Proverbs 21:20

There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.
– Proverbs 21:20

This proverb is straightforward and we shouldn’t pull its punch by trying to spiritualize it. Wisdom says the wise lay up in store and the foolish squander all they have. The word for wise means skillful and is used throughout Proverbs to refer to living prudently and righteously. Proverbs never instructs to seek wealth (Proverbs 23:4-5; 28:22), nor does it instruct to seek poverty (30:7-9). Rather, Proverbs instructs to sacrificially and persistently seek wisdom, for it is more important and valuable than earthly treasures (Proverbs 2:2-4; 3:14-15; 8:18-19; 16:16; 23:23). While Proverbs never promises wealth to those who acquire wisdom, wealth will generally come to those who acquire money wisely (Proverbs 10:4; 11:8; 16:11; 21:6; 22:22-23), and use money wisely (Proverbs 3:9-10, 27-28; 6:6-8; 11:24-26; 13:22; 22:9; 28:27; 31:16, 20-22). Proverbs also warns that wealth can be lost through folly (Proverbs 11:6; 21:5; 23:20-2124:30-31; 27:23-27; 28:22).

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Proverbs 20:3

It is an honor for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.
– Proverbs 20:3

The word for cease means to rest, or sit still. The word for strife means a dispute, or contention. The word for honor means glory and dignity. The first phrase says a noble man will avoid quarreling. Avoiding strife involves control of the tongue as well as anger (Proverbs 14:29; 18:13; 19:11; 25:8-10). The second phrase contrasts the honorable man with the fool, who is looking for strife. The word for meddling means to be obstinate, or to break out in the sense of stirring up strife. The fool delights and specializes in strife, in part due to the lack of restraint he has over his anger (Proverbs 14:17; 18:6).

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Proverbs 19:29

Judgments are prepared for scorners, and stripes for the back of fools.
– Proverbs 19:29

The word for judgments means a sentence, or penalty. The word for stripes means blows, or strokes as with a rod. When instructions, corrections, reproofs, rebukes, and warnings fail to turn a scorner or fool, stripes will be called for (Proverbs 10:13; 18:6). It is the only means of restraining such men (Proverbs 26:3). The warning of inevitable judgment goes out to fools and scorners. They will not go unpunished (Proverbs 19:5, 9). Though punishment of a fool seldom does him good (Proverbs 27:22), it can be corrective for others who see it (Proverbs 19:25).

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Proverbs 19:10

Delight is not seemly for a fool; much less for a servant to have rule over princes.
– Proverbs 19:10

The word for delight means luxury. The first phrase refers to a fool who has obtained wealth. Such a situation is not seemly, or beautiful, fitting. The second phrase gives a worse condition—a servant who has gained power to rule over princes. It is not good for someone to come to wealth or power unless they have done so by gaining wisdom (Proverbs 17:2). This proverb is like others that point out unfitting or absurd conditions (Proverbs 17:7; 26:1; 30:22).

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Proverbs 18:7

A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.
– Proverbs 18:7

A fool’s speech betrays his lack of wisdom, but also brings him into trouble (Proverbs 12:13; 13:3). The word for snare refers to a noose for catching animals. The fool lays a trap for himself by his unrestrained and foolish speech. He is caught in the trap of his own making like the one who foolishly enters into suretyship (Proverbs 6:1-2).

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Proverbs 18:6

A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.
– Proverbs 18:6

The word for contention means strife, or controversy. A fool’s mouth gets him into trouble, eventually. He knows no restraint and often presses things until the dam bursts (Proverbs 29:11; 17:14). Where there is no controversy, the fool is itching to start one (Proverbs 16:27-28). The word for strokes means blows and refers to beating, whether it is civil or domestic. The fool takes a dog by the ears and shouldn’t complain of being bit (Proverbs 26:17).

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Proverbs 18:2

A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.
– Proverbs 18:2

This proverb amplifies the point of Proverbs 17:28. Fools are described as having little to no control over their tongues throughout Proverbs, and this lack of control easily marks them a fool before others. The word for delight means to take pleasure, or we could say, inclination. The word for understanding means intelligence, but not innate mental capacity. It refers more to the skill of discernment, to distinguish between. Solomon instructs his son to seek it diligently as searching for hidden treasure (Proverbs 2:1-5). To acquire understanding, one has to humble himself to be instructed (Proverbs 5:1). Acquiring understanding is also a spiritual issue, since you must begin with the fear of the Lord and comprehend that understanding comes “out of his mouth” (Proverbs 2:5-6), i.e., God’s word (Matthew 4:4). Acquiring understanding is impossible independent of, or contrary to, God (Proverbs 21:30).

The fool has no delight in the instruction and correction of wisdom. Rather his joy rests in speaking his own thoughts and feelings. The word for heart often means mind, but the context is appropriate to say thoughts and feelings. The word for discover itself means to expose, or uncover. The fool doesn’t want to be taught, but is rather always waiting for opportunities to empty his emotional bucket (Proverbs 15:2). Fools have no joy in life until they’ve exposed themselves in some manner (Proverbs 13:16), and Solomon elsewhere described them as always advertising their folly (Ecclesiastes 10:3).

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Proverbs 17:28

Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
– Proverbs 17:28

This proverb is a companion to the previous one about the restraint of the tongue. Solomon noted elsewhere, “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7), but fools are “full of words” (Ecclesiastes 10:14) and ready to pour out their speech (Proverbs 15:2). Solomon’s point is made with irony that a fool can appear wise if he holds his tongue. He gives a different angle on the value of silence and restraint. He doesn’t intend to teach fools how to put on a good show.

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Proverbs 17:25

A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.
– Proverbs 17:25

All children start out the same way, with foolishness “bound in the heart” (Proverbs 22:15). Parents are to bring up their children in the way of wisdom (Proverbs 22:6). The way of wisdom is the way of correction and instruction (Proverbs 13:24; 19:18; 29:17). A foolish son can be the result of neglect (Proverbs 29:15), the active folly of the parents (Proverbs 14:1), or the incorrigible pride of the son or daughter (Proverbs 17:10; 27:22). The last case is most likely to bring “heaviness,” “sorrow,” and “calamity” (Proverbs 10:1; 17:21; 19:13).

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