Proverbs 27:22

The Fool who Will Not Learn

Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.


1. The book of Proverbs has had a lot to say about “fools” so far in this book.

2. Many proverbs simply describe what they are like.

3. Other proverbs rebuke them.

4. Some proverbs exhort them to change their behavior.

5. Many proverbs compare and contrast them to wise men.

6. Other proverbs state how a fool can become wise.

7. Other proverbs list their foolish behavior.

8. Many proverbs speak about the consequences of their folly.

9. But this proverb is a little different: it informs us that there are some fools who are incorrigible. They will never change. They are hardened in their folly and nothing will drive it from them.

The Illustration: Mortar and a Pestle

1. A mortar and pestle is a tool used to crush, grind, and mix various substances.

a. The pestle is a bat shaped blunt object

b. The mortar is a small bowl usually made of hard wood, ceramic, or stone.

c. A substance is placed in the mortar (bowl) and the pestle (small bat) is used to crush and grind it to powder.

2. Usage:

a. Num. 11:8 – Here we see that a mortar was used by the Israelites in preparing the manna from heaven for baking – turning the manna in flour for baking.

b. They were used in grinding plants for the spices they contain.

c. They were used in pharmacies to crush ingredients in preparing a medication. They are still used in crushing pills today. It has become an iconic symbol of a pharmacy today.

d. Regardless of the specific ingredients placed in the mortar, the purpose was always the same: to grind and crush whatever was placed in the mortar, and to reduce it to powder.

e. The specific substance in the mortar in our proverb is WHEAT. It was used to grind grains of wheat into flour for baking bread.

The Application to the Fool

1. But there is also another substance in the mortar in our proverb: the fool!

a. Solomon pictures a mortar that has been filled with grains of wheat AND a fool.

b. They were placed in the mortar in order to be pounded and ground to powder.

c. The hard grains of wheat are ground into fine flour – something useful.

d. The mortar and pestle always work on wheat.

2. However, this proverb implies that it does NOT work on the fool!

a. Even though the pounding of the pestle crushes the hard grains of wheat, it is not able to crush and grind the hard hearted fool.

b. The fool is “brayed” in the mortar: old word that means to beat; to bruise; to pound; to strike violently; to crush; etc.

c. This fool is too hard hearted. The pounding does not grind him to powder. He is too settled in his folly to have it ground out of him.

3. Obviously, the concept of pounding a fool in a mortar and pestle like a piece of grain is a figure of speech.

a. The grinding of the fool in the mortar by the pestle is an illustration of the PAIN inflicted on the fool for the purpose of changing him for the good.

b. Hard grains of wheat are crushed to make them useful for baking bread and cakes. The process is effective and beneficial.

4. The book of Proverbs gives many examples of “beneficial pain” inflicted upon the fool which is designed for his good.

a. Prov. 22:15 – “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
• The purpose of chastening a child is that they might submit to the correction, be softened, and receive the correction to their own benefit.
• Folly is a part of a young child. It is bound in their heart.
• The purpose of the “rod of correction” (like a pestle and mortar) is to drive the folly OUT of the child.
• That is the norm. Normally, chastening works.

b. Prov. 19:18 – “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”
• The chastening needs to be conducted when the child is young—while there is still hope of driving the folly out.
• If you wait too long, the child may harden his heart in his folly… and it may never come out.
• The point: If you wait too long, the child may become so hardened that he no longer responds to correction—even if he was ground in a mortar with a pestle.
• Think of the danger for generations of Americans if spanking became illegal nationally and it was enforced!

c. Prov. 15:5 – a father gives his son instruction, which may be painful to hear, but he does so for the good of his son.
• However, the foolish son pays no attention.
• He is not beneficially affected by the wise instruction.
• Some fools become hardened in their folly and just will not hear, no matter how logical and persuasive the argument.

d. Prov. 13:19 – it is an abomination for fools to depart from evil.
• They won’t leave it no matter how painful it is to embrace it!
• Think of drug addicts and alcoholics; others who engage in harmful behavior.
• Prov. 26:11 – like a dog returning to his vomit, so fools return to their folly. No matter how painful or disgusting, they keep on going back to their folly.
• Their hearts are hardened in it.
• Prov. 19:29 – “Stripes for the backs of fools” – but sometimes even a whipping is not effective. He maintains his folly and hard heart. He wasn’t reached early enough… or consistently enough.

e. Prov. 1:30 – Some fools reject counsel and reproof.
• It is often painful to hear counsel and reproof—especially when it points out our failures and areas that need to change. Some fools reject all such reproof.
• They refused the mortar & pestle of reproof.

f. Heb. 12:5 – God chastens us and rebukes us (pain inflicted). Some believers despise the chastening and refuse to be changed by it… no matter how hard they are ground in the mortar with the pestle.
• In some cases, God has no alternative but to take their lives.
• Heb. 12:9 – Here the exhortation is not to harden one’s heart when chastened so that you refuse to be crushed; but SUBMIT to it – allow the chastening to do its good work in us: grinding us to powder… bringing us into full submission of our Father.

g. Prov. 29:1 – “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”
• Reproof—even being reproved often—doesn’t always work.
• Some fools instead of being softened by the reproof, (ground to powder) actually harden their hearts.
• The result is destruction.

5. Our proverb is a sad fact of life: “Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.”