Are Proverbs 26:4 and Proverbs 26:5 Contradictory?

Are Proverbs 26:4 and Proverbs 26:5 Contradictory?

In the book of Proverbs, Solomon says Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.” (Proverbs 26:4). However, it also says Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.” Some skeptics look at these Bible verses and say that it’s
a contradiction. Obviously you cannot obey both commands. To answer a fool
according to his folly is the exact opposite of not answering him. If
you answer him, you will be disobeying the command in scripture not to
answer him. If you do not answer him, you will be disobeying the command in
scripture to answer the fool. How in the world are these two verse not a
contradiction? Is the skeptic right? Is there finally a provable contradiction
in scripture rendering it no longer inerrant and therefore not divinely
inspired?
I don’t think so. For
several reasons. First off, the verse that says “do not answer a fool”  and the verse that says “answer a fool” are
right next to each other!
Proverbs 26:4 says
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.” And Proverbs 26:5 says “Answer a fool according to his
folly,
or he will be wise in his own
eyes.”
They’re right next to each
other!
That alone should suggest to us that Solomon probably isn’t
contradicting himself. It’s very improbable that Solomon would right one thing,
forget what he said, and contradict himself in the very next sentence. If any
author of any book is going to contradict himself, the contradictory statements
are going to be much father apart.
So what exactly did he mean? I
think that Solomon is merely describing a lose/lose situation. No matter how
you handle a fool, a negative consequent is going to follow. If you do NOT
answer a fool, then he will be wise in his own eyes. If you DO answer a
fool, you’ll be just like him. If you choose not to answer a fool, he’ll likely
think that the reason you’re not responding to him is because you don’t know
how to answer what he said (i.e he’ll be wise in his own eyes). “See! See! You
can’t answer my argument! You can’t do it! You know I’m right.” On the other
hand, if you answer a fool, you may end up
So given this catch 22, what
should we do?
I like how GotQuestions.org answered
this question in an article addressing this same issue. They write
Whether
we use the principle of verse 4 and deal with a fool by ignoring him, or obey
verse 5 and reprove a fool depends on the situation. In matters of
insignificance, it’s probably better to disregard him. In more important areas,
such as when a fool denies the existence of God (Psalm 14:1),
verse 5 tells us to respond to his foolishness with words of rebuke and instruction.
To let a fool speak his nonsense without reproof encourages him to remain wise
in his own eyes and possibly gives credibility to his folly in the eyes of
others. In short, in negligible issues we should just ignore fools, but in
issues that matter, they must be dealt with so that credence will not be given
to what they say.”
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