The primary problem with fools as described in the Bible is that of pride. As we look through scripture, look for these traits:
- They are unteachable. They refuse to accept correction, listen to advice, or take personal responsibility. Instead, they think they are always right and others are fools.
- They have control issues. They think everyone should listen to them and do what they say; often if they meet with resistance, they can be very angry. They seem to fear allowing anyone else (including God) to be in charge. Many times, they feel somehow that they are above the system - the rules that apply to everyone else don't apply to them.
- They do not have spiritual insight. Since the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and that is why the way of wisdom seems ridiculous to a fool. He might even mock those who walk in it.
There are FOUR Hebrew words for a fool. It’s notable that they have more words for this than English does, because usually this is reversed! There will be 4 or more English words for a single Hebrew word.
- A simple fool, or peti, is a person who makes mistakes but quickly rights them and is restored to fellowship with God and with others. Proverbs 1:4, 22, 32; Proverbs 7:7; Proverbs 8:5; Proverbs 9:4, 6, 16; Proverbs 14:15, 18; Proverbs 19:25; Proverbs 21:11; Proverbs 22:3; Proverbs 27:12; Psalm 116:6
- The hardened fool, kesil and ewil, is someone who makes mistakes but never learns from them and will not listen to others. Proverbs 3:35; Proverbs 8:5; Proverbs 10:1, 18, 23; Proverbs 12:23; Proverbs 13:16, 19-20; Proverbs 14:7-8, 16, 24, 33; Proverbs 15:2, 7, 14; Proverbs 15:20; Proverbs 17:10, 12, 16, 21, 24-25; Proverbs 18:2, 6-7; Proverbs 19:1, 10, 13, 29; Proverbs 21:20; Proverbs 23:9; Proverbs 26:1-12; Proverbs 28:26; Proverbs 29:11, 20; Ecclesiastes 2:14-16; Ecclesiastes 4:5, 13; Eccl 5:1-4; Eccl 6:8; Eccl 7:4-6, 9; Eccl 9:17; Eccl 10:2, 12,15; Psalms 92:6
- The mocking fool, or lewtz. The mocking fool mocks the things of God. This word means “scoffer” or “scorner” and today means a clown. When you encounter cynical people who disregard the things of God, you know these people are mocking fools. Proverbs 1:22; Proverbs 3:34; Proverbs 9:7-8, 12; Proverbs 13:1; Proverbs 14:6, 9; Proverbs 15:12; Proverbs 19:25, 28-29; Proverbs 20:1; Proverbs 21:11, 24; Proverbs 22:10; Proverbs 24:9
- The God-denying fool, or nabal. This term relates to the morally wicked person who ignores the disgrace he brings on his family and who despises holiness. He conducts his life without any recognition of God and thus is corrupt and perverse. Psalm 14:1, 3; Ps 39:8; Ps 53:1; Ps 74:18, 22; Proverbs 17:7; Prov 17:21; Prov 30:22; Isaiah 32:5-6 (Nabal is also a person, whose story is told in 1 Samuel 25. He insults David, is about to be killed, is saved by his wife Abigail, and then dies of his foolishness. Abigail goes on to become David’s first wife.)
1) Do you see a difference among types 2-4? Do you know any other types?
Let’s read Proverbs 26.
2) Can we put in plain words what the author describes as foolish behavior? What makes it foolish?
Let’s read Proverbs 17:7-24.
3) What happens to fools? What happens to those around them?
Let’s read Proverbs 18:9-24.
4) How can we deal with fools and/or foolish behavior? What is our responsibility to those with a fool in their lives?
The Top (Biblical) Signs of a Fool:
1. A fool folds his hands and wastes away. (Ecclesiastes 4:5 & 10:12),
2. Laughter of a fool is pointless or meaningless (Ecclesiastes 7:6)
3. Silence is their only camouflage (Proverbs 17:28).
4. Insults those trying to advise them. (Proverbs 9:7)
5. Talk their way into a beating. (Proverbs 18:6)
6. Hates those who try to correct them. (Proverbs 9:8)
7. Works against those trying to help them. (Proverbs 19:3).
8. Prefers speaking their opinion to gaining understanding. (Proverbs 18:2).
9. Despise discipline. (Proverbs 1:7)
10. Cannot apply wisdom. (Proverbs 26:7,9)
11. Repeats stupidity. (Proverbs 26:11)
12. Stubborn to the point of fighting. (Proverbs 20:3)
13. Dangerous to themselves. (Proverbs 12)
14. …and even their words are dangerous to others.
15. They live in darkness and don’t know what makes them stumble. (Proverbs 4:19)
16. Can’t see where they are headed. (Ecclesiastes 2:14)
17. Wears their anger on their sleeve, even when it’s counterproductive (Proverbs 12:16)
18. “Better to meet a bear robbed of its cubs than a fool carried away with his stupidity.” (Proverbs 17:12)
19. Behavior makes no more sense than a drunk’s. (Proverbs 20:1)
20. Inflates their own sense of importance. (Galatians 6:3)!
21. Doesn’t prepare for even important endeavors. (Matthew 7:26-27)
Proverbs 8 & 9 personify Wisdom and Folly as competing for your attention. Wisdom is calling out to the senseless, trying to teach and save. But Folly… “is loud, gullible, and ignorant. She sits at the doorway of her house. She is enthroned on the high ground of the city and calls to those who pass by, those minding their own business, ‘Whoever is gullible turn in here!’ ” (Prov 9:13-16)