In the Old Testament two words, variously translated "friend" or "companion": re`eh, indicating a mere associate, passing friend, neighbor, or companion; 'ahabh, indicating affection natural or unnatural. In the New Testament also two words: hetairos, "a comrade," or "fellow," and philos, suggesting a more affectionate relation.
Literature abounds in concrete examples of friendship of either kind noted above, and of profoundly philosophic as well as sentimental and poetic expositions of the idea of friendship. Notable among these are the Old Testament examples. Abraham, because of the intimacy of his relations, was called "the friend of God" (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23). "Yahweh spake unto Moses face to face, as a man .... unto his friend" (Exodus 33:11). The romantic aspect of the friendship of Ru and Naomi is interesting (Ruth 1:16-18). The devotion of Hushai, who is repeatedly referred to as David's friend (2 Samuel 15:37; 16:16), is a notable illustration of the affection of a subordinate for his superior. The mutual friendship of David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1), from which the author is made to say, "The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul," is another example. Again in his pathetic lament for Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:26), David says in highly emotional tones that his love "was wonderful, passing the love of women." Elijah and Elisha form a unique illustration of semiprofessional affection (2 Kings 2).
In the New Testament, Jesus and His disciples illustrate the growth of friendship from that of teacher and disciple, lord and servant, to that of friend and friend (John 15:13-15). Paul and Timothy are likewise conspicuous (2 Timothy 1:2).
In general literature we have the classic incident, recorded by Plutarch, of Damon and Pythias during the rule of Dionysius. Pythias, condemned to death, was about to be executed but desired to see his family. Damon offered himself as a ransom in case he should not return in time for the hour of execution. Returning in time, both were released by the great Dionysius, who asked to be taken into the secret of such friendship. The writings on friendship are many. Plato and Cicero have immortalized themselves by their comments. Cicero held dearly the friendship of Scipio, declaring that of all that Nature or Fortune ever gave him there was nothing which could compare with the friendship of Scipio. Bacon, Emerson, Black, Gladden, King, Hillis, and many others in later days have written extensively concerning friendship. The best illustration of the double use of the word (see above) is that in Proverbs 18:24, "He that maketh many friends doeth it to his own destruction; but there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." Again, "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" (27:17). The honesty and frankness of genuine friends are set forth in the maxim, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend" (27:6).
Walter G. Clippinger
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