A Friend and a Brother
• With a quick reading, this proverb almost sounds like Solomon is demeaning family relationships by saying that a friend is better than a family member.
• Solomon does intentionally speak highly of a close friend—and that is his point.
• But this should not be interpreted as a “put down” for a brother, but rather, as elevating a close friendship.
1. Friend defined: Friend; companion; fellow; associates with and for whom there is affection and personal regard.
2. It is clear in this proverb that Solomon is using the term not as a mere associate but as a friend—a close friend.
3. Don’t forsake a friend.
a. Forsake: Leave behind; forsake; walk away from; abandon; depart from; desert; neglect.
b. The point is that if a person is a friend, then you don’t abandon them; you don’t walk away from them—especially in a time of need; you don’t forsake them.
4. Don’t forsake your father’s friend.
a. This speaks of a longtime family friend – that extends through generations.
b. With our growing transient society, the family friend may be a thing of the past. But it was an important part of life in Solomon’s day.
c. Sometimes families held friendships for multiple generations.
d. Of course the opposite was true as well. Sometimes families (like the Hatfields and the McCoys) held feuds between families for multiple generations.
e. Solomon’s advice to his readers is that they NOT forsake those family friends.
f. Your father’s friends should also be your friends. This does not mean that a 20 year old would “hang out” with his father’s friends, but that mutual respect should be maintained because of that friendship.
g. Sometimes if you get in trouble, your father’s friend might offer a helping hand—because you are the son of his best friend.
h. He might offer you a job because you are the son of his best friend.
i. Or perhaps in the situation of a prodigal son who left his father on really bad terms feels that he can’t go back to his father, but his father’s friend might help him get back on his feet because he is his best friend’s son. He might also help bring about reconciliation between the prodigal and his dad.
j. Thus, Solomon says, “don’t forsake your father’s friends.”
k. I Kings 5:1-10 – Solomon lived by this principle. Solomon cultivated a friendship with Hiram, King of Tyre, his father David’s friend. (read vs.1-2, 7) Solomon sought his father’s friend when seeking trees to use in the construction of the Temple. Hiram was pleased that David’s son sought him out.
l. But Solomon’s son, Rehoboam rejected the counsel of his father’s friends and lost the kingdom as a result.
m. Old family friendships have been a great blessing to many families over the years. They have helped in times of tragedy; in business dealings; in providing aid; comfort; etc.
n. Some things are better new; but other things are better when old, tried, and tested—like old friends.
5. Don’t forsake your friends; be a faithful, loyal friend.
a. We have a responsibility to our friends.
b. There ought to be a bond of loyalty that is not easily broken.
c. This sense of responsibility is a two way street – it is a give and take.
d. Don’t expect your friends to be loyal and always giving to you—unless you are loyal and giving to them. It is a two way street.
e. If your friend needs help—then help him! If your father’s friend needs help—help him too!
A close friend is better than a distant relative
1. This second part of this proverb could probably have stood alone as a proverb.
a. The two parts of this proverb could have been two separate thoughts… two separate proverbs.
b. The second part also speaks about friendships, but makes a completely unrelated point: a close friend is better than a relative who lives far away.
2. The setting: in a day of calamity
a. Calamity: This speaks of a disaster; a calamity; a time of great trouble and tribulation when a person is in need of help.
b. A calamity is a time when the value of friendship is realized.
c. When a tragedy or calamity strikes, and you need help in a hurry, it is a wonderful thing to have a “neighbor that is near” (a friend or neighbor who lives right next door) to offer help.
d. It is good to have such a helpful neighbor.
e. Of course, it is also good to BE that kind of helpful neighbor.
f. And what a great testimony that can be for the Lord’s sake when a believer showers his neighbor with help in a time of need.
3. “Better is a neighbor that is near than a brother far off.”
a. Sometimes families live near each other, but not always.
b. Oftentimes, family members live very far apart.
c. Normally, when a calamity strikes, it would be the responsibility of family members to help out.
d. But Solomon’s point is that that situation doesn’t always exist. Sometimes distance separates families and they are not able to help in a time of trouble.
e. A neighbor who lives next door will be of much better help in a time of immediate crisis.
f. He may not have the same love for you as a brother, but is more useful in a calamity than a brother who lives far away.
g. If your house is burning down, a next door neighbor is much better equipped to help out than a cousin in Philadelphia.
4. One wonders if Solomon also intended for the expression (“a brother a far off”) to also be applied not only to one who is far away physically, but also one who is far off in the sense of being alienated.
a. Unfortunately, this happens all too often. Family members (brothers and sisters) become alienated from each other—and some don’t even talk to each other for years!
b. When you have been alienated from your family, a close friend can become like a brother at heart.
c. Prov. 18:24 – As Solomon wrote earlier, “There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”
d. There are some friends whose bond is stronger and thicker than blood… stronger and more faithful than family ties!
e. The point of this proverb is that that kind of relationship should be cultivated.
f. There is an old saying, “You can pick your friends, but not your relatives.”
g. Although family ties should be the strongest, Solomon asserts here that that is not always the case.
• It wasn’t the case with Joseph. He was certainly treated better by foreigners than he was by his brothers.
• Jonathan experienced a great friendship with David; which was far better than the way he was treated by his spear throwing father.
5. Prov. 17:17 – A friend loveth at all times…
a. 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…
b. God provides FRIENDS for all the seasons of life.
c. Two are better than one…
d. The Christian life was not meant to be lived alone.
e. Just as there are friends for all seasons of life… there are brothers or relatives to help us through seasons of adversity.
f. His point is that all throughout life, there is great value in maintaining relationships with friends and family.