This wise saying is virtually identical to 22:3, contrasting the actions of the “the prudent” and “the simple.”
While we regularly use “prudent” almost synonymously with “wise,” The term translated “prudent” here doesn’t necessarily have such a positive connotation – it’s the same word used for the serpent in Genesis 3:1. I’d like to suggest different modern English translation – “street-smart.”
So the “prudent/street-smart see danger and take refuge.” We use a number of phrases for this person today — they can see the lay of the land, they’ve been around the block a few times and this isn’t his or her first rodeo!
They may or may not be a spiritual person, but they are aware of what’s going on around them and make choices accordingly.
“But the simple keep going and pay the penalty.” The term translated “simple” is not someone mentally deficient – just immature and naive. In fact, the root of the word means “wide open” or “spacious” – this person has neither a history of good judgment nor a code to follow.
Not knowing any better, he or she also sees the danger but “keep going and pay the penalty.” When we’re young, others are supposed to teach us about such things and we’re supposed to develop a mental data base of information we can call on for help in future difficult situations.
Sadly the simple are old enough to know better – but don’t do better. In recovery there’s a couple modern phrases we use to describe this kind of thinking…
The definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.
If nothing changes – nothing changes!