Proverbs 16:22

Understanding and Instruction


1. The principle found in vs. 22 is a principle that is repeated several times in the book of Proverbs.

2. It is stated in various ways… unique and interesting ways.

3. But the truth is repeated because it is so valuable and important.

4. Basically Solomon is speaking about giving understanding or instruction to different kinds of people. Sometimes it is fruitful; in other cases it is a waste of time!

22a Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it:

1. There are three concepts in the first part of the proverb to consider.

a. Understanding

b. The man who has understanding

c. A wellspring of life

2. There are three concepts in the second part of the proverb too.

a. Instruction

b. A fool

c. Folly

3. Solomon compares/contrasts these three concepts to each other.

a. Understanding is compared to instruction.

b. The man with understanding is contrasted to the fool

c. A wellspring of life is contrasted to folly.

d. That’s the basic format of this proverb. Now let’s look at each of the three concepts in a little more detail.

4. Understanding

a. Defined: prudence; insight; understanding; discretion; discernment.

5. Him that hath it…

a. Prov. 15:32 – The wise and understanding man HAS understanding because he RECEIVED it.
• This man has understanding because he listens when he is instructed.
• He accepts reproof and rebuke and correction.
• He doesn’t resist correction, but submits to it and learns from it.
• Therefore, he HAS it! This is the man who HAS understanding.

b. Prov. 15:14 – The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge.
• The man who has understanding has it because he LISTENS and receives it when corrected and instructed.
• Once he gets more understanding, he recognizes the VALUE of it and seeks even more!
• Understanding creates an appetite for itself!

c. Ps. 111:10 – Part of this insight and understanding is to know enough to obey God’s Word.
• The man of understanding is one who listens… then seeks… and then obeys!
• DO – is followed by italicized words.
• The translators inserted “his commandments.”
• The man who OBEYS is a man who possesses this kind of understanding.
• Because of the immediate context, one might also insert the words, “fearing God”.
• Those who do fear God… those who practice fearing God.
• In other words, God-fearing people are wise and have good understanding!

d. Prov. 19:11 – this kind of understanding is displayed through self-control… not venting one’s anger.
• That is the man who has understanding.
• The fool blows his stack over any little thing.
• But a God fearing man will be afraid to continually vent his anger.
• The fear of the Lord makes him wiser than that.
• The fear of God becomes a STRONGER inner impulse than the impulse to vent off anger.
• It results in self-control.

e. I Sam. 25:3 – Abigail was a woman with good understanding.
• She could see what was about to happen.
• I suppose that she had good cause to become angry at either her husband OR David. Neither one of them were acting very wisely.
• She had the good understanding to see that these two men were acting foolishly and a calamity was about to happen… so she graciously and kindly offered another alternative!
• She recognized that her husband was a fool and because of her wisdom saved his life and prevented a needless calamity!
• She had insight; discernment; wisdom; and put it into practice.
• When it came to wisdom and good understanding—she had it!

6. This kind of understanding is a wellspring of life.

a. Wellspring defined:
• (lit.) spring, fountain; well.
• (used fig.) of source or origin; – of life, joy, refreshment; well being; purification, etc. [usually a source of something good and beneficial].

b. Usage in Prov. 16:22: understanding is a source of LIFE!
• Obviously Solomon uses the term life here of a rich, abundant, spiritual life, not just physical life.
• The fool who has no understanding at all has physical life.
• But the fool is missing out on this wellspring… an unending source of wisdom for everyday life… an unending resource to GUIDE him in living life…
• But the man who has discretion takes advantage of this source of life… a resource of how to live life… a resource of refreshment for life… strength and spiritual health for life…
• Just as a thirsty man can satisfy his physical thirst at a well… this man can satisfy the thirsting of his soul at the well of God’s Word and wisdom.
• Jer. 2:13 – used of the Lord Himself as the Source of living water… salvation… life…
• It is a source of refreshment and health.
• The well of divine wisdom keeps the godly man refreshed and healthy spiritually.
• All of that is involved in this concept of a “source of life.”

7. Giving instruction and understanding to a wise man and it is fruitful: a well of life!

a. It benefits the man or woman who drinks from it often.

b. It is usually recognized by others too!

c. Prov. 12:8 – it brings commendation from others.

d. Giving understanding to a wise man is extremely BENEFICIAL. It is a source of LIFE!

22b But the instruction of fools is folly.

1. The instruction of fools.

a. Some take this to mean the instruction FROM a fool is folly. (Which is certainly true…)

b. But it is more likely Solomon had in mind instruction FOR fools is folly… trying to teach and instruct a fool is a foolish endeavor!

2. On the other hand, giving instruction and understanding to a fool is folly: a waste of time and energy.

a. Prov. 23:9 – fools despise this wisdom (same word as understanding).

b. Prov. 15:5 – A fool despiseth his father’s instruction.

3. When one gives understanding and instruction to a wise man, it is beneficial—like a wellspring of life.

4. When one gives understanding and instruction to a fool—it is not beneficial.

a. He rejects the wisdom and instruction.

b. Because he rejects it, it does no good.

c. He might even turn on the one instructing him.

d. It is folly to continue. It is a waste of time.

e. What a pity that fools could be so foolish as to reject a SOURCE of life, refreshment, instruction, wisdom—everything needed to live a rich, abundant, spiritual life.

5. Solomon’s advice to the wise instructor: don’t waste your time on a fool!

a. Your time and efforts will be much more fruitful with a wise man.

b. These are words of wisdom for a youth group. There will be a few fools who want to disrupt and gloat in their folly. Don’t waste your time on them! Teach those who WANT to learn.

c. This is a good word of wisdom for us as a church too.

d. There are some folks who are not interested in learning.

e. They are more interested in folly…

f. Titus 3:9 – But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

g. Foolish men want to waste time on foolish things.

h. Avoid them!


Giving instruction and understanding to a wise man and it is fruitful: a wellspring of life!

Giving instruction and understanding to a fool is folly: a waste of time and energy.