Ya'akov Jewish New Testament and comment David H. Stern
1. Next, a word for the rich: weep and wail over the hardships coming upon you!
2. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes have become moth-eaten;
3. your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat up your flesh like fire! This is the acharit-hayamim, and you have been storing up wealth!
This is the acharit-hayamim ("the end of days"), and you have been storing up wealth! Yechiel Lichtenstein remarks, "This is an ironical way of writing, 'You have heaped treasure for a time when it will deteriorate.' So it will be in the end of days (ketz-hayamim). [In contrast,] Ya'akov says that his hope is... that the Lord will speedily return — as in v. 8, 'the Lord's return is neai.'"(Commentary to the New Testament, ad loc.)
4. Listen! The wages you have fraudulently withheld from the workers who mowed your fields are calling out against you, and the outcries of those who harvested have reached the ears of Adonai-Tzva’ot.
The wages you have fraudulently withheld. Compare Leviticus 19:13, "The wages of him who is hired shall not stay with you all night until morning"; also Deuteronomy 24:14-15, Malachi 3:5.
The outcries have reached the ears of Adonai-Tzva'ot, like those of Abel's blood (Genesis 4:10) and of the Israelites in Egypt (Exodus 3:7). God saw the sin in these cases and dealt with it; likewise he will not ignore injustice toward workers.
5. You have led a life of luxury and self-indulgence here on earth — in a time of slaughter, you have gone on eating to your heart’s content.
6. You have condemned, you have murdered the innocent; they have not withstood you.
These verses continue the thought of 4:13-17; compare Mt 6:19-20. Commentaries which understand this condemnation to be directed at nonbelieving Jews (like 2:6-7) not only feed antisemitism by lending supposed biblical support to the caricature of the miserly and oppressive Jew, but also misunderstand the prophetic task. In the Tanakh, Psalm 73 and Isaiah 5:8 are similarly critical of the arrogant rich without excluding them from God's people Israel, and there are other similar passages in the Prophets. This paragraph, which addresses the rich directly, must be understood as meant for rich believers, who will read it, not for unbelievers, who won't. (However, its truth applies to them as well.)
7. So, brothers, be patient until the Lord returns. See how the farmer waits for the precious “fruit of the earth” — he is patient over it until it receives the fall and spring rains (Deuteronomy 11:14; Jeremiah 5:24; Joel 2:23)
8. You too, be patient; keep up your courage; for the Lord’s return is near.
"Fruit of the earth." The quotation is from the b'rakhah said before eating berries or vegetables, "Blessed are you, Adonai our God, King of the universe, creator of the fruit of the earth." Compare Mt 26.27-29&N.
The fall and spring rains, called in the Hebrew Bible, respectively, yoreh and malkosh. The reference is to the climatic pattern in Israel, where the bulk of the rainfall comes between November and March. Substantial rains in October (the yoreh) and April (the malkosh) are rare, but they are of great benefit to crops. Dan Levine, a Messianic Jewish friend: "The spiritual yoreh was at Shavu'ot [Acts 2&NN], the malkosh is coming soon." Or, as Ya'akov puts it, The Lord's return is near, following up his remark that "this is the acharit-hayamim" (v. 3&N).
9. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers, so that you won’t come under condemnation — look! the Judge is standing at the door!
This repeats the warning of 4:11-12.
10. As an example of suffering mistreatment and being patient, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of Adonai.
11. Look, we regard those who persevered as blessed. You have heard of the perseverance of Iyov, and you know what the purpose of Adonai was, that ‘Adonai is very compassionate and merciful' (Exodus 34:6; Psalms 103:8; 111:4).
As an example of suffering mistreatment and being patient, brothers, take the prophets. Compare Mt 5:11-12,23:29-37; MJ 11:32-38.
The perseverance (see 1:12) of Iyov (Job), and you know what the purpose of Adonai was. The purpose was, as Milton put it in 'Paradise Lost," "to justify the ways of God to man." Job's troubles began when God chose to answer Satan's challenge by permitting him to touch Job's possessions and person, except that he could not take Job's life (Job 1-2). Job persevered in the face of all his losses and pains, magnified by the unhelpful advice of his "friends" (Job 3-37). In the end, God vindicated himself and proved to Job that only God had the power and wisdom to deal with Satan (referred to indirectly as Behemoth and Leviathan, Job 38-42).
12. Above all, brothers, stop swearing oaths — not “By heaven,” not “By the earth,” and not by any other formula; rather, let your “Yes” be simply “Yes” and your “No” simply “No,” so that you won’t fall under condemnation.
Yeshua taught similarly at Mt 5:33-37. This verse follows on the ideas of 4:13-17&NN; if we do not know what tomorrow will bring, we dare not take an oath, because it is such a serious commitment.
13. Is someone among you in trouble? He should pray. Is someone feeling good? He should sing songs of praise.
14. Is someone among you ill? He should call for the elders of the congregation. They will pray for him and rub olive oil on him in the name of the Lord.
15. The prayer offered with trust will heal the one who is ill — the Lord will restore his health; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
The Lord heals the sick among his people, according to this passage, in response to the prayer offered with trust. Healing was one of Yeshua's three main ministries (Mt 4:23-24), and he promised that his followers would do yet greater works than he did (Yn 14:12). In addition, the Holy Spirit, whom he has sent to his followers (Yn 15:26), grants to some gifts of healing (1С 12:9, 30). Rub olive oil on him. Anointing with oil is not merely a ceremony. In biblical times, olive oil was medicine (Isaiah 1:6, Lk 10:34), and being anointed with oil was considered physically pleasant (Psalms 23:5, 133:2-3).
16. Therefore, openly acknowledge your sins to one another, and pray for each other, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
This verse is taken by Roman Catholics as scriptural ground for their sacrament of confession to a priest. Comparison of this verse with modern secular psychology reveals these three points: (1) Sins. Apart from such psychologists as Menninger and Mowrer, secular psychology obscures personal responsibility for sins by calling them "neuroses" or "problems."
(2) Openly acknowledge. Communication of one's inner life is basic to psychoanalysis and other forms of verbal psychotherapy.
(3) Pray for each other. Secular psychology offers group therapy and doctor-patient relationships but nothing having healing power comparable with that of praying to God. But sinners must repent of sin in order to have their prayers heard (Isaiah 59:1-2).
(4) So that you may be healed. "Healing" of sin involves not only confessing but also being genuinely sorry, intending to stop sinning, and actually stopping. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. This statement.
followed by reference to the prophet Elijah, calls to mind the following aggadah from the Talmud:
"Eliyahu frequently visited the academy of Rabbi [Y'hudah HaNasi]. One day, when it was Rosh-Chodesh, Rabbi waited for Eliyahu, but he didn't come. Next day, Rabbi asked him, 'Why didn't you come?' Eliyahu replied, i had to wake up Abraham, wash his hands, wait while he prayed, then make him lie down again; likewise with Isaac and Jacob.' 'But couldn't you have awakened all of them at the same time?' 'I knew that if they prayed together, their prayers would be so powerful that they would bring the Messiah before his time.'
"' Are there any like them in this world?' asked Rabbi. "There is Rav Chiyya and his sons,' replied Eliyahu. Rabbi proclaimed a fast, and Rav Chiyya and his sons were called down [to the bimah, the pulpit of the synagogue]. As he prayed [from the second blessing of the 'Amidah], 'He causes the wind to blow,' the wind blew. He continued, 'he causes the rain to fall,' and rain fell. As he was about to say, 'he makes the dead come alive,' the universe trembled, and in heaven it was asked, 'Who has revealed our secret to the world?' 'Eliyahu,' they replied. Eliyahu was brought and beaten with sixty fiery lashes; so he went, disguised himself as a flaming bear, entered [the synagogue] and scattered them." (Bava Metzia 85b)
Compare Leviticus 26:8, Deuteronomy 32:30, Psalm 91:7.
17. Eliyahu was only a human being like us; yet he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and no rain fell on the Land for three years and six months.
18. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the Land produced its crops.
See 1 Kings 17:1, 18:42-45. These do not mention Eliyahu's prayer, but an aggadah in the Talmud does: "Eliyahu prayed and received the keys to the rain and stopped the heavens." (Sanhedrin 113a)
19. My brothers, if one of you wanders from the truth, and someone causes him to return,
20. you should know that whoever turns a sinner from his wandering path will save him from death and cover many sins (Proverbs 10:12)
Here, along with 1:5-8 and 4:3, is Ya'akov's teaching on prayer. Verses 14-20 deal with healing.
Causing a brother to turn from sin is the greatest form of healing, since it saves him from spiritual death. Compare Ezekiel 33:14-16, 1 Yn 5:16-17 and 1 Ke 4:8&N.
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