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Home > Dictionaries > Holman Bible Dictionary > FRIEND, FRIENDSHIP

Holman Bible Dictionary

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Additional Resources
• Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
Friend, Friendship
• International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Friend, Friendship

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 (1 Samuel 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 19:6; Proverbs 22:11,Proverbs 22:24; Proverbs 27:6,Proverbs 27:10,Proverbs 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 15:9,Luke 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".
<>. 1991.


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