Proverbs 19:25

ESV Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.
NIV Flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence; rebuke the discerning, and they will gain knowledge.
NASB Strike a scoffer and the naive may become clever, But rebuke one who has understanding, and he will gain knowledge.
CSB Strike a mocker, and the inexperienced learn a lesson; rebuke the discerning, and he gains knowledge.
NLT If you punish a mocker, the simpleminded will learn a lesson; if you correct the wise, they will be all the wiser.
KJV Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware: and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand knowledge.

What does Proverbs 19:25 mean?

This proverb uses several terms whose meanings greatly influence the point being made.

To "strike," in this case, can refer to literal beating, or to any consequence or affliction.

A "scoffer" is a person who arrogantly, deliberately refuses to accept wisdom. This is the person who sneers at godliness and common sense, making fun of truth instead of learning from it.

"Simple," as used here, does not mean a person who is stupid or unintelligent. Rather, it means someone inexperienced or uneducated: a person ignorant but willing to learn. Very early students in a trade or school subject would be "simple."

"Prudence" is from a Hebrew word referring to discretion, sensibility, perception, or cleverness. Variations on the term are used elsewhere in Scripture to refer to people who make "smart" choices in response to a situation (Proverbs 12:16; 12:23; 13:16; 14:8, 15, 18; 15:5; 22:3; 27:12).

To "reprove" is to offer correction, as in the form of constructive criticism (Proverbs 1:23; 10:17; 15:31).

"Understanding" in the book of Proverbs typically means having a thorough grasp of some subject, with a responsibility to pass that capacity on to others. "Knowledge," in that same context, is when something learned is retained so it can be applied in the future.

Given those definitions, one might paraphrase this proverb as "when fools suffer consequences, wise people learn from their example, and when you correct a wise person, they learn from the experience." Even the naïve can learn when they see what happens to foolish people. Even the well informed should be ready to change when they are corrected.

As Solomon sees it, even the inexperienced can—and should—learn from the fates suffered by fools. Unwise choices turn some people's lives into unfortunate warnings, discussed as "you don't want to end up like that person." The capacity to learn from experience never ends when a person is truly wise (Proverbs 19:27). Even an expert learns and grows when he is corrected (Proverbs 18:15, 17; 27:17).

In the book of Amos, God tells the people of Israel that He had punished them for their own good, but they did not respond by returning to Him (Amos 4:6–11). This parallels the "scoffer" or "fool" who refuses to learn from consequences (Proverbs 17:10). Hebrews 12:5–6 carries God's plea to receive discipline without growing weary. These verses exhort: "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." The same passage continues to explain why God disciplines believers: "He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness" (Hebrews 12:10).

An understanding believer knows that discipline aids spiritual growth and responds accordingly.
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