Proverbs 26:4-5

Should one answer a “fool” according to his foolishness or not? Some skeptics have claimed these back-to-back verses are a contradiction, but this cannot be true. It is important to determine what type of literature is being considered in order to make an accurate interpretation of any passage. The book of Proverbs, which is part of the wisdom literature, includes statements that are generally true or false. These sayings are meant to be interpreted as guidance statements. Indeed, as verse 5 points out, there are some occasions when fools need to receive a dose of their own medicine so they might see how ridiculous they are acting. There are other occasions when silence is recommended. As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3, there are times and places for everything. For those hoping to apply wisdom, the way to properly answer the fool must be carefully considered.