The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the mind of fools. (Proverbs 15.7)
The mind of one who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly. (15.14)
Lately I’ve been thinking about our daughter growing old
All of the bullshit that she might be told (Laura Marling)1
The Fool: We may associate the word “fool” with a silly person. However, as one Old Testament scholar explains, the fool in Proverbs is “dull and obstinate”. Additionally, being a fool is their “chosen outlook” in life.2 A fool goes through life deliberately choosing ignorance. They apparently are unencumbered by things like common sense, sensitivity, or evidence that runs contrary to their opinion.
Disclaimer: When I’m writing about “The Fool”, I’m writing about a way of behavior rather than about individuals. I’m certainly not writing about thoughtful and kind people who may, inadvertently, pass along misinformation on social media.
In the first Proverb noted above, the wise spread knowledge through their words. Timing and restraint usually accompany wise words. The mind of fool is incapable of spreading wisdom (or possessing timing and restraint). The fool spreads foolishness and lacks interest in truth or good judgment. You’re not going to correct the fool because it’s their “chosen outlook” on whatever subject.
The second proverb reverses the situation. Now you have the mind of the wise contrasted with the actions of the fool. The wise seek understanding and know how to find quality information. The fools, by contrast, “feed on folly”. The word “feed” implies grazing (like cattle). Grazing on foolishness takes up a significant part of the fool’s day. If they get an audience, they take up a lot of other people’s day as well. Obviously, with this much practice, they become very skilled at being a fool and propagating foolishness. Most fools are “professional” fools.
We should remind ourselves periodically of the fool’s obstinate refusal to entertain other ideas, facts, and anything contrary to their opinion. On a more serious note, what they say can be damaging and/or dangerous. We should ask ourselves an important question when it comes to the fool: Is this who I want to listen to? This brings us to another Proverb: Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not find words of knowledge. (Proverb 14.7)
For additional information on a similar topic: Do I Really Have an Opinion?
1Laura Marling. Song For Our Daughter (Song and Album). 2020. Chrysalis Records. Producers: Laura Marling and Ethan Johns.
2 Derek Kidner. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Inter-Varisty Press. 1964.
All Bible Quotations from the New Revised Standard Version.
Note: Many proverbs use what is called parallelism. The second line helps explain or expand on the the first line. This is an important interpretive principle when working with proverbs.