The Book of Fools
Dr. Joe Temple


Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Proverbs, that portion of the Word of God we are considering together. We have for our discussion in this lesson that portion recorded in chapter 26. You will recall that we have been studying the book of Proverbs according to the natural divisions into which the book falls. Of late we have been studying what we refer to as The Gleanings Of Hezekiah's Men , which began with chapter 25, verse 1, and continues through chapter 29, verse 27. This particular section falls into various divisions. One of them is Unrelated Comparisons , which is recorded in chapter 25, verses 2-28. Another is Illustrations of Fools and Sluggards , and we could add the word scoundrels , which is found in chapter 26, verses 1-28. It is this particular portion of the Word that we want to discuss at this time— Illustrations of Fools and Sluggards and Scoundrels .

We are not going to discuss the entire chapter because obviously we would not have the time. I am going to suggest that we notice the analysis of the chapter so that as you do your own reading at home, as I trust you will do, you will be able to see the divisions into which the chapter naturally falls. In verses 1-12, we have Illustrations of Fools , and I would like for you to follow in your Bibles as I read that portion. Notice from verse 1:

Proverbs 26:

1 As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool.
2 As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.
3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.
4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.
6 He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool cutteth off the feet, and drinketh damage.
7 The legs of the lame are not equal: so is a parable in the mouth of fools.
8 As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool.
9 As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouths of fools.
10 The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.
11 As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.
12 Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.

We pause in our reading to emphasize again we have been reading what some theologians refer to as The Book of Fools . The Book of Sluggards , a briefer book, is found in verses 13-16:

Proverbs 26:

13 The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.
14 As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.
15 The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.
16 The sluggard [the same word as slothful] is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.

The third book into which this chapter naturally falls is what we have termed The Book of Scoundrels . We have used the word scoundrels not because it is found anywhere in the text as is the word fools and the word sluggard , but because it is a word which describes the kinds of people which are presented in this particular paragraph. Notice, please, verse 17:

Proverbs 26:

17 He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.

I always think about this passage of Scripture when the story about a past president comes to mind. You might recall the stirring that was created across the nation when President Lyndon Johnson picked up one of his pet dogs by the ears. Well, the Scripture was a step ahead of him. “He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.” There is trouble. You can be sure of that. Notice verse 18:

Proverbs 26:

18 As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death,
19 So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?
20 Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.
21 As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.
22 The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
23 Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.
24 He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him;
25 When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart.
26 Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation.
27 Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.
28 A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.

I don't know how observant you were when we read the passage of Scripture, but if you were very observant, you noticed that there were seven characteristics of the fool presented in this particular paragraph. We will run over them briefly, then think about them individually. The fool is an individual who is unworthy of honor. He is harmless. He is stubborn. He is insensitive. He is unreliable. He is punishable, and he is hopeless. These seven characteristics will be borne out as we examine the text in the light of the word that we have suggested, in the light that it is actually recorded.

Scriptural Definition of a Fool

Before we look at the characteristics of the fool, we need to establish in our minds the scriptural definition of a fool, for we do not all agree as to what a fool is, particularly if we are depending upon the colloquialisms of the day. This is never a wise thing to do unless those colloquialisms are borne out by the plain teaching of the Word of God.

There are three Hebrew words which are translated by our English word fool , all of them meaning practically the same thing, and yet each one of them having a little different shade of meaning to bring to our attention. There is the word nabal , which may be translated by our English word stupid and by our English word wicked . There is the Hebrew word kciyl , which may be translated by our English words materialistic and insensitive . Then there is the Hebrew word eviyl , which may be translated by our English word perverse . The root meaning of all three of these words suggests an individual who is morally neutral. Thus he would be in rebellion against God. We might call him an unregenerated person today.

The word that is used in the text at which we are looking is the word kciyl , and every time that you see the word fool in this particular text, you are speaking of a materialistic, insensitive person. A materialistic, insensitive person, as a rule, is a person who has never had an experience of grace within his heart. He is an individual, as a rule, who has never been born again, so keep in mind, by and large, when we are using the word fool in the book of Proverbs, we are not speaking of a foolish Christian. There are a lot of foolish Christians around, a lot of silly Christians, a lot of Christians who are doing impractical things and God gets the blame. People get the idea that only stupid people are Christians. We remind you that the Word of God puts the shoe upon the other foot and says that the stupid people are people who are not born again.

We wish that Christians would seek the guidance and the direction of the Lord in such a fashion that reproach would not be brought upon the name of Christ because of our foolish actions. But please keep in mind that when we use the word fool , we are using a word that describes a person who has not been born again.

A Fool is Unworthy of Honor

We said there were seven characteristics of such a person presented in this particular paragraph, and the first one that we called to your attention was that such a person is unworthy of honor. As I make that suggestion to you, I would like for you to keep in mind that we, as believers, must be very careful that we do not honor unbelievers in the things in which they do. It is a shame, yea, it is a reproach, to notice how in some churches individuals who have never experienced Christ, individuals who have never been born again are honored as though they were devoted Christians. The reasons for the honors are varied, too varied for us to go into, but certainly unscriptural.

Two reasons are given in this paragraph why the fool, as we think of him, is unworthy of honor. In verse 1 he is unworthy of honor because of the very unreality of the idea. Notice in verse 1:

Proverbs 26:

1 As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool.

The word seemly is a word that may be translated “fitting” or “becoming.” Always when you are reading anything concerning nature in the Bible, you must not interpret it in the light of the nature which you know in West Texas, but in the light of the nature in the land of which the Bible speaks and which the writers of the Bible lived. Snow in summer was an unheard of thing there, as it would be here in West Texas and rain in the harvest just never happened. As unseemly and as unrealistic as these two things in nature are, so unrealistic is honor for a man who does not take God into consideration—a man who has not received the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. He is unworthy of honor because of the unreality of the same.

I would like for you to glance at verse 8 and notice another reason this individual of whom we speak is unworthy of honor. Not only is he unworthy because of the very unreality of it, but he is unworthy of it because of the impossibility of it. It is impossible really to honor a fool, for all real honor comes from God. Never anywhere in the Word of God do you find God honoring a man who is in open rebellion against Him. Such an individual is always the subject of rebuke and never the subject of honor. The impossibility of it is presented in the very interesting proverb in verse 8:

Proverbs 26:

8 As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool.

Picture in your mind what we might term a sling shot today. Of course the slings that they used in Bible times were not the kinds that we use today. It was a sling that was twirled around the head and one end let loose and the stone flew from the sling. According to the proverb, here is an individual who binds the stone in the sling. Now picture what happens. He twirls the sling around his head vigorously and when he lets the other end of the sling go, the stone goes nowhere because it is tied down. It can't go anywhere. Think of the impossible situation in which David would have found himself had he attempted to kill Goliath by binding the stone in the sling which he used. You recognize how utterly impossible it would have been for David to accomplish the death of Goliath. God is saying to us here that no matter how much man might try to honor a man in rebellion against God, it is not recognized by Heaven because God has said in His Word: “Him that honors me, Him will My Father honor,” and there is no other kind of honor that is worthy of our consideration.

A Fool is Harmless

The second characteristic that we brought to your attention was one that was rather comforting because men in rebellion against God sometimes do some rather dangerous things. The second thing that we noticed was the fool in reality is harmless . Look at verse 2:

Proverbs 26:

2 As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.

If you read the passage of Scripture carefully, you wondered if maybe this verse was sort of inserted here without any real reference to the rest of the text. As a matter of fact, some commentators are of the opinion that that is true, and the commentators who believe in an editorialized Bible make a hodgepodge of their own manufacture, suggesting that some editor sometime during the years inserted this verse here, and it really should be somewhere else. They are not really sure where it ought to be.

The verse provides no problem for me at all. I think, as I suggested to you, it is here to indicate how harmless a man in rebellion can be against the man who is hidden by Christ. The illustration is the sparrow, by wandering, by flitting about, and the swallow by flying aimlessly. That is the real meaning of the verse. These two birds never seem to light anywhere for any length of time at all, so the curse causeless shall not come. That is, if a man in rebellion against God utters a curse against you, a believer, that curse will never actually be allowed to alight.

The word come here is more in keeping with the text. It is derived from the Hebrew word bow , which means “to alight,” and as the birds to which we make reference never seem to light anywhere, so you can be sure that a curse that is uttered without a cause will never be allowed to alight.

You may be puzzling as to what real reference it has to you and how it could be affecting you at all. In order to show you in few words, I would like for you to turn with me in your Bibles to an Old Testament Scripture. Turn to Numbers, chapter 23, and as you notice this portion of the Word of God with me, recall that Balak, king of Moab, was very much concerned about the progress of Israel under the blessing of God. He wanted to stop them. Someone told him that there was a prophet by the name of Balaam who could stop these Israelites and cause God not to bless them if Balak could hire this prophet, Balaam, to utter a curse against them.

The story is found here in Numbers, chapter 23. Notice particularly verse 8. Balaam had made every effort in the world to curse the children of Israel. He even changed positions several times to affect the curse, but it just did not work, so he said, in verse 8:

Numbers 23:

8 How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the LORD hath not defied?

The word defied is not a good word. The English word denounce would be a better word. Balaam is saying:

Numbers 23:

8 How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I denounce, whom the LORD hath not denounced?

You see an illustration: “The curse causeless shall not come.” If there is no reason for the curse, then you don't need to be afraid of it. You may be in a position sometime when the wicked will be threatening and will cause you some sleepless nights as you wonder if perhaps they are not going to do you ill in some way. You remember, “You who are engraven on the palm of the hands of God are in a place of perfect safety.” You have nothing to really be concerned about because the curse causeless shall not come.

The Fool is Stubborn

We suggested to you the third characteristic of the man in rebellion against God, the individual who is termed a fool in our text. You will notice in Proverbs, chapter 26, verse 3:

Proverbs 26:

3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.

One way you can cause a horse to obey your command is with the whip. You need a bridle for the ass because both of these creatures have a will of their own, some more than others. Some are even characterized as being stubborn. Something has to be done about it, and so the two instruments used for the correcting of the stubborness of the animals in question are mentioned, and then that which is needed for the fool's back. The rod here is a word that describes a very thin stick very much like a willow stick, and it is applied to a fool's back. The rod of chastening is often mentioned in the Word of God. The Bible reminds us that the way of the transgressor is hard. Sometimes God finds it necessary to apply the rod to the fool's back to bring him to a realization of his need for Christ.

There is an interesting translation in this passage of Scripture found in other renderings which I think it would be wise for us to consider. Instead of reading “a fool's back,” as though it applied to an individual, some renderings present the verse: “A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass and a rod for the back of a foolish nation.”

This, too, is in line with the plain teaching of the Word of God for we are reminded in God's Word numerous times that God has to apply the rod to the foolish nation. He did to Israel, and he will to the nations in which He is interested.

We can be grateful that God does look with favor upon the repentance of any nation. You will recall that Jonah marched through the city of Ninevah, declaring with definite certainty that in three days the city of Ninevah would lie in ruin. They had wise people in that nation, not regenerated people, but wise people. Those wise people repented and God withheld judgment. I repeat, a foolish nation sometimes has to have the rod applied just as a stubborn fool has to have the rod applied to be kept in control.

A Fool is Insensitive

The fourth characteristic that we would like to call to your attention we have described by the word insensitive . It is brought to our attention by what we read in verses 4-5:

Proverbs 26:

4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.

If you are a careless reader of the Word of God, you are a bit confused when you come to those two verses and you are wondering if they are not contradictory one to the other. They seem so. In verse 4 you are told not to answer a fool according to his folly; in verse 5 you are told to answer a fool according to his folly. If you do not know that God has a purpose in everything that He writes, you might find yourself thinking, “Why doesn't someone make up his mind?”

Notice the last part of the verses. They keep them from being contradictory. There are times when you answer a fool according to his folly. When you do, you lower yourself to his level. You become like him. There are other times when it is necessary to answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.

I think illustrations will be helpful. The best illustrations are always found in the Word of God, so I would like for you to notice how the Lord Jesus Christ Himself fulfilled this particular bit of wisdom offered by Solomon, who is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Turn to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 16, and notice the encounter which the Lord Jesus Christ had with men who were constantly withstanding Him in His public ministry. This is an illustration of what the Scripture means when it says, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou be like unto him.” We read from verse 1:

Matthew 16:

1 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting [trying to trip Him up] desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.

They were living in a day when they were looking for signs all of the time and the individual who could show a sign would be the individual who would get the most support. We are living in the same kind of day today, really. We are told in the Scripture, “As it was in the day of the Son of man, so it shall be in the day when the Lord Jesus Christ returns.” That is the reason there is so much emphasis in this day in which we are living upon miraculous signs, so much emphasis upon the speaking of tongues. We are living in a day when men want signs. They are not willing to abide by what is written in the Word of God, and we are living in a day when men are giving heed to seducing spirits. The Devil, knowing that his time is short, is putting forth a real effort, and Christians everywhere are crying for signs.

These folk were crying for signs. They said, “You give us a sign from Heaven that You are the Son of God.” Notice how He answered them, in verse 2:

Matthew 16:

2 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.
3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.

You see, many Christians today are falling into this trap of answering a fool according to his folly. “Okay, give us a sign that Christ is real,” and we break our necks to get down on their level so that they will believe that Christ is real.

I hope that you will not consider what I am about to say as being too critical because I endeavor always to take the position that Paul took when he was in prison and people were preaching Christ, not as an aid to him, but as a hindrance, and he said, “I rejoice that Christ is preached. Regardless of the situation, I rejoice that Christ is preached.” I want to say to you, Beloved, that you do not have to make Jesus Christ relevant. You do not! In spite of all you are hearing, you do not have to make the Lord Jesus Christ relevant to this generation or to any other generation. But there are a lot of people today who are answering a fool according to his folly. They are answering people in rebellion against God according to their own folly and, in so doing, they are getting down on their level, and it is not necessary. The Word of the living God is sufficient.

I know all of this talk. I have read that the churches are empty but the streets are full of people who want to hear about Christ. That does not change the Word of God one iota. It is your obligation to use the Word. Answer not a fool according to his folly. The Lord Jesus Christ, when these people said, “Give us a sign,” said, if you will permit a paraphrase, “I am not going to do it. You haven't got sense enough to see a sign if you saw it. You boast about your ability to read the weather signs and yet you are not able to recognize a spiritual sign. You couldn't do it. There is only one sign that is going to be given and that is the sign of the prophet Jonah, which simply is a sign of the resurrection.”

The only sign that God ever gave that His Son was real was when He raised Him from the dead, and you don't need to give any other sign to anybody other than that. You don't need to go around speaking their language and you don't need to go around singing their songs and you don't need to go around dressing their way. You dress the way you want to. I dress the way I want to. Dress the way you want to, but don't be deluded into answering a fool according to his folly and think that the only way that you can get the Word of God out to somebody is to dress like they dress. You are answering a fool according to his folly when you do.

We said that there was another suggestion: If you were to answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit—that is, unless he thinks you haven't got sense enough to answer him. You know, there are a lot of fools like that. If you refuse to get into what we refer to as a religious argument today, they will get the idea that you do not know what to say to them. They think that is the reason that you do not answer them, so occasionally they need to be put in their place. Oh, I know, I know. I have heard until I have it up to here about love. Now, that may sound like a strange thing for me to say, but every time I pick up a religious periodical, I see something in it about love; every time I listen to some piece of music, it is all love. Well, it ain't that way. This world is still the domain of the Devil, and God is still a just God, and everybody is not going to be loved into the Kingdom of God. The sooner you realize that, the better off you are going to be.

I recently read about an individual who has carved a figure out of a heavy piece of wood and has spent two months, ten hours a day, carving a figure of a crucified Christ. He carved it different from the usual one because he didn't want to show the suffering at the Crucifixion. He wanted to show the love of a forgiving Christ. It is a lopsided approach. There is a time when you must answer a fool according to his folly. Turn to Matthew, chapter 21, and notice the paragraph beginning with verse 23:

Matthew 21:

23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?
24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.

“You want to know where I get the authority to do what I do? All right, let's trade questions,” He said. You see, there was no rebuke here like there was the first time. There is a trading of questions. There was the matter of answering these individuals on their same level. He said, “If you will answer Me, I will answer you.” His question is in verse 25:

Matthew 21:

25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?…

Why did He ask them a question like that? Because He was answering them according to their folly. You see the question they asked Him: “By what authority do you do this?” They did not want an honest answer.. They wanted an answer that would cause the people to charge the Lord Jesus Christ. They wanted an answer that would create an uproar. They wanted an answer that would rob the people of the confidence that they had in Christ, so Christ was using their same tactics. He was answering them according to their folly. He said, “I will tell you where I get My authority if you will tell Me where John got his.” Notice in the latter part of verse 25, where we see the Pharisees reasoning among themselves:

Matthew 21:

25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?
26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.

You see, He answered them according to their folly. They tried to put Him in a spot, so He used the same tactics and He put them in a spot. As we read in the text, they said, “Well, if we say he got his authority from Heaven, which we know he did, then He is going to say, ‘Why didn't you obey it?' But if we say that he got his authority from men, which we will almost have to say if we are consistent, these people are liable to mob us because they believe that he got his authority from God.” Look at verse 27:

Matthew 21:

27 And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.

That is a pretty clever answer, you know. Here was a whole crowd of people waiting to hear what He was going to say, and He said, “You tell me and I will tell you,” and they said, “We can't,” and He said, “I can't.” You see, if He had not answered them back in that fashion, they would have been wise in their own conceit.

Fools are Unreliable

We said that there were seven characteristics of fools in this paragraph, so we look at the sixth one, which we have designated by the word unreliable . Fools who are in rebellion against God, if you go back to Proverbs, chapter 26, are described in parabolic form as unreliable men . Notice verse 6:

Proverbs 26:

6 He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool cutteth off the feet, and drinketh damage.
7 The legs of the lame are not equal: so is a parable in the mouth of fools.
9 As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouths of fools.

May I suggest to you that fools are unreliable, according to verse 6, in the sense that they are damaging, for if you will notice verse 6 again:

Proverbs 26:

6 He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool cutteth off the feet, and drinketh damage.

If you depend upon an unsaved person to do something that is important like sending an important message, you are cutting off your own feet because you don't know that the message is going to be delivered, and you are drinking damage to yourself; that is, you are creating an opportunity for something bad to happen to you. That is the reason God says in His Word that believers should not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. You cannot always be sure what an unbeliever is going to do.

He is unreliable from another standpoint. The message that he does deliver, his approach is a distorted thing. Notice verse 7 again:

Proverbs 26:

7 The legs of the lame are not equal: so is a parable in the mouth of fools.

The word parable here sometimes in the Bible is translated by the word proverb. Sometimes it is translated by dark saying . The idea is one of wisdom. The wisdom of an unsaved man is unreliable. Just as the legs of a lame man are unequal, so is the wisdom that an unsaved man has to offer you, unreliable in the sense that it is unbalanced. The unsaved man is not likely to take God and His Word into consideration when he makes his decisions. If you want to know the real basis for the unreliability, we suggest that you notice, when you have time, what is recorded in the epistle of James concerning wisdom which is from above—that is, Godly wisdom—and wisdom which is from beneath—wisdom that is prompted by Satan in the hearts of unregenerated men.

The third thing that makes this unsaved person unreliable, I have described by the word dangerous , as it is presented in verse 9. Look at it again, please:

Proverbs 26:

9 As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouths of fools.

If you are thinking and remembering as you think, you notice that we use one characteristic of the fool and use the word insensitive to describe it. You might wonder why we didn't use this verse to describe the insensitivity of the unsaved man, because it apparently describes a drunkard who is pierced with a thorn and never seems to feel it.

We have discussed with you before in our Proverb's study the insensitivity of drunken men, but actually the text is not speaking of a man who is pierced with a thorn, much as a drunken man might put his hand down on a thorn and not realize that he has done it. The literal translation suggests the man wielding a thorny branch in a dangerous way .

We do not recommend any of the modern renderings unreservedly, for they all have their problems, but sometimes there are some effectively expressed things in all of them, and Moffett , I think, has caught the meaning of this verse better than any other translator of the Scriptures. He says, “Like thorny branches brandished by a drunkard, so is a parable, wisdom, in the hands of a fool.”

You can imagine how dangerous a man could be if he had a thorny branch and just brandished it indiscriminately, not being concerned at all about who he hits with the thorny branch. God says that's how dangerous an unsaved man is when he begins to spout off wisdom. You cannot depend on it. The sad, sad thing we must recognize is that many believers seek wisdom from unsaved men without realizing how dangerous it can be.

Don't misunderstand me. There are such things as consecrated, ignorant Christians. Just because a man is a Christian doesn't necessarily make him adept at his particular profession. I am not talking about efficiency. I am talking about wisdom and direction.

A Fool is Punishable

Another characteristic of a fool that we would call to your attention, we described by the word punishable. It is brought to your attention by what is found in verse 10. When we say punishable , we do not mean that he is capable of punishment; we mean that he is slated for punishment, for we read there:

Proverbs 26:

10 The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.

God, in this passage of Scripture, equates the fool and the transgressor, so you can see that what I have said to you about the fool being an unregenerated individual is borne out. The word reward here does not mean that He gives a stick of candy; it means that He rewards with that which is commensurate with the crime or the individual, so it is punishment. We read here, “The great God that formed all things both punishes the fool and punishes the transgressors.”

I am not going to ask how many of you have the King James Text . I know that some of you carry The American Standard , which is an excellent translation. Some of you carry with you The New American Standard , which is better. Some of you carry other renderings too numerous to mention, all of which I have already suggested should be watched somewhat because they are not accurate in every instance. I prefer to call them renderings because they are not translations. They are not accurate enough, in relation to the original language to be called translations, but if you have The American Standard translation or The New American Standard translation, which are worthy of that name, I believe you recognize that verse 10 is not quoted the way you find it in The King James Text at all. As a matter of fact, there is no resemblance, and you may have been following in such a translation and thought that I had lost the place and was reading from the wrong page.

Why is this? Theologians will tell you that the Hebrew, in this particular instance, is obscure, and that simply means that among the best Hebrew scholars, there is a difference of opinion as to the exact Hebrew which is used. If you are familiar with Hebrew, you know that it is difficult to read and a little thing such as a jot or a tittle put in to the left instead of to the right can make all of the difference in the world in the meaning of the text. It has nothing to do with inspiration, so please don't go out of here and say that I telling you that there is a mistake in the Bible. I am not! I am telling you that we have got a lot of dumb men around.

I prefer the rendering of The King James Text . I think that it is more accurate. I think it is more consistent with the subject matter, but so that you will not go out of here ignorant and perhaps run across something like this and be confused, I want to offer to you some other renderings and perhaps you might think that they are better.

The Septuagint rendering of verse 10, reads: “All the flesh of fools endures much hardship, for their fury is brought to naught.” If you read some Hebrew manuscripts, this is what you will read. Does that fit into the context?

The Amplified rendering presents the words very much akin to The American Standard : “A master worker forms all correctly, but as an archer who wounds all, so is he who hires a fool or a chance passer-by.” This might be a little more in line. It would be related to the unreliability of the fool. The idea is that if you are an architect, you can hire a skilled workman and get a good job done or you can hire a fool or a chance passer-by and have trouble.

The Living Bible rendering presents this verse: “The master may get better work from an untrained apprentice than from a skilled rebel.” That has a little bit more connection with the text than any that we have read, but I emphasize, this that is found in The King James . I think it is more consistent with the text and more consistent, of course, with the operation and the plan of God.

Usually, when I make suggestions like this, I have someone come to me after the service and say, “I wish you hadn't said that. People might wonder if the Bible is true.” Well, Beloved, you need to settle in your own mind that if anybody can find anything wrong with your faith, you had better welcome it. If you are believing something that isn't true, you had better find it out before it is too late. When I suggest these things to you, I suggest them so that you will be enlightened people, able to meet the critic upon his own ground. The critic offers you an alternate translation such as I have here, you don't throw up your hands in horror and say, “Oh, I didn't know that. I have been taught this other way all this time.” Examine all the suggestions and recognize the truth.

The Fool is Hopeless

The last characteristic that I want you to consider is that the fool is hopeless . This perhaps is the saddest thing we could say about him. Look at verse 11-12:

Proverbs 26:

11 As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.

Peter uses this proverb in his epistle when he speaks of those who sit under false teachers—teachers who do not teach the Word. For a while it seems that their lives are changed. For a while it seems that things are different, but before long, they go back to their old way of living just as a dog returns to his vomit.

I don't know whether you realize or not what a poignant, effective proverb that is. You know, I think we read these proverbs, not being familiar with them, and lose half of the impact because we don't really realize what they stand for. I am going to be real crude and tell you about a little experience I had that impressed it upon me in an indelible way. I make an effort to be saturated with the Word of God, and whenever I see anything in everyday life, there comes to my mind a passage of Scripture which that thing illustrates.

Years ago I was teaching a Bible class and I drove a hundred miles there and a hundred miles back. A preacher went along with me. He did not attend the Bible class; he visited some folk, but he went along for the ride. Somebody had given me a Cocker Spaniel pup for one of the kids. We have always had a menagerie at the house. That goes with children, incidentally. I pass on to you that it is easier to buy a new carpet than it is to break the heart of a child. You might remember that sometimes. You can replace carpet, but you can't replace broken hearts. Anyway, I was bringing the dog home and I was going to put the dog in the trunk, but this man graciously offered to hold the dog in his lap. The dog got car sick and vomited in the man's lap. I am being crude; I know that.

I don't know where that little dog got all that vomit, but that man was literally saturated with it. It was one of the few times in my life I was embarrassed and apologetic. I said, “I am so sorry about this,” and I wanted to stop the car and do something about cleaning it up. I don't know exactly what we would have done in the mountains between here and San Angelo on the Butterfield Trail before it became civilized, but I wanted to do something.

He said, “Now, Brother Joe, don't you worry one bit about it. Just wait, he will eat it.” I had never heard that before, but you know he did. He ate it. He returned to his vomit. He not only ate it, he practically dry cleaned the man. No sooner did that happened than this passage of Scripture came to me.

You know, God has good illustrations. Why in the world would a dog return to his vomit? Why does a fool, an unregenerated man, return to his sin? Because he is unregenerated, that's why.

A good illustration, scripturally, is brought to our attention in Romans, chapter 8. Turn there and notice the fool, as we are interpreting him here in this portion of the Word before us, as an unregenerated man. Notice verse 8:

Romans 8:

8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

Why does the fool return to his folly? It is impossible for him to do otherwise. It is a hopeless situation. Paul emphasized that himself previous to this statement in his autobiography in chapter 7, the paragraph which begins with verse 17. Notice:

Romans 7:

17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

Do what? Go back to the old things that I haven't wanted to do. Read on to verse 18:

Romans 7:

18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

Men who live in the flesh, whether they be saved or unsaved, are in a hopeless condition because they can't help themselves. The flesh dominates. Go back to the book or Proverbs, chapter 26, and notice the last verse that suggests the hopelessness of an individual. Notice verse 12:

Proverbs 26:

12 Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.

You say, “I thought you said there wasn't any hope. Well, compared to a man wise in his own conceit, there is a little hope for a fool. There is always hope that a fool will be regenerated, but the man who is wise in his own conceit, according to the Scripture, is an apostate, and there is no hope for an apostate. An apostate is described in the book of Romans, chapter 1, among other places, and it might be wise for you to look at that portion of the Word.

An apostate is not a person who is saved and loses his salvation. Fix that very firmly in your mind. An apostate is a person who has the truth presented to him and deliberately chooses not to walk in the truth and turns his back upon it. Look at Romans, chapter 1, verse 21:

Romans 1:

21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

Our time is gone, so we will have to stop here.

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