How To Deal with the Foolish[a]
1 Like snow in the summer or rain during the harvest,[b]
honor does not befit a fool.
2 Like a fluttering sparrow or a swallow in flight,
an undeserved curse will never reach home.
3 Use a whip for a horse, a bridle for a donkey,
and a stick for the back of fools.[c]
4 [d]Do not reply to a fool in the terms of his folly
or you yourself may become a fool like him.
5 Reply to a fool in the terms of his folly
or he will consider himself wise.
6 Like cutting off one’s foot or submitting to violence
is sending a message by a fool.
7 Like the legs of a lame man dangling helplessly
is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
8 Like tying a stone into a sling
is the giving of honor to a fool.
9 Like a thorn branch brandished by a drunkard
is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
10 Like an archer who wounds all who pass by
is one who hires a fool or a drunkard.
11 As a dog returns to its vomit,[e]
so a fool reverts to his folly.
12 Do you know someone who regards himself as wise?[f]
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
A Portrait of Idlers[g]
13 The idler says, “There is a lion in the road,
a lion in the middle of the street.”[h]
14 As a door turns on its hinges,
so does the idler on his bed.
15 One who is lazy will dip his hand into the dish,
but he is too lazy to lift it to his mouth.[i]
16 The idler considers himself to be more wise
than seven men who can offer a sensible reply.
How Human Relations Are Perverted[j]
17 Like one who lifts up a stray dog by the ears
is he who meddles in another person’s quarrel.
18 Like a madman shooting at random
his deadly firebrands and arrows,
19 so is the one who deceives his neighbor
and then says, “I was only joking.”
20 When there is no wood, the fire goes out,
and when there is no talebearer, quarreling ceases.
21 Like coal for burning embers and wood for fire,
so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.
22 The whispers of a gossiper are tasty morsels
that corrode one’s inner being.
23 Like glaze that is spread on earthenware
are smooth lips and a spiteful heart.
24 With his lips an enemy may speak fair words,
but deep within he harbors treachery.
25 When he speaks graciously, do not believe him,
for seven abominations[k] lurk in his heart.
26 A man may cloak his hatred with guile,
but his wickedness will be exposed later in the assembly.
27 Whoever digs a pit will fall into it,[l]
and the stone comes back on the one who rolls it.
28 A lying tongue hates its victims,
and a flattering mouth causes devastation.
- Proverbs 26:1 Opposed to wisdom is folly, which is not mere thoughtlessness but rather stupidity that is synonymous with wickedness, vicious fickleness or instability, and the refusal to consider God, humans, and the order of things. Such folly is, in the eyes of the ancients, congenital and without remedy. Hence, the Book of Proverbs never seeks to convert the foolish or senseless; its purpose is to caution the naive and the simple against such behavior. This is a point of pride, however, for the greatest folly is to believe oneself to be a sage (Prov 3:7).
- Proverbs 26:1 Rain during the harvest: rain rarely occurs in Palestine during the harvest, i.e., June through September.
- Proverbs 26:3 A stick for the back of fools: see Prov 14:3; 19:29.
- Proverbs 26:4 These are two deliberately contradictory sayings, signifying: do not pay attention to the words of a fool or else make him realize his folly, depending on the case.
- Proverbs 26:11 As a dog returns to its vomit: cited in 2 Pet 2:22 in regard to false teachers.
- Proverbs 26:12 Someone who regards himself as wise: this description is applied to the idler in verses 5, 16 and to the rich in Prov 28:11.
- Proverbs 26:13 The popular proverbs use sarcasm in their biting caricatures of idlers. The Book of Proverbs has collected numerous sayings about this subject (see note on Prov 6:6) and here others have been appended.
- Proverbs 26:13 See note on Prov 22:13.
- Proverbs 26:15 This verse is almost identical to Prov 19:24.
- Proverbs 26:17 Once anger has allowed it to come to the fore, when will the demon of divisiveness, falsehood, and calumny come to a halt? As fine psychologists, the ancients had noticed how such tendencies deaden the human heart in the manner of a bad ineradicable herb.
- Proverbs 26:25 Seven abominations: i.e., “many.”
- Proverbs 26:27 Whoever digs a pit will fall into it: see Pss 7:16-17; 35:8; 141:10; see also Prov 1:18; 28:10; 29:6; Est 2:23; 7:10; Eccl 10:8-9; Sir 27:25f.