The first 11 verses of Proverbs 26 contain a detailed though not comprehensive list of characteristics of a fool. Those verses also explain how to respond to a fool. Verse one tells us that honor is not fitting for a fool. Verse three reminds us that sometimes a whip is needed for a horse; a bridle is needed for a donkey, therefore a fool needs a rod applied to his back to discipline and guide him or her. Verse four tells us not to respond to folly with folly or else we will become fools ourselves. Verse five tells us to make sure that we find a way to tell the fool of his folly. It does not help the fool to allow him to believe that all is well. Telling the fool of his folly has great potential to help him avoid folly, maybe now and certainly later. Verse six warns us that depending on a fool will certainly bring harm, likely violent harm, to us. Verse seven reminds us not to put much hope in our giving wise sayings to a fool. That wisdom will very likely be useless to the fool. Verse eight points out the stupidity of tying a stone in a sling. The stone must be loose in order to be cast from the sling. A tied stone in a sling is likely to remain in the sling and come back upon the head of the thrower.
This stupidity is likened to giving honor to a fool. Giving honor to a fool will certainly damage the reputation of the one who bestows the honor. Verse nine warns us that if a drunkard holds a thornbush in his hand, someone is going to get hurt. Thus if a proverb comes from the mouth of a fool, it is likely misapplied. Verse ten tells us that a man who hires a fool will bring harm to all who are nearby. Verse eleven lets us know that we should be ready for the fool to repeat his folly over and over and over again.
The first 11 verses of Proverbs 26 paint a vivid and multi-faceted picture of the fool and those who deal with the fool unwisely. Verse twelve brings us to a question from the mouth of God. Proverbs 26:12, “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (NASU) Proverbs 26 is certainly helpful in identifying fools and figuring out how to deal with them, but the main point is found here in verse 12. As harmful and dangerous is a fool, more so is the one who is wise in his own eyes. The sin of pride is a recurring theme in Proverbs. In addition to all the references in this chapter, Proverbs 3:34; 8:13; 11:2; 13:10; 15:25; 16:5,18-19; 18:12; 21:4,24; 29:23; all deal with pride. Jesus repeatedly condemned the proud and arrogant. Jesus consistently spent His time and efforts ministering to the humble and contrite. Jesus said in Revelation 3:17-19, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.” (NASU) Counting ourselves as wise in our own eyes and seeing ourselves as being in need of nothing is a dangerous condition indeed.