Help Again

4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.
Proverbs 26:4 & 5 NIV

Observation: King Solomon, in all of his wisdom, has written what I believe to be completely opposite statements of fact.  I’m confused!

Application: Vincent, I’m sure there is a perfectly logical explanation and I hope that you can explain. Obviously, if anyone else can shed some light I’d appreciate any enlightenment I can get. I really don’t understand how Solomon can not only author both proverbs but apparently do it in such a way that they must be chronicled back-to-back in this book.  Thanks in advance to any and all comments.

Prayer: Father, I don’t know what to say. You are so mysterious sometimes. I really can’t wait to be able to ask you some questions some day. Until then, thank you for your word that sometimes makes us ask each other for help which causes us to grow. Thank you Lord. Amen


P.S. Please take a minute to read the comments section for this blog entry and also follow the link provided by Vincent Murphy in his comment which expounds on his and Pastor Leon’s explanations.  It’s good stuff!

5 Replies to “Help Again”

  1. 4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.
    5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.
    Proverbs 26:4 & 5 NIV

    Verse 4 tells us that if we respond to a fool according to his folly, we are stooping to his level. The emphasis on what is happening to me. (A stupid answer to a stupid question shows that one giving the answer is just as stupid as the one asking the question. –note: press conferences with the government spokespersons!)

    Verse 5 tells me that if I respond to a fool in like manner, I am like a mirror reflecting his foolishness back to him. If I answer him wisely, he will think that he was wise. If I answer him in foolishness he should be able to see his foolishness in my response. (Sometimes a stupid question needs a stupid answer to show how stupid the question was!)

    Verse 4 is emphasizing what happens to me and verse 5 emphasizes what happens to him.

    At least this is the way I see it! 🙂

  2. Hi Doug;

    I think that what Pastor Leon wrote summed it up really well, according to my limited understanding of the text. What I think we have here is not a contradiction of the text, but a contradiction between what the best choice of action is. This is common in the book of Proverbs – there are many places where the arguments on both sides are given separately. I think it is probably important here to remember what kind of a book Proverbs is; and that whilst it is inspired by God just as all scripture, it is not a book of law laying out commands for man to keep.

    The two proverbs illustrate the two sides of the coin, and so being well informed of the consequences of each choice, it is for you to decide what to do. Do you answer him, risking becoming like him yourself, or do you not answer him, risking him growing in his own conceit? If you had just one proverb, then you would make up your mind based on that alone and possibly make a poor choice.

    The Rev Hewlett has an excellent discussion on this in his excellent work ‘Bible Difficulties Explained’. Luckily Google has put it online – so you can find it here:

    May the Lord be with you and Laurie;


  3. I knew that I could get some great guidance if I just asked for it. Thank you Vincent, I appreciate it and I will read what the Reverend Hewlett has to say. Thank you again.


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