Translations of several uncomplimentary words that appear approximately 360 times throughout the OT and NT to describe unwise and ungodly people. The words are especially predominant in the Wisdom Literature of the OT. Persons who do not possess wisdom are called “fools”; their behavior is described as “folly.” The picture, which emerges from the biblical material, is quite simple: folly is the opposite of wisdom, and a fool is the opposite of a wise person.
Both wisdom and folly and depicted as philosophies or perspectives on life. The religious person chooses wisdom, whereas the nonreligious person opts for folly. Wisdom leads to victory; folly to defeat. Wisdom belongs to those who fear God, and the “fear” of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 1:7). Wisdom is the essence of life. The foolish person is the one who is thoughtless, self-centered, and obviously indifferent to God.
OLD TESTAMENT USAGE – Seven different Hebrew words are usually translated by the single English word “folly.” Some of the shades of meaning suggested by these various words include: (a) deliberate sinfulness; (b) simple-mindedness; (c) malicious simple-mindedness; and (d) brutal or subhuman activity.
The fool may be the one who is aloof. “Fools fold their hands” (Eccles 4:5 NRSV). This aloofness is also described in terms of the farmer who “chases fantasies” instead of tending to the farm (Prov 12:11 HCSB).
In other passages the fool is described as the one who denies that God exists: “The fool says in his heart, ‘God does not exist'” (Psa 14:1 HCSB). Foolish behavior is also character of God. Job chastised his wife for behaving as the foolish do when she denied the steadfast love of God (Job 2:10).
The simple-minded fool is encouraged to change in Prov 9:4-6. But the fool may be the one who is intentionally perverse. Nabal and Saul represent this kind of intentional and malicious folly toward David (1 Sam 25:25; 26:21). END OF PART 1.
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