Hebrew Etymology:

“Fool” in Hebrew can be one of three words; KESIYL, EWIYL and NABAL. KESIYL is the most common of the three, used about 70 times.

KESIYL, כְּסִיל means, “fool, stupid fellow, simpleton, foolish, or arrogant one.” It is derived from the verb KASAL that means, “to be or become – stupid or foolish,” which is only used in Jer 10:8, “But they are altogether stupid and foolish In their discipline of delusion—their idol is wood!”

EWIYL, אֱוִיל is a Noun fairly similar in meaning to KESIYL. EWIYL occurs 26 times in the OT, with 19 occurrences in Proverbs. It denotes someone who not only lacks sense, but is also morally corrupt. It is often contrasted with CHAKAM – “wise,” YASHAR – “upright,” or SEKEL – “insight or prudent.”

NABAL, נָבָל (naw-bawl) is an Adjective that occurs only three times in Proverbs, Prov 17:7, 21; 30:22 and adds a coarse defiance to the portrait of the fool. It means, “foolish, godless, or fool.” It is derived from the Verb NABEL, נָבֵל (naw-bale) that means, “to wither, to wear out, to be futile, to be foolish.”

“Folly” is the Hebrew feminine Noun IWWELETH, אִוֶּלֶת(iv-veh-leth), used predominantly in Proverbs. It occurs 24 times in the OT, and all but two are in Proverbs. It primarily means, “imprudent, and occasionally has the concept of moral degeneracy.” It is characterized as something that is evident to all, in other words, the fool blurts out his folly to everyone.


The fool is one of the leading themes in the Book of Proverbs. In Scripture, the fool is willfully and obstinately walking down the wrong path.

KESIYL portrays the fool as a self-confident (arrogant), self-deceived, and/or self-righteous person.

He does not seek wisdom (Bible Doctrine) seriously, but rejects its advice, Prov 23:9.

He assumes that he can get wisdom as easily as purchasing something, but there is an inner deficiency that keeps him from actually gaining wisdom; he lacks the heart or inner being to receive it, Prov 17:16.

He thinks that he can find the secrets of success in faraway places, ignoring the true wisdom that is right before him, Prov 17:24.

He does not want to listen and learn, Prov 26:9, but merely talks to display his own ideas, Prov. 18:2.

In reality, the fool has none of the knowledge of which he boasts, Psa 92:6.

His problem is his heart, the Hebrew term for the whole inward being of humans, which we also call the right lobe of your soul. He has inner rebellion against God that produces outward foolishness, Prov 12:23. It flows out in his words, Prov 15:2. Even a proverb is meaningless when he says it, Prov 26:7.

His downfall is complacency, Prov 1:32.

He constantly displays his warped attitude of cosmic viewpoint, like a peddler spreads his goods before a buyer, Prov 13:16.

He actually enjoys his wickedness, Prov 10:23; and repeatedly returns to his wicked behavior, Prov 26:11. The idea of turning from evil is repugnant to him, Prov 13:19.

He rejects the counsel of God’s Word, because he places his trust in his own cleverness and resources, Prov 28:26.

He is characterized by anger, hot tempered, and cannot hold his tongue, Prov 12:16; 14:16; 18:6; 29:11, 22; Eccl 7:9.

His anger is sometimes disguised by his deceit, but hostility still exists, Prov 10:18; 14:8.

The Bible warns of the fool’s impact on those around him.

  • He is a grief to his parents, Prov 10:1; 17:21, 25. In fact, he can be a destructive force in the family, Prov 19:13.
  • His words stir up quarrels, Prov 18:6.
  • He goes into bursts of blind anger, as dangerous as a mother bear deprived of her cubs, Prov 17:12.
  • Close association with him will have harmful effects, Prov 13:20, those who can avoid him should do so.

The results of choosing the life of a fool are destructive in the long run because:

  • He assumes that God does not see his sin, Psa 94:8.
  • He tries to present himself as wise, but eventually his folly will be exposed, Prov 14:33.
  • His destruction is certain, Prov 1:32.

How should you respond to a fool?

  • There are times when a word of counsel or warning (exhortation or rebuke with Bible doctrine shared) may be appropriate, Prov 8:5; 26:5.
  • But if a person has actually chosen this path, rebukes are generally ineffective, Prov 17:10, 16; 18:2; 21:20; 23:9; 26:4.
  • In that case, and in general, it is wise to avoid the fool to escape the risks that go with such company, Prov 13:20; 14:7. You do not want to follow his path of destruction, Eccl 10:3.
  • It is unwise to entrust any important business to him, Prov 26:6.
  • A hardened fool will only respond to the harsh realities of punitive discipline. Sometimes the public pain and shame of the authority’s rod is actually the most beneficial experience for him, Prov 19:29; 26:3, but even that may not be effective, Prov 17:10.
  • The worst thing you can do for a fool is give him luxury and honor, Prov 19:10; 26:1.

The basic problem is spiritual, not intellectual. It lies in the heart, and only God can truly change the heart of a fool. The problem is that the fool has no interest in God, and the root of foolishness is antithetical to that of wisdom, as the “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” Psa 111:10; Prov 1:7.

Prov 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

As we noted at the beginning of this doctrine, there are three primary words used for the fool or foolish, KESIYL, EWIYL, and NABAL. The above principles where primarily using the application of KESIYL and told us that folly is equated with wickedness, Prov 10:23; 15:7, and that the foolish are often impulsive and lacking self-control.

The next grouping shows us how EWIYL is used in Proverbs. Remember that EWIYL (ev-eel) denotes someone who not only lacks sense, KESIYL, but is also morally corrupt, and is often contrasted with CHAKAM “wise,” YASHAR, “upright,” or SEKEL, “insight and prudent.”

In Brown, Driver, and Brigg’s Hebrew Lexicon, they identify EWIYL being used substantively for the fool who despises wisdom, mocks when guilty, is quarrelsome, and is licentious.

KESIYL told us that the fool does not pursue wisdom (Bible Doctrine), and EWIYL tells us that the first characteristic of the fool is he lacks wisdom (Doctrine in the Right Lobe of his Soul), Prov 1:7.

Fools are said to die for the lack of having wisdom (God’s Word) in their soul, Prov 10:21.

Continuing in the lack of wisdom genre; a fool despises even his father’s instruction in Prov 15:5, and ultimately, wisdom is beyond his grasp, Prov 24:7, as a result of the garbage of Satan’s cosmic system in his soul and the resultant build-up of scar tissue within his soul.

Rather than listening to others, the fool does what seems right to him, Prov 12:15.

Since this foolishness appears to be a permanent condition, Prov 27:22, the fool will become the servant of the wise, Prov 11:29.

The only way a fool can appear wise and prudent is to keep his mouth shut, Prov 17:28.

In regard to having a lack of self-control, especially in regard to his speech, a fool’s mouth typically brings some form of social or civil discipline to himself, “a rod to his back,” Prov 14:3; 16:22.

Likewise, the babbling fool will come to ruin, Prov 10:8, 10, because his mouth invites it, Prov 10:14.

When the fool is annoyed, he shows it immediately, Prov 12:16; 20:3, and loves to quarrel. That is why the wise man is instructed to avoid getting into a quarrel with the fool, Prov 27:3; 29:9.

Finally, utilizing EWIYL, we see that fools lack moral reasoning.

  • They will mock at making amends for sin, Prov 14:9.
  • They are like a hapless animal falling into the trap of stupidity and sin, Prov 7:22, metaphorically presented as an adulteress identifying Satan’s cosmic system. So, due to their moral perversion, fools are often found in close proximity to sin.
  • Fools suffer affliction because of their iniquities, as depicted by rebellious Israel in Psa 107:17.
  • The prophet Isaiah envisions a time when the righteous will walk in the way of holiness, and wicked fools will not be found there, Isa 35:8.
  • In Jeremiah, God rebukes his people, because they are fools who have no understanding and are skilled in evil, Jer 4:22.

Next, we have the Hebrew word NABAL for fool that is used for godlessness in Israelite society that was equated with foolishness, while wisdom CHAKMAH is equated with righteousness and godliness.

Israel acted foolishly, since the nation chose to provoke God by infidelity, according to the Song of Moses, Deut 32:6, 21.

Fools are equated with non-belief, Job 2:10; 30:8; Psa 14:1; 39:8; 53:1; 74:22; Jer 17:11.

The righteous should not die like a fool, who are cut off in their prime by violence, 2 Sam 3:33.

A godless, foolish son is grief to a father, Prov 17:21, “He who sires a fool (KESIYL) does so to his sorrow, and the father of a fool (NABAL) has no joy.”

A fool, living in a godless state, does all he can to take advantage of the poor, Isa 32:5-8.

Next, we have the Hebrew word IWWELETH that is derived from the same root as EWIYL, and is used for “folly” and “foolishness.” It primarily means imprudence and at times also includes the concept of moral degeneracy.

The first imprudency we see is in our main verse of study Prov 12:23. There the folly of the fool is often characterized as something that is evident to all. The prudent man is characterized by concealing a matter of offense; whereas, the fool blurts out his folly to everyone. This is reemphasized in Prov 13:16.

At times the folly of fools will bring them punishment, Prov 16:22, which punishment is recommended as an antidote to folly, Prov 22:15.

Prov 22:15, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.”

We are warned to avoid a fool in his folly, because there can be undesirable consequences for those who associate with them, Prov 17:12.

Prov 17:12, “Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly.”

In contrasting the foolish with the wise, Proverbs tells us:

  • The foolish woman tears down her house, Prov 14:1; whereas, the wise woman builds her house up.
  • The folly of fools is deception, but the prudent carefully consider their ways, Prov 14:8.
  • The simple inherit folly; whereas, the wise are crowned with knowledge, Prov 14:18.
  • The fool will end up with nothing but his own folly; whereas, the wise end up wealthy, Prov 14:24.
  • The fool feeds on folly, yet the discerning seek knowledge, Prov 15:14.
  • Folly captivates one who lacks judgment, but a person of understanding keeps on the right course, Prov 15:21.

The foolish are often impulsive and lacking self-control.

  • The quick-tempered person winds up doing foolish things, Prov 14:17, 29.
  • From the mouth of the foolish gushes folly; whereas, the wise person conveys knowledge, Prov 15:2.
  • The foolish person is characterized as answering before listening, Prov 18:13.
  • Rather than learning from past mistakes, the fool repeats his folly, even as a dog returns to its vomit, Prov 26:11.
  • The folly of the foolish can be a permanent condition, Prov 27:22.

Several passages utilizing IWWELETH include a moral or spiritual dimension.

  • The schemes of folly are sin, Prov 24:9.

Prov 24:9, “The devising of folly is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to men.”

  • The reversionistic believer ruins his own life and then turns around in rage and blames it on the Lord, Prov 19:3.
  • This foolish (reversionistic) believer will be led astray by his folly (sin), to the point of suffering the third stage of Divine discipline, the Sin Unto Death, Prov 5:23.
  • Two passages outside of Proverbs also correlate folly with sin and its consequences.

1) God knows all of our folly (sin), Psa 69:5.

2)   The consequences of folly (sin) includes stages one and two of Divine discipline from the Lord, Psa 38:5, “My wounds grow foul and fester because of my folly.”

We are told to not talk to the foolish in Prov 26:4, and then to talk to them in verse 5.

Prov 26:4, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him.”

Prov 26:5, “Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes.”

This is not contradictory. Verse 4 is recommending that we do not associate with the fool or else we will become like him; whereas, Verse 5 tells us that at times we need to correct, reprove, or rebuke the fool for his own good.

So, from this amazing study of the fool in the book of Proverbs, and elsewhere in the Old Testament, we see what the fool is all about, and we are instructed to avoid the fool and not become a fool ourselves. In addition, if we are already a fool, we are instructed how to change from being a fool. We also noted the severe consequences of being or becoming a fool.

And finally, as many of these verses showed us the contrasts of the fool, we need to heed those principles and precepts which showed us wisdom, insight, and prudence, and apply them to our lives, so that we can walk in the light of Jesus Christ, as we walk in the righteousness that God has given to us at the moment of our salvation. As God has given the believer positional sanctification / righteous at salvation, He desires that we walk in His righteousness, by diligently learning and applying His Word. When we do, we will be wise, having the wisdom of Bible Doctrine etched upon the heart of our soul; whereby, we walk experientially sanctified, glorifying God on a consistent basis.

James 3:13-18, “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

And as a result, God is able to bless us in both time and eternity.

In Prov 13:16-20, we will note the Doctrine of “How to Identify a Fool” and we will see the fool again in Chapter 14:7-9, and just about every other chapter in the rest of the book of Proverbs.

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