Proverbs 2:17 "Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God."
Solomon’s description of his son’s male and female threats start with very similar characteristics. The first characteristic he lists of the evil man is his froward words (verse 12) and the first characteristic he lists of the strange woman is her flattering words (verse 16). The second description he lists of the evil man is his past, in particular, his spiritual past (verse 13). Here in verse 17, the second description he gives of the strange woman is her past informing his young son that she too had a spiritual past. The evil woman that Solomon was concerned about was the woman who had a godly upbringing guided by the Lord God of Israel. This woman didn’t forget the covenant of Israel’s God, she intentionally forgot the covenant of HER God.
The strange woman of Proverbs 2 is not the young lady who was raised by drunkards and gluttons. She is not the little girl who was passed from house to house because her parents were drug addicts or criminals. She is not the young lady who got lost in the cracks and found her gift in manipulating men. The woman Solomon is describing is the person who once had a personal relationship with God, personal enough to call Him “HER” God. This woman had a youth that showed great moral promise. She wasn’t spiritually lost in her youth looking for answers in all of the wrong places. Her youth was guided by God, a path that brought her holiness and wisdom in her younger years. This is the young lady that everyone in the family was certain would become the virtuous woman of Lemuel’s mother’s prophecy. This is the young lady that everyone in the community and synagogue thought would honor God in obedience for a lifetime. At some early point in her life, she made the LORD Jehovah her God. At some point in her youth, she wisely made a covenant with Him. She made Him her guide. She made the LORD Jehovah her strength and song.
And then spiritual tragedy struck. For some unrecorded reason, this familiar friendly face became a “strange woman.” Whether by temptation or by frustration, she began to forget the covenant of her God. As her intentional memory loss progressed, she no longer saw the need for a spiritual guide in her adulthood. She would eventually forsake that Holy Guide that she once cherished and relied on. The virtuous prospect became a vile person. The holy child became an unholy adult. The bright future became a dark playground for self-serving manipulation. What spiritual tragedy for this woman! What spiritual tragedy for this woman’s parents!
The detail about this strange woman’s past would seem irrelevant to Solomon’s son at first glance. After all, how would Rehoboam even know about her upbringing? It would seem highly unlikely that such a woman would ever talk about it if she had walked away from the faith of her youth. Wouldn’t her present dark ways be the greater concern that her past bright ways? Why did Solomon mention this detail about the strange woman and why mention it so soon in his description of her? In addition to the point previously made about the advantage a predator has when sharing a similar background as its prey, there is a very good reason that Solomon mentioned this tragic detail. Every parent should take note of this wise father’s approach to conversation and counsel. He mentioned this detail as a secondary lesson. This detail in itself is an indirect warning for his son and for all of his readers. The primary counsel Solomon is giving his son is to get wisdom in order to avoid becoming a victim of evil people. While giving that primary counsel, he offers his son indirect and secondary counsel to not forget the covenant of his God. Without directly confronting Rehoboam, Solomon warns his son of not forsaking the Holy Guide of his youth.
The parental example is profound. Children tend to tune out their parents if constantly bombarded with “dos” and “don’ts.” The older children get, the more sensitive they are to advice and counsel, quickly becoming defensive as they assume their parents are accusing them of error. So rather than teaching an entirely separate lesson on not forsaking the God of one’s youth, Solomon mentions this error as an attachment to an existing lesson. In assigning this error to the person he is warning Rehoboam of, he doesn’t step on his young adult son’s toes but instead indirectly informs his son that it can happen to anyone. This father knew how easy it would be for his son to walk away from God. Solomon, in his youth, probably didn’t see it as that possible and was enlightened through a colorful lesson about a dangerous woman whom he would’ve never guessed would’ve had such a godly childhood.
Because of older age, Solomon could see what his son couldn’t. Because of greater wisdom, Solomon could perceive what his son couldn’t. This father as do most fathers, had the advantage of history and experience. But this father, unlike most fathers, had the wisdom necessary to teach an abundance of truth in an indirect fashion. Parents, let us follow the brilliant teaching style of the son of David. Let us learn to teach primary lessons in a very direct fashion, in such a way that our children know that we are speaking directly to them. But let us also learn to teach many secondary lessons in such a way that our children learn them indirectly. Let us learn to converse in such a way that we’re always teaching, but teaching stealthily. Let us learn to carry conversations that our children will enjoy and that our children will unknowingly learn many lessons. Let us learn to maximize our influence on our children without maxing out our child’s openness to our influence. Let us learn to consistently confront the character of our kids without them knowing that it is us who are confronting them. The key is giving our kids opportunities to confront themselves without the familiar voice of Mom or Dad.
Let us learn to master the art of pointing the way for our children without pointing the finger at them.