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Bible Commentaries

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament
James 5

 

 

Verse 1

James 5:1. οἱ πλούσιοι, ye rich men) [who have neglected the true enjoyment of riches in doing good, James 5:2-3.—V. g.] In the writings of the prophets, foreign nations are often addressed by apostrophe, although the prophecy would not come into their hands, but to the Jews. Under the same figure, the apostle speaks of the rich, though he does not so much write to the rich themselves, who are destitute of faith, as to the saints, that they may be induced to bear with patience the violence of the rich, James 5:7.— ταλαιπωρίαις, miseries) This was written a few years before the siege of Jerusalem.— ἐπερχομέναις, coming upon you) unexpectedly and swiftly.


Verse 2

James 5:2. σέσηπε, are corrupted) The grasping avarice of the rich is set forth.— σητόβρωτα, moth-eaten) Job 13:28, ἱμάτιον σητόβρωτον, a garment that is moth-eaten.


Verse 3

James 5:3. ἰὸς αὐτῶν, the rust of them) Synecdoche. Even the rust of their riches and garments will be a proof of the bondage in which their possessions were so held, that they were of no profit to any, but lay unemployed, without any return.— ὑμῖν, to you) against you.— φάγεται, shall eat) with death.— σάρκας, your flesh) while yet alive: he does not say κρέα.— ὡς πῦρ, as fire) A proverbial expression, respecting swift and total consumption; whereas the process of rusting was before slow and partial.— ἐν ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις, in the last days) Men are accustomed to lay up treasures for the time to come: ye have collected it too late; you will not enjoy it. The same phrase occurs, 2 Timothy 3:1, where see the note. The apostle here sets forth the coming of the Lord for the terror of the wicked; in the 7th and following verses, for the comfort of the holy.


Verse 4

James 5:4. (64) κράζει, crieth) A cry ascends to heaven respecting those sins in particular, about which men are silent,(65) as unchastity and injustice.(66) Both the hire (of the labourers) kept back, and the labourers themselves send forth that cry. A double cry.— εἰσεληλύθασιν, have entered) The antecedent is here put by Metonymia for the consequent. The meaning is, Now the Lord comes as Avenger.


Verse 5

James 5:5. ἐτρυφήσατε, ye have lived in pleasure) with specious delights, which you have supported from that very hire.— ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, on the earth) now about to be laid waste.— καὶ ἐσπαταλήσατε, and ye have been wanton) with luxury, sordid and mad, and wasting yourselves. Luxury ( τρυφὴ) produces wantonness ( σπατάληι); and wantonness is closely joined to slaughter ( τῇ σφαγῇ). James describes together the pleasure and the cruelty of the rich, as is suitable to the gradation.— ὠς ἐν ἡμέρᾳ σφαγῆς, as in the day of slaughter) An adage. The slaughter here intended is not that of the rich, but of oxen and sheep, etc., for banquets. The Æthiop. omits it;(67) Mill approves of the omission. Baumgarten blames me for not refuting that approbation; but I have sufficiently refuted such matters, Appar. p. 443 (Ed. ii. p. 78).


Verse 6

James 5:6. κατεδικάσατε, ἐφονεύσατε, ye have condemned, ye have killed) The omission of the conjunction expresses haste.(68) Compare again App. Crit. Ed. ii. I feel grateful to Baumgarten; for while he brings forward no reading more worthy of remark, as omitted by me, he remarkably confirms the fulness of my choice.— τὸν δίκαιον, the Just) A distributive meaning in the singular number is admissible, denoting any just person, as the wicked get each into their power; but especially Christ Himself, the Just One, Acts 3:14, who was slain by Jews and Gentiles; and afterwards James, the writer of this Epistle, who was surnamed by the Hebrews the Just, whose slaughter is here divinely foretold. The present tense is suitable, He doth not resist you; by which clause, following as it does without a conjunction, it is likewise intimated that by the very patience of the Just One the wicked goad themselves to slaughter. Comp. Wisdom of Solomon 2:10-20.


Verse 7

James 5:7. οὖν, therefore) Whatever the wicked may do in the meantime.— παρουσίας, the coming) James 5:8-9; James 5:12.— τοῦ κυρίου, of the Lord) Jesus Christ.— ἐκδέχεται, waiteth for) obtains by waiting, at the harvest. יקצר, shall reap, Septuagint, ἐκδέξεται, Hosea 8:7.— τίμιον, precious) the reward of labour and patience.— ἕως, until) To be taken with—and hath long patience. He does not cease before (he receives it).— ἂν) See App. Crit.(69)λάβῃ) he receive, from heaven.— πρώϊμον) the early rain, after sowing.— ὄψιμον) the latter rain, when harvest is now near.


Verse 8

James 5:8. παρουσία, the coming) which will also bear precious fruit.— ἤγγικε, is come nigh) The apostles said this with truth: although those times intervene which are spoken of, 2 Thessalonians 2 and in the Apocalypse. Comp. the note, Acts 2:39.


Verse 9

James 5:9. ΄ὴ στενάζετε, do not groan) through impatience.— ἵνα μὴ κριθῆτε, that ye be not judged) by the Judge at His coming. Groans are in jurious, both to those by whom, and those against whom, they are uttered: see App. Crit. Ed. ii.(70) κριτὴς, the Judge) that is, Christ, whose office they usurp, who unbecomingly groan, and anticipate the time of judgment. If Baumgarten shall show by any mark that the article was not read by Stephanus, I shall affirm that the article did not fall out by accident at the beginning of the line.(71)θυρῶν, the doors) A very close approach: Matthew 24:33.— ἕστηκεν, has placed Himself) stands, always hearing everything.


Verse 10

James 5:10. ἀδελφοί μου, τῆς κακοπαθείας) The vindication of this reading is to be found, App. Crit. Ed. ii. on this passage.(72)τῆς κακοπαθείας, the enduring of evils) lest you should think that any strange thing has happened to you. The word κακοπαθεῖ occurs, James 5:13.— τοὺς προφήτας, the prophets) who were singularly persecuted in their time, and therefore blessed: Matthew 5:12.— ἐλάλησαν, have spoken) How great was the violence of the world, and the patient endurance of the prophets, is here intimated.— τῷ ὀνόματι, in the name) The obedience of the prophets in praising the name of the Lord is intended: ἐν is understood, as at Matthew 7:22; Leviticus 19:12, Septuagint.


Verse 11

James 5:11. ἰδοὺ) See App. Crit. on the passage.— τοὺς ὑπομείναντας, those who have endured) in preference to those who have lived luxuriously. The Alexandrian Codex and Euthalius give weight to those which read ὑπομείναντας.(73)ὑπομονὴν, endurance, patience) James returns to the subject with which he began: comp. ch. James 1:3, note. חקוה, Septuagint, ὑπο΄ονὴ, in Job 14:19. It here marks constancy attaining to the desired object.— τὸ τέλος κυρίου) the end, which the Lord gave to Job.— εἴδετε, ye have seen) There is the same use of the word, with respect to a transaction long ago past, Hebrews 3:19. Patience and its end are in consonance, ch. James 1:4; Matthew 24:13. James is not silent respecting the end of the patience of Job.— ὅτι, [“that”] since) This depends upon the words immediately preceding. It is a continued sentence. Patience is twice mentioned, and the Lord is twice mentioned. Sirach 2:11, οἰκτίρ΄ων καὶ ἐλεή΄ων, ΄ακρόθυ΄ος καὶ πολυέλεος, full of compassion and mercy, long-suffering and very pitiful.— πολύσπλαγχνος, very pitiful) He does not lay upon the patient more than he is able to bear.— οἰκτίρμων) He mercifully gives a happy issue. The figure Chiasmus: οἰκτίρμων, from εἴκω, to yield, denotes a tender affection even without respect to calamity or misery, as David says to the Lord, ארחמך, Psalms 18:2.


Verse 12

James 5:12. ΄ὴ ὀμνύετε, do not swear) for instance, through impatience. The proper use of the tongue in adversity is set forth by way of contrast in James 5:13.— μήτε τὸν οὐρανὸν, neither by heaven) Matthew 5:34-35.— ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ, ναὶ, let your yea be yea) Let your yea be the same in word as it is in deed [reality].— ὑπὸ κρίσιν, under judgment) Comp. James 5:9. This, as I have said in the Apparatus, is in agreement with the tenor of the whole Epistle.(74) In Baumgarten, Nec has crept in, instead of Hoc. I mention this, lest he should seem to be at variance with himself.


Verse 13

James 5:13. προσευχέσθω· ψαλλέτω, let him pray; let him sing psalms) It is allowable also to sing psalms in adversity, and to pray in prosperity: but in adversity the mind in general is less able to endure the singing of psalms; and that which the mind endures ought rather to be done. They were especially accustomed to do this in public in the assembly of the faithful; as the antithesis shows, let him call for, as applied to the sick: James 5:14.


Verse 14

James 5:14. πρεσβυτέρους, the elders) For while they pray, it is much the same as though the whole Church should pray.— ἀλείψαντες αὐτὸν ἐλαίῳ, anointing him with oil) That which Christ had committed to the apostles, Mark 6:13, was afterwards continued in the Church, even after the times of the apostles: and this very gift, remarkably simple, conspicuous, and serviceable, was of longer continuance than any other. See an instance in the works of Macarius, p. 272. And Ephraim Syrus has a remarkable testimony, συμβουλ. οστ.: ἐὰν οἰκονομίαν πληρῶν ἀλείφῃς ἐλαίῳ τὸν κάμνοντα, κ. τ. λ.: If in discharge of thy office, thou anointest the sick with oil. It even seems to have been given by God with this intent, that it might always remain in the Church, as a specimen of the other gifts: just as the portion of Manna laid up in the ark was a proof of the ancient miracle. It is clear that James assigns the administration of this oil to the presbyters, who were the ordinary ministers. This was the highest Faculty of Medicine in the Church, as in 1 Corinthians 6 we have its highest Judicial order. O happy simplicity! interrupted or lost through unbelief ( ἀπιστίαν). For inasmuch as the Latin Church has its extreme unction,(75) and the Greek Church its εὐχέλαιον, from the force of experience, they assign much less efficacy for the restoring of health to this mystery ( μυστηρίῳ), or sacrament, as they term it, than James does to the apostolic usage. Whitaker says with great force against Duræus, Let them use oil, who are able by their prayers to obtain recovery for the sick: let those who are not able to do this, abstain from the use of the empty sign. For the only design of that anointing originally was miraculous healing: and in the failure of this result, it is nothing but an empty sign. But the laying on of hands is also a holy outward rite, although it does not by the mere act confer the Holy Spirit. For not even in the beginning was it always used with this one design.— ἐν, in) This is certainly not less connected with the verb, let them pray, than with the participle, anointing; whence there follows (James 5:15), the prayer of faith.— τοῦ κυρίου, the Lord) Jesus Christ.

The Greek Church practises the rite of extreme unction, though its usage in this respect does not entirely correspond with that of the Church of Rome. See Riddle’s Christian Antiquities, and Willetts’ Synopsis Papismi.—T.


Verse 15

James 5:15. εὐχὴ τῆς πίστεως, the prayer of faith) [He does not say the oil shall save.—V. g.] When some of the faithful pray, the whole power of faith is spread and exercised through the whole body of the Church. James would have complained that he was greatly misrepresented, if any one were to say, that he attributed the remission of sins to works.— κἂν, and if) It may happen that a man is sick, even though he has not committed [special] sins.— ἀφεθήσεται, it shall be forgiven him) the having committed sins.


Verse 16

James 5:16. ἐξομολογεῖσθε, confess) The sick man, and whoever has committed an offence, is ordered to confess: the injured party, to pray. The things to be confessed are those which especially burden the conscience: he to whom the confession is made, knows better how he ought to pray, and is more stirred up to prayer.— ἀλλήλοις, to one another, mutually) Confession may be made to any one who is able to pray.— ὅπως ἰαθῆτε, that ye may be healed) Diseases therefore were prevalent.— πολὺ, much) even to the restoration of health.— ἰσχύει, avails) even for another.— δικαίου, of the just) who is not himself involved in any fall (lapse into sin).— ἐνεργουμένη, having efficacy) Efficacy is followed by a favourable hearing: it is by this that prayer avails. There are therefore three things: (1.) efficacy of prayer; (2.) a favourable hearing; (3.) τὸ ἰσχύειν, the availing. This at length follows from the two former. The first is internal in the mind of him who prays: the third produces effects even on outward things.


Verse 17

James 5:17. ἠλίας, Elias) The whole effect of prayer is supernatural, and so far miraculous, though it does not appear so externally.— ὁμοιοπαθὴς, subject to like passions) The same word is used, Acts 14:15 : having the same πάθη, passions, the same afflictions of mind and body, which might not seem capable of such efficacy ( ἐνέργεια).—(76) προσευχῇ προσηύξατο, he prayed with prayer) While the idolatry of Baal flourished, he used prayer only, but that earnest: employing no other instrumentality for the production of this result. The Hebrew phrase itself, in which a verb is joined with a substantive or a quasi-substantive, always denotes something vehement: for instance, dying thou shalt die: shalt so die, that it may deserve to be called death.


Verse 18

James 5:18. πάλιν προσηύξατο, he prayed again) when the idolatry had been abolished. His gesture in prayer is described, 1 Kings 18:42.— καὶ γῆ, and the earth) καὶ, and so.— αὐτῆς, her or its) though a little before it had not been able to produce it.


Verse 19

James 5:19. ἀδελφοὶ, brethren) James, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, avoiding a multitude of words, brings the Epistle to an end. I, he says in this Epistle, seek your salvation; let every one face to face [not absent as I] seek the salvation of his neighbour. Comp. Hebrews 13:22.— τὶς, τὶς, any one, any one) Every one ought to seek the salvation of every one.— πλανηθῇ, shall be led aside) through sin.— τὶς, any one) whoever it shall be [that converts him], that [soul so converted] shall be his gain. An appropriate ending of the Epistle.


Verse 20

James 5:20. γινωσκέτω, let him know) both the one who converts another, that he may be more intent upon it, and the one who is converted, that he may be led to grateful obedience.— σώσει, he shall save) The Future: it shall hereafter be evident.— ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ, his soul) the sinner’s. A great work.— ἐκ θανάτου, from death) which will destroy (swallow up) the sinners. The connection is: not only in diseases of the body, James 5:14, do you succour one another, but also drive away the death of the soul.— καλύψει, shall hide) impelled by that same love, under the influence of which he recalled him when in error; 1 Peter 4:8, note.(77)πλῆθος ἁμαρτιῶν, a multitude of sins) either the sins which the person in error had committed, and which are known to him who converts him, or those which he was about to commit.(78) Steph. and Æthiop. read, of his sins. I know not why Steph. is inserted by Baumgarten. James concludes as though it were an ordinary book and not a letter.(79)

 


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Bibliography Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on James 5:4". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/james-5.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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