Honor is not fitting in a fool - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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Biblical Wisdom
October 2, 2017

Honor is not fitting in a fool

Proverbs 26:1 – “As snow in summer and rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting in a fool.”

by Dr. Bill Edgar, Geneva College Board of Trustees Member, Former Geneva College President and longtime pastor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPNCA)

The honored fool in this proverb is an unshakably self-confident person who cannot be taught and rejects good advice. Crowds (and voters) may follow such demagogues, swallowing boastful claims of uninterrupted personal success and impossible promises, but the honor they bestow on such fools is badly out of place, like snow in summer and rain in harvest. 

To Americans, rain in harvest does not seem parallel to snow in summer. It often rains during harvest in North America, but in Israel rain never fell during June’s wheat harvest. Rain then was as unthinkable to them as snow in June is to us (see I Samuel 12:17-18). When it does snow in America in June, as happened in Albany, New York on June 6, 1816, the “year without a summer” caused by the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia, it causes agricultural disaster. Like a green plaid jacket worn over a purple shirt with blue polka dots and an orange tie with pink stripes, honor to a fool should be met with, “Please, no! Don’t do that.”

Yet the world repeatedly honors boastful fools. Huge crowds shout their adulation of North Korea’s dictator, The Brilliant Comrade. Germans shouted “Heil Hitler” to their Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler. Americans too can flock to a fool’s banner. The wise know such honor is, in an understatement, “unfitting.”

David’s son Absalom, a crafty schemer, was actually no more than a self-confident fool. He killed half-brother Amnon in a revenge murder, wormed his way back into his father’s favor, hired publicists to praise him throughout Israel, became popular by promising “justice” to everyone, and then took his father David’s throne in a coup d’etat, punctuated by having sex with his father’s concubines on the palace roof. But Absalom was a fool, and honor did not befit him. Wise Ahithophel told him how to complete the coup with quick success, but David’s friend Hushai defeated Ahithophel’s good advice by appealing to Absalom’s grandiosity, giving him precisely wrong advice: gather a huge army and lead it yourself in glorious battle against your father. Ahithophel saw the defeat that was coming and killed himself. Joab killed Absalom in battle (see II Samuel 16-19). Only then did Israel realize its mistake in honoring a fool, like Germans after following Hitler to defeat in World War II.

Snow is a good thing, but not in July. Rain is good, but not at harvest time. Honor is good, but not when given to a boastful fool. The best thing to say about such a person is, “The emperor has no clothes.” When in public life, and also in private affairs, fools receive honor, the wise person knows the honor is out of place and will have none of it.