Should we answer a fool by his folly, or not?
ESV - 4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.
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Pro 26:4 “answer not a fool according to his folly”, lest thou also be like unto him. Pro 26:5 “answer a fool according to his folly”, lest he be wise in his own conceit. Do you answer a fool or don’t you? Yes and No Why? The one fool is a deliberate fool, if you try to answer him you going to become like him. The second one is a sincere fool. He really think what he believes is true. Him you must help. If you don’t answer him, he will think he is correct in his understanding. Someone told me some time ago “don’t argue with a deliberate fool because he will pull you down to his level and beat you with experience” Shalom
In Britain we have proverbs: We will say "many hands make light work" and in another context "too many cooks spoil the broth". Neither statement has anything to do with their subject matter. Solomon collected these many proverbs, and they are relevant as they are applied to any given situation. Prov 26:4 - is in reference to trying to answer a fool seriously - as if his foolishness has value. Prov 26:5 is in reference to (if you like) answering a fools question in a foolish way! Then you highlight the folly of the situation.
These verses do not contradict each other, they tell the same story from 2 different vantage points, like 2 sides of a coin. The issue raised by this proverb is this: What happens when we answer a fool according to his folly? What happens to us who are giving the answer? We become like the fool! What happens to the fool who hears our answer? He becomes wise in his own eyes.
This would be opposing in the event that it were not qualified by the coinciding phrases. We should answer a blockhead as per his imprudence if not doing so will leave him "insightful in his own eyes" (Proverbs 26:5). Yet, we ought not answer him as indicated by his imprudence if in this manner we will "likewise resemble him." as such, it relies upon the conditions. At times we ought to and in some cases we ought not answer a bonehead. The insightful man will know the distinction. What's more, on the off chance that one needs astuteness, let him ask of God (James 1:5).
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