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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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FOOL . The Heb. language is rich in words which express various kinds of folly. 1. The kesîl is glib of tongue, ‘his mouth is his destruction’ ( Proverbs 18:7 ; cf. Proverbs 9:13 ; Proverbs 14:33 ); in Ecclesiastes 5:1 f. ‘the sacrifice of fools’ is offered by him who is rash with his mouth. But such an one is ‘light-hearted, thoughtless and noisy rather than vicious.’ 2. The sâkhâl manifests his folly not in speech, but in action; it was after David had numbered the people that he reproached himself for acting ‘very foolishly’ ( 2 Samuel 24:10 ). Consequences prove that fools of this class have blundered in their calculations ( Genesis 31:28 , 1 Samuel 13:13 , Isaiah 44:25 ). 3. The ’evîl is stupid, impatient of reproof, often sullen and quarrelsome. He despises wisdom and instruction ( Proverbs 1:7 ; cf. Proverbs 15:5 ), is soon angry ( Proverbs 12:16 ; Proverbs 27:3 ), and may sometimes be described as sinful ( Proverbs 5:22 f., Proverbs 24:9 ). 4. The folly of the nâbhâl is never mere intellectual deficiency or stupidity; it is a moral fault, sometimes a crime, always a sin. ‘To commit folly’ is a euphemism for gross unchastity ( Deuteronomy 22:21 , Jeremiah 29:23 ); the word is used also of sacrilege ( Joshua 7:15 ), of blasphemy ( Psalms 74:18 ), as well as of impiety in general ( Deuteronomy 32:6 , Psalms 14:1 ). These words are sometimes employed in a more general sense; to determine the shade of meaning applicable in any passage, a study of the context is essential. For further details see Kennedy, Hebrew Synonyms , p. 29 ff.

In the NT the Gr. words for ‘fool’ describe him as ‘deficient in understanding’ (Luke 24:25 ), ‘unwise’ ( Ephesians 5:16 ), ‘senseless’ ( Luke 12:20 ), ‘unintelligent’ ( Romans 1:21 ). The Gr. word which corresponds to the ‘impious fool’ of the OT is found in Matthew 5:22 : Raca expresses ‘contempt for a man’s head = you stupid!’ But ‘fool’ ( môre ) expresses ‘contempt for his heart and character = you scoundrell’ (Bruce, EGT [Note: Expositor’s Greek Testament.] , in loc. ). If môre were ‘a Hebrew expression of condemnation’ (RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ), it would ‘enjoy the distinction of being the only pure Hebrew word in the Greek Testament’ (Field, Notes on the Translation of NT , p. 3). A ‘ pure Hebrew word’ means a word not taken from the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] and not Aramaic.

J. G. Tasker.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Fool'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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