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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

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Fries, Jakob Friedrich
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Personal attachment to an individual due to mutual interests or arising from close intimacy or acquaintance.

The historical books of the Bible furnish several instances of genuine friendship; and the pithy sayings of the Wisdom literature, of Talmud, and of Midrash contain a philosophy of friendship. The Bible endows friendship with a peculiar dignity by making it symbolical of the intimacy that exists between God and man. "And Yhwh spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend" (Exodus 33:11; comp. Numbers 12:8). Also the prophet Isaiah makes God speak of Abraham as his friend (Isaiah 41:8; comp. 2 Chronicles 20:7).

The essential characteristic of genuine friendship is disinterestedness. The service one renders his friend must be prompted by the sole desire to be of use to him, and not for the sake of furthering one's own interests. Selfishness destroys friendship. This is tersely expressed in Ab. 5:16: "Friendship dictated by a selfish motive comes to an end together with its speculations; but friendship which is not based on any selfish motive comes never to an end."

Friendship of the selfish type is often referred to in Bible and Talmud; e.g., "Every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts" (Proverbs 19:6b; comp. ib. 19:4); "Ye would . . . make merchandise of your friend" (Job 6:27b); "At the door of the rich all are friends; at the door of the poor there are none" (Shab. 32a); "A friend loveth at all times" (Proverbs 17:17); "A friend that sticketh closer than a brother" (ib. 18:24b).

Historical Examples.

As historical examples of friendship have high value in determining the characteristics of the national soul, the following may be cited from Jewish history: The relations between Jonathan and David have become typical of true friendship. Jonathan's friendship for David is put to a severe test. Against his friendship there are arrayed filial duty and the personal interests of a prince; but friendship conquers (1 Samuel 18:3, 19:2-7, 23:17-18). David is kind to the unfortunate Mephibosheth, a scion of the house of Saul, whom he be-friends on account of Jonathan, his friend (2 Samuel 9). Barzillai's disinterested kindness for David is another instance (2 Samuel 19:31-39).

Because friends, owing to their intimate relation, influence each other, the utmost care should be exercised in the choice of a friend. "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" (Proverbs 17:17; comp. ib. 28:7); "Make no friendship with a man that is given to anger" (ib. 22:24a).

The Talmud furnishes many beautiful examples of friendship. An illustration of friendship as an ideal of spiritual fellowship is found in the relationbetween rabbis Johanan bar Nappaḥa and Simeon ben Laḳish (Yer. Beẓah 5:63d; Yer. Ta'an. 5a; see, also, Horodezky, "Ha-Goren," p. 22, on and ).

The value set on friendship is shown by the following observations:

"It is easy to make an enemy; it is difficult to make a friend" (Yalḳ., Deut. 845); "If thou wouldest get a friend prove him first, and be not hasty to credit him" (Ecclus. [Sirach] 6:7). "For some man is a friend for his own occasion, and will not abide in the day of thy trouble. And there is a friend who, being turned to enmity and strife, will discover thy reproach. Again, some friend is a companion at the table, and will not continue in the day of thine affliction. But in thy prosperity he will be as thyself. . . . If thou be brought low he will be against thee and will hide himself from thy face" (ib. verses 8-12). "A faithful friend is a strong defense: And he that hath found such a one hath found a treasure" (ib. verse 14; comp. verses 15-18).

That misplaced confidence gives cause for sorrow may be learned from many Biblical quotations. "Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me" (Psalms 41:9). "All her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies" (Lamentations 1:2a). "And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds between thine arms? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends" (Zechariah 13:6, R. V.).

Not to forsake one's friend, but to aid and to assist him in every possible way, is the tenor of many sayings. "Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not" (Proverbs 27:10). "Change not a friend for any good, by no means" (Ecclus. [Sirach] 7:18). "Do good unto thy friend before thou diest, and according to thy ability stretch out thy hand, and give to him" (ib. 14:13).

The highest office of friendship, the most thorough test of its genuineness, is justly reckoned to be the desire of friends to improve the moral and intellectual conditions of each other by frankness of reproof and counsel. "Thou shalt warn thy neighbor" (Leviticus 19:17a). "Better is open rebuke than love that is hidden. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are profuse" (Proverbs 27:5-6). "Love him who corrects thee, and hate him who flatters thee" (Ab. R. N. ch. ).

  • Braunschweiger, Die Lehrer der Mischnah;
  • Lazarus, Die Ethik des Judenthums, note 49.
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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Friendship'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​f/friendship.html. 1901.
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