Proverbs 26:4 and 5 seem to contradict one another. How do you resolve the problem? -- Aron Kuch (Charleston, South Carolina)

The passage reads, "Answer not the fool according to his folly, lest you too become like him. Answer the fool according to his folly, lest he become wise in his own eyes."

The Proverbs are only general observations; be careful not to overinterpret them. The gist is this:

Answer a fool carefully. Unless you answer appropriately, he will feel justified. On the other hand, don't sink to his level. "According to" is being used in two different senses.

For more, please hear the audio set The Wisdom Literature, which should transform how you read Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, and Song of Solomon.