Proverbs 18:19

A Brother Offended

19a A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city:


a. Strong’s: brother; relative; kinsman.

b. DBL – relative; friend; associate; countryman.

c. Zodhiates – a brother, one with same parents, or a close friend…

2. Thus, the point Solomon makes is broader than a literal brother.

a. It certainly applies to a brother… or a relative.

b. But the term is broad enough in its usage to cover all kinds of friends and associates.


a. Zodhiates: rebel against; to sin against; transgress against.

b. Theological Workbook of the Old Testament – A breach of relationship between two parties; a casting off of allegiance.

4. A brother offended

a. Solomon is speaking to us about a brother or any kind of friend or close associate with whom we have a relationship.

b. In fact, this principle could be applied to ANY human relationship… husband/wife; parent/child; teacher/student; employer/employee; between brothers in a local church…

c. In particular, he is speaking about a friend who has been sinned against… and a breach in the relationship is the result…

d. Breaches in relationships occur all the time… in all kinds of relationships…

5. We have all been there… many times over.

a. We have all been on BOTH sides of this equation too!

b. We have all BEEN offended by a close friend or brother…

c. We have all OFFENDED a close friend or brother…

d. So what Solomon says here is applicable to every single one of us…

e. This is exceedingly practical to every day life…

6. It is EASY to offend a brother or a friend…

a. It can occur through carelessness with our words…

b. It can occur through maliciousness with our words…

c. It can occur as a misunderstanding…

d. It can occur by means of a third party sticking their nose in someone else’s business—sowing discord among brethren.

e. It can occur because we only heard one side of the story (vs.17).

f. It can occur when the one offended is overly sensitive… thin skinned…

g. It can occur when the one who offends is callous… insensitive…

h. It can occur because of something said in jest; it was a joke, but they took it seriously…

i. It can occur when you are obeying God and rebuking sin…

j. It can occur when we say things in anger that we would never say otherwise… yet you cannot un-ring the bell…

k. It occurs when for one reason or another, the allegiance is no longer there… or the allegiance is given to someone or something else…

7. Notice the italicized words: is harder to be won…

a. These words were added by the translators (and they TOLD us!)

b. Something HAS to be added here to complete the thought. There is no verb.

c. It simply reads “a brother offended… a strong city.”

d. Solomon is obviously making some sort of a connection in thought between these two things… an offended friend and a strong city.

8. A strong city:

a. Cf. Prov. 18:11 – a rich man’s wealth is his strong city… his high wall. This speaks of a fortified city… a place where something is walled in… where others are not able to break in…

b. A strong city was a place of refuge to which people would FLEE when attacked…

c. An offended brother builds walls around himself to keep the offender OUT… when he feels attacked by the offender.

d. The high walls keep the enemy out… and keep the ones inside nice and safe… out of the range of the arrows of the enemy…

e. Those walls are a kind of defense mechanism because the offended party doesn’t want to be hurt again.

f. The offended party hides behind the high walls of the strong city… to protect himself… a wall of separation…

g. Once those walls are built, they are extremely hard to penetrate.

h. That seems to be Solomon’s point here.

9. Making a connection between the terms…

a. There is something about a strong city that is like a brother who has been offended.

b. Is harder to be won… (KJV)
• Is harder to win back
• Is harder to reach… (same meaning)
• Is more unyielding…

19b And their contentions are like the bars of a castle.

1. Contentions: Strife; contention; quarrel; dispute.

2. This speaks about the strife that the offence created from the perspective of the offended friend or brother.

a. The offensive words or actions resulted in a debate… a quarrel… strife.

b. The strife is likened to the bars of a castle (citadel; fortress; a fort… a military stronghold).

c. And again, the meaning here is the fact that they are impenetrable… thick… strong… unmovable…

3. Once the offense is made… the offended party goes on the defensive mode… and when people have been hurt, it’s very hard to get them OUT of that defensive mode.

a. Solomon’s point here is that once the offense is made, it is VERY difficult to get through to the offended party… to remove those bars… and to restore the relationship.

b. And once that person goes into defense mode… and is secluded behind those walls… and there is no communication… one’s imagination can easily run wild!

c. The offense can be embellished in your mind… and become bigger than life… the offending party is demonized…

d. Restoration becomes HARDER as time goes by.

e. Relationships are easily ruined… not so easily restored.

f. It’s easy to burn a house down. It takes no time at all to light a match. It’s much more difficult to build a house.

4. Remember that this is a PROVERB.

a. Solomon is simply stating a fact.

b. Solomon observed this sort of thing over and over again and wrote a proverb summarizing his observations.

c. He is not telling us that this is GOOD behavior… or acceptable behavior… or God honoring behavior.

d. He is simply stating that this is what often happens: an offense is made; a breach in the relationship occurs, and it is VERY hard to repair or restore.

e. Often times the offended party retreats to an imaginary “fortress” of his own making… shielding himself from hurt… keeping a distance from the offending party to protect him/her self.

f. We see this all the time in families: people get offended and don’t talk to their own family members for years!

g. Think of the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys. The folklore has it that this feud started over a fight about a hog. An offense was made and for generations, the bars between those two families were impenetrable.

h. It sounds silly to us today—but it wasn’t to them at the time.

i. People get offended today over issues that COULD be cleared up easily the right way…

j. But instead, one party retreats to his self imposed exile… builds walls to keep the other party out… and the contention never gets resolved!

k. Families live like that… sometimes parents go for years without talking to their children… and vice versa.

l. Husbands and wives live like that. It is basically a divorce while still living together… separated by an invisible wall.

m. It’s a terrible way to live. Solomon is NOT endorsing the idea. He is simply noting that it is something he observed enough that it becomes PROVERBIAL!

5. There are some OBVIOUS APPLICATIONS from this proverb.

a. If you are the OFFENDING party:
• If you have offended a brother, apologize! Confess your sin to God and make it right with your brother!
• Jas. 5:16 – confess your faults one to another. Sometimes that’s all it takes. The person sitting in his or her fortress might be waiting for you to do so!
• Matt. 5:22-24 – Jesus gave His disciples a warning about this sort of thing.

1. One Jewish brother offended his brother and called him an offensive name: fool!

2. Jesus says that it is hypocritical to continue worshipping God as if nothing happened with your brother…

3. He says to make things right with your brother… then come and offer your sacrifice.

4. It is not always possible to make things right with man… but as much as lieth in you! Do YOUR part… to the best of your ability.

5. We might make the application: make things right with your brother before you come to God in prayer… and worship…

6. God cares about our heart relationship to other people… it affects our ability to worship Him!

b. If you are the OFFENDED party:
• Matt. 18:15 – Jesus also gave His Jewish disciples some principles concerning what to do if YOU have been sinned against or offended by a brother.

1. He says to GO to that brother with the offense.

2. Let him know that you are offended… hurt… feel violated…

3. If he hears you—you have restored the relationship.

4. Notice what this pattern implies: if YOU have retreated to your fortress to protect yourself from being offended again, Jesus says, BREAK down those walls and face the one who sinned against you!

5. If you stay in your self-imposed exile… imprisoned by the offense… you will NEVER restore the relationship.

6. Remember what the proverb states: those bars you have built are virtually impenetrable by the other party! He CAN’T get through!

7. But you can…

8. Lick your wounds… humble yourself… stop doting over protecting SELF… and behave as if the relationship to a brother is more important than your feelings.

c. Whichever side of those iron bars you find yourself… RESTORING the relationship ought to be paramount.
• A little bit of grace and humility goes a long way!
• Solomon says that winning back that person is difficult.
• But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Nothing is too hard for the Lord.

d. Another important application: since we know how difficult it is to win an offended brother BACK… it makes good sense to avoid offense in the first place… as much as lieth in you.