Proverbs 18:24 Showing Ourselves Friendly, or Coming to Ruin?
KJV: A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
NIV/ESV: A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Either of the above renderings are possible since the identity of the hitpael-stem verb (underlined) is obscure, and polysemy (multiple word sense) adds to the difficulty, but one likely meaning of the verb is "to be a companion" (see KJVToday.com for approp- riate commentary), and in the reflexive sense of the hitpael verb, the rendering would be "to show himself social or friendly," in accord with the KJV rendering.
Further, the verb can mean "broken" in an idiomatic or figurative sense, supporting the KJV rendering. A "broken in spirit" state produces a selfless behavior in people that is very conducive to making friends, common arrogance of the human mind being out of sight. The Hasidic Rabbi Menachem Mendel said there is nothing so whole as a broken heart, a state of mind that others are drawn to, one truly conducive to creating loving friendships. Indeed, in Matthew 22:39, Christ said the second great principle of the law is to love our neighbor as ourselves, and a broken spirit is just what makes this possible. Further, Philippians 2:3 teaches us to consider others as better than our- selves, which would be the ultimate state conducive to loving friendships.
Regarding this second sense of the hitpael verb, the modern-version notion of a state of ruin due to making unwise friendships yields an overly literal rendering of Proverbs 18:24 that speaks of literal ruin, rather than the actual spiritual sense. The spiritual sense of the reflexive verb A man that hath friends must show himself friendly (by a humble spirit) is appropriate in this sense also, as noted above. Now in applying this sense, the second clause of the verse speaks of a friendship even greater than this, which can only be that of mankind with the Lord God. Indeed Psalm 51:17 says, The sacrifices of God are a broken heart: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Thus the Proverb teaching would include the ultimate true friendship, instructing us to seek to follow on earth the type of friendship anticipated in heaven.
There is no related context on the subject of verse 24, a common situation in Proverbs, so the appropriate rendering of the verse is judged on the basis of its own context. The KJV rendering satisfies both above-noted senses of the crucial verb, and even satisfies the ultimate sense of God-to-mankind relationships, so there is little doubt that this is the proper one. This is further indicated in that the idiomatic/figurative nature of the supportive sense of the crucial verb is something to be expected in the Hebrew poetic style characteristic of Proverbs.