2 Samuel 13:3
But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David's brother: and Jonadab was a very subtle man.
And Jonadab was a very subtil man. Every virtue has its counterfeit. As there is a friendship which is true and beneficial, so there is what appears to be such but is false and injurious. Of the former we have an instance in David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1-4), of the latter in Amnon and Jonadab (his cousin, a son of Shammah, 1 Samuel 16:9; 2 Samuel 21:21), "one of those characters who in great houses pride themselves on being acquainted and on dealing with all the secrets of the family" (Stanley). In Jonadab, the daily companion of Amnon (ver. 4), we see the kind of friend that should not be chosen.
1. He is distinguished for subtlety, not for virtue and piety. "In the choice of a friend, let him be virtuous; for vice is contagious, and there is no trusting of the sound and the sick together" (Seneca). "Friendship is nothing else but benevolence or charity, under some modifications, viz. that it be in a special manner intense, that it be mutual, and that it be manifest or mutually known. It cannot be but between good men, because an ill man cannot have any true charity, much less such an intense degree of it as is requisite to friendship" (J. Norris, 'Miscellanies'). A companion is sometimes chosen solely for his cleverness and insinuating address; but his superior intelligence (however desirable in itself), unless it be combined with moral excellence, enables him to do all the greater mischief (Jeremiah 4:22).
2. In professing concern for another's welfare he seeks only to serve his own interests; his own pleasure, gain, influence, and advancement (ver. 4). True friendship is disinterested. Jonadab appears to have cared only for himself. Hence (to avoid getting himself into trouble) he gave no warning to others of what he foresaw (ver. 32). "This young man, who probably desired to make himself of some importance as David's nephew, was clever enough to guess the truth from the first; but it is sad to think that his thought and his advice were never founded on anything but a knowledge of the devil in man" (Ewald).
3. When he is acquainted with the secret thoughts of another, he fails to give him faithful counsel. (Ver. 5.) Such acquaintance is often obtained by flattery - "thou a king's son" - and frequent questioning; but it is not followed, in the case of improper desires and purposes, by admonition. "No flatterer can be a true friend." "Had he been a true friend, he had bent all the forces of his dissuasion against the wicked motions of that sinful lust" (Hall). "Faithful are the wounds of a friend."
4. Whilst he devises means for another's gratification, he smoothes his way to destruction. His aim is only to please. He advises what is agreeable, but what is morally wrong; and thus incites to sin; for which, with all its consequences, he is, in part, responsible. "In wise counsel two things must be considered that both the end be good, and the means honest and lawful. Jonadab's counsel failed in both." "The rapacious friend, the insincere friend, the friend who speaks only to please, and he who is a companion in vicious pleasures, - recognizing these four to be false friends, the wise man flies far from them, as he would from a road beset by danger" (Contemporary Review, 27:421). "A companion of fools shall be destroyed" (Proverbs 13:20; Proverbs 1:10). - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David's brother: and Jonadab was a very subtil man.