What is a Foolish Man in Proverbs?
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What is a Foolish Man in Proverbs?

The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about the foolish man. As Christians seeking godly wisdom, it’s important that we understand what the Bible means when it talks about fools, so we can avoid folly ourselves. In this comprehensive blog post, we’ll dive deep into the characteristics of fools in Proverbs and key lessons we can learn.


Proverbs is filled with practical advice for living a wise life. But it’s not just focused on what we should do – it also warns us against what we shouldn’t do. Namely, living foolishly.

The writers of Proverbs, particularly Solomon, use the imagery of a “fool” or “foolish man” frequently. This refers to someone who disregards God’s wisdom and lives without discernment or discipline.

Key Takeaways

  • The foolish man rejects instruction, discipline, and even God Himself.
  • He thinks highly of himself, but lacks judgment and insight.
  • His speech is corrupt and brings strife. He lacks self-control.
  • He repeats his follies rather than learning from them.
  • He lives carelessly, pursuing fleeting pleasures that lead to poverty and ruin.
  • He has no interest in changing his ways or submitting to God.

Understanding the characteristics of a foolish person allows us to examine our own lives. As we strive to grow in wisdom, we must be vigilant against any foolishness taking root in our hearts. The wisdom of Proverbs serves as an urgent call to pursue prudence and discretion.

Now, let’s explore in depth what Proverbs teaches about the fool.

The Fool Rejects Wisdom and Discipline

The most defining trait of the foolish man is that he staunchly rejects wisdom and discipline. He has no interest in applying God’s wisdom or submitting to instruction.

Proverbs 1:7 establishes that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Fools not only lack wisdom – they despise it. They reject it as useless or beneath them. A wise person recognizes their need for growth, while fools see no value in heeding teaching.

In Proverbs 1:22, Wisdom personified cries out:

How long, O simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, And fools hate knowledge.

The fool is so enamored with his own simple ways that he hates knowledge. He finds no joy in learning and growing in understanding.

Proverbs 12:1 declares that “Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” The foolish man stubbornly refuses correction or advice that could set him on the right path. He would rather persist in folly than submit to something that could benefit him.

But rejecting wisdom and discipline is the surest path to failure and ruin. As Proverbs 5:12-13 warns:

And you say, “How I hated instruction, And my heart despised correction! I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, Nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me!”

Living this way leads to calamity in the end. So we must guard our hearts against foolish aversion to instruction in any form. The wise person recognizes that there is always more to learn, and eagerly seeks out growth opportunities.

The fool’s rejection of wisdom and discipline demonstrates his lack of respect for God. Since the Lord is the source of true wisdom (Prov 2:6), spurning it is spurning Him. The wise person understands the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Ps 111:10), but the fool lives as if he is answerable to no one.

As believers, we must ensure we maintain teachable, humble hearts. Seeking out instruction and correction is crucial to walking in God’s wisdom. The fool’s stubbornness and pride should motivate us to flee from those pitfalls.

The Fool is Wise in His Own Eyes

Along with rejecting wisdom, one of the most marked qualities of the foolish man is his inflated sense of self-importance. He is wise in his own eyes.

Proverbs 12:15 puts it plainly:

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise.

To the fool, his own way seems right. He sees no need to heed teaching or advice because he arrogantly assumes he knows best already. But in reality, his high estimation of himself makes him even more of a fool.

Proverbs 26:12 makes a similar point:

Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Ironically, thinking ourselves wise makes us more foolish. Being oblivious to our flaws and need for growth is the epitome of folly.

Proverbs 28:26 reiterates this:

He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But whoever walks wisely will be delivered.

Relying on our own understanding rather than God’s wisdom dooms us to failure. A wise person knows the limits of their knowledge and depends on the Lord for insight. But the fool leans on his own faulty reasoning.

Proverbs 3:7 gives this warning:

Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil.

Here we see that being “wise in our own eyes” leads to evil and disconnect from God. We avoid this by fearing the Lord, not exalting our own ideas.

Thinking highly of himself makes the fool unteachable. He is so convinced of his own wisdom that he scoffs at instruction from God or others (Prov 14:6). But in truth, his pride only amplifies his lack of judgment.

As Christians, this should remind us of our constant need for humility and teachability. Rather than trusting our limited understanding, we must fear the Lord and recognize He alone is wise (Prov 9:10). Our confidence should be in Him, not ourselves.

The Fool’s Speech is Corrupt and Brings Strife

Another distinguishing trait of the foolish man is the corrupt and divisive nature of his speech. His words flow from a heart disconnected from God, and produce conflict.

Proverbs 15:2 puts it this way:

The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.

While the wise speak profitably, fools pour out foolish babble. Their words lack any edifying substance.

Proverbs 18:6-7 elaborates:

A fool’s lips enter into contention, And his mouth calls for blows. A fool’s mouth is his destruction, And his lips are the snare of his soul.

The fool speaks recklessly, inciting arguments and even violence. Their imprudent words boomerang back to harm them.

Ecclesiastes 10:12-14 offers this warning:

The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious, But the lips of a fool shall swallow him up; The words of his mouth begin with foolishness, And the end of his talk is raving madness. A fool also multiplies words.

While the wise speak graciously, the fool babbles nonsense. He lacks discernment in how he uses words. The end result is destructive madness.

So we can see that the fool’s speech flows from folly rather than wisdom. His careless words stir up trouble, revealing the corrupt state of his heart. As Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt 12:34).

As children of God, our words carry great power. We must seek wisdom from the Lord so our speech brings life (Prov 18:4), avoiding useless babble or malicious talk. Taming the tongue is a key aspect of walking in wisdom rather than foolishness.

The Fool Lacks Self-Control and Discipline

Another clear sign of a fool is lack of self-control and discipline. He acts impulsively, failing to consider consequences or exercise restraint.

Proverbs 29:11 observes:

A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back.

While the wise person demonstrates discretion, the fool blurts out whatever crosses his mind. He fails to filter his feelings through wisdom.

Proverbs 29:20 reiterates:

Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Acting impetuously in word or deed again marks us as fools. A wise person is cautious and deliberative.

Ecclesiastes 10:12-13 paints this picture:

The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious, But the lips of a fool shall swallow him up; The words of his mouth begin with foolishness, And the end of his talk is raving madness.

The fool’s lack of restraint leads him into foolishness and madness. He ends up harming himself through undisciplined actions.

So we clearly see that fools lack the ability to control their impulses. They act and speak on a whim, disregarding prudence and forethought. But as believers, self-control is a fruit of the Spirit we should nurture (Gal 5:23). Wisdom learns to bridle the tongue and filter words through the mind of Christ.

The Fool Repeats His Folly

One revealing trademark of the foolish man is his tendency to repeat the same mistakes. He fails to learn from his errors, perpetuating cycles of folly.

Proverbs 26:11 illustrates this well:

As a dog returns to his own vomit, So a fool repeats his folly.

Dogs instinctively return to eat their own vomit – gross as that may be! In the same way, fools repeat their foolish behaviors rather than forsaking them.

Proverbs 27:22 makes a similar point:

Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, Yet his foolishness will not depart from him.

Even intense pressure and consequences cannot correct the fool or drive out his folly. He persists in the same dead-end patterns.

In Proverbs 13:19, the Bible notes that “…it is an abomination for fools to go on living.” Folly inevitably leads down roads that destroy life. So the wise person recognizes their mistakes and changes direction. Fools blindly continue on paths they know lead to ruin.

As Christians, we serve a God of second chances. Confessing and repenting of sin is key to walking in wisdom. We must humbly learn from our errors rather than repeating cycles that grieve God’s Spirit. The foolish man’s stubbornness provides a sobering reminder of the deception of unrepentant sin.

The Fool Pursues Fleeting Pleasures that Lead to Poverty

Another trademark of the foolish man is relentlessly chasing after fleeting pleasures that ultimately lead to poverty and ruin. Rather than cultivating long-term prosperity, he seeks instant gratification.

Proverbs 21:17 puts it this way:

He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not be rich.

The relentless pursuit of “fun” crowds out wise financial stewardship. Eventually it leaves the fool bankrupt and destitute.

Proverbs 28:19 echoes this:

He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, But he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough!

Diligence leads to provision, but chasing frivolity results in want. The fool squanders time, energy and resources on temporal pleasures.

Proverbs 5:7-14 provides a sober warning about this destructive path:

Now then, listen to me, my sons; pay attention to what I say. Do not let your hearts turn toward her ways or stray into her paths. Many are the victims she has brought down… You will lose your honor and hand over to merciless people all you have achieved in life. Strangers will obtain your wealth, and someone else will enjoy the fruit of your labor.

This passage describes the adulteress, but serves as a metaphor for any fleeting pleasure that lures us from wisdom’s path. Pursuing cheap thrills may be exciting in the moment, but leaves us impoverished and full of regret. As Christians, we must learn to discern between pleasures that are life-giving versus destructive counterfeits. This discernment is a key aspect of godly wisdom.

The fool’s obsession with pursuing momentary gratification, rather than lasting rewards, provides a sobering lesson. We reap what we sow. May we instead steward our resources wisely as good managers of God’s blessings (Matt 25:14-30).

The Fool has No Interest in Changing His Ways

One final quality that defines the foolish man is his lack of interest in changing his ways. He sees no need to seek wisdom or submit to God. This prideful stubbornness cements him in folly.

Proverbs 13:19 observes that “…but the way of the unfaithful is hard.” Rather than walking on straightforward paths of righteousness, the fool wanders twisted detours that are treacherous. Yet he plunges headlong down these dangerous roads.

Proverbs 27:22 reiterates that “…Yet his foolishness will not depart from him.” As previously mentioned, the fool persists in the same old mistakes and pointless pursuits. He sees no compelling reason to change.

Proverbs 23:9 offers this warning about casting your wisdom before fools:

Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, For he will despise the wisdom of your words.

The fool has no desire for wisdom. Your best attempts to counsel him are wasted, because he despises your advice. His disinterest in pursuing prudence makes it unlikely he will ever depart from folly.

So ultimately, the stubborn unwillingness to seek and apply wisdom is one of the fool’s most tragic qualities. As long as he persists in his own ways, rejecting God’s truth, he will not break free from foolishness. His lifestyle of chasing fleeting pleasures will only reap ruin.

As Christians, we must cultivate hearts that are open and receptive to the Lord’s wisdom. We should seek it earnestly as one would search for hidden treasure (Prov 2:1-6). Only through fearing the Lord – rather than leaning on our own reasoning – can we walk in the wisdom that brings life.


The “foolish man” described throughout Proverbs serves as a cautionary tale for all who would reject God’s wisdom. While his way seems right to him, in the end it leads only to death (Prov 14:12).

Hopefully examining the fool’s qualities – pride, defiant speech, undisciplined actions, chasing worthless pleasures – provides clarity for avoiding these pitfalls ourselves. As we humbly seek the Lord and His wisdom, we will walk on the path of life (Ps 16:11).

Wise living requires cultivating teachability, restraint, diligence and discernment. May we take the lessons of Proverbs to heart, shunning folly and foolishness. As we submit ourselves to God’s wisdom and instruction, He will guide us on level ground (Prov 4:26). The way of the wise leads to blessing.

Key Takeaways

  • The foolish man rejects instruction, discipline, and even God Himself.
  • He thinks highly of himself, but lacks judgment and insight.
  • His speech is corrupt and brings strife. He lacks self-control.
  • He repeats his follies rather than learning from them.
  • He lives carelessly, pursuing fleeting pleasures that lead to poverty and ruin.
  • He has no interest in changing his ways or submitting to God.

Understanding the qualities of a foolish person serves as a mirror to examine our own lives. May we cultivate wisdom, discipline and reverence for the Lord. Then we will walk in the security and blessing of His ways.

Pastor Duke Taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.
He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.