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Proverbs 31:1-2

Context
The Words of Lemuel

31:1 The words of King Lemuel, 1 

an oracle 2  that his mother taught him:

31:2 O 3  my son, O son of my womb,

O son 4  of my vows,

1 sn Nothing else is known about King Lemuel aside from this mention in the book of Proverbs. Jewish legend identifies him as Solomon, making this advice from his mother Bathsheba; but there is no evidence for that. The passage is the only direct address to a king in the book of Proverbs – something that was the norm in wisdom literature of the ancient world (Leah L. Brunner, “King and Commoner in Proverbs and Near Eastern Sources,” Dor le Dor 10 [1982]: 210-19; Brunner argues that the advice is religious and not secular).

2 tn Some English versions take the Hebrew noun translated “oracle” here as a place name specifying the kingdom of King Lemuel; cf. NAB “king of Massa”; CEV “King Lemuel of Massa.”

3 tn The form מַה (mah), normally the interrogative “what?” (so KJV, ASV, NAB, NASB) is best interpreted here as an exclamation. Tg. Prov 31:2 has “Woe!”

4 tn In all three occurrences in this verse the word “son” has the Aramaic spelling, ַַבּר (bar), rather than the Hebrew בֵּן (ben). The repetition of the word “son” shows the seriousness of the warning; and the expression “son of my womb” and “son of my vows” are endearing epithets to show the great investment she has made in his religious place in God’s program. For a view that “son of my womb” should be “my own son,” see F. Deist, “Proverbs 31:1, A Case of Constant Mistranslation,” JNSL 6 (1978): 1-3; cf. TEV “my own dear son.”



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