More About Foolishness

Tom Burke

April 2004
© 2004 Scriptural Study Groups.  All Rights Reserved.

Anyone who reads the Word of God with open eyes and a meek heart cannot help but marvel at the great wisdom it contains. For those who desire it, the Word of God is a fountain of wisdom regarding all things pertaining to life and godliness (II Peter 1:3). God even has wisdom to impart regarding foolishness! As we study the Scriptures, we can grow to clearly recognize foolishness, in order that we might diligently avoid it.

In the New Testament, several different Greek words were all rendered as ‘fool’ or ‘foolish’ by the King James translators. One word is used of an individual who has no mind. (A figure of speech, certainly, but a powerful one!) A second word is used of one who has a mind but does not think. A third word is used of one who has a mind, and thinks, but has no real wisdom or understanding (possibly the most subtle form of foolishness). A fourth, more general word indicates that which is dull or slow.

Perhaps the translators could have chosen to translate these words with different English words in order to highlight their specific qualities. Instead, they translated all with the words ‘fool’ and ‘foolish.’ All of the above descriptions certainly fall into that category.

The Old Testament also contains much insight regarding foolishness. And out of all the Old Testament, the mother lode of truth regarding foolishness is found in the book of Proverbs. In it, we again encounter many words that are translated as ‘fool,’ but one in particular stands out — the Hebrew word keciyl.

In a positive sense, this word can be used of that which is strong, heavy, and immovable. These may be good qualities in some ways, but they are NOT good qualities when it comes to the mind, or to its ability to receive the things of God!

In Proverbs, we learn that the keciyl is not one who is lacking a mind, or lacking thoughts. On the contrary, he is abounding with thoughts, and shares them whenever he is given the opportunity (and often when he is not). The problem lies not in lack of thoughts. He has plenty of them. But where do those thoughts originate?

Proverbs 17:10
A reproof entereth more into a wise man, than an hundred stripes into a fool.

Clearly, the keciyl is not the most easily instructed individual.

Proverbs 17:16
Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?

He may indicate a hunger for wisdom. He may even pay for it. But wisdom cannot penetrate the keciyl because he really has no heart for it. What does he have a heart for?

Proverbs 18:2
A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.

God gave us His Word that we might know and come to understand Him. The keciyl, ultimately, has no real interest in a knowledge of God. His interest is in himself.

Despite the multitudes who claim to be ‘self-made’ men, such a thing is not really possible. All of us have derived our thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs from somewhere outside of ourselves. This is true of the keciyl also.

Proverbs 17:24
Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.

This fool is not against learning. Often, he will exhibit a ravenous hunger for information. He will scour the world for it. But then he will decide what information is important. He will decide what can be discarded. And he will decide how it all fits together. For, to him, he is the only one who matters.

Such an individual can never really be taught, in the true sense of the word. For when truth becomes uncomfortable, as it inevitably will, he will mold the truth rather than be molded by it. When light reveals error in him, he will conclude that there must be something wrong with that particular light. Because of the choices he has made, he will not receive reproof or correction, which are a vital part of instruction in righteousness.

Rather than emulate the keciyl, you and I would be wise to emulate a man of God named Asaph. Psalms 73 and 77 speak of a time when Asaph briefly considered both the evidence of his fleshly heart and the evidence of the world around him. As the fool does. As you and I may occasionally do. But, having experienced the misery and hopelessness which such ponderings bring, Asaph chose to change his thoughts. He chose to consider the works of God. He chose to embrace the ways of God. And his conclusion is very wise indeed.

Psalm 73:22–28
So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before Thee.

Nevertheless I am continually with Thee: Thou hast holden me by my right hand.

Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, And afterward receive me to glory.

Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.

My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

For, lo, they that are far from Thee shall perish: Thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from Thee.

But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, That I may declare all Thy works.