Proverbs 21:11

ESV When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise; when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.
NIV When a mocker is punished, the simple gain wisdom; by paying attention to the wise they get knowledge.
NASB When the scoffer is punished, the naive becomes wise; But when the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge.
CSB When a mocker is punished, the inexperienced become wiser; when one teaches a wise man, he acquires knowledge.
NLT If you punish a mocker, the simpleminded become wise; if you instruct the wise, they will be all the wiser.
KJV When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge.

What does Proverbs 21:11 mean?

An earlier proverb noted that even simple-minded people can learn from the example of wrongdoers who are punished (Proverbs 19:25). The "scoffer" being punished here is defined by a Hebrew word meaning "mocker, inflated, scorner." These are the unteachable, arrogant ones who respond to any attempt to change their mind with ridicule and sneers (Proverbs 9:7–8; 15:12; 24:9).

Even if a person has little experience or knowledge, they can learn not to commit crimes if they are open-minded. They see the consequences and make sensible choices to avoid them. This is presented as a parallel to the wise person (Proverbs 1:7) who learns through instruction: hearing and accepting sound teaching (Proverbs 9:9; 13:14). Considering the fate of others and making better choices is, itself, an expression of wisdom.

More effective than watching others fail is studying God's Word. Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:5, "I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well." Further, he tells Timothy, "and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:15). The Scriptures, Paul testifies, are "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
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