The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge. (Proverbs 14:18 ESV)
The Book of Proverbs is meant to be read slowly and meditated upon, so it’s good to ponder Proverbs 14:18. I like the definitions in the footnotes of the NIV at the beginning of Proverbs for simple and fool: “The Hebrew word rendered simple in Proverbs denotes a person who is gullible, without moral direction and inclined to evil.” (Footnote on 1:4). And in Proverbs 1:7 the footnote on the word fool reads, “The Hebrew words rendered fool in Proverbs, and often elsewhere in the Old Testament, denote a person who is morally deficient.” Folly or foolishness in this context can deal with behavior that is immoral, dangerous, or even self-destructive. Not having a moral compass in your life will lead you into evil which may have painful consequences.
The prudent person makes sound judgments and can look ahead to see the moral consequences of various actions. The prudent will be crowned. Their path leads to what is good and honorable.
Theodore Dalrymple is a British essayist who as a psychiatrist worked in a British prison and a hospital in a low-income area. He illustrates this proverb. He describes patients coming to him that are depressed that he believes are simply unhappy because of a series of wrong choices. He writes,
My patient was not just a victim of her mother, however: she had knowingly borne children of men of whom no good could be expected. She knew perfectly well the consequences and the meaning of what she was doing, as her reaction to something that I said to her—and say to hundreds of women patients in a similar situation—proved: next time you are thinking of going out with a man, bring him to me for my inspection, and I’ll tell you if you can go out with him.
This never fails to make the most wretched, the most ‘depressed’ of women smile broadly or laugh heartily. They know exactly what I mean, and I need not spell it out further. They know that I mean that most of the men they have chosen have their evil written all over them, sometimes quite literally in the form of tattoos, … And they understand that if I can spot the evil instantly, because they know what I would look for, so can they—and therefore they are in large part responsible for their own downfall at the hands of evil men.*
The simple without moral direction inherit folly, the consequences of immoral decisions. The prudent look ahead guided by moral principles and receives the good. Beware, don’t inherit folly!
— Russ Holden