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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies

James 5



Verse 1

Go to

See on James 4:13.

Weep and howl ( κλαύσατε ὀλολύζοντες )

Lit., weep, howling. The latter is a descriptive word, ol-ol-uz-oOnly here in New Testament, and denoting a more demonstrative and passionate expression of grief than weeping.

Miseries ( ταλαιπωρίαις )

Only here and Romans 3:16. See on be afflicted, James 4:9.

That shall come upon ( ἐπερχομέναις )

Present participle. More correctly, as Rev., that are coming.

Verse 2

Are corrupted ( σέσηπεν )

Only here in New Testament.

Are moth-eaten ( σητόβρωτα γέγονεν )

Lit., have become moth-eaten. Only here in New Testament, but compare σκωληκόβρωτος , eaten of worms, Acts 12:23; and see Matthew 6:19, Matthew 6:20.

Verse 3

Is cankered ( κατίωται )

Only here in New Testament, from ἰός , rust, as in the following sentence. Also poison, as James 3:8. The preposition κατά indicates thoroughness, completely rusted.

Flesh ( τὰς σάρκας )

The noun is plural: thefleshy parts of the body. So Sept. (Revelation href="/desk/?q=re+19:18&sr=1">Revelation 19:18.

Verse 4

Reaped down ( ἀμησάντων )

Only here in New Testament. The primary meaning is to reap corn; also in classical Greek of mowing down in battle. The secondary, which some mistake for the primary sense, is to gather, as for harvest. Rev., mowed.

Fields ( χώρας )

The more general word, place, for ἀγρός , the ordinary word for a field; though the usage is warranted by classical Greek, and occurs Luke 12:16; John 4:35, the only two instances besides this in the New Testament. It implies a larger tract than ἀγρός , as is evident in all the New-Testament passages cited. In two cases it refers to a rich man's estates; and in John 4:35, the Lord directs the attention of the disciples to a broad area or series of fields.

Crieth ( κράζει )

An inarticulate cry. Compare Genesis 4:10.

Lord of Sabaoth

Lord of hosts. The only instance in which the phrase is used by a New-Testament writer. Romans 9:29, is quoted from Isaiah 1:9.

Verse 5

Ye have lived in pleasure ( ἐτρυφήσατε )

Only here in New Testament. See on 2 Peter 2:13, on the kindred noun τρυφή , riot orrevel. Rev., ye have lived delicately.

Been wanton ( ἐσπαταλήσατε )

Only here and 1 Timothy 5:6. Ἐτρυφήσατε denotes dainty living: this word, luxurious or prodigal living. Rev., taken your pleasure, is colorless, and is no improvement on the A. V.

As in a day of slaughter ( ὡς ἐν ἡμέρᾳ σφαγῆς )

All the best texts reject ὡς , as. The meaning of the passage is disputed. Some find the key to it in the words last days (James 5:3). The phrase day of slaughter is used for a day of judgment, Jeremiah 12:3; 25:34: (Sept.). According to this, the meaning is, the day of judgment, at the supposed near coming of Christ. Others explain that these men are like beasts, which, on the very day of their slaughter, gorge themselves in unconscious security.

Verse 7

Be patient ( μακροθυμήσατε )

From μακρός , long, and θυμός , soul or spirit, but with the sense of strong passion, stronger even than ὀργή , anger, as is maintained by Schmidt (“Synonymik”), who describes θυμός as a tumultuous welling up of the whole spirit; a mighty emotion which seizes and moves the whole inner man. Hence the restraint implied in μακροθυμία is most correctly expressed by long-suffering, which is its usual rendering in the New Testament. It is a patient holding out under trial; a long-protracted restraint of the soul from yielding to passion, especially the passion of anger. In the New Testament the word and its cognates are sometimes rendered by patient or patience, which conceals the distinction from ὑπομονή , uniformly rendered patience, and signifying persistent endurance, whether in action or suffering. As Trench observes, “ ὑπομονή is perseverantia and patientia both in one.” Thus Bishop Ellicott: “The brave patience with which the Christian contends against the various hindrances, persecutions, and temptations that befall him in his conflict with the inward and outward world.” Ὑπομονή. contains an element of manliness. Thus Plato joins it with the adverb ἀνδρικῶς , in a manly way, and contrasts it with ἀνάνδρως , unmanly, cowardly. Μακροθυμία is exercised toward persons; ὑπομονή , toward things. The former is ascribed to God as an attribute (Luke 18:7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:9, 2 Peter 3:15), the latter never; for the God of patience (Romans 15:5) is the God who imparts patience to his children. “There can be no resistance to God nor burden upon him, the Almighty, from things. Therefore ὑπομονή cannot find place in him” (Trench). Rev. retains A. V., be patient. The thought links itself naturally with that in the preceding verse: the righteous doth not resist.


Since things are so. Referring to the condition of things described in the previous passage.


In contrast with the rich just addressed.

Waiteth ( ἐκδέχεται )

With expectation. Compare Matthew 13:30; Mark 4:27.

The early and latter rain ( ὑετὸν πρώιμον καὶ ὄψιμον )

Both adjectives only here in New Testament. Ὑετὸν , rain, is rejected by all the best texts. The early rain fell in October, November, and December, and extended into January and February. These rains do not come suddenly, but by degrees, so that the farmer can sow his wheat or barley. The rains are mostly from the west or southwest (Luke 12:54), continuing two or three days at a time, and falling mostly in the night. Then the wind shifts to the north or east, and fine weather ensues (Proverbs 25:23). The latter rains, which are much lighter, fall in March and April. Rain in harvest was regarded as a miracle (1 Samuel 12:16-18). See Introduction, on James' local allusions.

Verse 9

Grudge not ( μὴ στενάζετε )

Better, as Rev., murmur not. The verb means to sigh or groan.

Standeth before the doors

In the act of entering.

Verse 10

Example ( ὑπόδειγμα )

See on 2 Peter 2:6.

Of suffering affliction ( κακοπαθείας )

Only here in New Testament. The word does not mean the endurance of affliction, but affliction itself. Hence, Rev., rightly, suffering.

The prophets

Compare Matthew 5:12.

Verse 11

Endure ( ὑπομένοντας )

Present participle. But the later texts read ὑπομείναντας , the aorist participle, which endured; referring to the prophets in the past ages. So Rev. On endured and patience, see on James 5:7.

The end of the Lord ( τὸ τέλος κυρίου )

A peculiar expression. The happy conclusion to which God brought Job's trials.

Very pitiful and of tender mercy ( πολυσπλαγχνός καὶ οἰκτίρμων )

The former adjective only here in New Testament; the latter here and Luke 6:36. Rev., full of pity and merciful. Πολυσπλαγχνός is from πολύς , much, and σπλάγχνα , the nobler entrails, used like our heart, as the seat of the emotions Hence the term bowels in the A. V. (Philemon 1:8; Colossians 3:12, etc.). Compare εὔσπλαγχνοι , tender-hearted, Ephesians 4:32. The distinction between this and οἰκτίρμων , merciful, seems to be that the former denotes the general quality of compassion, while the latter emphasizes the sympathy called out by special cases, being the feeling which is moved to pain at another's suffering.

Verse 12

Any other oath

See the common formulas of swearing, Matthew 5:35, Matthew 5:36.

Verse 13

Is afflicted ( κακοπαθεῖ )

See on the kindred word κακοπάθεια ,suffering, James 5:10. Only here and 2 Timothy 2:3, 2 Timothy 2:9; 2 Timothy 4:5.

Let him sing psalms ( ψαλλέτω )

The word means, primarily, to pluck or twitch. Hence of the sharp twang on a bowstring or harp-string, and so to play upon a stringed instrument. Our word psalm, derived from this, is, properly, a tune played upon a stringed instrument. The verb, however, is used in the New Testament of singing praise generally. See 1 Corinthians 14:15; Romans 15:9.

Verse 15

The sick ( τὸν κάμνοντα )

Rev. gives, better, the participial force, him that is sick. The word originally means to work. Hence, “him that is laboring under disease.”

And if he have committed sins ( κἃν ἁμαρτίας ᾖ πεποιηκώς )

The Greek gives a shade of meaning which can hardly be transferred neatly into English, representing not merely the fact that the man has sinned, but his condition as a sinner. Literally the words read, if he be having committed sins; i.e., in a state of having committed, and under the moral or physical consequences of transgression.

They shall be forgiven ( ἀφεθήσεται )

Better, Rev., “it shall be forgiven,” supplying the commission as a subject. The verb means to send forth or discharge, and is the standard New-Testament word for forgiving. Forgiveness ( ἄφεσις ) is a putting or sending away of sins, with a consequent discharge of the sinner; thus differing from τάρεσις (Romans 3:25), which is a passing by of sin, a pretermission as distinguished from a remission. See, farther, on Romans 3:25.

Verse 16

Confess ( ἐξομολογεῖσθε )

The preposition ἐξ , forth, out, impliesfull, frank, open confession, and so in every case of its use in the New Testament. See on Matthew 3:6.

Faults ( παραπτώματα )

See on Matthew 6:14.

The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much ( πολὺ ἰσχύει δέησις δικαίου ἐνεργουμένη )

Lit., much availeth ( ἰσχύει , is strong)the prayer of a righteous man working or operating. The rendering of the A. V., besides being unwarranted by the text, is almost a truism. An effectual prayer is a prayer that avails. The Rev. is at once more correct and more natural: The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working.

Verse 17

A man ( ἄνθρωπος )

The generic word; human like ourselves, this thought being emphasized by the succeeding epithet of like passions. See the same expression, Acts 14:15.

Of like passions ( ὁμοιοπαθὴς )

Only here and Acts 14:15. There is some danger of a misunderstanding of this rendering, from the limited and generally bad sense in which the word passions is popularly used. The meaning is rather of like nature and constitution. Rev. puts nature in margin, which would be better in the text.

He prayed fervently ( προσευχῇ προσηύξατο )

Lit., he prayed with prayer. See a similar mode of expression, Luke href="/desk/?q=lu+22:15&sr=1">Luke 22:15; John 3:29; Acts 4:17. The addition of the cognate noun gives intenseness to the verb.

Hide - sins

A familiar Hebrew phrase. See Psalm 32:1; Psalm 85:2; Proverbs 10:12.


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The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on James 5:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

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