These two verses are suggested to be an example of contradictions in the Bible. I don’t think so!
Here’s what they say. It’s not a good idea to respond to a “fool” who’s acting like one by reasoning with him. Sadly his foolish responses to my reasonable words can get me so worked up, that I start sounding and acting just like him! It happens and that’s not good.
Then the very next verse discusses the exact same “answer a fool according to his folly” scenario and offers the exact opposite advice! Here it says we should answer this fool or he will continue to go on thinking and acting as the fool he is.
While these are opposite statements, they teach a profound truth. There are times that we really need to speak up and there are also times we need to shut up – and the wisdom of Proverbs shows us when to do which!
As the Prophet Isaiah once wrote, “You’ve got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away and know when to run” – or was that Kenny Rogers, I always get those two guys confused!
There are right and wrong times to do and say things, especially in response to what is happening around us. The wisdom of Proverbs teaches us how to get that right every time!