Proverbs Bible Study (Live the Good Life Now)

The Hallmarks of a Fool



Solomon spends a lot of time describing the fool. The reason why his son needs to know what a fool looks like is (1) to not make friends with fools and (2) so his son will not be a fool. There are times in life when we are doing foolish things and acting like a fool but do not even realize it. So what Solomon does is that he describes the actions of the fool. No one wants to think that they are fools. But we are going to describe what the fool looks like and we may find that we are acting like fools. Rather than take offense at God’s word, let us be willing to make life changes if we are doing something that is foolish.

Eyes on Worldliness (17:24; 13:19)

“The discerning sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth” (17:24). Solomon describes a contrast between the fool and the discerning. But the contrast is interesting. We would expect the proverb to say: “The discerning sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool toward folly.” But Solomon says that the eyes of a fool “are on the ends of the earth.” But the fool is not looking at things that are obviously folly. He does not think in his mind it is a good idea to stand in the street. Notice that the fool has his eyes on the ends of the earth. The fool is not focused on the wise ways of life. He is always thinking about some other worldly thing. Many examples would fall into this category. Rather than find a steady job, the person is always looking for a way to get rich quick or wants to work minimal hours for full pay. Rather than being content with what he has, the fool keeps his eyes on the world wanting to have the things they have. We need to see that this proverb has broad application. The fool is flighty and not grounded in wisdom. The fool thinks other people’s lives are better than their own. The fool does not live in the now but lives in a utopian future where everything is the way they want it to be.

Lacks Wisdom, But Offers False Wisdom (26:7,9; 15:2)

“Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools” (26:7). “Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools” (26:9). Solomon describes the wisdom of fools. Wisdom is useless to the fool and the fool offers wisdom that is useless, and if followed, is painful. “The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly” (15:2). Notice that foolishness gushes from the mouth of the fool. This means we need to watch whose advice we accept. If we see a person whose life is not orderly and whose eyes are on the ends of the earth, we would be wise to realize the useless of their “wisdom.” It is amazing how often the people who have made a disaster of their own life are quick to give advice to others. The reason why their advice is useless is because of the next point.

Never learns (17:10; 27:22)

“A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred blows into a fool” (17:10). The idea is that you could beat the fool over and over again and they still would not learn. The wise simple need a rebuke and will take it to heart. The fool goes through pain and suffering and still will not gain understanding. “You cannot separate fools from their foolishness, even though you grind them like grain with mortar and pestle” (27:22). This proverb has a similar point. Trials and tribulations will not help them see the error of their ways. They refuse to learn.

Repeats error. In fact, the fool will repeat the error. “Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (26:11). This proverb draws out the disgusting aspect of the fool. It is disgusting to everyone else that the person continues to make the same mistakes. The fool never learns.

Never changes. The fool never learns, therefore the fool never changes. “A whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools” (26:3). This is another proverb with great imagery showing that the fool is stubborn and unwilling to change to go in the proper direction.

Does not listen. Further, the fool does not listen that he will make the proper decisions. “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions” (18:2). I do not understand why I have seen so many times people go to the elders, preacher, or leaders of a congregation for help and counsel, only to reject their wisdom. Do not ask for help with sin if you are not going to listen. Do not ask for marriage help if you are just going to complain and give opinions. Do not ask about life lessons if you are going to do what you want to do anyway.

Thinks he/she is right. The ultimate reason the fool does not learn is because the fool thinks he is right. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (12:15). When we are unwilling to truly listen to another’s point of view and try it for ourselves, we are simply the fool who thinks that he is right and everyone else is wrong. “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered” (28:26). The fool is self-reliant. He think he does not need rebuke or counsel. He does not consult the word of God for direction. “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (14:12). Why do we think we know it all and are so smart? God says that we are walking down the road to destroy our lives when we reject the wise counsel of others. This fact is so important that Solomon said it twice: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (16:25). The fool does not learn. He does not listen, he does not change, he repeats his errors, and thinks his way is the only right way.

Blames God for problems (19:3)

“A man’s own foolishness ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the LORD” (19:3). People mess up their own lives and blame God for the outcome. I have seen this to be true more than I care to admit. We make the bad decision and then complain to God because our lives are so difficult. WE DID IT TO OURSELVES! We want to be angry at God for our life condition and yet it was our bad decisions that placed us at this point. We rejected wisdom, wise counsel, and the sayings of God, and yet we want to place the blame on God. Too many people in this world and among our brethren are angry at God when they should be angry at themselves. You made the financial decisions, not God. You decided to get married to your spouse, not God. You decided to ignore the scriptures, not God. You decided to worry about money first, not God.

Lacks self-control (29:11)

“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back” (29:11). We talked a bit about the need for self-control last week, so I will not go into details here. But we need to see that if we are people who feel like we need to be heard and voice our opinions, we are fools. Realize that our society teaches the opposite of this proverb. Our society says that we need our children to express their feelings and we need to let people know how we feel. No, we need to learn how to control our emotions and our feelings so that we are not reacting based upon them. The fool vents the feelings of the heart. The wise control themselves.

Causes problems (20:30)

“It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel” (20:3). The fool likes the argument. The wise try to defuse the situation. We also spoke about this last week, but I want to remind you this fools cause problems.

Destroys self (10:21; 10:8; 18:6-7; 10:14)

It is important for us to know the end results of our folly. “The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense” (10:21). “The wise of heart will receive commands, but a babbling fool will be ruined” (10:8). “A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul” (18:6-7). The fool simply causes all sorts of problems for himself. “The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of the fool hastens destruction” (10:14). We need to see how Solomon emphasizes to his son that the end result of foolish behavior is ruin and destruction. Our lives will be full of pain and misery if we continue to adopt the characteristics of the fool.


  1. Keep our eyes on wisdom (God) and not the folly (the world)
  2. Be truly willing to learn.
    • Listen to others and to God
    • Learn from mistakes/do not repeat the error
    • Change
    • Do not assume you are right
  3. Do not blame God for your problems; blame yourself
  4. Develop self-control
  5. Avoid strife and conflict
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