The Bible describes a true friend as a person who sticks closer than a brother, is constant in his loyalty and friendliness, comes to the aid of his companion in distress, and gives counsel to him in faithfulness. (Pr 18:24; 17:17; 27:6, 9) On the other hand, those who are rich and those who give presents have many friends who are interested only in the selfish benefits derived from the friendship. (Pr 14:20; 19:4, 6, 7) Appropriately Jesus Christ counseled not to invite to an evening meal friends who can repay, but to invite persons who cannot repay. (Lu 14:12-14) Jesus himself set the example in this regard by helping spiritually those looked down upon. For this he was labeled “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” (Mt 11:19) But Jesus indicated that only those obeying his commands were his real friends. He demonstrated his love for them by surrendering his soul in their behalf and encouraged them to love one another likewise.—Joh 15:12-14.
First-century Christians referred to fellow believers in general as “friends.” (3Jo 14) Yet this does not rule out one’s being closer to some in the Christian congregation than to others, either because of family relationships, closer association by reason of circumstances, similar backgrounds or interests, simple compatibility of personalities, or because of fine Christian qualities that one has discerned by experiencing association with them. There were certain qualities in Peter, James, and John that caused Jesus to associate these disciples with him in many privileges, such as having them witness the transfiguration scene. In this Jesus may have been looking to the future as to the things he had in mind for these three men, the things he knew he would use them to do in his service.—Mr 9:1-10; 14:32, 33; Lu 8:51.
While, like Jesus, the Christian manifests love toward mankind in general, rightly he accords the kind of love that goes with friendship only to those who are friends of God. The propriety of this is emphasized by the question put to King Jehoshaphat: “Is it to the wicked that help is to be given, and is it for those hating Jehovah that you should have love?” (2Ch 19:2) Persons desiring to be friends of the world make themselves enemies of God.—Jas 4:4.
The most outstanding human friendship recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures was that of David and Jonathan. Although Jonathan was the natural heir to the throne of his father Saul, he did not hate David and come to view him as a rival, but he recognized that Jehovah’s favor was on David. So “Jonathan’s very soul became bound up with the soul of David, and Jonathan began to love him as his own soul.” (1Sa 18:1) After Jonathan’s death in battle, David greatly lamented the loss of his friend, saying: “I am distressed over you, my brother Jonathan, very pleasant you were to me. More wonderful was your love to me than the love from women.” (2Sa 1:26) This friendship was possible because both David and Jonathan placed loyalty to Jehovah God above everything else.
In sharp contrast, because of the moral corruption in his day the prophet Micah was obliged to warn: “Do not put your trust in a confidential friend.” (Mic 7:5) Jesus also indicated that even onetime friends of his followers would turn against them and have them delivered up to be put to death.—Lu 21:16; see LOVE.
Friend of God. Among the divine blessings bestowed upon Abraham was the privilege and honor of being called “Jehovah’s friend [or, lover].” This was by reason of Abraham’s outstanding faith, which he demonstrated to the greatest degree possible in his willingness to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice.—Isa 41:8, ftn; 2Ch 20:7; Jas 2:21-23; see DECLARE RIGHTEOUS.
By proper use of “unrighteous riches” it is possible to make friends with Jehovah God and his Son, who can receive one into “the everlasting dwelling places,” as pointed out by Jesus Christ in his illustration about the unrighteous steward. (Lu 16:1-13) Jesus did, in fact, call his disciples his friends, and they were therefore also the friends of his Father. (Joh 15:13-15; 14:21) The requirements for being a guest in Jehovah’s tent as one of his friends are outlined in Psalm 15:1-5.
In contrast, friendship with the world constitutes enmity with God. (Jas 4:4; 1Jo 2:15-17) Mankind as a whole is alienated from and at enmity with God. However, reconciliation is possible, but only through Jesus Christ and the ministry of reconciliation with which God has entrusted his Son’s ambassadors. Ultimately life everlasting will be the exclusive possession of the friends of God.—2Co 5:18-20; Re 21:3, 4; Ps 37:29.
Friend (Companion) of the King. In using this expression, the Bible does not indicate that it had more than the usual connotation of one who is friendly or a companion. Neither does it directly describe the specific functions of the friend of the king as an official title. However, based on the customs of other lands, it may be that the expression designated a court official who was a confidant, a personal friend, and a companion to a king and who at times executed confidential orders.—Ge 26:26.
Among Solomon’s court dignitaries, listed at 1 Kings 4:1-6, are two sons of Nathan. One is mentioned as being “over the deputies,” whereas the other, Zabud, is called “the friend of the king.” In the reign of Solomon’s father, King David, Hushai the Archite is spoken of as having this relationship to King David, being called “David’s companion.” At David’s request, Hushai returned to Jerusalem to frustrate the counsel of Ahithophel when Absalom conspired to usurp the throne.—2Sa 15:32-37; 16:16-19.
Among the old Egyptian kings, there were several ranks of king’s “friends.” The title did not indicate anything exclusive but was merely an honorary designation for officials whose real duties were indicated by other titles. ‘Friends to the king’ were also frequently mentioned in connection with the Grecian Empire. There the king conferred with a definite body of these friends before making decisions on important matters. The office existed in Persia, Arabia, and Ethiopia.
Friend of the Bridegroom. In times past, a man of the bridegroom’s close acquaintances acted as a legal representative of the bridegroom and took the primary responsibility in making arrangements for the marriage. He would sometimes arrange the espousal with the parents of the bride, delivering the bride-price to the father and gifts to the bride. He was viewed as bringing together the bride and groom. The bridal procession would arrive at the house of the bridegroom’s father or at the bridegroom’s house, where the marriage feast was celebrated. There the bridegroom and bride would come together. At the feast, on hearing the bridegroom speak to the bride, the friend of the bridegroom was happy, feeling that his duty was successfully concluded.—Joh 3:29.
John the Baptizer, who prepared the way for the Messiah, introduced the first members of the “bride” to Jesus Christ, to whom she was espoused. (2Co 11:2; Eph 5:22-27; Re 21:2, 9) John could therefore say: “You yourselves bear me witness that I said, I am not the Christ, but, I have been sent forth in advance of that one. He that has the bride is the bridegroom. However, the friend of the bridegroom, when he stands and hears him, has a great deal of joy on account of the voice of the bridegroom. Therefore this joy of mine has been made full.” Just as the friend of the bridegroom had accomplished his objective at this point and was no longer a principal figure, so John said of himself in relation to Jesus Christ: “That one must go on increasing, but I must go on decreasing.”—Joh 3:27-30.
“Friends of the bridegroom” are mentioned at Matthew 9:15. Here reference is made to other friends who joined in the marriage procession and who were invited to the marriage feast.