James 4:13
Go to now, you that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) Ye that say . . . .—The Apostle would reason next with the worldly; not merely those abandoned to pleasure, but any and all absorbed in the quest of gain or advancement. The original is represented a little more closely, thus: Today and tomorrow we will go into this city, and spend a year there, and trade and get gain. “Mortals think all men mortal but themselves;” yet who does not boast himself of tomorrow (Proverbs 27:1), in spite of a thousand proverbs; and reckon on the wondrous chance of

“That untravelled world, whose margin fades

For ever and for ever as he roams?”

James 4:13-15. Go to now Αγε νυν, come now, an interjection, calculated to excite attention; ye that say, To-day or to-morrow we will go, &c. — As if future events were in your own power, and your health and lives were ensured to you for a certain time; whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow — Whether your spirits before then shall not have passed into eternity; for what is your life? It is even a vapour — An unsubstantial, uncertain, and fleeting vapour; that appeareth for a little time — In this visible world; and then suddenly vanisheth away — And is seen here no more. Thus Isaiah, All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof as a flower of the field; a similitude used also by David, Psalm 103:15-16, As for man, his days are as grass, as a flower of the field so he flourisheth; for the wind passeth over it and it is gone, and the place thereof shall know it no more. And still more striking is the metaphor used by Asaph, Psalm 78:39, where he terms men, even a generation of them, A wind that passeth away and cometh not again. But in no author, sacred or profane, is there a finer image of the brevity and uncertainty of human life than this given by St. James, who likens it to a vapour, which, after continuing and engaging men’s attention for a few moments, unexpectedly disappears while they are looking at it. For that ye ought, &c. — That is, whereas ye ought to say — In consideration of this your great frailty; If the Lord will, we shall live and do this or that

Intimating, even by your manner of speaking, the sense that you have of his being able, at pleasure, to cut you short in all your schemes and appointments. The apostle does not mean that these very words should always be used by us, when we speak of our purposes respecting futurity; but that, on such occasions, the sentiment which these words express should always be present to our minds.4:11-17 Our lips must be governed by the law of kindness, as well as truth and justice. Christians are brethren. And to break God's commands, is to speak evil of them, and to judge them, as if they laid too great a restraint upon us. We have the law of God, which is a rule to all; let us not presume to set up our own notions and opinions as a rule to those about us, and let us be careful that we be not condemned of the Lord. Go to now, is a call to any one to consider his conduct as being wrong. How apt worldly and contriving men are to leave God out of their plans! How vain it is to look for any thing good without God's blessing and guidance! The frailty, shortness, and uncertainty of life, ought to check the vanity and presumptuous confidence of all projects for futurity. We can fix the hour and minute of the sun's rising and setting to-morrow, but we cannot fix the certain time of a vapour being scattered. So short, unreal, and fading is human life, and all the prosperity or enjoyment that attends it; though bliss or woe for ever must be according to our conduct during this fleeting moment. We are always to depend on the will of God. Our times are not in our own hands, but at the disposal of God. Our heads may be filled with cares and contrivances for ourselves, or our families, or our friends; but Providence often throws our plans into confusion. All we design, and all we do, should be with submissive dependence on God. It is foolish, and it is hurtful, to boast of worldly things and aspiring projects; it will bring great disappointment, and will prove destruction in the end. Omissions are sins which will be brought into judgment, as well as commissions. He that does not the good he knows should be done, as well as he who does the evil he knows should not be done, will be condemned. Oh that we were as careful not to omit prayer, and not to neglect to meditate and examine our consciences, as we are not to commit gross outward vices against light!Go to now - The apostle here introduces a new subject, and refers to another fault which was doubtless prevalent among them, as it is everywhere, that of a presumptuous confidence respecting the future, or of forming plans stretching into the future, without any proper sense of the uncertainty of life, and of our absolute dependence on God. The phrase "go to now," (ἄγε νῦν age nun,) is a phrase designed to arrest attention, as if there were something that demanded their notice, and especially, as in this case, with the implied thought that that to which the attention is called is wrong. See James 5:1. Compare Genesis 11:7; Isaiah 1:18.

Ye that say - You that form your plans in this manner or that speak thus confidently of what you will do in the future. The word say here probably refers to what was in their thoughts, rather than to what was openly expressed.

Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city - That is, they say this without any proper sense of the uncertainty of life, and of their absolute dependence on God.

And continue there a year - Fixing a definite time; designating the exact period during which they would remain, and when they would leave, without any reference to the will of God. The apostle undoubtedly means to refer here to this as a mere specimen of what he would reprove. It cannot be supposed that he refers to this single case alone as wrong. All plans are wrong that are formed in the same spirit. "The practice to which the apostle here alludes," says the editor of the Pictorial Bible, "is very common in the East to this day, among a very respectable and intelligent class of merchants. They convey the products of one place to some distant city, where they remain until they have disposed of their own goods and have purchased others suitable for another distant market; and thus the operation is repeated, until, after a number of years, the trader is enabled to return prosperously to his home. Or again, a shopkeeper or a merchant takes only the first step in this process - conveying to a distant town, where the best purchases of his own line are to be made, such goods as are likely to realise a profit, and returning, without any farther stop, with a stock for his own concern. These operations are seldom very rapid, as the adventurer likes to wait opportunities for making advantageous bargains; and sometimes opens a shop in the place to which he comes, to sell by retail the goods which he has bought." The practice is common in India. See Roberts" Oriental Illustrations.

And buy and sell, and get gain - It is not improbable that there is an allusion here to the commercial habits of the Jews at the time when the apostle wrote. Many of them were engaged in foreign traffic, and for this purpose made long journeys to distant trading cities, as Alexandria, Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, etc. - Bloomfield.

13. Go to now—"Come now"; said to excite attention.

ye that say—boasting of the morrow.

To-day or to-morrow—as if ye had the free choice of either day as a certainty. Others read, "To-day and to-morrow."

such a city—literally, "this the city" (namely, the one present to the mind of the speaker). This city here.

continue … a year—rather, "spend one year." Their language implies that when this one year is out, they purpose similarly settling plans for to come [Bengel].

buy and sell—Their plans for the future are all worldly.

Go to now; either this is a note of transition, or of command to inferiors, or rather of admonition to such as are stupid or rash, and tends to the awakening their attention, and stirring them up to the consideration of their duty, danger, &c.

Ye that say; either with your mouths, or in your hearts.

To-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city; not, let us go, but, we will go, in the indicative mood; noting the peremptoriness of their purposes, and their presuming upon future times and things, which were not in their power.

And continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: he doth not condemn merchants travelling into other countries, nor trading there, nor designing gain by their trade, nor forecasting their business; but their promising themselves the continuance of their life, the accomplishing their designs, and the success of their labours, without respect to God’s providence and direction, as if their times and their works were in their own hands, not in his. Go to now, ye that say,.... The apostle passes from exposing the sin of detraction, and rash judgment, to inveigh against those of presumption and self-confidence; and the phrase, "go to now", is a note of transition, as well as of attention, and contains the form of a solemn and grave address to persons, who either think within themselves, or vocally express, the following words, or the like unto them:

today, or tomorrow, we will go into such a city; in such a country, a place of great trade and merchandise; as Tyre then was in Phoenicia, Thessalonica in Macedonia, Ephesus in Asia, and others: some render this as an imperative, or as an exhortation, "let us go", which does not alter the sense.

And continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain; as is customary for merchants to do; nor does the apostle design by this to condemn merchandise, and the lawful practice of buying and selling, and getting gain; but that men should not resolve upon those things without consulting God, and attending to his will, and subjecting themselves to it; and without considering the uncertainty and frailty of human life; as well as should not promise and assure themselves of success, of getting gain and riches, as if those things were in their own power, and had no dependence upon the providence and blessing of God.

{8} Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:

(8) The other fault is this: That men do so confidently determine on these and those matters and businesses, as though every moment of their life did not depend on God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Jam 4:13. The apostrophe commencing with this verse, and continued until chap. Jam 5:6, has a character plainly distinguished from other portions of the Epistle—(1) by ἄγε νῦν repeated; (2) those addressed are neither directly designated as ἀδελφοί, as is elsewhere the case with James (with the single exception of chap. Jam 4:1 ff.), nor are yet characterized as members of the Christian church; (3) only their forgetfulness of God is described, and their judgment is announced without any call being added to desist from their practice and be converted; so that this apostrophe contains not the slightest exhortation to repentance, as is the case with those addressed in Jam 4:8 as ἁμαρτωλοί and δίψυχοι. All this is a sufficient proof that James has in view, as Oecumenius, Bede, Semler, Pott, Hottinger, and others have correctly remarked (differently Gebser, Schneckenburger, de Wette, Wiesinger; Theile considers that Jewish Christians and Jews are here addressed), not so much the members of the church, as rather the rich (οἱ πλούσιοι, Jam 5:1), of whom it is already said in chap. Jam 2:6-7, that they oppress the Christians and blaspheme the name of Christ, and who are already, in chap. Jam 1:10, opposed to “the brother of low degree.” The severe language against them in an Epistle directed to Christians is sufficiently explained from the fact that, with many among them, as follows from Jam 4:1 ff., the same forgetfulness of God had gained ground. Also the first section (Jam 4:13-17) is of such a nature that the fault therein expressed affected many of the readers not less than the arrogant Jews.[207] In this section, those addressed are at first characterized only according to their presumptuous security in their striving after earthly gain.

ἌΓΕ ΝῦΝ] ἌΓΕ, occurring in the N. T. only here and in chap. Jam 5:1, is a summons, which also, with classical writers, is joined with the plural (Winer, p. 458 [E. T. 649]).

νῦν] serves not only for strengthening (de Wette, Wiesinger), but likewise for connection with what goes before. As in what follows there is no summons to do anything, some expositors suppose that ἄγε νῦν is designed only to excite attention; Grotius: jam ego ad vos; so also Pott, Theile: age, audite vos. Others supply a thought; thus Schulthess: Πῶς ΠΟΙΕῖΤΕ, or ΜῊ ΚΑΛῶς ΠΟΙΕῖΤΕ, and the like. De Wette thinks that the summons to lay aside the fault is indirectly contained in the reproof. Wiesinger suggests Jam 4:16 as the material for the designed imperative clause. It is more correct to assume that James has already here in view the imperative clause in chap. Jam 5:1,

ΚΛΑΎΣΑΤΕἘΠῚ ΤΑῖς ΤΑΛΑΙΠΩΡΊΑΙς ὙΜῶΝ Κ.Τ.Λ.,—placed after ἌΓΕ ΝῦΝ again resumed; thus Gebser, Hottinger, Schneckenburger; similarly Lange, according to whom ἌΓΕ ΝῦΝ “refers to the announcement of the judgment, which comes out quite clear in chap. Jam 5:1, but is here darkly and menacingly alluded to.”

ΟἹ ΛΈΓΟΝΤΕς] ye who say. λέγειν is to be retained in its usual signification; comp. chap. Jam 2:14. Theile, without reason, explains it: qui non solum cogitare soletis sed etiam dicere audetis.

ΣΉΜΕΡΟΝ ΚΑῚ ΑὔΡΙΟΝ] announces the precise duration of the intended journey—not when it should commence, but how long it should endure. With this explanation there is no difficulty in καί; otherwise (as the Rec. reads) must stand. In καί there lies a greater confidence (Theile), as according to it a definite plan is fixed upon also for the morrow. According to Wiesinger, different instances are here taken together, as in 2 Corinthians 13:1 (so already Bengel: unus dicit hodie, idem aliusve eras, ut commodum est); according to this, ΚΑΊ would have to be explained: “and relatively” (sec Meyer on that passage); but the indefiniteness contained therein does not suit the certainty with which these people speak. Lange’s meaning is unjustified: “that ΑὔΡΙΟΝ is used for the undefined future subsequent to to-day.”

ΠΟΡΕΥΣΌΜΕΘΑ] The indicative we shall journey expresses the certain confidence more strongly than the conjunctive let us journey; see critical remarks.

εἰς τήνδε τὴν πόλιν] Luther: into this and that city. This explanation is also in Winer, p. 146 [E. T. 201], who adduces for it τήνδε τὴν ἡμέραν in Plutarch, Symp. i. 6. 1; but Al. Buttmann (p. 90 [E. T. 103]), on the other hand, correctly asserts that the pronoun in that passage, as everywhere among Greek authors, has its full demonstrative meaning, and that therefore it must be understood in James in the same sense; thus Schirlitz (p. 222) observes that the pronoun is here used δεικτικῶς; see also Lünemann’s remark in Winer, ed. 7, p. 153; still it is not to be explained, with Schneckenburger: in hanc urbem, quae in conspectu quasi sita est; but, with Theile: certa fingitur, quae vero verie eligi potest. Those introduced as speaking mean each time a definite city; but as this differs with different persons, James could only indicate it in an indefinite manner, and he does so by the pronoun by which each time a definite city is pointed to; thus into the city which the traveller had chosen as his aim. By πορεύεσθαι εἰς τ. πολ. is indicated not merely the going into the city, but also the journey to the city in which they would remain.

ΚΑῚ ΠΟΙΉΣΟΜΕΝ Κ.Τ.Λ.] we will spend there a year; ποιεῖν with a designation of time, as in Acts 15:33; Acts 20:3, and other places; in the O. T. Proverbs 13:23; see also Nicarch. epigr. 35 (Jacobs’ ed.): ἐν ταύτῃ πεποίηκα πολὺν χρόνον. Luther incorrectly translates it: “and will continue there a year;”[208] for ἐνιαυτὸν ἕνα is not the accusative of duration, but the proper objective accusative. The reading ἕνα fittingly expresses the confidence with which those introduced as speaking measure out their time beforehand, but not “their restless and unsteady conduct” (Lange).

καὶ ἐμπορευσόμεθα καὶ κερδήσομεν] Bengel: καί frequens; polysyndeton exprimit libidinem animi securi.

ἐμπορεύεσθαι] = to traffic; the final aim is designated by κερδήσομεν. That aim is worldly gain, which, in carnal security, is recognised as certain to be realized, so that it cannot fail. Kern correctly remarks: “Traffic is introduced only by way of example, as characterizing man’s doings with reference to the earthly life as contrasted with the life in God.”[209]

[207] Lange agrees with this in essentials, affirming that this section was principally addressed to the Jews; whereby he certainly proceeds from the erroneous supposition that the Epistle was directed to the Jews generally by the hands of the Jewish Christians.

[208] Stier correctly: “will spend there a year.” The opinion of Lange, that “ποιεῖν along with a definition of time may likewise have indicated that the time in question is busily employed,” is contradicted by 2 Corinthians 11:25.

[209] Lange indeed assents to this; but he thinks that the apostle, with a prophet’s glance, evidently describes beforehand the fundamental trait of the diabolically excited worldliness of his people, as it afterwards became more and more developed.Jam 4:13-17 form an independent section entirely unconnected with what precedes or follows. The section is very interesting as giving a picture of the commercial Diaspora-Jew. The Jews of the Dispersion had, from the outset, to give up agricultural pursuits; since for the most part they congregated in the cities it was commerce in which they engaged chiefly. A good instance of the Diaspora-Jew going from city to city occurs in Josephus, Antiq., xii. 2–5 (160–185), though the period dealt with is far anterior to that of our Epistle. Egypt was, of course, the greatest centre of attraction, and many wealthy Jews were to be numbered among the large Jewish population of Alexandria; Philo speaks of Jewish shipowners and merchants in this city (In Flaccum, viii.). When such Jews embraced Christianity there would be, obviously, no reason for them to give up their calling. It must, however, be confessed that both this section and the following read far more naturally as addressed to Jews than to Jewish-Christians.13–17. Man proposing, God disposing

13. Go to now, ye that say …] The warnings pass on to another form of the worldliness of the double-minded; the far-reaching plans for the future such as our Lord had condemned in the parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16). It is significant that that parable follows in close sequence upon our Lord’s disclaimer of the office of a Judge. The opening formula, “Go to,” which meets us again in ch. James 5:1, is peculiar to St James in the New Testament. It appears in the LXX. in Jdg 19:6; 2 Kings 4:24. It is obvious that the warning is addressed to Christians as well as Jews, so far as they were infected by the taint of worldliness. The MSS. vary between “to-day or to-morrow” and “to-day and to-morrow,” the latter implying the contemplation of a two days’ journey.

into such a city] Literally, into this city, that which was present to the mind of the speaker.Jam 4:13. Ἄγε νῦν, come now) The interjection used to excite attention, ch. Jam 5:1.—λέγοντες, ye who say) In plain terms, ye who boast: Jam 4:16.—σήμερον ἢ αὔριον, to-day or to-morrow) One says, to-day; the same, or some other person, says, to-morrow, as it suits his convenience; as though he had a free choice. ἢ αὔριον, Beza; and my note in the Gnomon was formerly in accordance with this reading; afterwards, in the course of inquiry, I preferred καὶ αὔριον.[57] See App. Crit. Ed. ii.—πορευσώμεθα, κ.τ.λ., we will go, etc.) The Subjunctive [let us go] makes the language modal,[58] and suggests urgent reasons for actions.—τήνδε) This is put instead of a proper name, as ὁ δεῖνα.—καὶ, and) The repetition of the conjunction, and, expresses the will of a mind at ease.—ἐνιαυτὸν ἕνα, one year) They thus speak, as though presently after about to deliberate also respecting years to come.

[57] B Vulg. and Elzev. Rec. Text have ; and so Lachm. A and later Syr have καί; and so Tisch. and Stephens’ Rec. Text.—E.

[58] See Append. on SERMO MODALIS.—E.Verses 13-17. - DENUNCIATION OF OVER-WEENING CONFIDENCE IN OUR OWN PLANS AND OUR ABILITY TO PERFORM THEM. Verse 13. - Go to; Ἄγε, properly, the imperative, but here used adverbially, a usage common in Greek prose, and found again in James 5:1. (For the word, comp. Judy. 19:6; 2 Kings 4:24; and for similar instances of the singular where more than one person is referred to, see Wetstein, col. 2. p. 676.) The Received Text (Stephens) requires some correction in this verse. Read, σήμερον η} αὔριον with א, B; the futures πορεύσομεθα ποιήσομεν ἐμπορευσόμεθα and κερδήσομεν (B, Latt., Syriac) instead of the subjunctives; and omit ἔνα after ἐνιαυτόν, with a, B, Latt., Coptic. Continue there a year; rather, spend a year there, ἐνιαυτὸν being the object of the verb and not the accusative of duration. For ποιεῖν, used of time, cf. Acts 15:33; Acts 18:23; Acts 20:3; 2 Corinthians 11:25. The Latins use facto in the same way; e.g. Cicero, 'Ad Attic.,' 5. 20, "Apamea quinque dies morati... Iconii decem fecimus." Go to now (ἄγε νῦν)

Go to is an obsolete phrase, though retained in Rev. It is a formula for calling attention: come now.

Such a city (τήνδε τὴν πόλιν)

More accurately, as Rev., this city.

Continue there a year (ποιήσομεν ἐκεῖ ἐνιαυτὸν)

Lit., we will make a year. See, for the same form of expression, Acts 15:33; Acts 18:23; 2 Corinthians 11:25. Better, as Rev., spend a year there. (Compare the A. V., Acts 18:23, rightly retained by Rev.) The word ποιήσομεν implies more than mere continuance; rather, a doing something with the year.

And

The frequent use of the copulative gives a lively tone to the passage, expressive of the lightness and thoughtlessness of a careless spirit.

Buy and sell (ἐμπορευσόμεθα)

Rev., more concisely, trade. Only here and 2 Peter 2:3.

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