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Bible Commentaries

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament
James 4

 

 

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Verse 1

James 4:1. πόθεν, whence?) James hints, that many persons often seek the causes of contentions, though they are evident.— πόλεμοι καὶ μάχαι, wars and fightings) opposed to “peace;” on which he treats in ch. 3. Fighting is the active carrying on of war. There follows shortly afterwards in James 4:2, ye fight and war. An inverted Chiasmus. καὶ μάχαι ἐν ὑμῖν, but the Alexandrian MS. in the lesser Oxf. edit., ἐν ὑμῖν, καὶ πόθεν μάχαν for Mill, as usual, does not notice the order of the words. πόθεν is also inserted before μάχαι in L. and N. 1. There may be something remarkable in this variety.(46)ἐντεῦθεν, hence) The reference is to pleasures ( ἡδονῶν), of which mention is expressly made immediately (comp. James 4:3), and is implied in ch. 3— στρατευομένων, which war) The same word occurs, 1 Peter 2:11.— μέλεσιν, in the members) The body is the first seat of war: thence there follows the war of man with man, of king with king, of nation with nation.


Verse 2

James 4:2. ἐπιθυμεῖτε, ye desire) A kind of Anaphora(47) whereby the sentiment is repeated with increased force. Ye desire, with disposition towards an object; ye kill and envy, with the action and disposition of individuals against individuals; ye fight and war, with the action of many against many.— φονεύετε καὶ ζηλοῦτε, ye kill and envy) Ye kill through hatred and envy. One sentiment is expressed by two words. The same verb occurs, ch. James 5:6. He who covets any object, desires that the former possessor may be removed out of the way. He speaks of murderers, as in James 4:4 of adulterers. Comp. 1 John 3:15. Thus, φονεύετε, do ye murder? Psalms 62:3 (Septuagint), חְּרָצְחוּ for this Hebrew reading, holding a middle place between the others, is(48) well supported by the Halle reviewers. And the tenor of the whole Epistle of James has a very close resemblance to the whole of this Psalm. See notes at James 4:7; James 4:12; James 4:14; James 1:3; James 3:10. See also Psalms 10:8.— οὐκ ἕχετε δὲ) See App. Crit., Ed. ii., on this passage.(49)διὰ, on account of) This agrees (coheres) with the threefold clause, and ye have not; and ye cannot obtain; but ye have not.— μὴ αἰτεῖσθαι, your not asking) For the lustful, the murderer, and the contentious man, cannot pray.


Verse 3

James 4:3. καὶ οὐ λαμβάνετε, and ye receive not) He does not here say, ye have not. To ask and to receive are relative terms.— αἰτεῖσθε, ye ask) Now he refutes others who wish to appear somewhat better than these.


Verse 4

James 4:4. ΄οιχοὶ καὶ μοιχάλιδες, ye adulterers and adulteresses) Men and women are involved in such a war, and break the promise which they have made to God.— φιλία τοῦ κόσμου, the friendship of this world) The way of the world is pleasure, James 4:3.— ἔχθρα, enmity) 1 John 2:15. ἐχθρά (the adjective, hostile) is the reading of Steph. ï. Lat. I have passed this by, as it injures the sense: for ἔχθρα and φιλιά (hatred and friendship) are opposed to each other.(50)ὅς ἂν οὖν, whosoever therefore) In this second clause, something is added over and above to the former sentence, by the introduction of the words βουληθῇ, shall wish, and καθίσταται, becomes.— ἐχθρὸς, an enemy) who will obtain nothing by prayer.— καθίσταται) a middle verb, that is, renders himself.


Verse 5

James 4:5. κενῶς) in vain, without effect, so that it matters nothing to guilt or to salvation. Whatever things the Scripture says are serious. We ought to reverence every word.— λέγει, saith) not λαλεῖ, speaks, saith the things which follow.— πρὸς φθόνον) against envy. This noun ( φθόνος) does not occur in the Septuagint, and it does not seem probable that James should have wished to make so great a change in this verse, and yet, in James 4:6, have made an exact quotation from another passage. We may infer from this, that the quotation here is from the Scriptures of the New Testament: for the writings of the New Testament, as well as the Old, are reckoned in the Scriptures; 2 Peter 3:16. Some refer it to Genesis 6:5; Genesis 6:3; or to Numbers 11:29; or to Proverbs 21:10; or to some lost book. But the words of James are near enough to Galatians 5:17, and following verses; where φθόνοι, envyings, are placed among the works of the flesh, and the spirit is said to have desires contrary to the flesh, and they who are led by this spirit are not under the law, but under grace. But this passage agrees especially with 1 Peter 2:1-2; 1 Peter 2:5. Laying aside—ENVYINGS, DESIRE the milk of the word—a SPIRITUAL HOUSE. And that which here follows. But He giveth more grace, agrees with that, the Lord is gracious, James 4:3. He who has this passage of St Peter well impressed upon his mind, will altogether recognise the reference of St James to it. Nor does the chronological order of the epistles stand in the way. Thus James not only concurs with St Peter, but also with St Paul.— φθόνον) The friendship of the world necessarily produces envy: the Spirit, which has taken up His dwelling in us, does not bear envy.— τὸ πνεῦμα) The Spirit of grace and love.— κατῴκησεν) takes up His dwelling.— ἐν ἥμῖν, in us) Sons, of the New Testament.


Verse 6

James 4:6. ΄είζονα) So much the greater the farther you depart from envy.— δίδωσι, He giveth) God.— λέγει, it saith) the Scripture, James 4:5. James confirms the authority of Solomon, whom he quotes with great propriety, when he would dissuade us from the hinderances to wisdom.— θεὸςχάριν) Proverbs 3:34. Septuagint has κυριος—the rest in the same words. James altogether agrees with Peter: see 1 Peter 5:5.— ὑπερηφάνοις, the proud) Pride is the mother of envy, respecting which see James 4:5. The Hebrew is ללצים, scoffers, such are they who think that the Scripture speaks in vain.— ἀντιτάσσεται, resists) In the Hebrew יליץ, He will laugh at. The humble are of such a spirit, that if it were possible for God to require the service of any one, they would afford it; but the proud endeavour to resist Him, as Pharaoh did; therefore He repays each according to their own deservings. He resists the proud, but He gives grace to the lowly.— χάριν, grace) He, to whom God gives grace, learns to lay aside all envy.


Verse 7

James 4:7. ὑποτάγητε οὖν τῷ θεῷ) Submit yourselves therefore to God: Psalms 62:5. Septuagint, πλὴν τῷ θεῷ ὑποτάγηθι ψυχή μου, but, my soul, submit thyself to God. This exhortation, submit yourselves, agrees with the lowly, James 4:6; and after an intermediate explanation of this submission, it is brought to a close in James 4:10 : comp. 1 Peter 5:6.— ἀντίστητεἀφʼ ὑμῶν, resistfrom you) The opposite follows, Draw nighto you. Comp. resist, 1 Peter 5:9.— τῷ διαβόλῳ, the devil) who is proud, and especially tempts men by pride; the enemy, under whose banner pride and envy are enlisted in the world.— φεύξεται, will flee) as overcome. A word of joy, 1 John 5:18.


Verse 8

James 4:8. ἐγγίσατε, draw near) The flight of the devil is followed, in the order of nature rather than of time, by an approach to God, in holy prayer, James 4:2-3.— ἐγγιεῖ, He will draw near) as propitious. A most joyous word.— καθαρίσατε, cleanse) That you may be able to put to flight the devil.— ἁγνίσατε, purify) that ye may be able to approach God, having laid aside adultery of soul.— δίψυχοι, ye double-minded) who give yourselves both to God and to the world, James 4:4. The form of address varies in this Epistle; and at one time they are addressed as holy brethren, at another time as sinners, at another time as waverers. The double-minded man is at fault in heart; the sinner, in his hands likewise.


Verse 9

James 4:9. ταλαιπωρήσατε, be afflicted) that ye may be weaned and estranged from the world. This is a blessed affliction. He does not here add, howl, as ch. James 5:1.(51)

(51) εἰς κατήφειαν, into heaviness [falling] of countenance) The same phrase as the German Kopfhängen. Comp. 1 Kings 21:29; Isaiah 58:5; Micah 6:8. They who carp at others on this ground, are generally themselves such as have need above other men to let fall the countenance.—V. g.


Verse 11

James 4:11. ΄ὴ καταλαλεῖτε, speak not evil) He now notices other excesses of a restless soul; having in ch. 3 spoken of rest, and in the beginning of ch. 4 of confusion.— τὸν ἀδελφὸν, his brother) The article is here used, though not with ἀδελφοῦ. The equality of brothers is violated by evil-speaking, but more so by judging.— κρίνει νόμον, judges the law) For he acts, just as though the law itself could not perform that office, which a man of this kind pounces (flies) upon.— εἰ δὲ, but if) If you judge, you are a judge. The figure Ploce.(52)νό΄ου, of the law) After this passage, the Law is not expressly mentioned in the volume of the New Testament, since it does not occur in the Epistles of Peter, John, and Jude, or in the Apocalypse.


Verse 12

James 4:12. νομοθέτης) There is one, namely, the Lawgiver, God, who is able, etc. The Alex. and Lat. add καὶ κριτὴς, and many and weighty authorities confirm this reading; but I formerly preferred the received reading to this fuller one.(53) Baumgarten often asserts, that I am not consistent with myself. But it is commendable to change one’s opinion for the better; though at the same time he has never proved that I am at variance with myself. Consult App. Crit. Ed. ii. on this passage.— δυνάμενος, who is able) It is not ours to judge, especially when we are not able to carry into execution.— σῶσαι) Psalms 62:1 : παρʼ αὐτοῦ γὰρ τὸ σωτήριόν μου, “for from Him is my salvation:” and the same psalm, James 4:3; James 4:7-8. The Lat. [“perdere et liberare”], inverts the order of the words, as the Scripture often does: to kill and to make alive, to wound and to heal, to cause sadness and to comfort. See App. Crit. Ed. ii.— σὺ δὲ) The Greeks alone, and but few of these, read σὺ:(54) and these Baumgarten would not endeavour to extend into a great number, did he not place too great confidence in the critics who revise the manuscripts according to the text of Erasmus. Comp. again App. Crit. Ed. ii. In criticism, this rule has great weight: That which is wanting cannot be numbered, Ecclesiastes 1:15.— τίς, who) A feeble person.— τὸν ἕτερον) Many read κρίνων τὸν πλησίον,(55) and thus the Syr(56) plainly reads: comp. ch. James 2:8. The Greek word ἕτερος is usually translated by another word, which means a companion, not a neighbour.


Verse 13

James 4:13. ἄγε νῦν, come now) The interjection used to excite attention, ch. James 5:1.— λέγοντες, ye who say) In plain terms, ye who boast: James 4:16.— σήμερον αὔριον, to-day or to-morrow) One says, to-day; the same, or some other person, says, to-morrow, as it suits his convenience; as though he had a free choice. αὔριον, Beza; and my note in the Gnomon was formerly in accordance with this reading; afterwards, in the course of inquiry, I preferred καὶ αὔριον.(57) See App. Crit. Ed. ii.— πορευσώμεθα, κ. τ. λ., we will go, etc.) The Subjunctive [let us go] makes the language modal,(58) and suggests urgent reasons for actions.— τήνδε) This is put instead of a proper name, as δεῖνα.— καὶ, and) The repetition of the conjunction, and, expresses the will of a mind at ease.— ἐνιαυτὸν ἕνα, one year) They thus speak, as though presently after about to deliberate also respecting years to come.


Verse 14

James 4:14. οὐκ ἐπίστασθε, ye know not) Proverbs 3:28.— τὸ τῆς(59)) See App. Crit. ποία, Psalms 62:10.— ζωὴ) life, on which the action of to morrow is suspended.— ἀτμὶς, a vapour) A diminutive.— γὰρ, for) From the question the particle is repeated in the answer: this gives force.— ἔσται, shall be(60)) See App. Crit. Ed. ii. The expression τὸ αὔριον, to-morrow, confirms the probability of the sense in the future, ἔσται, and so does the whole discourse concerning future time: James 4:13; James 4:15.


Verse 15

James 4:15. ἀντὶ τοῦ λέγειν ὑμᾶς, whereas ye ought to say) referring to ye that say, James 4:13. An Imperative is here implied, rather say thus.— καὶ, and) If the Lord will, we shall BOTH live AND act. We shall both live, is part of the Apodosis;(61) for, if it were part of the Protasis, and would not be placed before we shall act. καὶ ζήσωμεν is expressed in Latin by si vixerimus, where the si is incorrectly added, and the καὶ which follows, incorrectly omitted; for καὶ ζήσω΄εν (i. e. vivemus) belongs, as we have said, to the Apodosis: and the boasting man so speaks as though he had in his own power, (1.) the particular kind of action, (2.) the action, and (3.) life; whereas (1.) the life of men, (2.) action, and (3.) the particular kind of action, depend entirely on the will of the Lord. See again App. Grit. Ed. ii.— ζήσωμεν·(62) ποιήσωμεν) The Subjunctive gives to the discourse an expression of modesty.(63)


Verse 16

James 4:16. καυχᾶσθε ἐν ταῖς ἀλαζονείαις, ye boast in your arrogant pretensions) Their arrogance is expressed in the words, we will go—we will get gain; their boasting is implied in their presuming upon the time.— πονηρὰ, evil) The opposite is good, James 4:17.


Verse 17

James 4:17. εἰδότι, to him who knows) A brief conclusion, leaving the haughty to themselves.— μὴ, not) A sin of omission.

 


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Bibliography Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on James 4:4". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/james-4.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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