James 4:7-5:6 and Waldenstrom’s CommentaryEpistle Lesson for the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Editor’s note: Dr. Paul Peter Waldenström based his comments on a Greek New Testament text which he translated into Swedish. Tommy Carlson has translated both the Biblical text and the comments from the Swedish text of Waldenström’s Second Edition, 1892.
Verse 7—Be therefore obedient to God.1 But stand against the devil2 and he shall run away from you. (See I Peter 5:9 and I John 5: 18)
- Keep yourselves in humility and faithfulness to him.
- Because it is the devil who instills in your mind to be rich and important in the world. Compare Matt 4:8f.
Verse 8—Draw yourselves nearer to God1 and he shall draw nearer to you.2 Clean yow hands,3 you sinners and clean your hearts,4 you double-hearted.5 (See Zech. 1:3 and Isaiah 1:16f.; 57:15)
- Tum yourselves away from the world and draw closer to God.
- He allows himself to be found by those who seek Him.
- Refrain from all evil deeds.
- Verbatim: Make the heart chaste, that is to say, clean it from all love for the world and make it holy for God.
- Verbatim: Double-souls, if this could be said in Swedish. See chapter 1:8, where the same word is used. The double-hearted person is one who divides his heart between the world and God.
Verse 9—Look at your wretchedness and be distressed. Cry: Let your laughter be turned to sorrow and your joy to depression.1 (See Matt 5:4)
- Grieve from your heart about your sins that there may be a complete change in your life.
Verse 10—Humble yourselves before the Lord1 and He shall exalt you.2 (See Luke 14: 11 and I Peter 5:6)
- In a sincere confession of sins. See John 3:5f.
- By forgiving you from your sins, taking you as children, and giving you eternal glory.
Verse 11—Do not slander1 each other, brothers. He who slanders a brother or judges his brother, slanders the law and judges the law,2 but if you judge the law, you are not the doer of the law but its judge.3 (See Matt. 7:1, Romans 2:1, and I Cor. 4:5)
- War about worldly goods usually breeds much slander.
- The law bids that one shall love one’s brother. But he who slanders and judges his brother, he declares that law invalid. His deed implies, therefore, a condemnation of the law.
- But you have not been placed to be the judge of the law but rather the doer of the law. Some Bible scholars understand the meaning this way: When you judge someone, you are not the doer of the law but rather declare war against the law to judge your neighbor.
Verse 12—Only one is the law giver and the judge, he who can save and destroy,1 but you—who are you who judges yow neighbor?2
- To save is to give eternal salvation in Messiah’s kingdom (see Chap. 2: 14); to destroy is to throw away to eternal condemnation (see Matt 10:28).
- Who has placed YOU as a judge? You ought to be ashamed that, as insignificant and wretched as you are, you should usurp a judicial office.
Verse 13—Well then now,1 you who say: Today or tomorrow we shall travel to this or that city and spend a year there and trade2 and profit (See Proverbs 27:1),
- Pay attention to what I am going to say to you. James is still occupied with the Christian’s striving for earthly profit.
- Among the believing Jews to whom James is writing were also those who were travelling businessmen.
Verse 14—you who do not know1 what shall happen tomorrow;2 for how is your life? For3 like smoke are you, (smoke) which is seen for a short moment and then4 disappears.
- The author interrupts what he started to say in verse 13 and injects a sentence between. The meaning is: How can you talk that way, you who do not know?
- Verbatim: That which belongs to tomorrow.
- How is your life? It is hardly worth talking about because . . .
- And then you could not know if your life should last until tomorrow.
Verse 15—instead1 you should say: If the Lord wills it, then we shall do this or that.
- The connection is: You who say (v. 13), instead you should say ...
Verse 16—But now you extol yourselves in your arrogance.1 All such renown is evil.
- The word in the original text means really to boast ostentatiousness (I John 2: 16), also overbearing behavior in general, and arrogance. Such arrogance lay in the willfulness by which they made their plans for travel, business, and profit without considering life’s insecurity and without asking for God’s will. And far from realizing that it was sin, they praised themselves and bragged as if that would make them really good. Note also, that the word used here is plural “arrogances,” if such could be said in Swedish. Therefore the repeated utterance of their arrogance is expressed.
Verse 17—The one who also knows to do good1 and does not do it, for that one it is sin.2
- To do that which is right.
- This is a common thesis regarding everything that is good and right. James applies it here to the circumstances that he talked about in verses 13-16. In every case, not to speak and to do the right thing, that is to sin.
Verse 5:1—Well then now, you rich,1 cry, moan about your misery2 which is approaching.
- Here as in Chapter 1:10, 2:6f., James means the nonbelieving Jews. This is evident in verse 7 where he, in contrast, talked to the believers as brothers. That he, in one letter to the Christians, not only talks ABOUT but even talks TO the nonbelievers is an Old Testament prophetic practice. For when the prophets in their writings, which were intended for Israel, pronounce their judgment over pagan kings, kingdoms, and cities, it happens often in a form in which they talk TO them. See for example Isaiah 45:lf., 47:1. Compare also the Savior’s word in Matt. 11:21f.
- The word in the original text is plural. The author means the multiple need and suffering which shall come to them when the Lord comes again to judge.
Verse 2—Your fortune is decaying1 and your clothes2 are becoming moth-eaten. (See Matt. 6: 19f.)
- James describes how their condition will be on judgment day. Often in prophetic language future things are so described as if they were in the past. Compare Luke 1:51f., John 15:6, and many others.
- As you have flaunted to show people your fortune. Compare Luke 16:19.
Verse 3—Your gold and silver are corroded,1 and their rust shall be your testimony2 and shall consume your flesh as a fire.3 You have assembled treasures in the latter days.4
- Gold and silver are not affected by rust but James means by “gold and silver” their treasures in general and their destruction he likens to the destruction of metals by rust. Compare Matt. 6:19.
- As testimony that you have gone astray and that your life is wasted when you have sought your happiness and fortune in perishable things. Compare Luke 12:17f.
- With these words James describes the anguish which shall seize them in judgment when everything in which they have placed their fortune and happiness vanishes. This anguish he presents metaphorically: that the rust of their fortunes shall corrode their flesh as a fire. Note, in addition, that the word FLESH in the original text is plural. Thereby is characterized that their flesh will be consume a BIT BY BIT, which makes the description even more horrible.
- In agreement with the Apostles, James considers the final judgment as something very imminent. To place an emphasis and energy on gathering treasures when the end is so close is absurd, he wants to say.
Verse 4—See the workers who have cut your fields, their wages which are kept from them call out.1 and the harvesters’2 calls have reached the Lord Sabbaoth’s3 ears.4 (See Lev. 19:13, Deut. 24:14, Jer. 22:13, Mal. 3:5, Gen. 4:10, Ps. 18:7, Is. 5:9)
- In your hiding place it lies and from there it calls to heaven.
- By harvesters is meant the same workers he just talked about.
- Sabbaoth is a Hebrew word which means HOSTS. “Lord Sabbaoth” is also the Lord of the hosts. By hosts is meant the heavenly multitudes of angels which, metaphorically speaking, is God’s army.
- And he shall avenge your unrighteousness.
Verse 5—You have been in comfort on earth and lived in luxury, you have fed your hearts1 on the day of slaughter.2 (See Luke 12:19, 16:19)
- You have fed not only your bodies but even your hearts, for in comfortable luxury you have had your heart’s desire.
- James likens the end time (v. 13) to that day of slaughter for those who shall perish. To live at the end of time in comfort and luxury is like feeding oneself on one’s day of slaughter.
Verse 6—You have condemned,1 you have murdered2 the righteous;3 he offers no resistance against you.4 (See Isaiah 57:1)
- Before your synagogue courts, condemned to death.
- See Acts 7:58, 9: lf., 26: 10.
- And that for his righteousness sake. See Matt. 5: 1lf .• John 16:2.
- But suffers quietly and endures everything, all the evil you do to him.