20 Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
in the markets she raises her voice;
21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
23 If you turn at my reproof,
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you.
24 Because I have called and you refused to listen,
have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
25 because you have ignored all my counsel
and would have none of my reproof,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when terror strikes you,
27 when terror strikes you like a storm
and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
30 would have none of my counsel
and despised all my reproof,
31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
and have their fill of their own devices.
32 For the simple are killed by their turning away,
and the complacency of fools destroys them;
33 but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” – Proverbs 1:20-33 ESV
In order to help his son grasp the vital importance of wisdom, Solomon attempts to bring the inanimate concept to life by personifying it as someone traversing the streets of a busy city, desperately trying to get the attention of all those mindlessly going about their daily lives.
Wisdom shouts in the streets.
She cries out in the public square. – Proverbs 1:20 NLT
From one place to the next, this “woman” directs her cries to three distinct groups of people: simpletons, mockers, and fools. A simpleton is someone who is naive and dangerously open minded. They lack discernment and the ability to determine what is right or wrong. These kinds of people are prone to believe just about anything and, as a result, are easily misled. You might describe them as gullible or an easy mark. And “Wisdom” questions why they seem to be perfectly fine with their simpleminded ways.
“How long, you simpletons,
will you insist on being simpleminded?” – Proverbs 1:22 NLT
But they show no interest in anything “Wisdom” has to offer. They display no desire to grow up or wise up. They’re confidently content and, in many ways, even complacent. To their own detriment. Wisdom sadly states the folly of their ways:
“…simpletons turn away from me—to death.” – Proverbs 1:32 NLT
The next group Wisdom addresses are the scoffers or mockers. These are boastful and arrogant individuals who dismiss the counsel of others. They are full of themselves and convinced that they have nothing to learn from anyone else. And Wisdom confronts them with a question that is designed to expose their stubborn resistance to input from others. The NET Bible Study Notes describes them this way: “They are cynical and defiant freethinkers who ridicule the righteous and all for which they stand.”
These people are scornful and dismissive of anyone who might try to point them in the right direction. You might say that they’re too big for their britches or too high and mighty to accept the counsel of someone they deem as inferior to themselves. Wisdom describes them as those who “would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof” (Proverbs 1:30 ESV). Because they think they know everything, they’re unteachable and, therefore, incorrigible. The Proverbs are full of less-than-flattering assessments of this particular group of people.
…a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. – Proverbs 13:1 ESV
Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return…
So don’t bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you. – Proverbs 9:7-8 NLT
Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out,
and quarreling and abuse will cease. – Proverbs 22:10 ESV
The third group Wisdom addresses are the fools. This term is used throughout the Proverbs, but in at least five different forms. In this case, Solomon uses the Hebrew word, kᵊsîl, which refers to a “stupid fellow, dullard, simpleton” (Outline of Biblical Usage). He doesn’t have a mental deficiency, but rather he suffers from a moral one. And his immoral behavior brings him satisfaction rather than shame.
This kind of fool rejects the discipline of parents or other authorities in his life. He seems stubbornly determined to make the wrong kinds of choices, even to his own detriment. His focus is on whatever brings him immediate pleasure. And he is to be avoided at all costs. Wisdom summarizes the fool by stating that he despises knowledge. He finds it repulsive and rejects it as unworthy of his time or effort. In fact, another Proverb declares that “to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools” (Proverbs 13:19 ESV).
That’s why Solomon portrays Wisdom as summarizing the sad but unavoidable outcome of the fool’s chosen path of life.
“For they hated knowledge
and chose not to fear the Lord.
They rejected my advice
and paid no attention when I corrected them.
Therefore, they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way,
choking on their own schemes.” – Proverbs 1:29-31 ESV
And the saddest part of all is that Wisdom has persistently called and pleaded with all three groups.
“Come and listen to my counsel.
I’ll share my heart with you
and make you wise.” – Proverbs 1:23 NLT
But the simpleton, scoffer, and fool repeatedly reject the offer and seal their fate. When Wisdom calls, they refuse to come. When she reaches out, they pay her no attention. They arrogantly ignore her advice and spurn her counsel. And in each case, they make a choice to reject all that Wisdom has to offer. The simpleton could choose to become wise, but decides to remain just as he is. The scoffer could embrace all that Wisdom has to offer, but mocks her advice as unnecessary and unworthy of his attention. The fool could choose to learn and grow wise, but makes the painful choice to suffer the consequences of his folly.
So, eventually, the voice of Wisdom grows silent. She stops calling and offering. She stops pleading and promising. And sadly, the say comes when Wisdom stands back and witnesses the inevitable fall of the simpleton, scoffer, and fool.
“So I will laugh when you are in trouble!
I will mock you when disaster overtakes you—
when calamity overtakes you like a storm,
when disaster engulfs you like a cyclone,
and anguish and distress overwhelm you.” – Proverbs 1:26-27 NLT
It is not that Wisdom takes joy in the fall of the wicked, but that the justice of God is always fulfilled. The opportunity to grow in wisdom was freely offered and summarily dismissed. The chance to benefit from all that God has promised was made available but rejected as worthless. And that bad choice has even worse consequences. And Wisdom reveals that the less-than-ideal outcomes facing all three are of their own choosing. They brought it on themselves.
“For the simple are killed by their turning away,
and the complacency of fools destroys them…” – Proverbs 1:32 ESV
Yet, Solomon wants his son to know that there is hope. It doesn’t have to turn out poorly. The future doesn’t have to be bleak and marked by death and destruction. All he has to do is listen. That was Solomon’s original plea to his son.
“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,
and forsake not your mother’s teaching,
for they are a graceful garland for your head
and pendants for your neck.” – Proverbs 1:8-9 ESV
And what Solomon and his wife are offering their son is wisdom – the wisdom of the ages but, more importantly, the wisdom of God.
“…but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” – Proverbs 1:33 ESV
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