Proverbs 17:24

ESV The discerning sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.
NIV A discerning person keeps wisdom in view, but a fool's eyes wander to the ends of the earth.
NASB Wisdom is in the presence of one who has understanding, But the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.
CSB Wisdom is the focus of the perceptive, but a fool's eyes roam to the ends of the earth.
NLT Sensible people keep their eyes glued on wisdom, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.
KJV Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.

What does Proverbs 17:24 mean?

Solomon uses contrast here to make another point about wisdom. The first phrase seems to be a figure of speech, parallel to the English expression "right in front of your face." Those with "understanding" or "discernment" are described using words related to those seen in other proverbs (Proverbs 1:2; 2:2; 8:1). This is alternatively translated to suggest that discerning people aim their faces towards what is wise, or that wise conclusions are obvious to the discerning person. In contrast, the fool—a person who rejects godly wisdom (Proverbs 1:7)—fails to see what is wise. Either he looks everywhere else, or wisdom is beyond his sight.

This proverb also reinforces the idea that God makes His truth, in a broad sense, available for all to see. Romans 1:18–32 describes what happens when people foolishly ignore God and seek answers everywhere else. Paul's comments fit the pattern of ungodly, insincere pursuit of preferences rather than truth. Even more specific information can be found, because God makes it available to those who seek it (Matthew 7:7–8).

Before the Israelites entered Canaan, the Lord told them that His commandment was not hard to find. He said, "For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off" (Deuteronomy 30:11). He advised them that they did not have to search in heaven or beyond the sea for it (Deuteronomy 30:12–13). He said, "But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it" (Deuteronomy 30:14). God's Word would give the Israelites knowledge of His will. The Word of God gives believers understanding and knowledge so they can know His will. It is wise, therefore, to let the Word "dwell in [us] richly" (Colossians 3:16).
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