1. Proverbs 26:4, 5. So should you “answer a fool according to his folly” or not? And what does that mean, anyway?
Notice how often there are two sides to the story in this book. Here is another demand for digging a little deeper. And for discernment. The subject of both verses is the fool, and the foolish things he is wont to say at times, if not all the time. There is a virtual flood of idiocy flowing through his mouth and in your confronting of him, the writer of this proverb asks you to stop and think.
Should I simply play along with his foolishness, pretend I am an idiot also, laugh when he laughs, agree with all his craziness just so as to keep the conversation pleasant? No, of course not. The more you talk like him, the more he thinks his own talking is normal, and the more he is encouraged to stay a fool. And the more he influences you to be one too.
Give him honest answers based on truth, stay firm in your own wisdom and sobriety. Let him see what non-fools look like.
And in those rare moments when he is able to listen, take some of his own words (verse 5) and feed them back to him, not for the purpose of agreement, but to act as a mirror. Let him hear himself. Let him see just how unwise he is, not by argument or confrontation, but by wisely letting him see himself and how obnoxious he has become.
2. Proverbs 27:13. Why would I take a garment from one who is “surety for a stranger”, and keep it for the time he is surety for a bad woman?
This is a repeat of Proverbs 20:16. The book of Proverbs addresses often the fool. Here, such a man has co-signed a loan, as it were, with a perfect stranger, and perhaps with an adulteress (depending on the translation used).
Such a rash act should warn me that if he wants to borrow from me, I should demand some security, e.g., a garment.
3. Proverbs 27:14. Does this seem a bit severe, cursing a man who blesses his friend?
The innocence of the blesser is here wrongly assumed. He seems to be a man who is a flatterer, and a public one at that. As soon as there is enough light in the sky for people to see him, he begins in a loud voice to “bless” or praise, his “friend.” His motive is self-aggrandizement, and so the words that penetrate the mind and heart of the “friend” might just as well be a curse. One thinks of the demon-possessed girl who was “blessing” the apostle Paul, but whose blessing was received as a curse by him; hence his rebuke and exorcism.
4. Proverbs 29:18. Why such variations in this passage? Which translation is closer?
Where there is no (revelation, prophetic vision, divine guidance, vision), the people (cast off restraint, run wild, are unrestrained, perish). Putting it all together, the wise man is telling us that a society (even a church in many cases) that has no clear Word from God, as in the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures, will eventually self-destruct. People with no guidance from God will guide themselves, and that is an awful thing to behold.
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