Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).
1. What does Proverbs 14:8 (printed below) tell us about the prudent man in contrast to the fool?
The wisdom of the prudent is to thoughtfully consider his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving. (Proverbs 14:8)
What makes the prudent man wise is the fact that he “thoughtfully considers his way.” That is to say, he seeks to understand who he is, where he is going, what he is doing. The prudent man has a moral standard and compass; he has moral and spiritual direction and discernment, and he stays on course. All this is in contrast to the fool: the fool practices “folly” (impiety), without comprehending how destructive it is; he is self-deceived.
2. What characteristic of the prudent man is being described in Proverbs 13:16 (printed below?)
Every prudent man works with knowledge, but a fool flaunts folly. (Proverbs 13:16)
A prudent man “works with knowledge,” as opposed to working against knowledge or without knowledge. The prudent man ascertains the facts, he accumulates the necessary data, then he proceeds, and as he proceeds he is always ready and alert to absorb more knowledge and a greater depth of knowledge. This is all in contrast to a fool who flaunts his folly. A fool unwittingly puts his foolishness on public display by the way he acts: he operates without knowledge or in defiance of the truth, and the ridiculous or tragic consequences identify him as a fool (note Luke 14:28-30).
3. What does Proverbs 12:23 (printed below) tell us about the prudent man? How would you explain this attribute?
A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims foolishness. (Proverbs 12:23)
A prudent man sees more than he says—a prudent man is quick to take in knowledge, but he is not so quick to proclaim all that he knows. This is not a matter of deceit, but a matter of discretion, note Ecclesiastes 3:7, “there is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” One characteristic of prudence is discretion and the ability to practice self-control, especially over one’s speech.
4. What else do we learn about a prudent man from Proverbs 22:3 (printed below?)
A prudent man sees the evil and hides himself; but the naïve keep right on going and suffer for it. (Proverbs 22:3)
A prudent man, because of his respect for godly knowledge and his receptivity to such knowledge, is able to “see the evil.” He has foresight: based upon the commandments of God and a knowledge of his own heart, he can recognize a dangerous situation of temptation at a distance before he runs headlong into it. Upon seeing the evil, the prudent man “hides himself.” He acts upon his knowledge by avoiding the danger zone and taking a detour around it—not to do so would make him a fool, recognizing danger to his soul and heedlessly walking right into it.
5. How does Proverbs 15:5 (printed below) describe a prudent man in contrast to a fool?
A fool despises his father’s discipline, but whoever heeds rebuke shows prudence. (Proverbs 15:5)
“Discipline” involves every part of the training of one’s life; including correction, chastening, and instruction. A fool “despises” all such discipline, refusing to accept it, rebelling against it, walking away from it. But the man who “heeds rebuke” (i.e., pays attention to it, appreciating the father’s motivation of love and concern and his intention of directing his son in the way of life) “shows prudence.” The man who regards rebuke is demonstrating prudence and developing the valuable attribute of prudence (note Hebrews 12:11).