LEMUEL (Heb. לְמוּאֵל, לְמוֹאֵל; "belonging to God"), apparently a foreign king to whom the instruction in Proverbs 31:2–9 is addressed by his mother. Proverbs 31:1, in which Lemuel is mentioned, should be divided not after melekh but after massa, thus identifying the man as: "Lemuel, king of Massa," Massa being the North Arabian tribe, known from Genesis 25:14, one of the Kedemite peoples whose wisdom the Israelites held in high esteem (*Agur son of Jakeh). The Septuagint did not recognize either lemu/o/el or massa as proper nouns, and some moderns follow it, obtaining with the help of some emendations the sense (in Scott's rendering): (1) Words [of advice] to a king acting foolishly. A solemn injunction which his mother lays on him:… (4) It is not fitting for a king to play the fool, etc. But the interpretation of the Septuagint, Torczyner (Tur-Sinai), and Scott all involve dubious readings and/or Hebrew grammar.
See commentaries on Proverbs; N.H. Torczyner (Tur-Sinai), Mishlei Shelomo (1947), 3–5; N.H. Tur-Sinai, Ha-Lashon ve-ha-Sefer, 3 (1955), 383; W.F. Albright, in: Studi… Giorgio Levi Della Vida, 1 (1956), 1–14; R.B.Y. Scott, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes (1965), 183–4.
[Michael V. Fox and
Harold Louis Ginsberg]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.