Proverbs 2:16 "To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words;"
For Solomon’s successor to have success, he would need to open his heart to wisdom. Standing in the way of Rehoboam’s success were evil people. Rehoboam’s projected prosperity as heir apparent to the king would undoubtedly attract evil people looking to capitalize off his fortune and fame. Solomon knew that there would be evil men who would see his son as their path to power. The wise king knew that there would also be evil women who would see his son as their path to prestige. Few, if any cared about what they could do to help Rehoboam achieve success while many cared about what Rehoboam could do to help them get what they wanted. This is precisely why Solomon was teaching his son the need for wisdom. Wisdom’s daughter, Discretion would help Rehoboam identify and avoid the evil people who, like leeches, intended on latching onto him in order to steal from him success and prosperity. Solomon already described the evil man that wisdom would help Rehoboam avoid in verses 12-15. In the final verses of the chapter, Solomon would describe the evil woman that wisdom would help him avoid.
The evil woman is described as evil but called a “strange woman” in the text. She is called “strange” first because non-Jewish women or Gentile women, who were referred to as “strange” within Judaism, were more likely to approach the young man with the intent to seduce because Jewish women were fully aware of the consequences of adultery in the Law. Secondly, this woman is called “strange” in the text because Jewish women who were willing to seduce a young man were considered degenerate and seen as heathen women. Regardless of the adjective attached to this feminine threat, the verb attached to her is seduction.
The first thing mentioned about both gender threats had to do with their conversation. The first thing mentioned about the evil man in verse twelve is his froward words. The first thing mentioned about the evil woman in verse sixteen is her flattering words. While their most influential attributes were words, there is a distinct difference between the two types of words. An evil man will speak plainly perverse. The danger in entertaining an evil man’s speech is that “evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Exposing yourself to the dirty talk of an evil man will eventually rub off on you and ultimately ruin you. The danger in entertaining an evil woman’s speech is not the same because her intent is not the same. An evil man wants to make others like him and he uses his speech to bring others down to his low level. An evil woman however, wants to use others to get something from them. To do this, she uses flattery. Both forms of speech are dangerous but a woman’s flattery is far more difficult to detect and resist.
The word, flattery originates from the root, “FLAT,” that is, to make smooth or to soothe. The act of flattery is the act of soothing by praise or by anything that exalts a person in their own estimation. Flattering someone merely requires the gratifying of one’s vanity or pride. Flattering is not praise. Flattery is the exaggeration of one’s qualities or it can be the outright manufacture of some quality in that person. In Scripture, flattery is always connected to deception and lies. In the Book of Job, Elihu claimed that God would kill him if he gave flattering titles to man. In the Book of Psalms, David connected flattering lips with a double heart and wrote, “The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips” (Psalm 12:3). In Psalm 78, Asaph attached flattering mouths with lying tongues and hearts not right with God. Flattery is a manifestation of an evil heart. Flattery is saying something you don’t believe in order to get something you don’t deserve.
Because of our propensity for vanity, flattery is hard to detect. Because the human heart is vain, it’s easy to believe flattering remarks. Because we love to hear good things about ourselves, flattery is hard to resist. After all, who doesn’t like to receive praise!? Who doesn’t like to receive exaggerated praise!? Who doesn’t like to be told that they’re wonderful!? This is exactly why an evil woman chooses flattery as her weapon of choice when hunting for the precious soul. Flattery is a tool that on one side, caresses the ego and on the other side, slices the soul. It is a tool that has proven effective from the beginning of time. Men have fallen for it for centuries and will continue to fall for it until the end of time. There may be no greater tool, especially in the hand of a woman, to seduce a man and take from him whatever she wants.
In a book primarily written for a young man, Solomon mentions the flattery of a woman on four occasions. He makes it clear in each instance that flattery is the primary tool for a woman to destroy a man. In addition, he wrote in Proverbs 26:28 that “a flattering mouth worketh ruin.” In Proverbs 29:5, he made the observation that a person who flatters another “spreads a net for his feet,” a net intended to ensnare and cripple. Ultimately, Solomon would tell his readers to “meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips” in Proverbs 20:19.
Void of wisdom, flattery will be welcomed.
Void of wisdom, flattery will be wanted.
Void of wisdom, flattery will feel wonderful.
Flattery is unlike all other weapons. Like a sword or knife, all other social weapons hurt on the way into the soul but flattery’s sting isn’t felt until it is pulled out of the soul. It feels good the entire time it is inflicting harm and tragically doesn’t hurt until after the harm has already been done.
Armed with wisdom, flattery can be detected and ultimately, rejected. No matter the person, no matter the gender and no matter the motive, flattery can be detected and ultimately, rejected with the help of Heaven’s wisdom. Therefore, get wisdom.