The word “folly” occurs 23 times in Proverbs and only 16 times in the rest of the Bible. The dictionary defines folly as “a lack of good sense, understanding, or foresight; an act of foolishness; or a costly undertaking having an absurd or ruinous outcome.” I think that is exactly what Solomon had in mind as he advised against folly.
Over half of Proverbs’ verses that include “folly,” also pair it with the word “fool.” That gives the perspective that folly is foolishness.
Also, just like the word “simple,” “folly” is often contrasted with being “prudent.” This implies that prudence is the prescription for folly.
Interestingly, in one instance, Solomon personifies “folly” as a woman who is loud, undisciplined, and without knowledge. That is a most effective metaphor, explaining why folly is to be avoided.
Of course, there are the simple who may desire a woman like Folly, but that just wouldn’t be prudent — and Solomon repeated cautions against liaisons of that nature.
[23 occurrences of folly in Proverbs]
The word “simple” is found 14 times in Proverbs and only six other times in the entire Bible. The dictionary defines a simple person as a “simpleton” or a “fool.” However, the way “simple” is used in Proverbs seems to go beyond merely being a fool or a simpleton (that is, lacking common sense), but carries with it a lack of moral and ethical character.
Looking at these 14 occurrences reveals some reoccurring themes as someone who is foolish, who lacks understanding, judgment, knowledge, or wisdom, who is wayward, and who needs to be prudent. In fact, half of the verses in Proverbs that mention “simple,” also mention “prudent” or “prudence,” presenting it as a contrast to the “simple” or something that the “simple” should seek.
Fortunately, being simple is not an unchangeable condition, but a trait that can — and should be — overcome. The adages contained in the book of Proverbs are a good place to start.
[Mentions of “simple” in Proverbs]
There are several words that appear with disproportionate frequency in the book of Proverbs — and with minimal representation in the rest of the Bible. They are:
- Sluggard occurs 14 times in Proverbs and nowhere else in the Bible.
- Prudent occurs 10 times in Proverbs and only twice elsewhere.
- Simple is found 14 times in Proverbs and only six other times in the entire Bible.
- Folly occurs 23 times in Proverbs and 16 times in the rest of the Bible.
- Quarrelsome occurs 6 times in Proverbs and only one other time in the rest of the Bible.
- Adulteress is mentioned 7 times in Proverbs and only 5 times elsewhere in the Bible.
Plus, there are some additional words that appear with surprising regularity in Proverbs:
- Wisdom occurs 54 times in proverbs.
- Path and paths are mentioned 29 times in Proverbs.
In upcoming posts, we will look at each of these words.
[The 1984 NIV version of the Bible was used in determining the number of occurrences.]