Proverbs 18:19
A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.
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(19) A brother offended.—Or rather, wronged.

Their contentions.—Of such as have once been friends, “are like the bars of a castle,” or palace, forming an almost impassable barrier to reconciliation. The bitterness of quarrels between friends is proverbial.

Proverbs 18:19. A brother offended — Namely, by his brother’s unkindness or injury; is harder to be won — Or, is stronger and more impregnable; than a strong city — Which is hardly to be conquered. And their contentions are like the bars of a castle — Which are very strong, and not to be broken, as being made of iron or brass: see 1 Kings 4:13; Isaiah 45:2. The truth of this assertion is confirmed by the testimony of several learned men who affirm the same thing; and the reason of it is evident, because the nearness of the relation greatly heightens the provocation, and love abused frequently turns to extreme hatred. “There are no contentions,” says Bishop Patrick, in his paraphrase on this verse, “so sharp and obstinate as those among brethren; who grow so refractory when they have transgressed against each other, that it is easier to take a strong city, or to break the bars of a castle, than it is to compose their differences, and remove all the obstructions that lie in the way of their hearty reconciliation.” The LXX., but on what authority does not appear, render this, Αδελφος υπο αδελφου βοηθουμενος, &c., A brother assisted by a brother is powerful, as a strong and high city, and as a well-founded kingdom. And Bochart, following the Vulgate, renders the verse, “As a fortified city is a brother assisted by a brother, and they who mutually love one another are like the bars of a castle.” But certainly neither of these readings is consistent with the Hebrew text, which is literally and faithfully translated in our English Bible.

18:19. Great care must be taken to prevent quarrels among relations and those under obligations to each other. Wisdom and grace make it easy to forgive; but corruption makes it difficult. 20. The belly is here put for the heart, as elsewhere; and what that is filled with, our satisfaction will be accordingly, and our inward peace. 21. Many a one has caused his own death, or the death of others, by a false or injurious tongue. 22. A good wife is a great blessing to a man, and it is a token of Divine favour. 23. Poverty tells men they must not order or demand. And at the throne of God's grace we are all poor, and must use entreaties. 24. Christ Jesus never will forsake those who trust in and love him. May we be such friends to others, for our Master's sake. Having loved his own, which were in the world, he loved them unto the end; and we are his friends if we do whatever he commands us, Joh 15:14.The meaning of the first clause is obtained in the King James Version by the insertion of the words in italics, and it seems on the whole to be the best. The Septuagint and Vulgate give an entirely different rendering, based, apparently, upon a different text. 19. No feuds so difficult of adjustment as those of relatives; hence great care should be used to avoid them. Offended, to wit, by his brother’s unkindness or injury.

Is harder to be won; or, is stronger, which is sufficiently understood by the mention of a strong city, to which he is compared; such ellipses being frequent in the Hebrew, as hath been noted before.

Than a strong city; which is hardly to be conquered.

Like the bars of a castle; which are very strong, and not to be broken, and make the castle strong, and hardly to be won. The truth of this assertion is confirmed by the testimony of Aristotle and other learned authors, who affirm the same fixing; and the reason of it is evident, because the nearness of the relation greatly heightens the provocation, and love abused frequently turns to extreme hatred.

A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city,.... A fortified city may sooner be taken by an enemy, than one brother offended can be reconciled to another; their resentments against each other are keener than against another person that has offended them; and their love being turned into hatred, it is more bitter; and it is more difficult to compose differences between brethren than between enemies; wherefore such should take care that they fall not out by the way: this is true of brethren in a natural sense; as the cases of Abel and Cain, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brethren, Amnon and Absalom, and others, show; and of brethren in a spiritual sense, as Paul and Barnabas, Luther and Calvin, and others;

and their contentions are like the bars of a castle: which cannot be easily broken or cut asunder: so contentions, especially those among brethren, are with great difficulty made to cease, and their differences composed; they will stand it out against one another as long as a strong city, or a barred castle, against an enemy.

A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the {n} bars of a castle.

(n) Which for the strength of it will not bow or yield.

19. offended] or injured, R.V. marg.

like the bars of a castle] forming an impassable barrier to reconciliation.

Verse 19. - A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city. Something must be supplied on which the comparative notion min, "than," depends. So we may understand "resists more," or something similar. A brother or a once close friend, when injured or deceived, becomes a potent and irreconcilable enemy. The idea of the preceding verses is carried on, and the primary thought is still concerning lawsuits and matters brought before a judge. This is shown in the second clause by the use of the word "contentions" (midyanim). And their contentions are like the bars of a castle. They close the door against reconciliation, shut the heart against all feeling of tenderness. True it is, Ξαλεποὶ πόλεμοι ἀδελφῶν (Eurip., 'Fragm.'). And again, 'Iph. Aul.,' 376 -

Δεινὸν κασιγήτοισι γίγνεσθαι λόγους
Μάχας θ ὅταν ποτ ἐμπέσωσιν εἰς ἔριν. Aristotle also writes thus ('De Republ.,' 7:7): "If men receive no return from those to whom they have shown kindness, they deem themselves, not only defrauded of due gratitude, but actually injured. Whence it is said, 'Bitter are the quarrels of friends;' and, 'Those who love beyond measure also hate beyond measure.'" An English maxim gloomily decides, "Friendship once injured is forever lost." Pliny ('Hist. Nat.,' 37:4), "Ut adamas, si frangi contingat malleis, in minutissimas dissidit crustas, adeo ut vix oculis cerni queant: ita arctissima necessitudo, si quando contingat dirimi, in summam vertitur simultatem, et ex arctissimis foederibus, si semel rumpantur, maxima nascuntur dissidia." Ecclus. 6:9, "There is a friend, who being turned to enmity will also discover thy disgraceful strife," i.e. will disclose the quarrel which according to his representation will redound to thy discredit. The Vulgate and Septuagint have followed a different reading from that of the present Hebrew text: "Brother aided by brother is like a strong and high city, and he is powerful as a well founded palace," Septuagint. The last clause is rendered in the Vulgate. Et judicia quasi vectes urbium; where judicia means "lawsuits," legal disputes; these bar out friendship. The first member of the sentence in the Greek and Latin recalls Ecclesiastes 4:9, etc., "Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour," etc. St. Chrysostom, commenting on Ephesians 4:3 ('Hom.,' 9.), writes, "A glorious bond is this; with this bond let us bind ourselves together alike to one another and to God. This is a bond that bruises not, nor cramps the hands it binds, but it leaves them free, and gives them ample play and greater energy than those which are at liberty. The strong, if he be bound to the weak, will support him, and not suffer him to perish; and if again he be tied to the indolent, he will rather rouse and animate. 'Brother helped by brother,' it is said, 'is as a strong city.' This chain no distance of place can interrupt, neither heaven, nor earth, nor death, nor anything else, but it is more powerful and stronger than all things." Proverbs 18:1919 A brother toward whom it has been acted perfidiously resists more than a strong tower;

     And contentions are like the bar of a palace.

Luther rightly regarded the word נושׁע, according to which the lxx, Vulg., and Syr. translated frater qui adjuvatur a fratre, as an incorrect reading; one would rather expect אח מושׁיע, "a brother who stands by," as Luther earlier translated; and besides, נושׁע does not properly mean adjuvari, but salvari. His translation -

Ein verletzt Bruder helt herter denn eine feste Stad,

Und Zanck helt herter, denn rigel am Palast

[a brother wounded resisteth more than a strong city, and strife resisteth more than bolts in the palace], is one of his most happy renderings. מקּרית־עז in itself only means ὑπὲρ πόλιν ὀχυράν (Venet.); the noun-adjective (cf. Isaiah 10:10) to be supplied is to be understood to עז: עז הוּא or קשׁה הוא (Kimchi). The Niph. נפשׁע occurs only here. If one reads נפשׁע, then it means one who is treated falsely equals נפשׁע בּו, like the frequently occurring קמי, my rising up ones equals קמים עלי, those that rise up against me; but Codd. (Also Baer's Cod. jaman.) and old editions have נפשׁע, which, as we have above translated, gives an impersonal attributive clause; the former: frater perfidiose tractatus (Fl.: mala fide offensus); the latter: perfide actum est, scil. בּו in eum equals in quem perfide actum. אח is, after Proverbs 17:17, a friend in the highest sense of the word; פשׁע means to break off, to break free, with ב or על of him on whom the action terminates. That the פּשׁע is to be thought of as אח of the אח נפשׁע is obvious; the translation, "brothers who break with one another" (Gesen.), is incorrect: אח is not collective, and still less is נפשׁע a reciprocum. The relation of אח is the same as that of אלּוּף, Proverbs 16:28. The Targum (improving the Peshito) translates אחא דמת עוי מן אחוי, which does not mean: a brother who renounces (Hitzig), but who is treated wickedly on the part of, his brother. That is correct; on the contrary, Ewald's "a brother resists more than..." proceeds from a meaning of פשׁע which it has not; and Bertheau gives, with Schultens, an untenable

(Note: Among the whole Heb. synon. for sinning, there exists no reflexive Niph.; and also the Arab. fsḳ has no ethical signification. נסכּל only, in the sense of fool, is found.)

reflexive meaning to the Niph. (which as denom. might mean "covered with crime," Venet. πλημμεληθείς), and, moreover, one that is too weak, for he translates, "a brother is more obstinate then...." Hitzig corrects אחז פּשׁע, to shut up sin equals to hold it fettered; but that is not correct Heb. It ought to be עצר, כּבשׁ, or רדות. In 19a the force of the substantival clause lies in the מן (more than, i.e., harder equals more difficult to be gained), and in 19b in the כּ; cf. Micah 7:4, where they are interchanged. The parallelism is synonymous: strifes and lawsuits between those who had been friends form as insurmountable a hindrance to their reconciliation, are as difficult to be raised, as the great bars at the gate of a castle (Fl.). The point of comparison is not only the weight of the cross-beam (from ברח, crosswise, across, to go across the field), but also the shutting up of the access. Strife forms a partition wall between such as once stood near each other, and so much thicker the closer they once stood.

With Proverbs 18:19, the series of proverbs which began with that of the flatterer closes. The catchword אח, which occurred at its commencement, 9b, is repeated at its close, and serves also as a landmark of the group following Proverbs 18:20-24. The proverb of the breach of friendship and of contentions is followed by one of the reaction of the use of the tongue on the man himself.

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