James 5:1
(1) Go to now, ye rich.--As in James 4:3, it was "Woe to you, worldly," so now "Woe to ye rich: weep, bewailing"--literally, howling for your miseries coming upon you. Comp. Isaiah 13:6; Isaiah 14:31; Isaiah 15:3, where (in the LXX.) the same term is used;--a picture word, imitating the cry of anguish,--peculiar to this place in the New Testament. Observe the immediate future of the misery; it is already coming. Doubtless by this was meant primarily the pillage and destruction of Jerusalem, but under that first intention many others secondary and similar are included: for all "riches certainly make themselves wings" and fly away (Proverbs 23:5). Calvin and others of his school fail to see in this passage an exhortation of the rich to penitence, but only a denunciation of woe upon them; in the sense, however, that all prophecy, whether evil or good, is conditional, there is sufficient room to believe that no irrevocable doom was pronounced by "a Christian Jeremiah."





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.

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.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.

James 4:17
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