Proverbs 17:17

A Friend Loveth at All Times

17a A friend loveth at all times


1. Friend Defined:

a. Zodhiates: A masculine noun meaning another person. Most frequently, this term is used to refer to the second party in a personal interaction without indicating any particular relationship.
→ Ex. 18:16 – used of an adversary in court.
→ II Sam. 2:16 – an enemy combatant.
→ Ex. 20:16, 17 – used of one’s neighbor
→ Hos. 3:1 – used of one’s lover… (a female friend)
→ It has a wide range of meaning.

b. Strong’s: friend; companion; fellow; an associate; another person—there are lots of possibilities for a “second party” or “another person.”

c. Most often in Proverbs and the rest of the Bible, it is translated “neighbor” —
→ 31 times “friend”
→ 87 times “neighbor” in the Bible
→ Also as opponent, mate, etc.

d. In some passages in Proverbs, it is quite clear that it should be translated “friend.”
→ Prov. 22:11 – The king shall be his friend (another person of a favorable sort… a friend).
→ Prov. 27:17 – Iron sharpens iron—the result of friendship.

2. The CONTEXT that must determine which meaning best fits the passage.

a. In Prov. 17:17, the “other person” is being compared in a favorable way to a brother.

b. The fact that this other person expresses LOVE indicates it is not an enemy combatant or an opponent at court!

c. Neighbor does not fit well here. Neighbors don’t always express love towards those who live next door. They should, but they don’t.

d. Thus, friend seems like the logical and sensible translation here.


1. Loveth Defined:

a. Strong’s: to love; human love for another; includes family, and sexual; the act of being a friend.

b. Dict. of Bib. Lang.: have an affection based on a close relationship

c. Used of a love for people (also = a love for God or things)
• Gen. 22:2 – the love of Abram for his son Isaac
• Gen. 25:28 – Rebekah’s love for her son Jacob
• Gen. 29:32 – Jacob’s love for his wife Leah
• Ruth 4:15 – Ruth’s love for her mother in law
• Lev. 19:18 – Love thy neighbor as thyself

d. This term for “love” is used of Abraham.
• He was called a “friend” of God: i.e., loved Him deeply… had a great heart affection for God.


1. At all times:

a. Time = time in general; at all seasons; at a crisis point.

b. Ecc. 3:1 – and a TIME to every purpose under heaven… (the term appears 19 times in Ecc. 3:1-8)

2. This passage could be understood in one of two possible ways:

a. It could mean that a friend loves at ALL times (continually without interruption).

b. OR it could mean that friends love during all seasons of life.

c. The latter seems more likely to me… more in line with reality.

d. Sometimes there can be FRICTION between friends… and that affection might grow cold for a while.

e. Prov.16:28 – A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.

f. Solomon did not mean in 17:17 that friends love continually, constantly, without ever wavering in their friendship.

g. It is more likely that Solomon meant that real friendship lasts through all kinds of seasons—through all the seasons of life… the good times and the bad times…. through thick and thin… the ups and the downs of life… in sickness and in health… happy days and days of sorrow and grief…

h. God provides FRIENDS for all the seasons of life.

3. Good friends WILL stick it out—during good times and bad.

a. Friends ideally SHOULD love at ALL times.

b. A friend that is friendly only when his own interests are served and the relationship brings him pleasure… is quite selfish… and not the best kind of friend.

c. Prov. 19:4 – Wealth maketh many friends; but the poor is separated from his neighbour.
• Friend and neighbor = same word as friend in 17:17.
• Some folks might appear to be friends during periods of wealth (when you buy the tickets and pay for the food)…
• But when poverty comes… those kind of friends disappear… they separate from their so-called friend.
• He’s a great friend when he is gaining or receiving from the relationship. But he’s not such a friend if his friendship dissipates when he has to GIVE.
• If he bails out when the going gets tough, he’s not much of a friend… he’s a fair weather friend.

d. John 13:1 – Christ is our example of a Friend who loves at all times—even to the end. (Note the presence of Judas!)

e. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. (Rom. 8)

4. We NEED good friends in our journey as a pilgrim.

a. This is another reason why the local church is so important in God’s program… we need one another in a hostile world.

b. Two are better than one…

c. The Christian life was not meant to be lived alone.

17b And a brother is born for adversity.


1. Brother defined:

a. Brother; kinsman; relative; of the same tribe; countryman.

b. The word is used not only of those with common parents but also of those with common ancestors


1. Adversity—times or seasons of adversity.

a. Adversity:
• Literally – that which is narrow and binding.
• Straits; distress; trouble; anguish; tribulation.

2. A brother is BORN for such times.

a. My first reading of this passage as a new believer gave me the wrong impression: friends are for friendship and affection… brothers are for fighting with. (With 5 brothers, we had our share of scraps together… and this made perfect sense.)

b. However, this proverb is not an antithetical parallelism (showing opposites), but a synonymous parallelism (describing things that are alike).

c. Just as there are friends for all seasons of life… there are brothers or relatives to help us through seasons of adversity.

d. Note that the translators used AND instead of BUT to connect the two parts of this proverb. They also saw this as synonymous rather than antithetical… contrasting.

e. He is not contrasting a brother vs. a friend. Instead, he speaks of how much alike they are: they are to be there when you need them… at all times, but especially in times of adversity.

f. His point is that all throughout life, there is great value in maintaining relationships with friends and family.

g. A friend and a brother are seen as equals here, however, in Prov. 18:24, there are times when a friend is BETTER than a brother.

3. Psalm 35:13, 14 – This is what friends and brothers OUGHT to be… in times of adversity.

a. Comfort; encouragement; a helping hand; right there…


1. Brothers had certain responsibilities towards one another.

a. To be your brother’s keeper…

b. To raise up seed for your brother’s house if he dies…

c. He is BORN… born into one’s family…

2. Note that God says a brother is BORN into a family for a PURPOSE.

a. True of sisters too.

b. One of the reasons God puts a brother into a family is for a time of need… a calamity… a tragedy…

c. That’s when family really counts… and it is by God’s design.

d. Brothers were BORN for that purpose… and God is the BEGETTER of all… the Sovereign who places individuals in families as it pleases HIM. (We don’t choose this; He does.)

e. God makes no mistakes. He places individuals in the families of His choice… and to accomplish HIS purpose.

3. Rest assured that sooner or later adversity will strike YOUR family.

a. That’s one of the reasons God put you in that family… to minister to your family.

b. Family is an expression of God’s care for people… saved or unsaved.

c. Family was instituted before the fall… it was part of God’s original design.

d. When the earth was cursed—and adversity began to strike—God gave families a whole new purpose.

e. Family members know each other better than anyone else… and are thus equipped to minister in times of need.

f. And think of this in light of our position as a son of God!

g. We were placed in families—who may or may not be saved… they may or may not know the Lord.

h. You were born into THAT family for a purpose… and it is especially valuable as a witness for Christ to the lost.

4. Thus, Solomon lets us know that there is great value in family and friends!

a. Take care of them!

b. Be friendly to them.

c. Be a friend and a brother to them… through all the seasons of life—especially in the days of adversity.

d. That (among other things) is what you were born for!

5. Prov. 18:24a – we all WANT others to be a friend to us. Solomon also warns that WE need to be a friend to them!

a. Sometimes we whine and complain because others are not friendly to us…

b. Friendship is reciprocal.

c. Love isn’t. We can show love expecting nothing in return.

d. But that’s NOT the way it ought to be with friends and family. It OUGHT to be reciprocal.

e. And if we WANT friendship… we need to BE a friend.