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Why is there payment in the hand of a fool to buy wisdom
when he has no sense? Bible

“sense.” The Hebrew word is leb (#03820 לֵב), which is often translated “heart,” but this is one of those cases where that translation would cause confusion. In modern English, the word “heart” usually refers to emotion or passion, but that is not its meaning here. The function of the brain was unknown in biblical times, so things that we generally assign to the brain, like thinking, attitudes, understanding, and good sense, were assigned to the heart.

The fool may have money to “buy wisdom,” which he might do by going to a school, paying for a tutor, purchasing books, or traveling to gain knowledge, but it is all to no avail because he does not have the leb, the common sense and understanding to translate that knowledge into godly thinking and action. The difficulty of bringing the Hebrew word leb into English in this context is revealed by the various ways translators have translated it, including “understanding” (ASV); “sense” (DBY; ESV; NASB); “doesn’t have a mind to grasp anything” (GWN; cp. NRSV; RSV); “no intention of acquiring wisdom” (NET); “no heart for learning” (NLT); and “the desire is not there” (NJB).

There are many reasons a fool might not have the sense to gain true godly wisdom. He may have assumptions on which he has built his lifestyle that are wrong but that he is unwilling to examine honestly. He may be stubborn and not willing to change his ways. He may begin to realize that if he acquires wisdom and begins to live a godly life it will require some giving and sacrifice on his part, and he may be unwilling to do that. It can be almost impossible for genuine fools to change (Prov. 17:10; 19:29; 26:3), so the Bible warns us to stay away from those people (Prov. 14:7; 17:12).


Commentary for: Proverbs 17:16