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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

James 5

Verse 1

Come now, ye rich (αγε νυν ο πλουσιο). Exclamatory interjection as in James 4:13. Direct address to the rich as a class as in 1 Timothy 6:17. Apparently here James has in mind the rich as a class, whether believer, as in James 1:10, or unbeliever, as in James 2:1; James 2:6. The plea here is not directly for reform, but a warning of certain judgment (James 5:1-6) and for Christians "a certain grim comfort in the hardships of poverty" (Ropes) in James 5:7-11.

Weep and howl (κλαυσατε ολολυζοντες). "Burst into weeping (ingressive aorist active imperative of κλαιω as in James 4:9), howling with grief" (present active participle of the old onomatopoetic verb ολολυζω, here only in N.T., like Latin ululare, with which compare αλαλαζω in Matthew 5:38.

For your miseries (επ ταις ταλαιπωριαις υμων). Old word from ταλαιπωρος (Romans 7:24) and like ταλαιπωρεω in James 4:9 (from τλαω to endure and πωρος a callus).

That are coming upon you (ταις επερχομεναις). Present middle participle of the old compound επερχομα to come upon, used here in futuristic prophetic sense.

Verse 2

Riches (ο πλουτος). Masculine singular, but occasionally neuter το πλουτος in nominative and accusative (2 Corinthians 8:2). Apparently πλεοτος fulness (from πλεος full, πιμπλημ to fill). "Wealth."

Are corrupted (σεσηπεν). Second perfect active indicative of σηπω (root σαπ as in σαπρος, rotten), to corrupt, to destroy, here intransitive "has rotted." Only here in N.T. On the worthlessness of mere wealth see Matthew 6:19; Matthew 6:24.

Were moth-eaten (σητοβρωτα γεγονεν). "Have become (second perfect indicative of γινομα, singular number, though ιματια, neuter plural, treated collectively) moth-eaten" (σητοβρωτα, late and rare compound from σης, moth, Matthew 6:19 and βρωτος, verbal adjective of βιβρωσκω to eat John 6:13. This compound found only here, Job 13:28, Sibyll. Orac. Proem. 64). Rich robes as heirlooms, but moth-eaten. Vivid picture. Witness the 250 "lost millionaires" in the United States in 1931 as compared with 1929. Riches have wings.

Verse 3

Are rusted (κατιωτα). Perfect passive indicative (singular for χρυσος and αργυρος are grouped as one) of κατιοω, late verb (from ιος, rust) with perfective sense of κατα, to rust through (down to the bottom), found only here, Sir. 12:11, Epictetus (Diss. 4, 6, 14).

Rust (ιος). Poison in James 3:8; Romans 3:13 (only N.T. examples of old word). Silver does corrode and gold will tarnish. Dioscorides (V.91) tells about gold being rusted by chemicals. Modern chemists can even transmute metals as the alchemists claimed.

For a testimony (εις μαρτυριον). Common idiom as in Matthew 8:4 (use of εις with accusative in predicate).

Against you (υμιν). Dative of disadvantage as in Mark 6:11 (εις μαρτυριον αυτοις) where in the parallel passage (Luke 9:5) we have εις μαρτυριον επ' αυτους. "To you" will make sense, as in Matthew 8:4; Matthew 10:18, but "against" is the idea here as in Luke 21:13.

Shall eat (φαγετα). Future middle (late form from εφαγον) of defective verb εσθιω, to eat.

Your flesh (τας σαρκας). The plural is used for the fleshy parts of the body like pieces of flesh (Revelation 17:16; Revelation 19:18; Revelation 19:21). Rust eats like a canker, like cancer in the body.

As fire (ως πυρ). Editors differ here whether to connect this phrase with φαγετα, just before (as Mayor), for fire eats up more rapidly than rust, or with the following, as Westcott and Hort and Ropes, that is the eternal fire of Gehenna which awaits them (Matthew 25:41; Mark 9:44). This interpretation makes a more vivid picture for εθησαυρισατε (ye have laid up, first aorist active indicative of θησαυριζω, Matthew 6:19 and see Proverbs 16:27), but it is more natural to take it with φαγετα.

Verse 4

The hire (ο μισθος). Old word for wages (Matthew 20:8).

Labourers (εργατων). Any one who works (εργαζομα), especially agricultural workers (Matthew 9:37).

Who mowed (των αμησαντων). Genitive plural of the articular first aorist active participle of αμαω (from αμα, together), old verb, to gather together, to reap, here only in N.T.

Fields (χωρας). Estates or farms (Luke 12:16).

Which is of you kept back by fraud (ο αφυστερημενος αφ' υμων). Perfect passive articular participle of αφυστερεω, late compound (simplex υστερεω common as Matthew 19:20), to be behindhand from, to fail of, to cause to withdraw, to defraud. Pitiful picture of earned wages kept back by rich Jews, old problem of capital and labour that is with us yet in acute form.

The cries (α βοα). Old word from which βοαω comes (Matthew 3:3), here only in N.T. The stolen money "cries out" (κραζε), the workers cry out for vengeance.

That reaped (των θερισαντων). Genitive plural of the articular participle first aorist active of θεριζω (old verb from θερος, summer, Matthew 24:32), to reap, to harvest while summer allows (Matthew 6:26).

Have entered (εισεληλυθαν). Perfect active third person plural indicative of εισερχομα, old and common compound, to go or come into. This late form is by analogy of the aorist for the usual form in -ασ.

Of the Lord of Sabaoth (Κυριου Σαβαωθ). "Of the Lord of Hosts," quotation from Isaiah 5:9 as in Romans 9:29, transliterating the Hebrew word for "Hosts," an expression for the omnipotence of God like Παντοκρατωρ (Revelation 4:8). God hears the cries of the oppressed workmen even if the employers are deaf.

Verse 5

Ye have lived delicately (ετρυφησατε). First aorist (constative, summary) active indicative of τρυφαω, old verb from τρυφη (luxurious living as in Luke 7:25, from θρυπτω, to break down, to enervate), to lead a soft life, only here in N.T.

Taken your pleasure (εσπαταλησατε). First aorist (constative) active indicative of σπαταλαω, late and rare verb to live voluptuously or wantonly (from σπαταλη, riotous living, wantonness, once as bracelet), in N.T. only here and 1 Timothy 5:6.

Ye have nourished (εθρεψατε). First aorist (constative) active indicative of τρεφω, old verb, to feed, to fatten (Matthew 6:26). They are fattening themselves like sheep or oxen all unconscious of "the day of slaughter" (εν ημερα σφαγης, definite without the article) ahead of them. For this use of σφαγης see Romans 8:36 (προβατα σφαγης, sheep for the slaughter, σφαγη from σφαζω, to slay), consummate sarcasm on the folly of sinful rich people.

Verse 6

Ye have condemned (κατεδικασατε). First aorist active indicative of καταδικαζω, old verb (from καταδικη, condemnation, Acts 25:15). The rich controlled the courts of justice.

Ye have killed the righteous one (εφονευσατε τον δικαιον). First aorist active indicative of φονευω (James 2:11; James 4:2). "The righteous one" (των δικαιον) is the generic use of the singular with article for the class. There is probably no direct reference to one individual, though it does picture well the death of Christ and also the coming death of James himself, who was called the Just (Eus. H.E. ii. 23). Stephen (Acts 7:52) directly accuses the Sanhedrin with being betrayers and murderers (προδοτα κα φονεις) of the righteous one (του δικαιου).

He doth not resist you (ουκ αντιτασσετα υμιν). It is possible to treat this as a question. Present middle indicative of αντιτασσω, for which see James 4:6. Without a question the unresisting end of the victim (τον δικαιον) is pictured. With a question (ουκ, expecting an affirmative answer) God or Lord is the subject, with the final judgment in view. There is no way to decide definitely.

Verse 7

Be patient therefore (μακροθυμησατε ουν). A direct corollary (ουν, therefore) from the coming judgment on the wicked rich (James 5:1-6). First aorist (constative) active imperative of μακροθυμεω, late compound (Plutarch, LXX) from μακροθυμος (μακροσ, θυμος, of long spirit, not losing heart), as in Matthew 18:26. The appeal is to the oppressed brethren. Catch your wind for a long race (long-tempered as opposed to short-tempered). See already the exhortation to patience (υπομονη) in James 1:3; James 1:12 and repeated in James 5:11. They will need both submission (υπομενω James 5:11) and steadfastness (μακροθυμια James 5:10).

Until the coming of the Lord (εως της παρουσιας). The second coming of Christ he means, the regular phrase here and in verse James 5:8 for that idea (Matthew 24:3; Matthew 24:37; Matthew 24:39; 1 Thessalonians 2:19, etc.).

The husbandman (ο γεωργος). The worker in the ground (γη, εργω) as in Matthew 21:33.

Waiteth for (εκδεχετα). Present middle indicative of εκδεχομα, old verb for eager expectation as in Acts 17:16.

Precious (τιμιον). Old adjective from τιμη (honor, price), dear to the farmer because of his toil for it. See 1 Peter 1:19.

Being patient over it (μακροθυμων επ' αυτω). Present active participle of μακροθυμεω just used in the exhortation, picturing the farmer longing and hoping over his precious crop (cf. Luke 18:7 of God).

Until it receive (εως λαβη). Temporal clause of the future with εως and the second aorist active subjunctive of λαμβανω, vividly describing the farmer's hopes and patience.

The early and latter rain (προιμον κα οψιμον). The word for rain (υετον Acts 14:17) is absent from the best MSS. The adjective προιμος (from πρω, early) occurs here only in N.T., though old in the form προιμος and πρωις. See Deuteronomy 11:14; Jeremiah 5:24, etc. for these terms for the early rain in October or November for the germination of the grain, and the latter rain (οψιμον, from οψε, late, here only in N.T.) in April and May for maturing the grain.

Verse 8

Ye also (κα υμεις). As well as the farmers.

Stablish (στηριξατε). First aorist active imperative of στηριζω, old verb, (from στηριγξ, a support) to make stable, as in Luke 22:32; 1 Thessalonians 3:13.

Is at hand (ηγγικεν). Present perfect active indicative of εγγιζω, common verb, to draw near (from εγγυς), in James 4:8, for drawing near. Same form used by John in his preaching (Matthew 3:2). In 1 Peter 4:7 the same word appears to have an eschatological sense as apparently here. How "near" or "nigh" did James mean? Clearly, it could only be a hope, for Jesus had distinctly said that no one knew when he would return.

Verse 9

Murmur not (μη στεναζετε). Prohibition with μη and the present active imperative of στεναζω, old verb, to groan. "Stop groaning against one another," as some were already doing in view of their troubles. In view of the hope of the Second Coming lift up your heads.

That ye be not judged (ινα μη κριθητε). Negative purpose clause with ινα μη and the first aorist passive subjunctive of κρινω. As already indicated (James 2:12; James 4:12) and repeated in James 5:12. Reminiscence of the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1.

Standeth before the doors (προ των θυρων εστηκεν). Perfect active indicative of ιστημ, "is standing now." Again like the language of Jesus in Matthew 24:33 (επ θυραις) and Mark 13:29. Jesus the Judge is pictured as ready to enter for the judgment.

Verse 10

For an example (υποδειγμα). Late word for the old παραδειγμα, from υποδεικνυμ, to copy under, to teach (Luke 6:47), here for copy to be imitated as in John 13:15, as a warning (Hebrews 4:11). Here predicate accusative with τους προφητας (the prophets) as the direct object of λαβετε (second aorist active imperative of λαμβανω).

Of suffering (της κακοπαθιας). Old word from κακοπαθης (suffering evil, κακοπαθεω in verse James 5:13; 2 Timothy 2:3; 2 Timothy 2:9), here only in N.T.

Of patience (μακροθυμιας). Like μακροθυμεω in James 5:7. See both μακροθυμια and υπομονη in 2 Corinthians 4:6; Colossians 1:11 (the one restraint from retaliating, the other not easily succumbing).

In the name of (εν τω ονοματ). As in Jeremiah 20:9. With the authority of the Lord (Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 198).

Verse 11

We call blessed (μακαριζομεν). Old word (present active indicative of μακαριζω), from μακαριος (happy), in N.T. only here and Luke 1:48. "We felicitate." As in James 1:3; James 1:12; Daniel 12:12.

Ye have heard (ηκουσατε). First aorist (constative) active indicative of ακουω. As in Matthew 5:21; Matthew 5:27; Matthew 5:33; Matthew 5:38; Matthew 5:43. Ropes suggests in the synagogues.

Of Job (Ιωβ). Job did complain, but he refused to renounce God (Job 1:21; Job 2:10; Job 13:15; Job 16:19; Job 19:25). He had become a stock illustration of loyal endurance.

Ye have seen (ειδετε). Second aorist (constative) active indicative of οραω. In Job's case.

The end of the Lord (το τελος κυριου). The conclusion wrought by the Lord in Job's case (Job 42:12).

Full of pity (πολυσπλαγχνος). Late and rare compound (πολυσ, σπλαγχνον), only here in N.T. It occurs also in Hermas (Sim. v. 7. 4; Mand. iv, 3). "Very kind."

Merciful (οικτιρμων). Late and rare adjective (from οικτειρω to pity), in N.T. only here and Luke 6:36.

Verse 12

Above all things (προ παντων). No connection with what immediately precedes. Probably an allusion to the words of Jesus (Matthew 5:34-37). It is not out of place here. See the same phrase in 1 Peter 4:8. Robinson (Ephesians, p. 279) cites like examples from the papyri at the close of letters. Here it means "But especially" (Ropes).

Swear not (μη ομνυετε). Prohibition of the habit (or to quit doing it if guilty) with μη and the present active imperative of ομνυω. The various oaths (profanity) forbidden (μητε, thrice) are in the accusative case after ομνυετε, according to rule (ουρανον, γην, ορκον). The Jews were wont to split hairs in their use of profanity, and by avoiding God's name imagine that they were not really guilty of this sin, just as professing Christians today use "pious oaths" which violate the prohibition of Jesus.

Let be (ητω). Imperative active third singular of ειμ, late form (1 Corinthians 16:22) for εστω. "Your yea be yea" (and no more). A different form from that in Matthew 5:37.

That ye fall not under judgment (ινα μη υπο κρισιν πεσητε). Negative purpose with ινα μη and the second aorist active subjunctive of πιπτω, to fall. See ινα μη κριθητε in verse James 5:9. Κρισις (from κρινω) is the act of judging rather than the judgment rendered (κριμα James 3:1).

Verse 13

Is any suffering? (κακοπαθε τισ;). See verse James 5:10 for κακοπαθια. The verb in N.T. occurs only here and in 2 Timothy 2:3; 2 Timothy 2:9; 2 Timothy 4:5. The lively interrogative is common in the diatribe and suits the style of James.

Among you (εν υμιν). As in James 3:13.

Let him pray (προσευχεσθω). Present middle imperative, "let him keep on praying" (instead of cursing as in verse James 5:12).

Is any cheerful (ευθυμει;). Present active indicative of ευθυμεω, old verb from ευθυμος (Acts 27:36), in N.T. only here and Acts 27:22; Acts 27:25.

Let him sing praise (ψαλλετω). Present active imperative of ψαλλω, originally to twang a chord as on a harp, to sing praise to God whether with instrument or without, in N.T. only here, 1 Corinthians 14:15; Romans 15:9; Ephesians 5:19. "Let him keep on making melody."

Verse 14

Is any among you sick? (ασθενε τις εν υμιν;). Present active indicative of ασθενεω, old verb, to be weak (without strength), often in N.T. (Matthew 10:8).

Let him call for (προσκαλεσασθω). First aorist (ingressive) middle imperative of προσκαλεω. Note change of tense (aorist) and middle (indirect) voice. Care for the sick is urged in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 ("help the sick"). Note the plural here, "elders of the church, as in Acts 20:17; Acts 15:6; Acts 15:22; Acts 21:18; Philippians 1:1 (bishops).

Let them pray over him (προσευξασθωσαν επ' αυτον). First aorist middle imperative of προσευχομα. Prayer for the sick is clearly enjoined.

Anointing him with oil (αλειψαντες ελαιω). First aorist active participle of αλειφω, old verb, to anoint, and the instrumental case of ελαιον (oil). The aorist participle can be either simultaneous or antecedent with προσευξασθωσαν (pray). See the same use of αλειφω ελαιω in Mark 6:13. The use of olive oil was one of the best remedial agencies known to the ancients. They used it internally and externally. Some physicians prescribe it today. It is clear both in Mark 6:13 and here that medicinal value is attached to the use of the oil and emphasis is placed on the worth of prayer. There is nothing here of the pagan magic or of the later practice of "extreme unction" (after the eighth century). It is by no means certain that αλειφω here and in Mark 6:13 means "anoint" in a ceremonial fashion rather than "rub" as it commonly does in medical treatises. Trench (N.T. Synonyms) says: "Αλειφειν is the mundane and profane, χριειν the sacred and religious, word." At bottom in James we have God and medicine, God and the doctor, and that is precisely where we are today. The best physicians believe in God and want the help of prayer.

Verse 15

The prayer of faith (η ευχη της πιστεως). Cf. James 1:6 for prayer marked by faith.

Shall save (σωσε). Future active of σωζω, to make well. As in Matthew 9:21; Mark 6:56. No reference here to salvation of the soul. The medicine does not heal the sick, but it helps nature (God) do it. The doctor cooperates with God in nature.

The sick (τον καμνοντα). Present active articular participle of καμνω, old verb, to grow weary (Hebrews 12:3), to be sick (here), only N.T. examples.

The Lord shall raise him up (εγερε αυτον ο κυριος). Future active of εγειρω. Precious promise, but not for a professional "faith-healer" who scoffs at medicine and makes merchandise out of prayer.

And if he have committed sins (καν αμαρτιας η πεποιηκως). Periphrastic perfect active subjunctive (unusual idiom) with κα εαν (crasis καν) in condition of third class. Supposing that he has committed sins as many sick people have (Mark 2:5; John 5:14; John 9:2; 1 Corinthians 11:30).

It shall be forgiven him (αφεθησετα αυτω). Future passive of αφιημ (impersonal passive as in Matthew 7:2; Matthew 7:7; Romans 10:10). Not in any magical way, not because his sickness has been healed, not without change of heart and turning to God through Christ. Much is assumed here that is not expressed.

Verse 16

Confess therefore your sins one to another (εξομολογεισθε ουν αλληλοις τας αμαρτιας). Present middle (indirect) of εξομολογεω. Confession of sin to God is already assumed. But public confession of certain sins to one another in the meetings is greatly helpful in many ways. This is not confessing to one man like a priest in place of the public confession. One may confess to the pastor without confessing to God or to the church, with little benefit to anybody.

Pray for one another (προσευχεσθε υπερ αλληλων). Present middle imperative. Keep this up.

That ye may be healed (οπως ιαθητε). Purpose clause with οπως and the first aorist passive subjunctive of ιαομα. Probably of bodily healing (verse James 5:14), though ιαομα is used also of healing of the soul (Matthew 13:15; 1 Peter 2:24; Hebrews 12:13) as Mayor takes it here.

Availeth much (πολυ ισχυε). "Has much force." Present active indicative of ισχυω (from ισχυς, strength).

In its working (ενεργουμενη). Probably the present middle participle of ενεργεω as Paul apparently uses it in Galatians 5:6; 2 Corinthians 4:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:7, meaning "when it works." The passive is possible, as is the usual idiom elsewhere. Mayor argues strongly for the passive here, "when it is exercised" (Ropes).

Verse 17

Of like passions with us (ομοιοπαθης ημιν). Associative-instrumental case ημιν as with ομοιος. This old compound adjective (ομοιοσ, πασχω), suffering the like with another, in N.T. only here and Acts 14:15.

He prayed fervently (προσευχη προσηυξατο). First aorist middle indicative of προσευχομα and the instrumental case προσευχη (cognate substantive), after idiom for intensity in classical Greek, like φευγειν φυγη, to flee with all speed (figura etymologica), but particularly frequent in the LXX (Genesis 2:17; Genesis 31:30) in imitation of the Hebrew infinitive absolute. So Luke 22:15; John 3:29; Acts 4:17.

That it might not rain (του μη βρεξα). Genitive of the articular infinitive (βρεξα, first aorist active of βρεχω, old verb, to moisten, Luke 7:38, to rain, Matthew 5:45) with negative μη used either for direct purpose, for an object clause as here and Acts 3:12; Acts 15:20, or even for result.

For three years and six months (ενιαυτους τρεις κα μηνας εξ). Accusative of extent of time.

Verse 18

Gave rain (υετον εδωκεν). This idiom is in the LXX of God as here of heaven (1 Samuel 12:17; 1 Kings 18:1) and also in Acts 14:17 instead of εβρεξεν of verse James 5:17. Hυετον is old word for rain (from υω, to rain), genuine here, but not in verse James 5:7.

Brought forth (εβλαστησεν). First aorist active of βλαστανω, old verb, to sprout (intransitive as Mark 4:27), here as occasionally in later Greek transitive with accusative καρπον.

Verse 19

If any one among you do err (εαν τις εν υμιν πλανηθη). Third-class condition (supposed case) with εαν and the first aorist passive subjunctive of πλαναω, old verb, to go astray, to wander (Matthew 18:12), figuratively (Hebrews 5:2).

From the truth (απο της αληθειας). For truth see James 1:18; James 3:14; John 8:32; 1 John 1:6; 1 John 3:18. It was easy then, and is now, to be led astray from Christ, who is the Truth.

And one convert him (κα επιστρεψη τις αυτον). Continuation of the third-class condition with the first aorist active subjunctive of επιστρεφω, old verb, to turn (transitive here as in Luke 1:16, but intransitive often as Acts 9:35).

Verse 20

Let him know (γινωσκετω). Present active imperative third person singular of γινωσκω, but Westcott and Hort read γινωσκετε (know ye) after B. In either case it is the conclusion of the condition in verse James 5:19.

He which converteth (ο επιστρεψας). First aorist active articular participle of επιστρεφω of verse James 5:19.

From the error (εκ πλανης). "Out of the wandering" of verse James 5:19 (πλανη, from which πλαναω is made). See 1 John 4:6 for contrast between "truth" and "error."

A soul from death (ψυχην εκ θανατου). The soul of the sinner (αμαρτωλον) won back to Christ, not the soul of the man winning him. A few MSS. have αυτου added (his soul), which leaves it ambiguous, but αυτου is not genuine. It is ultimate and final salvation here meant by the future (σωσε).

Shall cover a multitude of sins (καλυψε πληθος αμαρτιων). Future active of καλυπτω, old verb, to hide, to veil. But whose sins (those of the converter or the converted)? The Roman Catholics (also Mayor and Ropes) take it of the sins of the converter, who thus saves himself by saving others. The language here will allow that, but not New Testament teaching in general. It is apparently a proverbial saying which Resch considers one of the unwritten sayings of Christ (Clem. Al. Paed. iii. 12). It occurs also in 1 Peter 4:8, where it clearly means the sins of others covered by love as a veil thrown over them. The saying appears also in Proverbs 10:12: "Hatred stirs up strife, but love hides all transgressions"--that is "love refuses to see faults" (Mayor admits). That is undoubtedly the meaning in 1 Peter 4:8; James 5:20.

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on James 5". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.