It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink, Proverbs 31:4.
To understand this post we must consider what is meant by a king. Most often, we think of an hereditary monarchy in which the firstborn of a given royal family is made the head of state. We see this exercised both in the Kingdom of Judah and in the Kingdom of Israel. We recently saw this exercised in the United Kingdom of Great Britain with the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the ascension of King Charles the III.
There is another definition of king in our King James Bible.
Deuteronomy 33:4 Moses commanded us a law, even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.
Deuteronomy 33:5 And he was king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people and the tribes of Israel were gathered together.
When a priest who bore the executive authority in Israel before there was an established monarchy gathered the tribes together to give commandments, what else can he be thought of other than a king? Certainly, God called Moses a king when he gathered the people and wielded such authority.
What then do we call Samuel when he gathered the tribes together as he did on many occasions?
When the children of Israel asked for a king, they asked specifically for a king like the other nations; now make us a king to judge us like all the nations, 1st Samuel 8:5. The setup wherein God was their King and his priests exercised the authority of kings underneath him no longer satisfied them. They wanted a king like the other nations.
Therein lies the identity of King Lemuel of Proverbs 31. Whoever King Lemuel is, his mother is a prophet, and he himself was born of her vows.
Proverbs 31:1 The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.
Proverbs 31:2 What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?
Who but Hannah was a prophetess who conceived a son after having made vows to the Lord? In her prophetic song of 1st Samuel 2:1-10, Hannah mentions a king before Israel had a king like all of the other nations. 1Sa 2:10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed, 1st Samuel 8:10.
We can see Jesus Christ in that prophecy. Jesus Christ is a king and he is the anointed of God. Yet, much of prophecy has application to the time in which it was written. Before Saul was anointed by Samuel, and before David was anointed by Samuel, Samuel himself was to act as the king and his mother clearly saw him as such.
Hannah came yearly to Shiloh (1st Samuel 1:3). Every year she brought him a new coat which she had woven. Moreover his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice, 1st Samuel 2:19. What did his mother see when she came up? she saw the sons of Eli who should have ruled Israel as their father had done. She saw them lie with women and steal from the Lord. Doubtless she ascribed this to strong drink, and doubtless she instructed her son accordingly.
Proverbs 31:3 Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.
Proverbs 31:4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:
Proverbs 31:5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.
She desired more for her son.
What does Lemuel mean? It means "devoted to God", not in the sense of a man's personal devotion, but in the sense that he himself was given to God. It is often interpreted as "given to God". So we have a king who was given to God, who was conceived through his mother's vows, and he preceded Solomon. Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there, 1st Samuel 1:28. His mother is a prophetess. She warns him agains the excesses that she could so clearly see in the sons of Eli. Who else can that be than Samuel?