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Bible Commentaries

The Bible Study New Testament

James 5



Verse 1

You rich people. MacKnight thinks James is speaking to the unbelieving Jews who opposed the gospel. It can be applied to all who become rich by cheating and oppressing the poor. The Jewish wars and the destruction of Jerusalem were to make drastic changes in the fortunes of the Jews!!! God has a "pay day" for all, and sin will not go unpunished. We see this same thought in Rev. ch 16. See notes there.

Verse 2

Have rotted away. Much of their wealth was in perishable foodstuffs. See note on Matthew 24:21. Your clothes. Much wealth was also in the form of clothes, rugs, tapestries, etc.

Verse 3

Your gold and silver. They rust (tarnish) because they have been stored away so long. This shows they have been hoarded. Hoarded wealth, gotten by cheating the poor, will be a curse to the one who hoards it. See the Parable of the Shrewd Manager (Luke 16:1-13 and notes). See note on James 5:1.

Verse 4

You have not paid. "You made your wealth by not paying your workers, and have disobeyed God's Law (Leviticus 19:13). He hears their cries! Will He not punish you???"

Verse 5

Your life here on earth. "You have lived in luxury and opulence by cheating others. You have had the pleasure, and they have had the hardships! But you have prepared your own doom!" See what Jesus predicted in Matthew 23:34-39 and notes there. See also 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 and notes.

Verse 6

You have. The "Zealots" (note on Mark 15:7) especially, killed with no feeling of guilt. The climax of their sin was the murder of the Innocent Prayer of Manasseh, Christ Jesus. Compare Acts 7:52. [Both Jew and Gentile were involved in the death of Christ, but see Matthew 23:34-36; Matthew 27:25 and notes.]

Verse 7

Be patient, then. "You who are being persecuted as He was, learn from His example and be patient." Until the Lord comes. I think James is pointing to the destruction of Jerusalem, not the Second Coming. See Matthew 24:29-31 and notes. For us who live today, these words of James point to the Second Coming! See how the farmer. Time is essential! It requires time for a crop to grow and mature so it can be harvested, Some who harshly treated their fellow-man and opposed the Good News would change. Enough time must pass, so that God's purpose could be completed. Compare Revelation 6:9-11 and notes.

Verse 8

You also. "You must follow the example of the farmer and wait patiently!" Keep your hopes high. "The Lord will soon relieve your suffering by destroying those who persecute you and oppose the gospel!" Compare 2 Timothy 4:18 and note. For the day. See note on James 5:7.

Verse 9

Do not complain. This begins a new thought. "I told you about the quick destruction of those who persecute you to give you hope, but do not let this make you resentful against them." So that God. See Matthew 7:1-2 and notes. The Judge is near. See Matthew 24:33 and note. The Jewish Mishna says: "This world is as if it were a vestibule to the future world; prepare thyself in the vestibule, that thou mayest enter the reception-room."

Verse 10

Remember the prophets. Compare Acts 7:51-53 and notes.

Verse 11

We call them happy. See Matthew 5:11-12; 3 John 1:3-5 and notes. Job's patience. Job was a real person and his life-story teaches us a great lesson about being patient. For the Lord. "He is full of mercy and compassion, even when he permits suffering to come to us!" Compare Hebrews 12:5-13 and notes.

Verse 12

Do not use an oath. Jesus said this same thing in Matthew 5:33-37 and notes there. Our modern sin of profanity grew out of the habit of using an oath (vow) to affirm a promise. Since Jews believed some oaths were binding, but others were not, MacKnight thinks some were falsely swearing an oath and denying they were Christians to avoid persecution. They would do this with their "fingers crossed," expecting God not to hold them to it.

Verse 13

In trouble? "Are you suffering because you are a Christian? Then don't try to escape it by swearing an oath falsely." He should pray. "When in trouble, ask God for strength! Ask him for wisdom (James 1:5)! He will help you in the right way (Romans 8:28)!" Happy? "Christians show their happiness by singing praise to God!" Compare Acts 16:25; Ephesians 5:18-19.

Verse 14

Who is sick. In most of the churches begun by the apostles, some one of the church elders would have the gift from the Spirit to heal the sick. Oil was a symbol of the Holy Spirit. See Mark 6:13 and note.

Verse 15

Made in faith. The faith was IN the church elders who prayed for the man. Compare Matthew 17:19-20; 1 John 5:16 and notes. And the sins. In general, disease is not SENT as a punishment for sin (see Luke 13:1-5; John 9:2-3), but sometimes it may have been, especially in the first century (1 Corinthians 11:30) [Jewish theology said: "No death without sin, no chastisement without evil-doing." But compare this with Hebrews 12:5-13.]

Verse 16

So then. MacKnight thinks this should be taken literally. There can be no doubt that hate, bitterness, etc, impede recovery from sickness. We can set our consciences at ease by confessing our sins to one another (even though only God forgives sin) and restore broken relationships. The prayer of good man. [Man is not in the Greek here, but may be implied.] MacKnight sees this as the inspired prayer of a church elder who has the gift of faith (1 Corinthians 12:9). But we can certainly take this as a general statement about the power of prayer!

Verse 17

The same kind of person. Elijah was as human as any of us! What he did was an example of the power of prayer. 1 Kings 17:1. He prayed earnestly. This is something we may all do, since every child of God has that right. No rain fell. This was God's visible answer to his prayer. [But God does not always give a visible answer, at least not in the form which we expect. See Acts 28:16 and note.]

Verse 18

Once again. This was a second example. Elijah plays a large part in later Jewish literature.

Verse 19

My brothers! See note on James 1:2. Wanders away. "You must try to help each other! If one of you wanders away from the truth, you must try to bring him back again! (Galatians 6:1.)"

Verse 20

Remember this. "To show you how important it really is for you to help each other, I tell you this. Whoever brings a sinner back from his wrong way will save that sinner's soul from spiritual (and eternal) death! And this will also bring about the forgiveness of many sins, which can only be forgiven if the sinner turns back to God (that Isaiah, repents). (Psalm 32:1.)" Compare this WORK OF LOVE with 1 Peter 4:8 and note. This is a special honor, as Daniel 12:3 shows!


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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on James 5:4". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

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