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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary

Friend, Friendship

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A close trusting relationship between two people. Nowhere does the Bible present a concise definition of “friend” or “friendship.” Instead, both the Old and New Testaments present friendship in its different facets.

Two Hebrew root words, r'h and ahv , are used to describe friendship. R'h denotes an associate or companion, while ahv connotes the object of one's affection or devotion—a friend. Consequently, friendship may be simple association ( Genesis 38:12; 2 Samuel 15:37 ) or loving companionship, the most recognizable example being that between David and Saul's son, Jonathan (1Samuel 18:1,1 Samuel 18:3; 1 Samuel 20:17; 2 Samuel 1:26 ).

Friendship, however, was not limited to earthly associates. The Old Testament also affirms friendship between God and human persons. The relationship between God and Moses (Exodus 33:11 ) is likened to friendship because they conversed face to face. Both 2 Chronicles 20:7 and Isaiah 41:8 characterize Abraham as the friend of God. Friendship between God and His people is alluded to in Isaiah 5:1-7 , the song of the vineyard. Proverbs features the most references to friendship, nearly all of them cautioning against dubious friendships or extolling the virtues of a true friend (Proverbs 14:20; Proverbs 17:17-18; Proverbs 18:24; Proverbs 19:4 ,Proverbs 19:4,19:6; Proverbs 22:11 ,Proverbs 22:11,22:24; Proverbs 27:6 ,Proverbs 27:6,27:10 ,Proverbs 27:10,27:14 ).

In the New Testament, the predominant word for friend is philos . A derivative, philia , is often used for friendship. Jesus is described as the “friend of sinners” (Matthew 11:19 ). He called His disciples “friends” (Luke 12:4; John 15:13-15 ). The New Testament highlights the connection between friends and joy (Luke 15:6 ,Luke 15:6,15:9 ,Luke 15:9,15:29 ), as well as warning of the possibility of friends proving false (Luke 21:16 ). Echoing the Old Testament, James pointed to Abraham, the friend of God, as one whose example of active faith is to be followed (James 2:23 ). James also warned against friendship with the world (James 4:4 ).

Only in 3 John 1:14 is “friend” a self-designation for Christians. As a means of describing the relations between church members, friendship was overshadowed by the model of family relations, brotherhood and sisterhood ( 1 Timothy 5:1-3; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 Peter 2:17 ). See Body of Christ; David; Love; Neighbor; Jonathan .

William J. Ireland, Jr.

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Friend, Friendship'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/f/friend-friendship.html. 1991.

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