Proverbs 18:24

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
– Proverbs 18:24

The Hebrew here is difficult and the interpretations vary. The word for friends in the first phrase is a general term than can mean neighbor, companion, or close friend. The word for friend in the second phrase is a stronger term indicating a bond of affection. We also note the first term is plural and the second singular, meaning the proverb moves from many to one. This indicates a contrast in the parallel making the first phrase have a negative gloss and the second a more positive one. The words must show himself friendly translate one Hebrew word, raw-ah’. This word appears 83 times in the Old Testament and is most often translated evil, evildoer, hurt, wickedly, etc. The word has a negative connotation and supports the interpretation of the first phrase negatively. Solomon’s point is that having a true, close friend is better than having many looser friends, or associates (Proverbs 17:17; 27:10).

This understanding agrees with the general tenor of Proverbs concerning many friends. Having multiplied friends increases the likelihood of having fickle friends (Proverbs 14:20; 19:4, 6-7), and the bother of having inconsiderate friends (Proverbs 25:17, 20; 26:18-19; 27:14; 29:5). Having fewer, but truly good friends means we are more likely to have the benefit of loyalty (Proverbs 17:17), loving honesty (Proverbs 27:6), good advice (Proverbs 27:9), and a mutual bettering through differences of personality or understanding (Proverbs 27:17).

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Proverbs 18:23

The poor useth intreaties; but the rich answereth roughly.
– Proverbs 18:23

The next several proverbs speak of the poor, rich, and friendships. The word for intreaties means supplication, so it is a humble request. The word for roughly means harshly. The proverb contrasts the rich and poor and how they interact in society. Wisdom observes the limitations of the poor, which humble him to mercy pleas. Wisdom also observes the conveniences the rich have to harden them to such pleas.

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Proverbs 18:22

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the LORD.
– Proverbs 18:22

Proverbs as a whole only speaks of two acquirements as receiving the favor of the Lord. The first is wisdom, which means the obtaining of life, i.e., spiritual, everlasting life (Proverbs 3:4; 8:35). The second is a good wife, or good marriage (Proverbs 18:22; 19:14). A good wife is also paralleled with wisdom in being of superior high value (Proverbs 8:11; 31:10). A good wife is an inestimable blessing in a man’s life (Proverbs 12:4; 14:1; 31:11, 23). Solomon elsewhere spoke of living happily with a good wife as a gift from God (Ecclesiastes 9:9).

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Proverbs 18:21

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
– Proverbs 18:21

The previous proverb had a positive gloss and this one is more negative. Both speak to the consequences of our speech, though this one gives stronger warning. Words can be good or bad, death or life. Words have power, or hand, or strength. Wisdom warns to be careful of our speech, realizing the power of the tongue (Proverbs 10:20-21). The second phrase uses love to speak of loving the tongue, or speech. Knowing how powerful words are and loving, or indulging, in speech means we must live with the consequences (Proverbs 10:19). In most cases, it is better to have said too little than too much (Proverbs 11:12-13; 17:28).

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Proverbs 18:20

A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.
– Proverbs 18:20

Wisdom understands the general principle of sowing and reaping (Proverbs 11:27; 13:2; 14:14). This proverb treats that principle in regard to our words and the next gives a warning in this same track. To be satisfied means to be filled. It could be negative in terms of excess, but in this context it seems positive. The word for fruit means the produce, as in from a sown field. The word for increase is different and means yield, or profit. This proverb doesn’t focus on the words spoken, but rather on the consequences, or results, of words spoken. Wisdom understands good words yield good fruit and bad words, bad fruit (Proverbs 12:13-14; 13:2).

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Proverbs 18:19

A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.
– Proverbs 18:19

The word for offended is a strong term, meaning rebelled against, or quarreled with. The strong city and bars of a castle speak of difficult defenses to overcome. A brother could be a familial relation, or at least a close friend. Once offended, it is difficult to truly repair and reconcile the relationship. Wisdom would teach it is far better to not give offense in the first place (Proverbs 16:32).

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Proverbs 18:18

The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.
– Proverbs 18:18

Casting lots was a way of making decision deemed too difficult, or contested, in the Old Testament. Proverbs has one other mention of lots in Proverbs 16:33, which emphasizes God’s sovereignty such that the faithful understand the disposing is of the Lord. The proverb here refers to the lot for the purpose of ending contentions, or strife.

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Proverbs 18:17

He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbor cometh and searcheth him.
– Proverbs 18:17

Chapter 18 yields three warnings on being hasty and jumping to conclusions in forming our opinions on a matter. The first phrase is a wisdom observation. When a man states his case, he will naturally do so in a favorable light to his position. This could be by misintent, but doesn’t have to be. We generally give things from our own point of view, and such perspective tends to be favorable to us. When a man makes his case, it seemeth just, or sounds reasonable and right.

The second phrase pushes the proverb further. We need not get hung up on the neighbor in the text. The word can mean fellow, or even just another person. The word for searcheth is from the Hebrew chaquar, which means to penetrate, to search, to search out, or to examine. The word is used to speak of mining in the earth (Job 28:1-3), searching and exploring a land (Judges 18:2), and tasting and trying drink (Proverbs 23:20). William Wilson said of this word, “The general import seems to be, to examine with pains, care, and accuracy, in order to make a full and clear discovery, or a complete, exact calculation” (Old Testament Word Studies, p. 373).

The law stipulated when one was accused of a crime, the accused and the accuser had opportunity to state their case, were subject to cross-examination, and the judges were required to make “diligent inquisition” to ensure the matter thoroughly examined and established (Deuteronomy 19:15-21). This proverb is broader than the law, though relying on the principle of righteousness. We should hear a man out, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he is right. We should also be willing to be searched out whenever we make any sort of claim.

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Proverbs 18:16

A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.
– Proverbs 18:16

The word for gift is a general term meaning a present. It differs from the word used in other proverbs that speak of bribes (Proverbs 17:8, 23). The proverb reminds us gifts have good uses, such as appeasing anger (Proverbs 21:14). Jacob hoped to appease anger if any remained in his brother Esau (Genesis 32:20). Bribing or judges or perverting justice is not in view here. The proverb generally states that gifts can open doors, or gain opportunities. The implication is for us to use gifts wisely with understanding that they can be dangerous as well (Proverbs 15:27).

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