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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Proverbs 26:4

 

 

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Answer not a fool - On this and the following verse Bishop Warburton, who has written well on many things, and very indifferently on the doctrine of grace, has written with force and perspicuity: "Had this advice been given simply, and without circumstance, to answer the fool, and not to answer him, one who had reverence for the text would satisfy himself in supposing that the different directions referred to the doing a thing in and out of season;

  1. The reasons given why a fool should not be answered according to his folly, is, "lest he (the answerer) should be like unto him."
  • The reason given why the fool should be answered according to his folly, is, "lest he (the fool) should be wise in his own conceit."
  • "The cause assigned for forbidding to answer, therefore, plainly insinuates that the defender of religion should not imitate the insulter of it in his modes of disputation, which may be comprised in sophistry, buffoonery, and scurrility.
  • 2. "The cause assigned for directing to answer, as plainly intimates that the sage should address himself to confute the fool upon his own false principles, by showing that they lead to conclusions very wide from, very opposite to, those impieties he would deduce from them. If any thing can allay the fool's vanity, and prevent his being wise in his own conceit, it must be the dishonor of having his own principles turned against himself, and shown to be destructive of his own conclusions." - Treatise on Grace. Preface.


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    Bibliography
    Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Proverbs 26:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/proverbs-26.html. 1832.

    John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

    Answer not a fool according to his folly,.... Sometimes a fool, or wicked man, is not to be answered at all; as the ministers of Hezekiah answered not a word to Rabshakeh; nor Jeremiah the prophet to Hananiah; nor Christ to the Scribes and Pharisees; and when an answer is returned, it should not be in his foolish way and manner, rendering evil for evil, and railing for railing, in the same virulent, lying, calumniating, and reproachful language;

    lest thou also be like unto him; lest thou also, who art a man of understanding and sense, and hast passed for one among men, come under the same imputation, and be reckoned a fool like him.


    Copyright Statement
    The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
    A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

    Bibliography
    Gill, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 26:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/proverbs-26.html. 1999.

    Geneva Study Bible

    Answer not a fool a according to his folly, lest thou also be like him.

    (a) Consent not to him in his doings.

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    These files are public domain.
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    Bibliography
    Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Proverbs 26:4". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/proverbs-26.html. 1599-1645.

    Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

    4 Answer not the fool according to his folly,

    Lest thou thyself also become like unto him.

    After, or according to his folly, is here equivalent to recognising the foolish supposition and the foolish object of his question, and thereupon considering it, as if, e.g. , he asked why the ignorant man was happier than the man who had much knowledge, or how one may acquire the art of making gold; for “a fool can ask more than ten wise men can answer.” He who recognises such questions as justifiable, and thus sanctions them, places himself on an equality with the fool, and easily himself becomes one. The proverb that follows affirms apparently the direct contrary:


    Copyright Statement
    The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

    Bibliography
    Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Proverbs 26:4". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/proverbs-26.html. 1854-1889.

    Wesley's Explanatory Notes

    Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.

    According — So as to imitate his folly, by passionate or reproachful speeches.


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    These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

    Bibliography
    Wesley, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 26:4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/proverbs-26.html. 1765.

    John Trapp Complete Commentary

    Proverbs 26:4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.

    Ver. 4. Answer not a fool according to his folly.] When either he curseth thee, {as Proverbs 26:2} or cryeth out upon thee for giving him due correction [Proverbs 26:3] - for every public person had need to carry a spare handkerchief, to wipe off the dirt of disgrace and obloquy cast upon him for doing his duty, - pass such a one by in silence, as not worthy the answering. Sile, et funestam dedisti plagam, say nothing, and you play him to purpose. (a) Hezekiah would not answer Rabshakeh, nor Jeremiah Hananiah; [Jeremiah 28:11] nor our Saviour his adversaries. [Matthew 26:62 John 19:9] He reviled not his revilers, he threatened not his open opposites. [1 Peter 2:23]

    Lest thou also be like unto him.] As hot and as headlong as he; for a little thing kindles us, and we are apt to think that we have reason to be mad, if evil entreated; to talk as fast for ourselves as he doth against us, and to give him as good as he brings; so that at length there will be never a wiser of the two, and people will say so.


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    These files are public domain.
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    Bibliography
    Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 26:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/proverbs-26.html. 1865-1868.

    Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

    How can these contrary rules be reconciled, answer him not, and answer him?

    Answ. Easily, by considering the difference of persons, and times, and places, and other circumstances, and of the manner of answering. And such seemingly contradictory precepts are not only used by, but are esteemed elegant in, other authors.

    Answer him not, when he is incorrigible, or when he is inflamed with passion or wine, &c., or when it is not necessary, nor likely to do him good.

    Answer him, when he is capable of receiving good by it, or when it is necessary for the glory of God, or for the discharge of a man’s duty, or for the good of others.

    According to his folly; so as to imitate his folly, by such passionate, or reproachful, or foolish speeches as he useth to thee.

    Be like unto him; show thyself to be as great a fool as he.


    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.
    Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

    Bibliography
    Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Proverbs 26:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/proverbs-26.html. 1685.

    George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

    Answer not a fool, &c. Viz., so as to imitate him; but only so as to reprove his folly. (Challoner) --- If thou answer at all, (ver. 5.) do it to the purpose, and to prevent others from taking scandal, (Calmet) as well as to humble the wicked, for his good. (Haydock)


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    These files are public domain.
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    Bibliography
    Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Proverbs 26:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/proverbs-26.html. 1859.

    E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

    Answer not. The point of Proverbs 26:3 is that you cannot reason with a fool; Proverbs 26:4 gives the reason. If you answer not according to his folly, he will think he is wise like yourself. If you do answer him according to his folly, he will think you are a fool like he is: i.e. according to Proverbs 26:3 you cannot reason with him. These are finely stated facts, not commands.

    folly. Hebrew. "evil. See note on Proverbs 1:7.


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    These files are public domain.
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    Bibliography
    Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Proverbs 26:4". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/proverbs-26.html. 1909-1922.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

    Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.

    Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him - by answering taunt with taunt, angry sneer with sneer, folly with folly. "Thou also," even thou, who by godly wisdom art widely different, and raised far above him.


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    These files are public domain.
    Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

    Bibliography
    Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 26:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/proverbs-26.html. 1871-8.

    Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

    (4) Answer not a fool.—Comp. Proverbs 1:22.

    According to his folly.—Do not lower yourself by disputing or arguing with him; he will not take in your meaning, and will think he has got the better of you, perhaps will insult you. It is noticeable that our Lord never answered a question which should not have been asked Him, but always put it by (e.g., Matthew 21:23, sqq.; Luke 13:23-24; Luke 23:9; John 21:21-22; Acts 1:6, sqq.).


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    These files are public domain.
    Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

    Bibliography
    Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Proverbs 26:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/proverbs-26.html. 1905.

    Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

    Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
    17:14; Judges 12:1-6; 2 Samuel 19:41-43; 1 Kings 12:14,16; 2 Kings 14:8-10; 1 Peter 2:21-23; 3:9; Jude 1:9

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    These files are public domain.
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    Bibliography
    Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Proverbs 26:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/proverbs-26.html.

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