Like snow in summer or rain in harvest,
honor is not fitting for a fool.
2 Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow,
an undeserved curse does not come to rest.
we know when to expect rain and snow. If it comes out of season it is unwelcome and we begin to complain about how unreasonable the weather is or how unfair. It’s supposed to be sunshine but it’s pouring with rain.
To give honour to a fool is inappropriate. A fool is not deserving of honour. There would be an injustice, a complaining that this person has been honoured.
The image of a fluttering bird and an insult may seem a bit bizarre but to imagine a fluttering bird constantly on the move consuming energy paints a picture of words having a life of their own constantly in the head and darting all over our thought world.
Words can not be withdrawn once they have been spoken. It is important to consider my words carefully.
A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
and a rod for the backs of fools!
4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you yourself will be just like him.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes.
6 Sending a message by the hands of a fool
is like cutting off one’s feet or drinking poison.
7 Like the useless legs of one who is lame
is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
8 Like tying a stone in a sling
is the giving of honor to a fool.
9 Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand
is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
10 Like an archer who wounds at random
is one who hires a fool or any passer-by.
11 As a dog returns to its vomit,
so fools repeat their folly.
12 Do you see a person wise in their own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for them.
These verses all describe a fool. Solomon uses the word ‘fool’ to describe someone who hates wisdom.
The true method of dealing with him is that of chastisement. Caution is needed in answering him. A fool is preeminently a fool because he relishes his folly. The greatest fool is the fool who does not know he is a fool.
The Bible has much to say about fools. The word fool today usually means someone who is senseless or a dullard.
The biblical definition has the added dimension of “someone who disregards God’s Word.”
The Bible lists many characteristics of the fool, often contrasting him with one who is wise. Ecclesiastes 10:2 says, “The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.” A fool is one whose wayward heart turns continually toward foolishness.
“Fools speak foolishness and make evil plans” (Isaiah 32:6). Proverbs 26:11 says, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.” Fools do not learn their lessons from the mistakes they make. They continue doing the same foolish things over and over again, to their own destruction (Proverbs 18:7).
The following is a partial list of some characteristics of a fool from the book of Proverbs: a fool hates knowledge (1:22), takes no pleasure in understanding (18:2), enjoys wicked schemes (10:23), proclaims folly (12:23), spurns a parent’s discipline (15:5), speaks perversity (19:1), is quick-tempered (12:16), gets himself in trouble with his proud speech (14:3), mocks at sin (14:9), is deceitful (14:8), and despises his mother (15:20). A foolish child brings grief to his or her parents (17:25; 19:13). A foolish man commits sexual immorality (6:32; 7:7–12). A foolish woman tears down her own house (14:1).
The ultimate description of a fool is one who “says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1).
Although fools can choose to become wise by heeding wise counsel and applying it (Proverbs 8:5; 21:11), the Bible warns against associating with fools (Proverbs 14:7). Proverbs 13:20 says, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”
Verse 3 – When a horse pulls a cart, the driver whips the horse. This is because the driver needs to control the animal. The fool needs this kind of management. It sounds harsh but if he is unresponsive to wisdom then chastisement is the only way.
Verses 4-5 – The fool is an evil man who hates wise words. Solomon uses humour here, because verse 4 is the opposite of verse 5. But both verses are correct. In verse 4 The fool hates wisdom. So his words are foolish. You do not want to be foolish. So do not answer him with foolish words! In verse 5 Do not answer a fool with sensible words! Do not allow him to think that he is wise! He deserves only a stupid answer. So answer him with foolish words!
The truth is that this evil person will not obey good advice. He does not care whether your words are sensible or foolish. He will even use your own words against you. Jesus said that we should not give our pearls to pigs!
Verse 6 – The person who causes his own injury is stupid. But the person who sends a fool is also stupid. A fool will not do the right things. Perhaps he will not deliver the message. Perhaps he will change the words. Perhaps he will deliver a different message instead.
Verse 7 – has a similar sentiment to verse 6. A fool might repeat a proverb, but he does not understand the proverb. He says the right words, but he is still stupid. If he understood the words, the fool would change his behaviour. But he refuses to do this. So his proverb is pointless.
Even the Satan can repeat a Bible verse (Matthew 4:6 and Psalm 91:11-12). He tried to use the verse to test Jesus. But Jesus told Satan that the he was wrong (Matthew 4:7).
Verse 8 – Solomon’s father David used a stone from a bag to kill Goliath (1 Samuel 17:40). But David did not tie the stone to the bag. This action would be stupid. This action would waste both the stone and the bag. Solomon uses this absurd illustration to suggest that giving honour to a fool is about as useful as tying the stone to the bag.
Verse 9 – Another absurd comparison. A Thornbush in the hands of a drunk might cause a lot of damage. He will not be in control of his actions and will no doubt hurt himself and others.
If you trust a fool regurgitating wise words without the evidence that he lives by them he will hurt you and will hurt himself.
I tricked people into liking me when I was in my darkness because I used wise words but was not living by them. I manipulated women to trust me when I was untrustworthy. The result was that I caused myself hurt and pain as well as those around me. Just like the thornbush in the hands of the drunk.
Verse 10 – The man who shoots arrows everywhere is clearly dangerous. But the employer might not seem to be dangerous. In fact, this employer is also dangerous. Hiring a fool will cause the employer will suffer because of the fool’s wayward nature.
Verse 11 – You cannot cure a fool. He will repeat his evil behaviour. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. God can change the ways of a fool but we cannot.
A fool is not like a simple person. A simple person is someone who has not learned to be wise. But you can teach a simple person to do the right things.
Verse 12 – Solomon refers to a man who is blinded by pride. He thinks that this man is even worse than a fool. In fact he is a definition of a fool.
This man imagines that he is wise. But he is not wise. He thinks that his advice is good. But his advice is wrong. He really doesn’t know what he is talking about.
13 A sluggard says, “There’s a lion in the road,
a fierce lion roaming the streets!”
14 As a door turns on its hinges,
so a sluggard turns on his bed.
15 A sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.
16 A sluggard is wiser in his own eyes
than seven people who answer discreetly.
Solomon uses humour whenever he discusses a lazy man. The sluggard has his excuse. And perhaps there is a lion. It sounds a bit extreme though.
We know that, really, this man is just lazy and doesn’t want to go to work.
He is very lazy. He is still in his bed. He is not asleep. The Proverb tells us that he turns on his bed. He just doesn’t want to get up. He is compared to a moving door. It moves but it stays in its doorway. The door never goes anywhere.
He is too lazy to even eat properly. His hand is in the dish but he can’t be bothered to eat.
Despite this profound laziness he thinks he is wise and smarter than all men. He is out of touch with reality in his introspective, sluggard state.
Solomon paints an unattractive picture of the lazy man. The “Can’t be bothered” attitude is destructive to our own bodies and spiritual well-being. We are designed with purpose to work and contribute to community. The sluggard is isolated and self absorbed he cares only about his own indulgences.
17 Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears
is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.
18 Like a maniac shooting
flaming arrows of death
19 is one who deceives their neighbor
and says, “I was only joking!”
20 Without wood a fire goes out;
without a gossip a quarrel dies down.
21 As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire,
so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.
22 The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
they go down to the inmost parts.
23 Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware
are fervent lips with an evil heart.
These verses are all about conflict, quarrels, gossip etc.,
Verse 17 states the obvious. Grabbing a dog by the ears is not a good idea. Intervening in a dispute that is not your business is not a good idea either. Both will bite.
Verses 18-19 give us two more incendiary situations. The phrase “only joking” is a poor defence for careless words. It is important to be careful with words. See James 3.
In verses 20 – 21 we read that a fire will not burn without fuel. When someone gossips, their words are like fuel for a fire.
Verse 22 is the same as Proverbs 18:8. Solomon uses humour here. When someone gossips, their words are like tasty food. People enjoy it when someone gossips. There is something about gossip that inflates our ego as we compare our own inflated view of ourselves to someone else’s failing or misfortune. Usually gossip spirals out of context and stories get embellished and exaggerated.
Verse 23 underscores the previous verse with reality. Cheap pots coated with silver residue may look good on the outside but they are still cheap pots.
Dishonest people can be very clever with words and may look good on the outside but scratch below the surface and the real person is revealed.
24 Enemies disguise themselves with their lips,
but in their hearts they harbor deceit.
25 Though their speech is charming, do not believe them,
for seven abominations fill their hearts.
26 Their malice may be concealed by deception,
but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.
This describes how I was in my meltdown years, smooth talking and charming but with a deeply selfish agenda. Seven abominations really did fill my heart. I was out to meet my own needs and barely thought about the implications on others. I sounded smooth and convincing but my wickedness was exposed in the assembly. It’s hard to think about myself as an enemy but that is what I was.
I wonder if it is the stress that I put myself under that led to the Muscular Tension Dysphonia. I was not in tune at all with the stress I was putting on myself. I was like a drug addict on a quest for his next fix and I would do whatever it takes to get it, increasing the risk as momentum gathered and getting slicker in my deception as I went along until it came to a point where it had to come crashing down and then followed the exposure in the assembly.
God is good. It feels good to be exposed and yet to experience the grace of God. It’s a much better place to be than ducking and diving in the shadows.
27Whoever digs a pit will fall into it;
if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.
28A lying tongue hates those it hurts,
and a flattering mouth works ruin.
In verse 27 we read about God’s unfailing boomerang. You reap what you sow. What you send out will come back on your own head …dig a pit and you will fall in it, roll a stone and it will roll back on you.
On the other side of that if you send out love and peace, kindness and integrity then that is what will generally show up in life. It’s written into the DNA code of the universe and is a spiritual truth of our existence. Sow anger and a whirlwind of anger and hatred will most likely show up in your life. It’s not as brutal as it sounds if you are the man looking in the mirror there’s a chance that you will connect the dots.
In Verse 28 both men cause trouble because their words are not sincere. A liar has no regard for the people he is lying to. He is concerned only for himself and to preserve himself in some way and flattery is manipulation because there is intent to control or influence that person in some way for the personal gain of the person doing the flattering. It will eventually reap it’s own ruin as I discovered in my own life.