9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Read more from New Bible Commentary
4:9–12 The need for companionship. V 9 makes the point; vs 10–12a give illustrations; v 12b restates the matter. Pits (10), cold nights (11) and bandits (12a) faced the ancient traveller, suggesting the need of companionship in times of accident (10), inadequacy (11) and adversity (12a). The increase of number from two (9, 12a) to three is significant: the more friends the better.
11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
11 With such a guarantee, the Thessalonians are now equipped to "encourage one another and build each other up." As in 4:18, "encourage" has more a consolatory than a hortatory meaning. Here is an unconditional pledge to strengthen even the weakest in faith. These teachings can also "build . . . up" Christians. This word was later to become one of Paul's favorite ways of writing about growth in the church (Eph 2:20-22; 4:12). An intellectual grasp of the provisions Paul has been describing leads to individual as well as collective growth of the body of Christ. Paul is quick to acknowledge progress along this line: "just as in fact you are doing." Yet he also looks forward to even greater attainments (cf. 4:1).
9 Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,
and the pleasantness of a friend
springs from their heartfelt advice.
Read more from NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible
27:9 Perfume and incense. Various pungent scents were part of the Israelite’s everyday life. Perfumes were concocted and incense burned to cover some of the more offensive smells, to enhance one’s sexual attractiveness (e.g., Est 2:12; SS 1:12; cf. thirteenth-century BC Egyptian Love Songs), and to serve as an offering to God (Ex 30:34 – 38). Among the most common were frankincense, myrrh, saffron and mixtures of cinnamon, cassia and olive oil (see notes on Ps 45:8; 133:2; SS 3:6). Such a pleasant fragrance is an apt parallel with a friend’s wise advice, since a person’s wise counsel makes it desirable to be around them, just as pleasant aromas would.