James 5:2
Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
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(2) Your riches are corrupted . . .—As expanded in the eloquent gloss of Bishop Wordsworth, “Your wealth is mouldering in corruption, and your garments, stored up in vain superfluity, are become moth-eaten: although they may still glitter brightly in your eyes, and may dazzle men by their brilliance, yet they are in fact already cankered; they are loathsome in God’s sight; the Divine anger has breathed upon them and blighted them; they are already withered and blasted.” (Comp. Matthew 6:19.)

James 5:2-3. Your riches are corrupted — Greek, σεσηπε, are putrefied, or are as things putrefied by being kept too long. The riches of the ancients consisted much in large stores of corn, wine, oil, and costly apparel. These things the rich men in Judea had amassed, like the foolish rich man mentioned Luke 12:18, little imagining that they would soon be robbed of them by the Roman soldiers, and the destructive events of the war. Your garments — In your wardrobes; are moth-eaten — The fashion of clothes not changing in the eastern countries as with us, persons of fortune used to have many garments made of different costly stuffs, which they laid up as a part of their wealth. Thus, according to Q. Curtius, (lib. 5. c. 6,) when Alexander took Persepolis, he found the riches of all Asia gathered together there, which consisted not only of gold and silver, but vestis ingens modus, a vast quantity of garments. Your gold and silver is cankered — Or eaten out with rust; and the rust of them — Your perishing stores and moth-eaten garments; shall be, εις μαρτυριον, for a testimony against you — Of your covetousness and worldly mind; and of your having foolishly and wickedly buried those talents in the earth, which you ought to have employed, according to your Lord’s will, in relieving the wants of your fellow-creatures. And shall eat your flesh as it were fire — Will occasion you as great a torment as if fire were consuming your flesh. Or, as the rust eats into the gold and silver, so shall your flesh and wealth be eaten up as if you had treasured up fire in the midst of it. This was punctually fulfilled in the destruction of that nation by their own seditions, and their wars with the Romans. For, among the Sicarii and the Zealots, the ringleaders of all their seditions, it was crime enough to be rich; and their insatiable avarice induced them continually to search into the houses of the rich, and, by false accusation, to slay them as deserters, for the sake of their property. Yea, both their substance and their bodies were devoured by the flames which burned up the city and the temple: and if any thing remained, it became a prey to the Roman soldiers. Ye have heaped treasure for the last days — The days which are now coming, when your enemies shall seize or destroy all, to your infinite vexation and distress: or, you have heaped them up when it is too late; when you have no time or opportunity to enjoy them. This phrase, the last days, does not merely signify for the time to come, but for that period when the whole Jewish economy was to close, and when those awful judgments, threatened in the prophets to be poured out upon wicked men in the last days, were just coming.

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.Your riches are corrupted - The word here rendered "corrupted" (σήπω sēpō) does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It means, to cause to rot, to corrupt, to destroy. The reference here is to their hoarded treasures; and the idea is, that they had accumulated more than they needed for their own use; and that, instead of distributing them to do good to others, or employing them in any useful way, they kept them until they rotted or spoiled. It is to be remembered, that a considerable part of the treasures which a man in the East would lay up, consisted of perishable materials, as garments, grain, oil, etc. Such articles of property were often stored up, expecting that they would furnish a supply for many years, in case of the prevalence of famine or wars. Compare Luke 12:18-19. A suitable provision for the time to come cannot be forbidden; but the reference here is to cases in which great quantities had been laid up, perhaps while the poor were suffering, and which were kept until they became worthless.

Your garments are moth-eaten - The same idea substantially is expressed here in another form. As the fashions in the East did not change as they do with us, wealth consisted much in the garments that were laid up for show or for future use. See the notes at Matthew 6:19. Q. Curtius says that when Alexander the Great was going to take Persepolis, the riches of all Asia were gathered there together, which consisted not only of a great abundance of gold and silver, but also of garments, Lib. vi. c. 5. Horace tells us that when Lucullus the Roman was asked if he could lend a hundred garments for the theater, he replied that he had five thousand in his house, of which they were welcome to take part or all. Of course, such property would be liable to be moth-eaten; and the idea here is, that they had amassed a great amount of this kind of property which was useless to them, and which they kept until it became destroyed.

2. corrupted—about to be destroyed through God's curse on your oppression, whereby your riches are accumulated (Jas 5:4). Calvin thinks the sense is, Your riches perish without being of any use either to others or even to yourselves, for instance, your garments which are moth-eaten in your chests.

garments … moth-eaten—referring to Mt 6:19, 20.

Your riches are corrupted: either by riches he means the general, and by

garments, gold and silver, the particulars in which their riches consisted; and then being corrupted, is to be taken generally, as comprehending the several ways whereby the several kinds of their riches were spoiled: or else, by riches he understands such things as were liable to corruption, or putrefaction, as corn, wine, oil, which were a great part of their riches.

And your garments are moth-eaten; costly garments, in which rich men are wont to pride themselves; and under them may be comprehended all such clothes as may be eaten by worms or moths.

Your riches are corrupted,.... Either through disuse of them; and so the phrase is expressive of their tenaciousness, withholding that from themselves and others which is meet, and which is keeping riches for the owners thereof, to their hurt; or these are corrupted, and are corruptible things, fading and perishing, and will stand in no stead in the day of wrath, and therefore it is great weakness to put any trust and confidence in them:

and your garments are moth eaten; being neither wore by themselves, nor put upon the backs of others, as they should, but laid up in wardrobes, or in chests and coffers, and so became the repast of moths, and now good for nothing.

Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
Jam 5:2. Description of the judgment destroying all riches: ὁ πλοῦτος ὑμῶν σέσηπεν] In a prophetical manner the future is described as having already taken place (Hottinger, Schneckenburger, de Wette, Wiesinger, Bouman, and others). By πλοῦτος is not here—as Estius, Raphelius, Wolf, Semler, Gebser, Bouman on account of σέσηπεν think—to be understood such things (fruit, etc.) as undergo literal rottenness, but is to be understood generally; and σέσηπε as a figurative expression denotes generally the destruction to which riches is abandoned. The explanation of Calvin is incorrect: hic immensa divitum rapacitas perstringitur, dum supprimunt, quicquid undecunque possunt ad se trahere, ut inutiliter in area computrescat (similarly Hornejus, Laurentius, Grotius, Bengel, Theile[218]); James “does not here intend to give the natural result of covetousness, and thus the reason of the judgment, but the effect of the judgment breaking forth” (Wiesinger).[219] James describes the reason from Jam 5:4 and onwards.

The verb σήπω, to cause to rot, in the passive and second perfect to corrupt, is in the N. T. ἅπ. λεγ., but often occurs in the LXX.; comp. Job 33:21; Job 40:7; as here in a general sense (= φθείρεσθαι) it is found in Sir 14:19.

καὶ τὰ ἱμάτια ὑμῶν κ.τ.λ.] The general idea πλοῦτος is here and in what follows specialized.

σητόβρωτος] moth-eaten, in the N. T. ἅπ. λεγ., does not occur in the classics, but in Job 13:20, LXX.: ὥσπερ ἱμάτιον σητόβρωτον; comp. Isaiah 51:8. σκωληκόβρωτος in Acts 12:23 is similarly formed.

[218] Theile, who takes the preterite in its literal sense, thus explains the passage: divitiae a vobis coacervatae perierunt nulla vestra aliorumque utilitate … atque ideo vos coram judice perdent. Ita causa additur istarum calamitatum perferendi, gravi oppositione eorum quae per absurda et impia ipsorum avaritia jam facta sunt eorumque, quae pro justa Dei retributione adhuc fient.

[219] In agreement with his explanation of πλούσιοι, Lange understands also τλοῦτος in a symbolical sense, namely, the externalized Judaistic righteousness—“connected, of course, with worldly prosperity.” His assertion is also incorrect, that here not the last judgment, but “the natural immanent judgments of sinners” are meant.

Jam 5:2. The use of the Hebraic prophetic perfects in this passage is another mark of Jewish authorship. ὁ πλοῦτος ὑμῶν: this cannot refer to wealth in the abstract because this would be out of harmony with the rest of the verse which speaks of literal destruction; we have here precisely the same idea, as to actual destruction, as that which occurs in the eschatological passage Enoch, xcviii. 1 ff., where in reference to foolish men “in royalty, and in grandeur, and in power, and in silver and in gold, and in purple …,” it says that “they will perish thereby together with their possessions and with all their glory and their splendour”.—σέσηπεν: ἅπ. λεγ. in N.T., cf. Sir 14:19, πᾶν ἔργον σηπόμε. νον ἐκλείπει.—σητόβρωτα: ἅπ. λεγ· in N.T., cf. Job 13:28, παλαιοῦται ὥσπερ ἱμάτιον σητόβρωτον; Sir 42:13, ἀπὸ γὰρ ἱματίων ἐκπορεύεται σής. For the form of the word cf. σκωληκόβρωτος in Acts 12:23.

2. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten] The union of the two chief forms of Eastern wealth in this and the following verse, reminds us of the like combination in Matthew 6:19, “where moth and rust doth corrupt.” Comp. St Paul’s “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel” (Acts 20:33).

Jam 5:2. Σέσηπε, are corrupted) The grasping avarice of the rich is set forth.—σητόβρωτα, moth-eaten) Job 13:28, ἱμάτιον σητόβρωτον, a garment that is moth-eaten.

Verse 2. - Description of the miseries that are coming upon them. The perfects (σέσηπε... γέγονεν) are probably to be explained as "prophetic," in accordance with a common Hebrew idiom (see Driver on the 'Tenses of the Hebrew Verb,' § 14; and cf. Winer, 'Grammar of New Testament Greek,' p. 342: "The perfect does not stand for a present or future, but the case indicated by the apostle in ταλαιπωρίαις ὑμῶν ταῖς εηπερχομέναις is viewed as already present, and consequently the σήπειν of the riches as already completed"). For an instance of the prophetic perfect, used as here after ὀλούζείν, see Isaiah 23:1, 14," Howl.... for your stronghold has been wasted." The miseries coming upon the rich are thus announced to be the destruction of everything in virtue of which they were styled rich. Their costly garments, in a great store of which the wealth of an Eastern largely consists, should become moth-eaten. Their gold and silver should be rusted. Bengel notes on this passage: "Scripta haec suut paucis annis ante obsidionem Hierosolymorum;" and certainly the best commentary upon it is to be found in the terrible account given by Josephus of the sufferings and miseries which came upon the Jews during the war and siege of Jerusalem. The Jewish historian has become the unconscious witness to the fulfillment of the prophecies of our Lord and his apostle. Σέσηπεν: only here in the New Testament; in the LXX., Job 16:7. Σητόβρωτα is also an ἄπαξ λεγόμενον in the New Testament; in LXX. used also of garments in Job 13:28. James 5:2Are 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.

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