|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:1-6 Public troubles are most grievous to those who live in pleasure, and are secure and sensual, though all ranks suffer deeply at such times. All idolized treasures will soon perish, except as they will rise up in judgment against their possessors. Take heed of defrauding and oppressing; and avoid the very appearance of it. God does not forbid us to use lawful pleasures; but to live in pleasure, especially sinful pleasure, is a provoking sin. Is it no harm for people to unfit themselves for minding the concerns of their souls, by indulging bodily appetites? The just may be condemned and killed; but when such suffer by oppressors, this is marked by God. Above all their other crimes, the Jews had condemned and crucified that Just One who had come among them, even Jesus Christ the righteous.
Verses 1-6. - DENUNCIATION OF THE RICH FOR
(1) GRINDING DOWN THE POOR AND KEEPING BACK THEIR WAGES;
The whole section resembles nothing so much as an utterance of one of the old Jewish prophets. It might almost be a leaf torn out of the Old Testament. Verse 1. - Go to now (see on James 4:13). The Vulgate there has ecce; here, agite. Ye rich men (see on James 2:6). Weep and howl, etc.; cf. James 4:9, but note the difference of tone; there, more of exhortation; here, more of denunciation. Ὀλολύζοντες: only here in the New Testament, but several times in the LXX., in passages of which the one before us reminds us; e.g. Isaiah 10:10; Isaiah 13:6; Isaiah 14:31; Isaiah 15:2; Isaiah 23:1, 6, 14. Miseries. Ταλαιπωρίαις: only again in Romans 3:16 (equivalent to Isaiah 59:7); frequent in the LXX.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Go to now, ye rich men,.... All rich men are not here designed; there are some rich men who are good men, and make a good use of their riches, and do not abuse them, as these here are represented; and yet wicked rich men, or those that were the openly profane, are not here intended neither; for the apostle only writes to such who were within the church, and not without, who were professors of religion; and such rich men are addressed here, who, notwithstanding their profession, were not rich towards God, but laid up treasure for themselves, and trusted in their riches, and boasted of the multitude of their wealth; and did not trust in God, and make use of their substance to his glory, and the good of his interest, as they should have done:
weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you; meaning, not temporal calamities that should come upon them at the destruction of Jerusalem, in which the rich greatly suffered by the robbers among themselves, as well as by the Roman soldiers; for the apostle is not writing to the Jews in Judea, and at Jerusalem; but to the Christians of the twelve tribes scattered in the several parts of the world, and who were not distressed by that calamity; but eternal miseries, or the torments of hell are intended, which, unless they repented of their sins, would shortly, suddenly, and unavoidably come upon them, when their present joy and laughter would be turned into howling and weeping.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Jas 5:1-20. Woes Coming on the Wicked Rich: Believers Should Be Patient unto the Lord's Coming: Various Exhortations.
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 (Jas 5:7), knowing that God will speedily avenge them on their oppressors [Bengel].
miseries that shall come—literally, "that are coming upon you" unexpectedly and swiftly, namely, at the coming of the Lord (Jas 5:7); primarily, at the destruction of Jerusalem; finally, at His visible coming to judge the world.
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