Proverbs 26:5

5 1Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be 2wise in his own eyes.

Proverbs 26:5 Meaning and Commentary

Proverbs 26:5

Answer a fool according to his folly
The Targum is,

``but speak with a fool in thy wisdom;''
and the Syriac version,
``yea, speak with a fool according to thy wisdom;''
which would at once remove the seeming contradiction in these words to the former, but then they are not a true version; indeed it is right, and must be the sense, that when a fool is answered, as it is sometimes necessary he should, that it be done in wisdom, and so as to expose his folly; he is to be answered and not answered according to different times, places, and circumstances, and manner of answering; he is to be answered when there is any hope of doing him good, or of doing good to others; or of preventing ill impressions being made upon others by what he has said; when the glory of God, the good of the church, and the cause of truth, require it; and when he would otherwise glory and triumph, as if his words or works were unanswerable, as follow; lest he be wise in his own conceit;
which fools are apt to be, and the rather when no answer is given them; imagining it arises from the strength of their arguments, and their nervous way of reasoning, when it is rather from a neglect and contempt of them.

Proverbs 26:5 In-Context

3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools.
4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.
6 Whoever sends a message by the hand of a fool cuts off his own feet and drinks violence.
7 Like a lame man's legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools.

Cross References 2

  • 1. See Matthew 16:1-4; Matthew 21:24-27
  • 2. Proverbs 28:11; [Romans 12:16]