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- Foolish and Ungodly Practices
- Spiritual Ignorance (I): Causes and Results
- Spiritual Ignorance (II): Knowledge Lacked
- Epilogue: Blessings of Wisdom
Foolishness and spiritual ignorance are the antitheses of godly wisdom and knowledge. Moreover, foolishness and spiritual ignorance are very closely related to ungodliness; for ungodliness is the prime cause of them and further ungodliness results from them. Foolishness and spiritual ignorance with their consequences, stand in stark contrast to wisdom and her blessings.
- Fools spurn and lack both wisdom and knowledge
- Foolishness involves failure to comprehend God and his ways
- Foolishness involves failure to comprehend other spiritual truths
- Foolishness involves acting contrary to God
- Foolishness encompasses sin
- Foolishness encompasses wickedness and doing evil
- Further characteristics of fools
- Results of foolishness . . .
- . . . Ultimately, foolishness results in ruin – even death
Prov 1:22, 29-31 [Wisdom:] “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? ▤ … 29Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, 30would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, 31therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. ▤
The speaker is Wisdom personified. Along with hating knowledge (vv. 22b, 29), fools spurn Wisdom’s counsel and reproof (v. 30; Prov 12:1 ↓).
Fools hate and spurn reproof and instruction (cf. Prov 15:5 ↓). Correspondingly, they have no regard for and so lack the wisdom that they bring.
a Or full of simpleness
“Folly” here is personified. Amongst other things, it lacks knowledge.
b Or the hearts of fools are not steadfast
In contrast to the wise, fools lack knowledge.
The thought may be that there is little point in a fool trying to obtain wisdom when he has no sense to make use of it.
The “gate” is the city gate where a city’s people, in particular the leaders, met to conduct and so discuss business.
This points to the fact that in conjunction with not knowing God, his people did not understand him – “…they do not know and understand Me.” (AMP)
Ps 94:6-8 They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless; 7and they say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.” 8Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise? ▤
Jer 5:21-22 Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not. 22Do you not fear me? declares the Lord. Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it. ▤
The two rhetorical questions (v. 22a) indicate that the people should indeed fear and tremble before God. But in their foolishness the people failed to comprehend and/or take to heart God and his power/deeds.
Eph 5:15-17 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. ▤
- The ungodly do not know how God wants them to live . . .
- . . . and they do not know or understand many other spiritual truths
Note that in implying that such questions are foolish, Paul may have in view a lack of belief underlying them, rather than primarily a lack of perception.
Gal 3:1-3 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected byc the flesh? ▤
c Or now ending with
The foolish Galatians sought perfection through their efforts to obey the law, rather than by faith, even though they should have known better.
Job 2:9-10 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 10But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”d In all this Job did not sin with his lips. ▤
d Or disaster; also verse 11
Isa 32:6 For the fool speaks folly, and his heart is busy with iniquity, to practice ungodliness, to utter error concerning the Lord, to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied, and to deprive the thirsty of drink. ▤
Deut 32:5-6 They have dealt corruptly with him; they are no longer his children because they are blemished; they are a crooked and twisted generation. 6Do you thus repay the Lord, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you? ▤
1Sam 13:13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. ▤
Jer 10:8, 21 They are both stupid and foolish; the instruction of idols is but wood! ▤ … 21For the shepherds are stupid and do not inquire of the Lord; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered. ▤
Having idols (v. 8) or other gods is both foolish and acting contrary to God – as also in a sense is not inquiring of God (v. 21). Note that the precise meaning of the Hebrew in v. 8b is not clear (cf. NRSV text note), although it is definitely speaking of having idols.
This implies that foolishness involves acting apart from Jesus’ teachings.
Rom 1:21-22 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they became fools, … ▤
2Tim 3:8-9 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. ▤
Opposing the truth (v. 8) is obviously acting contrary to God, and is “folly” (v. 9).
2Chr 16:7, 9 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. ▤ … 9For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.” ▤
e Hebrew do not lay sin upon us
1Sam 26:21 Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Return, my son David, for I will no more do you harm, because my life was precious in your eyes this day. Behold, I have acted foolishly, and have made a great mistake.” ▤
f Hebrew but among the upright is acceptance
Just as committing sin is foolish, so is scoffing at making amends for it (cf. Hos 13:12-13 ↓).
Hos 13:12-13 The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is kept in store. 13The pangs of childbirth come for him, but he is an unwise son, for at the right time he does not present himself at the opening of the womb. ▤
This portrays Israel’s foolishness – being “without wisdom” – in failing to repent of its sin despite grave warning signs.
- Devising foolishness is sin:
g Or scheming
A person who acts wickedly as such – causing trouble and using deceit – has “ceased to act wisely”, and so has become foolish.
The minds of the wicked overflow with foolish schemes and acts.
This reflects that a fool is more than happy to do wrong.
Oppressing others “turns a wise man into a fool” (NIV®).
Jer 17:11 Like the partridge that gathers a brood that she did not hatch, so is he who gets riches but not by justice; in the midst of his days they will leave him, and at his end he will be a fool. ▤
Possibly “foolish” heads this list as it characterizes all such wrong doing.
h Ch 4:17 in Hebrew
In addition to their inclination to do evil, fools typically are “too ignorant to know that they are doing evil” (AMP).
- Foolishness classified as evil:
Mark 7:21-23 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person. ▤
As suggested by the assertion that foolishness encompasses doing evil, foolishness is evil.
“Vexation” is the state of being markedly annoyed or irritated.
i Or full of simpleness
Fools are typically “loud and brash” (NLT).
Fools think they know best (cf. CEV); as such they are disinclined to take advice.
Prov 15:14, 21 The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly. ▤ … 21Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense, but a man of understanding walks straight ahead. ▤
The last clause appears to mean that it is pointless to instruct fools. As such it shows that fools cannot or will not learn from instruction.
Prov 26:6-11 Whoever sends a message by the hand of a fool cuts off his own feet and drinks violence. 7Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools. 8Like one who binds the stone in the sling is one who gives honor to a fool. 9Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools. 10Like an archer who wounds everyone is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.j 11Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly. ▤
j Or hires a fool or passersby
This passage illustrates that fools are: of no use, bringing harm (vv. 6, 10); dense, undermining the value of anything they might say (vv. 7, 9); unworthy of honor (v. 8); and do not learn from their mistakes (v. 11).
Discipline does not rid a fool of his foolishness.
Anger is a notable characteristic of fools, as is reflected in Being quick-tempered is foolish and ungodly, cross-referenced above.
k The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain
l Or In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride
A fool effectively lives in darkness – unaware of what way he ought to choose and of what obstacles are in his path.
The latter part of the verse may have been a saying of the time. Possibly it means that a fool cannot find his way home (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV) – implying that he cannot effectively accomplish even the most basic of tasks (cf. NLT).
- . . . Idleness leads to poverty and associated troubles
- Note: Living without wisdom has harmful consequences
m Or are gracious
The “folly” and “madness” (v. 13) of a fool’s words destroy him (v. 12).
Matt 7:26-27 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. ▤
This typifies a life of foolishness, as the simile suggests. A life lived apart from Jesus’ instructions does not have the foundation to stand in troubled times. Some see this teaching as primarily looking to the ultimate storm, or test – God’s judgment day.
Job 5:2-5 Surely vexation kills the fool, and jealousy slays the simple. 3I have seen the fool taking root, but suddenly I cursed his dwelling. 4His children are far from safety; they are crushed in the gate, and there is no one to deliver them. 5The hungry eat his harvest, and he takes it even out of thorns,n and the thirsty panto after hisp wealth. ▤
n The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain
o Aquila, Symmachus, Syriac, Vulgate; Hebrew could be read as and the snare pants
p Hebrew their
Verse 3b possibly means Eliphaz pronounced that the fool’s home was cursed, rather than initiating the curse himself.
The phrase “turning away” likely refers to turning away from wisdom.
Prov 9:16-18 [Folly:] “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” And to him who lacks sense she says, 17“Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” 18But he does not know that the deadq are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol. ▤
q Hebrew Rephaim
Those who respond to Folly’s beckoning (v. 16) enter into death (v. 18), spiritual if not also physical.
- A foolish woman destroys her own family:
Note that this thought is reflected in Job 5:3-5 above.
- Being quick-tempered is foolish and ungodly
- Indulging in pleasure is foolish and pointless . . .
- . . . and indulging in pleasure is ungodly
- Drunkenness and gluttony are unwise, causing one trouble . . .
- . . . Drunkenness should be avoided, particularly as it leads to ungodliness
- Further ungodly practices that are notably foolish
- Further practices typical of fools
- Unwise practices comparable to foolishness
- Note: Warnings against putting up security for another’s debt
This reflects that being quick-tempered is ungodly – as does also Titus 1:7 below.
r Or bishop; Greek episkopos
This appears to associate being foolish with being enslaved to “various passions and pleasures”.
Eccl 2:1-2, 10-11 I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. 2I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” ▤ … 10And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. 11Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. ▤
In v. 1 the writer’s thought is addressed to himself. He has in view trying out pleasure or having fun (cf. CEV, NCV). The reference to “laughter” (v. 2) is probably to pursuing laughter, making it a prime goal. The latter part of v. 10 may well mean that he found pleasure in his work because he thought it would be rewarded with the pleasures he sought (cf. GNT, NCV), but instead it proved to be pointless (v. 11). Alternatively, it may simply be making the point that he did at least find pleasure in his work.
Eccl 7:2-6 It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. 3Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. 4The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. 5It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools. 6For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fools; this also is vanity. ▤
The thrust of verses 2-4 is that mourning and sorrow are better than frivolity and pleasure, because we grow wiser and benefit through experiences of them – in contrast to enjoying the latter pair. In fact indulging in pleasure is typical of fools (v. 4). With the references to “mourning” in the adjacent verses, v. 3 could well be meaning that by mourning or grieving one’s heart is “made better and gains gladness” (AMP). The clause “hear the song of fools” (v. 5) may be referring to enjoying the pleasures of fools, although in light of the first part of the verse it could instead be speaking of accepting the praise of fools. Verse 6 portrays the laughter of fools as meaningless and unfulfilling, being like thorns used in a fire which make a lot of noise but do not provide sustained heat.
This appears to warn against relying on laughter or joy. More precisely the meaning could be that laughter may only be able to conceal a heavy heart, the latter still remaining once the laughter ends (cf. NLT). As such this portrays laughter to be ineffectual in itself.
The following references generally do not explicitly say that indulging in pleasure is ungodly, but they do illustrate or imply that this is the case.
This appears to be referring to those whose focus and goal is their own happiness, who seek after the amusements and pleasures of this life, with little or no regard for spiritual matters. The latter part of the statement appears to largely have punishment in the afterlife in view – underlining the ungodliness of the aforementioned lifestyle.
Pleasure can choke our responsiveness to God’s word (cf. v. 11) as pleasure can involve practices that either: are opposed to God’s word; or crowd out God’s word, leaving little or no room for it in our lives.
This reflects that we cannot be both lovers of pleasure and lovers of God.
Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, … ▤
The “worldly passions” – associated with “ungodliness” – are largely equivalent to “sinful pleasures” (NLT).
Heb 11:24-25 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. ▤
The second sentence likens the people in question to cattle fattening themselves even on the day of their slaughter, making themselves even more suitable for slaughter. Likewise by such self-indulgence, these people “fatten” or increase their guilt in the face of impending judgment.
s Some manuscripts love feasts
Rev 18:3, 7 For all nations have drunkt the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.” ▤ … 7As she glorified herself and lived in luxury, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning, since in her heart she says, ‘I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.’ ▤
t Some manuscripts fallen by
Note that the reference is to “Babylon the Great” – which most likely symbolizes ungodly world authority, in general or a particular source of it (cf. The guilt and consequent judgment of “Babylon the Great”).
u Or will not become wise
“Wine is a mocker” is often understood to mean that wine has a tendency to cause a person to become a mocker. But it has also been interpreted to mean that wine mocks a person – i.e. makes a fool of them, as reflected in the latter part of the verse.
Hos 4:10-11 They shall eat, but not be satisfied; they shall play the whore, but not multiply, because they have forsaken the Lord to cherish 11whoredom, wine, and new wine, which take away the understanding. ▤
The last clause is suggestive of or at least encompasses gluttony – characteristic of a foolish man in contrast to a wise man.
Prov 23:19-21 Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way. 20Be not among drunkardsv or among gluttonous eaters of meat, 21for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags. ▤
v Hebrew those who drink too much wine
The contrast with a son “with understanding” emphasizes that gluttons are unwise.
Prov 23:29-35 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? 30Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. 31Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. 32In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. 33Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. 34You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast.w 35“They struck me,” you will say,x “but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.” ▤
w Or of the rigging
x Hebrew lacks you will say
Verse 34-35 portray the hung-over state of a drunkard – sick, even injured (but yet to feel plain) and wanting more drink.
Isa 5:11, 22 Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them! ▤ … 22Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, … ▤
y Or who
Verse 2 figuratively warns against gluttony, having in view consequences of indulging one’s appetite in the presence of authority.
Deut 21:18-21 If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear. ▤
z Or hires a fool or passersby
Arguably this associates drunkenness with foolishness. It also points to the trouble that drunkenness brings not only to others but also to oneself, as it reflects that drunkards find it hard to obtain employment with employers rightly being adverse to hiring them.
1Tim 3:2-3, 8 Therefore an overseera must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,b sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. ▤ … 8Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued,c not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. ▤
a Or bishop; Greek episkopos; a similar term occurs in verse 1
b Or a man of one woman; also verse 12
c Or devious in speech
Church leaders should exemplify godly characteristics; as such they should not be inclined to drinking excessively. Note that being “sober-minded” (v. 2) would appear to involve being “sober” (GNT).
Prov 31:4-5 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, 5lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted. ▤
Drunkenness goes “hand in hand” with debauchery.
The word “dissipation” entails excessive indulgence. Such things as dissipation and drunkenness deter people from living godly lives, in preparedness for Jesus Christ’s return.
Phil 3:18-19 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. ▤
The clause “their god is their belly” suggests that their stomach was their top priority. As such it would indicate that gluttony, like drunkenness, promotes ungodliness. But note that the reference may be more general, with “stomach” possibly being used as a metaphor for “their bodily desires” (GNT, cf. NCV), rather then simply referring to their appetite for food.
- Drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God:
Luke 11:39-40 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? ▤
The Pharisees foolishly ensured that they gave the outward appearance of being pious, while inwardly being full of wickedness. Such action is obviously foolish when one considers that God also made the inner person (v. 40b) and so knows and is concerned about our inward state too.
Eccl 5:1, 4 d Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. ▤ … 4When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. ▤
d Ch 4:17 in Hebrew
Hasty vows (v. 1) and unfulfilled vows (v. 4) – with the former tending to lead to the latter – are of fools.
Luke 12:20-21 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God. ▤
- It is foolish to not be prepared for Jesus Christ’s return:
Matt 25:1-13 Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps
e and went to meet the bridegroom. f 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. ▤
e Or torches
f Some manuscripts add and the bride
Note that the foolish practices discussed in this and the following subsections are arguably not all overtly ungodly – in contrast to the practices discussed previously.
g Or fears [the Lord]
This appears to be speaking of fantasizing or possibly a lack of focus.
This verse and Proverbs 13:16 below indicate that a fool reveals his foolishness all too easily.
A fool displays his folly.
As noted earlier, the phrase “according to his folly” means in a manner which is in accordance with his foolish ways – i.e. “stooping to his level”.
It is not wise to long for the past or idealize it in comparison to the present. Such an attitude tends to overlook past difficulties and rouse negativity, even leading to pessimism in one’s present circumstances.
2Cor 10:12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. ▤
It is not wise to compare ourselves with others and then take pride in how we may measure up against them.
- Paul’s boasting “as a fool”:
2Cor 11:16-17, 21b-23 I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. 17What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not with the Lord’s authority but as a fool. ▤ … 21… But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. 22Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. 23Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. ▤
In this context “striking hands in pledge” signifies agreeing to put up security for another.
Note that this is of “the words of the wise” (cf. v. 17).
h Or for an adulteress (compare 27:13)
Putting up security is particularly foolish when done for someone relatively unknown. One would need to be held responsible particularly in such instances (as could be done by the taking of one’s garment).
- If you have put up security for someone, plea to be released:
Prov 6:1-5 My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, 2if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, 3then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor: go, hasten,
i and plead urgently with your neighbor. 4Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; 5save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, j like a bird from the hand of the fowler. ▤
i Or humble yourself
j Hebrew lacks of the hunter
Note that if the “neighbor” of v. 3 is the one of v. 1, then v. 3 is saying to approach the person for whom you have put up the security – as opposed to approaching the creditor.
- Spiritual ignorance is caused basically by sin and ungodliness
- Spiritual ignorance and lack of perception is caused partly by the ungodly being closed-minded . . .
- . . . God and Jesus Christ may even judicially blind ungodly people
- Thus, the ungodly lack spiritual sense and knowledge . . .
- . . . and the ungodly are in spiritual “darkness”
- Spiritual ignorance results in further sin and ungodliness
- Spiritual ignorance and lack of spiritual perception result in unbelief
- Spiritual ignorance and lack of spiritual understanding culminate in dire consequences
This implies that due to their sinfulness such people are unwilling to know God – they “do not know and understand” God (AMP).
In their rebellion against God the people were not receptive to his spiritual truth. This would of course promote spiritual ignorance.
John 3:19-20 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. ▤
Due to people’s evil deeds, they spurn the spiritual light that is Jesus Christ and his truth. For this light exposes their deeds for what they really are – evil.
John 8:43-44, 47 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. ▤ … 47Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God. ▤
Satan is characterized by deceit (v. 44). Those who are of him (v. 44a) and so “not of God” (v. 47b) are deceived by him and cannot understand or accept the words of God (vv. 43, 47).
Rom 1:18-22 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they became fools, … ▤
The “truth” (v. 18) is the truth about God revealed to all through the testimony of creation (vv. 19-21a). By wickedness and ungodliness, such people “suppress” the truth – or push it away (cf. NLT). Verses 21-22 further demonstrate that ungodliness, with its disregard of God, leads to spiritual darkness and foolishness.
Not possessing the godly qualities listed earlier in vv. 5-7 is a key cause of spiritual blindness, and so spiritual ignorance. Note that this appears to refer to spiritually immature church members, people who are in danger of falling away.
The psalmist’s “brutish and ignorant” (v. 22) state was brought on – in part at least – by his lapsing into sinful bitterness (v. 21a).
Spiritual ignorance and lack of perception is caused partly by the ungodly being closed-minded . . .
Wicked people typically choose to not know the ways in which God wants people to live.
Isa 30:9-10 For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; 10who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, … ▤
In their sinfulness and unwillingness to listen to God’s messages (v. 9) – i.e. closed mindedness to God’s word – the people opted for pleasant illusions (v. 10). Rather than spiritual truth, they opted for nonsense; hence their spiritual ignorance.
Isa 42:18-20 Hear, you deaf, and look, you blind, that you may see! 19Who is blind but my servant, or deaf as my messenger whom I send? Who is blind as my dedicated one,k or blind as the servant of the Lord? 20He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear. ▤
k Or as the one at peace with me
This passage is portraying Israel – who was supposed to be God’s servant and messenger to the nations – as being blind and deaf (vv. 18-19) to what God did and said, not willing to pay any attention (v. 20). Note that the meaning of the phrase translated here as “my dedicated one” (v. 19) is debatable, with different meanings being given in other translations (cf. NASB, NCV, NKJV, NLT).
Isa 48:8 You have never heard, you have never known, from of old your ear has not been opened. For I knew that you would surely deal treacherously, and that from before birth you were called a rebel. ▤
Note that as is the case here, sin and ungodliness (discussed in the previous subsection) are often associated with closed minds (cf. Isa 30:9-10 ↑; 2Tim 4:3-4 ↓). They stimulate or at least work together with closed minds (“your ear has not been opened”) to cause lack of spiritual perception and ignorance.
Jer 6:10 To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold, the word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it. ▤
The people scorned God’s word, closing their ears to it and so cutting themselves off from it and its spiritual truth.
Matt 13:18-19 Hear then the parable of the sower: 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. ▤
The “path” appears to depict those who are hardened against spiritual truth (cf. comment on Mark 6:52 ↓), causing them to not understand and absorb the message. This in turn allows Satan to remove any “seeds” of spiritual truth.
The clause “their hearts were hardened” (v. 52) means that “their minds were closed” (CEV, NCV). People of whom this is true do not understand or believe primarily because they are not open to spiritual truth; they are either not ready to or do not want to believe.
Mark 8:17-21 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20“And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” ▤
2Cor 3:14-16 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16But when onel turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. ▤
l Greek he
Eph 4:17-18 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. ▤
2Tim 4:3-4 For the time is coming when people will not endure soundm teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. ▤
m Or healthy
To suit their own sinful passions, people refuse to accept sound teaching. Their passions and closed mindedness lead them to turn to “myths” and false teachings. As such they are ignorant and misinformed about spiritual things.
Luke 16:29-31 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ▤
Verse 31 indicates that for those whose minds are closed to God’s word, not even the testimony of someone raised from the dead will convince them of spiritual realities – as Jesus Christ’s resurrection was to show.
Isa 6:9-12 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing,n but do not understand; keep on seeing,o but do not perceive.’ 10Make the heart of this people dull,p and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” 11Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, 12and the Lord removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. ▤
n Or Hear indeed
o Or see indeed
p Hebrew fat
Isaiah was to pronounce God’s judicial blinding and hardening of the people (vv. 9-10a), making certain the judgment God had ordained (vv. 11-12). For such had been the people’s rebellion, that God chose to ensure that the people would not seek to avoid the judgment (v. 10b).
Isa 29:9-12 Astonish yourselvesq and be astonished; blind yourselves and be blind! Be drunk, but not with wine; stagger, but not with strong drink! 10For the Lord has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes (the prophets), and covered your heads (the seers). 11And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” 12And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read.” ▤
q Or Linger awhile
This appears to portray the people’s spiritual blindness (vv. 9-10) and inability to access God’s word (vv. 11-12) as a judgment from God, due to the people’s sinfulness (cf. ch. 28) – not least of which was their disdain of his word (cf. 28:12, 22).
Matt 13:10-15 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. 15For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ ▤
Verse 12b most likely means that whoever is not open to God’s spiritual truth (v. 15a), even what little spiritual insight they have will be taken from them. Jesus achieved this in part at least through the use of parables to deny such people easy access to spiritual truth (vv. 10, 13-14). In conjunction with this, the reference to the prophecy of Isaiah (vv. 14-15; cf. Isa 6:9-10 ↑) may be pointing out that by hardening their hearts against God’s spiritual truth (v. 15), the people themselves lost what little spiritual sensitivity and insight they did have (v. 14).
In conjunction with their pride over their knowledge of the Scriptures and their self-righteousness, the Jewish religious leaders considered themselves to be spiritually perceptive. Through this they had actually become ungodly. The clause “those who see may become blind” probably means that such people who considered themselves spiritually perceptive, would be blinded to the fuller revelation of truth that Jesus brought – including the light he shed on OT Scripture. Thus, through his mission Jesus Christ caused them to become spiritually blind – effectively as an act of judgment (v. 39a). Note that “those who do not see may see” speaks of those who acknowledge their spiritual blindness and lack of knowledge, being open to and/or being given spiritual sight.
Rom 11:7-10, 25 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” 9And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; 10let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.” ▤ … 25Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers:r a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. ▤
r Or brothers and sisters
In vv. 7-8 Paul speaks of Israel’s spiritual deafness and blindness as given them by God; he also appears to be pointing to this in v. 25. This judgment was in part at least because of their stubbornness in trying to obtain righteousness by works (v. 7; cf. 9:30-10:3) in association with their unbelief (cf. v. 20; 10:16, 21).
- God deludes those who refuse to accept the truth:
2Thes 2:9-11 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, … ▤
The end-time deception of the antichrist is primarily in view here (cf. vv. 9-10a).
“Everyone” appears to be hyperbole, referring to the ungodly – in particular those who worship idols (cf. CEV). However note that some interpret it to be speaking of all people, who in comparison to God are “stupid and without knowledge” (cf. GNT, NLT).
Deut 32:20, 28 And he said, ‘I will hide my face from them; I will see what their end will be, For they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness. ▤ … 28“For they are a nation void of counsel, and there is no understanding in them. ▤
s Septuagint; Hebrew and not for truth they have grown strong
Hos 7:10-11 The pride of Israel testifies to his face;t yet they do not return to the Lord their God, nor seek him, for all this. 11Ephraim is like a dove, silly and without sense, calling to Egypt, going to Assyria. ▤
t Or in his presence
Isa 44:9, 18-20 All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. ▤ … 18They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. 19No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” 20He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” ▤
“Their witnesses” (v. 9) are those who would give witness on behalf of idols – “Those who would speak up for them” (NIV®).
Matt 16:1-4 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2He answered them,u “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed. ▤
u Some manuscripts omit the following words to the end of verse 3
The Pharisees and Sadducees’ request for a miracle evidenced their spiritually adulterous state (v. 4a); they were intent on testing Jesus so as to try to discredit him. Jesus pointed out that there had already been significant signs – presumably meaning signs apparent in his public ministry, including previous miracles. But these “evil and adulterous” leaders had failed to recognize the spiritual significance of these signs (v. 3b), evidencing a lack of spiritual perception. Note that Jesus’ refusal to give them a miraculous sign on demand is quite possibly indicative of both his recognition of their refusal to believe no matter what they witnessed, and his own refusal to “play their games” and submit to their demands. Regarding the phrase “the sign of Jonah” (v. 4), it is generally understood to refer to Jesus’ coming death and resurrection, when he would be dead for three days (or parts thereof), emulating Jonah being inside the fish for three days and nights (cf. Jonah 1:17).
Paul has in view false teachers propagating ascetic rules about food and purification. By effectively asserting that nothing was pure, these ungodly people showed their lack of spiritual sense.
1Jn 2:9, 11 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. ▤ … 11But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. ▤
John 12:35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. ▤
One who spurns Jesus’ light “walks in the darkness” and so “does not know where he is going.”
If one’s spiritual sight or perception is bad (as is the case with the ungodly) then one’s whole person is full of or enveloped in spiritual darkness. The second sentence may be meaning that if that which a person has for their light is actually darkness, then the darkness within them is indeed great.
- In their natural selves, people are not spiritually perceptive:
Rom 6:18-19 … and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. ▤
In v. 19a Paul appears to apologize for using a less than perfect analogy in describing believers as “slaves” to righteousness (vv. 18, 19b). The need to do so was because his readers were weak in their sinful nature, lacking spiritual perception and needing a somewhat stark illustration to ensure that they grasped his point.
While sin and ungodliness are the prime cause/s of spiritual ignorance (as discussed earlier), spiritual ignorance in turn leads to further sin and ungodliness.
Eph 4:17-19 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. ▤
The Gentiles’ “futility of … mind” (v. 17), “darkened … understanding” and “ignorance” (v. 18) was behind them being “alienated from the life of God” (v. 18) and becoming callous and indulging in sinfulness (v. 19).
In having no room for Jesus’ word, the Jewish leaders showed their lack of spiritual perception and their spiritual ignorance. In part due to this lack of spiritual sense, they sought to get rid of Jesus as his words and claims undermined them.
John 8:44-46 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? ▤
The Jews spoken to here belonged to the devil (cf. v. 47), who has “no truth in him” and is “the father of lies” (v. 44). As such, spiritual truth was alien to them – indicative of their ignorance. Thus they could not believe the truth that Jesus taught (vv. 45-46).
John 12:37-40 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” ▤
Verses 39-40 speak of God’s judicial blinding of many of the Jews and their subsequent lack of spiritual perception as causing their unbelief (vv. 37-38).
Rom 11:20, 25 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. ▤ … 25Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers:v a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. ▤
v Or brothers and sisters
Arguably Israel’s “hardening” (v. 25) – and thus lack of spiritual perception – was the cause of “their unbelief” (v. 20); it at least reinforced it.
2Cor 4:3-4 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. ▤
This may well be meaning that “unbelievers” (v. 4a) do not believe because of their spiritual blindness (cf. GNT) – the theme of this subsection. Alternatively it may be saying that those who are already “unbelievers” are then blinded by Satan – “to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel”, ensuring that they remain unbelievers. Note that Satan is spoken of here as the prime agent of this blindness, whereas John 12:39-40 above and . . . God and Jesus Christ may even judicially blind ungodly people, speak of God judicially blinding or reinforcing such blindness.
This suggests that ignorance comes from unbelief, the reverse of the theme of this subsection. It reflects that ignorance and unbelief go “hand in hand”, with one exacerbating the other – much like ignorance and sin.
- Ignorance can lead to misconceived and ill-fated efforts to obtain righteousness:
Rom 10:2-3 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. ▤
Hos 4:6, 14 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. ▤ … 14I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore, nor your brides when they commit adultery; for the men themselves go aside with prostitutes and sacrifice with cult prostitutes, and a people without understanding shall come to ruin. ▤
w Hebrew ways of death
Lack of spiritual perception can leave one open to taking paths in life that lead to death. Here “death” appears to be applicable to both premature physical death and spiritual death.
x Or without their knowledge
y Or die of hunger
Isa 27:10-11 For the fortified city is solitary, a habitation deserted and forsaken, like the wilderness; there the calf grazes; there it lies down and strips its branches. 11When its boughs are dry, they are broken; women come and make a fire of them. For this is a people without discernment; therefore he who made them will not have compassion on them; he who formed them will show them no favor. ▤
Verses 10-11a portray desolation, due to God’s judgment and withholding of his compassion and favor (v. 11b). These things were the result of the people being “without discernment” (v. 11b) and acting accordingly.
Even though the people in view had known God (cf. v. 21), the fact that they did not see acknowledgment of him as a fitting thing to do is indicative of spiritual ignorance. The expression “gave them up” (cf. vv. 24, 26) appears to indicate that God not only turned them over to their sinful ways, but also to the consequences that such behaviour naturally brings (cf. v. 27).
2Thes 1:7b-8 … when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. ▤
- The spiritually blind lead others astray:
z Some manuscripts add of the blind
- The ungodly do not know God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit
- The ungodly do not comprehend God’s word
- The ungodly do not know how God wants them to live . . .
- . . . and they do not know or understand many other spiritual truths
- The ungodly are ignorant of and deceived about their sin
- The ungodly are misguided about their standing with God and Jesus Christ
- The ungodly are skeptical of God knowing their deeds and of his judgment
- The ungodly are largely oblivious of God’s pending punishment – which they will bear
The assertions contained in the subheadings in this section are typically true of ungodly people. Having said this, not all ungodly people and unbelievers are totally ignorant of all the things mentioned here. For example many are aware of aspects of the Bible’s teaching about God’s judgment, and some consider it to be at least a possibility.
- Note: Not knowing God leads to sin and evil
- Foolishness involves failure to comprehend God and his ways
Isa 1:2-3 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: “Childrena have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. 3The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” ▤
a Or Sons; also verse 4
Wayward Israel did not know God (cf. NCV) – their master, the one who cared for them.
When Jesus came largely people did not recognize him as the Messiah – they “did not know him”.
John 8:19, 55 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” ▤ … 55But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. ▤
The ungodliness of the Jews was exhibited by their rejection of Jesus (cf. vv. 48, 52-53, 57, 59) and his description of them as liars (v. 55). As such, they did not know God or him.
Acts 17:23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. ▤
In their spiritual ignorance and ungodliness, the Athenians in fact worshipped numerous gods. Here Paul uses their altar to “the unknown god” to highlight the fact that they did not know the true God.
In not knowing God, along with failing to serve him, people do not know critical things about him – as illustrated in the following verses (cf. Matt 2:29 ⇓).
Isa 29:16 You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? ▤
In their sinful ignorance, many of Israel’s leaders very much underestimated God’s sovereignty, power and understanding.
Further to not knowing God, sinful fools even deny that there is a God.
- Not knowing God, the ungodly do not recognize God’s people:
Note that “not know him” could refer to Jesus Christ rather than to God.
Here Jesus is addressing the Sadducees, who were – to some extent at least – ignorant of the Scriptures, not understanding them (cf. NASB).
Although they diligently studied the Scriptures, the Jewish leaders – who had in fact become in many ways ungodly – did not comprehend that the Scriptures spoke about Jesus, the way to life.
Acts 13:27 For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. ▤
The people and their rulers were oblivious to the fact that by condemning Jesus they actually fulfilled the Scriptures that were read to them every week.
2Cor 3:14-16 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16But when oneb turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. ▤
b Greek he
When listening to the old covenant being read, the people’s minds and hearts were “covered” so that they could not see the significance of the old covenant, with its transitory nature probably being one aspect that Paul had foremost in mind.
- Some parts of God’s word are hard to understand, which ignorant people distort:
2Pet 3:16 … as he [Paul] does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. ▤
c The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain
d Or just decrees
Hos 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. ▤
The ungodly people and priests were ignorant of God’s law and hence his will for how they should live. This was in part at least due to the priests willfully rejecting such knowledge and ignoring God’s law, and thus failing to teach it to the people.
This and the following verses refer to aspects of how God wants people to live that the ungodly do not know nor understand.
- Foolishness involves failure to comprehend God and his ways
- Foolishness involves failure to comprehend other spiritual truths
Luke 19:42-44 … saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” ▤
The time of their “visitation” (v. 44b) was the time of God’s intervention, providing salvation and the opportunity for peace (v. 42).
The people did not understand the spiritual truth illustrated by Jesus Christ’s allegory of the Good Shepherd (cf. vv. 1-5). Note that Jesus thus expounded this teaching (cf. vv. 7-18), but many still could not see the spiritual truth behind it (cf. vv. 19-20).
1Cor 2:7-8 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. ▤
The “secret and hidden wisdom of God” (v. 7) appears to refer to God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ.
2Tim 3:6-7 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. ▤
Those spoken of were keen to learn and they apparently found attractive whatever new ideas – notably heresies – that they came across. But they could not acknowledge the truth.
This appears to be an example of ungodly people deliberately choosing to ignore spiritual truth.
- Failure to interpret “the signs of the times”:
The “signs of the times” most likely refers to signs that marked Jesus as the Messiah and possibly also the coming of God’s kingdom. Most of these were fulfillment of prophecies of which the Jews would have been quite aware as they waited for the promised Messiah.
e Some Hebrew manuscripts, Syriac, Jerome (compare Septuagint); most Hebrew manuscripts in my heart
Verse 2 may mean that the wicked flatter themselves and so do not see their sin (cf. CEV, NCV, NIV, NLT) – hence the inclusion of these verses here. Alternatively it may mean that they flatter themselves in telling themselves that their sin will not be found out (cf. GNT) – which would mean that these verses would be better place below in The ungodly are skeptical of God knowing their deeds and of his judgment . . .
Jer 2:34-35 Also on your skirts is found the lifeblood of the guiltless poor; you did not find them breaking in. Yet in spite of all these things 35you say, ‘I am innocent; surely his anger has turned from me.’ Behold, I will bring you to judgment for saying, ‘I have not sinned.’ ▤
Those without the truth (v. 8b) and God’s word (v. 10b) are typically deceived about and/or unaware of their sin – or at least the extent of it.
Isa 58:2-4 Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God. 3‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,f and oppress all your workers. 4Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. ▤
f Or pursue your own business
Jer 7:9-11 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? 11Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord. ▤
Mic 3:11 Its heads give judgment for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money; yet they lean on the Lord and say, “Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us.” ▤
Matt 7:21-23 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ ▤
Luke 13:25-27 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ ▤
The owner of the house depicts Jesus (cf. Matt 7:22), rejecting the ungodly at the last judgment.
John 8:39-42, 47 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. ▤ … 47Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” ▤
Rom 2:17-21 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? ▤
The phrase “boast in God” (v. 17) speaks of boasting of their relationship to God (cf. NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV). Like the Jews in view here, anyone who hypocritically breaks God’s law (v. 21) and yet relies on it and their heritage for a sound relationship with God (vv. 17-20) is in fact ignorant of their true standing with God.
- The Laodiceans’ ignorance of their poor spiritual condition:
The Laodiceans boasted in their material prosperity, but were ignorant of their poor spiritual condition.
Job 22:13-14, 17 But you say, ‘What does God know? Can he judge through the deep darkness? 14Thick clouds veil him, so that he does not see, and he walks on the vault of heaven.’ ▤ … 17They said to God, ‘Depart from us,’ and ‘What can the Almighty do to us?’g ▤
g Hebrew them
Ps 10:6, 11, 13 He [the wicked man] says in his heart, “I shall not be moved; throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.” ▤ … 11He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.” ▤ … 13Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”? ▤
The Hebrew translated here as “Ah” is sometimes translated as “Woe” (AMP, NASB, NIV, NKJV). It points with a sense of alarm to coming grave trouble and misery. Here it signals the judgment that awaits the people in view.
2Pet 3:3-7 … knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. ▤
In the light of vv. 5-6, Peter may be presenting the scoffing at the prophesied “coming” of Jesus Christ (vv. 3-4) as being inclusive of the subsequent judgment (v. 7) – i.e. Peter may well be speaking of people scoffing at both the teaching of Jesus Christ’s return and the day of judgment.
Deut 29:18b-20 Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, 19one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike. 20The Lord will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the Lord and his jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven. ▤
Note that the last statement in v. 19 may be speaking of the rest of the people also suffering as a result of such a person.
Mic 3:11-12 Its heads give judgment for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money; yet they lean on the Lord and say, “Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us.” 12Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height. ▤
Mic 4:11-12 Now many nations are assembled against you, saying, “Let her be defiled, and let our eyes gaze upon Zion.” 12But they do not know the thoughts of the Lord; they do not understand his plan, that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor. ▤
h Hebrew are thickening on the dregs [of their wine]
Zeph 2:13, 15 And he will stretch out his hand against the north and destroy Assyria, and he will make Nineveh a desolation, a dry waste like the desert. ▤ … 15This is the exultant city that lived securely, that said in her heart, “I am, and there is no one else.” What a desolation she has become, a lair for wild beasts! Everyone who passes by her hisses and shakes his fist. ▤
- Even the significance of God’s punishment can elude the ungodly:
The hard-hearted people did not grasp the significance and implications of God’s punishment of them.
Understanding and discernment (the topic of the following subsection) are key components of wisdom. As such, having wisdom means that one possesses these characteristics, which are great blessings.
Prov 2:9-11 Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; 10for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; 11discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, … ▤
The speaker here is Wisdom personified (cf. Prov 9:4-6 ↓). Those who respond to Wisdom gain the attributes associated with her.
Prov 9:1, 4-6 Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars. ▤ … 4“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she [Wisdom] says, 5“Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. 6Leave your simple ways,i and live, and walk in the way of insight.” ▤
i Or Leave the company of the simple
Note that v. 1 speaks figuratively of Wisdom providing a sound or complete structure – with “seven” symbolizing completeness – within which one can successfully live one’s life (v. 6). For therein is insight for anyone who lacks sense (v. 4).
j Or Wisdom rests quietly in the heart of a man of understanding, but makes itself known in the midst of fools
Note that the reference is to the end times (cf. vv. 1, 7), involving both purification of many of God’s people (through trials) and continuing wickedness.
Hos 14:9 Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them. ▤
The second part of the verse is saying that the ways of the Lord for his people to live are right; the righteous follow them, but the rebellious stumble into trouble as a result of not obeying them. The earlier phrase “these things” probably refers to the preceding teachings and prophecies, but could also refer to the second part of the verse – which is somewhat of a conclusion to the book. The wise understand such things and act accordingly.
Gen 41:33, 39 Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. ▤ … 39Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. ▤
Despite its negative context, this still associates wisdom with discernment.
- With wisdom one can give good adivce:
Prov 1:1-4 The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: 2To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, 3to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; 4to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— ▤
2Chr 2:12 Hiram also said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who made heaven and earth, who has given King David a wise son, who has discretion and understanding, who will build a temple for the Lord and a royal palace for himself. ▤
Dan 2:13-14 So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. 14Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. ▤
Daniel, as one of the wise men, spoke with prudence and discretion.
k Or the hearts of fools are not steadfast
Eccl 8:5-6 Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way. 6For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s troublel lies heavy on him. ▤
l Or evil
A wise person knows the right time and the right way for all that is to be done. Note that the preceding verses speak of knowledge as in knowing about things, whereas this and the following verses speak of knowing or discerning the best course of action. As such these later verses are also pertinent to the preceding subsection regarding discernment.
- Wise people “have eyes in their head”:
The expression “has eyes in his head” suggests foresight as well as, more generally, knowledge and understanding.
Prov 1:1-3 The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: 2To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, 3to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; … ▤
Prov 2:1-2, 9-12, 16, 20 My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, 2making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; ▤ … 9Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; 10for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; 11discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, 12delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech, ▤ … 16So you will be delivered from the forbiddenm woman, from the adulteressn with her smooth words, ▤ … 20So you will walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous. ▤
m Hebrew strange
n Hebrew foreign woman
Prov 8:6-9, 15, 20 [Wisdom:] Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right, 7for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. 8All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. 9They are all straight to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge. ▤ … 15By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; ▤ … 20I walk in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice, … ▤
One who is wise, in accordance with Wisdom, speaks and does what is righteous and just.
Those who are wise abide by such “sayings of the wise” – avoiding such unjust things as bias in judging.
1Ki 3:9, 28 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” ▤ … 28And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice. ▤
1Ki 10:8-9 Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! 9Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness. ▤
The Queen of Sheba appears to associate executing “justice and righteousness” (v. 9) with wisdom (v. 8).
Prov 3:23-26 Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble. 24If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. 25Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruino of the wicked, when it comes, 26for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught. ▤
o Hebrew storm
Adhering to “sound wisdom and discernment” (v. 21 ⇓) leads to the blessings listed here.
p Or In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride
Some interpret v. 12a as saying that God watches over those (cf. CEV) who have knowledge; as such it is pertinent to this subsection. Alternatively it may be meaning that God vindicates the truth (cf. GNT).
This appears to portray wisdom as providing more effective or more complete protection than money, probably alluding to aspects of life in which money cannot protect one.
Living in the way of wisdom helps to make the path of one’s life relatively free of obstacles and pitfalls, with v. 12 implying that nothing will “hold you back; you will not be overwhelmed” (NCV™).
Prov 3:16, 18, 21-22 Long life is in her [Wisdom’s] right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. ▤ … 18She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed. ▤ … 21My son, do not lose sight of these— keep sound wisdom and discretion, 22and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck. ▤
Verses 16, 18 speak of Wisdom personified. The metaphor “tree of life” (v. 18) – probably alluding to the tree of life in the Garden of Eden – portrays wisdom as a source of a full and enduring life. The other references to “life” in this subsection likewise have this in view.
Prov 4:10-11, 13, 20-22 Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. 11I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. ▤ … 13Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life. ▤ … 20My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. 21Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. 22For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all theirq flesh. ▤
q Hebrew his
- Wisdom gives one sound hope for the future:
Prov 30:24-28 Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise: 25the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer; 26the rock badgers are a people not mighty, yet they make their homes in the cliffs; 27the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank; 28the lizard you can take in your hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces. ▤
Wisdom enables small creatures to succeed in accomplishing or doing things seemingly beyond their strength or ability. The same can be said about wise people.
Eccl 9:14-16, 18 There was a little city with few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siegeworks against it. 15But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. 16But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heard. ▤ … 18Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good. ▤
r Or wisdom is an advantage for success
A person’s purposes are like deep waters in that they are hard to fathom or discern, even to the person themselves. But a wise counselor can successfully draw them out.
Daniel’s wise response enabled him to persuade Arioch to not immediately put him and the other wise men to death, and so allowed him the opportunity to save himself and the others – which he did with God’s help (cf. vv. 17-49).
Wisdom in speech successfully counteracts one’s adversaries.
Prov 8:18-21 [Wisdom:] Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. 19My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver. 20I walk in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice, 21granting an inheritance to those who love me, and filling their treasuries. ▤
The “house” may be a literal house, or it may symbolize a family or possibly an individual’s life. Note that somewhat similarly 14:1 says, “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.”
The King of Tyre is being addressed. Note that in the end his wisdom was of no use as his wealth caused him to become proud (cf. v. 5) and so led to his downfall.
s The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain
A “garland” is a wreath, signifying honor. As such v. 9 speaks of wisdom bringing those who possess her, a spiritual beauty in conjunction with honor.
- The value of a good name:
Similarly Ecclesiastes 7:1a says, “A good name is better than precious ointment …”
Living in accordance with wisdom makes life pleasant – and produces peace.
Prov 8:17, 32, 34-35 [Wisdom:] I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. ▤ … 32“And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways. ▤ … 34Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. 35For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, … ▤
Verse 17a implies that Wisdom embraces those who love her, bringing or bestowing all her benefits on them.
t Probable reading (compare Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate); Hebrew is rugged, or is an enduring rut
The assertion that children who are wise bring joy to their parents is also mentioned elsewhere in Proverbs (cf. 23:15-16, 24-25; 27:11; 29:3). See also . . . and children can bring their parents much joy.
The first clause indicates that wisdom is good for one’s soul.
Prov 22:17-19 Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, 18for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. 19That your trust may be in the Lord, I have made them known to you today, even to you. ▤
Further to the benefit mentioned in v. 18, it can be inferred from v. 19 that wisdom leads to trusting in God.
Prov 24:13-14 My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. 14Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off. ▤
Just as honey was/is considered good for one’s body and is sweet to one’s taste (v. 13), wisdom is both good for and pleasant to one’s soul (v. 14).
Note that “those who see the sun” refers to living people.
The last sentence appears to indicate that wisdom brings cheerfulness and lightens an otherwise hard or dour demeanor. Note that there are variations on this interpretation.
u Hebrew the expanse; compare Genesis 1:6-8
The clause “shine like the brightness of the sky above” – as with “like the stars forever and ever” – most likely refers to the glorification of God’s people in the afterlife.
Wisdom brings meekness.
- Those who are wise win souls:
Prov 1:24-27 [Wisdom:] Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, 25because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, 26I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, 27when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. ▤
Prov 1:28-32 [Wisdom:] Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. 29Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, 30would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, 31therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. 32For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; … ▤
Hos 4:14 I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore, nor your brides when they commit adultery; for the men themselves go aside with prostitutes and sacrifice with cult prostitutes, and a people without understanding shall come to ruin. ▤