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Don’t Be a Fool

26 It is totally out of place to promote and honor a fool,
    just like it’s out of place to have snow in the summer
    and rain at harvest time.[a]
An undeserved curse will be powerless to harm you.
    It may flutter over you like a bird,
    but it will find no place to land.[b]
Guide a horse with a whip,
    direct a donkey with a bridle,
    and lead a rebellious fool with a beating on his backside!
Don’t respond to the words of a fool with more foolish words,
    or you will become as foolish as he is!
Instead, if you’re asked a silly question,
    answer it with words of wisdom[c]
    so the fool doesn’t think he’s so clever.
If you choose a fool to represent you,
    you’re asking for trouble.
    It will be as bad for you as cutting off your own feet!
You can never trust the words of a fool,
    just like a crippled man can’t trust his legs to support him.[d]
Give honor to a fool and watch it backfire—
    like a stone tied to a slingshot.
The statements of a fool will hurt others[e]
    like a thorn bush brandished by a drunk.
10 Like a reckless archer shooting arrows at random
    is the impatient employer
    who hires just any fool who comes along—
    someone’s going to get hurt![f]
11 Fools are famous for repeating their errors,
    like dogs are known to return to their vomit.
12 There’s only one thing worse than a fool,
    and that’s the smug, conceited man
    always in love with his own opinions.

Don’t Be Lazy

13 The lazy loafer says,
    “I can’t go out and look for a job—
    there may be a lion out there roaming wild in the streets!”
14 As a door is hinged to the wall,
    so the lazy man keeps turning over, hinged to his bed!
15 There are some people so lazy
    they won’t even work to feed themselves.
16 A self-righteous person[g] is convinced he’s smarter
    than seven wise counselors who tell him the truth.
17 It’s better to grab a stray dog by its ears
    than to meddle in a quarrel[h]
    that’s none of your business.

Watch Your Words

18–19 The one who is caught lying to his friend,
    who says, “I didn’t mean it, I was only joking,”
    can be compared to a madman
    randomly shooting off deadly weapons.
20 It takes fuel to have a fire—
    a fire dies down when you run out of fuel.
    So quarrels disappear when the gossip ends.
21 Add fuel to the fire and the blaze goes on.
    So add an argumentative man to the mix,
    and you’ll keep strife alive.
22 Gossip is so delicious, and how we love to swallow it!
    For slander[i] is easily absorbed into our innermost being.
23 Smooth talk[j] can hide a corrupt heart
    just like a pretty glaze covers a cheap clay pot.
24 Kind words can be a cover to conceal hatred of others,
    for hypocrisy loves to hide behind flattery.
25 So don’t be drawn in by the hypocrite,
    for his gracious speech is a charade,
    nothing but a masquerade covering his hatred and evil on parade.[k]
26 Don’t worry—he can’t keep the mask on for long.
    One day his hypocrisy will be exposed before all the world.
27 Go ahead, set a trap for others—
    and then watch as it snaps back on you!
    Start a landslide and you’ll be the one who gets crushed.
28 Hatred is the root of slander[l]
    and insecurity the root of flattery.[m]


  1. 26:1 Both snow and rain are good in their proper season but harmful in the wrong season. So is it harmful to the fool if you promote and honor him prematurely.
  2. 26:2 There is an implication in some Hebrew manuscripts that the curse will go back and land on the one who wrongly spoke it, like a bird going back to its nest.
  3. 26:5 As translated from the Aramaic.
  4. 26:7 As translated from the Aramaic.
  5. 26:9 As translated from the Aramaic.
  6. 26:10 Implied in the context. This is a difficult verse to translate, and it reads quite differently in the Aramaic and the Septuagint. The Aramaic is “A fool suffers much, like a drunkard crossing the sea.” The Septuagint reads “Every fool endures much hardship and his fury comes to nothing.”
  7. 26:16 Or “sluggard.” This speaks of a person who lives in fantasy and not reality.
  8. 26:17 Or “to become furious because of a quarrel that’s not yours.”
  9. 26:22 Or “complaining.”
  10. 26:23 As translated from the Septuagint. The Hebrew is “Burning words.”
  11. 26:25 The Hebrew is “seven abominations hide in his heart.” This is a figure of speech for the fullness of evil, a heart filled to the brim with darkness.
  12. 26:28 Or “A slanderer hates his victims.”
  13. 26:28 Or “A flattering mouth works ruin.” The Aramaic is “Malicious words work trouble.”