2 Samuel 14:20
To fetch about this form of speech has your servant Joab done this thing: and my lord is wise…
My lord is wise, according to the wisdom of an angel of God, etc. Commendation is often proper and beneficial (2 Samuel 2:5-7). But flattery (false, partial, or extravagant praise) is always improper and pernicious. This language was not mere Oriental compliment, but a flattering speech, intended to make the king pleased with himself in doing what he was urged to do.
1. It is agreeable to most persons when skilfully administered. "Flattery and the flatterer are pleasant; since the flatterer is a seeming admirer and a seeming friend" (Aristotle, 'Rhetoric').
"When I tell him he hates flatterers,
He says he does; being then most flattered."
(Shakespeare.) We believe that we hate flattery, when all which we hate is the awkwardness of the flatterer (La Rochefoucault).
2. It assumes various forms, and is usually obsequious and disingenuous; is direct or indirect; is shown in praising personal qualities, advantages, achievements, etc., giving "flattering titles" (Job 32:31-32), "good Master" (Mark 10:17; Mark 12:14), "my Lord," etc. Making or suggesting favourable comparisons, it may be, by detracting from the good name of others (2 Samuel 4:8). It is sometimes sincere; but "people generally despise where they flatter and cringe to those they would gladly surpass."
3. It is commonly designed by those who employ it to serve some interest of their own (ver. 22). Hence it is so frequently used to gain the favour of kings, and such as possess authority, influence, or wealth (Jude 1:16). When Alexander the Great was hit with an arrow in the siege of an Indian city, and the wound would not heal, he said to his flatterers, "You say that I am Jupiter's 'son, but this wound cries that I am but man."
4. It blinds those who listen to it to their defects, ministers to their vanity, and fills them with perilous self-complacency, "It's the death of virtue."
5. It also induces them to pursue erroneous and sinful courses, which they might otherwise have avoided. "A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet" (Proverbs 29:5; Proverbs 26:28). "Ah! how good might many men have been who are now exceedingly bad had they not sold their ears to flatterers! Flatterers are soul murderers. Flattery is the very spring and mother of all impiety. It put our first parent on tasting the forbidden fruit. It put Absalom upon dethroning his father. It blows the trumpet and draws poor souls into rebellion against God, as Sheba drew Israel to rebel against David. It makes men call evil good and good evil, darkness light and light darkness" (T. Brooks).
6. It is only less culpable in those who listen to it than in those who employ it. They are willing captives. "As a wolf resembles a dog, so doth a flatterer a friend. Take heed, therefore, that, instead of guardian dogs, you do not incautiously admit ravening wolves" (Epictetus).
7. Its folly and guilt are sometimes discovered too late; when its ruinous consequences cannot be repaired (2 Samuel 15:13; Psalm 12:3; Acts 12:23). - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: To fetch about this form of speech hath thy servant Joab done this thing: and my lord is wise, according to the wisdom of an angel of God, to know all things that are in the earth.