17:17 A friend 1 loves at all times,
and a relative 2 is born to help in adversity. 3
19:22 What is desirable 4 for a person is to show loyal love, 5
and a poor person is better than a liar. 6
20:6 Many people profess their loyalty, 7
but a faithful person 8 – who can find? 9
20:28 Loyal love and truth 10 preserve a king,
and his throne is upheld by loyal love. 11
21:21 The one who pursues righteousness and love 12
finds life, bounty, 13 and honor.
27:6 Faithful 14 are the wounds of a friend,
but the kisses 15 of an enemy are excessive. 16
27:10 Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend,
and do not enter your brother’s house in the day of your disaster;
a neighbor nearby is better than a brother far away. 17
1 sn The verse uses synonymous parallelism, so “friend” and “relative” are equated. Others, however, will take the verse with antithetical parallelism: W. G. Plaut argues that friendship is a spiritual relationship whereas a brother’s ties are based on a blood relationship – often adversity is the only thing that brings brothers together (Proverbs, 189).
2 tn Heb “a brother.”
3 tn Heb “is born for adversity.” This is not referring to sibling rivalry but to the loyalty a brother shows during times of calamity. This is not to say that a brother only shows loyalty when there is trouble, nor that he always does in these times (e.g., 18:19, 24; 19:7; 27:10). The true friend is the same as a brotherly relation – in times of greatest need the loyal love is displayed.
4 tn Heb “the desire of a man” (so KJV). The noun in construct is תַּאֲוַת (ta’avat), “desire [of].” Here it refers to “the desire of a man [= person].” Two problems surface here, the connotation of the word and the kind of genitive. “Desire” can also be translated “lust,” and so J. H. Greenstone has “The lust of a man is his shame” (Proverbs, 208). But the sentence is more likely positive in view of the more common uses of the words. “Man” could be a genitive of possession or subjective genitive – the man desires loyal love. It could also be an objective genitive, meaning “what is desired for a man.” The first would be the more natural in the proverb, which is showing that loyal love is better than wealth.
5 tn Heb “[is] his loyal love”; NIV “unfailing love”; NRSV “loyalty.”
6 sn The second half of the proverb presents the logical inference: The liar would be without “loyal love” entirely, and so poverty would be better than this. A poor person who wishes to do better is preferable to a person who makes promises and does not keep them.
7 tn Heb “many a man calls/proclaims a man of his loyal love.” The Syriac and Tg. Prov 20:6 render the verb as passive: “many are called kind.” Other suggestions include: “most men meet people who will do them occasional kindnesses” (RSV); “many men profess friendship” (C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 384); “many men invite only the one who has shown them kindness.” The simplest interpretation in this context is “many proclaim [themselves to be] a kind person (= a loyal friend).” The contrast is between many who claim to be loyal friends and the one who actually proves to be faithful.
8 tn The shift to the expression “a man of faithfulness[es]” in the second line indicates that of all those who claim to show faithful love, it is rare to find one who is truly reliable (as the word אֱמוּנִים [’emunim] indicates clearly); cf. NAB, NRSV “one worthy of trust.”
9 sn The point of the rhetorical question is that a truly faithful friend is very difficult to find.
10 tn The first line uses two Hebrew words, חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת (khesed ve’emet, “loyal love and truth”), to tell where security lies. The first word is the covenant term for “loyal love; loving-kindness; mercy”; and the second is “truth” in the sense of what is reliable and dependable. The two words often are joined together to form a hendiadys: “faithful love.” That a hendiadys is intended here is confirmed by the fact that the second line uses only the critical word חֶסֶד.
11 sn The emphasis is on the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7:11-16; Ps 89:19-37). It is the
12 sn These two attributes, “righteousness” (צְדָקָה, tsÿdaqah) and “loyal love” (חֶסֶד, khesed) depict the life style of the covenant-believer who is pleasing to God and a blessing to others. The first term means that he will do what is right, and the second means that he will be faithful to the covenant community.
13 sn The Hebrew term translated “bounty” is צְדָקָה (tsÿdaqah) again, so there is a wordplay on the term in the verse. The first use of the word had the basic meaning of “conduct that conforms to God’s standard”; this second use may be understood as a metonymy of cause, indicating the provision or reward (“bounty”) that comes from keeping righteousness (cf. NIV “prosperity”; NCV “success”). The proverb is similar to Matt 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”
14 tn The Niphal participle of אָמַן (’aman) means “faithful; reliable; sure; trustworthy.” The word indicates that the wounds from a friend “can be trusted” (so NIV, NCV) because they are meant to correct and not to destroy (e.g., 25:12; Deut 7:9; Job 12:20).
15 sn “Kisses” probably represents a metonymy of adjunct; the term describes any expressions or indications of affection. But coming from an enemy, they will be insincere – as indicated by their excessive number.
16 tn The form is נַעְתָּרוֹת (na’tarot), the Niphal participle of עָתַר (’atar, “to be abundant”). Contemporary translations render this rare form in a number of different ways: “deceitful” (NASB, NKJV); “profuse” (NRSV); “many” (NLT). But the idea of “excessive” or “numerous” fits very well. The kisses of an enemy cannot be trusted, no matter how often they are presented.
17 sn The meaning of the verse is very difficult, although the translation is rather straightforward. It may simply be saying that people should retain family relationships but will discover that a friend who is available is better than a relative who is not. But C. H. Toy thinks that the verse is made up of three lines that have no connection: 10a instructs people to maintain relationships, 10b says not to go to a brother’s house [only?] when disaster strikes, and 10c observes that a nearby friend is better than a far-away relative. C. H. Toy suggests a connection may have been there, but has been lost (Proverbs [ICC], 485-86). The conflict between 17:17 and 10b may be another example of presenting two sides of the issue, a fairly frequent occurrence in the book of Proverbs.