Proverbs 31 has been touted as the picture perfect ideal woman with many women trying to accomplish all that is contained in these verses. It is held up in churches and especially Christian women’s organizations as an example to follow, a woman to become, and instructions on how to be the perfect wife. But these verses offer so much more the just the ideal. They are instead reflections of deep remorse, overwhelming regret, and sadness over what could have been.
So few have actually taken time to break down the verses and understand the context in which these verses are written. By looking at the lives of the people surrounding the verse and their life experiences, the verses come alive and invite you too to reflect on the many lessons learned about your own life. For once you have fully understood the context of the verses, than the true meaning of the verses becomes clearer and more powerful.
The Book of Proverbs. It is mostly written by King Solomon who identifies himself as such in the opening verse, Proverbs 1:1 in the middle of his reign as King of Israel. Earlier on Solomon penned Song of Solomon which is a poetic love story and at the end of his life he penned Ecclesiastes which is a summation of all the lessons he learned in his life. The Book of Proverbs by contract is a collection of smaller lessons, one or two liners that pact a powerful punch of wisdom.
Solomon becomes King. Solomon who secedes his father David to the throne of Israel is chosen by the then King David to overtake the throne. Solomon subsequently kills several key people who were opposed to his new reign which include his older half-brother (1 Kings 2:13-46) in order to ensure this authority and peace in Israel. In a political move, he then marries one of Pharaoh’s, the king of Egypt, three daughters, a practice not uncommon to ensure peace between nations (1 Kings 3:1).
Solomon becomes wise. Following this, Solomon has a dream in which God offers him anything he wants. Solomon asks for wisdom and God grants it and much more (1 Kings 3:2-15) becoming the wealthiest man alive. He is recognized not only within his own Kingdom as being wise but within other nations as well with many influential people coming to him for advice (1 Kings 3:16-28 and 1 Kings 4:29-34).
Author of Proverbs 31. Proverbs 31 is written by King Lemuel (Proverbs 31:1) whom scholars disagree as to whether or not this is a real person or just another name for Solomon. Research into the name King Lemuel has resulted in no findings among the other nations. “Lemuel” means devoted to God, which could have been another name given to Solomon by his parents (David and Bathsheba) reaffirming their commitment to God after the death of their first son. Proverbs 31 could therefore really be advice from Bathsheba to her son Solomon demonstrating a close relationship between the two of them.
Solomon and Bathsheba. Their close relationship is further seen immediately after Solomon takes over the throne and establishes a place on his right side for his mother to sit (1 Kings 2:19). However, the request Bathsheba makes of her son is met with resistance from Solomon and he refuses her. This further indicates that while he may listen to the advice of his mother, he does not always do what his mother advises (1 Kings 2:20-25).
Solomon marries. Solomon goes on to marry many women 700 in all with 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:1-3) of which he claims to love. This is not consistent with God’s advice to marry one woman from the same religious background nor is it consistent with his mother’s advice (Proverbs 31:1-9). But it has already been established that Solomon does not always heed his mother’s advice.
Solomon’s regret. Since Proverbs was written during Solomon’s reign, he most likely already had several wives at the time and perhaps was regretting the decision to have multiple wives as they often compete for attention (review the story of Rachael and Leah in Genesis). Looking back on his life, he would have recalled his mother’s earlier advice on what type of person to marry and not marry. He now sees the wisdom in her advice and offers it to others. Not wanting to embarrass himself, his wives or his mother, he most likely penned this chapter in a name that was known only to him, his father and his mother.