Proverbs 17: Understanding a Fool

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Proverbs 17 is a very interesting chapter. It is basically a life lesson on what not to do. When we look at what is called the book of wisdom, this chapter provides insight on what a fool really is. The use of the word fool in this context is the Hebrew word "kesiyl". This use of the word is used in the book of Proverbs forty-nine times, five of them being in Chapter 17.

Kesiyl is a different kind of foolishness because it is bluntly put as stupidity stemming from apathy towards moral issues. Basically, when we quit caring, we become foolish. The characteristic of a keisyl is someone who harbors anger, quits caring, has no purpose, and often doesn’t think before they speak. A kesiyl also is self destructive and loves to live in ignorance.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely have some kesiyl moments. There are times where I just want to throw my hands up and quit, and maybe even act out, because to care can be difficult sometimes. What can we learn about ourselves from Proverbs 17? How can we prevent being a kesiyl?

Proverbs 17:10 begins with, “A rebuke cuts into a perceptive person more than 100 lashes into a fool.” This brings up a question into our own personal lives: are we teachable? A wise person will take criticism with grace and learn. If you are like me, you can be thin-skinned, which I’m trying to get better at; however, to be wise is to be teachable. Do you have a mentor? Do you heed their advice? A fool gets angry and doesn’t learn, however, a wise person will absorb information and learn to grow in teaching.

Proverbs 17:12 is the next occurrence of a kesiyl. It states, “Better for a person to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his foolishness.” Who are you surrounding yourself with? We see that someone who is living an apathetic lifestyle, grounded in foolishness, is even more dangerous than a mad mama bear without her cubs. Sometimes, we will surround ourselves with fools, only to find that we begin to act like them. We think we can save a person, only to be dragged down. Galatians 6:1 cautions us when saying, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is overtaken in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual, restore such a person with a gentle spirit watching out for yourselves so that you also won’t be tempted.“ A wise person surrounds themselves with wise people.

Another occurrence of the infamous kesiyl is Proverbs 17:16. This verse states, “Why does a fool have money in his hand with no intention of buying wisdom?” There is a difference between wisdom and knowledge. We can hold a MDiv or even a PHD and still lack wisdom. Some of the most well educated people on this Earth still make terrible decisions. Are we wise with our investments? Are we wise with our time? Are we taking the time to know God or to just know about Him? These are things to ponder as we grow in wisdom.

Next, we have Proverbs 17:21: “A man fathers fool to his own sorrow; the father of a fool has no joy.” Do we honor our parents? This can be a touchy subject because I know we all come from various backgrounds in different types of family situations. Being sensitive to this requires that we are obedient to God when He tells us to honor our father and mother, but I want to say this, sometimes honoring our father and mother means forgiveness. Forgiveness often times is for yourself and not for them. Forgiveness and honor aren’t a suggestion in the Word of God but a command. When we honor our parents, we honor God. When we live a life of wisdom, we honor our heavenly Father, and He rejoices over us. When we view life through an eternal perspective, we begin to not only experience freedom, but we become wise in the process.

Finally, we end with Proverbs 17:24: “Wisdom is the focus of the perceptive but a fool’s eyes roam to the ends of the earth.” This verse wraps up perfectly what the author of this chapter is trying to say. We need to make a continual effort to focus on wisdom each and every day. Throughout our Christian walk, our focus daily needs to be on task with as I said earlier: getting to know God, not just about Him. We can’t be distracted with the things of this Earth because the things of the flesh don’t last. Our eyes can roam to the ends of the Earth, but then we will miss out on so much because our perspective is skewed.

Our sinful nature naturally turns us into a kesiyl. As we grow in our walk, we are going to make foolish decisions, and we are going to make mistakes. The beauty of the Word of God is that if we take the time to heed what it says, and we seek wisdom and understanding, we will become wise, not just knowledgeable. We will make better decisions, and we will learn to live life through an eternal lens. What a great gift the Word is that we may learn and grow, and we don’t have to live life as a kesiyl.


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Chelsi Woods is the coffee-loving Content Manager for Whole Magazine and a writer for the Reformed Outlook. She is a Jesus-loving, tattooed soccer mom to a beautiful, blue-eyed 12 year old girl and “Choo-Choo” to a 9 year old nephew and 4 year old niece. Her hobbies include communicating in gifs, playing guitar, and bad dad jokes. Chelsi’s passionate pursuit is to teach women solid, Biblical truths focused in spiritual growth, loving God with our minds, all while glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.