Troublesome Topic: Bathsheba’s Advice to Solomon in Proverbs 31

Proverbs 31:1


The words of King LEMUEL,

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they are the burden

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which his mother taught him:


These are the words of the King who BELONGS TO GOD, weighty words that his mother taught him:

A Mother’s Teaching

The teachings of Prov 31 were taught to this future king by his mother.

Throughout history kings have assigned tutors to teach their children, especially the boys. We are given the name of the man David placed in charge of his sons, it was Jehiel (I Chron 27:32). He probably served as the leader over a team of tutors, caregivers, counselors and protectors for all David’s sons. However, despite the presence of male instructors, the mother of a prince also played an important role in guiding and preparing him for the future. It is because of the importance of her influence that the Bible often mentions the “queen mother.” The powerful influence of a mother is the impetus for the old English proverb that says: “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”

I suggest that Proverbs 31:1-9 contains things she shared with him in preparation for him to possibly become the king someday. However, I believe that verses 10-31, the description of a wife who is a good household manager, was given to him earlier as guidance in choosing a wife, regardless of whether or not he became king. Thus, the entire chapter contains a summary of some of the most important teaching she had given him through her years of training.

What Kind of a Wife Should Solomon Seek?

Proverbs 31:10


Who can find a wife

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that is worthy and honorable because she is strong, valiant, capable, and effective?

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Her value is far above that of crystalline gemstones.  (See comment below.)

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How hard is it to find a wife that is worthy and honorable because she is strong, valiant, capable, and effective? It is harder than mining for gemstones!    (See comment below.)

Proverbs 31:10-31 describes a woman who is well established in her marriage and her home. She is depicted at a time in which she already has children as well as a medium to large estate with servants at her command. I believe Solomon’s mother gave him this description with the injunction for him to seek a young woman who showed signs of becoming this kind of a wife and household manager.

I can hear his mother sayings to him something like the following: “Solomon, you are not being raised in a normal situation. You live in a palace and your father is the king. You are surrounded by beautiful women whose goal in life seems to be to prove how beautiful they are. But in the real world everyone’s life is full of work—hard work. You should not seek a wife from among the daughters of nobility because they are fickle and self-centered. I think you will not be happy unless you find a wife who will be a good partner and a team player. You want someone who will share your dreams and goals, someone who will journey with you in the quest to achieve those goals. You will not be fully satisfied until you find someone whose heart is joined to yours on every level. When you find a wife like that, you will finally realize what being blessed really means.”

This teaching about the kind of wife Solomon should seek was written as an acrostic with each verse beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in successive order. Things that were written in that fashion were easier to memorize, and it gave the writing order and balance. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. (I attempted to make my rendition into an acrostic but I had to ditch that idea.)

This is not a picture of the intimacy of marriage nor of the marriage relationship specifically, but rather a description of the female head of a household who has gained the trust of her husband.

The managing that is depicted is obviously set in the culture and time in which it was written, but there is much we can learn from it today. In order for a wife living in our modern era to be a good manager of the home a woman does not need to do exactly what is described in Proverbs 31, rather she needs to fulfill the principles being described there.

The praise of this type of woman falls into the following categories:

1. She makes her husband look good

2. In her own way she contributes to the economic stability of the home (she saves money, and she makes money)

3. She is prepared for the future

4. She shows godly character qualities

The next lesson is: Lessons to Be Learned from Proverbs 31



The name Lemuel comes from two words – the preposition “at, to, for or upon,” and the name EL, which means “God.” Thus the name Lemuel can mean “to God,” “for God,” “belonging to God,” or “separated unto God.” I think “belonging to God” is the most likely. Lemuel was an additional name his mother gave him to remind him who he belonged to.


The Hebrew noun used here basically means “burden,” but it can also point to “that which carries a burden,” or to important words such as an “oracle” or a “prophetic utterance.” It is often translated as “utterance” in cases like this one, but I have chosen to make clear in the translation column that the word basically meant “burden” and the people of that day would have known its root meaning. When this word was used of things that were spoken, it was usually a warning of impending punishment. Here it was a combination of some warnings, and some positive direction or instruction. It refers to important things his mother taught him about women (v 3), strong drink (vv 4-7), the need to speak for the defenseless (vv8-9). and her description of a capable household manager (verses 10-31).


The word for “wife” can also mean “woman” but the context is clear that a wife is intended here.


This is an interesting choice of words. Its meanings fall into two basic groupings, with a third category that is hinted at: 1) “strength, power, valor, a hero, an army, a great company, a great force of soldiers” 2) “capacity, ability, effectiveness, and the wealth achieved by that effectiveness,” 3) “someone worthy and honorable because they possess strength and the ability to use it effectively to get a job done to great effect.” I suggest that it is impossible to choose one word in English which can adequately convey all the meaning wrapped up in this Hebrew word. The emphasis here is not on her moral character, although there is a hint of that in that passage. The emphasis is on her ability to get things done as the manager of her home and homestead. The fact that she works hard and is good at getting things done has freed up her husband to be a leader in the community (sit at the city gate).

5: "crystalline gemstones":

It is hard to discern with certainty what this noun was referring to in Solomon’s day, but it comes from a root word meaning “corner, angle or squared.” While BDB says it means “branched” and therefore refers to “coral,” the idea of “corners, angles or squared” tends to point to any type of crystalline gemstone. James Strong suggested that it means “pearls” because they are round (after having their corners worn off). But I think it is unlikely that the Hebrew term would refer to what something used to be when it can easily refer to what something is, something that possesses the conditions described.

The process of mining, extracting, cutting and polishing such gems is long, involved, dirty, and uncertain. There is much opportunity for investing much time and finding nothing. Solomon’s statement points to the fact that such woman was and is very rare and therefore, extremely difficult to find.