The Book of Proverbs is often known as the Book of Wisdom. It is part of acollection of books known as, “Wisdom Literature” in the Old Testament, the others being Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and the Canticles (i.e. the Song of Solomon). Right from the beginning, the book of Proverbs states that its purpose is to teach that the “fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov. 1:7). This is repeated later in Proverbs 9:10 which says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” The fear of the LORD is thus the ladder which leads one to ascend to heavenly wisdom.

The opposite is also true, that if one fails to fear the Lord, he will begin the steep descent into folly, much like a dislodged boulder which rolls down a steep cliff. Thus, the book of Proverbs is also repleted with various warnings against folly. To instruct us against pursuing a path of folly, the book also adopts a rich vocabulary to describe the various facets and complexities of folly. A closer examination of these terms reveal how a person’s failure to address folly can be a vortex which sucks him deep into the core of death. A Christian must therefore be quick to address folly if he desires to live a spiritually fulfilling life.

Some of the terms of folly include:

Peti – פטי (The Naïve One)

This refers to a person who is naïve concerning spiritual things which makes him a gullible simpleton. “The simple (peti) believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.” (Proverbs 14:15) He lacks discernment (Proverbs 9:6) and prudence (Proverbs 1:4 – translated as“subtilty” in the KJV). As a result, he rejoices to dwell in folly “Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly.” (Proverbs 15:21)

Foolishness begins with naivety. If left unaddressed, it becomes a downward spiral of destruction (Proverbs 22:3). On the other hand, there is still hope for the naïve one at this stage who can still be taught and rescued from his folly. “When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge.” (Proverbs 21:11). See also Proverbs 19:25.

Kesil – (The Stubborn One)

The kesil one goes one step further by refusing to accept instruction. He is thus one who is thick-headed and stubborn. Some characteristics of the kesil include:

  1. They hate the true knowledge of God. “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools (kesil) hate knowledge?” (Proverbs 1:22)
  2. He likes to speak foolishness to others but refuses to hear what others say to him. He is not a good listener. “The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools (kesil) poureth out foolishness.” (Proverbs 15:2)

  3. He brings grief and bitterness. “A foolish (kesil) son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.” (Proverbs 17:25). See also Proverbs 10:1; 17:21; 19:13. In fact, he despises his parents and all authority (Proverbs 15:20)

  4. He refuses to depart from evil and thus keep making the same errors. “The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul: but it is abomination to fools (kesil) to depart from evil.” (Proverbs 13:19)

  5. He wastes money. “There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man (kesil) spendeth it up.” (Proverbs 21:20)

Evil – (The Insolent One)

The evil is similar to the kesil in his refusal of instruction or counsel. “The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool (evil) shall fall.” (Proverbs 10:1) However, he takes his disobedience of God one step further by mocking sin. “Fools (evil) make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour.” (Proverbs 14:9)

While there is still hope for the naïve one (peti), things are far grimmer for the insolent one. If he refuses to repent of his folly, he may find it extremely difficult to reverse his course. “Though thou shouldest bray a fool (evil) in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.” (Prov. 27:22)

Interestingly, Proverbs teaches that such insolent folly is bound in the heart of a child. There is no easy solution to it but loving discipline in the form of the rod. “Foolishness (evil) is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22 : 15). Yet, such discipline is frowned upon by the world today. Christian parents, will you take heed to God’s wisdom or will you follow in the folly of the world? 

Naval – (The Nabal)

The best example of the Nabal is none other than Nabal, the husband of Abigail. Here is the description of Nabal by his wife, “Let not my lord, I pray thee, regard this man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him: … for he is such a son of Belial, that a man cannot speak to him.” (1 Samuel 25:25, 17) He is therefore a man who is closed completely to God and His Word (c.f. Psalm 14:1). In the book of Proverbs, he is one who is given to uncontrollable lying lips (Proverbs 17:7; 32:32) and an epicurean lifestyle (Proverbs 30:22). Do not be a Nabal!

Lets – (The Scorner)

The final stage of folly is one who now scorns God and His Word. By this stage, any step towards wisdom is nigh impossible. “A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.” (Proverbs 14:6) He has become totally insensitive to any form of rebuke (Proverbs 15:12) or correction (Proverbs 9:7). He is no longer the naïve one who dabbles in folly but is now revelling in it with all authority and decadence. His arrogance knows no bounds. “Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath.” (Proverbs 21:24)

What is the end of the scorner? The Bible says, “Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.” (Proverbs 3:34) There will be divine retribution.

The lesson thus learnt from the book of Proverbs is this – do not think of starting the descent of folly. The best is to stamp out folly while it is still in the stage of naivety. Be wise and not a fool.


Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew