Bible's definition of a fool

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The psalmist David wrote: "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" - Psalms 14:1 (ESV)

The Bible asserts that "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good." (Psalms 14:1 (KJV).; Psalm 53:1 (ESV)

The biblical fool is said to be lacking in sound judgment and the biblical fool is also associated with moral depravity. For example, the biblical book of Proverbs states: "A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is arrogant and careless. A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated. The naive inherit foolishness, But the sensible are crowned with knowledge." (Proverbs 14:16-18 (NASB).

The book of Proverbs also has strong words regarding the depravity of biblical fools: "The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul: but [it is] abomination to fools to depart from evil." (Proverbs 13:9 (KJV).

Regarding the deceitfulness of fools Proverbs states: "The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way, but the foolishness of fools is deceit." (Proverbs 14:8 (KJV).

How the Bible defines a fool

The atheist Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: "But now God is dead. You superior men, this God was your greatest danger. Only since he is in the grave, have you risen again. Only now comes the great noontide; only now the superior man will be – Lord!".[1]

The picture of Nietzsche above was taken in 1899. Nietzsche died in 1900. See also: Atheism and arrogance

Dr. Michael Williams wrote:

The word “fool” occurs in several forms (fools, foolish, etc.) in the Bible. The Hebrew word for fool is “nābāl” meaning “stupid; wicked (especially impious):- fool (-ish, -ish man, -ish woman), vile person” (2). The Greek word aphone is similar, but adds the idea of someone who is “mindless, egotistic, (practically) rash, or (moral) unbelieving and unwise” (3). Based on these descriptions, we see the following characteristics of a fool in the Bible:

1. Fools are unwise (Deuteronomy 32:6; Psalms 94:8; Proverbs 14:33; Proverbs 23:9)

2. Fools are immoral (2 Samuel 13:11-18; Job 30:8; Psalms 53:1; Psalms 74:18; Proverbs 10:18; Proverbs 14:9; Mark 7:18-23)

3. Fools are prideful (Psalms 49:6-11; Psalms 73:3-13; Proverbs 14:3; Proverbs 30:32; Romans 1:19-23; 2 Corinthians 11:17)

4. Fools despise parental teaching (Proverbs 15:15; Proverbs 15:20; Proverbs 17:21-25)

5. Fools run their mouths with nonsense (Ecclesiastes 5:3; Ecclesiastes 7:6; Ecclesiastes 10:12-14; Matthew 5:22)

6. Fools reject God and what God’s Word teaches (1 Samuel 13:13; Job 2:7-10; Psalms 14:1; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 10:8; Proverbs 12:15; Matthew 7:26; Luke 24:25; 1 Corinthians 1:18-27)

7. Fools cannot (or refuse to) understand God’s Word (Psalms 92:6; Proverbs 1:22; Proverbs 9:13; Jeremiah 5:21; 1 Corinthians 2:14)

8. Foolish thinking deceives and leads to sin and destruction (2 Samuel 24:10; 1 Chronicles 21:8; Psalms 5:5; Psalms 38:4-8; Psalms 107:17; Proverbs 17:28; Proverbs 26:11; Ecclesiastes 7:9; Ezekiel 13:3; Matthew 25:1-13)

9. Foolish people are sometimes used by God to rebuke His people (Deuteronomy 32:21; Hosea 9:7; Romans 10:19-21)

10. Fools and foolish thinking should be avoided (Proverbs 9:6; Proverbs 13:20; Proverbs 26:5; Proverbs 29:9; Ecclesiastes 5:1; Ecclesiastes 7:5; 2 Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:9)[2]

Northern Seminary declares about how the Bible describes a fool in Psalm 14:1:

Psalm 14 is almost identical to Psalm 53. The small differences occur because the words of the psalm will have been used in different contexts – like when we use a favorite hymn but add a verse for a special occasion. Both versions of this psalm have ended up in the Bible’s collection.

In each case, the psalm is about the stupidity and wickedness of those who ignore God and exploit people as if there would never be a day of reckoning. But, there is the assurance that God sees what is happening, acts on behalf of those who are hurt, and will one day bring his full salvation to those who trust and obey him.

The dominant theme is the folly of those who live without thought of God.

Psalm 14 may have one of the most dramatic opening verses of all psalms:

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (v.1)

There are two things to note right away.

First, the New International Version has a footnote for this verse, and it tells us that “fool” – which is the Hebrew word nāḇāl – means someone who is morally deficient. He’s not merely stupid, as if he can’t think straight. Rather someone described as nāḇāl is a fool like an adulterer or bank robber or embezzler. He’s not unintelligent, but he is wicked. There’s even a sense of defiance in the meaning, like a child who resents being told to tidy her room so instead switches on the TV or calls her friend, anything other than obey Mom or Dad. The kind of fool described in the psalm may be very clever, but does what is wrong and does it with defiance.

Second, we think of someone who says “there is no God” as an atheist, a person who denies God’s existence. That’s not the meaning here. This fool engages in practical atheism, not actual atheism.[3]

Bible's definition of a fool - Articles

See also