Proverbs 17:12

Meeting a Fool

12a Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than a fool in his folly

Meeting up with a bear robbed of her whelps

a. Approach, i.e., make linear movement which then draws near and encounters another object, implying an immediate interaction.

b. It means to encounter, to come in contact with, to come face to face.

2. Solomon first speaks about the possibility of coming face to face with an angry bear robbed of her cubs.

a. Hosea 13:8 – this passage speaks of the great DANGER and damage that can be done by a bear robbed of her whelps.

b. A bear robbed of her whelps is used several times in the Old Testament to describe a potentially dangerous and explosive situation.

c. This is obviously Solomon’s point in Proverbs too: the great danger and threat that it is.

3. I have seen bears from a distance in the wild… but I have never personally encountered a bear face to face.

a. I researched several sources on bears and encounters with bears… to get a better idea of the situation Solomon described.

b. I discovered that as dangerous and threatening as a face-to-face encounter with an angry bear is… there ARE ways to diminish the danger of that situation with a bear.

4. The dangers of an encounter with angry bears.

a. Actually, the situation Solomon described is rare.

b. Bears are not usually a threat to men.

c. One hiking source said the following about the danger: “The reality is, you have a much greater chance of being flattened by a semi on the way to the trailhead than you do having a problem with a bear once you’re on the trail. But, unlike the runaway semi, the bear danger is mostly controllable with education and common sense, so you have a responsibility to take sensible precautions and know how to respond to the danger if encountered.

d. Consider the advice given to those who encounter a bear protecting her whelps:
→ Avoid direct eye contact as bears may perceive this as a threat.
→ Don’t make any sudden movements, throw anything, or yell.
→ If necessary, back away slowly to give the bear plenty of room to escape— including the right-of-way on the trail.
→ Bluff charges: stand tall and they usually retreat!

e. If you follow those simple rules, you normally will avoid being mauled by the bear.

f. What should I do if I find myself around a mother bear with cubs? (NH Fish and Game)
• Mother bears are rarely aggressive toward humans, but they are protective of their cubs.
• A mother bear will usually give many warning signs (huffing or popping sounds, swatting the ground or even bluff charges) to let you know that you are too close.
• Move away as described above… and even a bear protecting her cubs will not do you any harm.
• Female Brown Bears though will fiercely protect the cubs even if it means her own life.
• But a bear robbed of her cubs is LOOKING for her cubs. She doesn’t want you.
• Though rare, the most common type of bear attack is generally the result of a surprise encounter and almost always with a mother and her cubs. In nearly every mauling that has occurred in the past during a surprise encounter, once the hiker quit fighting and laid quiet, the sow has grabbed her cubs and run or walked away.

g. That’s exactly what Solomon is telling us when encountering a fool! (The danger is mostly controllable with education and common sense. Solomon is giving us some common sense advice here!)

h. Then it is up to us to take sensible precautions and to know how to respond if encountered by a fool!

5. Thus, there IS a way to escape.

a. There are warning signs.

b. There are procedures to follow that usually result in your safety.

c. The danger is usually controllable with education and common sense.

d. And if you know how to respond, you’ll be fine.

e. So, while it IS a potentially dangerous situation, there are ways of dealing with that danger.

f. Bears have been studied, and there is a rationale behind their behavior.

12b A fool in his folly…

1. Fool – Strong’s = fool; stupid fellow; dullard; simpleton; arrogant one; the state of being in complete lack of understanding, implying rebellion.

2. Folly – (different term from fool – synonym) – sometimes translated “scoffer or scoffing”) – a state of being devoid of wisdom and understanding, with a focus on the evil behaviors…


a. This is another one of Solomon’s “better than” proverbs.

b. A is better than B.

c. This implies that you are better off (A) being confronted by an angry bear THAN you are (B) being confronted by a fool in his folly.

d. One is better than the other. If you ever have a choice—choose the bear!

e. The fool is WORSE than a savage beast in its most aggressive moment!

4. As we saw in Hosea 13:8 – there is a great DANGER and much damage that can be done by a bear robbed of her whelps.

a. Prov. 27:3 – his wrath is weighty! Don’t stir him up.

b. As dangerous as an angry bear is, meeting up with a fool is MORE dangerous. His wrath is WORSE!
• Consider the folly of Herod killing ALL the babies 2 and under to get to Christ!
• Consider the folly of Saul killing all the innocent priests because he was angry with one.
• Saddam Hussein gassing an entire city because someone there attempted to assassinate him.

c. The fool behaves less rationally than does a bear. That’s the point of the proverb.

d. There is a rationale behind bear behavior.

e. Solomon warns us that that kind of rationale does not always exist with fools.

f. You’re better off meeting up with a wild animal than a fool in his folly!

g. You can predict how a bear will react. A fool—well, who knows what he’ll do! Stay away!

h. A fool in his folly is dangerous and unpredictable!

5. HOW can a fool be MORE dangerous?

a. Lots of ways!
• Try putting a knife in his hand.
• Put him behind the wheel of a car with a carload of foolish teens.
• Put a pair of skis under him.
• Think of this fool full of a fifth of Jack Daniels
• Think of this fool on crack cocaine
• Think of this fool with a gun in his hand.
• Even a bicycle! (Look ma, no hands!)
• That’s a fool engaged in his folly!
• This is comparable in the analogy to a bear ROBBED of her whelps.
» A bear is not normally all that dangerous.
» But while engaged in looking for her cubs, she is!
» That’s the WORST time to meet a bear.
» A fool may not normally be all that dangerous—except when engaged in his folly. (beer; car; gun)
» We can’t always AVOID being in the presence of foolish people. They are everywhere!
» However, a fool IN their folly – a fool engaged in his folly should be avoided like the plague!

b. Cars and bikes aren’t dangerous all by themselves. Neither are guns or knives.

c. But when in the hands of a fool they BECOME exceedingly dangerous.

d. Fools engaged in their folly are dangerous.

e. That’s why many of them find themselves locked up in prison—because they are a danger to society.

f. Like an angry bear, a fool is a danger to anyone who happens to be unfortunate enough to find himself in the presence of that fool.

g. Treat him like an angry bear.
• Prov. 26:4 – sometimes the best thing to do is to be quiet. Answer him not… lest he draw you into his outrageous folly.
• Get out of his way…
• Don’t yell or throw things…
• Don’t corner him… step back quietly and give him space to leave…
• You can’t argue or reason with an irrational person.

h. Prov. 22:24 – keep your distance—don’t make friends with this kind of person.
• Avoid fools in their folly whenever possible!
• Forsake the foolish, and live (Prov. 9:6) [back away quietly].

i. Prov. 13:20 – fools are destroyed by their folly and so are their companions.
• Don’t be their companion. Stay away.
• It is dangerous to remain in the presence of fools… especially as they practice their folly.