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What is a fool according to the book of Proverbs?

fool Proverbs audio

The word fool appears forty times in the ESV version of Proverbs. The ways of the fool are often contrasted with the ways of the wise. In modern usage a “fool” can be a “dupe,” an “ignoramus,” or just a “ridiculous person,” but how is a “fool” defined in Proverbs?

A look at some of the occurrences of the word fool in Proverbs helps provide an explanation. Proverbs 10:8 refers to a “babbling fool.” One trait of a fool is that he is a constant talker who is not known for listening to wisdom (see also 10:10).

Proverbs 10:14 states, “The mouth of a fool brings ruin near.” This contrasts the speech of the fool with the knowledge of the wise. A fool does not care about learning. He’s too busy talking.

Proverbs 10:18 teaches, “Whoever utters slander is a fool.” The fool will speak poorly of other people rather than be known as an encourager.

Proverbs 10:23 adds that “doing wrong is like a joke to a fool.” A foolish person does not take sin or its consequences seriously.

Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” The fool rejects the advice of others and instead listens only to himself.

Proverbs 13:16 notes, “A fool flaunts his folly.” In other words, a foolish person is proud of his wrong actions.

Proverbs 14:16 teaches that “a fool is reckless and careless.” A fool does not plan ahead but rather lives life without considering the impact his actions have on himself and others.

Proverbs 15:5 shows that “a fool despises his father’s instruction.” The foolish person will not listen to his parents or obey them. In fact, he spurns what his father says.

Proverbs 26:11 uses emblematic parallelism to graphically illustrate the behavior of fools: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.” A fool is known for repeating mistakes rather than learning from past wrongs.

Often in Scripture, a fool is associated with wickedness and a direct denial of God (e.g., in Psalm 53:1). Because God has infinite wisdom, the person who neglects God will naturally miss out on wisdom—he will become a fool. A fool is anyone who does not follow the warnings and commands of God. A fool lacks wisdom, has no concern for others, does not desire to avoid sin, and brags about his sinful actions. The Scripture is clear we are to avoid living as a fool; rather, we are to fear the Lord, walk in His wisdom, and follow His ways. We know that “those who walk in wisdom are kept safe” (Proverbs 28:26).

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What is a fool according to the book of Proverbs?
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This page last updated: January 4, 2022