01 July 2014

The hates and loves of the fool

by Dan Phillips

The book of Proverbs uses a number of different words which are all translated "fool" in most English versions. The word kesîl [k'SEEL] occurs 49X in Proverbs. Its relation to cognates meaning "plump" or "fat" tempts one to translate it "fathead," but I take the translation "stupid" offered by many lexicons. It features in the pivotal verse signalling Solomon's shift from long-form to short-form proverbs:
Proverbs of Solomon.
A wise son rejoices a father,
but a stupid son1 is the grief of his mother. (Proverbs 10:1 [DJP])
1Literally “a son, a stupid one.”
In this verse, Solomon crafted the perfect transition from Proverbs' introductory chapters to the sentence-proverbs that dominate the rest of the book. When I preached it, I developed that relationship at length; here my point is a bit different.

Here's a summary of most of the uses of kesîl in Proverbs:
The כְּסִיל [kesîl] hates knowledge (1:22), is complacent to his own destruction (1:32), exalts dishonor (3:35), slanders (10:18), thinks it's fun or a joke to do scheming evil (10:23), proclaims (12:23) and spreads (13:16) and spouts (15:2) denseness, is repelled by the thought of turning from evil (13:19), brings his friends to harm (13:20), is reckless and heedless (14:16), pastures on folly (15:14), disdains his mother (15:20), can't even have wisdom beaten into him (17:10), clings to his denseness fiercely (17:12), brings grief to his father (17:21), doesn't focus (17:24), brings bitterness to his mother (17:25), delights not in insig
ht but in sharing his opinions (18:2), is quarrelsome (18:6-7), gets deserved beatings (19:29; 26:3), is wasteful and unproductive (21:20), doesn't recognize or value wisdom when he hears it (23:9), requires special handling (26:4-5), should not have honor (26:1, 8), makes a horrid messenger (26:6) and proverb-teller (vv. 7, 9[?]), is a destructive employee (26:10), repeats his folly (26:11), is what you are when you trust your own heart (28:26), lets loose his temper (29:11).
Let's single out just one pair of those, in both of which "Fool(s)" translates a form of kesîl:
Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding. (10:23)
A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools. (13:19)
The second verse uses the strong word "abomination," which means something abhorrent and appalling. This is the word Yahweh uses for how He feels about homosexuality (Lev. 18:22; 20:13), idols (Deut. 7:25-26; 12:31), and other repulsive things. It's a shocking, negative term. At the opposite end of the semantic spectrum is 10:23's "a joke," which translates a word meaning laughter, or what brings laughter. It's a pleasant, happy word. Jarring juxtaposition, eh?

But wait. It gets worse.

What both verses have in common is the stupid person. Where they both disconnect is right here: what brings the stupid man pleasure is what disgusts Yahweh; what disgusts the stupid man is what pleases Yahweh. Yahweh is pleased when sinners turn to Him from sin, and that is the very thing that repels the stupid man. He loves what God hates, and hates what God loves.

As an example, this may help us see why homosexual-agenda advocates and enablers become so enraged and incensed over certain notions. You'll have noticed that they often fly into a fury, not merely at ministries and programs that try to help those in the grips of same-sex attraction, but especially at individuals who claim to have found such freedom. Why are they not happy for them? Morally unanchored, why do they care who tries to help who do what?

Because turning away from evil is an abomination to the stupid.

It fairly boggles the mind, does it not? That degree of messed-up involves not just thoughts and conclusions and decisions, but affections — loves, likes, admirations. It puts him at loggerheads with God inside and out.

Good thing he's got free will though, eh? One day, he'll just decide to change! Oh, sorry; vented my inner Pelagian there. I'm better now.

But the kesîl isn't. Left to himself, he loves what God hates, hates what God loves — and his complacency, his refusal to be alarmed and brought to repentance, is precisely what will destroy him (Pro. 1:32, using this same word).

Apart from an act of sovereign grace.

Dan Phillips's signature


Sheldon Clowdus said...

Absolutely! Which is why the "But God" in Ephesians 2 is so spectacularly amazing. We were all stupid sons at one time. But God, in his mercy, made us alive in Christ.

That is good news.

DJP said...

Amen, Sheldon. BTW, there's a really good little book by that very name!

homefront said...

I look forward to listening to your message concerning fools. The term seems to describe a 'state', you are a fool or you aren't. Opposed to God or not. Is the concept equally applicable in a more personal way, a believer 'acting' like a fool. We all play the fool when we oppose God?? Very powerful to see ourselves in that dark place instead of just others.

Robert said...

With the thought of those who people who make homosexuality and other sins like a joke, I am reminded of some of the news articles I have seen come out since the Supreme Court ruled on the side of Hobby Lobby, Mardel, and Conestoga Wood Specialties. And when I look at the culture around us, I can't help but to think this victory for religious liberties in the US will be short lived. That is because there are too many fools running the streets who make a joke out of perpetrating and committing the very evils that God declares to be an abomination in His eyes.

DJP said...

It probably doesn't help that some of our leading names seem to operate under the primary concern that they be seen as deep, gentle, nuanced, and unthreatening.

In other world, that the world like them.

Robert said...


Quite true. Still working through Schaeffer's works and I think he does a good job of identifying the use of god-words that have no content as a source of watering down of Christianity in America. I am greatly convicted and saddened as I read through his writings. It is amazing the speed at which the moral shift is occurring here and I personally feel the blame should be cast at the feet of many people in churches past and present (some true Christians and some just professing).

That said, I am thankful to God for your faithful dedication to studying and preaching the Word...as well as many others who are carrying the mantle for our present generation.

Paul Reed said...

Very insightful! I had also noticed that nothing gets homosexual-agenda advocates more angry than the suggestion that homosexuals can attain victory over their sin and have normal sexual desires. Homosexual-agenda advocates will merely get annoyed or somewhat mad hearing about homosexuals that live lives of abstinence, as long as they still have homosexual desires that they must regularly suppress. But if you suggest to homosexual-agenda advocates that homosexuals can change, become heterosexual, and even live in a godly marriage, that will sets them on an instant rage. They will go after organizations that promote change in homosexuals (Exodus International, gay-conversion therapy) with an almost superhuman ferocity. It is interesting to talk about why this touches such a nerve in them. Thanks very much for this article!

Clark Dunlap said...

DJP said: ...some of our leading names seem to operate under the primary concern that they be seen as...

Curious as to who(m) these are. I know many take a strong stance on this behavior but 'sound' gentle, affirming etc. To the point of calling those who are somewhat 'less' gentle, homophobes. That scares me. Just kidding, a little play on 'phobia' there. But it does annoy me a bit. I want to be able to engage people in civil and even loving conversation, but just because I'm not as gentle as they are doesn't make me homophobic.
And anyone who's primary concern is how they are seen may be missing a better motive.

Morris Brooks said...

Great post and insight Dan. Who says the Bible is not relevant for today. The modern fool is the same as the ancient fool.

To paraphrase Forest Gump, "A fool is as a fool does." And to borrow from Paul...and such were some (all) of you.

Thanks be to God for His free and sovereign grace.

Brad Mason said...

Paul Reed...

It touches a nerve even in the average person because they know someone "gay" and they are nice. It is truly surprising that it has come to that, but that's about it with the average American. Incidentally, I think we all need to be willing in the discussion to admit that we are equally able to fall into same sex attraction, given the right upbringing, social environment, and willingness to ignore God's words. Sometimes I think we are so bent on the anti-gay argument that we almost imply that we are born free from that potential in Adam's fall (in which we fell all) that we almost give them the argument that one is born that way.

Michael Coughlin said...

Seems to have been the case from the beginning.

1 John 3:12

A good word, Dan.