What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?
Behind every great man there is a great woman. And it is not his wife. It is his mother. No woman has the influence, the opportunity, the privilege, or the reward of a mother.
A mother’s love and training do more to mold character for life than ten wives. By the time a man marries, most of his character is already formed. A wife receives the man, which the mother made from scratch, by God’s grace. Here is a royal mother lovingly seeking her son’s attention, who became a king. Mothers and sons should pay attention.
It is impossible to prove the identity of King Lemuel or his mother (Pr 31:1). They could be Solomon and Bathsheba; they might not be. But you do not need their identities to profit greatly from this proverb. Here is a mother addressing her son by inspiration, so you should trust inspired wisdom elsewhere in the Bible to fill in the details of this verse.
The three repetitive questions are not significant. Lemuel may have asked for advice, which triggered them. His mother may have been searching for the finest words of wisdom to give him. She may have been admonishing him over possible weaknesses.
Every noble mother knows the words well. And their source and intent! They are passionate yearnings bursting from a mother’s heart. Let every Christian mother rekindle them. Let every Christian son hear and feel them. Here is inspired mothering.
You can be certain of the affection of the chosen words. She called him her son, which to mothers is a dear term, for joy of bringing a man into the world (Jn 16:21; I Cor 11:12). It is a privilege for the weaker sex to give a man life for the greater things he can do.
She said, “You are mine. God gave you to me. We are unique in the earth. No one else can be your mother. I brought you forth, and now you are a man. I have doted on you as my darling son from your very conception. You can be great. Now hear my best advice.”
She called him the son of her womb. She recalled what only mothers know – the bond of conceiving, carrying, and birthing. She felt his first movements before his first breath. She used this simple fact to describe their union, express her love, and grab his attention.
She said about him, “You are truly mine, and not another’s. You were not adopted. You were of me, in me, and by me. I rejoiced at your conception. I carried you happily, and I loved you even before birth. I nourished you in a hidden place. I felt every beat of your heart. I gladly gave you life and breath with my own labor. Now hear my best advice.”
She called him the son of her vows. Rather than marriage vows, she recalled dedicating him to the Lord, as did Hannah. She reminded him of her many prayers and promises to God to train him in the fear of the LORD. She expressed the sobriety of his conception.
She said, “You were God’s gift to me. I committed you to Jehovah and His righteousness even before birth. I willingly gave you back to Him, Who gave you to me. I have prayed for you then and today. I would not have conceived you without this godly intent. Now I appeal to you to fulfill those holy ambitions I have had for you. Hear my best advice.”
Solomon described his mother, Bathsheba, as having such affection for him. He wrote earlier, “For I was – tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother” (Pr 4:3). No matter what, his mother doted on him and loved him. He could hardly do wrong; and if he did, her love was still there for him. It is this secure affection that helps make men great. Tender mothers easily separate themselves from overbearing and/or efficient ones.
The rod and reproof truly give wisdom, and mothers deserting their use will bring shame to themselves (Pr 29:15). Her request in this proverb leads to teaching (Pr 31:1), and Lemuel’s mother quickly proceeded to reproving advice (Pr 31:3-31). But she began with the tender appeals of a mother. She prefaced her instructions and warnings based on her personal, biological, and spiritual connection to him. What conscious son could resist?
Mothers should teach sons (Pr 1:8; 6:20). They should define good and evil from early days. Such lessons will remain. Many men recall later in life the precious lessons learned from their mothers. She has him for much time during his formative years, so she has a precious opportunity to make a great and godly man. Mother, do not let this privilege waste. Thank God for the time. Then use it for His glory and true virtue in the earth.
Rather than homework, which carries less value for life, good mothers will emphasize godliness and realities of life, as this mother warned about women, wine, and injustice (Pr 31:3-9). She then laid out the most detailed and practical description of the kind of woman he should marry (Pr 31:10-31). Only wise women can address these subjects to hold a young man’s attention; only such practical women will be sought out by their son.
Hannah vowed, conceived, carried, birthed, nursed, and trained one of the greatest men to ever serve the LORD (I Sam 1:11,22-28; Jer 15:1). She had Samuel no longer than five years. But he worshipped the LORD at that tender age (I Sam 2:28). What a glorious mother! What a great son! How? By her vows and womb and training, with God’s grace.
Lois trained a daughter, Eunice, to be a godly mother. Together they formed the young Timothy with faith and the word of God (II Tim 1:5; 3:15). So successful were they that Paul declared Timothy his most trusted minister in the New Testament (Phil 2:19-23).
How great was Obed, with Naomi and Ruth as nursing grandmother and mother (Ruth 4:13-17)? Who nurtured David to be the spiritual, gracious, courageous, righteous, and faithful man he became? Was it the influence of these two women, two generations later?
If there were more Hannahs, would there not be more Samuels? If there were more Eunices, would there not be more Timothys? Could a grandmother and mother mold another David? Why has forming character become a lesser goal than school or sports?
Christian mother, if you would have a Samuel or a Timothy, you must be a Hannah or a Eunice. If you think small, mother, by feeding, dressing, and getting your son through college, you will miss these high honors. They are reserved for only great women.
Have you knelt with your little boy in prayer? Let him hear and feel you reverently and passionately address the invisible God of heaven, while mentioning him by name. Did you do this over him in the crib? When nursing? When he could kneel beside you? Before he went off to play or school? When he left with keys to drive himself to work?
Christian mother, here is your calling. What a blessed privilege to turn the curse of conception and childbirth to God’s glory and your joy (Pr 23:25; Gen 3:16). Mary did wisely with her Child (Luke 2:51; I Tim 2:15). What are you doing with yours? Will your son say, “O LORD, truly I am thy servant; and the son of thine handmaid” (Ps 116:16)?
You cannot find here the overbearing, nagging, and critical mother, who always has a better way for her son to do things. Who is disappointed with most of what he does. Who neglects the real thoughts and ambitions of his male mind. Who is too busy and efficient to dote and flatter. Who is too preoccupied with herself to claim his soul. Not a chance!
Such an odious woman drives her son from her and her home. The woman with unruled choleric or melancholy tendencies of perfectionism, criticism, efficiency, and loud talking will lose the very man to whom she gave life. He will reject her as his heart revolts under her disapproval, harshness, questions, and fussing about unimportant things.
Many men are only a fraction of what they could have been with a mother’s full heart and sober instruction. Solomon was “tender and only beloved” in the sight of his mother (Pr 4:3). What a waste for both mother and son, when the mother is bitter, distracted, ignorant, lazy, selfish, or some combination. What a lost opportunity! What a loss!
Your son will learn the right way to do things, in time. Why not provide him the loving affection that enlarges his heart, elevates his soul, lifts his head, and spreads his wings to be a great and noble man? Fill him with confidence, faith, and power to be virtuous. Give him love no wife can replace. Build his courage and nobility like a mountain. Be the great woman behind a great man. Send forth a man child for the greater glory of Jesus Christ.
Reader, if you had a godly mother, give thanks to heaven and to her. Is her love the best you will ever know? Hardly! Listen to your blessed LORD compare His concern for His children. “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?” (Is 49:15a). Hardly! But they may! So the blessed LORD declared, “Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee” (Is 49:15b). Thank you, God!