Five Categories of Fool
For today’s post I am going to take an extended quote from Robert McLaughlin’s commentary on the Book of Ecclesiastes (order it for free here). The quote deals with five different Hebrew words for “fool” found in the Old Testament. When I first read this I thought it was wonderful. How many times have I read Old Testament passages and failed to understand what was really being said because I have only one definition for words?
I suppose that if I have to put an intellectual spin on this I can say that “it is a biblical truth that we can be foolish in many ways.” While the quote discusses five different kinds of fool they are all really rooted in arrogance. So, what else is new?
Here is Pastor McLaughlin:
When the Bible talks about fools, it lists at least five categories: First of all, there is the stupid fool described for us by the Hebrew word pethiy, meaning a stupid mule or a fool who is easily persuaded by flattery, delusion, deception, and enticement. He is ready to believe almost anything and he exhibits great gullibility. He believes gossip, slander, and false teaching, and he hates academic discipline.
- Proverbs 1:22. “How long, O naive [pethiy] ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing And fools hate knowledge?”
- Proverbs 14:15. “The naive [pethiy] believes everything, But the sensible man considers his steps.”
- Proverbs 22:3. “The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, But the naive [pethiy] go on, and are punished for it.”
The second type of fool is described by the Hebrew word eviyl, this is the unreasonable fool. The word means to be perverse, or to be one who is without aim or council. The eviyl fool despises wisdom and instruction. He is full of arrogance and self-justification when confronted with truth. He is easy to spot because his brain has stopped thinking but his tongue is in high gear. In fact, the only way he can appear wise is to keep his mouth shut. As soon as it is opened, his foolishness is revealed.
- Proverbs 1:7. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools [eviyl ] despise wisdom and instruction.”
- Proverbs 12:15. “The way of a fool [eviyl ] is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”
- Proverbs 14:3. “In the mouth of the foolish [eviyl ] is a rod for his back, But the lips of the wise will protect them.”
- Proverbs 17:28. “Even a fool [eviyl], when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.”
- Proverbs 20:3. “Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, But any fool [eviyl ] will quarrel.”
Thirdly, there is the keciyl fool; this is the stubborn fool. This Hebrew word literally means that the loins and flanks of a person are so crowded by fat that they are dull, inactive, and passive. The stubborn fool cannot cope affectively with authority in business or in a local church for any great length of time. In fact, he thinks he should be in authority himself, even though he has absolutely no capacity for it. His stupidity leads him to take on more than he can handle. The keciyl type fool hides their hatred with hypocritical lies, and then utter slander in the next breath. They are two-faced. If you keep company with them, you will suffer harm.
- Proverbs 1:22. “How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing And fools [keciyl] hate knowledge?”
- Proverbs 10:18. “He who conceals hatred has lying lips, And he who spreads slander is a fool [keciyl].”
- Proverbs 13:20. “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools [keciyl] will suffer harm.”
- Proverbs 14:7. “Leave the presence of a fool [keciyl], Or you will not discern words of knowledge.”
- Proverbs 14:16. “A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, But a fool [keciyl] is arrogant and careless.”
- Proverbs 15:14. “The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge, But the mouth of fools [keciyl] feeds on folly.”
- Proverbs 17:10. “A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding Than a hundred blows into a fool [keciyl].”
- Proverbs 17:12. “Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, Rather than a fool [keciyl] in his folly.”
- Proverbs 18:2. “A fool [keciyl] does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind.”
The fourth type of fool is described by the Hebrew word luwts. This is the scorning or mocking fool. The scorning fool is flirting with a reprobate mind. This is the fool that uses his mouth to scoff, mock, or to ridicule. He will even scoff at the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God. The mocking fool seeks for wisdom in vain because his motivation is wrong and he is blind and deaf to spiritual matters. The mocking fool is obnoxious and is an abomination to others. He delights in mocking spiritual Christians and their standards. In any group of people, if you get rid of the scoffer or the mocking fool, you will solve most of your problems within that group.
- Proverbs 1:22. “How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers [luwts] delight themselves in scoffing And fools hate knowledge?”
- Proverbs 9:7-8. “He who corrects a scoffer [luwts] gets dishonor for himself, And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer [luwts], or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you.”
- Proverbs 13:1. “A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, But a scoffer [luwts] does not listen to rebuke.”
- Proverbs 14:6. “A scoffer [luwts] seeks wisdom and finds none, But knowledge is easy to one who has understanding.”
- Proverbs 22:10. “Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out, Even strife and dishonor will cease.”
The fifth type of fool is the committed fool. The committed fools have regressed to the point where they have entered into apostasy. The Hebrew word is nabal, which means stupid, wicked, and vile. It also means to fall away, to fail, to faint, to despise, to dishonor, to lightly esteem, or to abandon. It is the nabal fool who says in his heart that there is no God. He can even teach about God, yet deny Him in his thinking. This fool gives deep sorrow to his father.
- Psalm 14:1. “The fool [nabal] has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good.”
- Job 2:10. “But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish [nabal] women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”
- Ezekiel 13:3. “Thus says the Lord GOD, “Woe to the foolish [nabal] prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing.”
- Proverbs 17:21. “He who sires a fool does so to his sorrow, And the father of a fool has no joy.”
The Eight Experiments of Man: A Commentary on the Book of Ecclesiastes
Robert R. McLaughlin