Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like unto him.
Read Chapter 26
Ambrose of Milan
[David] used not to answer the enemy that provoked him, the sinner that exasperated him. As he says elsewhere, “As though he were deaf he heard not them that speak vanity and imagine deceit, and as though he were dumb he opened not his mouth to them.” Again, in another place, it is said, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like to him.” The first duty then is to have due measure in our speech. In this way a sacrifice of praise is offered up to God. Thus a godly fear is shown when sacred Scriptures are read. Thus parents are honored. I know well that many speak because they know not how to keep silence. But it is not often that any one is silent when speaking does not profit him. A wise person, intending to speak, first carefully considers what he is to say and to whom he is to say it; also where and what time. –.
Your flight is a good one if you do not answer the fool according to his folly. Your flight is good if you direct your footsteps away from the countenance of fools. Indeed, one swiftly goes astray with bad guides; but if you wish your flight to be a good one, remove your ways far from their words.
I had treated you with contempt, Demetrian, as you railed with sacrilegious mouth against God, who is one and true, and frequently cried out with impious words, thinking it more fitting and better to ignore with silence the ignorance of a man in error than to provoke with speech the fury of a man in madness. And I did not do this without the authority of the divine teaching, since it is written, “Do not say anything in the ears of the foolish, lest when he hears he may mock your wise words,” and again, “Do not answer the foolish according to his folly, lest you become like him.”
Answer not a fool Viz., so as to imitate him; but only so as to reprove his folly. (Challoner)
If thou answer at all, (ver. 5.) do it to the purpose, and to prevent others from taking scandal, (Calmet) as well as to humble the wicked, for his good. (Haydock)
It is more agreeable to remain silent on such questions and to consider their foolish and irreverent assumptions unworthy of a response, since the divine words forbid it, saying, “Answer not a fool according to his folly.” But the fool, according to the prophet, is “the one who says there is no God.” .