24 There are[a] companions[b] who harm one another,[c] but there is a friend[d] who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 18:24tn The word is spelled אִישׁ (ʾish), typical of the word for “man, person,” and is often so translated (KJV, NIV, NASB, ESV). It is probably a synonym or alternate form of יֵשׁ (yesh, “there is”), which begins the second line of the verse. The Ugaritic and Aramaic cognates of יֵשׁ (yesh) are ʾt and אִית (ʾith) respectively. A regular phonetic change in the history of the languages accounts for the Ugaritic and Aramaic tav (ת, “t”) where Hebrew has a shin (שׁ, “sh”). It is spelled without the yod as אִשׁ (ʾish, “there is”) in 2 Sam 14:19 and Mic 6:10 (see HALOT 92, s.v. אִשׁ). C. H. Toy suggested reading יֵשׁ (yesh) instead of אִישׁ (ʾish), along with some of the Greek mss, the Syriac, and Tg. Prov 18:24 (Proverbs [ICC], 366) but the emendation is unnecessary in light of the cognate.
Proverbs 18:24tn The noun רֵעַ (reaʿ) refers to a “companion, associate, friend, neighbor.” It has a wide range of meaning depending on context, but generally “those persons with whom one is brought into contact and with whom one must live on account of the circumstances of life” (HALOT 1253 s.v. II רֵעַ). Some translations employ the word “friend” in both halves of the verse, obscuring the distinction between them. This term speaks of association, not necessarily friendship.
Proverbs 18:24tn The text lacks a main verb and simply has an infinitive construct, לְהִתְרֹעֵעַ (lehitroʿeaʿ), a hitpolel of the verb רעע (raʿaʿ). Based on the noun רֵעַ (reaʿ, “companion, associate, friend, neighbor”), the KJV had postulated a cognate, an otherwise unattested root רעע meaning “show oneself friendly” in the Hitpolel. This would be reasonable if there was a root רעע that means “to be a friend” in the Qal, but the noun רֵעַ (reaʿ) is actually associated with a root רעה (raʿah). Instead the infinitive points toward a result and the Hitpolel of רעע (raʿaʿ) means “to smash one another” (HALOT 1269 s.v. II רעע). If the first word of the verse is maintained to be אִישׁ (ʾish, “man”), it might mean “a man of companions may be crushed by them.”
Proverbs 18:24tn This term for friend (אֹהֵב, ʾohev) is based on the root meaning “to love. It speaks of a bond or commitment that is not true of the term for “companion” in the first line.
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