Saturday, September 29, 2018

Friends & Foes

A friendly man has many friends, so says Proverbs. But a godly man has many enemies. Two years ago at Society of Biblical Literature Conference in Seoul, South Korea I presented a paper about the Psalmist’s struggles for survival with the title “Enemies Everywhere”. I counted that there were 103 times in the book of Psalms that the word “enemy” or “enemies” is used throughout the Psalter. It appears that a big part of a righteous man’s experience of pain and affliction comes from his enemies, real or imagined. But friendship is also a great theme in the Wisdom literature wherein in times of anguish and afflictions, friends are there to console and to comfort. But Job was left without friends in his darkest hour of need and even his friends who came visiting ended up criticising Job and making him feel worse.
David has many friends, none other that the Crown Prince himself, Jonathan who saw in David a kindred soul and willingly accepted second place to David as he saw God’s anointing on David’s life. Perhaps David’s female friends are many too as many young women admire him from afar, when they danced with tambourines celebrating David’s victory in battles. I suppose it is hard to tell whether David had any close female friends because it seems if they get too close they either fall in love with him like king Saul’s daughter, Michel or Abigail, widow of Nabal whom David married after being taken in by Abigail’s charms and wisdom. Perhaps in David’s life this is true of women. A person whom one falls in love with can no longer be friends. The Psalmist feels betrayal when his close friends deserted him and even turned against him. Those who walk in close counsel with the Psalmist into the Temple but turned out to be deadly enemies. Friends can turn to be foes but few foes turn to be friends. I suppose it is much easier to slide into the dark side of betrayal and treachery rather than hatred and enmity turned into love and friendship. The Psalmist does not lose hope though even when he is left alone. He believes in God’s time his friends will return to him and they will rejoice together as true friends and comrades in the cause of truth.

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