Proverbs 29:5

Flattery with Evil Intent

A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.


1. Flattery is a subject we have seen many times in the book of Proverbs.

2. Each passage considers the subject from a slightly different angle.

3. This proverb serves as a warning to the one being flattered.

4. It warns the one being flattered of the real intentions of the flatterer.

A man that flattereth his neighbor

1. Flattery defined:

a. This term has a couple of different meanings.

b. In our proverb it means: to be smooth; smoothness of tongue; slippery; flattery; seductive.

2. Flattery is different from a compliment.

a. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a compliment is “an expression of esteem; respect; affection; or admiration; especially an admiring remark.”

b. A compliment may be genuine and sincere. It may be given to encourage. It is spoken honestly and as an expression of one’s true feelings.

c. When a compliment is given with ulterior and sinister motives, it becomes flattery.

d. Flattery is given with a selfish purpose. It is not for the good of the one flattered, but for the good of the flatterer.

e. Flattery is given for the purpose of deceiving, or manipulating, or enticing into an action desirable to the flatterer.

f. It takes a certain amount of discernment to distinguish between flattery and a genuine compliment.

g. If the flatterer is really good at his trade, it may not be possible to distinguish.

3. Prov. 26:24-26 – In this passage Solomon speaks about the deceitful nature of the flatterer.

a. “He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him; 25When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart. 26Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation.

b. Note that in this passage, the flatter “dissembles” with his lips. Dissemble means hypocrisy, misleads, or pretends. His words of flattery are phony. They are not what he really means.

c. Through his words of flattery he is actually “laying up deceit.” He intends to lead you astray with the flattery.

d. He speaks fair words of flattery to butter you up, but don’t believe him! His heart is full of abominations.

e. Sooner or later his wicked intentions will be exposed.

f. This passage is a pretty good overall summary of the intentions of the average flatterer.

Spreadeth a net for his feet.

1. Solomon has had much to say about flattery and flatterers in this book and the NET they spread.

a. One problem in interpreting this proverb is determining who the second “his” refers to.
• Does it refer to the flatterer? Is Solomon saying that the one who flatters his neighbor is spreading a snare for his own feet?
» Prov. 26:27 – It is true that Solomon does often speak of the sinner falling into his own pit.
» The net could refer to the flatterer.
• Or is he saying that the flatterer, through his flattery is setting a snare for his neighbor, the one who is being flattered?

b. The most common view (and in my opinion the correct one) is that Solomon is speaking about the danger of flattery to the one being flattered.
• The closest antecedent is the “neighbor” – and that should be preferred when ambiguous.
• The warning is “don’t pay too much attention to flattery.”
• The danger in flattery is that the one flattered might actually believe it!
• He might become puffed up and proud. That leads to ruin.
• Prov. 16:18 – “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”
• This is the real danger of flattery to the one flattered.
• Our fallen hearts are only too prone to thinking highly of SELF. We don’t really need anyone to fan the flames of that pride with words of flattery.
• That seems to be the main point of this proverb: “Watch out! The flatterer is up to no good. His smooth words are actually spreading a net to trip you up! So be careful.”

2. A good example of such a “net” is the trap that the presidents set for King Darius (Dan. 6:6-9).

a. The presidents suggested that no one pray to any god except to Darius for thirty days.

b. Their ultimate goal was to trap Daniel, but their immediate goal was to lay a snare for Darius.

c. They spoke of him in terms of deity! They put him on par with the gods! Darius was so much taken in by the flattery that he went along with their plot—without thinking it through.

d. As a result, his friend Daniel had to be cast into the lion’s den.

e. Darius tried to free Daniel but was unable to do so. The laws (royal decrees) of the Medes and Persians could not be reversed.

f. Thus, Darius found himself snared… through flattery.

3. Prov. 7:5 – “That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words.” (cf. 2:16 – same truth)

a. The flatterer is a strange woman, a harlot.

b. She is seeking to entice a young man into immorality.

c. Flatter softens a person up and makes him more susceptible.

d. Flattery is seductive. Everyone likes to hear good things said about them.

e. Many men have fallen into the net because of the flattery of a strange woman.

4. Prov. 7:21 – “With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him.”

a. In this passage, the same harlot not only enticed with her flattery, but in this verse it says that she “forced” him with her flattery.

b. In other words, her flattery was so persuasive and enticing that he fell for it.

c. It was almost as if she forced him to do so. He became so weakened and softened and buttered up by the flattery, that he could not refuse her offer.

d. That is the power of flattery.

5. Prov. 20:19 – “He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.”

a. The flatterer is associated with the talebearer.

b. Both are up to no good; both use their tongues in an evil way.

c. The talebearer reveals secrets. He hears things and repeats them to others. And usually what is repeated are things that are NOT very flattering.

d. Thus comes the warning about the flatterer. He butters you up and softens you up so that you might become loose with your tongue and say some unsavory things that he delights in hearing.

e. The talebearer uses flattery to get people to talk… so that he can blab it all over town.

f. Therefore, Solomon’s advice is “don’t meddle with the flatterer.” He is up to no good and you may be his next victim.

6. Prov. 26:28 – “A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.”

a. Here we are told the end result of the flatterer: he works ruin!

b. He is just like the liar. The liar lies about people because he really hates them. He is trying to hurt others. The liar we know is out to no good.

c. The liar spreads unflattering things about others that are not true in order to bring ruin.

d. But the flatterer comes across as a nice guy, speaking smooth words, and his trade doesn’t seem so obviously evil.

e. That might even make him more dangerous. The flatterer also is trying to harm or hurt his victim. He is out to bring ruin.

f. II Sam. 14:25-26 – “But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.”
• Solomon was praised and flattered by many.
• But he was from the royal family. People often flatter royalty with evil intentions.
• Evidently Absalom believed the flattery and became proud and wanted the throne.
• It became his ruin. He ended up hanging from a tree by his beautiful hair and was killed.

7. Perhaps we should add another warning here: Don’t become overly suspicious and cynical about anyone who says something nice to you!

a. Don’t automatically assume that when someone says something nice about you that they are “up to something.”

b. A compliment may be genuine and designed to encourage you.

c. Be sure to make a distinction between the friend who is giving you a compliment and the enemy who is using flattery to manipulate you for his own advantage and your ruin.