Have you ever met a fool? How do you know when you’ve met a fool? In what follows, I’ve pulled together the descriptions given in Proverbs to provide a composite picture of what a fool is and does.*
A fool rejects his father’s discipline (Prov. 15:5), causes his father sorrow (Prov. 17:21), and robs him of joy (Prov. 17:21). He despises his mother (Prov. 15:2), is destruction to his father (Prov. 19:13), and is a grief and bitterness to both his parents (Prov. 10:1; 17:25).
He despises wisdom and instruction (Prov. 1:7), hates knowledge (Prov. 1:22, 29), and does not choose the fear of Yahweh (Prov. 1:29). He fails to act with knowledge (Prov. 13:16), has no heart for wisdom, even if he seeks it (Prov. 17:16), looks for wisdom in all the wrong places, and thus can’t find it (Prov. 17:24). He dies because of a lack of understanding (Prov. 10:21)
He trusts in his own heart (Prov. 28:26), refuses to listen to counsel (Prov. 12:15), and rejects reproof (Prov. 1:30). His way is right in his own eyes (Prov. 12:15). He won’t accept commands (Prov. 10:8), doesn’t learn from his mistakes (Prov. 26:11), and even a hundred stripes gives him less wisdom than a rebuke gives a wise man (Prov. 17:10).
His attitude is complacent (Prov. 1:32), arrogant (Prov. 14:16), and careless (Prov. 14:16). He is quick to anger (Prov. 14:17) and quick to display his anger (Prov. 12:16). He is more angry than warranted (Prov. 27:3) and gives full vent to his anger (Prov. 29:11).
He babbles (Prov. 10:8, 10), delights in revealing his own mind (Prov. 18:2), spouts folly (Prov. 15:2), and proclaims his folly publicly (Prov. 12:23). He quarrels quickly (Prov. 20:3). In controversy he rages or laughs, i.e., he is unreasonable (Prov. 29:9). He spreads slander (Prov. 10:18) and mocks at sin (Prov. 14:9). He does not spread knowledge (Prov. 15:7) and cannot use a proverb properly (Prov. 26:7, 9). His words are a rod for his back (Prov. 14:3), bring strife (Prov. 18:6), call for blows (Prov. 18:6), are a snare for his soul (Prov. 18:7), and bring him to ruin (Prov. 10:8, 10, 14; 18:7). The only way he can appear wise is to be silent (Prov. 17:28).
He brings harm to his companions (Prov. 13:20). He’s more dangerous to others than a mother bear robbed of her cubs (Prov. 17:12).
He is not honorable (Prov. 3:35) and should not be honored (Prov. 26:1). If given honor, he will not retain it (Prov. 26:8).
The consequences of the fool’s choices are calamity (Prov. 1:26-27), destruction (Prov. 1:32), punishment (7:22), ruin (Prov. 10:8, 10, 14), death (Prov. 10:21), and the destruction of her own house (Prov. 14:1)
If you meet a fool, do not reason with him (Prov. 29:9). Do not imitate him (Prov. 26:4). Answer him in a way that stops him from being wise in his own eyes (Prov. 26:5). Leave his presence, for you will gain no knowledge there (Prov. 14:7)
“The root of [the fool’s] trouble is spiritual, not mental. He likes his folly ... (Prov. 26:11); he has no reverence for truth ... (Prov. 14:8). At bottom, what he is rejecting is the fear of the Lord (1:29): it is this that constitutes him a fool” (Kidner, Proverbs, 40).
There isn’t much hope for a fool, but there is some. There is more hope for a fool than for a man wise in his own eyes (Prov. 26:12). There is more hope for a fool than for a man who is hasty in his words (Prov. 29:20).
A word to the wise: don’t be a fool.
*The key terms used for this study were kesil, 'ivvelet, 'eviyl, and nabal.