Proverbs 17:16

ESV Why should a fool have money in his hand to buy wisdom when he has no sense?
NIV Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom, when they are not able to understand it?
NASB Why is there money in the hand of a fool to buy wisdom, When he has no sense?
CSB Why does a fool have money in his hand with no intention of buying wisdom?
NLT It is senseless to pay to educate a fool, since he has no heart for learning.
KJV Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?

What does Proverbs 17:16 mean?

An earlier proverb in this chapter noted how those who offer bribes might begin to rely on them too much (Proverbs 17:8). Others noted that material goods have no value compared to godly wisdom (Proverbs 16:16). Here, as well, the theme is mistakenly believing money can purchase spirituality. Proverbs defines a "fool" as someone who rejects God's truth (Proverbs 1:7). For such a person, it's pointless to try to buy wisdom—literally or figuratively (Proverbs 23:23)—since they're not open to learning (Proverbs 17:10).

The beginning of wisdom is reverent respect—"fear"—of God (Proverbs 9:10). Without that, no amount of money can purchase true wisdom. The fool who tries to buy wisdom is like a rich man spending money at an expensive university while refusing to study or attend classes. Paul describes a similar type of fool. He writes in 2 Timothy 3:7 that they are "always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth." He insists they are "corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith" (2 Timothy 3:8), and adds: "they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all" (2 Timothy 3:9).
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