James 3:7
For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:
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(7) For every kind of beasts . . .—Compare the margin, and read more exactly, thus: Every nature of beasts and birds, and creeping things, and things of the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed, by the nature of man. All kinds have been mastered by mankind, as promised at creation (Genesis 1:26-28). There lives no creature which may not be won by kindness and gratitude; and—

“He prayeth best who loveth best

All things both great and small;

For the dear God Who loveth us,

He made and loveth all.”

The four-fold division of animal life above is curiously like and unlike that in Acts 10:17, where we read of “four-footed beasts of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and fowls of the air.”

James 3:7-8. For every kind of beasts Πασα φυσις θηριων, every nature of wild beasts. The phrase signifies the strength and fierceness of wild beasts, the swiftness of birds, the poison of serpents, the exceeding great force of sea-monsters; is tamed — Δαμαζεται, is subdued, or is capable of being subdued; by mankind Τη φυσει τη ανθρωπινη, by the human nature; every sort of these has been overcome by the art and ingenuity of man; so that they have been made subservient to his use and pleasure. The apostle cannot mean that such creatures as sharks and whales have been tamed, according to the general import of that term, or made harmless and familiar with man, as some beasts, naturally savage, have been; but of which large fishes are in their nature incapable. But even they have been conquered, and brought entirely under the power of man, so that he could use them as he would. But the tongue can no man tame — Namely, the tongue of another; no, nor his own, without peculiar help from God. Macknight reads, The tongue of men no one can subdue; observing, that this transaction arises from the right construction of the original, and that it gives a more just sense than the common translation. Some read the clause interrogatively, thus, And can no man subdue the tongue? It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison — Mischievous wickedness.

3:1-12 We are taught to dread an unruly tongue, as one of the greatest evils. The affairs of mankind are thrown into confusion by the tongues of men. Every age of the world, and every condition of life, private or public, affords examples of this. Hell has more to do in promoting the fire of the tongue than men generally think; and whenever men's tongues are employed in sinful ways, they are set on fire of hell. No man can tame the tongue without Divine grace and assistance. The apostle does not represent it as impossible, but as extremely difficult. Other sins decay with age, this many times gets worse; we grow more froward and fretful, as natural strength decays, and the days come on in which we have no pleasure. When other sins are tamed and subdued by the infirmities of age, the spirit often grows more tart, nature being drawn down to the dregs, and the words used become more passionate. That man's tongue confutes itself, which at one time pretends to adore the perfections of God, and to refer all things to him; and at another time condemns even good men, if they do not use the same words and expressions. True religion will not admit of contradictions: how many sins would be prevented, if men would always be consistent! Pious and edifying language is the genuine produce of a sanctified heart; and none who understand Christianity, expect to hear curses, lies, boastings, and revilings from a true believer's mouth, any more than they look for the fruit of one tree from another. But facts prove that more professors succeed in bridling their senses and appetites, than in duly restraining their tongues. Then, depending on Divine grace, let us take heed to bless and curse not; and let us aim to be consistent in our words and actions.For every kind of beasts - The apostle proceeds to state another thing showing the power of the tongue, the fact that it is ungovernable, and that there is no power of man to keep it under control. Everything else but this has been tamed. It is unnecessary to refine on the expressions used here, by attempting to prove that it is literally true that every species of beasts, and birds, and fishes has been tamed. The apostle is to be understood as speaking in a general and popular sense, showing the remarkable power of man over those things which are by nature savage and wild. The power of man in taming wild beasts is wonderful. Indeed, it is to be remembered that nearly all those beasts which we now speak of as "domestic" animals, and which we are accustomed to see only when they are tame, were once fierce and savage races. This is the case with the horse, the ox, the ass, (see the notes at Job 11:12; Job 39:5), the swine, the dog, the cat, etc. The editor of the Pictorial Bible well remarks, "There is perhaps no kind of creature, to which man has access, which might not be tamed by him with proper perseverance. The ancients seem to have made more exertions to this end, and with much better success, than ourselves. The examples given by Pliny, of creatures tamed by men, relate to elephants, lions, and tigers, among beasts; to the eagle, among birds; to asps, and other serpents; and to crocodiles, and various fishes, among the inhabitants of the water. Natural History viii. 9, 16, 17; x. 5, 44. The lion was very commonly tamed by the ancient Egyptians, and trained to assist both in hunting and in war." Notes in loc. The only animal which it has been supposed has defied the power of man to tame it, is the hyena, and even this, it is said, has been subdued, in modern times. There is a passage in Euripides which has a strong resemblance to this of James:

Βραχὺ τοι σθένος ἀνέρος

Ἀλλὰ ποικιλίαις πραπίδων

Δαμᾷ φῦλα πόντου,

Χθονίων τ ̓ ἀερίων τε παιδεύματα.

Brachu toi sthenos aneros

Alla poikiliais prapidōn

Dama phula pontou,

Chthoniōn t' aeriōn te paideumata.

"Small is the power which nature has given to man; but, by various acts of his superior understanding, he has subdued the tribes of the sea, the earth, and the air." Compare on this subject, the passages quoted by Pricaeus in the Critici Sacri, in loc.

And of birds - It is a common thing to tame birds, and even the most wild are susceptible of being tamed. A portion of the leathered race, as the hen, the goose, the duck, is thoroughly domesticated. The pigeon, the martin, the hawk, the eagle, may be; and perhaps there are none of that race which might not be made subject to the will of man.

And of serpents - The ancients showed great skill in this art, in reference to asps and other venomous serpents, and it is common now in India. In many instances, indeed, it is known that the fangs of the serpents are extracted; but even when this is not done, they who practice the art learn to handle them with impunity.

And of things in the sea - As the crocodile mentioned by Pliny. It may be affirmed with confidence that there is no animal which might not, by proper skill and perseverance, be rendered tame, or made obedient to the will of man. It is not necessary, however, to understand the apostle as affirming that literally every animal has been tamed, or ever can be. He evidently speaks in a popular sense of the great power which man undeniably has over all kinds of wild animals - over the creation beneath him.

7. every kind—rather, "every nature" (that is, natural disposition and characteristic power).

of beasts—that is, quadrupeds of every disposition; as distinguished from the three other classes of creation, "birds, creeping things (the Greek includes not merely 'serpents,' as English Version), and things in the sea."

is tamed, and hath been—is continually being tamed, and hath been so long ago.

of mankind—rather, "by the nature of man": man's characteristic power taming that of the inferior animals. The dative in the Greek may imply, "Hath suffered itself to be brought into tame subjection TO the nature of men." So it shall be in the millennial world; even now man, by gentle firmness, may tame the inferior animal, and even elevate its nature.

Every kind; some of every kind.

Of beasts; wild beasts, such as are most fierce and untractable.

And of birds; though so movable and wandering, the very vagabonds of nature.

And of serpents; which are such enemies to mankind.

And of things in the sea; the inhabitants, as it were, of another world, really of another element.

Is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind; either made gentle, or at least, brought into subjection to man by one means or other. He useth both tenses, the present and the past perfect, to note that such things not only have been, but still are; and that not as the effects of some miraculous providence, as in the case of Daniel, Daniel 6:1-28, and Paul, Acts 28:1-31, but as that which is usually experienced, and in man’s power still to do.

For every kind of beasts, and of birds,.... Or the "nature" of them, as it is in the Greek text; however fierce, as beasts of prey are, or shy, as the fowls of the air be:

and of serpents and things in the sea; the fishes there:

is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind, or "by human nature": by the wit and industry of man; by the various ways, means, and methods devised by man. So Pliny (l) relates, that elephants lions and tigers among beasts, and the eagle among birds, and crocodiles, asps, and other serpents, and fishes of the sea, have been tamed: though some think this is only to be understood of their being mastered and subdued, by one means or another; or of their being despoiled of their power, or of their poison: and the Syriac and Ethiopic versions render it, "subjected to human nature".

(l) Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 9. 16, 17. & 10. 5, 44.

For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:
Jam 3:7-8. In these verses the untameable power of the tongue is adduced. The particle γάρ here indicates neither simply the transition (Pott), nor is it to be referred to μεγαλαυχεῖ (Wiesinger), separated from it by Jam 3:5-6, nor only to the last thought, φλογιζομένη κ.τ.λ. (Lange); but it is used as a logical particle, whilst the truth expressed in these verses substantiates the judgment contained in Jam 3:5-6. The relation of these two verses to each other is, that Jam 3:8 contains the principal thought, and Jam 3:7, on the other hand, a thought subordinate to it, which is only added in order to make that thought more emphatic. The meaning is: Whereas man tames all animals, yet he cannot tame the tongue. By φύσις is to be understood not the genus (Augusti, Gebser, Bretschneider, Schneckenburger), but the qualitas naturalis, and in such a manner that James has in view not the relation of the individual man to the individual beast, but the relation of human nature to animal nature in general, however this may differ in the different kinds of animals. The totality of beasts is expressed by four classes, which are arranged in pairs, namely, quadrupeds and birds, creeping beasts and fishes.

θηρία] are not “beasts generally” (Pott), nor specially “wild beasts” (Erasmus, Vatablus, Piscator, Baumgarten, Theile, Bouman).

τὰ ἑρπετά] are neither terrestrial animals generally (Pott, Hottinger), nor only serpents (Luther, Calvin, Grotius, and others), but it is used here in the same meaning as in Genesis 1:24-25 (LXX. ἑρπετά, as the translation of רֶמֶשׂ); see Acts 10:12; Romans 1:23.

ἐνάλια] (ἅπ. λεγ.) denotes either fish simply, or likewise all worms living in the water; Luther incorrectly translates it “sea wonders,” and Stier “sea monsters.” There is here the same classification as in Genesis 9:2 in the LXX. (which may have been before the mind of James): τὰ θηρία τῆς γῆς, τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, τὰ κινούμενα ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, οἱ ἰχθύεις τῆς θαλάσσης. The dominion of human nature over the brute creation is expressed by the verb δαμάζειν (i.e. so to subdue, that what is subdued submits to the will of the subduer), because it supposes the subjection of something resisting (see Mark 5:4). That James only thought on wild animals does not follow from this. The perfect δεδάμασται is added to the present δαμάζεται in order to represent the present taming as that which had already taken place in the past. It is incorrect to resolve δαμάζεται into δαμάζεσθαι δύναται (Hottinger, Schneckenburger), for it treats not only of the possibility, but of the actuality.

τῇ φύσει τ. ἀνθρ.] is not the dat. commodi, but the dative used with the passive, instead of the construction with ὑπό. φύσις has the same meaning as before; accordingly not ingenii solertia (Hornejus, Hottinger, Schneckenburger).

Jam 3:7-8. These verses, are, of course, not to be taken literally; their exaggerative character rather reminds one of the orator carried away by his subject. But it must be remembered that to the Oriental the language of exaggeration is quite normal. Moreover, this enumeration of various classes of animals was familiar from the O.T., and would be uttered as stereotyped phrases often are, it being well understood that the words are not to be taken au pied de la lettre; e.g., a very familiar passage from the Torah runs: καὶ ὁ τρόμος ὑμῶν καὶ ὁ φόβος ἔσται ἐπὶ πᾶσιν τοῖς θηρίοις τῆς γῆς καὶ ἐπὶ πάντα τὰ ὄρνεα τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ ἐπὶ πάντα τὰ κινούμενα ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς καὶ πάντας τοὺς ἰχθύας τῆς θαλάσσης (Genesis 9:2); and one who shows so much familiarity with the Wisdom literature would be well acquainted with what tradition had imputed to Solomon; ἐλάλησε περὶ τῶν κτηνῶν καὶ περὶ τῶν πετεινῶν καὶ περὶ τῶν ἑρπετῶν καὶ περὶ τῶν ἰχθύων (1 Kings 4:33), cf. Genesis 1:26 (Jam 1:27 is quoted in the next verse); Deuteronomy 4:17-18; Acts 10:12.

7. every kind of beasts] Better, Every nature. This was, probably, intended by the translators, as being the old meaning of the word “kind,” as in the “kindly fruits” (= “natural products”) of the Litany. So Chaucer, “A beautie that cometh not of kinde,” Rom. of Rose, 2288, i. e. that is not natural. It may be noted that the Authorised Version in this instance returns to Wycliffe, who used the word in its old sense, and that all the intermediate versions give “nature.” The fourfold classification is obviously intended to be exhaustive—and “beasts” must therefore be taken in its common familiar meaning of “quadruped.”

serpents] is too specific for the third word, and it would be better to give the rendering which it commonly has elsewhere, of “creeping things.”

is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind] Better, the word being the same as in the first clause, “by the nature of man.” The tense of the first verb implies “is continually being tamed.” The assertion may seem at first somewhat hyperbolical, but the well-known cases of tame rats and tame wasps, the lion of Androcles and the white fawn of Sertorius, furnish what may well be termed “crucial instances” in support of it. The story related by Cassian (Coll. xxiv. 2), that St John in his old age kept a tame partridge, makes it probable that St James may have seen, among his fellow-teachers, such an instance of the power of man to tame the varied forms of animal life around him.

Jam 3:7. Γαρ, for) Nothing is more violent than fire.—φύσις θηρίων, the nature of beasts) A Periphrasis, for θήρια, beasts.—δαμάζεται καὶ δεδάμασται, is tamed, in a passive sense; and has been tamed [has suffered itself to be tamed], in a middle sense.—τῇ φυσει [in obedience] to the nature of man) The dative case denotes the obedience of those things which are tamed.

Verse 7. - Fourth illustration, involving a proof of the terrible power of the tongue for evil. All kinds of wild animals, etc., can be tamed and have been tamed: the tongue cannot be. What a deadly power for evil must it therefore be! The famous chorus in Sophocles, 'Antigone,' 1. 332, seq., Πολλὰ τὰ δεινὰ κοὐδὲν ἀνθώπου δεινότερον πέλει, is quoted by nearly all commentators, and affords a remarkable parallel to this passage. Every kind of beasts, etc.; literally, every nature (φύσις) of beasts... hath been tamed by man's nature (τῇ φύσει τῇ ἀνθρωπίνῃ); Vulgate, omnis enim natura bestiarum... domita sunt a natura humana. (On the dative τῇ φύσει, see Winer, 'Gram. of N. T.,' p. 275.) With this fourfold enumeration of the brute creation ("beasts ... birds.., serpents... things in the sea"), cf. Genesis 9:2, "The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon all the beasts (θήρια) of the earth, upon all the fowls (πέτεινα) of the heavens, and upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea." Serpents (ἐρπετά) would be better rendered, as B.V., creeping things. James 3:7Kind (φύσις)

Wrong. James is not speaking of the relation between individual men and individual beasts, but of the relation between the nature of man and that of beasts, which may be different in different beasts. Hence, as Rev., in margin, nature.

Beasts (θηρίων)

Quadrupeds. Not beasts generally, nor wild beasts only. In Acts 28:4, Acts 28:5, the word is used of the viper which fastened on Paul's hand. In Peter's vision (Acts 10:19; Acts 11:6) there is a different classification from the one here; quadrupeds being denoted by a specific term, τετράποδα, four-footed creatures. There θηρία includes fishes, which in this passage are classed as ἐναλίων, things in the sea.

By mankind (τῇ φύσει τῇ ἀνθρωπίνῃ)

Rather, by the nature of man, φύσις, as before, denoting the generic character. Every nature of beasts is tamed by the nature of man. Compare the fine chorus in the "Antigone" of Sophocles, 343-352:

"The thoughtless tribe of birds,

The beasts that roam the fields

The brood in sea-depths born,

He takes them all in nets,

Knotted in snaring mesh,

Man, wonderful in skill.

And by his subtle arts

He holds in sway the beasts


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