It is possible that Lemuel was a king from a northern Arabian nation called Masa (a different translation of “an inspired utterance” or “oracle) (Details here). These verses may be Arabian wisdom brought into Jerusalem from a land southeast of Israel. It would make sense that Arabian wisdom literature had an influence on Israel’s wisdom literature just like the wisdom literature of Egypt left its mark (Remember “Instructions of Amen-emOpet").
Queens in Arabian nations were influential at home, in government and in international affairs. This is attested to in Assyrian documents and in the biblical text. (Consider the Queen of Sheba as an example, 1 Kings 10.)
King Lemuel’s mother, the queen mother, reminds the king of two things:
- He is her son a son she cares for.
- He was born as an answer to prayer, so he has a destiny and she has a vow to fulfill
The Queen mother’s first wise warning to her son of destiny concerns women. This advice is not concerning a wife, but concerning women. Most likely the harem. She tells her son not to waste his strength on woman. Don’t use your position as king to serve yourself by spending your time and all your energy in the harem. As a son of destiny, King Lemuel needs to attend to more important matters. A ruler has responsibility and doesn’t have the luxury of a life of frills and entertainment. Neither does he get to enjoy the pleasure of numbing his senses. This leads to point number two.
Her second wise warning concerns the numbing effects of alcohol. A ruler who reigns with justice and is responsible to his people doesn’t get to drink his problems away. The ruler needs to be at the top of his game serving people. Now, some of the people the king is responsible for are the very people who deserve the alcohol because they have no other escape and they have no answer. At least beer will help them through their miserable state in society. With the mention of these poor miserable people suffering through life the queen moves to her third point: The king needs to help the suffering people in his realm.
The third wise bit of advice concerns the original intent of government. Serve the people. The king is to use his energy and his time speaking for those who have no rights and serving those who are unable to help themselves.
So in three quick and precise lines of instruction the Queen mother has laid down the basics for a king to provide a just and effective government:
- Don’t use your power to serve yourself
- Keep your head clear so you can see and judge fairly
- Serve the powerless and speak for those who have no voice
The king is to refrain from being distracted by his power and instead serve the people.