"Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly"
This is one of the most revoltingly powerful images in Scripture: a dog lapping up its own vomit.
is a fool who repeats his folly
The idea of a fool being like a dog in that it has no sense of propriety and morality is a fascinating comparison. The dog also has a life in the moment impulsiveness that is true of the fool. The fool is the person who is morally devoid of good choices. They repeat the same selfish choices over and over again because it was fun or enjoyable at the time.
Unfortunately, this is the type of behavior we see in this culture all the time. People make a mess of their lives by committing adultery or doing drugs or lying. And what do they do to ease the pain and change their life? More of the same. They return to the same vomit that got them into trouble.
What are the kinds of folly that we see people in our culture returning to as though it were a new discovery: lying, stealing, adultery, coveting, violence, rebellion, swearing, debt, witchcraft, false religion, upside-down priorities, valuing work more than family and God, a higher focus on hobbies than children or spouse, spending money they don't have on cars, clothes, stuff.
One of the key words is the word repeats. It is the Hebrew word shanah. In the English translation is the idea that the fool makes a choice to repeat the behavior, but there is no such choice inherent in the verse. It is a mere statement of fact. A fool does this like a dog returns to vomit. In fact, one can pick out a confirmed fool by the repetition of the same forms of foolishness. This is called a self-destructive cycle in our day. Interestingly, the choice is not in returning to the same folly; it is in being a fool. There is a need to repent of being self-centered, impulsive, and rebellious. When one changes one's mind about what the world revolves around, then the morally stupid choices of the past will not make sense any more. If you are in a self-destructive cycle and keep making the same bad decisions that end you up in addiction, loneliness, suicidal depression, broken marriages, mounds of debt, do not start with trying to fix the surface problem. Fix the self-fixation in your heart. Change your mind about what the world revolves around. It is not you. It is God and His glory. Your action should be to cry out for forgiveness and see how you can fit into His world instead of asking Him to do you a favor in your world.
Righteousness is, to many in our culture, a restrictive box that just doesn't sound right. We are quickly approaching Hosea's day when He was the righteous prophet and yet the whole country tagged him as the fool (Hosea 9:7). When Christians and righteous preachers are thought to be fools because they declare the standards of God's righteousness, then the country is in trouble.