Proverbs 14:16

A Wise Man Feareth



1. We have in this passage yet another contrast between the wise man and the fool.

2. This time the emphasis is on one’s response to evil and danger.

A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil…

1. The wise man

a. This is the term so often used in Proverbs.

b. It speaks of a man who has good sense; understanding; discernment.

c. It can refer to wisdom in earthly affairs… as well as spiritual discernment.

2. Feareth:

a. This verse does not mention the words “the Lord.”

b. Usually, the wise man is pictured as one who fears the Lord and departs from evil. (3:7; 8:13; 16:6)

c. It is quite likely IMPLIED here that this wise man does fear the Lord… and because of his fear of God he will of course, depart from evil. That is a well established principle in Proverbs.

d. However, it was not an oversight on Solomon’s part that the words “the Lord” are not mentioned here.

e. It seems they were purposely left out in order to add a new dimension to this well established principle.

f. Reading this proverb all by itself (supposing you had no knowledge of other similar proverbs) one would have to assume that the wise man fears the EVIL mentioned in the verse.

3. Evil:

a. The term: bad; evil; distress; misery; injury; calamity.

b. This term includes evil as we think of it today… in the sense of that which is ethically or morally wrong and bad.

c. But it is broader than our term for evil.

d. It includes that which is bad from other perspectives as well… bad health… bad circumstances… bad events…bad weather… like a tornado or earthquake.

e. These things are not MORALLY wrong… just bad… tragic… calamity.

f. In this proverb, it appears that Solomon is using the term in its broader sense… which includes ALL KINDS of bad things… sinful things… but also tragedy… hazards… calamity… danger… of all sorts.

4. Fearing that which is ethically evil…

a. Afraid to commit sin… that which is ethically and morally evil… (that’s wise)
• There is nothing wrong with being afraid to take a drink of alcohol…
• There’s nothing wrong with being afraid to smoke marijuana…
• There’s nothing wrong with being afraid to steal… or lie…
• There’s nothing wrong with being afraid to have sex out of wedlock.
• There’s nothing wrong with being afraid to cheat on a test.
• In fact, it is GOOD to be afraid of such evil. The wise man IS afraid! He feareth!
• We ought to be afraid to commit that which is morally wrong and evil…
• Your friends may try to convince you that it is COOL to commit such things. They may laugh at those who are afraid.
• But don’t be intimidated by them. They think they’re COOL. Solomon calls them a FOOL.
• Wise men don’t fear men. They don’t fear the fool and his foolish claims… or his taunting.
• Wise men FEAR evil. If you’re wise, you will too.

b. Afraid of displeasing God (that’s wise too)
• The motive in fearing that which is sinful or ethically wrong ought to be our relationship to God.
• We should fear displeasing Him… grieving Him.
• God hates sin and so should we.

c. Afraid of the consequences of evil (Again… wise!)
• And there’s nothing wrong with being afraid of the consequences of that which is ethically wrong.
• There are also consequences of immorality, alcohol, drugs, stealing, lying, etc.
• The wise man is legitimately afraid of the consequences of evil.
• The consequences may include: disease; prison; loss of friends; ruining a good name;
• But more importantly, the spiritual consequences include a loss of fellowship with God… and a loss of reward… wasted time… loss of one’s testimony…

5. The wise man also fears that which is evil in the sense of calamity… dangerous… tragic…

a. The wise man (young or old; male or female) fears all kinds of bad things…

b. He will fear racing in a car…and weaving in and out of traffic… though others may think it’s cool.

c. He will be afraid of copying the stupid stunts he has heard that others are doing…

d. He will be afraid of skating on thin ice… or driving his pick up truck on the lake in March…

e. He will be afraid of skimming his snowmobile over water…

f. He will be afraid of taking foolish risks… and putting his life or the lives of others in harm’s way… just for the thrill of it.

g. He will be afraid of the tragedy that could occur by hiking in the woods alone… or walking in a dangerous part of the city alone…
• Prov. 28:14 – don’t be afraid to be afraid! Happy is the man who has a balanced, healthy sense of fear!

6. As a result of his fear of evil… he will depart from evil.

a. The wise man is cautious. He thinks ahead—about what might happen… he thinks about the results… he thinks about what is being proposed… and weighs it carefully.

b. Cf. Prov.14:15 – he doesn’t believe every word. He stops to THINK about the words… and looks WELL to his going. He doesn’t want to get hurt… or to fall. He’s wise!

c. When he sees danger ahead—he heads in the opposite direction.

d. When he sees the potential for a calamity—he runs.

e. When he thinks about all the evil… the bad things that could result from certain behaviors—he chooses to DEPART.

f. This is the way of the wise man… the way of wisdom.

But the fool rageth, and is confident.

1. But then there is the fool…

a. The second part of this proverb assumes that the fool faces the same kind of evil…

b. The fool also faces that which is ethically evil…

c. And he faces other forms of evil… calamity… danger… the potential for trouble… injury…

d. But the fool has a very different response… a different reaction to evil.

2. The wise man sees it, fears, and departs… like Joseph running away from Potiphar’s wife. But the fool is not afraid. He has a different approach to evil.

3. The fool RAGETH…

a. The term: to pass over or by or through, to cross over; to transgress…

b. When the wise man comes to the edge… they look and fear and depart from evil.

c. Not so with the fool. He plunges forward… he’s not afraid to cross the line… to go over the edge… to transgress.

d. This is exactly what the English poet of the early 1700’s, Alexander Pope spoke of when he wrote: “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” This famous line was in a sense lifted from Proverbs 14:16!

4. The fool is CONFIDENT…

a. The term: to feel safe and secure; self confidence; be careless. (the opposite of fear…)

b. The fool does NOT have a healthy sense of fear.

c. Many young people glory in having NO FEAR!

d. They think they can do anything… and get away with it… walk away unharmed… unscathed…

e. This is perhaps best seen in the extreme sports that are so popular today.

f. They have no fear—of skiing off a cliff… or doing flips in a motorcycle… or riding a skateboard off a barn roof… or diving off a cliff…

g. It’s one thing to be courageous and adventurous. It’s altogether another thing to be reckless, and foolhardy.

h. Those extreme sports shows on TV display the fun side of it… but they never show you the head trauma hospital where some of those folks will be spending the rest of their lives… they don’t show you the guy who flipped his bike and is now in a wheelchair the rest of his life…

i. And on and on goes this self confidence…

5. Solomon’s point: the fool does NOT fear evil.

a. He rages: he isn’t afraid to cross the line;

b. He is self confident: nothing will happen to me.

c. Prov. 22:3 – the simple—the fool heads straight for the danger… confident that nothing will happen to him… but something DOES happen to him!

d. He is a FOOL for NOT fearing evil.

e. His lack of fear is not manliness or a macho spirit; it is stupidity! It is reckless, proud, conceited, arrogant, childish folly… and he refuses to be reproved or corrected.

6. Consider the wording in a few other translations of this passage:

a. (BBE) The wise man, fearing, keeps himself from evil; but the foolish man goes on in his pride, with no thought of danger.

b. (RSV) A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool throws off restraint and is careless.

c. (WEB) A wise man fears, and shuns evil, but the fool is hotheaded and reckless.

7. This is often how young people think…

a. I will live forever!

b. Old people worry about such things, but I don’t!

c. I don’t care about what might happen to me tomorrow; I’m just going to have fun today!

d. I am invincible!

e. I can handle this. It won’t hurt me.

f. I’m too smart to get stung… or to get caught.

g. Who cares? Life’s a beach! Whatever!

h. Nobody’s going to tell me what to do!

i. I’m no child! I’m a big shot and I’m fearless.

j. And they plunge head first into the unknown waters… only to hit a rock and break their neck… and end up in a wheelchair the rest of their lives…

k. And then they have to rely on someone else to feed them… and comb their hair… and change their clothes… and wash them…

l. And while they THOUGHT they were no child… they end up being treated like a child because they cannot take care of themselves.

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