Summary: This is a verse by verse look at Proverbs chapter 26.
We will now look at chapter twenty six.
1 Like snow in summer and like rain in harvest, So honor is not fitting for a fool. Proverbs 26:1 (NASB)
Snow in summer and rain at harvest time are not desirable. Honor is not fitted for a fool.
2 Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, So a curse without cause does not alight. Proverbs 26:2 (NASB)
"An undeserved curse will not land" - this means that it has no effect. Do not criticize when it is not deserved.
3 A whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, And a rod for the back of fools. Proverbs 26:3 (NASB)
The whip and the bridle are to be used as training tools not for brutality. The rod is to teach and train.
4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him. 5 Answer a fool as his folly deserves, That he not be wise in his own eyes. Proverbs 26:4-5 (NASB)
These two verses seem to contradict, but they actually are purposely demonstrating the contradiction between reason and folly. A fool remains a fool whether he is answered or not. The wise person has a choice to make depending on what he or she sees is the greatest need of the fool. Some fools don't deserve an answer because they are clearly not in a mood to listen, and those who try to answer them will simply stoop to their level. There are other situations where common sense says to answer the fool in order to expose his or her pride and folly.
Matthew Henry says of these verses:
"We are to fit our remarks to the man, and address them to his conscience, so as may best end the debate."
6 He cuts off his own feet and drinks violence Who sends a message by the hand of a fool. Proverbs 26:6 (NASB)
How a message is delivered may be as important as the message itself. Don't send a fool to deliver something important.
7 Like the legs which are useless to the lame, So is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Proverbs 26:7 (NASB)
Some people are so dulled that they won't sense the wisdom even if they memorize these proverbs. A mindlessly quoted proverb proves as useless as a paralyzed body part. Only those who want to be wise have the receptive attitude needed to make the most of these wise words. If we want to learn from God, he will respond and pour out his heart to us. Proverbs 1:23 says:
"Turn to my reproof, Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you." Proverbs 1:23 (NASB)
8 Like one who binds a stone in a sling, So is he who gives honor to a fool. Proverbs 26:8 (NASB)
Sometimes when someone in a group causes discord or dissension, the leader tries to make that person loyal and productive by giving him or her a place of privilege or responsibility. This usually doesn't work. In fact, it is like tying a stone to the sling of a slingshot—it won't go anywhere and will swing back and hurt you. The dissenter's new power may be just what he or she needs to manipulate the group.
9 Like a thorn which falls into the hand of a drunkard, So is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Proverbs 26:9 (NASB)
Normally the first prick of a thorn alerts us, so we remove the thorn before it damages us. A drunk person, however, may not feel the thorn, and so it will work its way into his flesh. Similarly, a fool may not feel the sting of a proverb because he does not see how it applies to his life. Instead of taking its point to heart, a fool will apply it to his church, his employer, his spouse, or whomever he is rebelling against. The next time you find yourself saying, "So-and-so should really pay attention to that," stop and ask yourself, Is there a message in it for me?
10 Like an archer who wounds everyone, So is he who hires a fool or who hires those who pass by. Proverbs 26:10 (NASB)
Be careful where the arrows fly. An unskilled archer can wound everyone around. Fools can too.
11 Like a dog that returns to its vomit Is a fool who repeats his folly. Proverbs 26:11 (NASB)
This is a graphic picture though true. Some people love to live in the filth of life and will return to it over and over again.
12 Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. Proverbs 26:12 (NASB)