Hebrew Highlights 91 ANSWERS
Shalom, this is Yuval Shomron, coming to you from Jerusalem.
PRO 26:4 says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.”
When I was a child, I will admit that one of my favorite publications was “Mad Magazine”. And one of my pet sections was the one called “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions”. Sometimes I wonder if our entire generation was as influenced by “Mad’s” social commentary as I was. I prided myself in being able to quickly retort with a clever blurb, when asked what I considered to be a dim-witted query.
It goes without saying that if in those days I had thought about the now well-known cliché, “What would Jesus do?” my speech would have been very different in deed. Now, what can I learn from this verse?
This is one of those interesting cases in the Book of proverbs where the following verse seems to negate the first. PRO 26:5 goes on to say, “Answer a fool as his folly deserves, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.”
Since this study is called Hebrew Highlights, I should point out that there is no translation problem here. It happens that these two verses in Hebrew are very simple and straightforward. Perhaps we can best understand them by thinking up an example.
For instance, let’s say you are speaking to someone about the creation story, and they ask, “Do you really believe you are smarter that all of the scientists”? The snappy answer might be, “I don’t know, but I’ve certainly got more lights in my chandelier than you do”!
The correct answer might be something like, “I’ve grown to put more trust in the historically proven wisdom of the Bible, than in men’s ever-changing theories.” In this way, we have fulfilled both of these verses in Proverbs 26. We have not sunken to the ignorance level of our opponent, yet, we have given him an answer which may perhaps send him away understanding that there is more to learn on the subject.
Another pitfall we fall into is answering an angry question with an equally irate reply. In fact, in the heat of a quarrel, we rarely even hear the other side of the squabble in the first place. Two more passages in Proverbs address this problem. First, in PRO 15:1 we read, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” Secondly, PRO 18:13 says, “He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him.”
An even stronger statement is made in PRO 15:28, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” How often do we actually take time to “ponder” in the heat of battle? Unfortunately, it seems the word “ponder” has all but disappeared from the modern vocabulary. It’s Hebrew original, “Yehageh”, could also mean to study, or to think.
If we study Yeshua’s example in the New Testament, we will find that often before answering a question from the Pharisees, he would take a little time to think. May God teach us wisdom! Next time you get into an argument with someone, stop and count to ten before each answer or remark. Listen to the Holy Spirit, and ask yourself, “How would Yeshua reply?”
You may actually make peace with your adversary. In the very least, he will get tired of waiting for your response, and walk off.
Now, let’s take a brief look at those cases in which someone actually asks us a question because they actually believe we might have a word of wisdom for them.
If we train ourselves to ponder the issue, listen to God, and patiently form our solution, we might actually find ourselves fulfilling PRO 15:23; “A man has joy in an apt answer, And how delightful is a timely word!”
Shalom, Shalom from Jerusalem.