Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
COMING ON THE
PATIENT UNTO THE
1. Go to now--Come now. A phrase to call solemn attention.
ye rich--who have neglected the true enjoyment of riches, which
consists in doing good. James intends this address to rich Jewish
unbelievers, not so much for themselves, as for the saints, that they
may bear with patience the violence of the rich
knowing that God will speedily avenge them on their oppressors
miseries that shall come--literally, "that are coming upon you"
unexpectedly and swiftly, namely, at the coming of the Lord
primarily, at the destruction of Jerusalem; finally, at His visible
coming to judge the world.
2. corrupted--about to be destroyed through God's curse
on your oppression, whereby your riches are accumulated
CALVIN thinks the sense is, Your riches perish
without being of any use either to others or even to yourselves, for
instance, your garments which are moth-eaten in your chests.
garments . . . moth-eaten--referring to
Mt 6:19, 20.
3. is cankered--"rusted through" [ALFORD].
rust . . . witness against you--in the day of
judgment; namely, that your riches were of no profit to any, lying
unemployed and so contracting rust.
shall eat your flesh--The rust which once ate your riches, shall
then gnaw your conscience, accompanied with punishment which shall prey
upon your bodies for ever.
as . . . fire--not with the slow process of
rusting, but with the swiftness of consuming fire.
for the last days--Ye have heaped together, not treasures as ye
but wrath against the last days, namely, the coming judgment of the
Lord. ALFORD translates more literally, "In
these last days (before the coming judgment) ye laid up (worldly)
treasure" to no profit, instead of repenting and seeking salvation
4. Behold--calling attention to their coming doom as no vain
of you kept back--So English Version rightly. Not as
ALFORD, "crieth out from you." The "keeping
back of the hire" was, on the part OF the
rich, virtually an act of "fraud," because the poor laborers
were not immediately paid. The phrase is therefore not, "kept back
by you," but "of you"; the latter implying
virtual, rather than overt, fraud. James refers to
De 24:14, 15,
"At this day . . . give his hire, neither shall the
sun go down upon it, lest he CRY against thee unto
the Lord, and it be sin unto thee." Many sins "cry" to heaven for
vengeance which men tacitly take no account of, as unchastity and
injustice [BENGEL]. Sins peculiarly offensive to
God are said to "cry" to Him. The rich ought to have given freely to
the poor; their not doing so was sin. A still greater sin was their not
paying their debts. Their greatest sin was not paying them to the poor,
whose wages is their all.
cries of them--a double cry; both that of the hire abstractly,
and that of the laborers hired.
the Lord of sabaoth--here only in the New Testament. In
it is a quotation. It is suited to the Jewish tone of the Epistle. It
reminds the rich who think the poor have no protector, that the Lord of
the whole hosts in heaven and earth is the guardian and avenger of the
latter. He is identical with the "coming Lord" Jesus
5. Translate, "Ye have luxuriated . . . and wantoned."
The former expresses luxurious effeminacy; the latter,
wantonness and prodigality. Their luxury was at the
expense of the defrauded poor
on the earth--The same earth which has been the scene of your
wantonness, shall be the scene of the judgment coming on you: instead
of earthly delights ye shall have punishments.
nourished . . . hearts--that is glutted your bodies
like beasts to the full extent of your hearts' desire; ye live to eat,
not eat to live.
as in a day of slaughter--The oldest authorities omit "as." Ye
are like beasts which eat to their hearts' content on the very
day of their approaching slaughter, unconscious it is near. The phrase
answers to "the last days,"
which favors ALFORD'S translation there, "in," not
6. Ye have condemned . . . the just--The Greek
aorist expresses, "Ye are accustomed to condemn . . .
the just." Their condemnation of Christ, "the Just," is foremost in
James' mind. But all the innocent blood shed, and to be shed, is
included, the Holy Spirit comprehending James himself, called "the
Just," who was slain in a tumult. See my
This gives a peculiar appropriateness to the expression in this verse,
the same "as the righteous (just) man"
The justice or righteousness of Jesus and His people is what peculiarly
provoked the ungodly great men of the world.
he doth not resist you--The very patience of the Just one is
abused by the wicked as an incentive to boldness in violent
persecution, as if they may do as they please with impunity. God doth
"resist the proud"
but Jesus as man, "as a sheep is dumb before the shearers, so He opened
not His mouth": so His people are meek under persecution. The day will
come when God will resist (literally, "set Himself in array against")
His foes and theirs.
7. Be patient therefore--as judgment is so near
(Jas 5:1, 3),
ye may well afford to be "patient" after the example of the
unresisting Just one
brethren--contrasted with the "rich" oppressors,
unto the coming of the Lord--Christ, when the trial of your
patience shall cease.
husbandman waiteth for--that is, patiently bears toils and
delays through hope of the harvest at last. Its "preciousness" (compare
"precious seed") will more than compensate for all the past. Compare
the same image,
Ga 6:3, 9.
hath long patience for it--"over it," in respect to it.
until he receive--"until it receive"
[ALFORD]. Even if English Version be
retained, the receiving of the early and latter rains is not to be
understood as the object of his hope, but the harvest for which
those rains are the necessary preliminary. The early rain fell at
sowing time, about November or December; the latter rain, about March
or April, to mature the grain for harvest. The latter rain that shall
precede the coming spiritual harvest, will probably be another
Pentecost-like effusion of the Holy Ghost.
8. coming . . . draweth nigh--The Greek
expresses present time and a settled state.
"is at hand." We are to live in a continued state of expectancy of the
Lord's coming, as an event always nigh. Nothing can more
"stablish the heart" amidst present troubles than the realized
expectation of His speedy coming.
9. Grudge not--rather "Murmur not"; "grumble not." The
Greek is literally, "groan": a half-suppressed murmur of
impatience and harsh judgment, not uttered aloud or freely. Having
exhorted them to patience in bearing wrongs from the wicked, he now
exhorts them to a forbearing spirit as to the offenses given by
brethren. Christians, who bear the former patiently, sometimes are
impatient at the latter, though much less grievous.
lest . . . condemned--The best manuscript authorities
read, "judged." James refers to
"Judge not lest ye be judged." To "murmur against one another"
is virtually to judge, and so to become liable to be
judge . . . before the door--referring to
The Greek is the same in both passages, and so ought to be
translated here as there, "doors," plural. The phrase means "near at
which in the oldest interpretations [Targums of Jonathan and
Jerusalem] is explained, "thy sin is reserved unto the
judgment of the world to come." Compare "the everlasting doors"
whence He shall come forth). The Lord's coming to destroy Jerusalem is
primarily referred to; and ultimately, His coming again visibly to
10. the prophets--who were especially persecuted, and therefore
were especially "blessed."
example of suffering affliction--rather, simply, "of
affliction," literally, "evil treatment."
11. count them happy--
which endure--The oldest authorities read, "which have endured,"
which suits the sense better than English Version: "Those who in
past days, like the prophets and Job, have endured trials." Such, not
those who "have lived in pleasure and been wanton on the earth"
patience--rather, "endurance," answering to "endure": the
Greek words similarly corresponding. Distinct from the
Greek word for "patience"
The same word ought to be translated, "endurance,"
He here reverts to the subject which he began with.
Job--This passage shows the history of him is concerning a real,
not an imaginary person; otherwise his case could not be quoted as an
example at all. Though he showed much of impatience, yet he always
returned to this, that he committed himself wholly to God, and at last
showed a perfect spirit of enduring submission.
and have seen--(with the eyes of your mind).
ALFORD translates from the old and genuine
reading, "see also," &c. The old reading is, however, capable of being
translated as English Version.
the end of the Lord--the end which the Lord gave. If Job had
much to "endure," remember also Job's happy "end." Hence, learn, though
much tried, to "endure to the end."
that--ALFORD and others translate,
"inasmuch as," "for."
pitiful . . . of tender mercy--The former refers to
the "feeling"; the latter, to the act. His pity is shown
in not laying on the patient endurer more trials than he is able
to bear; His mercy, in His giving a happy "end" to the trials
12. But above all--as swearing is utterly alien to the Christian
meek "endurance" just recommended.
swear not--through impatience, to which trials may tempt you
(Jas 5:10, 11).
In contrast to this stands the proper use of the tongue,
James here refers to
let your yea be yea--Do not use oaths in your everyday
conversation, but let a simple affirmative or denial be deemed enough
to establish your word.
condemnation--literally, "judgment," namely, of "the Judge" who
"standeth before the doors"
13. afflicted--referring to the "suffering affliction"
let him pray--not "swear" in rash impatience.
merry--joyous in mind.
sing psalms--of praise. Paul and Silas sang psalms even in
14. let him call for the elders--not some one of the
elders, as Roman Catholics interpret it, to justify their usage in
extreme unction. The prayers of the elders over the sick would
be much the same as though the whole Church which they represent should
anointing him with oil--The usage which Christ committed to His
apostles was afterwards continued with laying on of hands, as a token
of the highest faculty of medicine in the Church, just as we find in
the Church's highest judicial function. Now that the miraculous gift of
healing has been withdrawn for the most part, to use the sign where the
reality is wanting would be unmeaning superstition. Compare other
apostolic usages now discontinued rightly,
1Co 11:4-15; 16:20.
"Let them use oil who can by their prayers obtain recovery for the
sick: let those who cannot do this, abstain from using the empty sign"
[WHITAKER]. Romish extreme unction is
administered to those whose life is despaired of, to heal the
soul, whereas James' unction was to heal the body.
[Commentary] admits that James cannot refer to extreme unction.
Oil in the East, and especially among the Jews (see the Talmud,
Jerusalem and Babylon), was much used as a curative
agent. It was also a sign of the divine grace. Hence it was an
appropriate sign in performing miraculous cures.
in the name of the Lord--by whom alone the miracle was
performed: men were but the instruments.
15. prayer--He does not say the oil shall save: it is but
save--plainly not as Rome says, "save" the soul. but
heal "the sick": as the words, "the Lord shall raise him up,"
prove. So the same Greek is translated, "made (thee) whole,"
Mt 9:21, 22.
and if . . . sins--for not all who are sick are so
because of some special sins. Here a case is supposed of one visited
with sickness for special sins.
have committed--literally, "be in a state of having
committed sins," that is, be under the consequences of sins
they--rather, "it": his having committed sins shall be
forgiven him. The connection of sin and sickness is implied in
The absolution of the sick, retained in the Church of England, refers
to the sins which the sick man confesses
and repents of, whereby outward scandal has been given to the Church
and the cause of religion; not to sins in their relation to God, the
16. The oldest authorities read, "Confess,
THEREFORE," &c. Not only in the particular case of
sickness, but universally confess.
faults--your falls and offenses, in relation to
one another. The word is not the same as sins.
Mt 5:23, 24;
illustrate the precept here.
one to another--not to the priest, as Rome insists. The Church
of England recommends in certain cases. Rome compels
confession in all cases. Confession is desirable in the case of (1)
wrong done to a neighbor; (2) when under a troubled conscience
we ask counsel of a godly minister or friend as to how we may
obtain God's forgiveness and strength to sin no more, or when we desire
their intercessory prayers for us ("Pray for one another"): "Confession
may be made to anyone who can pray" [BENGEL]; (3)
open confession of sin before the Church and the world, in token
of penitence. Not auricular confession.
that ye may be healed--of your bodily sicknesses. Also that, if
your sickness be the punishment of sin, the latter being forgiven on
intercessory prayer, "ye may be healed" of the former. Also, that ye
may be healed spiritually.
effectual--intense and fervent, not "wavering"
[BEZA]. "When energized" by the Spirit, as
those were who performed miracles [HAMMOND]. This
suits the collocation of the Greek words and the sense well. A
righteous man's prayer is always heard generally, but his particular
request for the healing of another was then likely to be granted
when he was one possessing a special charism of the Spirit.
ALFORD translates, "Availeth much in its
working." The "righteous" is one himself careful to avoid "faults,"
and showing his faith by works
17. Elias . . . like passions as we--therefore it
cannot be said that he was so raised above us as to afford no example
applicable to common mortals like ourselves.
prayed earnestly--literally, "prayed with prayer": Hebraism for
prayed intensely. Compare
"With desire I have desired," that is, earnestly desired.
ALFORD is wrong in saying, Elias' prayer that it
might not rain "is not even hinted at in the Old Testament history." In
it is plainly implied, "As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before
whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but
according to my word." His prophecy of the fact was according to
a divine intimation given to him in answer to prayer. In jealousy for
and being of one mind with God in his abhorrence of apostasy, he prayed
that the national idolatry should be punished with a national judgment,
drought; and on Israel's profession of repentance he prayed for the
removal of the visitation, as is implied in
three years, &c.--Compare
"The third year," namely, from Elijah's going to Zarephath; the
was probably about five or six months previously.
18. prayed . . . and--that is, "and so." Mark the
connection between the prayer and its accomplishment.
her fruit--her usual and due fruit, heretofore withheld on
account of sin. Three and a half years is the time also that the two
witnesses prophesy who "have power to shut and open heaven that it rain
19. The blessing of reclaiming an erring sinner by the mutual
consent and intercessory prayer just recommended.
do err--more literally, "be led astray."
the truth--the Gospel doctrine and precepts.
one--literally, "any"; as "any" before. Everyone
ought to seek the salvation of everyone
20. Let him--the converted.
know--for his comfort, and the encouragement of others to do
shall save--future. The salvation of the one so converted shall
be manifested hereafter.
shall hide a multitude of sins--not his own, but the sins of the
converted. The Greek verb in the middle voice requires this.
refers to charity "covering" the sins of others before men;
James to one's effecting by the conversion of another that that other's
sins be covered before God, namely, with Christ's atonement. He
effects this by making the convert partaker in the Christian covenant
for the remission of all sins. Though this hiding of sins was included
in the previous "shall save," James expresses it to mark in detail the
greatness of the blessing conferred on the penitent through the
converter's instrumentality, and to incite others to the same good