Proverbs 17:21, 25

Grieving Parents


1. These two passages describe for us grieving parents, and they explain the REASON for their grief: a foolish child.

2. These are extremely SAD verses. There isn’t anything positive said in either proverb.

3. Four sad statements are made. Three relate to the father and one to the mother.


21a He that begeteth a fool doeth it to his sorrow:

1. The first word for Fool: kes·eel

a. This term is also used in verse 25… but is different from the term used in the second part of this proverb.

b. Strong’s; stupid fellow; dullard; simpleton; arrogant one.

c. dull and thickheaded

d. Dict. of Bib. Lang.: the state of being in complete lack of understanding, implying rebellion.

e. Zodhiates: usually unable to deal with life in a successful, practical way.

f. Theol. Wordbook of the Old Testament: The term refers not to mental deficiency, but to a propensity to make wrong choices.
• Fools don’t LIKE understanding. They have no interest or heart for it. (Prov. 18:2)
• His folly or mischief is a game to him. (Prov. 10:23)
• Fools do not understand issues (Ps. 92:6)
• Fools live in a fog of darkness (Ecc. 2:14)

2. The father who begets a foolish son does so to his OWN sorrow.

a. The fool lives a life of sorrow that he brings on himself.

b. Here Solomon notes that he also brings sorrow into the life of his father…

c. As the son bumbles through life, making one poor choice after another, it brings sorrow to the son… but also to the father.

d. And this sorrow doesn’t go away when they move out on their own. A father will always be a father to his son… throughout his adult life too.

e. Sorrow defined:
• grief, heaviness, sorrow, anguish
• The emotion and process of feeling a great loss and loneliness.
• a mental troubling resulting from affliction

3. MANY godly fathers have endured this kind of sorrow from their foolish sons.

a. Gen. 26:34-35 – Esau’s poor choices were a grief to his parents the rest of their lives!

b. I Sam. 2:32-35 – Eli

c. I Sam. 8:3 – Samuel

d. II Sam. 18:33 – David

4. Usage of the term “sorrow”

a. Lam 3:32–33 – it was used to describe the grief of the Jews during the destruction of Jerusalem.
• God reminds them that the ANSWER to their grief and sorrow is to found in the faithfulness and mercy of God!
• Your son may be unfaithful to you or to the truth that you taught him.
• But your heavenly Father is faithful to you.
• And God doesn’t afflict or cause grief willingly.
• Such suffering and sorrow is the result of life in a cursed earth… not God’s will… not the desire of His heart!

b. Psalm 119:28 – another usage of the term speaks of heaviness of heart that weighs us down and “melts our souls.”
• The answer to that is found in the strength God gives in the Word.
• He builds up and restores our melted soul through the ministry of the Word.

c. If you have a foolish child—one who seems to continually make poor choices, then there is an ANSWER to the sorrow that results: know who God is… knowing His faithfulness… His mercy… and allowing His WORD to restore your heavy soul and lift you up!

21b And the father of a fool hath no joy.

1. The second term for fool (nabal)

a. Fool defined
• Senseless person
• Pertaining to lacking understanding or even the capacity for understanding, implying a willful moral insolence and impudence and disobedience to the law of God.
• Insensibility to God, as well as a moral insensibility.
• This kind of fool says “there is no god.”
• This kind of fool reproaches the name of God.
• Nabal = the name of the husband of Abigail who was rightly named. He was a “nabal”—a fool. He would not listen…
• It is unclear what distinction Solomon intended by using two different terms for fool. They may have been chosen simply to avoid redundancy.

2. The father of a foolish son… a senseless, disobedient son who lacks understanding… has NO JOY.

a. This part of the proverb says virtually the same thing as the first part…

b. It is added to reinforce the statement… stating it in the negative.

c. He has sorrow and NO JOY.

3. Of course, this doesn’t mean that he has no joy in his life at all.

a. It means that he derives no joy from the condition of his son.

b. Every time he thinks of his son, there is no joy: his joy dries up… and sorrow enters his heart.

c. What other emotion COULD you have for such a child?

d. There is nothing happy or joyous about a child who ruins his life… and stumbles through life making poor choices and suffering from those poor choices.

4. That parent has sorrow and no joy.

a. It is almost like grieving for a dead person.

b. His life is gone… ruined. Hopes of a productive life are over for him.

c. That brings grief… not unlike the grief brought on by death.

d. Only this child is still alive…

5. That father will not find his source of joy in his son.

a. But he can and SHOULD find his source of joy in the LORD!

b. Hab. 3:18 – Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

c. Actually, the Lord is to be the source of our joy no matter HOW your kids turn out.

d. Our children are NOT our true source of Joy… they ought not to be our god… our center of attention…

e. When the Lord is the source of our true joy, the Source never changes… our joy will remain… and no man can take our joy from us… not even a wayward child.

25a A foolish son is a grief to his father.

1. This word “foolish” is the same root as fool in vs. 21a. (kes·eel) [dull and thickheaded; unable to deal with life successfully]

2. Here Solomon states that this kind of a son (or daughter by the way!) is a GRIEF to his father.

3. Grief:

a. Strong’s: vexation, grief, frustration, provocation… even to anger…

b. Dict. of Bib. Lang.: the feeling of anxiety and sadness in a distressing situation.

c. Theol. Dict. of the Old Testament: Vex, agitate, stir up, or provoke the heart to a heated condition.

4. A foolish child causes his father grief… vexation of soul… distress… and sadness.

a. This is the sort of condition that keeps a man up at night…

b. This term implies how upsetting it is to the parent… vexing… troubling… distressing…

c. Prov. 19:13 – A foolish son is the calamity of his father: (calamity = engulfing ruin, destruction.)

d. How could a wayward child cause such grief and heartache? It is because of LOVE.

25b And bitterness to her that bear him.

A foolish son is bitterness to his mother.

1. The mother is also deeply affected by a wayward son.

a. Bitterness:
• The Hebrews expressed tragic, unpleasant experiences in terms of the sense of taste, the bitter.
• Dict. of Bibl. Lang.: bitterness, grief, i.e., a mental state of personal anguish or regret, implying annoyance toward someone.
• Zodhiates: harsh; the opposite of pleasantness.

b. Such a son is a bitter pill for the mother to swallow too.

c. Prov.10:1 – it is “heaviness” for the mother.


1. To older parents with a wayward son:

a. Be sure you make the LORD your source of joy. He never changes… and no one can take that joy—TRUE joy from you… not even the ongoing foolish antics of a foolish son.

2. To younger parents bringing up their children:

a. BEWARE! This could happen to you!

b. Make sure that your children do not become fools because of negligence on YOUR part.

c. There’s no guarantee how they will turn out… but if they go astray, be sure that it’s not your fault!

d. Do whatever it takes to PREVENT this from happening to them!

e. Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Pray for them daily… hourly…

f. And start now learning this important lesson: no matter how they turn out, the LORD is the Source of our joy…

g. Don’t let your children become your god.

h. Christ is to have all the preeminence, not your kids.

3. To children:

a. Maybe you are presently sitting on the fence: teetering back and forth… debating about which way to go…

b. Debating between whether you should follow the advice of your parents and being a wise son… OR forsaking your training and living for yourself… and doing your own thing… and not listening to authority… and ending up as a fool.

c. Make good decisions NOW before your heart gets hardened into folly.

d. Remember, that the life of a fool is no fun. It brings great sorrow to YOU for the rest of your days. There are consequences to folly.

e. And think of others too… your folly can cause unending grief and sorrow for your parents too.

f. If you’re not saved, get saved! That’s the first step to wisdom.

g. If you are saved and not walking with the Lord, then repent… and get right.

h. Don’t ruin your life… and the lives of those around you!