Answer a Fool According to His Folly

Ok, readers—all four of you (according to Google Analytics), whoever you are.

I want some feedback.

I wrote the following for the Bible Reading Program being put out for high school students by BJU Press. This is part of my introduction to Proverbs, and I need help coming up with a good example for the bolded section below. If you are so inclined, please leave a comment with a suggestion!

“So what are proverbs? More importantly, what were proverbs as the ancient Israelite king Solomon understood them almost a thousand years before Christ? Proverbs are not ironclad promises of what is universally true but wise statements about what is generally true. “Generally true” means that there are exceptions—but this does not mean that the Bible contains errors! This is obvious if you will simply take a look at Proverbs XX:XX.”

I was going to suggest Proverbs 26:4-5 (“Answer not a fool…”; “Answer a fool…”), but I was persuaded enough by the LXX’s different renderings of “according to” and by Waltke’s NICOT comments that I decided I couldn’t rely on those verses as a good example of what I’m trying to say. But I still think it’s true.
Can you think of an example?
N.B. I here express my debt to Randy Jaeggli for his definition of “proverb,” which I largely cribbed because it has stuck in my mind all these years.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

4 thoughts on “Answer a Fool According to His Folly”

  1. Proverbs 22:4 (NASB) The reward of humility and the fear of the LORD Are riches, honor and life.

    There have been many godly people who were despised and poor and died young.

    I think that verse 4 really helps show that 22:6 doesn’t mean that rebellious children are always a result of bad parenting.

    6 Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

    (Thanks to our good friend Brian for pointing this out to me a while back.)

  2. I have always heard Proverbs 22:6 taught as an example of this principle, although I ought to examine it further to ensure that this is true.

    KJV Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

  3. Proverbs 11:10 (NASB) When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, And when the wicked perish, there is joyful shouting.

    History provides many examples of ungodly men dying and people continuing to honor them, instead of rejoicing that their wicked influence is over. I wonder if anyone can think of an especially pointed illustration?

  4. Response to Laura: how about Elvis?

    An example I noticed while reading today was Prov. 16.31: “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” I suspect there are a few gray-haired godless men out there (former presidents, for example).

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