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Chapter 4

WISE RESPONSES TO THE ENEMY

The wisdom literature offers no monolithic guidelines on the question of how to respond to a personal enemy. With regard to the problem of enmity, as with other social phenomena, a range of responses is advised. A sage must choose between various options when responding to a specific person or circumstance. This element of discretion and flexibility is nowhere more evident than in Proverbs 26:4-5.

Answer not a fool according to his folly,

lest you be like him yourself, Answer a fool according to his folly,

lest he be wise in his own eyes.

This flexibility on the part of the sages requires that the question concerning wise responses to an enemy and enmity deal with the problem of coherence. Are there any fundamental convictions undergirding the various responses from which a wise person might choose when faced with an enemy? What allows a sage to take various stances with regard to enemies?

Proverbs The book of Proverbs reveals a variety of responses to the enemies and their behavior, as well as several convic- tions which may motivate them. The responses range from a 194

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