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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies
James 4



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Verse 1

Lusts ( ἡδονῶν )

Lit.,pleasures, as Rev. Properly, sensual pleasures. The sinful pleasures are the outgrowths of the lusts, James 4:2.

That war ( στρατευομένων )

The thought of wars and rightings is carried into the figurative description of the sensuality which arrays its forces and carries on its campaign in the members. The verb does not imply mere fighting, but all that is included in military service. A remarkable parallel occurs in Plato, “Phaedo,” 66: “For whence come wars and rightings and factions? Whence but from the body and the lusts of the body?” Compare 1 Peter 2:11; Romans 7:23.

Verse 2

Ye lust

See on desire, 1 Peter 1:12; and Mark 4:19.

Desire to have ( ζηλοῦτε )

Rev., covet, and are jealous, in margin. See on James 3:14.

Verse 3

Ye ask ( αἰτεῖτε )

See on ἠρώτων , besought, Matthew 15:23.

Amiss ( κακῶς )

Lit., evilly: with evil intent, as explained by the following sentence.

Consume it upon ( δαπανησήτε ἐν )

More correctly, as Rev., spend it in. The sense is not lay out expense upon your pleasures, but spend in the exercise of; under the dominion of.

Verse 4

Ye adulterers ( μοιχοὶ )

All the best texts omit.

Adulteresses ( μοιχαλίδες )

The feminine term is the general designation of all whom James here rebukes. The apostate members of the church are figuratively regarded as unfaithful spouses; according to the common Old-Testament figure, in which God is the bridegroom or husband to whom his people are wedded. See Hosea 2, Hosea href="/desk/?q=ho+3:1-5&sr=1">Hosea 3:1-5, 4; Isaiah 54:5; Isaiah 62:4, Isaiah 62:5. Also, Matthew 12:39; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:9.

Will be ( βουληθῇ εἶναι )

More correctly, as Rev., would be. Lit., may have been minded to be.

Is the enemy ( καθίσταται )

Thereby constitutes himself. Rev., maketh himself. See on James 3:6.

Verse 5

Do ye think ( δοκεῖτε )

See on James 1:26.

The scripture ( ἡ γραφὴ )

See on Mark 12:10. Properly, apassage of scripture.

In vain ( κενῶς )

Only here in New Testament.

Verse 6


See on 1 Peter 5:5.


See on Mark 7:22.


See on Matthew 7:29.

Verse 7

Submit yourselves ( ὑποτάγητε )

Rev., be subject. The verb means to place or arrange under; as resist (James 4:6) is to array against. God sets himself in array against the proud; therefore, array yourselves under God, that ye may withstand the devil.

Verse 8

Purify ( ἁγνίσατε )

One of the three instances in the New Testament in which the word is not used of ceremonial purification. The others are 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:3.

Double-minded ( δίψυχοι )

Compare James 1:8.

Verse 9

Be afflicted ( ταλαιπώρησατε )

Only here in New Testament. The kindred noun ταλαιπωρία , misery, occurs James 5:1.

Mourn ( πενθήσατε )

Used of grief that is manifested. So mostly in New Testament, and very commonly joined, as here, with weep. So Mark 16:10; Luke 6:25, etc. In the next sentence occurs the kindred noun πένθος , mourning, into which laughter, also something manifest, is to be changed.

Heaviness ( κατήφειαν )

Properly, a casting down of the eyes. Compare Luke 18:13. Only here in New Testament.

Verse 12

There is one lawgiver ( εἶς ἐστὶν ὁ νομοθέτης )

The A. V. fails to note the emphatic position of one. Better, Rev., one only is the lawgiver. Νομοθέτης , lawgiver, only here in New Testament.

But who art thou? ( σὺ δὲ τίς εἶ )

According to the Greek order: but thou, who art thou?

Verse 13

Go to now ( ἄγε νῦν )

Go to is an obsolete phrase, though retained in Rev. It is a formula for calling attention: come now.

Such a city ( τήνδε τὴν πόλιν )

More accurately, as Rev.,this city.

Continue there a year ( ποιήσομεν ἐκεῖ ἐνιαυτὸν )

Lit., we will make a year. See, for the same form of expression, Acts 15:33; Acts 18:23; 2 Corinthians 11:25. Better, as Rev., spend a year there. (Compare the A. V., Acts 18:23, rightly retained by Rev.) The word ποιήσομεν implies more than mere continuance; rather, a doing something with the year.


The frequent use of the copulative gives a lively tone to the passage, expressive of the lightness and thoughtlessness of a careless spirit.

Buy and sell ( ἐμπορευσόμεθα )

Rev., more concisely, trade. Only here and 2 Peter 2:3.

Verse 14

Whereas ye know not ( οἵτινες οὐκ ἐπίστασθε )

The pronoun marking a class, as being of those who know not.

What shall be on the morrow ( τὸ τῆς αὔριον )

Lit., the thing of the morrow. The texts vary. Westcott and Hort read, Ye know not what your life shall be on the morrow, for ye are a vapor: thus throwing out the question.

What is your life? ( ποία )

Lit.,of what kind or nature.

It is even a vapor ( ἀτμὶς γάρ ἐστιν )

But all the best texts read ἐστε , ye are. So Rev., which, however, retains the question, what is your life?

Appeareth - vanisheth

Both participles, appearing, vanishing.

And then ( ἔπειτα καὶ )

The καὶ placed after the adverb then is not copulative, but expresses that the vapor vanishes even as it appeared.

Verse 15

For that ye ought to say ( ἀντὶ τοῦ λέγειν ὑμᾶς )

James 4:14was parenthetical, so that at this point the thought is taken up from James 4:13: Ye who say we will go, etc. - for that ye ought to say. The rendering in margin of Rev. is simpler: instead of your saying.

Verse 16

Ye rejoice ( καυχᾶσθε )

Rev., glory. See on James 2:13.

Boastings ( ἀλαζονείαις )

Only here and 1 John 2:16. The kindred word ἀλαζών , a boaster, is derived from ἄλη , a wandering orroaming; hence, primarily, a vagabond, a quack, a mountebank. From the empty boasts of such concerning the cures and wonders they could perform, the word passed into the sense of boaster. One may boast truthfully; but ἀλαζονεία is false and swaggering boasting. Rev. renders vauntings, and rightly, since vaunt is from the Latin vanus, empty, and therefore expresses idle or vain boasting.


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on James 4:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

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Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020
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