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The predominate word translated as “fool” in the OT is כְּסִיל (ksyl). The following is a brief analysis of the characteristics, both moral and behavioral of the fool.  The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament notes of the word:

כְסִיל (kĕsîl) I. Fool, dullard. This noun, except for three occurrences in Ps, is found only in Prov and Eccl. In Prov three words are rendered fool, kĕsîl referring to the dull or obstinate one, referring not to mental deficiency, but to a propensity to make wrong choices. ʾewîl refers to moral insolence, and nābāl to the boorish man of mean disposition.

 Gesenius notes of the root:

כָּסַל a root scarcely ever used as a verb, from which derived nouns are formed of various significations. The primary meaning appears to be—

(1) to be fleshy, to be fat, whence כֶּסֶל loin, flank. This as a word of middle signification—

(2) is applied in a good sense to strength (comp. שָׁמַן), firmness, boldness, whence כֶּסֶל, כִּסְלָה confidence; and—

(3) in a bad sense to languor and inertness (Arab. كَسِلَ to be languid, inert); also applied to that which is nearly allied to these, folly (compare נָבַל, נָבָל, נְבָלָה, and on the contrary compare words signifying strength applied to virtue, as חַיִל). So once as a verb fut. A., Jer. 10:8 (compare the transposed verb סָכַל); also in the derivatives כְּסִיל a fool, foolish, כְּסִילוּת, כֶּסֶל folly.[1]

Fools do not understand (Ps. 92:7). They hate knowledge (Prov. 1:22) – he takes no pleasure in understanding (Prov. 18:3), rather, he lives in the complacency of ignorance (Prov. 1:32). He doesn’t know what he is doing when it comes to worship (Eccl. 4:17).  The fool thinks doing wrong (zmh: shameful behavior, especially fornication and incest, HALOT) is a joke – he does not have appropriate moral valuations (Prov. 10:23). For a fool it is an abomination to turn away from evil (Prov. 13:19).  Rather, the fool trusts in his own wisdom (Prov. 26:12, 28:26). He will not take advice (Eccl. 4:13).

And yet fools cannot completely escape the presence of wisdom (Prov. 14:33).   The fool cannot learn – even after 100 blows! (Prov. 17:10).   He cannot use wisdom (Prov. 26:9); rather, he will repeat his folly – like a dog returning to vomit (Prov. 26:11). There is little hope for  a fool (Prov. 26:12).

If you speak with him, he will despise your wisdom (Prov. 23:9). Therefore, great care must be used when responding to a fool (Prov. 26:4-5).

The fool seeks that which cannot be obtained – far from God (Prov. 17:24).[2]

Fools utter slander (Prov. 10:18), proclaims folly (Prov. 12:23), flaunts his folly (Prov. 13:16), pours out folly (Prov. 15:2). The fool is reckless and careless (Prov. 14:16).  He does not spread wisdom (Prov. 15:7).  His mouth feeds on folly (Prov. 15:14).

His foolishness is such that it provokes others to beat him – he deserves it! (Prov. 18:6-7; 19:29; 26:3).  The fool has crooked speech (Prov. 19:1). He gives vent to his anger and is hasty with his words (Prov. 29:11 & 20) for anger resides in his heart (Eccl. 7:9). His many words, foolish songs and laughter mark him as a fool (Eccl. 5:2, 7:5-6).

He uses precious things carelessly (Prov. 21:20) – he devours it.

He despises his mother (Prov. 15:20). 

Fool’s should not live in luxury – it is not fitting (Prov. 19:10); neither is honor (Prov. 26:1).

 

Verses referenced:

Ps 92:7

 

אִֽישׁ־בַּ֭עַר לֹ֣א יֵדָ֑ע וּ֝כְסִ֗יל לֹא־יָבִ֥ין אֶת־זֹֽאת׃

 

The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this:

 

 

Prov 1:22

 

עַד־מָתַ֣י׀ פְּתָיִם֮ תְּֽאֵהֲב֫וּ פֶ֥תִי וְלֵצִ֗ים לָ֭צוֹן חָמְד֣וּ לָהֶ֑ם וּ֝כְסִילִ֗ים יִשְׂנְאוּ־דָֽעַת׃

 

“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?

 

Prov 1:32

 

כִּ֤י מְשׁוּבַ֣ת פְּתָיִ֣ם תַּֽהַרְגֵ֑ם וְשַׁלְוַ֖ת כְּסִילִ֣ים תְּאַבְּדֵֽם׃

 

For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them;

 

Prov 10:18

 

מְכַסֶּ֣ה שִׂ֭נְאָה שִׂפְתֵי־שָׁ֑קֶר וּמוֹצִ֥א דִ֝בָּ֗ה ה֣וּא כְסִֽיל׃

 

The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.

 

Prov 10:23

 

כִּשְׂח֣וֹק לִ֭כְסִיל עֲשׂ֣וֹת זִמָּ֑ה וְ֝חָכְמָ֗ה לְאִ֣ישׁ תְּבוּנָֽה׃

 

Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.

 

Prov 12:23

 

אָדָ֣ם עָ֭רוּם כֹּ֣סֶה דָּ֑עַת וְלֵ֥ב כְּ֝סִילִ֗ים יִקְרָ֥א אִוֶּֽלֶת׃

 

A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly.

 

Prov 13:16

 

כָּל־עָ֭רוּם יַעֲשֶׂ֣ה בְדָ֑עַת וּ֝כְסִ֗יל יִפְרֹ֥שׂ אִוֶּֽלֶת׃

 

In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly.

 

Prov 13:19

 

תַּאֲוָ֣ה נִ֭הְיָה תֶעֱרַ֣ב לְנָ֑פֶשׁ וְתוֹעֲבַ֥ת כְּ֝סִילִ֗ים ס֣וּר מֵרָֽע׃

 

A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.

 

Prov 14:16

 

חָכָ֣ם יָ֭רֵא וְסָ֣ר מֵרָ֑ע וּ֝כְסִ֗יל מִתְעַבֵּ֥ר וּבוֹטֵֽחַ׃

 

One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.

 

 

 

 

Prov 14:33

 

בְּלֵ֣ב נָ֭בוֹן תָּנ֣וּחַ חָכְמָ֑ה וּבְקֶ֥רֶב כְּ֝סִילִ֗ים תִּוָּדֵֽעַ׃

 

Wisdom rests in the heart of a man of understanding, but it makes itself known even in the midst of fools.

 

Prov 15:2

 

לְשׁ֣וֹן חֲ֭כָמִים תֵּיטִ֣יב דָּ֑עַת וּפִ֥י כְ֝סִילִ֗ים יַבִּ֥יעַ אִוֶּֽלֶת׃

 

The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.

 

Prov 15:7

 

שִׂפְתֵ֣י חֲ֭כָמִים יְזָ֣רוּ דָ֑עַת וְלֵ֖ב כְּסִילִ֣ים לֹא־כֵֽן׃

 

The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools.

 

Prov 15:14

 

לֵ֣ב נָ֭בוֹן יְבַקֶּשׁ־דָּ֑עַת וּפִ֥֯ני כְ֝סִילִ֗ים יִרְעֶ֥ה אִוֶּֽלֶת׃

 

The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly.

 

 

Prov 15:20

 

בֵּ֣ן חָ֭כָם יְשַׂמַּח־אָ֑ב וּכְסִ֥יל אָ֝דָ֗ם בּוֹזֶ֥ה אִמּֽוֹ׃

 

A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish man despises his mother.

 

 

Prov 17:10

 

תֵּ֣חַת גְּעָרָ֣ה בְמֵבִ֑ין מֵהַכּ֖וֹת כְּסִ֣יל מֵאָֽה׃

 

A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.

 

 

Prov 17:24

 

אֶת־פְּנֵ֣י מֵבִ֣ין חָכְמָ֑ה וְעֵינֵ֥י כְ֝סִ֗יל בִּקְצֵה־אָֽרֶץ׃

 

The discerning sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.

 

 

Prov 18:2

 

לֹֽא־יַחְפֹּ֣ץ כְּ֭סִיל בִּתְבוּנָ֑ה כִּ֝֗י אִֽם־בְּהִתְגַּלּ֥וֹת לִבּֽוֹ׃

 

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

 

Prov 18:6

 

שִׂפְתֵ֣י כְ֭סִיל יָבֹ֣אֽוּ בְרִ֑יב וּ֝פִ֗יו לְֽמַהֲלֻמ֥וֹת יִקְרָֽא׃

 

A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.

 

Prov 18:7

 

פִּֽי־כְ֭סִיל מְחִתָּה־ל֑וֹ וּ֝שְׂפָתָ֗יו מוֹקֵ֥שׁ נַפְשֽׁוֹ׃

 

A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.

 

Prov 19:1

 

טֽוֹב־רָ֭שׁ הוֹלֵ֣ךְ בְּתֻמּ֑וֹ מֵעִקֵּ֥שׁ שְׂ֝פָתָ֗יו וְה֣וּא כְסִֽיל׃

 

Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.

 

Prov 19:10

 

לֹֽא־נָאוֶ֣ה לִכְסִ֣יל תַּעֲנ֑וּג אַ֝֗ף כִּֽי־לְעֶ֤בֶד׀ מְשֹׁ֬ל בְּשָׂרִֽים׃

 

It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury, much less for a slave to rule over princes.

 

 

 

 

Prov 19:29

 

נָכ֣וֹנוּ לַלֵּצִ֣ים שְׁפָטִ֑ים וּ֝מַהֲלֻמ֗וֹת לְגֵ֣ו כְּסִילִֽים׃

 

Condemnation is ready for scoffers, and beating for the backs of fools.

 

Prov 21:20

 

אוֹצָ֤ר׀ נֶחְמָ֣ד וָ֭שֶׁמֶן בִּנְוֵ֣ה חָכָ֑ם וּכְסִ֖יל אָדָ֣ם יְבַלְּעֶֽנּוּ׃

 

Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.

 

Prov 23:9

 

בְּאָזְנֵ֣י כְ֭סִיל אַל־תְּדַבֵּ֑ר כִּֽי־יָ֝ב֗וּז לְשֵׂ֣כֶל מִלֶּֽיךָ׃

 

Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words.

 

Prov 26:1

 

כַּשֶּׁ֤לֶג׀ בַּקַּ֗יִץ וְכַמָּטָ֥ר בַּקָּצִ֑יר כֵּ֤ן לֹא־נָאוֶ֖ה לִכְסִ֣יל כָּבֽוֹד׃

 

Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool.

 

Prov 26:3

 

שׁ֣וֹט לַ֭סּוּס מֶ֣תֶג לַחֲמ֑וֹר וְ֝שֵׁ֗בֶט לְגֵ֣ו כְּסִילִֽים׃

 

A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools.

 

Prov 26:4

 

אַל־תַּ֣עַן כְּ֭סִיל כְּאִוַּלְתּ֑וֹ פֶּֽן־תִּשְׁוֶה־לּ֥וֹ גַם־אָֽתָּה׃

 

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.

 

Prov 26:5

 

עֲנֵ֣ה כְ֭סִיל כְּאִוַּלְתּ֑וֹ פֶּן־יִהְיֶ֖ה חָכָ֣ם בְּעֵינָֽיו׃

 

Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.

 

Prov 26:7

 

דַּלְי֣וּ שֹׁ֭קַיִם מִפִּסֵּ֑חַ וּ֝מָשָׁ֗ל בְּפִ֣י כְסִילִֽים׃

 

Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools.

 

Prov 26:9

 

ח֭וֹחַ עָלָ֣ה בְיַד־שִׁכּ֑וֹר וּ֝מָשָׁ֗ל בְּפִ֣י כְסִילִֽים׃

 

Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools.

 

Prov 26:11

 

כְּ֭כֶלֶב שָׁ֣ב עַל־קֵא֑וֹ כְּ֝סִ֗יל שׁוֹנֶ֥ה בְאִוַּלְתּֽוֹ׃

 

Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.

 

Prov 26:12

 

רָאִ֗יתָ אִ֭ישׁ חָכָ֣ם בְּעֵינָ֑יו תִּקְוָ֖ה לִכְסִ֣יל מִמֶּֽנּוּ׃

 

Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

 

Prov 28:26

 

בּוֹטֵ֣חַ בְּ֭לִבּוֹ ה֣וּא כְסִ֑יל וְהוֹלֵ֥ךְ בְּ֝חָכְמָ֗ה ה֣וּא יִמָּלֵֽט׃

 

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.

 

Prov 29:11

 

כָּל־ר֭וּחוֹ יוֹצִ֣יא כְסִ֑יל וְ֝חָכָ֗ם בְּאָח֥וֹר יְשַׁבְּחֶֽנָּה׃

 

A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.

 

Prov 29:20

 

חָזִ֗יתָ אִ֭ישׁ אָ֣ץ בִּדְבָרָ֑יו תִּקְוָ֖ה לִכְסִ֣יל מִמֶּֽנּוּ׃

 

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

 

Eccles 4:13

 

ט֛וֹב יֶ֥לֶד מִסְכֵּ֖ן וְחָכָ֑ם מִמֶּ֤לֶךְ זָקֵן֙ וּכְסִ֔יל אֲשֶׁ֛ר לֹא־יָדַ֥ע לְהִזָּהֵ֖ר עֽוֹד׃

 

Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice.

 

Eccles 4:17

 

שְׁמֹ֣ר רָגְלְ֯יךָ֗ כַּאֲשֶׁ֤ר תֵּלֵךְ֙ אֶל־בֵּ֣ית הָאֱלֹהִ֔ים וְקָר֣וֹב לִשְׁמֹ֔עַ מִתֵּ֥ת הַכְּסִילִ֖ים זָ֑בַח כִּֽי־אֵינָ֥ם יוֹדְעִ֖ים לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת רָֽע׃

 

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.

 

Eccles 5:2

 

כִּ֛י בָּ֥א הַחֲל֖וֹם בְּרֹ֣ב עִנְיָ֑ן וְק֥וֹל כְּסִ֖יל בְּרֹ֥ב דְּבָרִֽים׃

 

For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.

 

Eccles 7:5

 

ט֕וֹב לִשְׁמֹ֖עַ גַּעֲרַ֣ת חָכָ֑ם מֵאִ֕ישׁ שֹׁמֵ֖עַ שִׁ֥יר כְּסִילִֽים׃

 

It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.

 

Eccles 7:6

 

כִּ֣י כְק֤וֹל הַסִּירִים֙ תַּ֣חַת הַסִּ֔יר כֵּ֖ן שְׂחֹ֣ק הַכְּסִ֑יל וְגַם־זֶ֖ה הָֽבֶל׃

 

For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fools; this also is vanity.

 

Eccles 7:9

 

אַל־תְּבַהֵ֥ל בְּרֽוּחֲךָ֖ לִכְע֑וֹס כִּ֣י כַ֔עַס בְּחֵ֥יק כְּסִילִ֖ים יָנֽוּחַ׃

 

Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.

 

Eccles 10:15

 

עֲמַ֥ל הַכְּסִילִ֖ים תְּיַגְּעֶ֑נּוּ אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־יָדַ֖ע לָלֶ֥כֶת אֶל־עִֽיר׃

 

The toil of a fool wearies him, for he does not know the way to the city.

 

 


[1] Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 408.

[2] “The fools fails because he orients himself to distant, odless, and unattainable goals instead of attainable wisdom that stand nearly ready to serve him well….The imprecision [of the antithetical parallels of 17:24] suggests that the eyes of the wise focus on wisdom, which in turns serves them well, but the fool’s focus flits form one godless, unattainable thing to another that does not profit him….The construction the ends of the earth occurs 24 times. Here is it used as a metaphor for wrong and unattainable goals.  To the Israelite the phrase connoted places with ungodly ways removed from the covenant people” (Waltke, Proverbs vol. 2, 62).