James 5:6
Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.
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(6) Ye have condemned and killed the just.—Better thus: Ye condemned, ye slew the just—as in the speech of Peter (Acts 3:14-15), or that of Stephen (Acts 7:52). Such a reference, however, has been disallowed by some commentators, as conveying too harsh an accusation against the whole Jewish people; and besides, it being unfair to forget that St. James was writing to Christian Jews, as well as to the anti-Christian. But, in a manner, all wrong and oppression tend towards the murder of the Just One, as every falsehood (see Note on James 3:13) is an attack on the Truth. And far beyond this, in the present case our Lord is rightly to be considered the victim of the Jews. His blood is on them and on their children (Matthew 27:25); they filled up “the measure of their fathers” (Matthew 23:32), that “the blood of all the righteous” might come upon them, from Abel to Zacharias (Matthew 23:35): the one crowning sin made them guilty of all. And not only is this backward participation true, but there is a forward one as well. Christ Himself was persecuted by Saul in the afflictions of His servants (Acts 9:4-5), and so onward ever till the martyr-roll be full.

It is of strange significance that in this verse—ye condemned, ye slew the just—James the Just prophetically described his own murderers. The last words, moreover, of the Scripture, simply record the behaviour of himself, as of every real witness for Christ: He doth not resist. No: “the servant of the Lord must not strive” (2Timothy 2:24) even in death; and by such meekness and resignation is best seen the likeness to the divine Master, Who “was brought as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7). Comp. Wisdom Of Solomon 2:10-20 for a striking parallel, on the oppression of the righteous, which would not inaptly describe the “just man,” the “Son of God.”

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.Ye have condemned and killed the just - τὸν δίκαιον ton dikaion - "the just one," or "the just man" - for the word used is in the singular number. This may either refer to the condemnation and crucifixion of Christ - meaning that their conduct towards his people had been similar to the treatment of the Saviour, and was in fact a condemnation and crucifixion of him afresh; or, that by their rejection of him in order to live in sin, they in fact condemned him and his religion; or, that they had condemned and killed the just man - meaning that they had persecuted those who were Christians; or, that by their harsh treatment of others in withholding what was due to them, they had deprived them of the means of subsistence, and had, as it were, killed the righteous. Probably the true meaning is, that it was one of their characteristics that they had been guilty of wrong towards good men. Whether it refers, however, to any particular act of violence, or to such a course as would wear out their lives by a system of oppression, injustice, and fraud, cannot now be determined.

And he doth not resist you - Some have supposed that this refers to God, meaning that he did not oppose them; that is, that he bore with them patiently while they did it. Others suppose that it should be read a question - "and doth he not resist you?" meaning that God would oppose them, and punish them for their acts of oppression and wrong. But probably the true reference is to the "just man" whom they condemned and killed; meaning that they were so powerful that all attempts to resist them would be vain, and that the injured and oppressed could do nothing but submit patiently to their acts of injustice and violence. The sense may be either that they could not oppose them - the rich men being so powerful, and they who were oppressed so feeble; or that they bore their wrongs with meekness, and did not attempt it. The sins, therefore, condemned in these verses James 5:1-6, and for which it is said the divine vengeance would come upon those referred to, are these four:

(1) that of hoarding up money when it was unnecessary for their real support and comfort, and when they might do so much good with it, (compare Matthew 6:19;)

(2) that of keeping back the wages which was due to those who cultivated their fields; that is, keeping back what would be a fair compensation for their toil - applicable alike to hired men and to slaves;

(3) that of giving themselves up to a life of ease, luxury, and sensual; indulgence; and,

(4) that of wronging and oppressing good and just men - men, perhaps in humble life, who were unable to vindicate their rights, and who had none to undertake their cause; men who were too feeble to offer successful resistance, or who were restrained by their principles from attempting it.

It is needless to say that there are multitudes of such persons now on the earth, and that they have the same reason to dread the divine vengeance which the same class had in the time of the apostle James.

6. Ye have condemned … the just—The Greek aorist expresses, "Ye are accustomed to condemn … the just." Their condemnation of Christ, "the Just," is foremost in James' mind. But all the innocent blood shed, and to be shed, is included, the Holy Spirit comprehending James himself, called "the Just," who was slain in a tumult. See my [2609]Introduction. This gives a peculiar appropriateness to the expression in this verse, the same "as the righteous (just) man" (Jas 5:16). The justice or righteousness of Jesus and His people is what peculiarly provoked the ungodly great men of the world.

he doth not resist you—The very patience of the Just one is abused by the wicked as an incentive to boldness in violent persecution, as if they may do as they please with impunity. God doth "resist the proud" (Jas 4:6); but Jesus as man, "as a sheep is dumb before the shearers, so He opened not His mouth": so His people are meek under persecution. The day will come when God will resist (literally, "set Himself in array against") His foes and theirs.

Ye have condemned and killed; i.e. procured by your wealth and power the passing unrighteous sentences, and thereby the destruction of the just.

The just; indefinitely and collectively, the just for any just man, viz. such as were innocent and just in comparison of their persecutors.

And he doth not resist you; this notes not only the patience of such in bearing injuries, but their weakness, and being destitute of human help against their adversaries’ power.

Ye have condemned and killed the just,.... Meaning not Christ, the Just One, as some have thought; whom the Jewish sanhedrim condemned as guilty of death, and got the sentence passed upon him, and him to be crucified by Pontius Pilate, on the day of slaughter, at the time of the passover, as some connect the last clause of the preceding verse with this; since the apostle is not writing to the Jerusalem Jews, nor to unbelievers, but to professors of religion; though he might say they did it, because their nation did it: but rather this is to be understood of the poor saints, who were just, through the imputation of Christ's righteousness to them, and lived soberly, righteously, and godly, and were harmless and inoffensive in their conversation: who were evil spoken of, censured, and judged, and condemned in a rash and uncharitable manner by their brethren; or were drawn to the judgment seats by the rich, who obtained a judicial process against them, and procured a sentence of condemnation to pass upon them unrighteously; and who killed them, by taking away their good names from them, and by withholding from them their supplies of life, the fruit of their own labour, whereby their lives were embittered and made miserable:

and he doth not resist you; it being neither in his power, nor in his inclination; but takes it patiently, quietly submits, and makes no opposition: or God does not resist you, as yet; he will do it shortly.

Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.
Jam 5:6. The third sin, the persecution of the just, by which the ungodliness of their disposition is most strongly indicated. By δίκαιος is not meant Christ (Oecumenius,[226] Bede, Grotius, Lange), for, on the one hand, there is nothing in the context to indicate this, and, on the other hand, the present ἈΝΤΙΤΆΣΣΕΤΑΙ, is opposed to it; also, if this were the case, the perfect must be put instead of the aorist, as here only one deed is mentioned, not, as before, a repetition of deeds. Wiesinger, in an unsatisfactory manner, explains ΤῸΝ ΔΊΚΑΙΟΝ by the innocent. Not merely the unjust conduct of the πλούσιοι founded on covetousness is here intended to be described, but the reason of persecution is implied in the expression ΤῸΝ ΔΊΚΑΙΟΝ itself; comp. Wisd. of Song of Solomon 2:12-17; as also 1 John 3:12. The singular is to be taken collectively, and the expression absolutely, as in Jam 5:16. Several expositors assume that the verbs ΚΑΤΕΔΙΚΆΣΑΤΕ, ἘΦΟΝΕΎΣΑΤΕ, are not meant in their literal sense; but evidently without reason. ΚΑΤΕΔΙΚΆΣΑΤΕ shows that here primarily judges are meant; yet the accusers, if these are to be distinguished from them, are not to be considered as excluded, since their accusation points to nothing else than to a sentence of condemnation.[227] The asyndeton sharpens the climax, which is contained in the addition of the second verb to the first. Bouman directs attention to the paronomasia between κατεδικάσατε and δίκαιον.

οὐκ ἀντιτάσσεται] opposes the calm patience of the just to the violence of the wicked: he doth not resist (comp. Acts 18:6; Romans 13:4; Jam 4:6). Schneckenburger: οὐκ ἀντιτ. sine copula et pronomine ponderose additur. The present is explained from the fact that in what goes before not a single instance, but the continued conduct of the rich is described, and opposed to this is placed the similarly continued conduct of the δίκαιοι. Lange, by the reference of τὸν δίκαιον to Christ, misinterprets the force of the present, arbitrarily attributing to the verb the meaning: “He stands no longer in your way; He does not stop you (in the way of death); He suffers you to fill up your measure.”

It is unnecessary to supply in thought ὅς or γάρ; also οὐκ ἀντιτάσσεται is not to be converted into οὐ δύναται ἀντιτάσσεσθαι (Pott). For the correct construction there is no reason, with Bentley, for conjecturing ὁ κύριος instead of οὐ, or, with Benson, to take the sentence as interrogative, and to supply ὁ κύριος. The object of the addition of the clause is not so much the more strongly to mark the violent conduct of the rich, as rather by implication to point to the proximity of the vengeance of God, who interests Himself in the suffering just, as is definitely asserted in the previous verses. With this verse are to be compared, besides the already cited passage in Wis 2:12-17, particularly Amos 2:6-7; Amos 5:12 (καταπατοῦντες δίκαιον), Amos 8:4, which testify for the correctness of the explanation here given.

[226] Oecumenius, indeed, says: ἀναντιῤῥήτως τό, ἐφον. τ. δικ., ἑπὶ τὸν Χριστὸν ἀναφέρεται; but he thinks that James likewise understands by this: τοὺς ἄλλους τοὺς τὰ ὅμοια παρὰ τῶν Ἰοιδαίων παθόντας; and he closes with the remark: ἴσως δε καὶ προφητικῶς τὸ περὶ ἐαυτὸν ὑπεμφαίνει πάθος.

[227] Wiesinger correctly observes that φονεύειν is here not to be explained according to Sir 31:21 : φονεύων τον πλησιον ὁ ἀφαιρούμενος τὴν ἐμβίωσιν; but he maintains without reason that the death of the just is not to be considered as the direct design of the πλούσεοι, but only as the result of their oppressions. Also de Wette thinks that the killing is not to be understood literally, but of extreme violence, deprivation of liberty, and the like. This interpretation is, however, occasioned by the assumption that the rich are Christians.

Jam 5:6. κατεδικάσατε, ἐφονεύσατε τὸν δίκαιον: this expresses what must often have taken place; the prophetical books often refer to like things; there is no reason for regarding this as some specific case of judicial murder. Cf. Amos 2:6-7; Amos 5:12; Wis 2:10 ff. The antithesis between the צדיק (“righteous”) and רשׁע (“wicked”) is a commonplace in Jewish theology.—οὐκ ἀντιτάσσεται ὑμῖν: the statement of fact here, instead of the interrogative as read by some authorities, is more natural, and more in accordance with the prophetical style which is so characteristic of this whole passage. This picture of patient acquiescence in ill-treatment is really a very vivid touch, for it shows, on the one hand, that the down-trodden realised the futility of resistance; on the other, that their hopes were centred on the time to come.

With the whole of this section cf. the words in The first book of Clement, which is called The Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ, 12: “The harvest is come, that the guilty may be reaped and the Judge appear suddenly and confront them with their works”.

6. Ye have condemned and killed the just] The words have been very generally understood as referring to the death of Christ, and on this view, the words “he doth not resist you” have been interpreted as meaning, “He no longer checks you in your career of guilt; He leaves you alone (comp. Hosea 4:17) to fill up the measure of your sin.” St James, it has been inferred, uses the term “the Just One” as Stephen had done (Acts 7:52), as pointing emphatically to “Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). Fuller consideration, however, shews that such a meaning could hardly have come within the horizon of St James’s thoughts. (1) That single evil act of priests, and scribes, and the multitude of Jerusalem, could hardly have been thus spoken of in an Epistle addressed to the Twelve Tribes of the dispersion, without a more distinct indication of what was referred to. To see in them, as some have done, the statement that the Jews, wherever they were found, were guilty of that crime, as accepting and approving it, or as committing sins which made such an atonement necessary, is to read into them a non-natural meaning. (2) The whole context leads us to see in the words, a generic evil, a class sin, characteristic, like those of the previous verse, of the rich and powerful everywhere. (3) The meaning thus given to “he doth not resist you” seems, to say the least, strained and unnatural, especially as coming so soon after the teaching (ch. James 4:6) which had declared that “God does resist the proud.” (4) The true meaning of both clauses is found, it is believed, in taking “the just” as the representative of a class, probably of the class of those, who as disciples of Christ the Just One, were reproducing His pattern of righteousness. Such an one, like his Master, and like Stephen, St James adds, takes as his law (note the change of tense from past to present) the rule of not resisting. He submits patiently, certain that in the end he will be more than conqueror. It is not without interest to note that that title was afterwards applied to St James himself (Euseb. Hist. ii. 23). The name Justus, which appears three times in the New Testament (Acts 1:23; Acts 18:7; Colossians 4:11), was obviously the Latin equivalent of this epithet, and it probably answered to the Chasidim or Assideans (1Ma 2:42; 1Ma 7:13, 2Ma 14:6) of an earlier stage of Jewish religious history. It is as if a follower of George Fox had addressed the judges and clergy of Charles II.’s reign, and said to them, “Ye persecuted the Friend, and he does not resist you.” (5) It is in favour of this interpretation that it presents a striking parallel to a passage in the “Wisdom of Solomon,” with which this Epistle has so many affinities. There too the writer speaks of the wealthy and voluptuous as laying snares for “the just” who is also “poor,” who calls himself “the servant of the Lord,” and boasts of God as his Father (Wis 2:12-16). Comp. also the description of the ultimate triumph of the just man in. Wis 5:1-5.

Jam 5:6. Κατεδικάσατε, ἐφονεύσατε, ye have condemned, ye have killed) The omission of the conjunction expresses haste.[68] Compare again App. Crit. Ed. ii. I feel grateful to Baumgarten; for while he brings forward no reading more worthy of remark, as omitted by me, he remarkably confirms the fulness of my choice.—τὸν δίκαιον, the Just) A distributive meaning in the singular number is admissible, denoting any just person, as the wicked get each into their power; but especially Christ Himself, the Just One, Acts 3:14, who was slain by Jews and Gentiles; and afterwards James, the writer of this Epistle, who was surnamed by the Hebrews the Just, whose slaughter is here divinely foretold. The present tense is suitable, He doth not resist you; by which clause, following as it does without a conjunction, it is likewise intimated that by the very patience of the Just One the wicked goad themselves to slaughter. Comp. Wis 2:10-20.

[68] Cod. Amiat. of Vulg. puts an “et” before “non resistit.”—E.

Verse 6. - The climax of their sin. Ye have condemned, ye have killed the righteous one. Does this allude to the death of our Lord? At first sight it may well seem so. Compare St. Peter's words in Acts 3:14, "Ye denied the Holy One and the Just (δίκαιον);" St. Stephen's in Acts 7:52, "the coming of the Just One (τοῦ δικαίου);" and St. Paul's in Acts 22:14, "to see the Just One (τὸν δίκαιον)." But this view is dispelled when we remember how throughout this whole passage the ideas and expressions are borrowed from the Old Testament, and when we find that in Isaiah 3:10 (LXX.) the wicked are represented as saying, Δήσωμεν τὸν δίκαιον ὅτι δύσχρηστος ἡμῖν ἐστί ( α passage which lies at the root of the remarkable section in Wisd. 2, "Let us oppress the poor righteous man .... Let us condemn him with a shameful death." It is probable, then, that passages such as these were in St. James's mind, and suggested the words, and thus that there is no direct allusion to the Crucifixion (which, indeed, could scarcely be laid to the charge of his readers), but that the singular τὸν δίκαιον is used to denote the class collectively (cf. Amos 2:6; Amos 5:12). It is a remarkable coincidence, pointed out by most commentators, that he who wrote these verses, himself styled ὁ Δίκαιος by the Jews, suffered death at their hands a very few years afterwards. He doth not resist you. According to the view commonly adopted, St. James simply means to say that the righteous man suffered this evil at their hands without resistance. Another interpretation seems more possible, taking the clause as interrogative, "Does he not resist you?" the subject, implied but not expressed, being God; as if he would say, "Is not God against you? " - that God of whom it has already been said that he resists (ἀντιτάσσεται) the proud (comp. Hosea 1:6, "I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel, but I will utterly take them away (LXX., ἀλλ η} ἀντιτασσόμενος ἀντιτάξομαι αὐτοῖς)") James 5:6
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