Can a man have too many friends? Is that what this passage is talking about - or - is it instructing us as to what kind of friends to make and to keep?
The "man of too many friends" is an interesting phrase. The word friend here is a very vanilla term. In order to know what kind of friend it refers to you have to understand the context. Yet the second time "friend" is used - the word is very specific.
The man of too many friends is the one who wants everyone to be his friend. He is willing to compromise who he is in order to make everyone his friend. I love the comments by Adam Clarke on this part of the verse.
There is a kind of factitious friendship in the world, that, to show one's self friendly in it, is very expensive, and in every way utterly unprofitable: it is maintained by expensive parties. feasts, etc., where the table groans with dainties, and where the conversation is either jejune and insipid, or calumnious; backbiting, talebearing, and scandal, being the general topics of the different squads in company. - Adam Clarke -
What happens to someone who has tons of friends - but is not interested in the "right kind" of friends? They come to ruin. This person may seem to be the most popular among everyone around, but what happens when they leave the room? Then the knives come out - the gossip begins - and the fact that this person is everything for everyone betrays them. These are what are called, "fast friends" who are there for you one day and the next are not. They are not true friends who are with you no matter what.
Solomon, as a king, knew about these people. They are the sycophants who suck up to you when they are with you - and who tear you apart when you leave. They are your friends because they want something - not because they actually like you or have any kind of commitment to your best interests. But when things get difficult, or you lose some of your popularity or power, or you are no longer wealthy they no longer are your friends. When you come to tough times - when you really need a friend - they are no longer there. They were your friend only because of what you provided for them - and now that you cannot provide it - you're gone!
But, we read, there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Here the word "friend" means "one who loves" - and is used to describe the love of husband and wife and the love that God has for us. Here is the true friend - who is described as the one who loves you. He sticks closer than even your family. He is steadfast and true to you no matter what happens in your life. His love is not a love FOR something - his is a love that chooses you and remains faithful and true to you for all time.
Interesting that many of the puritans used this verse to describe the Lord Jesus Christ. He is truly the friend who sticks closer than a brother. He stands with and stays with us for all eternity. He set His love and affection upon us from all eternity - and will remain our friend for all eternity.
So . . . what does a true friend look like? How do we act as a true friend? We love people like the Lord Jesus Christ loves them! That is a true friend to have - and a true friend to be.