A Fool and His Folly
As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.
1. Thankfully, this is a relatively simple proverb and the wording and the meaning is clear and obvious.
2. Solomon likens a fool to a dog who eats his own vomit.
3. It may not be pleasant to think about, but it is evident what he meant.
4. This is one of those proverbs that paints a mental picture that stays with you.
As a dog returneth to his vomit…
1. This is a disgusting and revolting thought, by design.
2. It is an ugly truth, but it is a truth. Dogs actually do eat their own vomit.
3. There are a few theories as to why dogs eat their own vomit:
a. In the wild wolves and other animals in the dog family hunt in packs. After feeding on their prey, they return home and vomit in order to feed their young. (So young people, don’t ever again complain about your mother’s cooking!)
b. Another reason given is that they eat their vomit in order to hide any signs of their presence from predators.
c. They obviously have less discriminating palates than do we humans.
4. But the fact remains that dogs do eat their own vomit.
a. We consider it to be a most disgusting practice; so did Solomon in his day.
b. Vomiting all by itself is pretty disgusting. But eating it is “over the edge” disgusting!
c. The thought of it almost makes you want to vomit.
d. When you see a dog eating his vomit you almost have to look the other way it is so sickening.
e. This is one of those repulsive facts of life: dogs eat their own vomit. Even YOUR dog eats his own vomit.
f. It is something that we have all seen and we have all been disgusted by it.
So a fool returneth to his folly.
1. Now Solomon makes the application to everyday life.
2. Solomon compares a dog eating his vomit to a fool returning to his foolish behavior.
a. The foolish person is like the disgusting dog.
b. The vomit is like the behavior (an old habit) of the fool.
c. Eating the vomit is like the fool returning practicing his foolish behavior again.
d. The fool may eat something that he shouldn’t (sinful behavior).
• After he ate it, it may upset him. (Lots of foolish and sinful behaviors have consequences that are painful.)
• Then it is so burdensome to his stomach that he vomits it up. (Sometimes sinners get sick of their sin.)
• But eventually, he returns to his foolish behavior, and eats it up again… like a dog eating his vomit.
• An impure appetite seeks impure food.
3. The point Solomon makes is simple: Fools keep on returning to their dirty old habits, no matter how disgusting they are.
a. Consider the alcoholic returning to his alcohol—even after he knows how damaging it is and has been to his health, to his career, to his social life, and especially to his family.
b. Consider the drug addict returning to his drugs—even though he ends up in a gutter somewhere vomiting… or driving down the highway out of control like a lethal weapon.
c. Consider the adulteress who wanders from house to house, ruining lives, breaking up families, causing heartaches, and even violence.
d. Consider the man who has no control over his anger. He might calm down for a while, but sooner or later he returns to his anger and gets in yet another fight.
e. Consider the thief who steals from his company—just a little every day—but it adds up over time. He doesn’t get caught, so he keeps on returning to this practice.
f. Examples of the principle about which Solomon writes abound. There is no end to the application.
4. When we look at these behaviors, our culture likes to consider the one with such deviant behavior as a victim.
a. The alcoholic can’t help it. It was his environment. His father was a problem drinker.
b. The adulteress shouldn’t be judged. She had a bad upbringing. She grew up in a ghetto.
c. The man with anger control isn’t to be blamed. He experienced abuse as a child.
d. Solomon’s estimate of this kind of behavior is not as flattering: he likens them to dogs returning to their own vomit!
e. Of course one’s background and environment has a profound influence on one’s behavior—but it is only one of many influences.
f. Influences cannot force behavioral choices.
g. Bad behavior is a choice… a sinful choice.
h. Bad behavior is not to be traced to a bad environment.
i. Bad behavior is traced to man’s sinful nature.
j. And sin is disgusting. It is revolting and nauseating… like a dog eating his own vomit.
k. This is a bit like shock therapy: Presenting the fool with a vivid and revolting picture of what his behavior is really like.
l. Could you imagine someone going for psychological therapy today and being treated like this?
• Could you image a homosexual or a man with an out of control temper going for counseling and the counselor telling him that his behavior is like a dog returning to his vomit?
• That doesn’t happen. Instead, modern psychology comes up with names of diseases and treats deviant behavior as a disease—as if they “caught” this bad germ somewhere and are not really responsible for it. Then they come up with a drug to treat the disease.
m. Solomon confronts the sinful fool with his bad behavior and does not try to pamper the foolish sinner; nor does he try to play the blame game.
• He lays the responsibility for bad behavior on the shoulders of the sinful fool and nowhere else.
• He doesn’t attempt to pass off the blame; he passes SHAME on the sinner.
• He paints a picture that leads to only one conclusion: this behavior is disgusting and shameful and is to be rejected.
• The whole point of likening this kind of behavior to a dog eating his own vomit is so that this kind of behavior would STOP!
• Think of this the next time you are tempted to return to a dirty old habit. Think of it as eating vomit.
• Making that association might help us to stay away.
n. The real answer of course is for the fool to stop being foolish.
• The answer is for the fool to become wise.
• Prov. 1:1-5 – That’s the stated purpose of the book of Proverbs!
• Ultimately, the way for a fool to become wise is to become wise unto salvation and believe on the Lord and be saved.
5. II Pet. 2:22 – Peter applies this word picture to false prophets.
a. Vs. 20 – In this context, Peter notes the fact that some false teachers do escape the pollutions of the world for a while through a superficial knowledge of Christ.
• By reading the Bible they can learn many things ABOUT God, without really knowing God in a personal or saving way.
• This is like a dog that is given good food, eats it, and seems to enjoy it and benefit from it.
• But then the false teacher is again entangled in the pollutions of the world and overcome by them. He went back to his old, vile habits and is overtaken by them.
• Hence, we have seen church leaders and evangelists who have golden tongues and talk a good talk… but eventually it is manifested that their walk does not match their talk.
• They return to their old, vile habits and end up worse than at the beginning—before their involvement with the Bible.
b. Vs. 22 – Peter quotes Solomon and states that they are like dogs returning to their vomit.
• They escaped their vile habits for a while, but eventually returned.
• The reason they returned is because they are like dogs. They were never converted. Their behavior SEEMED to change outwardly, but because it was not genuine—only superficial—eventually their old nature took over. A dog will always be a dog.
• It is possible to be convicted by sin and sick of it… without being converted. Conviction is not conversion.
• However, God’s grace can turn a dog with filthy habits into a sheep. Only God can convert the sinner—and turn a dog into a sheep.
c. Note also that Peter didn’t beat around the bush in his description of the false teachers.
• He likened them to dirty dogs and he likened their behavior to eating vomit.
• There was no candy-coating here.
• I believe he said it in love (love rejoices in the truth).
• But he used severe language to describe false teachers.
• We don’t have much of a stomach for this kind of language today.
• Peter, Paul, Jude, and John would probably be considered unloving, and even caustic slanderers for the way they spoke of false teachers in their day.
• Of course, we must speak the truth in love, but there is no nice, warm, and fuzzy way to describe ugly things—and false teachers, their teachings, and their lifestyles are ugly… like dogs returning to their vomit.