The following is excerpted from Mastering the English Bible, Proverbs.
The human authors of Proverbs
1. Solomon wrote Proverbs 1-29. We are told that he spoke 3,000 proverbs (1 Ki. 4:32), and we have perhaps 700 of these in the book of Proverbs. Solomon refers to his proverbs in Ecclesiastes 12:9, “And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.”
- Solomon was David’s son, the king of Israel.
- In his youth Solomon delighted in the Lord and was given great wisdom (1 Ki. 3:3-28; 4:29-34).
- Solomon’s kingdom was large and very wealthy (1 Ki. 10).
- Solomon wrote two other books of Scripture, the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes.
- Solomon turned away from the Lord in his later years, but he repented and wrote Ecclesiastes as his swan song. See 1 Kings 11:1-8 and Ecclesiastes 12:8-14.
2. Agur the son of Jakeh wrote Proverbs 30. All we know for sure is that Agur was a prophet who spoke this message by divine revelation. Since he gave both his name and his father’s name, it is probable that Agur was well known to his generation, and it is probable that his proverbs were collected by the men of Hezekiah. Compare Proverbs 25:1.
3. King Lemuel wrote Proverbs 31 from the prophecy that his mother taught him (Pr. 31:1). Most conservative commentators have identified Lemuel as Solomon. Following are some examples:
- The Geneva Bible notes of 1557 said: “Lemuel, that is, of Solomon who was called Lemuel, that is, of God, because God had ordained him to be king over Israel. The doctrine which his mother Bathsheba taught him.”
- Matthew Poole (1624-1679): “It is believed by most conservative commentators, both Jewish and Christian, that Lemuel was Solomon.”
- Matthew Henry (1662-1714): “Most interpreters are of opinion that Lemuel is Solomon; the name signifies one that is for God, or devoted to God; and so it agrees well enough with that honourable name which, by divine appointment, was given to Solomon (2 Sa. 12:25), Jedediah - beloved of the Lord. Lemuel is supposed to be a pretty, fond, endearing name, by which his mother used to call him; and so much did he value himself upon the interest he had in his mother's affections that he was not ashamed to call himself by it.”
- John Gill (1697--1771): “the general sense of Jewish and Christian writers is, that Solomon himself is meant; whose name Lemuel is either a corruption of his name Solomon, a fond pretty name his mother Bathsheba gave him when young, and he thought fit to write it just as his mother spoke it; as mothers often do give such broken names to their children in fond affection to them: or it was another name of his, as it appears he had more than one;”
- John Wesley (1703-1791): “Of Solomon, by the general consent both of Jewish and Christian writers; this name signifies one from God, or belonging to God, and such an one was Solomon eminently, being given by God to David and Bathsheba, as a pledge of his reconciliation to them after their repentance. Possibly his mother gave him this name to mind him of his great obligations to God, and of the justice of his devoting himself to God's service.”
- Joseph Benson (1749-1821): “Of Solomon, by the general consent both of Jewish and Christian writers: this name signifies one from God, or, belonging to God, and such a one was Solomon eminently, being given by God to David and Bath-sheba as a pledge of his reconciliation to them after their repentance. Possibly his mother gave him this name to remind him of his great obligations to God, and of the justice and necessity of his devoting himself to God’s service.”
- E.W. Bullinger (1837-1913): “Compare Jedidiah = beloved of Jah (2 Sa. 12:25). Solomon was the royal seed in the line of Him Who is King of kings and Lord of lords. The Talmud says (Avoth d’Rab. Nathan, c. 39): ‘Solomon was called by six names: Solomon, Jedidiah, Koheleth, Son of Jakeh, Agur, and Lemuel’”
- Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, which was first published in 1890, said “Lemuel” is “a symbolic name of Solomon.”
- H.A. Ironside, writing in 1908, said: “That Lemuel was his mother’s name for Solomon is generally believed, and seems likely to be true. ... No doubt the loss of her first-born, taken away in the Lord’s discipline, made him who had been called Jedediah, ‘Beloved of Jehovah,’ all the dearer to her heart (2 Sa. 12:24-25).”
- B.H. Carroll, in his Interpretation of the English Bible of 1913, said Lemuel is “just another name for Solomon.”
We know that there was no king in Israel named “Lemuel,” because all of the kings are listed in the Bible; thus it is obvious that what we have here is a nickname. The name Lemuel means “belonging to God,” and it is probable that this was a pet name that Solomon’s mother gave him to remind him of the fact that God loved him and that he had a special calling as David’s son. See 2 Sa. 12:24-25. Jedidiah means “beloved of the LORD.”
We know that Bathsheba had a special relationship with Solomon and a special place in his heart, as is evident from his action in 1 Kings 2:19-20. Though he did not grant her the petition that she asked on that occasion (only because he knew that the conniving Adonijah was trying to gain a future claim to the throne by asking for Abishag), Solomon treated her with the utmost respect, rising to meet her, bowing to her, causing a seat to be set for her on his right hand. The very fact that Adonijah asked Bathsheba to make the request shows that it was common knowledge that she had a close relationship with Solomon and that he was accustomed to hearing her.
We believe, then, that Proverbs 31 was written by Bathsheba, and it is an amazing fact that God used a repentant adulterous woman to write the description of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31. But, then, are any of us better than “sinners saved by God’s wonderful grace”? It is fitting that this prophecy by Solomon’s mother to Solomon forms the conclusion to the book of Proverbs, which was written entirely by Solomon excepting one chapter (chapter 30). “His mother, Bathsheba, who having truly repented of her adultery, did not only avoid it in herself for the future, but seriously endeavoured to prevent that and such-like sins in others, and especially in Solomon, whom the remembrance of her sin might possibly provoke to an imitation of her example. But when she gave him these instructions is but matter of conjecture. Probably it was either, when she first discerned his inclinations to those sins of which she here warns him, to which she saw he was like to have many and strong provocations. Or, after he was made king, and had more plainly discovered his proneness to these excesses, although he had not yet broken forth into those scandalous enormities into which he afterwards fell” (Matthew Poole).
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