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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

James 5

Verses 1-6



James 5:1-6

1     Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.1 2Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver Isaiah 3:0 cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh2 as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. 4Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud,3 crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. 5Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as4 in a day of slaughter.5 6Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.


1. Analysis: The Judaists exhorted to repentance or to realize a presentiment of the judgment, James 5:1.—Their condition: spiritual self-delusion, the corruptness and self-consumption of their supposed riches, James 5:2-3.—Their positive sins resulting from such spiritual self-delusion. Their sins against the reapers of the harvest in Israel.—Their unsuspecting assurance of their life of indulgence in the very day of -their judgment. The crime of the murder of the Just One, James 5:4-6.

The Judaists exhorted to repentance or to realize a presentiment of the judgment.

James 5:1. Well then, ye rich.—Concerning the rich see Introduction, James 1:10; James 2:6-7. That the reference is not to the outwardly rich but to the rich in the sense of Old Testament (Psalms 73:0; Isaiah 5:0), Gospel (Matthew 19:24; Revelation 3:17) and symbolical usage may be expected from an Apostolical man, to say nothing of an Apostle. The ordinary construction put on this term would lead us to expect either that the Epistle ought to have driven the outwardly rich from the Church or that they would have excluded the Epistle from the Canon. But just as the Jewish Christians themselves have ceased to be known so also the Gentile Christian Church has suffered the majestic prophetical penitential discourse of the faithful Christian Apostle to the Jews to be reduced to the conception of a severe moral lecture. The repetition of ἄγε νῦν does not prove that the reference here is to the same persons who are addressed in 4:18 (as Huther supposes). Nor is the reference at all to individuals as such; the persons addressed there are Judaists in a most perilous condition, while those addressed here are those who according to the last warning harden themselves by the self-delusion of their being theocratically rich. The entire prophetical lamentation must be judged according to its analogies in the Old Testament (Isaiah 2:22; Isaiah 3:9; Isaiah 3:19 etc.) the words of Christ (Matthew 23:0) and the Apocalypse (Revelation 18:0).

Weep unto howling.—De Wette and al. take this as an exhortation to shed the tears of repentance; Huther agrees with Calvin who denies that there is any reference to repentance and considers the passage to be “simplex denunciatio judicii dei, qua eos terrere voluit ab spe veniæ.” Wiesinger takes a middle position: that the design of James, as in the case of the prophets of the Old Testament, is nevertheless none other than that of moving them, if possible, to turn from their perverse course. Huther, who objects that James nowhere intimates such design, overlooks 1, that also the strongest menaces of judgment in the Old Testament are at any rate hypothetical (see the Book of Jonah, Jeremiah 28:7 etc.), 2, that the most assured foreseeing of the inevitability of the judgment as a whole still involves the possibility of individuals being wakened and saved in virtue of such menace, 3, that the Divine fore-announcement of such a judgment is at the same time made as a testimony of the truth for the future and designed to serve other generations as a warning and to conduce to their salvation. The strict construction of Huther is still more striking because he disputes Selmer’s exposition of the Imperative, viz. “stilo prophetico imperat, ut rem certiss mam demonstret,” and maintains that the proper force of the Imperative ought to be retained. This would therefore be a command to weep without any hope of salvation. The Participle ὀλολύζοντες ὀλολύζειν used often to describe howling with reference to the near approach of the judgment, Isaiah 13:6; Isaiah 14:31 etc.) denotes weeping accompanied by constant howling, i.e. increasing unto howling.

Over your miseries.—The impending judgments, not specified by the Apostle, but further alluded to only with respect to their premonitory symptoms.

Which are drawing near on you.—There is hardly room to doubt that James refers primarily to the Jewish war and the destruction of Jerusalem; so Thomas Aquinas, Grotius, Michaelis and al. understand it. Huther cannot substantiate by any proof the remark that “they (Thomas Aquinas, etc.) are not wrong in this respect, because in the Apostle’s mind the destruction of Jerusalem and the last judgment had not yet been distinguished.” The ταλαιπωρίαι are rather said to be ἐπερχόμεναι, already approaching; whereas a very patient waiting is necessary with respect to the coming of the Lord, James 5:7, etc., although in the light of Christian hope (not of chiliastic calculation) it is near at hand. On you, by which Luther and others further define the approaching judgments, follows not from the literal expression but from the connection; ἐπί also contains an allusion, favouring the construction. [See Appar. Crit. Note 1.—M.].

Their condition: spiritual self-delusion, the corruptness and self-consumption of their supposed riches. James 5:2-3.

James 5:2. Your riches are corrupted.—The verb σήπω (ἅπαξ λεγ. in N. T.), to make rotten or putrid, destroy by rottenness, signifies in 2 Perf. Pass. (as here) to rot, moulder, to be rotten or also to be in a state of rotting fermentation. But it has also the more general sense, to corrupt, to consume oneself (Sir 14:19). [σέσηπα is Perf. Middle.—M.]. The verb therefore does not necessitate us to understand with Gebser and al. πλοῦτος=frumenta. The main question here is to determine whether this and the next expression denote the natural immanent judgment of sin as portents of the positive judgments, or the latter (Grotius, Bengel), so that future events are prophetically described as having already taken place (de Wette, Wiesinger, Huther and al.). But the reference is evidently to the former; the corrupting of riches and the moth-eaten garments denote immanent, natural corruptions. But here, as in the prophets (Isaiah 28:1-2; Isaiah 33:11-12; Jeremiah 7:0 etc.) and in our Lord’s eschatological discourse (Matthew 24:28) these natural corruptions, as the judgment of the self-dissolution (—consumption) of sin, are in their products the tokens of positive judgment. But the riches must be taken figuratively, not literally as is generally done. The prophetical idea of the rich corresponds to the prophetical idea of the riches. It denotes therefore externalized Judaistic righteousness with all its national prerogatives, of course connected with that outward worldly prosperity and ease which are the outward complements of such self-righteousness. It is matter of historical record that at the time when James wrote this Epistle, Jewish affairs had the appearance of spiritual prosperity (in point of orthodoxy and world-holiness), as well as of worldly flourishing in the reign (in part at least) of Herod Agrippa II. (See my Apost. Age. I. pp. 307, 312, 324).

And your garments.—Doubtless in the sense of the splendid garment James 2:2.

Are become moth-eaten, σητόβρωτος, Job 13:28 : not found in Classic Greek and not elsewhere in the New Testament.

James 5:3. Your gold and your silver are eaten up with rust.—κατιόω is ἅπαξ λεγ. in the New Testament. Gold and silver do not contract rust, hence Hornejus observes that it is populariter dictum, which is approved by Huther. Pott interprets the striking expression of the dimness of their burnish, others otherwise. According to Huther James did not anxiously calculate the difference of metals in his vivid concrete depiction; but this would be an intensely popular mode of expression. The words Isaiah 1:22, “Thy silver is become dross” are not a merely popular expression; on the contrary they are designed to bring out the unnatural fact that the princes of Israel are become rebellious and companions of thieves. It is then an unnatural phenomenon to which James adverts, of course in figurative language. It is as unnatural for gold and silver to be eaten up with rust as for the glory of Israel to be as corrupted as the glory of other nations corrupts, which may be compared to base metals.

And their rust shall be a testimony against you.—Wiesinger, with whom Huther agrees, proposes the following interpretation: in the consuming of their treasures, to be brought about by an outward judgment, they see depicted their own. But the loss of outward wealth under the influence of outward corruption is by mo means evidence of the inward corruption of the losers. Oecumenius supposes that the rust on their gold and silver shall testify against the hardness of their heart, because they did not use them in doing good. This is correct as far as the reference is doubtless to a corruption inherent in their circumstances, but it lacks the due appreciation of the figurative sense: the rusting of your gold and silver, of your glory, represented by your leading men (see Isaiah 1:22-23), shall be a token that the nation is corrupted in its rich men in general. And this was actually the case. The leading men who in the spiritual life ought to have shone like tarnished silver and gold were rusted in legalism and dragged the majority of the self-righteous people into their own corruption.

And shall consume your flesh.—The Plural σάρκες is differently explained. The word stands simply for ὑμᾶς (Baumgarten), it denotes their well-fed bodies (Augusti), the fleshy parts of the body as contrasted with the bones (Huther who refers to 2 Kings 9:36; and particularly to Micah 3:2-3). But these passages contain no allusion to a consuming fire; fire consumes bones as well as flesh. We therefore assume that the term flesh is here used in a bad sense as in Genesis 6:3; Jeremiah 17:5 and John 3:6, and that the Plural describes the life of the rich as exhibited in the carnalities or externals of religious, civil or individual life, in which they take delight. That consuming rust of the decayed, defunct and deadly legalism beginning at the gold and silver with which they decorate themselves, eats through the flesh of their customs, ceremonies and earthly possessions to the very destruction of their life. It is a rust which has the consuming energy of fire (Ps. 21:22; Isaiah 10:16-17). The rotten fixity, described as rust, in its last stage transforms itself into the fire of a revolutionary movement, into a fanatical, consuming conflagration of rebellion (see Revelation 19:20), or in brief: absolutism becomes revolution. It is the consummated national self-dissolution, as it fully developed itself in the Jewish war and in Jerusalem besieged. The reference therefore on the one hand, is neither to consuming grief and want (Erasmus and al.), nor, on the other, already to the real, positive judgments (Calvin, Grotius, Wiesinger, Huther and al.). With respect to ὡς πῦρ, Wiesinger, who adopts the punctuation of Cod. A and Oecumenius, and follows Grotius and Knapp, connects it with ἐθησαυρίσατε: “tanquam ignem opes istas congessistis, et quidem ipsis extremis temporibus.” Wiesinger cites as an analogy θησαυρίζεις σεαυτῷ ὀργήν, Romans 2:5, to which Huther rightly objects that in the words ἐθησαυρίσατε ἐν ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις the principal stress rests on ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις. This is sufficient; his further remark that the fire denotes already positive judgment we consider, for the reason already given, to be incorrect, but this fire points to positive judgment. ὡς also is against Wiesinger’s construction, and so does the over bold metaphor: ye have as it were gathered fire in gathering your wealth.

Ye have heaped up treasure.—The verb requires no definite specification of the object and the supply of ὀργήν (according to Romans 2:5. Calvin and al.) is superfluous and arbitrary. Moreover, the treasure, as Huther remarks, has been specified before.

In the last days.—Not perchance the last days, and the last days are neither the last days of life, nor the last days before the advent of Christ (Huther). James refers to the last days before the final national judgment, alluded to in James 5:1, but not yet described. The gathering of treasure is done in the anticipation of a long happy future; this reprehensible heaping up treasure in the last days of their existence, immediately before the judgment involving not only the ruin of their treasure but also of their very existence, characterizes moreover their fearful want of apprehension (freedom from all misgiving and fear, assurance) and mad-like self-delusion. All their spiritual and worldly treasures are useless obstacles in the impending judgment, destined to vanish as the means of their self-delusion in order to make room for a fearful undeceiving. Thus the indication of positive judgment draws nearer, but the Apostle first refers to their decisive sins.

Their positive sins resulting from such spiritual self-delusion. Their sins against the reapers of the harvest in Israel. The unsuspecting assurance of their life of indulgence in the very day of their judgment. The crime of the murder of the Just One. James 5:4-6.

James 5:4. Behold the hire of the labourers.—First decisive sin. Huther: “Injustice towards those who work for them;” Wiesinger: One case instead of many, a case moreover which clearly exposes the crying injustice of those rich men as the transgression of the express prohibition, Deuteronomy 24:14-15; Leviticus 19:13; Malachi 3:5.—And this is to be the whole meaning of this passage! But in the first place it is inconceivable that those wandering trafficking Jews of the dispersion (James 4:13) should all of a sudden be transformed into large landed proprietors, and in the second equally inconceivable that James should have occasion to reproach all the rich landlords of the dispersion with literally holding back the hire of their labourers. Here also we must again insist upon the symbolical sense of the passage. The first question is to determine the sense in which the term “the harvest of Israel” is used by the prophets (Isaiah 9:3; Joel 3:18), by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:12), and by our Lord (Matt 4:85; Matthew 9:38; cf. Revelation 14:15-16).—It denotes the time when the theocratic seed of God in Israel has become ripe unto harvest; on the one hand unto the harvest of judgment, on the other unto the harvest of salvation. The latter idea predominates here. The harvest of Israel was the ripened spirit-produce of the Old Testament, as manifested in the work of Christ; in the reapers we may aptly see the Apostles (according to John 4:35), and the first Christians in general. From them the rich in Israel kept back the hire in that they rejected their testimony in unbelief. And thus the voices of those reapers cried into the ears of the Lord of hosts, i.e., abandoning the figure: their sin against them cried out to God, even to God, the Lord of those hosts which were already on the point of approaching in order to execute the judgment of God on Israel.—The labourers, ἐργάται, see 1 Timothy 5:18. ἀμᾷν is ἅπαξ λεγ. in N. T. The expression imports moreover that Israel’s whole harvest of blessing has been brought home by these labourers into the Christian Church and that there is no other harvest besides it.

Which hath been kept back.—We construe with Huther “the hire which hath been kept back, crieth out from you,” ἀφὑμῶν, as we read in Genesis 4:10. “the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground,” because thus the injustice crying out for vengeance is laid to the charge of the evil-doers not to that of the labourers; the common construction “which hath been kept back by you” seems to be less opposed by taking ἀπό in the sense of ὑπό, than by the consideration that κράζει denotes a crying out for vengeance. Hence the connection is not: “the hire of the mowers crieth out and this crying has come to the ears of God” (Theile), but the crying out of the hire that has been kept back (Genesis 18:20; Genesis 19:13) on the one hand, is completed on the other by the βοαί of the reapers or the gatherers of the harvest, first as cries of complaint and cries for help (see Hebrews 5:7; Acts 4:24 etc.; Acts 12:5), and lastly also as cries for righteous recompense (Revelation 6:10-11). And these, even more than the former crying have entered into the ears of the Lord of hosts; which would yield this sense: not only the unbelief of the unbelieving Jews but also the distress of the believing Christians induce the Lord of hosts to send forth His hosts unto judgment; as indeed the destruction of Jerusalem was not only a visitation of judgment on Judaism but also a visitation of salvation on the Christian Church. The crying out of Christian blood for mercy to enemies reaches also its limit in the induration of unbelievers; moreover we should distinguish the reapers themselves from their βοαί, here made objective. The term “Lord of hosts” hardly renders prominent the power of God, as that of Lord of the heavenly hosts only (Wiesinger, Huther); He is also Lord of the earthly hosts according to the prophets (Isaiah 4:3; Isaiah 18:7; Isaiah 24:21; Amos 9:4-5), and also. According to Christ (Matthew 22:7). [Bede suggests the following reason “Dominum exercituum appellat, ad terrorem eorum, qui pauperes putant nullum habere tutorem.” This is the only passage in the New Testament where the term “Lord of hosts” is used in direct discourse. Romans 9:29 is a quotation.—M.].

Second sin. James 5:5. Ye have lived high on earth.—τρυφᾷν is ἅπαξ λεγ. in the N. T. It comprehends the ideas: to live softly, voluptuously, gloriously and also extravagantly. In LXX. (Nehemiah 9:25 and Isaiah 66:11) the fundamental idea is “to take delight in something to revel.” σπαταλᾷν denotes living lewdly, luxuriously, especially in eating and drinking; but in Lxx. (Ezekiel 16:49 and Amos 6:4) the idea of idle indulgence is decidedly predominant, probably also in 1 Timothy 5:6. Hence the two words would express not the definite antithesis deliciæ et exquisita voluptas and luxuria atque prodigalitas (Hottinger), but that of positive sumptuousness in pleasure and sensuality and of negative sumptuousness in effeminate, careless indolence. We might therefore translate “Ye have had your delight and have settled down on earth,” or “ye have become worldly and effeminate,” or “ye have bragged and made a show.” The opposite order occurs in Luke 16:19 : the daily wearing of holiday-apparel denotes the idler, the sumptuous living, revelry. Huther strikingly points out the contrast of this sumptuous mode of life and the toilsome life of the labourers, also the contrast of such revelling on earth and the complaint which is made to the Lord in heaven. But we must not overlook in this revelling on earth the thought, that the earth, the earthly, figuratively taken, was the foundation in which their revelling struck root, and that the day of slaughter is the principal antithesis of revelling.

And fattened your hearts.—τρέφειν in the opinion of several commentators denotes fattening, for the evident design of this clause is to show that the rich regarded and nourished their heart as an animal existence. Hence Huther is wrong in his correction of Luther, “to pasture your hearts,” better: “to satiate.” Luther’s rendering is excellent and we should have retained it but for the necessity of holding fast to the other meaning that fattening the heart is at the same time indurating the heart (καρδία πεπωρωμένη). The heart, however, is not a paraphrastic description of the body or individuality but denotes inward life, the kernel of spiritual. life (Acts 14:17). Wiesinger asserts that καρδία involves per se the idea of passionate fondness of enjoyment, but Luke 21:34 is the last passage which makes good his assertion.

In the day of slaughter.—On the omission of ως see Appar. Crit. Nor must ἐν be changed into εἰς. The rendering “as on a day of slaughter” (Luther, Wolf, Augusti) is consequently a double weakening of the thought. The comment of Calvin, Grotius, Bengel etc., that the day of slaughter is the day of sacrifice, when the slaughter of the victims is followed by banqueting, is altogether outside of the connection with the judgment. Calvin: “Quia solebant in saerificiis solemnibus liberalius vesci, quam pro quotidiano more. Dicit ergo divites tota vita continuare festum.” Huther rightly observes that the term in question is never used in this sense. De Wette sees in it a comparison to beasts, which on the very day of slaughter eat in unconcern. Huther thinks this comparison inappropriate, since beasts do not eat more greedily on the day of slaughter than at any other time. But this refutation rests on a misunderstanding. Beasts6 always eat greedily; their eating on the day of slaughter may therefore be used as a figure of the inordinate feasting of the obdurate on the very day of judgment. The analogy of 2 Peter 2:12 only tends to strengthen the appropriateness of this construction. The thought is further intensified by the consideration that while beasts are led to pasture and fattened for the day of slaughter, these men laid themselves voluntarily out for feasting in the very day of slaughter. But we may suppose that this point of comparison must not be dissociated from the general and more lofty meaning of ἡμέρα σφαγῆς, viz. that of a day of judgment (Jeremiah 12:3; Jeremiah 25:34). In the last passage also the ideas “day of judgment” and “day of slaughter” are taken together in a literal sense, so also in Isaiah 53:7; Revelation 19:17-18. But the day on which began Israel’s day of judgment which is developing itself into a day of slaughter, was the day of Christ’s crucifixion which connected with the day of the destruction of Jerusalem becomes in a symbolical sense one day of visitation. The Aorists here, therefore, are not used to indicate that the conduct of the rich is to be viewed from the future day of judgment at the second coming of Christ (Huther), but because their carnal arrogance and unconcern in the devilish revelling of their hearts culminated just on the judgment-day of Israel. Since then their day of slaughter is in process of development. Just as they had therefore collected together the treasures of legal righteousness in the last days, while the old time was on the wane, so they had reached the climax of their self-indulgent worldliness on the last day, the day of judgment.—This leads to their third and greatest sin.

James 5:6. Ye have condemned, ye have killed the Just.—The fact of modern commentators disputing the exposition of Oecumenius, Bede and Grotius that the Just signifies Christ, proves how far they have wandered from the text in the treatment of this Epistle. Only think of James, the witness of Christ, at the end of his course calling out to the obdurate of all the people of Israel: Ye have condemned and killed the Just and they not to have understood him to refer to the rejection and crucifixion of Christ! But to what or to whom else did they think he was alluding? Gebser and Huther [also Alford—M.] take δίκαιον collectively for τοὺς δικαίους; i.e. oppressed, suffering Christians, and Huther says: “The ground of the persecution is implied in the word δίκαιον itself; the Singular should be taken collectively, the idea absolutely” (similarly Theile). But then surely Christ ought to be considered as standing at the head of these slain ones. Wiesinger (and de Wette) refers the term to continued persecution ad mortem usque and adds that all reference to Christ is so manifestly against the whole context of the passage, that refutation is altogether unnecessary. On the contrary, proof is almost unnecessary. Wiesinger objects first, that the Epistle is addressed to the dispersion. But at the Passover, when Christ was crucified, the dispersion also was represented at Jerusalem, and symbolically all Israel was already dispersed. The most important objection is the Present οὐκ . This Present is certainly difficult. But is it more convenient to affirm concerning the collectively just man, that he had been killed by those rich and that he was still living than to affirm as much concerning Christ? The Vulgate probably alludes to Christ in rendering “non restitit;” so Luther, “he hath not resisted you.” But the Present forbids such a rendering. But also the common explanation: “Ye have killed the Just, he does not resist you” gives a thought which is not clear, at least not very distinct. It would perhaps be easier to suppose that the readers of the Epistle understood James to say: “Christ does not resist you in His members, He still endures willingly all persecutions in His sufferings.” But would this thought be a fitting conclusion of the great denunciation of those obdurate people? Nor is it the idea “the just do not resist you.” We understand therefore Bentley’s conjecture of reading ὁ κύριος instead of οὐκ (see James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5; Proverbs 3:34); still more the explanation of Benson to take the clause interrogatively. Giving to ἀντιτάσσεσθαι the fullest Middle sense, the question would read thus: “Does He not bring up against you His army (as the executor of the punitive justice of the Lord of hosts)?” or “does He not rise against you in combat?” At least it is easy to understand that with a predominantly ascetic turn of mind such a question might have been asked. But considering the importance of the matter, the interrogative form ought to be more distinctly marked: does he not already march against you, march against you in the tempest of war? Besides such an explanation might easily obscure the thought of the continuous suffering which Christ endures in His people. Hence one might light on the idea of rebellion, as we have it in Romans 13:2. He does not rebel against you, i, e. you are the rebels. But this again is not sufficiently clear. We read therefore: He stands no longer in your way, He does not stop you (in the way of death); He suffers you to fill up your measure. See Matthew 23:32-38. And this dark, pregnant sentence is the concentration of the announcement that the judgment impending on them, is inevitable. [The clause “οὐκ ” seems to be ironical: He lets you alone (Hosea 4:17).—James was called by his contemporaries “the Just” and this reference to Jesus as “the Just One” is a touching illustration of his character, for a delineation of which the reader is referred to the Introduction.—M.].


1. Both the Gospel and James are altogether free from any and every Ebionite one-sidedness that wealth, as such, is sinful and poverty, as such, meritorious. James allows the possession and use of earthly riches, but—in majorem Dei gloriam. While the rich are thus more privileged than others, they are also under doubly great obligations; but if they persistently acquit themselves of their discharge and use their riches only for the attainment of selfish ends which conflict with the law of love, then they are in all justice and reason liable to a uæ vobis divitibus cf. Luke 6:24; Matthew 6:19-21.—

2. Earthly wealth is not an absolute but a relative obstacle to entering the kingdom of God; cf. Mark 10:23-25.—The history of many rich men, e.g. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea shows that this obstacle may be overcome. But this is impossible where covetousness reigns supreme and adopts every means of preserving or increasing earthly possessions. Here applies the Apostolic warning, 1 Timothy 6:17-19,—compare also Plutarch, de cupiditate divitiarum, and the saying of Seneca, de benef. II. c. 27, “concitatior est avaritia in magnarum opum congestus,” also Sallust, in Catil. c. x. 4.—A life of luxurious indulgence as the concomitant of wealth and dependence on that wealth coupled with unfeeling contempt of one’s brother, according to the teaching of Christ Himself, deserves the judgment Luke 16:25. And the history of the destruction of Jerusalem as well as innumerable incidents taken from the history of the kingdom of God confirm the fact that such rich men are not rarely visited already here below with earthly calamity and outward distress apart from that judgment for eternity.

3. The rejection of the Messiah, to which James clearly alludes (James 5:6), as the work of the prominent Jews, as the murder of the Innocent and the Just was not only a heinous crime per se (cf. Acts 3:13-15), but also the first of a series of crimes enacted on the members of the Body, after they had first laid hands on the Head, which terminated at last in the horrors of the Jewish civil war and were punished with the fall of the and the destruction of the temple.

4. Christianity imposes upon all men, blessed with earthly goods, the duty to ascertain and, if practicable, to satisfy the wants of their subordinates and servants and to consider themselves not as the lords but as the stewards of the capital confided to them, Luke 16:2; cf. Colossians 4:1.—Those who neglect this duty and oppress the poor have even pursuant to the tenor of the Old Testament to bear the dreadful punishment of God. See e.g. Psalms 37:0.; Proverbs 14:31; Ecc 5:-7.

5. “Indulgence as it were fattens men for the punishment of hell—a figure taken from the sacrificial victims—i.e. ripens them so much the more for torments.” Heubner on James 5:5.


Wealth not an absolute superiority, poverty not an absolute evil.—Those who have most possessions on earth, have also to lose most in times of common suffering and tribulation.—Earthly riches from the nature of the case, are as transitory as their owners.—The true Christian an omnia sua secum portans.—The history of the rich fool is that of many (Luke 12:16-20).—The degree to which the rich may be poor and the poor rich.—God’s rich harvest-blessing changed into a curse through man’s selfishness.—It is possible to do evil, but not to do it unpunished.—God is higher than the highest that oppress the poor, Ecclesiastes 5:8.—The worldling’s short joy followed by long pain.—The murder of the Just One the most horrid manifestation of outward selfishness.—The fact that evil is suffered here on earth no guarantee that it will not be punished (James 5:4-6).—Threefold sin of the rich; 1, oppression of the poor (James 5:4), 2, selfish indulgence (James 5:5), 3, murder of the Just One (James 5:6).—How the crime of the rejection of Christ is still continued in various ways by many among the rich of this world.—The Christian has great cause to offer the prayer of Agur, Proverbs 30:7-9.—The love of money the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10) and of idolatry, Colossians 3:5.—

Starke: Cramer:—If you get riches, set not your heart on them, Psalms 62:11.—A man may be very rich and yet be very wicked, Psalms 73:12.

Augustine:—Magna pietas! thesaurizat pater filiis; immo magna vanitas! thesaurizat moriturus morituris.—Many who do not leave even children and know not whose shall be their riches (Luke 12:20) are so possessed of avarice, that they loathe parting even with a penny. O, unhappy rich!

Quesnel:—Thus the rich ground their hope on things which decay and perish. Foolish building! Matthew 7:26-27.

Langii op.:—If there were many pious rich men, who did husband their wealth as the stewards of God, the need of the poor would be greatly lessened, Luke 8:2-3; Luke 22:35.

Hedinger:—There are many who gather along with their gold a treasure of the wrath and vengeance of God, Romans 2:5.—To defraud labourers of their hire they have earned is a sin that crieth out to heaven and is sure to be followed by the curse and most fearful vengeance of God, 1 Thessalonians 4:6.—The name of God “the Lord of hosts” is as terrible to the ungodly as it is consoling to the godly, Psalms 46:11, 12.—Robbing the poor of their well-earned wages is murder, Exodus 1:13-14.

Stier: (James 5:6):—James refers primarily to the Lord, the Just One (Acts 7:52) and he himself bore the honourable epithet “the Just,” he here (implicite) humbly declines that epithet. Yet again—(here the inspiration of the Spirit affects the author of the Epistle so perceptibly and becomes here so remarkably prophetical that again)—he is unconsciously prophesying of himself. An author, who lived soon after the Apostles (Hegesippus), gives us a full account, which is doubtless correct in its main features, of the martyrdom of James the Just, the Lord’s brother, shortly before the siege of Jerusalem. See Introd. p. 9 etc.; [also Excursus p. 18, etc.—M.].—(James 5:4). Surely the words of James apply to many of our contemporaries, and many a proud palace ought to have the appropriate inscription.—“Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness and his chambers by wrong.”—The treatment which poor labourers experience at the hands of our money-aristocrats and merchant princes, who in their avarice are just what those names import and nothing more, who refuse to know the Lord God and our Saviour, cries everywhere loud enough in our ears, and is it likely that this crying has not also entered into the ears of the Lord of hosts? Of Him, who commanded even Moses to say in the law: “Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant, that is poor and needy—lest he cry against thee unto the Lord, and it be sin unto thee.” Deuteronomy 24:14-15.—

Jakobi:—It is not the measure of wealth, but the measure of sin, which tells; everything depends upon the manner how earthly riches, be they great or small, have been acquired and are enjoyed; and hence those whom we can by no means call wealthy, may be just as ungodly and unrighteous, just as indulgent and voluptuous as those who are really rich. Our text is therefore addressed to all that are earthly-minded, to all worldly people that do not order their lives according to the rule “to have, as though they had, and to buy, as though they possessed not.” 1 Corinthians 7:29 etc.

Neander:—James describes wealth in three different respects, viz. in garnered fruits of the field, in apparel, in gold and silver. All these, he says, the rich heap up without profit. Their treasures in gold and silver, for want of use, are eaten up with rust and will testify against them in judgment, finding them guilty because they suffered to perish for want of use that which they ought to have employed for the benefit of others. The rust consumes their own flesh, reminding them of their own perishableness and of the punishment that awaits them in the judgment, because instead of gathering durable riches, they have heaped up the fire of Divine punishment in treasures destined to be eaten up with rust.

Viedebandt:—A Christian, as has been strikingly said, may own worldly possessions like Abraham, David and many more, for a beggar’s staff will no more take us to heaven than a golden chain or velvet fur will take us to hell. Christ says not; “Ye cannot have God and mammon,” but “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Riches, says Augustine, are gifts of God and therefore good in themselves, Lest men decry them as evil, they are also accorded to the good, lest they be valued as the best goods, they are also given to the evil; Holy Scripture therefore only forbids men to be proud of and to ground their hopes on uncertain riches. But although riches and righteousness are compatible with one other, yet those who are distinguished by their worldly possessions, should cherish in their souls a sacred fear of them.—Riches are snares [German rhyme “Schätze sind Netze.”—M.].—A man lights hell-fire with his own hands if he suffers the fire of lusts to burn in his heart.—Dr. Sauvergne, a physician, narrates the case of a miser, who had his money brought to his dying bed and expired with the words “more gold, more gold!”

Lisco:—The dangers of wealth.—Of twofold riches (earthly and heavenly).—

Porubszky:—The woe uttered over the rich. 1, what it means; 2, its application to our time, 3, when it will cease.

[Wordsworth: James 5:2.—Although they may still glitter brightly in your eyes, and may dazzle men by their brilliance when ye walk the streets, or sit in the high places of this world; yet they are in fact already cankered. They are loathsome in God’s sight. The Divine anger has breathed on them and blighted them: they are already withered and blasted, as being doomed to speedy destruction; for ye lived delicately on the earth (James 5:5), and have not laid up treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt (Matthew 6:20).

Even while shining in your coffers, they are, in God’s eye, sullied and corroded, and they will not profit you in the day of trial, but be consumed by His indignation: and the rust they have contrasted by lying idle as κτήματα, and not being used as χρήματα, will be a witness against yon at the Great Day; and will pass from them by a plague-like contagion and devour your flesh as fire.

James 5:5.—A striking contrast. Ye feasted jovially in a day of sacrifice, when abundance of flesh of the sacrificed animals is on the table at the sacrificial banquet. Ye ought to have ruled the people gently and mildly; but ye “have fed yourselves and not the flock,” ye nourished your own hearts and not those of your people; ye have sacrificed and devoured them like sheep or calves of the stall fatted for the pampering of your own appetites. Cf. Ezekiel 34:1-10. Cyril in Caten. p. 33.

Ye did this at the very time when ye yourselves were like victims appointed to be sacrificed in the day of the Lord’s vengeance, which is often compared by Hebrew prophets to a sacrifice, see below, Revelation 19:17. Cf. Oecumenius and Theophylact here.

This was signally verified by the event. The Jews from all parts of the world came together to the sacrifice of the Passover A. D. 70, and they themselves were then slain as victims to God’s offended justice, especially in the Temple; particularly was this true of the rich, as recorded by Josephus, B. J. vi. passim.—Their wealth excited the cupidity and provoked the fury of the factious zealots against them, and they fell victims in a day of slaughter to their own love of mammon; what was left of their substance was consumed by the flames, which burnt the city.—Joseph. B. J. vii. 29, 32, 37.—M.].


[1] James 5:1. Cod. sin. insert ὑμῖν after ἐπερχομέναις [so vulg.syr.copt.Æth.Arm.—M.]

James 5:1. Lange: Well then, ye rich, weep unto howling over calamities which are drawing near on you.

James 5:1. [Go to now, ye rich, weep howling over your miseries which are coming upon you.]

James 5:2. Lange: Your riches are [already] corrupting, and your garments are become motheaten. [ … corrupted … M.]

[2] James 5:3. [2 Cod. Sin. A. inserts ὁ ἰὸς after σάρκας ὑμῶν.—M.]

James 5:3. Lange: Your gold and the silver is rusted and their rust will be a testimony against you and shall consume your flesh [σάρκας, your carnalities] as fire. Ye have heaped up treasure in the last [these last] days.

James 5:3. [Your gold and your silver are eaten up with rust and their rust shall be for a testimony to you .… Ye heaped up treasure in the last days.—M.]

[3] James 5:4. [3 Cod. Sin. B. read ἀφυστερημένος for ἀπεστερημένος—M.]

James 5:4. Lange: … which hath been kept back, crieth out from you, and the cries of the reapers have come to the ears of the Lord of hosts, [ … have entered into the ears of the lord of hosts.—M.]

James 5:5; James 5:5. Cod. Sin. A. B. omit ὡς before ἐν; so Vulg. and other versions; found in Rec., G K. and is probably an exegetical addition.

[5] James 5:5. [ Aeth. Pell Piatt’s edition. “ut qui saginat bovem in diem mactationis.—M.]

James 5:5. Lange: Ye have lived high on earth, ye have lived wantonly and fattened [like flesh] your hearts [as] in the day of slaughter.

James 5:5. [Ye lived in luxury on the earth and wantoned (Alford); ye fattened your hearts in. … M.]

James 5:6. Lange: Ye have condemned, ye have killed the Just. He doth not resist you [any longer opposing and saving].

James 5:6. [Ye condemned, ye killed the Just One. He doth not resist you.]

[6]In German “Fressen” and “Saufen” are properly used to denote the eating and drinking of beasts, i. e. inordinate, greedy eating and drinking. Applied to human beings the terms are offensive and insulting, although the vulgar are apt to indulge in these choice terms with reference to themselves.—M.

Verses 7-20



James 5:7-20

7Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early7 and latter rain. 8Be ye also patient;8 establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. 9Grudge not one against another, brethren,9 10lest ye be condemned:10 behold, the11 judge standeth before the door. Take, my12 brethren,13 the prophets, who have spoken in14 the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction,15 and of patience. 11Behold, we count them happy which endure.16 Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen17 the end of the Lord; that the Lord18 is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. 12But above all things,19 my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but 13let20 your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.21 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray, Is any merry? let him sing Psalms 14:0 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:22 15And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall 16be forgiven him. Confess23 your faults24 one to another, and pray25 one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. 17Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain,26 and the 19earth brought forth her fruit. Brethren,27 if any of you do err from the truth,28 and one convert him; 20Let him know29 that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul30 from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.31


Analysis:—Further address to the brethren. Final theme, viz: exhortation to endurance in long-suffering patience unto the coming of the Lord, James 5:7-9. Encouragement thereto: Examples of patient suffering, James 5:10-11.—Conditions thereof: Shunning of seditious movements. A hallowed disposition. The healing of their sicknesses. Liberation of the conscience by means of confession of sins. Exhortation to intercession. The example of Elias, James 5:12-18.—Conclusion replete with promise, James 5:19-20.

Further address to the brethren. Final theme: viz. exhortation to endurance in long-suffering patience unto the coming of the Lord, James 5:7-8.

James 5:7. Be patient therefore, brethren.—ἀδελφοί is the turning-point in the Apostle’s address. He now turns primarily to the Christian section of his readers without excluding however the further design of the address for all Jews capable of conversion in contrast to the aforementioned incorrigible πλούσιοι. μακροθυμεῖν literally to have great courage, to be magnanimous, branches out into the ideas to be long-suffering or forbearing towards the erring, applicable both to Divine and human long-suffering, and to be patient in the endurance of suffering, but also with the lateral idea of patiently hoping for endurance under apparent danger, here under the experience of worldly and human wrong, Hebrews 6:12. Hence μακροθυμία is distinguished from ὑπομονή in Colossians 1:11. And here also the term is obviously chosen instead of ὑπομένειν James 1:12, because the Apostle desires to lay stress on the endurance of the Jewish-Christian under the wrongs of the old situation of the world, by which the Judaists suffered themselves to be drifted into revolution.

Unto the coming of the Lord.—The Lord is Christ, as in ch, James 2:1, and the παρουσία denotes His eschatological advent according to the entire evangelical and apostolical system of doctrine (consequently not the coming of God unto judgment distinct and separate from the advent of Christ, as held by Augusti, Theile, de Wette). But this involves no reason for identifying this παρουσία with the judgments announced in James 5:1. nor must we, on the other hand, limit the coming of Christ to the last and concluding event of His epiphany. The coming of Christ is the epiphany (manifestation) of Christ with all its antecedent interpositions, be they universal or individual, the greatest of which is the destruction of Jerusalem, as the type of all subsequent comings.

Behold the husbandman waiteth.—Cf. James 3:18; Sir 6:16; 2 Timothy 2:6.

For the precious fruit of the earth.—Which is well worth waiting for. In this the husbandman is a symbol for believers, as also in that he confides the seed to the earth; to invisibleness, to seeming death and the grave. John 12:24.—

Being patient over it.—μακροθυμεῖν probably denotes here his persevering hope of the seemingly buried seed. It is the preciousness of the fruit (which, although invisible, he sees in expectation), that gives him long-enduring, faith-like courage. He calculates on it. [ἐπί is very graphic; it depicts him, as it were, sitting over it in the confident expectation of its appearing.—M.].

Until it shall have received.—That is, the fruit in its seed, not the husbandman (Morus).

The early and the latter rain.—That is with reference to the climate of Palestine: the autumnal rain before sowing, the spring rain before harvest, Deuteronomy 11:14; Deuteronomy 11:2; Jeremiah 5:24, etc. See Winer, R. W. B. Article “Witterung.” [The early rain πρώϊμος מוֹרֶה יוֹרֶה began to fall about the middle of October, became more continuous in November and December and turned into snow in January and February. The latter rain ὄψιμος, מַלְקושׁ fell in March and lasted to about the middle of April. Thunder-gusts were not uncommon from January to March.—The singular exposition of the early and the latter rain given by Oecumenius may prove suggestive: πρώϊμος ὑετός, ἡ ἐν νεότητι μετὰ δακρύων μετάνοια. ὅψιμος, ἡ ἐν τῇ γήρᾳ—M.].

James 5:8. Be ye also patient.—As is the husbandman. It is assumed that the seed has been sown among them. Their patience, indeed, is sorely tried, hence:

Establish your hearts.—1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Peter 5:10. It is here understood that this must be done by seeking refuge in prayer to the Lord, who giveth strength, as has been repeatedly pointed out, James 1:5-6 etc.

Because the coming of the Lord is nigh.—Literally: it has already drawn nigh in its coming nigh. It is not a fixed nearness but a constant drawing nearer and that, not in the sense of a chronological definition, but in the sense of a religious expectation and assurance, which does not calculate the time and the hour, or rather looks at time in the spirit of the Lord before whom a thousand years are as one day (2 Peter 3:8). In the Apostle’s sense of the expression, it could be said and may be said at all times: the coming of the Lord is nigh.

James 5:9. Murmur not, brethren, against one another.—There is no reason why this should be limited to the mutual forbearance among “Christians” (Huther). Here again all the dissensions among the Jews must be taken into consideration. As James had already denounced their quarrels, so he now feels anxious to stop the very sources of these quarrels. Huther admits that James refers to a “gemitus accusatorius” (Estius, Calvin), but denies that it amounts to a “provocatio ultionis” (Theile and al.). But the second cannot be separated from the first; the legalism of the Old Testament, moreover, as contrasted with the thorough fidelity of the N. T. intercession, exerted as yet a powerful influence over the minds of the Jewish-Christians and might easily bias them in that direction. The believing Jews were peculiarly exposed to that temptation by the oppressive and irritating treatment they received at the hands of the rich. Huther rightly remarks that impatience in affliction has the tendency of making men irritable. [It is of course difficult to determine whether the reference is to Christians only or to those who were open to conviction, or to all whom it might concern. As the exhortation states a general moral duty, it is perhaps best to give it the widest, possible application. In this sense the note of Hornejus (in Huther) will be found useful: “Quos ad manifestas it gravissimas improborum injurias fortiter ferendas incitarat, eos nunc hortatur, ut etiam in minoribus illis offensis quæ inter pios ipsos sæpe sub-nascuntur, vel condonandis vel dissimulandis promti sint. Contingit enim ut qui hostium et improborum maximas sæpe contumelias et injurias æquo animo tolerant, fratrum tamen offensas multo leniores non facile ferant.”—M.].

That ye be not judged.—According to Matthew 7:1, because murmuring against one another is also judging. [The reference is to final condemnation.—M.].

Behold, the Judge standeth before the doors.—(Matthew 24:33). Before the door. The Judge i.e. Christ. Theile sees here a reference to the disposition of the Judge to punish the oppressors and to avenge the oppressed; Huther, on the other hand, says it is intended to caution the suffering against the suspension of love and to hold out to them the promise of speedy deliverance. But it is pretty certain that the love of justice, purified from every unholy admixture, may also expect the just recompense of evil, and that the two ideas, therefore, go together. Wiesinger’s remark is excellent: “Ye may with perfect calmness leave the judgment to Him and therefore ye ought not to expose yourselves to the danger of the judgment.” Cf. Philippians 4:5. [Seeing Christ will speedily execute judgment, do not murmur against one another; murmuring against one another is a species of judging and condemning, ye are brethren, not accusers and judges of one another; invading the prerogative of the Judge renders you liable to judgment and condemnation. Love, requite evil with good and leave the judgment in the hands of Christ.—The reader is referred to the Introduction for the remarkable incident recorded by Hegesippus that the religious sects at Jerusalem were wont to ask St. James “which is the Door of Jesus?” Wordsworth says: “The words of St. James ‘Behold the Judge standeth at the doors’ perhaps became current among them. Perhaps those words may also have excited the question put in a tone of derision, ‘which is the Door of Jesus?’ at what Door is He standing? By what Door will He come? Show Him to us and we will go out to meet Him.—This supposition is confirmed by the reply of St. James, ‘why do ye ask me concerning the Son of Man? He sitteth in heaven, and will come in the clouds of heaven.’ ”—For other interpretations of that saying “Which is the Door of Jesus?” see Bp. Pearson on St. Ignatius, ad Philadelph. 9, αὐτὸς ὤν θύρα τοῦ πατρὸς, with reference to John 10:7-9; Valesius and al. on Euseb. II. 23; Lardner, Hist. of Apostles, James 16; Credner, Einleit. 2, p. 580; Gieseler, Church Hist. § 31; and Delitzsch on Ep. to the Hebrews, p. 673.—M.].

Encouragement thereto. Examples of patient suffering, James 5:10-11.

James 5:10. Take, my brethren, as an example.—ὑπόδειγμα, example or pattern=παράδειγμα, representation, related to ὑπογραμμός, writing-copy (copy-head) perhaps also attestation, and τύπος, the original pattern or beginning of a thing.

Of affliction and patience.—κακοπάθεια, ἅπαξ λεγ. in N. T. although not exactly=to suffer wrong (Hottinger), or=to suffer absolutely, denotes suffering evil or affliction, which easily suggests suffering wrong. [But, as Alford remarks, the word is strictly objective and is found parallel with ξυμφορά and the like. Cf. James 5:13, Malachi 1:12; 2Ma 2:26-27; and Thucyd. 7:77, ἐλπίδα χρὴ ἔχειν, μήδὲ καταμέψασθαι ὑμᾶς ἄγαν αὐτούς, μήτε ταῖς ευμφοραῖς, μήτε ταῖς παρὰ τὴν (spoken by Nicias to the suffering Athenian army in Sicily): so Isocr. p. 127. c. μηδὲ μικρὰν οἴεσθαι δεῖν ὑπενεγκεῖν κακοπάθειαν—M.].

The prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord.—Cf. Matthew 5:12. The addition characterizes them as servants of the Lord, who endured wrong for His sake.—Who spoke.—In a pregnant sense as frequently in the prophets.

In the name of the Lord.—(Lange: “in virtue of the name of the Lord”). Huther makes τῷ ἐν τῷ, claiming as much for Matthew 7:22. But there the sense is modified and here also this peculiar expression has probably to be so explained that the name of the Lord, i.e. the fundamental thought of the revelation of the Old Testament, gave impulse to their speaking. [But this seems a forced construction and since B. and Cod. Sin. actually supply ἐν there is really no reason why τῷ should not be taken=ἐν τῷ.—M.].

James 5:11. Behold, we count happy.—(Matthew 5:10-11). This saying is not only a subjective judgment of James but a reference to the fixed judgment recognized in the theocratic congregation and more particularly in the Christian Church. On this account also the reading τοὺς ὑπομείναντας is preferable to ὑπομένοντας. This embraces of course also the prophets just referred to (Grotius etc.), yet not them only but besides them also the most honoured sufferers. Hence we have “ye have heard of the patience of Job,” Ezekiel 14:14; Ezekiel 14:20; Tob 2:12-14.—Although his patience was at first shaken by the great temptation. The Jewish Christians had heard of him not only by means of the lessons which were read in the synagogue, but the name of Job was popularly honoured among them.

The end of the Lord.—We have here once more James’ uniformly significant τέλος, the import of which is wholly misunderstood if the passage is made to denote with Huther, Wiesinger and many others: “the termination which the Lord gave” (of the Lord, Genitive of the causal subject). We therefore return confidently to the exposition of Augustine, Bede, Wetstein and al. “the end of the Lord is the completing of Christ.” It is objected that the context does not warrant such a construction. But the context speaks in the Plural, not in the Singular of those who did suffer. The final clause of the verse “for very compassionate is the Lord and merciful,” it is supposed, ought to be restricted to the mercy of God, which gave so happy a termination to the sufferings of Job. But was Job’s restitution, according to the idea of the book, merely an act of mercy? On the other hand the supposition that Christ the Lord, pursuant to His compassion, entered upon His passion and thus showed the endurance of patience, conforms exactly to the biblical idea (1Pe 2:21; 1 Peter 4:1; Hebrews 2:10), and this idea is actually prefigured in the book of Daniel (Daniel 3:25). Huther, moreover, thinks it improbable, that James should have connected the example of Christ immediately with that of Job. But he did thus connect the example of Abraham with that of Rahab. There the antithesis was: Abraham, the father of believing Jews, Rahab a degraded Gentile woman; the antithesis here is: the great sufferer of the Old Testament, the Great Sufferer of the New. This abandonment of the ancient interpretation of our passage we cannot regard otherwise than as a consequence of the disparaging views held with respect to this Epistle. Besides James could hardly extol to the Jewish Christians the glorious gain of patience in suffering without adverting also to the example of Christ (cf. 1 Peter 2:21 etc.). This might have struck some of his readers as almost amounting to a denial. And why does he employ the term τέλος, by which he understands principial completion, and generally that of the New Testament? Why does the verb ἠκούσατε not suffice him and why does he in contrast with it, use the Imperative ἴδετε “look at the completion of the Lord?” But the Lord, like Job, went through suffering to glory, and that in the highest sense; and He was moved thereto by His infinite compassion, His love, which is also designed to coöperate with the patience of Christians. And this ἴδετε seems to be the culminating point of the Apostle’s missionary saying addressed to those Jews who were as yet unbelieving: “the end of the Lord, look at it;” while the common exposition: “The end, which the Lord gave, see (i.e. know, learn from it) that the Lord is πολύσπλαγχνος etc.” (Huther), is not only very flat, but also forced.—For very pitiful is the Lord. Rendering ὅτι for, appears to Huther unsubstantiated by what goes before, but nothing can be more simple than the thought: “look at the end of the sufferings of Christ, for that He suffered need not excite astonishment, it is a consequence of His pity. πολύσπλαγχνος occurs here only; it is formed after רב חֶסֶד (Wiesinger), the Lxx. use instead πολυέλεος, 6 Paul and Peter εὔσπλαγχνος (Ephesians 4:32; 1 Peter 3:8).

Conditions of this patience. Shunning of seditious movements. A hallowed disposition. The healing of their sicknesses. Liberation of the conscience by means of confession of sins. Exhortation to intercession. The example of Elias. James 5:12-18.

James 5:12. But before all things, my brethren, do not swear (conspire).—We cannot admit the view of Kern and Wiesinger that the connection of the Epistle breaks off at this point or that the dehortation contained in this verse has no other connection with what goes before than that which arises from the conduct of the readers.32 The fundamental idea which connects this verse with James 5:11 and James 5:13 etc., is the allaying of the fanatical excitement which was constantly growing among the Jews and was threatening through the influence of the Judaists to deprive the Jewish Christian Churches of their Christian composure. The history of the banding together of more than forty men against the life of St. Paul (Acts 23:12-21) proves the bias of judaistic zealots to enter into conspiracies; subsequently towards the outbreak of the Jewish war they were doubtless of more frequent occurrence. We have employed in our translation an ambiguous word [Verschwörung, of which we have no current equivalent in English, i.e. an ambiguous equivalent; the German words denotes 1, to, bind one-self by an oath; 2, to enter into a Conspiracy. Conjuration is the nearest English representative of Verschwörung, but the sense of conspiracy attached to it, although current in the days of Sir Thomas Elyot (+1546), is now obsolete.—M], in order to intimate this meaning. To be sure we take it textually in the sense that all swearing accompanied by hypothetical imprecations or the giving of a pledge is conspiracy. See Comm. on St. Matthew 5:34 etc. Hence James, like Christ (Matthew 5:34), defines this swearing as swearing by heaven, by the earth, or by any other oath (ὅρκος) connected with a hypothetical curse. The Greek construction ὀμνύειν with the Accusative brings out the unseemly character of such swearing by or appeal to a created object as a witness or avenger, with greater distinctness than the Hebrew construction of the same verb with ἐν. Oecumenius, de Wette, Neander, and al. understand the prohibition to apply to swearing in general, as in Matthew 5:33 with reference to or for the ideal condition of the Church. On the other hand Calvin, Wiesinger and many others refer the prohibition to light and trifling oaths in common life. With this must be connected the remark of Huther that swearing by the name of God is not mentioned; had he intended this swearing, he ought to have mentioned it in express terms because it is not only commanded in the law in contradistinction to other oaths (Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20; Ps. 63:12), but also foretold in the prophets as a token of men’s future conversion to God (Isaiah 65:16; Jeremiah 12:16; Jeremiah 23:7-8). But it follows also from this contradistinction that the oath in virtue of its N. T. completion was designed to be stripped of the formulæ of cursing and imprecation which always involve the pledging of things over which man has no control. To be sure, the stress lies here not only on this idealizing of the oath but also on the total setting aside of the abuse of oaths in the reality of social life. This attitude of James respecting abitrary oaths and his recommendation of the anointing with oil mentioned in the sequel, show that he was free from all Essene prejudice, for the Essenes were wont to administer to novices the vow of their order with a strong oath, although they rejected all other swearing, and so in like manner the anointing with oil.

But let your yea be yea.—[Winer: Grammar, p. 92, the Imperative ἤτω for ἔστω (which in the N. T. is also the usual form) 1 Corinthians 16:22; James 5:12; (Psalms 104:31; 1Ma 10:31, cf. Clem. Alex. Strom. 6, 275; Acta Thom. 3, 7), Buttman I. 529; only once in Plato, Rep. 2, 361, d. See Schneidel p. 1. According to Heraclides (in Eustath. p. 1411, 22), the flexion is Doric. The other imper. form ἴσθι occurs in Matthew 2:13; Matthew 5:25; Mark 5:34; Luke 19:17; 1 Timothy 4:15 (Buttmann I. 257).—M.]. The exhortation corresponding to the prohibition. Here we find two opposing interpretations; 1. Let your yea and nay agree with your consciousness of positive or negative facts, i.e. let it be according to truth (Theophylact, Calvin and al.); 2. Let your yea be a simple yea, your nay a simple nay (Estius, Neander, Huther). We think that the two ought to be connected together from the nature of the case (see Comm. on Matthew 5:34 etc.), but that the choice of the expression in Matthew along with actual truthfulness gives prominence to the assurance, while here James rather intones the perfect composure whereby the soul contents itself with the simple declaration.

That ye fall not under judgment.—On the reading εἰς ὑπόκρισιν see Appar. Crit.; on the expression see 2 Samuel 22:39; Psalms 18:39. The context requires a judgment of condemnation and this is to be dreaded not only on account of the formal, wicked carelessness with which such oaths are uttered (which carelessness moreover leads to hypocrisy) but also on account of the mutinous and perilous acts or steps by which they are frequently sealed.

James 5:13. Is any among you in affliction?—In opposition to the reprehensible sealing of excited frames of mind by such imprecatory swearing, the Apostle exhorts them to calmness of disposition and points out the means of accomplishing it. Its way was under all circumstances by a religious elevation of the mind. In the case of affliction (for the rendering: “does any among you suffer?” strikes us as too weak) the depression of the mind is to be raised by prayer; in the case of prosperity the mind is to be guarded against wantonness by the sacrifice of prosperity, by thanksgiving, by the singing of psalms or songs of praise (ψάλλειν 1 Corinthians 14:15). Cf. James 1:9-10. Huther thinks that the connection of this exhortation with the one preceding it cannot be substantiated. The connection is manifestly the Christian regulation of different mental conditions.

James 5:14. Is any sick among you?—Here is the culminating point of the question whether the language of James is to be uniformly taken in a literal sense, or whether it uniformly bears a figurative character. The literal construction involves these surprising moments: 1. The calling for the presbyters of the congregation in the Plural; 2. the general direction concerning their prayer accompaning unction with oil; 3. and especially the confident promise that the prayer of faith shall restore the sick apart from his restoration being connected with the forgiveness of his sins. Was the Apostle warranted to promise bodily recovery in every case in which a sick individual complied with his directions? This misgiving urges us to adopt the symbolical construction of the passage, which would be as follows: if any man as a Christian has been hurt or become sick in his Christianity, let him seek healing from the presbyters, the kernel of the congregation. Let these pray with and for him and anoint him with the oil of the Spirit; such a course wherever taken, will surely restore him and his transgressions will be forgiven him. This symbol, explained in the Epistles of Ignatius as containing the direction that the bishop, the centre of the congregation should be called in, may be founded on a wide-spread Jewish Christian custom of healing the wounds of the sick by prayer accompanying the application with oil. Most remote from the mind of the Apostle is the Roman Catholic tradition of extreme unction; for the reference here is to the healing of the wounds of the sick conducing to their recovery, but not to a ritual preparation of him for death; not any more here than in Mark 6:13. Cf. Huther’s note, p. 196.

Let him call to himself (summon, call for).—In the case of bodily sickness it is self-evident that this must be done by others than the sick man. [προσκαλεσάσθω does not necessarily mean that the sick man is to call in person on the elders of the Church, it leaves the manner of his appeal undefined, he might call on them in person or summon them to his side by the intervention of others. To summon in the sense of sending for seems to be the most approved meaning. Cf. the Lexica.—M.].

The elders of the Church.—We must neither reduce the Plural to the Singular in the sense: “let him summon one of the presbyters” (Estius, Wolf), nor assert confidently that ἐκκλησία denotes here the particular congregation to which the sick man belongs, although the latter is probable. The main point is that ἡ ἐκκλησία, as a local congregation did represent from the beginning the whole Church and that consequently the presbyters could be sent for primarily from the most specific ecclesiastical district but also from a more distant sphere. [If I understand Lange’s allusion, I doubt whether his inference is sustained by the facts of the case. Interloping was not sanctioned in the primitive Church. The Apostles uniformly insist upon order and decency in the conduct of Church government. A sick man, connected with a particular ecclesiastical organization would send, of course, for the presbyters connected with it;. where no such organization existed, he would send for those presbyters to whom access might most easily be had.—M.].

And let them pray over him; i. e. not only for him, nor only literally as standing over his bed, but with reference to effecting his salvation (Acts 19:13). [Bengel: “Qui dum orant, non multo minus est quam si tota oraret ecclesia.”—M.].

Anointing him with oil.—Many commentators assume, with reference to the Jewish custom, that the oil was here intended to coöperate as a medium of cure, cf. Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 46:11; Luke 10:34. The disciples also used to connect this medium with their miraculous cures, Mark 6:13. See this Comment, in loco. Now in so far as the reference here implied lies to an apostolical method of effecting cures, we must doubtless think also of the organic connection of intercession with oil, i. e. of the spiritual effect accompanying that produced on the medium of the body. Huther (in opposition to Meyer) dissolves this connection without sufficient reason, by observing that the oil as such was only refreshing to the body. What such a refreshing amounts to, is not very clear; the chief point is that the two were to be united in one act, which was performed in the name of the Lord (Christ). But Huther rightly remarks that James did not prescribe anointing, but assumed the observance of the usage. He prescribes prayer in connection with that usage and the anointing as an anointing in the name of the Lord, which latter particular must not be referred to prayer only (Gebser), nor to both acts (de Wette), but solely to the act of anointing (Huther). In the literal acceptation of the precept, prayer would be the medium of the miraculous cure, which was then to be performed in the name of the Lord (i. e. not pursuant to His command, but in the power and limitation of His name). Schneckenburger adds that the presbyters had the χάρισμα ἰαμάτων (1 Corinthians 12:9). Huther calls this an arbitrary assumption and says that moreover nothing is said here of the χάρισμα. But the χάρισμα has at all times been the conditio sine qua non of ministerial efficiency and in the Apostolical church the office of presbyter did not involve the charisma, but rather those who had the respective charisma were generally ordained as presbyters (see 1 Corinthians 12:9; 1 Corinthians 12:30). Huther also sets aside without sufficient reason the connection between miraculous gifts and gifts of natural experience to which Pott, after his manner, calls attention: “quia uti omnino prudentissimi eligebantur, sic forte etiam artis medicæ peritissimi erant.

James 5:15. And the prayer of faith.—Not faith in general, but miraculous faith as a special charisma of the Christian spirit (see 1 Corinthians 12:9-10). Prayer characterized by such faith, not in general: the prayer which faith offers. Grotius and al. rightly assume that this faith implies identity of purpose on the part of the presbyters who intercede, and on that of the sick for whom intercession is made, for it is in this faith that the sick summons the presbyters (cf. the Gospels); Wiesinger and Huther arbitrarily limit this prayer to the act of the presbyters only.

Shall help (heal) the sick.—Shall savingly restore him to health. Lyra, Schneckenburger and al. understand corporeal and spiritual healing, de Wette, Wiesinger and al. corporeal only, because the forgiveness of sins is separately stated afterwards [Alford—M.]. Nevertheless we feel that we cannot give up the oneness of the two moments, seeing that the sequel doubtless adverts to the possibility of particular sins and that, as already stated, the concrete apostolical spiritual-corporeal cure seems to be here uniformly the symbol of a spiritual-social cure of the wounds and infection of the judaistic confusion.

And the Lord shall raise him up.—The Lord i. e. Christ. As is His wont to raise men spiritually-bodily, not only from the bed of sickness but also from the sickness. This ἐγείρειν however is not only the causality of the preceding σώζειν, but also holds out the prospect of the positive exaltation of life which has been effected by the σώζειν as the deliverance from peril of death.

And though he have committed sins.—This denotes an enhanced state of distress. Supposing that he even (κἄν) have committed sins, as πεποιηκώς, as one who is as yet burdened with the guilt of those sins (Plural). The presumption is not so much that these sins were the cause of the respective sickness (Huther), but they made the sickness a severe one and one difficult to cure; this would again import a spiritual meaning.

It shall be forgiven him; that is, his having committed sins. “Even in case that.” (Huther.) Forgiven not only in the social sense (i. e. by the presbyters (Hammond), not only in respect of his spiritual life, but the continuation, the curse of his guilt shall also be removed in respect of his life-situation. Huther wants to connect κἄν with the preceding clause: “The Lord shall raise him up, even if he have committed sins—(for) it shall be forgiven him.” In point of language κἄν is to favour his construction (but see on the other hand 1 John 2:1); but in point of matter such a construction would greatly weaken the passage. The general and unconditional character of the assurance of renewed health, which is here expressed, has created much surprise. Hottinger expresses it more forcibly than any other commentator: “si certus et constans talium precum fuisset eventus, nemo umquam mortuus esset.” Grotius supplies the condition: “nisi nempe aliter ei suppeditat ad salutem æternam.” But Huther maintains against Wiesinger that there is no need of any restrictions and believes that the difficulty is removed by the consideration that James conceived the coming of Christ to be immediately impending; that consequently he did not consider the death of believers to be necessary, but viewed it only in the light of an evil which might be averted by believing intercession. Thus a second gross error would have paralyzed or covered the first. We rather opine that this very difficulty, as well as the whole character of the Epistle constrains us to adopt the symbolical interpretation. James assumes the existence of the custom of anointing the sick accompanied with prayer as a method of cure very generally prevalent in Jewish Christian Churches. This custom, traces of which are also found in ancient Judaism (see Wiesinger, p. 20433), he now turns into a symbol of a spiritual cure, which he recommends to those who were infected with the spirit of Judaism and revolutionary Chiliasm, as a remedy for their spiritual healing. This construction is also favoured by the next verse. [As the reasoning of Lange may not appear conclusive but rather doubtful to many readers of this work, I subjoin an outline of the subject which may prove valuable for reference.—The opinion of Polycarp, Bp. of Smyrna, a disciple of John and a martyr, is very valuable and sheds light on the whole question. He says (ad Philipp. c. 5), “Let the presbyters be tender-hearted, merciful to all, converting the erring (see James 5:19), visiting all who are sick (ἐπισκεπτόμενοι πάντας ); not neglecting the widow or orphan or needy (see James 1:27), and providing always what is good in the sight of God, abstaining from all respect of persons (see James 2:1; James 2:9), not sharp in judgment, knowing that we are all sinners” (see James 3:2). The reference to James in brackets warrants the presumption that Polycarp was familiar with our Epistle, and the extract shows that at that early day the duty of visiting the sick had been devolved on the presbyters.—The direction that the sick should summon the presbyters (Plural) accords with the practice of our Lord who sent forth His Twelve Apostles and seventy disciples two and two (Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1).—The direction would hardly have been given, if it could not be complied with. James, as bishop of Jerusalem, presided over elders there (Acts 21:18) and his language warrants the conclusion that presbyters had been ordained in the principal cities.—Without discussing the question who these presbyters were, the second order of the ministry or the first, the great fact remains that the visitation of the sick is an important part of ministerial activity, and that it is the duty of the sick (whether in body or in soul) to summon their spiritual advisers to their side. This is an important consideration, for in large parishes and especially in large cities weeks may sometimes elapse before the report of a parishioner’s sickness reaches their ears; if the sick are not visited under those circumstances, they must not blame their minister for remissness if they have failed to inform him of their sickness and to summon him to their side.

Our passage establishes the fact that anointing the sick with prayer accompanying it was practised in the Apostolic Church. The Apostles in virtue of the extraordinary and miraculous powers delegated to them by Christ, healed many, after having anointed them with oil. Cf. Acts 6:13 with Matthew 10:1-8 and Luke 9:1-6. The miraculous gift of healing continued for some time in the Church. See 1 Corinthians 12:8-9. James refers to this miraculous power of healing, which in its application however was not absolute, but dependent on the will of God; although applied in faith by the anointing presbyter and received in faith by the sick man, anointing did not heal him if he recovered his health, but prayer charged with faith, and this implies that the matter of the sick man’s cure was referred to the will of God, who did what was best for the sick, (Wordsworth), whether that was restoration to health or a Christian death.

The practice of anointing with oil with a view to recovery from sickness was continued in the Eastern and Western Churches, even after the Church had lost the miraculous gift of healing. It is continued in the Eastern Church for this purpose to this day, but the Church of England and other Reformed communions have abandoned the practice, because they perceived that the effect mentioned by St. James, viz. his recovery did not ordinarily ensue from the anointing with oil, and that the miraculous gift of healing as well as other miraculous gifts granted to the Apostles, had been removed from the Church.

The Church of Rome however retains the practice of anointing the sick with oil but perverted the design for which it had been instituted (viz: recovery from sickness), into that of a sacrament conveying grace to the soul, the sacrament of extreme unction, which is certainly one of the most audacious perversions of Scripture on record. See Alford and Wordsworth. Wordsworth: “The Apostle St. James had enjoined the practice with a view to the recovery of the sick; as Cardinal Cajetanus allows, in his note on the passage, where he says: “Hæc verba non loquntur de Sacramentali unctione extremæ unctionis,” but the Church of Rome prescribes, in the Councils of Florence (A.D.1438) and Trent (1551), that the anointing should not take place except where recovery is not to be looked for (Council of Trent, Sess. 14, “qui tam periculose decumbunt ut in exitu vitæ constituti videantur”), and therefore she calls this anointing “extreme unction,” and “sacramentum exeuntium,” and she regards it as a sacrament conveying grace to the soul. Thus, on the one hand, the Greek Church is a witness by her present practice, that the anointing was designed with a view to bodily recovery; and the Roman Church, on the other hand, is a witness, that the miraculous effects on the body, which were wrought in primitive times through the instrumentality of those who anointed the sick, and which accompanied that unction, have ceased.“—See this whole subject discussed in my article “An account of Extreme Unction,” Princeton Review, Vol. XXXVII. No. 2, April, 1865.—M.].

James 5:16. Confess therefore your sins (transgressions) to one another.—This injunction is general: it is the generalization of the preceding sentence. Cajetanus rightly observes: “nec hic est sermo de confessione sacramentali;” but the clause implies also the fact that James knew nothing of such a confessio, or he would have said: “Confess your sins to the presbyters,” of whom he had just been speaking. As to the sins here referred to, Huther understands sins in general as violation of the Divine law, in opposition to Wolf, who explains them as offences against one another, Matthew 18:15. Bengel: “Ægrotus et quisquis offendit, jubetur confiteri; offensus, orare.” But the particular sins which are meant here, at least primarily, may be gathered from the whole Epistle; the reference is to the whole Judaistic movement which in so many respects had made them sick and feeble. But the thought has also the more general import that the confession of certain known transgressions is at once an unburdening of the conscience and a furtherance of prayer in the case of those who are thus drawn into the Christian fellow-feeling of guilt and thus also the preliminary condition both of forgiveness and of spiritual (and often even of bodily) healing. How many a germinating madness and suicide, how many a heart-languor and disorder which vexes the members and weighs down the body was to be obviated by this mutual effect of confession and intercession! But James had more particularly in view the hurts which were then troubling Israel. Both the confession and the intercession were to be mutual.

That ye may be healed.—This healing is understood spiritually by Grotius and al., spiritually and corporeally by Schneckenburger and al., corporeally only by de Wette, Huther and al. As nothing is said here of the forgiveness of sins, the promise of healing implies evidently also spiritual healing: but the idea “that ye may be healed theocratically” is probably predominant. “It is to be remembered that the prayer of the presbyters does not exclude the common intercession of Christians and that the efficacy attributed to the latter is not less than that attributed to the former.” Huther. [This is one of the passages adduced by the Latin Church for the necessity of confessing sins to a priest. Alford cites Corn.-a-Lapide’s exegesis as a specimen of the way in which the Romish doctrine is deduced. “Alterutrum, id est, homo homini, similis simili, frater fratri confitemini, puta sacerdoti, qui licet officio sit superior, natura tamen est par, infirmitate similis, obligatione confitendi æqualis.”—M.].

The prayer. … availeth much.—A saying of the power of genuine prayer designed to encourage them to adopt the recommendations previously set forth, i.e. both mutual confession of sins and mutual intercession. The great efficacy of such intercession is still further brought about by the position of πολύ etc. and by the gnomic and asyndetical structure of the sentence. Of a righteous man, of a צַדִּיק in the theocratic sense, i.e. not one “in a state of righteousness” as Hofmann expresses it, for “the state of righteousness” denotes an ontological, passive condition, while in the case of the theocratically righteous every thing turns on actuality, on the living faith, on the living God and His word of life. The species of these righteous men is the same in the Old Testament and in the New; they are men of living, energetic faith (Romans 4:0), although the righteous man of the New Testament has the advantage of an objective as well as of a subjective τελείωσις. Hence Elias may here be held up to the Christians as the pattern of a real man of prayer.

Inwardly effectual (working).—ἐνεργουμένη causes not little difficulty and has given rise to a great variety of opinions among commentators. A main point to be determined is whether ἐνεργουμένη ought to be taken as an epithet to δέησις, as the majority of commentators take it, or as a pure participial definition of the verb ἰσχύει (so Pott, de Wette, Huther, who are however at variance with respect to the sense). Pott: “Prayer is able to work much” or “prayer is able to work much and worketh much.” de Wette: “if it becomes energetic.” Huther: “In its energy” or “in its working.” But all this is rather tautological unless it be made to denote a theurgic operation, which is inadmissible. The adjectival construction may be taken passively or actively, or in the most literal sense as a middle, as a kind of Hithpael. Prayer may be considered passively as coänimated by the prayer of him for whom it is offered (Oecumenius), as moved by the Holy Spirit, inspired (Michælis), as penetrated by faith (Carpzov), as animated and attended by impulse to work [Werktrieb, so Calvin and Gebser], Taken actively the idea of ἐνεργουμένη coincides more or less with ἐνεργής or ἐνεργός (see Luke 22:44 ἐκτενής). So Luther: “if it is earnest;” Vulgate; “assidua,” and similarly many others. Of the other hand, Huther contends that this construction is contrary to N. T. usage, while Wiesinger maintains that this usage may be substantiated and refers to the proofs supplied by Wahl. We believe that the N. T. middle ἐνεργέομαι (Romans 7:5; 2 Corinthians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 4:12; Galatians 5:6; Ephesians 3:20; Col 1:29; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:7) denotes according to the Hebrew and Christian conception a passivo-active working, i.e. a working set in motion by a previously experienced impulse. This in malam partem applies to the lusts in the members (Romans 7:5), to the mystery of iniquity (2 Thessalonians 2:7), in bonam partem to the subjective σωτηρία (2 Corinthians 1:6), to the subjective πίστις (Galatians 5:6), to the vital energy in believers (Ephesians 3:20), to the energy of Christ in believers (Colossians 1:29), to the word of God appropriated by men (1 Thessalonians 2:13); in both respects, to death and life (2 Corinthians 4:12). The Active however is used with reference to God Ephesians 1:11; Philippians 2:13; Galatians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 12:6; of His Spirit 1 Corinthians 12:11; also of Satan Ephesians 2:2. It follows from this clearly marked usage of the word that we must also take δέησις with the predication ἐνεργουμένη as indicating an efficiency effected or an impulse impelled. The idea doubtless imports the full tension of the praying spirit under its absolute obedience (yielding to) to the Divine impulse. And in this respect there is here an allusion to the idea of the miraculously potent prayer which works the ἐνεργήματα. [The Apostle’s idea expressed in plain words, seems to be that prayer in order to lead to outward effects, must work inwardly in grateful adoration of and fervent love and humble resignation to God; otherwise prayer is only a hollow, unmeaning and inefficacious uttering of words. Luther in his terse language hits the point, when he says in some place that “he who prays must feel that he is a beggar.” Absolute submission to the will of God is of course the very soul of prayer, and the true Christian never engages in prayer without the pious sentiment: “Not my will, but Thine be done.” Wordsworth remarks: “The martyrdom of St. James himself affords a beautiful comment on these words, especially where it is related that after he had been cast down by his enemies from the pediment of the Temple and they were stoning him, he fell on his knees and prayed for them, and some, who stood by, said, adopting the very words of this Epistle—“Hold, what do ye? εὔχεται ὑπὲρ ὑμῶνδίκαιος,” “the Just man is praying for you.” See Introduction.—M.].

James 5:17. Elias was a man of like passions.—ὁμοιοπαθής does not exactly signify that Elias had the capacity of suffering, or his real sufferings (Laurentius, Schneckenburger), but “of like condition and nature” (Wiesinger and Huther) is hardly adequate in point of sense. In Acts 14:15 there is certainly an implied emphasis on the dependence and restraints of human nature as contrasted with the Being of God. Moreover in Wis 7:3 the reference to the earth imports not so much equality of kind as equality of condition. In the case of Elias the term “like passions” or liability to being affected, points at least to his capacity of suffering and temptability.

And he prayed a prayer [with prayer].—Analogous to the Hebrew idiom of producing intensification by placing the Infinitive of the verb in juxtaposition with the Indicative, or by connecting the latter with the noun Genesis 2:17 תָּמוּת מוֹת Considering that Huther himself observes that this form serves to bring out the verbal idea, it is difficult to account for his opposition to the exposition of Wiesinger and al., that the prayer of Elias was an earnest prayer. [Huther, I presume, objects to the introduction of a new word. The prayer of Elias was genuine prayer, prayer charged with ἐνέργεια.—M.].

That it might not rain.—βρέχειν is impersonal. [The gen. of the intent. See Winer, p. 343.—M].

And it did not rain in the land [on the earth].—Considering the O. T. colouring of the whole Epistle we may be allowed to translate ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς with Grotius and al. “in the land,” but Huther retains Luther’s rendering “on earth,” Schneckenburger compares this weighty saying with Genesis 1:3 : “fiat lux et facta est lux.” But there remains the important difference that here the reference is not to an authoritative command (Machtspruch).

[Three years and six months.—Wordsworth: equal to 42 months or 1260 days, a chronological period of suffering. See Revelation 11:3.—M.].

James 5:18. And the heaven gave rain.—A personifying, vivid mode of expression, reminding us of the prophetic style, Hosea 2:21-22.

And the earth brought forth her fruit.—This was really the immediate purpose of the prayer. βλαστάνω [properly an intransitive verb, but used transitively—M.], a transitive verb: it let spring up, i.e. it put, brought forth. An application of what is related 1 Kings 17:1; 1 Kings 18:1; 1 Kings 18:42 etc. The positive announcement of the drought may have led James to draw the reasonable inference that Elias had prayed for it, although we have no record to that effect, and tradition had probably anticipated his inference. Such a completion is however very different from a discrepancy (Huther). The second apparent difference is as follows: in 1 Kings 18:1, Elijah is said to have foretold and to have been instrumental in bringing about the return of rain in the third year, while our passage affirms that it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Seeing that Luke 4:25 and the tract Jalcut Simeoni give the same duration, it would seem that that space of time was the uniform Jewish tradition. The explanation lies manifestly in the fact that 1 Kings 18:0 specifies the real famine according to its duration. But it stands to reason that the famine did not begin until one year after the announcement of the drought, viz. after the failure of the early and the latter rain. During the first year the people were still living on the harvest of the preceding year. Jewish tradition consequently added one year to the period of time mentioned in a general way in 1 Kings in order to mark the whole period between the two announcements of Elijah. Benson’s solution of the difference is somewhat different but not very clear. He says: “accuratior serioris traditionis computatio, ducitur a tempore non pluviæ primum cessantis, sed ultimum ante siccitatem eadentis, quam dimidio fere anno distare in promptu est.” That is, the first year of the drought is not added to the famine of about two and a half years’ duration, but the half year from the first failure of rain to the last fall of rain immediately preceding. Wiesinger is satisfied with Benson’s calculation, but Huther insists upon the discrepancy, because according to the statement of James, the drought began immediately after Elijah’s praying. But the narrative itself contains intimations that the drought did not at once produce famine, 1 Kings 17:7; 1 Kings 18:5. [Benson observes, however, that the words “in the third year” of 1 Kings 18:1 do not necessarily refer to the duration of the famine, but most naturally date back to the removal of Elijah to Zarephath, 1 Kings 17:8 etc; cf. the same “many days” in 1 Kings 17:15, where indeed a variation is “for a full year.” Alford.—M.]. But far more important is the question why James selects just this example of an answer to prayer from the history of Israel. The greatest stress seems to lie on his intercession of pity, which was the more edifying as an example because the readers of the Epistle were wont to consider Elijah as a censurer. A drought had for a long time come also upon the spiritual life of Israel; the readers were therefore encouraged to pray with the faith of an Elijah for a rain of grace to fall on their people. The prophet’s first prayer is mentioned first, in order to furnish them with a forcible illustration that prayer is heard and answered, and perhaps also to show them how the real men of prayer in Israel were independent of and superior to the evil frame of mind which kept the populace in a ferment. Moreover the general tendency of Elijah’s prayers was hostile to the apostasy of Israel, and the zeal of their believing men of prayer was now to be directed against the new apostasy which consisted in an obdurate opposition to the Gospel (see James 4:4; Romans 11:1-5).

Conclusion replete with promise. James 5:19-20.

James 5:19. My brethren, if any among you should have strayed from the truth.—“This imports not a single practical aberration, but an alienation from the Christian principle of life, an inward apostasy from the λόγος , of which the Christian is begotten (James 1:18), disclosing itself in a single course of life. Cf. Luke 1:16-17; Luke 5:20.” Huther. But the tenor of the whole Epistle constrains us to define this aberration still further as an aberration into Judaistic and chiliastic doings and fanatico-seditious lusts. [πλανηθῇ is passive and Alford rightly remarks “that there is no reason why the passive signification should not be kept, especially when we remember our Lord’s warning, βλέπετε μή τις ὑμᾶς πλανήσῃ”—M.].

And one should convert him, to the truth, from which he has strayed in peril of apostasy.

James 5:20. Let him know [know ye—M.]. He that converts is to know the importance of his action and what a blessing rests upon it. The word, as to its form, is a hypothetical announcement or promise to him who is found thus doing, but as to its contents it is a general sentence or a sententious encouragement to all conjoined with the promise of a prize to those who act upon it. On this account ἐπιστρέψας is repeated after ὅτι.

That he who converteth a sinner.—The person who has strayed through delusion from the truth, considered from a practical point of view. Let the readers know that all those who have strayed in part or entirely from the truth are sinners according to the emphatic theocratic idea: doomed to the death-ban. This weighty part of the word is weakened by Huther’s remark, “that the reference is no longer to the person who has gone astray but to the whole genus to which the Christian who has strayed from the truth belongs as species.” The two ideas: delusion and dogmatical apostasy and practical ruin must not be separated on the theocratical ground, nor must the former kind be subordinated to the latter as species, although the practical and the theocratic form of ruin may alternately predominate.

Shall save a soul from death.—From death, as in James 1:15 and throughout the New Testament, from subjective damnation as it is inherent in the personality itself, defined moreover negatively with respect to the subject as the loss of the true life, of the true destination and sphere of life; a moral dissolution of the ontological life eternally self-generating itself, as on the other hand the true life generates life. A soul. The naked, inward existence of the personality itself, man in all his capacity of suffering and salvation and need of help. He shall save the soul. The conversion of the apostate is the conversion of a sinner; this has as its consequence his deliverance from death, because he is in the way of death and is overtaken before he finally falls into the snares of death. We need not stop to show that this presupposes Divine redemption as the salvation to which he is converted and the Divine coöperation of the Word and of the Holy Spirit as the means of salvation whereby he is converted. In the battle of faith between the believing readers of the Epistle and their half-believing and unbelieving brethren the point at issue turns therefore not upon dogmatical disputes of the synagogue, but solely and purely on the salvation of poor souls from eternal death, and not only on this but along with the salvation of many individuals, on the removal of a universal curse.

And shall cover a multitude of sins.—That is, the averting of a general ruin is brought about by the faithful salvation of many individuals. This covering of sins (cf. 1 Peter 4:8; Proverbs 10:12) καλύπτειν contains doubtless reference in an enlarged sense, to the Hebrew כִּסָּה, to cover, cover over sins, i.e. to forgive, Psalms 32:1 and elsewhere. But considering that such absolute covering of sin is the prerogative of God, it is probably better to think here of instrumental covering כִּפֶּר which is also used more especially of different means and mediators of atonement; not only of the cover of the ark, of sacrifice, of the high-priest, but also of the very sins to be atoned for (Exodus 30:15 : Isaiah 47:11), and also especially of the person interceding, Exodus 32:30. The last passage strikes us as peculiarly important. Moses effected the reconciliation of his people not as a sacrifice, not as high-priest, but by intercession, i.e. by the subjective mediation of the objective atonement. This objective atonement therefore is here assumed, just as the former expression, he shall save, presupposes objective salvation. The believing Jews are to become intercessors for their poor people, become instrumental to, bring about its real atonement. Believers participate in the atoning work of Christ as in His sufferings and intercession not as causa mediatoria but as causa organica. But the commentators are at variance whether the reference here is to the sins of the converters or to those of the converted. Erasmus and al. take it thus: by his good work he shall obtain remission of his sins with God. The Jews held (Joma fol. 87): “quicunque multos ad justitiam adducit, per ejus manus non perpetratur peccatum.” Augusti: He will obtain forgiveness on the part of men; his own offences will not be remembered. With more reason the majority of commentators refer the words to the sins of the converted. But the reference is not solely to the particular sins of the persons to be converted, and not even to their personal offences. πλῆθος denotes fulness, an entire mass taken as a unit, and the ἁμαρτίαι are the offences requiring to be atoned for. The reference is consequently to the total national guilt of Israel. To be sure, it is not referred to with greater distinctness or more clearly defined than by τὸ πλῆθος, because James, according to James 5:1, could no longer hope for the immediate salvation of all Israel, but foresaw, like Paul, a great judgment on their obduracy. But it was still his duty pitifully to wrestle with the judgment and to save a fulness (multitude) of souls and to atone for their sins. But whereas a common, national guilt is ever growing, and whereas this working of the curse can be broken only by means of the atonement, the observation of Huther is groundless “that this does not describe the sins which the ἁμαρτωλός would still commit and which are now prevented by means of his conversion (Pott: “multa futura impediet”), but the whole multitude of sins which he had committed before his conversion.” This restriction misapprehends the progressive nature of guilt, not to say anything of the circumstance, that the reference is no longer exclusively to the sins of converted individuals. The conclusion of the Epistle shows in general, as we have seen repeatedly before, that the usual exposition does by no means come up to the lofty stand-point and point of view of James. De Wette takes objection to the strong idea πλῆθος, saying that the reference is only to aberration and not to viciousness of life and seeks to arrange his assertion by inferences; Stolz asserts that the sinner’s amendment of life has the effect of consigning to oblivion his former transgressions; even Wiesinger and Huther restrict the import of the passage in two ways: “the reference is only to the multiform sin of the aforesaid converted individual and only to the circumstance that the converter becomes by his conversion the occasion of God forgiving his sins. “But our passage reminds us of the relation of Paul to his people, Romans 9:3; Romans 11:14. And as James, according to Acts, exhibited a peculiar fidelity in working for the salvation of his people, and, according to tradition, interceded for them with God, so at the conclusion of the Epistle he here invites the whole believing part of his people to engage in intercession and in the work of salvation, that many individuals might be saved from death, and a multitude of sins might be atoned for. The whole Epistle shows that he confines himself solely to human saving and atoning as a medium of bringing back the people to the true Redeemer and Reconciler, but he deems it of peculiar importance that the brethren must not fail to do their part in the work. Of course his words, in their sententious form, are also here so construed, that they possess a general and eternally valid apostolical significance; but as it was the duty of the expositor throughout the course of his exposition to give prominence to the noble historical import of this Epistle, which has been only too much missed and neglected, so he does at its conclusion.


1. The long-suffering patience required of the followers of Jesus is a duty of so wide a range, that the discharge of it, at least under many circumstances, would be too much for human strength, if the strength of their faith and hope were not animated by the thought of the nearness of the Lord’s coming. Therefore the words “the coming of the Lord is nigh” ought to be constantly before our eyes. While the Christians of the Apostolic Age were perhaps too much inclined to consider the coming of Christ to be near at hand in a literal sense, the Christian sense of our own age suffers this great final event to stand too much in the background and substitutes for it in most instances a mere individual hope of salvation immediately after death. The more we learn again that we belong “to men also that love His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8) in the Apostolic acceptation of the term, the easier we shall find the practice of Christian patience and endurance in view of this the only satisfactory final development of the drama of history.

2. James as well as our Lord Himself (Matthew 13:0 and elsewhere), saw the kingdom of grace reflected and portrayed in the kingdom of nature. The disciple of Jesus may learn much from the diligent and patient waiting of the husbandman.

3. The heroes of faith of the Old Testament are regarded by James also in the light of patterns to the Christian in his course, just as in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 11:12). The rule that the way through suffering leads to glory, is in reality as valid under the Old Testament as under the New. Cf. Luke 24:26; Acts 14:22.

4. James begins (James 1:12) and ends (James 5:11) his Epistle with a beatitude, just as our Lord began (Matthew 5:3) and ended (John 20:29). His instructions with similar beatitudes. The introduction of the example of Job is the more remarkable because this is the only place in the New Testament where his history is referred to.

5. The dehortation from frivolous swearing is intimately and naturally connected with the notice of endurance and patience, which precedes it. Those who are impatient and discontented will readily curse and swear in their violence, while those who possess their souls in patience will also in this respect guard their mouth and keep their lips. The context shows abundantly that James does not absolutely prohibit all swearing, but only those oaths which men take when they are not as patient as Job (Job 2:10), but as impatient as Job (James 3:1), when they curse their day. Like Christ, (Matthew 23:16-22) the Apostle condemns light and trifling swearing and specifies several examples thereof. Had he intended to forbid swearing by the name of God, he would doubtless have mentioned this first and most weighty oath before all others. But considering that the law expressly enjoined swearing by the name of the Lord (Numbers 6:13, b; Numbers 10:20) and that the prophets referred to this swearing as the characteristic of the servants of the Lord (Isaiah 65:16; Jeremiah 12:16; Jeremiah 16:14-15), it is a priori highly improbable that James, who was penetrated through and through by the spirit of the Old Testament, should have intended to forbid also this oath. Swearing by the name of God is not only permitted but often becomes necessary in an imperfect state of society because of the sins of men, although it belongs surely to the ideal of the kingdom of God that no oath will be required in it and that yea and nay are as reliable as an oath. In this respect we may say, that the Christian, if the civil authority requires him to take an oath, is necessitated to do so only in consequence of his sojourn in the midst of this sinful and wicked world. In a certain sense we may say of oaths what Paul said of the law that τῶν παραβάσεων χάριν προσετέθη Galatians 3:19. Cf. Lange on Matthew 5:33-37, and on the Hebrew formulæ of oaths in general Rüetschi in Herzog’s R. E. III. p. 713 sqq.

6. Genuine Christian faith is distinguished by becoming equanimity in good and evil days, as prescribed by James (James 5:13) and illustrated inter alia by Paul (Philippians 4:10-20). Without Christ man is very apt to despond under suffering and equally prone to become elated with prosperity. The true Christian will in suffering seek consolation in prayer and so enjoy his prosperity that God is glorified thereby.

7. The visitation and comforting of the sick is one of the most natural and important parts of the cura pastoralis. For special directions consult the works on pastoral and practical theology of Hüffell, Harms, Nitzsch, Palmer and al. [Also Burnet, on the Pastoral Care, Wilson’s Parochialia, Visitatio Infirmorum and Vinet.—M.]. On the true Christian frame of mind on the sickbed compare an essay by N. Beets, translated from the Dutch in the Jahrbuch des rheinisch-west-phälischen Schriftvereins, 1862, p. 1 etc. [Also an excellent work, published anonymously, entitled “Sickness, its trials and blessings,” New York: 1857.—M.].

8. Only by confining oneself to the sound of the words (James 5:14-16), it is possible to find here the precepts of extreme unction and auricular confession in the sense of the Roman Catholic Church. See under Exegetical and Critical. James refers plainly to miraculous recovery and to the mutual confession of offences among brethren in the event of one having failed in his duty towards another. On the other hand there exists also an Ultra-Protestantism and Anti-Romanism, which deems the use of both these means of grace altogether superfluous and almost prohibits them, which is likewise without blessing. The decrease of the gift of miracles is surely no proof of the increase of faith, and the entire discontinuance of mutual confession of sins is a sad token of the want of humility and brotherly love. Cf. Herzog’s R. E. Article Oelung.

9. It may be very superstitious and uncharitable to assume a direct connection of a certain sin and a certain disease; cf. John 9:3. But it is also very superficial to deny all connection between sin and disease. If there were no sins in the world, there would certainly be no plagues. The sick man consequently does well, if he recalls on the sick-bed first of all his own sins and seeks to obtain their forgiveness. Forgiveness of sins and recovery from sickness are in many respects more closely connected than most people think and therefore both are promised to the citizen of the celestial commonwealth, Isaiah 33:24.

10. The duty of brotherly exhortation addressed to blacksliding brethren (James 5:19-20), so warmly recommended by the Apostle, has also been enjoined by our Lord and the Apostles elsewhere (cf. Mat 18:15-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:13-16; Hebrews 10:24). The writings of pagan moralists contain also excellent directions concerning the manner how such friendly reproof should be administered. See e.g. Plutarch, de discrim. amici et adulatoris pp. 244–276, edit. Reisk.; Cicero, de amicitia cap. 24, 25. A striking proof of the blessing which may attend such a work of love towards the salvation of an almost lost soul, and of the manner how this duty should be discharged, is found in the well-known legend “John and the robber-chief,” told by Clem. Alex., quis dives salvus, cap. 42. But James shows himself throughout this Epistle as an exemplar of ardent Christian zeal for converting sinners from the error of their way and for saving souls from death. His words open a wide field and a glorious prospect to Christian philanthropy and the specific cure of souls. Hence Zwingli and Herder are not wrong in their criticisms on the conclusion of this Epistle; the former saying: “Insigni doctrina veluti colophone epistolam absolvit,” and the latter: “The conclusion, the strongest assurance, is like a seal affixed to the testament.”—

[On the connection of James 5:12-13 with James 5:11. Bp. Sanderson, (Lectures on Oaths, 7:11): “Set the examples of ancient prophets and holy men before your eyes. If ye suffer adversity, imitate their patience. If in all things, you cannot attain to that perfection, yet thus far at least, except ye be very negligent, you may go with ease; above all things, take heed lest too impatient of your grief, or too much transported with your joy, ye break forth into rash oaths, to the dishonour of God and shame of Christian conversation. But rather contain yourselves, whether troubled or rejoicing, within the bounds of Modesty; mingle not Heaven and earth, let not all things be filled with your oaths and clamours; if you affirm a thing, let it be with calmness, and a mere affirmation or negation. But if either of these passions be more impetuous, and strive to overflow the narrow channels of your bosoms, it will be your wisdom to let it forth unto the glory of God. Do you demand by what means? I will tell you: Is any among you afflicted? Let not his impatience break forth into Oaths and Blasphemies, the Flood-gates of wrath; but rather let him pray, and humbly implore God that He would vouchsafe him Patience, till His heavy hand be removed. Is any merry? Let him not bellow it forth in Oaths, like a Bacchanalian, but rather sing it in Hymns and Psalms unto the praise of God: Who hath made his cup to overflow, and crowned him with happy days.”

Barrow: (Serm. XV. vol. 1. p. 329). “In these words St. James doth not mean universally to interdict the use of oaths: for that in some cases is not only lawful, but very expedient, yea needful, and required from us as a duty; but that swearing which our Lord had expressly prohibited to His disciples, and which thence, questionless, the brethren to whom St. James did write, did well understand themselves to forbear, having learnt so in the first Catechisms of Christian institution; that is, needless and heedless swearing in ordinary conversation, a practice then frequent in the world, both among Jews and Gentiles; the invoking of God’s name, appealing to His testimony, and provoking His judgment, upon any slight occasion, in common talk, with vain incogitancy, or profane boldness. From such practice the holy Apostle dehorteth in terms importing his great concernedness, and implying the matter to be of the highest importance: for, Before all things, my brethren, do not swear; as if he did apprehend this sin of all other to be one of the most heinous and pernicious. Could he have said more? would he have said so much, if he had not conceived the matter to be of exceeding weight and consequence?”

James 5:14. Hooker: Eccl. Polit. 5:25. 3. “The authority of the Priest’s calling is a furtherance, because if God had so far received him into favour as to impose upon him by the hands of man that office of blessing the people in His name, and making intercession to Him in theirs, which office he hath sanctified with His own most gracious promise, and ratified that promise by manifest actual performance thereof, when others before in like place have done the same; is not his very ordination a seal, as it were, to us, that the self-same Divine Love that hath chosen the Instrument to work with, will by that Instrument effect the thing whereto He ordained it, in blessing His people, and accepting the prayers, which His servant offered up unto God for them?”

James 5:16. Hooker: 5:47. “But the greatest thing which made men forward and willing upon their knees to confess whatsoever they had committed against God, and in no wise to be withheld from the same with any fear of disgrace, contempt or obloquy, which might ensue, was their fervent desire to be helped and assisted with the prayers of God’s saints. Wherein as St. James doth exhort unto mutual confession, alleging this only for a reason, that just men’s devout prayers are of great avail with God; so it hath been heretofore the use of penitents for that intent to unburthen their minds, even to private persons, and to crave their prayers.” He quotes the following beautiful passages from Ambrose de Poenit. II. 10, and Tertullian, de Poenit. c. 10.

Ambrose: “Let thy mother the Church weep for thee, let her wash and bathe thy faults with her tears: our Lord doth love that many should become supplicants for one.” The reference is to voluntary penitents, who openly repented and confessed.

Tertullian: “Some few assembled make a Church, and the Church is as Christ Himself; when thou dost therefore put forth thy hands to the knees of thy brethren, thou touchest Christ, it is Christ unto whom thou art a suppliant; so when they pour out their tears over them, it is even Christ that taketh compassion; Christ which prayeth when they pray: neither can they be easily denied, for which the Son Himself is contented to become the suitor.” The reference is still to voluntary penitents.

On private confession, Hooker asserts and afterwards proves his assertion that the practice was unknown in the earliest and purest ages of the Church. “I dare boldly affirm, that for many hundred years after Christ the Fathers held no such opinion; they did not gather by our Saviour’s words any such necessity of seeking the priest’s absolution from sin, by secret and (as they now term it) sacramental confession: public confession, they thought necessary by way of discipline, not private confession, as in the nature of a sacrament, necessary.” Eccl. Pol. IJames James 5:4; James 5:6.—M.].


James 5:7-12. Christian long-suffering immeasurably different from stoical insensibility.—The Lord’s coming a consolation to the godly, a terror to the ungodly.—What the Christian, and especially the minister of the Gospel, may learn from the husbandman.—“Behold, the husbandman” etc. an excellent text for missionary discourses; waiting for the Lord should be 1, desired, 2, patient, 3, active, and 4, hopeful.—Rainy seasons must precede the day of harvest both in the kingdom of nature and in that of grace.—Christians, if opposed, should not groan against one another, but pray so much the more to God the Lord.—The witnesses of the truth at once the patterns of its professors.—The blessedness of the suffering; 1, the worth it possesses; 2, the price at which it is acquired.—The end of God’s ways a blessing to His people.—Lawful and unlawful use of oaths.—Christian love of the truth in relation to an unholy world.

Starke:—A Christian patiently waits for the harvest of the promised riches of eternity, while meanwhile the early rain and the latter rain of the grace of Jesus Christ moistens and refreshes his often weary heart.

Hedinger:—Hope sows the seed and calmly sleeps on the pillow of Divine Providence until the time of harvest, i.e. of a gracious answer, James 5:7. Psalms 28:7.

Quesnel:—O sinner, how many iniquities dost thou commit behind the door, in secret. But behold, the Judge standeth at the door, Isaiah 29:15.

Cramer:—We are not better than our fathers (1 Kings 19:4); therefore the prophets and patriarchs, Christ and His Apostles teach us not only by words but by their deeds to be patient, Lamentations 3:26.

Langii op.:—Suffering and patience are well conjoined, for the sufferings which we endure for God and for conscience’ sake, differ most from other sufferings in patience, 1 Corinthians 4:12.

Osiander:—The virtues of the saints are shown us in Holy Scripture, not that we may only marvel at them, but that we may imitate them, Hebrews 13:7.—God had also besides the Jewish people those who were His, who served Him in spirit and in truth. The Church of God is therefore not tied to a particular people or sect, Job 1:1.—God will not remember the sins of believers (Isaiah 43:25), but always the good which they have done (Matthew 25:35).—Oaths should not be lightly used nor become habitual to us; yet nothing is less thought of in the world than this most important matter.

Stier:—The whole period of the world’s duration with its thousands of years of mankind upon earth is a mighty sowing for the final harvest in which the earth, having received its seed from heaven, is to give its fruit to heaven. At the harvest we shall understand the ways of God. If many things are dark and confused to us now, let us wait only for the time of the ripening! This applies to every individual in respect of this life’s day of grace, it applies in its highest and best sense to the true Christian who really lives for eternity. There passes throughout all Christendom, there lives in the hearts of all saints a constant presentation [i.e. making present—M.] of the end, and this is right; for the coolness with which we now reflect and consider and remove the last day to an indefinite distance, is rather a consequence of lukewarm faith, of love grown cool.—

James 5:10. We learn from this word, as we do here from James, that Job did really live like Noah, Daniel and all the prophets, and that the history of his sufferings is not a didactic poem, but genuine history. At that time indeed most people had only heard of him, for reading was then the prerogative of the learned, and even these had only in rare instances all the books of Holy Writ. Have we indeed read the book of Job aright? “A word, a man”—this [German] proverb alas has almost ceased to be true, and keeping one’s word has fearfully decreased among men, because lightness has increased. Would that it could be said everywhere at least “A Christian, a word” [i.e. a Christian, who pledges his word, should attach to it the sanctity of an oath.—M.].

Jakobi:—Swearing is also still common amongst us and in order to guard against its abuse, Christian authorities have taken the oath under their supervision and, as it were, under their protection. But that oaths are so often required by the authorities, that most people, if required, take them lightly and thoughtlessly, that they are eager to take an oath in order to gain perchance some little advantage, that so many oaths and oathlike phrases are heard in common life, that the simple yea and nay without the confirmation of an oath have in many things and with many men almost lost their power and value, all these are so many sad and suspicious symptoms of wide-spread untruthfulness and unreliability.

Viedebandt:—Patience in view of the blessed future in store for them, strengthening the heart against the temptation to impatience and murmuring, and particularly to a vengeful groaning against the oppressor, this is the task of the followers of Christ and of the saints of God whose life bears testimony to God, who never leaves His own, in patience and hope that is not deceived.

Neander:—Every word should be to the Christian what an oath is to others; there is no need of oaths, therefore, among true Christians, because each holds his word sacred and all reciprocate among themselves the assurance that the word of each is tantamount to an oath. Thus it ought to be in a truly Christian congregation, wherein all mutually know one another as genuine Christians.

Heubner (on James 5:7-8):—A passage for the ecclesia pressa, militans.

(James 5:10). Examples are peculiarly effective to strengthen us in suffering. They show us 1, the possibility of endurance, of victory by means of the strength of God; 2, the glory, the reward of those who have ended their warfare.

Lisco (on James 5:7; James 5:11):—What exhorts us Christians to be patient in tribulation?

James 5:12. Swear not lightly !—

Porubszky (on James 5:7-9). The coming of the Lord in the light of our time. (on James 5:10-11). Our gain from the sufferings of Christ (!!)—(on James 5:12). Veracity the result of the fear of God.

James 5:7-8. Text for the harvest feast [Thanksgiving Day in U. S.—M.]. Wolf: Every earthly harvest-feast should renew our sense of the value of the hope of heaven.

(James 5:7-11. Epistle for the 24th Sunday after Trinity in the Grand Duchy of Hesse and elsewhere).

Gerok:—Three approved domestic remedies in adversity.

Böckel:—Encouragement to the dignified endurance of undeserved sufferings.—The power of a good example.—

(On James 5:13-20). Joy and grief must be sanctified by religion.—The power of prayer under suffering.—Christian rejoicing in God.—The Christian on the sick-bed.—The sick should send for the presbyter and not always expect him to come uncalled.—On the gift of miracles in the primitive Church.—The cause of its disappearance.—Duty and blessing of mutual confession of sins.—The confessio auricularis a caricature of the brotherly confession in the time of James.—The forgiveness of sins a chief requisite for the sick.—Intercession a duty of Christian love. 1. How much belongs to it. 2. How much is wanting in it!—Elias a teacher of prayer. We see in him a righteous man who 1, prays; 2, prays earnestly; 3, whose earnest prayer availeth much.—He that is saved himself should seek to gain others also.—The true Christian 1, is able; 2, is bound to; 3, and will save souls from death.—Saving brotherly love: 1, how much it costs; 2, how richly it recompenses.

Starke: Quesnel: The use of spiritual songs is greater than is thought. Psalms 69:31-32.

Cramer:—It should be our first business in sickness to turn to God and have prayers offered for us, then send for the physician.

Starke:—Maladies are the fruits of sins. Poor man, if thou hast spent the days of thy health in the service of sins, be not surprised if thy Creator takes hold of the rod of sickness in order to lead thee to better thoughts, Leviticus 26:15 etc.—If you have offended or vexed others, be not ashamed to confess it.

Hedinger:—The prayer of the righteous availeth much, yet not everything. For God often sees that the granting of our prayers would be contrary to His will, nor salutary to ourselves, and it is often a great blessing, although not generally recognized, that God refuses to grant our requests. 2 Corinthians 12:8-9.

Starke:—God is so good that He does not always keep His power to Himself, but often equips also His children with it, Philippians 4:13.

Quesnel:—God gives us fruitful seasons and they are kept up by prayer, Acts 14:17.

Starke:—As the salvation of the soul is infinitely more precious than that of the body, so much the more is God pleased if we do more for our neighbour in the concerns of his soul than in those of his body, Hebrews 3:13.

Hedinger:—Be not more merciful to thy neighbour’s ox and house than to his precious soul. That thou pullest out of a well, this, if on fire, thou puttest it out, but thou dost not counsel his soul in brotherly reproof though it fall into hell and burn in the most dreadful flames of sin. Those who love God promote also their neighbour’s salvation and lead the blind on an even path, 1 Thessalonians 5:14.

Langii op.:—Teachers are bound first and mostly to observe that which is the duty of all Christians, to wit, the real instruction of their hearers, 2 Timothy 2:24.—Hearers are greatly honoured if God counts them worthy to become also the spiritual fathers of spiritual children, 1 Thessalonians 5:11. If a woe is uttered on those who ruin others (Matthew 18:7), what will be the reward of grace to those who have been the instruments of God in the conversion of others! Daniel 12:3.—Blessed is the man who is ready to be admonished and to be speedily turned from his error. He who thinks that in this respect others have no right to speak to him, robs himself of the blessing which he might obtain through others.

Stier:—Human song is of itself good and noble. The same God, who gave to the fowls of the air the voice with which they unconsciously praise Him, gave song to man. We remember how e.g. Luther rightly extols the science and gift of song. Who has received it, let him rejoice, who lacks it, let him seek, if possible, to waken it, for it is a good gift of the Creator which generally belongs to human nature.—Would that our present presbyteries did consist of men who understood something more than to keep accounts! [Stier is a Presbyterian—M. ]—Every Christian should be to his brother Christian a priest who receives the confession and dispenses the absolution.—(James 5:19-20). The greatest want and the greatest work of faith.—The Lord alone can help, deliver, and save the souls. But He does it and uses for that purpose instruments of His power, vessels of His grace. Hence the Scripture hesitates not to attribute to us miserable sinners the salvation of our fellow sinners. The Apostle labours to save some among His people, Romans 11:14. To Timothy, the bishop, he promises: “In doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” 1 Timothy 4:16. In like manner he refers to a wife that may save her husband, and to a husband that may save his wife, 1 Corinthians 7:16. Yes, brethren, we may save one another, help one another from death to life: this is truly a great, the greatest and most precious promise of the rich grace of God to our poor soul.

Jakobi:—Among our Christian brethren of another communion, from whom separated three hundred years ago for liberty’s and conscience’ sake, the use of anointing with oil, recommended in our text, has been retained, and a devout sick man among them cannot rest until he has received this extreme unction at the priest’s hands. Now although we cannot help seeing in this practice a complete misapprehension of these words of Holy Writ and a lamentable superstition, have we not, we ask, gone similarly astray, while there continues among us the sad evil habit of celebrating the Lord’s Supper in so unconscious a state and of considering the taking of it immediately before death to be necessary, after the Holy Table had often before been unfrequented for years?

Neander:—To excite more than one to repentance of a single sin, and thus to pave his way towards obtaining the forgiveness of one sin, is to draw him away from the whole sinful bias of his life and to restore in him the state of a new, Divine life. Thereby many sins, which plunged him into his former course, are covered.

Viedebandt:—Pray for one another. Such a precept is not found in the catechism of worldly friendship. Alas, how much ungodly friendship. It is like thorn-hedges which have grown the one into the other, united as it were in order to pierce and to tear. Noxious bind-weed!—while the soul is tied, prayer is tied also. Patience in suffering flows from hope for joys.

von Gerlach: (James 5:13).—Sadness and gladness are alike dangerous to the Christian; the devil takes advantage of every strong emotion to draw him away from God. Prayer and praise act like weapons against him.—

Heubner (James 5:13):—The value of spiritual songs as compared with worldly songs (James 5:15). Faith is the soul of prayer: without that it is faint and dead.—Prayer is one of the most glorious expression of free-will.—We also, like Elias, may pray for temporal things—(James 5:19-20). The infinite value of a human soul.—

Lisco: (James 5:13-18).—Of the abuse and the right use of the name of God.—Several Christian rules of life.—Prayer 1, in all the situations of life, 2, especially with the sick, 3, availeth much.—(James 5:19-20). Loving care for the conversion of sinners.—The blessed occupation of saving souls: 1, the motives that should prompt us; 2, the manner how we should set to work; 3, the blessing that attends it.

Porubszky:—True cheerfulness.—Faith gives health.—Of the fruit of prayer.—The conversion of sinners the most laudable work of faith.—

[James 5:10. Jortin:—History sacred and secular shows us men naturally as weak as we are, liable to the same temptations of vanity, conceit, pride, sensual affections, fear, wrath, envy and malice, yet conquering these foes to their salvation. They had as quick a sense of pleasure and pain, of love and aversion, of profit and loss, of plenty and poverty, of honour and dishonour, as we; and yet they overcame the world by their faith, and by the influence of true religion upon their minds. They had indeed the Divine assistance to strengthen their infirmity; and so may we, if we seek it as they did.

James 5:11. Bp. Sanderson:—Job held out in his patience under his great trial unto the last: and God out of pity and in His tender mercy towards him, heaped comforts upon him at the last in great abundance. It would be well worthy of our most serious meditation, to consider both what by God’s grace he did, and how by God’s mercy he sped. His example in the one would be a good pattern to us of patience: and his reward in the other a good encouragement for consolation. This we may rest upon as a most perfect truth, that if we do our part, God will not fail on His.

James 5:14. Nedarim p. 40, 1. “Rabba, as often as he fell sick, forbade his domestics to mention it for the first day: if he did not then begin to get well, he told his family to go and publish it in the highways, that they who hated him, might rejoice: and they that loved him, might intercede with God for him.”

Rabbi Simeon in Sepher Ha Chayim said: “What should a man do, who goes to visit the sick? Ans. He who studies to restore the health of the body, should first lay the foundation in the health of the soul.” The wise men have said, “No healing is equal to that which comes from the word of God and prayer.” Rabbi Phineas, the son of Chamma, has said, “When sickness or disease enters into a man’s family, let him apply to a wise man, who will implore mercy in his behalf.”—M.].


[7] James 5:7. [1 Rec. A. K. L. al. insert ὑέτον before πρώϊμον; Cod Sin. inserts τόν καρπόν (τόν improb.) before πρώϊμον.—M.]

Lange: Be patient therefore [endure], brethren, … having patience with reference to it, till it hath received the early and the latter rain.
[ … being patient over (Alford) it, untill it shall have received.…—M.]

[8] James 5:8. [2 Cod. Sin. L. al. insert οὖν after μακροθυμήσατε.—M.]

Lange:. … . strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is nigh.
[ … stablish …, because the coming …—M.]

[9] James 5:9. A. B. Lachm. Tischend. place ἀδελφοί before ἀλλήλων. [Cod. Sin. κατὰ .—M.]

[10]A. B. K. L. [Cod. Sin.—M]. al. read κριθῆτε for κατακριθῆτε.

[11] Rec. omits not ὁ κριτής (as Huther asserts), but ὁ sustained by A. B. K. L. [Cod. Sin.—M.] al.

Lange: Groan (sigh) not … that ye be not judged … before the doors.
[Murmur not, brethren, … that ye be not judged. …—M.]

[12] James 5:10. Rec. K. L. al. insert μου before ἀδελφοί, omit A. B.—Rec. has τῆς κακοπαθείας before ἀδελφοί but A. B. K. L. al give ἀδελφοί first.

[13] James 5:0 :. Rec. K. L. al. insert μου before ἀδελφοί, omit A. B.—Rec. has τῆς κακοπαθείας before ἀδελφοί but A. B. K. L. al give ἀδελφοί first.

[14]ἐν found in B [Cod. Sin.—M.], adopted by Lachmann, is wanting in A. G. K. al.

[15] [ Cod. Sin. reads καλοκαγαθίας for κακοπαθείας.—M.]

Lange: Take, brethren, as an example of suffering evil and of patience the prophets who have spoken in virtue of the name of the Lord.
[Take, my brethren, … of affliction and patience. …, who spoke in …—M.]

James 5:11; James 5:11. Lachmann for ὑπυμένοντας reads ὑπομείναντας A. B. Vulg. al. Cod sin. ὑπομίναντας.

[17]ἴδετε A. B. G. al. Tischend. [Alford], through an exegetical mistake appears to have been changed into εἴδετε Rec. B al. and adopted by Lachmann.

[18]κύριος omit G. K. al. Tischendorf; A. B. insert it, but B omits the Article. This ὁ κύριος was probably omitted, because it was held to be superfluous after the preceding κυρίου (Hnther).

Lange: Behold, we count happy the sufferers who did endure.—Ye have heard of the endurance of Job and look at the end [the consummation] of the Lord. For very compassionate is the Lord and merciful.
[Behold, we count happy them that endure.… See also the end of the Lord [of His dealings with him]: because the Lord is very pitiful and merciful.—M.]

James 5:12; James 5:12. [Cod. sin. has πάντων οὗν.—M.]

[20][Cod. Sin. reads ἤτω δὲλόγος for ἤτω δὲ Rec.—M.]

[21] [Luther’s rendering “into hypocrisy” arose from the less authentic reading εἰς ὑπόκρισιν Rec. G. K. al. But A. B. Vulg. al. fix the reading ὑπὸ κρίσιν.

Lange: But above all things, my brethren, swear (conspire) not, neither by the heaven, nor by the earth.… But let your (Sinait.: ὁ λόγος) yea be a yea, and your nay a nay, that ye fall not under judgment.

[ … . that ye fall not under judgment.—M.]

James 5:13. Lange: Does affliction happen to any among you?…, is any cheerful, let him sing praise.

[Is any among you in affliction?… Is any cheerful?…—.M.]

[22] James 5:14. [16 Insert τοῦ before κυρίου Rec. K. L. omits B, which also omits κυρίου.—M.]

Lange: … let him call to himself … [let him call for …—M.]

James 5:15. Lange: And the prayer of faith shall help the sick … it shall be forgiven him.

… save (heal) the sick man; … M.]

James 5:16; James 5:16. A. B. K. [Cod. Sin.—M.] Vulg. al. Lachmann [Alford] insert οὗν.[Rec. omits it.—M.]

[24]τὰς ἁμαρτίας A. B. [Cod. sin.—M.] al. Lachmann; τα παραπτώματα G. K. al. Tischendorf [Alford.—M.]

[25] A. B. προσεύ χεσθε; [Rec. εὔχεσθε.—M.]

Lange: Confess, therefore, your sins to one another, and pray for one another … The prayer of a righteous man, inwardly effectual [efficiency effected] availeth much.
[ … . therefore your transgressions one to another … The inwardly effectual prayer of a righteous man is very efficacious.—M.]

James 5:17. Lange: … of like passions with us, and he prayed a prayer that it should not rain, and it did not rain in the land for … .

[ … of like passions with us, and he prayed with prayer that it might not rain, and it rained not on the earth for …—M.]

James 5:18; James 5:18. [20 ἔδωκεν τὸν ὑετόν Cod. Sin. A. al.—M.]

James 5:19; James 5:19. Rec. G. Tischend. omit μου, A. B. K. [Cod. Sin.—M.] insert it; so Lachmann [Alford.—M.]

[28] [Cod. Sin. inserts τῆς ὁδοῦ before τῆς .—M.]

Lange: My brethren, if any among you should have strayed from the truth, [Sinait: from the way of the truth] and one should convert him …
[ … be led astray from the truth and one turn him back.—M.]

James 5:20; James 5:20. [22 γινωσκέτω Rec. A. K. L. Vulg. al; γινώσκετε B. Alford.—M.]

[30] ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ. A. [Cod. Sin.—M.] Vulg. al. Lachmann, [A inserts τήν—M.]; Rec. B. G. K. al. read ψυχήν.

Lange: Let him know … cover a multitude of sins.
[Know ye, that he who turneth a sinner from the error of his way …—M.]

[31] The subscriptions: of James, Epistle of James; Epistle of St. James.

[Ιακωβου Β; Ιακωβου επιστολη, Α; τελος του αγιου αποστολου Ιακωβου επιστολη καθολικη Ζ.—M.]

[32]On the attempt of Rauch to prove the non-authenticity of the section James 5:12-20, see Gebser, p. 395.

[33]Oil in the East, where it is much better than with us, is a common and very useful remedy employed in many diseases by rubbing it into the affected parts and pouring it into wounds for the purpose of mollifying them. Cf. Isaiah 1:6; Mark 6:13; Luke 10:34; Joseph, de bello jud. 1, 33, Jude 1:5. The balm of Gilead in particular was highly esteemed as an external application. Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 46:11. Thus the Greek and Roman physicians also recommend poultices made of wine and oil, or vinegar and oil (Galen, de comp. medic. 2; Plin. H. N. 31, 47 etc.). Tertullian ad Scapulam informs us also that Proculus, a Christian, cured the Emperor Severus with oil. Cf. also Sheviith James 8: qui capite dolet, aut quem invasit scabies, unguat se oleo etc. Gebser, p. 403.

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on James 5". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.