Making The Right Decision When It Comes To Your Ways (vs. 3) (Proverbs 31:3) Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.

She Told Him Not To Be Consumed With Women (The Pleasures Of Carnality)

She Told Him Not To Be Consumed With Warfare (The Pursuit Of Conflict)

Second - She Speaks To Him About Making The Right Decision When It Comes To Wine (vs. 4-7)

She Said That Wine Would Diminish One’s Mental Capacity

(Proverbs 31:4-5) It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: {5} Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.

She Said That Wine Would Dull One’s Miserable Circumstances

(Proverbs 31:6-7) Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. {7} Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.

Thirdly - She Speaks To Him About Making The Right Decision When It Comes To Words (vs. 8-9) She Told Him To Use His Words To Speak Up For The Hopeless (Orphans)

(Proverbs 31:8) Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.

As a leader, he should use his platform to speak for those who could not speak for themselves. The phrase “appointed to destruction” literally means “son of

(Hebrew ben) those who are passing away,” and so it may refer to orphans. Or it may refer to those who have been appointed to die. Either way, their situation seems hopeless. She Told Him To Use His Words To Speak Up For The Helpless (Oppressed)

(Proverbs 31:9) Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy. The poor and needy = the depressed and destitute

In Proverbs the “needy” are those oppressed by the wicked. (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament)

Some have concluded that in verses 10 thru 31, Lemuel is not remembering the lessons of his mother as much as he is reflecting upon the life of his mother; that this is now his insight and not hers. I think it is just as likely that he is continuing to remember what his mother said to him. And in verses 10 thru 31…

Fourth - She Speaks To Him About Making The Right Decision When It Comes To A Wife (vs. 10-31)

As this chapter takes its full form, it becomes both (1) A Message Of Exhortation From A Mother – 10:1-9, and (2) A Message Of Example For A Mother – 10:10-31

You’ll notice the words of verse 10…(Proverbs 31:10) Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

If Lemuel was in fact Solomon, then his testimony in later life found in Ecclesiastes tells us that he did set out to find a virtuous woman…(Ecclesiastes 7:20) For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

(Ecclesiastes 7:27-28) Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account: {28} Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.

Sadly, he must have been “Looking for love in all the wrong places. Looking for love in too many faces.”

There was never yet a woman who did not wish to have some part in the choice of her son’s wife; and the mother of king Lemuel was no exception to the rule. She knew the kind of woman that would make him happy, and she contrived, by some means, to instill the knowledge into the heart of her son. (From A Woman’s Sermon To Women from The Biblical Illustrator)

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary says that in this chapter, we find “The praises of a virtuous woman; forming a Hebrew acrostic. The 22 years begin with the several 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet consecutively; Matthew Henry calls it, ‘a locking-glass for ladies.’ Lemuel's mother suggested the model of “a virtuous woman.”

In this model of a womanly virtue…

I. Let’s Notice The Worth Of A Virtuous Woman

(Proverbs 31:10-12)

A. Her Worth Is Bound Up In Her Character (vs. 10)

(Proverbs 31:10) Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

1. We See Her Virtue Here

Note OT:2428 – Approximately eighty-five times (this Hebrew term chayil) is used as an attribute of people. The use indicates that such a person was to be honorable or reputable. This word also designates men of ability. When the term is used of a woman (Ruth 3:11; Proverbs 12:4; and Proverbs 31:10) it is translated “virtuous” (ASV, RSV “worthy” or “good”), but it may well be that a woman of this caliber had all the attributes of her male counterpart. (From Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament)

2. We See Her Value Here

her price is far above rubies (possibly the word refers to pearls)

Cf. (Proverbs 18:22) Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.

A wife of the right kind … is more difficult to be obtained, than pearls (her value is greater) than the price for such precious things. The poet thereby means to say that such a wife is a more precious possession than all earthly things which are precious, and that he who finds such an one has to speak of his rare fortune. (From The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary)

B. Her Worth Is Bound Up In Her Commitment (vs. 11)

(Proverbs 31:11) The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

1. The Husband Can Trust Her Marital Fidelity

While this does not seem to be the primary interpretation, we can conclude that because she is faithful, he has no reason to be unfaithful.

2. The Husband Can Trust Her Monetary Fidelity

He knows she will take care that a proper provision is made for his household, and will not waste anything. He has no need for spoil – he is not obliged to go out on predatory excursions, to provide for his family, at the expense of the neighboring tribes. (From Adam Clarke’s Commentary)

C. Her Worth Is Bound Up In Her Continuity (vs. 12)

(Proverbs 31:12) She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

1. There Is A Positive Aspect In How She Treats Her Husband

good – OT:2896. As a positive term, the word is used to express many nuances of that which is “good,” such as a “glad” heart Judges 18:20, “pleasing” words Genesis 34:18, and a “cheerful” face Proverbs 15:13. (From Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words)

2. There Is A Persistent Aspect In How She Treats Her Husband

all the days of her life – not merely the first month, and the first year, as too often happens, but at all times, in sickness, adversity, and old age. (From Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)

II. Let’s Notice The Work Of A Virtuous Woman

(Proverbs 31:13-19)

A. We Find In The Text Her Decision To Work (vs. 13)

(Proverbs 31:13) She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

1. The Text Points To Her Weaving

She did not buy ready woven cloth: she procured the raw material, if wool, most probably from her own flocks; if flax, most probably from her own fields. Here she manufactured; for she worketh willingly with her hands. And all her labour is a cheerful service; her will, her heart, is in it. It needs no arguments to prove that women, even of the highest ranks, among the Greeks, Romans, and Israelites, worked with their hands at every kind of occupation necessary for the support of the family. (From Adam Clarke’s Commentary)

2. The Text Points To Her Willingness

willingly – Hebrew 2656. chephets, khay'-fets; from H2654 (to incline, to be pleased with); pleasure; desire.

B. We Find In The Text Her Dedication To Work (vs. 14- 16)
1. She Is Very Involved In The Groceries

(Proverbs 31:14-15) She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar. {15} She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.

2. She Is Very Involved In The Garden

(Proverbs 31:16) She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

vineyard – Hebrew 3754. kerem, keh'-rem; from an unused root of uncert. mean.; a garden or vineyard

C. We Find In The Text Her Diligence To Work (vs. 17-19)
1. There Are Terms Mentioned That Point To Her Diligence

(Proverbs 31:17-19) She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. {18} She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. {19} She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

2. There Is A Time Mentioned That Points To Her Diligence

her candle goeth not out by night

There is a couplet that says, “Man may work from sun to sun, But woman’s work is never done.” Also…

Here is a song for maids to sing,
Both in the winter and in the spring;
It is such a pretty, conceited thing,
Which will much pleasure to them bring:
Maids may sit still, go, or run,
But a woman’s work is never done. (From an English folk song, 1629)

III. Let’s Notice The Way Of A Virtuous Woman

(Proverbs 31:20-25)

(She Has A Way About Her)

A. She Has A Supportive Way About Her (vs. 20-21)

(Proverbs 31:20-21) She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. {21} She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

1. She Supports The Hungry In The Time Of Want
2. She Supports The Household In The Time Of Winter

It is to be supposed that there is ascribed to the red material a power of retaining the heat, as there  is to the white that of keeping off the heat. … The scarlet clothing is of wool, which as such preserves warmth

(From Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament)

B. She Has A Sophisticated Way About Her (Simple, Not Outlandish) (vs. 22)

(Proverbs 31:22) She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

1. The Verse Mentions Her Style In Decorating

coverings of tapestry = a coverlet (bedspread)

2. The Verse Mentions Her Style In Dress

her clothing is silk and purple

Her own clothing is (silk) fine flax, or linen cloth, and purple; probably for a cloak or mantle. The fine linen or cotton cloth of Egypt is probably intended. It is something like our coarse calico. The purple was supposed to have been dyed by a precious (substance) obtained from … a large shellfish … found on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. (From Adam Clarke’s Commentary)

The most valuable purple garments were brought from Tyre and Sidon. (From Keil and Delitzsch Commentary)

Her style is simple and refined, but her clothing does not stand out more than her character.

Cf. (1 Timothy 2:9) In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;

Cf. (1 Peter 3:3-4) Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; {4} But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

C. She Has A Strong Way About Her (vs. 23-25)

(Proverbs 31:23-25) Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. {24} She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. {25} Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

1. Her Strength Is Reflected In Her Husband

When people of think of you as a couple, do they admire your husband because you have brought honor to him, or do they feel sorry for your husband because you have brought shame to him.

(Verse 23 – Behind every good man is a good woman. I don’t know how good I am, but I know that my wife has supported me and stood with me and sacrificed her own dreams for mine.)

2. Her Strength Is Revealed In Her Hopefulness

(Verse 25 – she shall rejoice in time to come – it is as if she anticipates better days ahead.)

VI. Let’s Notice The Wisdom Of A Virtuous Woman

(Proverbs 31:26-28)

A. Her Wisdom Is Articulated (vs. 26)

(Proverbs 31:26) She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

1. Her Words Have A Discerning Knowledge In Them
2. Her Words Have A Definite Kindness In Them
B. Her Wisdom In Attentiveness (In Caring For The Family) (vs. 27)

(Proverbs 31:27) She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

1. There Is An Attentiveness In How She Watches Her Household
2. There Is An Attentiveness In How She Works For Her Household
C. Her Wisdom Is Admired (By Her Family) (vs. 28)

(Proverbs 31:28) Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

1. She Is Admired As A Mother

blessed – Hebrew 833. 'ashar, aw-shar'; or 'asher, aw-share'; a prim. root; to be straight (used in the widest sense, espec. to be level, right, happy); fig. to go forward, be honest, prosper:--(call, be) bless (-ed, happy), go, guide, lead, relieve. It has the idea of congratulating or perhaps even acknowledging. “Mom, you were right.”

2. She Is Admired As A Mate

praiseth – Hebrew 1984. halal, haw-lal'; a prim. root; to be clear (orig. of sound, but usually of color); to shine; hence to make a show, to boast; and thus to be (clamorously) foolish; to rave; causat. to celebrate; also to stultify

He’s bragging about her.

V. Let’s Notice The Witness Of A Virtuous Woman

(Proverbs 31:29-31)

A. Let’s Consider The Witness Of Her Husband (vs. 29)

(Proverbs 31:29) Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Like Ralph Kramden saying on The Honeymooners, “Alice, you’re the greatest.”

B. Let’s Consider The Witness Of Her Heart (vs. 30)

(Proverbs 31:30) Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.

C. Let’s Consider The Witness Of Her Hands (vs. 31)

(Proverbs 31:31) Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.


If you will permit me, I want to close by using a cinematic illustration. In 1997 there was a widely acclaimed movie starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt called “AS GOOD AS IT GETS.” During the course of the movie the two lead characters begin to fall in love, and in one scene the character played by Hunt is trying to get Nicholson’s character to say something complimentary to her. He plays the typical, non-talkative, grumpy man and is therefore uncomfortable in this situation; but finally he gives her the compliment. He says, “You make me want to be a better man.”

I think this expresses the potential of the virtuous woman’s impact upon her husband and her children and those she comes in contact with. The virtuous woman challenges us to be virtuous through the way she lives her life.