In the previous essay, the first half of Proverbs 1:7 was explored concluding that the fear of the Lord is a reverential attitude which is the foundation of — and continuing framework through — acquiring and understanding wisdom. However our understanding must not stop with only half a statement; for the verse continues: “…fools despise wisdom and instruction.” At this juncture it is important to note the impact this phrase has on the first half of the verse, and why these acts are foolish. Once these aspects are examined I will then turn to a question which was left unanswered in the previous essay: if one’s knowledge of creation directly relates to their responsiveness toward their creator, then how is it possible that unregenerate man has been known to possess and utilize truth as effectively as believers?

To begin with, Delitzsch proposes that a contrast exists between what is attained through fear or lack thereof. Noting the inverted placement of the words in this phrase, he explains the idea behind wisdom and instruction appears to imply those who fear the Lord strive towards these values; hence the beginning of knowledge. While those who are foolish despise these same values—a clear black and white contrast. While simplistic, a clear connection is presented between the two phrases and the reason why these acts are foolish is presented accurately.

A Second view exposes this phrase as a reoccurring cliché of Wisdom literature. This view, while keeping the verse as an important theme in the book, repositions its significance from the essence of the entire book down to a reoccurring sub-theme. Snell presents this argument, explaining the repeated patterns found through use of dissimilar words throughout the entirety of Proverbs—the meanings are identical, the word use is different. The primary problem with this view pertains to not taking each proverb as an individual entity and instead summarizing the ideas and relegating them to the category of cliché. Whereas the fear of the Lord does appear multiple times throughout Proverbs, each instance presents a separate aspect of God and therefore should not be summarized.

Bruce Waltke explains that the fool is incapable of proper reverence. Agreeing with Delitzsch, this view also presents the fool as one opposed to fearing God. However, Waltke takes this notion one step further holding that the fool is incapable of revering God due to his inherent pride. He draws the correlation from the Psalms and 2 Samuel; those who are foolish are full of contempt and pride. While I personally like the straight forwardness of Delitzsch’s position, the additional point that Waltke makes is also true.

At this point, before presenting a definitive statement explaining the second half of Proverbs 1:7, we shall explore how it is possible that unregenerate people have been known to possess and utilize truth as effectively as believers. The answer to this apparent dilemma comes from a lack of foundation. Think about it this way, a fool who despises wisdom still has a measure of wisdom, and can in fact act highly moral. This person can even achieve great gains for humanity on numerous social, moral, or economic issues; however, their foundation is rooted in pragmatic folly. The idea that people chose to not murder each other on the basis that it was “good” for society is therefore an alterable “moral” standard. Yet, if one’s foundation is God there are no arbitrary standards. Mark A. Snoeberger correctly asserts, “The fool, that is, the one who tries to establish his own autonomy in the face of God’s sovereignty, pragmatically employs a measure of wisdom and knowledge for his own survival, all the while despising it. He possesses knowledge, but does so illegitimately: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

Therefore, the phrase “fools despise wisdom and instruction” further explains “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” through a clear black and white contrast. The fool is completely incapable of properly revering their creator. Regardless as to how many apparently good works are done, “all our righteous deed are lake a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isaiah 64:6b-7). Without belief founded in our creator our good deeds are nothing, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

“What the alphabet is to reading, notes to reading music, and numerals to mathematics, the fear of the Lord is to attaining the revealed knowledge of this book.” – Bruce K.Waltke


  1. C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 6 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 58-59.
  2. Daniel C. Snell. Twice-Told Proverbs (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1993), 48.
  3. Bruce K Waltke. The book of Proverbs Chapters 1-15. NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 181.
  4. Mark A. Snoeberger. “Noetic Sin, Neutrality, and Contextualization: How Culture Receives the Gospel.” Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary Journal 9 (Detroit: Detroit Theological Seminary, 2004), 361.