Proverbs 16:22

ESV Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly.
NIV Prudence is a fountain of life to the prudent, but folly brings punishment to fools.
NASB Understanding is a fountain of life to those who have it, But the discipline of fools is foolishness.
CSB Insight is a fountain of life for its possessor, but the discipline of fools is folly.
NLT Discretion is a life-giving fountain to those who possess it, but discipline is wasted on fools.
KJV Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly.

What does Proverbs 16:22 mean?

This verse repeats a Hebrew word, used in other proverbs (Proverbs 12:8; 13:15; 19:11), which evokes ideas such as balance, common sense, and caution. Scripture often notes the benefits of diligence and care when making decisions (Proverbs 14:15; 18:13). A person with "good sense" not only benefits themselves, but they are also a refreshing help to others.

The second statement in this verse, as rendered in English, could be taken to mean that it's pointless to try to educate foolish people. That would correspond with other statements made in this book (Proverbs 9:7–8; 17:10) and other parts of Scripture (Matthew 7:6). The structure of these Hebrew proverbs, however, implies something different: that the way "fools" learn is through their "folly." The consequences of foolish actions teach the lessons wiser people would have listened to before making bad decisions. Learning through such consequences can be especially painful (Proverbs 10:14; 13:13; 14:3).

"Foolishness," in this context, is not a matter of intellect. The point is not about whether a person is smart or stupid. The worst expression of foolishness is insisting God doesn't exist. Psalm 14:1 describes such persons as "corrupt" and caught up in sin. Ecclesiastes 10:12 declares, "The lips of a fool consume him." Someday the Lord will judge the fool's words. In Ezekiel 13 He identifies false prophets as fools (Ezekiel 13:3) and predicts devastating judgment against them. In the same passage, God promises to pour out His wrath and cause them to perish (Ezekiel 13:13–14).
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