nabhal, ’ewil, kecil, cakhal and forms; aphron, aphrosune, moros):

In the Old Testament


The Wisdom Literature

In the Chokhmah or Wisdom literature, which, within the Bible, is contained in Job, Proverbs (especially), Ecclesiastes, Canticles, some Psalms and certain portions of the prophetic writings, "fool" and "folly" are frequent and distinctive words. Their significance is best seen in contrast with "Wisdom." This was the outcome of careful observation and long pondering on actual life in the light of religion and the Divine revelation. Wisdom had its seat in God and was imparted to those who "feared" Him ("The fear of Yahweh is the beginning (chief part) of knowledge" Pr 1:7). Such wisdom was the essence of life, and to be without it was to walk in the way of death and destruction. The fool was he who was thoughtless, careless, conceited, self-sufficient, indifferent to God and His Will, or who might even oppose and scoff at religion and wise instruction. See Wisdom. Various words are used to designate "the fool" and his "folly."

(1) nabhal (Job 2:10; 30:8; Ps 53:1; Pr 17:7-21); nebhalah (Job 42:8; Isa 9:17) (see above).

(3) kecil is the word most frequent in Proverbs. It is probably from a root meaning "thickness," "sluggishness," suggesting a slow, self-confident person, but it is used with a wide reference.

(4) cakhal, cekhel, cikhluth, also occur. These are probably from a root meaning "to be stopped up" (Cheyne), and are generally taken as denoting thickheadedness; but they are used in a stronger sense than mere foolishness (compare 1Sa 26:21; 2Sa 24:10, etc.). These words do not occur in Prov, but in Ec 2:12; 7:25; cikhluth is associated with "madness" ("Wickedness is folly, and .... foolishness is madness").

(5) pethi, "simple," is only once translated "foolish" (Pr 9:6 the King James Version).

(6) ba`ar, ’brutish," is translated "foolish" (Ps 73:22 the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) "brutish").

(7) taphel, "insipid," "untempered," is translated "foolish" (La 2:14); tiphlah, "insipidity" (Job 1:22, "foolishly," the English Revised Version, "with foolishness"; Job 24:12, "folly"; Jer 23:13, "folly," the King James Version margin "unsavoury, or, an absurd thing").

(8) toholah (Job 4:18: "Behold, he putteth no trust in his servants; and his angels he chargeth with folly" (Delitzsch, "imperfection," others, "error"), the King James Version margin "nor in his angels in whom he put light").

In the Apocrypha

In the continuation of the Wisdom literature in The Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclus, "fool" frequently occurs with a signification similar to that in Proverbs; in The Wisdom of Solomon we have aphron (12:24; 15:5, etc.), in Ecclesiasticus, moros (18:18; 19:11, etc.; 20:13; 21:16, etc.).

In the New Testament

In Mt 5:22 our Lord says: "Whosoever shall say (to his brother), Thou fool (more), shall be in danger of the hell of fire (the Gehenna of fire)." Two explanations of this word are possible:

(1) that it is not the vocative of the Greek moros--a word which was applied by Jesus Himself to the Pharisees (Mt 23:17,19), but represents the Hebrew morah, "rebel" applied in Nu 20:10 by Moses to the people, "ye rebels" (for which he was believed to be excluded from the promised land; compare Nu 20:12; hence, we have in the Revised Version, margin "or moreh, a Hebrew expression of condemnation"); or

(2) that, as our Lord spake in the Aramaic it is the Greek translation of a word representing the Hebrew nabhal, "vile, or worthless fellow," atheist, etc. (Ps 14:1; 53:1).

See also

  • Folly