My brothers have dealt deceitfully as a brook, and as the stream of brooks they pass away;…
The figure is derived from the winter brooks which pour down the Arabian wadies, full, turgid, roaring, fed by snow and ice, discoloured — black with the melted ice, but which vanish away under the first heat of the summer sun.
I. FRIENDS ARE OFTEN, LIKE WINTER BROOKS, FULL SO LONG AS THEY ARE FED. In this, then, may be found their likeness to that false friendship which is never so strong and noisy and babbling as when it is living upon your substance. As long as these friends can draw from your abundance, their professions are loud — they are like the full, strong stream of winter.
II. FRIENDS OFTEN GIVE, LIKE "WINTER BROOKS," PROMISES WHICH ARE UNFULFILLED. The Arabs say of a treacherous friend, "I trust not in thy torrent." The caravan wends its way through the sultry desert. The drivers remember a valley where, in the spring, the waters flowed in a copious stream. They turn aside to seek it. Behold, nothing but a torrent-scarred gorge! (Note — Verse 18 should be translated thus: "[The caravans] turn aside out of the way; they go to a desert and perish.") Thus with false friendship. In your adversity you recall the promises of those whom you befriended. You turn to them in your distress and perplexity. You go "to a desert"!
III. FRIENDS OFTEN WITHDRAW IN ADVERSITY LIKE BROOKS IN SUMMER. "What time they wax warm they become slender; when it is hot they are consumed out of their place." "First the stream flows more narrowly, — then becomes silent and still; at length every trace of water disappears by evaporation." Accurate description of the conduct of "friends," who have not the courage to break openly with you, but desert you by degrees. In the light of this how comforting the reflection that there is a Friend who sticketh closer than a brother. He is the river of the water of life — no failing stream.
(J. L. Lafferty.)
Parallel VersesKJV: My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook, and as the stream of brooks they pass away;