Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 21 December 2013; Revised 12 November 2018
Scripture Text: The Scripture text used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. All other Scripture quotations are from the NASB Updated Edition (1995), unless otherwise indicated. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited and resources consulted may be found at the end of the commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important Jewish sources include:
• The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here.
• Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75-99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
• Citations for Philo of Alexandria, the Jewish philosopher (20 B.C.─A.D. 50) are from The Works of Philo Judaeus, compiled by Peter Kirby, found online at Early Jewish Writings.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations. The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic writings and message I use the terms Jacob (James), Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament).
Please see the Introduction for background information on the letter.
Midrash 6: On Desires, 4:1-17
1 From where come wars and quarrels among you? Is it not from here, out of your pleasures warring among your members?
The verse begins with a rhetorical question, but for Jacob the matter he addresses is far too serious to be academic. From where come: Grk. pothen, interrogative adverb, here regarding a direction or source, 'from where, whence.' wars: Grk. polemos, to wage war. While the noun polemos in Greek literature may refer to strife, conflict or quarrels, in Scripture the term refers generally to armed conflict and hostilities between nations or kingdoms. When used of armed conflict, the term may indicate a single battle or a war of some duration consisting of many battles. In the LXX polemos commonly translates Heb. milchamah, war or battle (DNTT 3:959), first occurring in Genesis 14:2 of Abraham's war with five kings. Wars and battles dominate the history of the Tanakh and indeed, it seems, God's chosen people have always been fighting for survival. The tragedy is that Israelites and Jews have also fought among themselves.
and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. See my note on the significance of conjunctions in the Besekh.
quarrels: pl. of Grk. machē, another military word meaning battle or fighting, but also of quarrels, strife or heated disputation. The term may also be translated contention, dispute, strife or controversy (Mounce). In the LXX machē renders Heb. rib, strife, dispute or quarrel, such as over pasturage (Gen 13:7), general arguing (Prov 15:18; 17:1, 14; 20:3; 25:8), public hostilities (2Sam 22:44), or controversies or case at law (Ex 23:2; Deut 21:5; 25:1-2; 2Sam 15:2; Isa 58:4) (BDB 936). Machē also renders Heb. tsaba, army, war or warfare (Josh 4:13), rub, to strive or contend (Jdg 11:25), qerab, battle or war (Job 38:23), matstsah, strife or contention (Prov 17:19), and madon, strife or contention (Prov 21:19; 26:20, 21). Jacob uses the military terms here as hyperbole.
among: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, and with the locative case of the pronoun following "among, in, or within." (DM 105). you: Grk. humeis, plural pronoun of the second person. The plural pronoun probably refers to the totality of his readers in the Diaspora without distinguishing specific individuals. At the same time he is not casting aspersions on faithful Messianic disciples. The generalization of the plural "you" could be explained by the old Jewish saying, "If five sons are faithful and two are not, you may cry, 'Woe is me, for my sons are unfaithful!'" (Stern 386).
Is it not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; not. from here: Grk. enteuthen, adv., from here, out of here, away from here. out of: Grk. ek, prep. used to denote separation or derivation; from, out of, out from among. your: Grk. humeis. pleasures: pl. of Grk. hēdonē, pleasure in terms of what is pleasing to the senses. In Greek culture the term originally meant something pleasant to the taste, and then pleasant generally. In classical writers it means the pleasures of the senses. When regarded as a gift of nature, hēdonē was considered good. Later writers made a distinction between higher and lower hēdonē, between those of the mind and soul and those of the body. In the language of the Cynic-Stoic teachers it meant the pleasure of the senses, of sex, and then the unrestricted passions (DNTT 1:458-459).
In the LXX hēdonē renders Heb. ta'am, (good) taste in Num. 11:8, but then occurs in three other passages without Hebrew equivalent (Prov 17:1; Wisdom 7:2; 16:20). However, with 4th Maccabees (11 occurrences) and the Jewish philosopher Philo, hēdonē takes on the same negative meaning as in Cynic-Stoic writings, as the power in revolt against logos. For Philo hēdonē is a root of all evil impulses and can bring only trouble and pain. There are many parallels in Rabbinic writings. The feeling of pleasure so characteristic of the Greek concept is hardly mentioned, but there are repeated warnings against the "evil inclination" (yetser ha-ra), which makes a man reluctant to study the Torah (DNTT 1:459). The issue of "hedonism" is especially relevant to Jacob's audience since many Jews in the Diaspora were Hellenistic.
Hellenistic Jews spoke Greek in lieu of Hebrew, they took Greek names and in the Diaspora many Hellenistic synagogues conducted services in Greek. Hellenistic Jews had a tendency toward universalism and they tolerated religions around them. Many Hellenistic Jews adopted Greek customs, formed trade associations, passed decrees and prepared documents in Greek form, and gave titles and honors to women. Some tolerated mixed marriage, dropped circumcision, and even in some places adopted Greek cults (Tarn & Griffith 223-227). There was still a religious divide between Hellenistic Jews and Hebraic Jews as represented in the early dispute in the Jerusalem congregation over distribution of food to widows (Acts 6:1). In Greek culture the pursuit of the good life, pleasurable activities, especially athletic events, and personal financial success were top priority. Jews in the Diaspora were not immune to this corrosive influence.
warring: Grk. strateuō, pres. mid. part., may mean (1) to be on military duty, to serve as a soldier; or (2) engage in combat or wage war. The second meaning applies here in the sense of fomenting strife and argument. among: Grk. en, prep. your: Grk. humeis. members: pl. of Grk. melos, a member or limb of a physical bodily structure (e.g., Matt 5:29). The term is also used in a figurative sense of members of the Messianic congregation (cf. Rom 12:4-5; 1Cor 6:15; 12:12, 18-20, 25-26). Jacob may well mean members of the Body of Messiah, but since the letter is addressed to the twelve tribes in the Diaspora, he could also mean members of synagogues.
Many versions misinterpret Jacob's intention and offer a completely different sense in this last clause. Translations of "inside you" (CJB, ERV, NET, NIRV), "inside yourselves" (MSG), "within you" (EXB, GNB, HCSB, NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV, TLB), and "within your body parts" (DLNT, EHV, MW, TLV), make Jacob sound like he is psychoanalyzing individuals with personality disorders. Jacob is addressing group dynamics, not individual psyches. The translation of "in your members" (ASV, KJV, NASB, NKJV, OJB, RSV) is superior to the foregoing, but "among" makes the matter clear.
2 You covet and do not have: you murder, and are zealous, and not able to obtain: you fight and quarrel; you do not have, because you do not ask.
You covet: Grk. epithumeō, pres., 2p-pl., to have a strong desire for something, but here an inordinate desire, implying an intent to acquire, to covet. This is the same word used in the LXX to translate the Heb. verb chamad in the tenth commandment Exodus 20:17, "You shall not covet … anything that belongs to your neighbor." Chamad means to 'desire' or 'take pleasure in' and is used of normal desires, but often of an inordinate, ungoverned or selfish desire (BDB 326). Covetousness is not just wanting something that one doesn't have, but wanting something someone else has. This attitude is but a step away from attempting to gain what is desired by wrongful means as Jacob goes on to describe.
The translation of "lust" in some versions (ASV, NASB, KJV, NKJV) introduces a meaning not present in the verse. Most versions translate the verb with "desire" or "want," which don't convey the strength of the condemnation. In the context of the quarreling the covetousness is probably not directed at trying to take property from someone, but their submission. and: Grk. kai, conj. do not: Grk. ou, adv. have: Grk. echō, pres., 2p-pl., to have something under one's control, to possess. you murder: Grk. phoneuō, pres., 2p-pl., the unlawful taking of human life, prohibited by the sixth commandment in Exodus 20:13, although murder was known to be wrong long before Moses was born (Gen 4:11-12; 6:5-7; 9:3-6).
The translation of "kill" in many versions is misleading. Hebrew has two words for taking a human life: ratzach and harag and there is a clear distinction between these words. Ratzach means intentional murder or assassination (BDB 953), while harag encompasses accidental killing, manslaughter, killing in war and court-ordered execution (BDB 246). The sixth commandment specifically prohibits ratzach, not taking the life of another in defense of oneself or others. Greek also has separate words for murder (phoneuō) and kill (apokteinō, e.g., Matt 10:28) and it is phoneuō that is used in this verse in the Greek text. The reason Jacob uses the word for murder is that Yeshua equated inappropriately expressed anger toward a brother with murder (Matt 5:21-22).
and: Grk. kai. are zealous: Grk. zēloō, pres., 2p-pl., may mean (1) to have a passionate interest in something, eager to possess, to be zealous; or (2) to envy, be jealous. Most versions opt for the second meaning and assume Jacob is describing acts motivated by envy. Some versions translate the verb as "covet" (ASV, CSB, ESV, MW, NIV, NKJV, NRSV, RSV) which confuses this verb with the first verb in the verse. YLT has "zealous," which is the best translation in my view, because the verb indicates effort that is much too eager, perhaps obsessive, with thoughtless disregard for the other person. and: Grk. kai. not: Grk. ou. able: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid., 2p-pl., to be capable for doing or achieving. to obtain: Grk. epitugchanō, aor. inf., to have success in gaining something. The negative attitudes and actions don't bring the desired result.
you fight: Grk. machomai, pres. mid., 2p-pl., to fight, in the sense of engaging in quarreling or heated disputation. and quarrel: Grk. polemeō, pres., 2p-pl., to wage war, but here hyperbole for quarreling. you have: Grk. echō, pres. not: Grk. ou. because: Grk. dia, prep. used as a prefix to a statement, which may express (1) instrumentality; through, by means of; or (2) causality; on account of, because of. The second usage applies here. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. do not: Grk. ou. ask: Grk. aiteō, pres. mid. inf., to ask for something in expectation of a response, especially for oneself; also personal supplication (DNTT 2:856). The root idea is that something is urgently wanted or demanded as one's share.
The verb occurs 70 times in the Besekh is used many times in the Besekh for prayer (e.g., Matt 6:8; 21:22; John 15:7; Col 1:9; 1Jn 3:22). Thus some versions translate the verb as "ask God" (ERV, EXB, GNB, MSG, NCV, NIRV, NIV, NLT, TLB) or simply "pray" (CJB, CEV, GW, NOG), as if the deficiency is a failure to petition God. The word for God does not even occur in the verse. However, the verb occurs primarily in the ordinary sense of asking another person for something (e.g., Matt 5:42; 7:9; Luke 6:30; John 4:9; Acts 3:2). Jacob goes on to explain what he means by "you do not ask."
3 You ask, and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, that you may spend it in your pleasures.
You ask: Grk. aiteō, pres., 2p-pl. See the previous verse. and: Grk. kai, conj. do not: Grk. ou, adv. receive: Grk. lambanō, pres., 2p-pl., to transition something from one person to another. because: Grk. dioti, conj. that introduces the rationale or motive for the affirmation that precedes it; thus, can be understood as 'in view of the fact that,' 'because,' 'hence,' or it follows then.' you ask: Grk. aiteō, pres. mid., 2p-pl. wrongly: Grk. kakōs, adv., badly or ill as a physical symptom, but here as a moral judgment and means 'in a bad way' or 'wrongly.' So, in the previous verse when Jacob says that you "ask not" he does not mean "never asks," but "asks in the wrong way."
that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed, in order that, so that, that. you may spend: Grk. dapanaō, aor. subj., 2p-pl., to incur expense, to spend money, even to waste or squander. The verb is used here in a word play. in: Grk. en, prep. your: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. pleasures: pl. of Grk. hēdonē. See verse 1 above. Jacob maintains the general focus with second person plural verbs. The motive behind the asking is to satisfy self interest without regard to the interests of the other party.
4 Adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship of the world is hostility with God? Therefore, whoever, if he should have desired to be a friend of the world is appointed an enemy of God.
Adulteresses: pl. of Grk. moichalis, voc., the feminine form of morchos (adulterer). Adultery refers to sexual relations between a married woman and a man not her husband (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22-24; Prov 6:32; Jer 29:23; Hos 2:2; Rom 7:3). Like murder, adultery was an offense long before Moses (Gen 20:3; 26:10). Everyone knew the seriousness of adultery since the Torah prescribed death for the offenders (Lev 20:10) and any children born of an adulterous union were considered mamzer or illegitimate (cf. Deut 23:2; Isa 57:3). Adultery could also be spiritual. Even though the noun is feminine Jacob is not addressing only women. Rather the term alludes to Israel as the bride or wife of God in the Tanakh (Isa 54:1-8; 62:4f; Jer 31:31; Ezek 16:1ff; Hos 2:19).
God accused Israel, the "wife" of God (Ezek 16:32; 23:5; Hos 2:19-20), of adultery because of idolatry and going after the nations (Ps 73:27; Isa 54:5-6; Jer 3:1-10; Ezek 23:1-21; Hos 9:1). Some passages depict the Messiah as a bridegroom (Matt 9:15; 25:1; John 3:28-30) and Yeshua used the same term to describe his adversaries for seeking signs (Matt 12:39; 16:4). Peter also uses this term to describe false prophets and false teachers as having "eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls" (2Pet 2:14).
Many versions insert "You" unnecessarily in front of "adulteresses," even though there is no "you" in the Greek text. "Adulteresses" is shocking hyperbole and labels the sort of persons who engage in the behavior condemned in this chapter. Jacob's approach is like Solomon's repeated warnings in Proverbs about the adulteress who "forgets the covenant of her God" (Prov 2:17; 5:1-3; 6:24-26). Thus, Jacob points a finger at the way people outside the Body of Messiah relate to one another and warns his readers against ungodly associations and actions.
do you not: Grk. ou, adv. know: Grk. oida, perf., 2p-pl., to have information about, to know or to have discernment about, to perceive, to understand. In other words, "you should know." that: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, whether (1) defining a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introducing a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introducing a direct quotation and functioning as quotation marks; or (4) indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. The second usage applies here.
friendship: Grk. philia, affection or fondness of the kind one extends to a friend. The term appears only here in the Besekh and in a negative sense. of the world: Grk. kosmos has a variety of uses in the apostolic writings, including (1) the entire cosmic universe including the earth; (2) the planet upon which mankind lives; (3) the inhabitants of the earth; (4) the world and everything in it as that which opposes God and is ruined and depraved of character (BAG). The fourth meaning applies here. For Jacob's readers the "world" probably alludes to Hellenistic culture that many Jews in the Diaspora had embraced, committing the same error as the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel that led to their exile.
is: Grk. eimi, pres., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). hostility: Grk. echthra, alienation, hatred, hostility or enmity. with God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. In the LXX theos primarily renders the generic designations of God, El and Elohim (over 2500 times), but also YHVH (300 times) (DNTT 2:67-70). Given the plural nature of Elohim the full triunity of God must be represented in theos. The only God in existence is the God who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing (Gen 1:1) and who chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth for a covenantal relationship (Ex 19:5; Isa 44:6; 45:5-6; 46:9). In the Besekh theos is used overwhelmingly for the God of Israel. The God of Israel is the only God there is. Jews should know that the deities of pagan culture are the product of Satan-inspired imagination.
Therefore: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which is used here to indicate a conclusion connected with data immediately preceding, 'so, therefore, consequently, then. whoever: Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that. if: Grk. ean, that serves as a conditional particle and produces an aspect of tentativeness by introducing a possible circumstance that determines the realization of some other circumstance. If x happens, then y will follow. he should have desired: Grk. boulomai, aor. pass. subj., may mean (1) have in one's mind; wish, want, desire; or (2) reach a decision upon deliberation; intend, decide, plan, will. The first meaning applies here.
to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. The infinitive expresses purpose. a friend: Grk. philos, in close relationship with another, in contrast to a casual acquaintanceship, friend. of the world: Grk. kosmos. is: Grk. eimi, pres. appointed: Grk. kathizō, pres. pass., may mean (1) cause to sit down; appoint, install, seat or set; (2) take a seated position, sit down. The first meaning applies here. Most versions translate the verb as "makes himself," which ignores the idiom of being seated and changes the passive voice into a middle voice. Jacob is describing a result, not an action, how God considers someone who desires to be a friend of the world rather than a friend of God as Abraham (2:3). an enemy: Grk. echthros, one who is inimical, an enemy. HELPS says the term means someone openly hostile, animated by deep-seated hatred. of God: Jacob describes a natural consequence that must be avoided. As David said, the righteous man does not sit in the seat of the wicked (Ps 1:1).
Textual Note: The TR and M-Text insert "morchos kai" before moichalis at the beginning of the verse and thus "adulterers and adulteresses" is found in some versions (JUB, KJ21, KJV, LITV, NKJV, WEB, YLT). The words were inserted when copyists, understanding morchalis in its literal sense, were puzzled why only women were mentioned and therefore considered it right to add a reference to men as well. The shorter reading is strongly testified by both Alexandrian and Western witnesses, including Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, the Vulgate, Coptic and Syriac (Metzger 612). This mistake stems from failing to understand the biblical definition of adultery.
5 Or do you think that in vain the Scripture says "the spirit that He caused to dwell in us strongly desires with envy?"
Or: Grk. ē, conj. involving options and is used as (1) a marker of an alternative, "or;" or (2) a marker indicating comparison; than, rather than. The first meaning applies here. do you think: Grk. dokeō, pres., 2p-pl., to entertain an idea or form an opinion about something on the basis of what appears to support a specific conclusion, to think or to opine. that: Grk. hoti, conj. in vain: Grk. kenōs, adv., with nothing in mind. BAG has "in an empty manner, idly, in vain, to no purpose." the Scripture: Grk. graphē, writing, and in the Jewish context meaning the sacred Hebrew Bible (24 books) referred to as the Tanakh, corresponding to the Protestant Old Testament (39 books) and its translation into Greek, the Septuagint. The term "Scripture," which occurs over 50 times in the Besekh, summarizes the body of literature containing God's inspired, infallible, inerrant words penned by over 25 writers, from Moses to Malachi. The Tanakh was the only Bible Yeshua and the apostles knew, and they regarded the Tanakh as divinely inspired and authoritative for daily living.
says: Grk. legō, pres., to make a statement or utterance, whether mentally, orally or in writing, often used to introduce quoted material. The focus of the verb may be declarative, interrogative or imperative; answer, ask, declare, enjoin, order, say, speak, tell, told, refer to, talk about. In the LXX legō renders Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, shew, command or think. No passage in the Tanakh contains the exact words that follow and Bible scholars have offered various suggestions. BAG suggests that the verse may be textually damaged (865), but this hardly seems likely, since BAG also defines legō as occurring in an Hebraistic sense of "maintain, declare, proclaim as teaching" (471). In other words, Jacob is not intending a direct quotation, but a summary statement of a biblical principle.
the spirit: Grk. ho pneuma (for Heb. ruach), wind, breath or spirit as the animating force for bodily movement. The word pneuma with the definite article often designates the Holy Spirit, and so some versions capitalize the noun as "the Spirit" (HCSB, HNV, MW, NASB, NCV, OJB). However, ho pneuma is also used to refer to the human spirit (Matt 27:50; Luke 1:47; 8:55; 23:46; John 19:30; Acts 7:59; 1Cor 5:5; 14:14; 2Cor 7:13). Most versions accept the noun as referring to the human spirit, as indicated by the lower case "spirit" (ASV, BBE, CJB, DLNT, ESV, GNB, JUB, KJV, LEB, NEB, NET, NIRV, NIV, NJB, NLT, NRSV, RSV, TLV). The spirit of man is that which man has in common with God who is Spirit (Gen 1:2; John 4:24).
that: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. He caused to dwell: Grk. katoikizō (from katoikia, "place of habitation"), aor., 3p-sing., cause to dwell. The subject of the verb is God. in: Grk. en, prep. us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person, which refers to the Body of Messiah or its members. Jacob refers to the act of God in the beginning to animate the body of the Adam with a soul and spirit (Gen 2:7; 6:17). strongly desires: Grk. epipotheō, pres., 3p-sing., to have a strong desire for, long for, strongly desire. In this question Jacob uses the verb in a negative sense and some versions convey the idea with "lusts" (AMP, BRG, JUB, KJV). with: Grk. pros, prep., with the root meaning of "near" or "facing," (DM 110), may denote spatial proximity, movement toward a goal or presence with; to, toward, with.
envy: Grk. phthonos can mean to bear ill-will of a general kind, but more often to express the envy which makes one man grudge another something which he himself desires, but does not possess (DNTT 1:557). BAG translates pros phthonos adverbially as "jealously" (718). The word does not occur in the canonical Scripture of the LXX, although the idea is apparent in such proverbs as "a tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot" (Prov 14:30). Phthonos is found in the apocryphal wirings of 1 Maccabees 8:16 and Wisdom of Solomon 2:24 (where the coming of death into the world is attributed to the devil's phthonos).
Phthonos occurs 9 times in the Besekh and in all the other verses phthonos is a sinful character trait (Matt 27:18; Mark 15:10; Rom 1:29; Gal 5:21; Php 1:15; 1Tim 6:4; Titus 3:3; 1Pet 2:1). Yet, in this one occurrence, some versions render phthonos in a good sense with God or the Holy Spirit as the subject of the action, based on finding support in Zechariah 1:14, "I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and Zion" (DNTT 1:558). The only problem is that "jealous" (Heb. qinah) is rendered in the LXX text with Grk. zēlos, not phthonos. There is no reason to believe that Jacob decided to engage in dictionary revisionism. The Mace New Testament (1729) offers an appropriate interpretation: "does the spirit that dwells in you, incite you to vice?"
Jacob's observation probably is intended to reflect the Jewish view of personality. Jewish Sages proposed that Man's spirit was created with two impulses or inclinations, a deduction drawn from Genesis 2:7, which states that God formed (vayyitzer) man as a "living soul." The spelling of this Hebrew verb is unusual: it uses two consecutive Yods instead of the one that would be expected. The rabbis inferred that these Yods stand for the word "yetzer," which means impulse, and the existence of two Yods here indicates that humanity was formed with two impulses: a good impulse (the yetzer tov) and an evil impulse (the yetzer ra) (Berachot 61a).
The yetzer tov is the moral conscience, the inner voice that reminds you of God's law when you consider doing something that is forbidden. The yetzer tov is also what motivates interest in the good of others. The yetzer ra is more difficult to define, because there are many different ideas about it. To the Jewish mind the yetzer ra is not a desire to do evil, such as a desire to cause senseless harm. Rather, it is usually conceived as the self-interest, the desire to satisfy personal needs (food, shelter, sex, etc.), which can result in disregard for the moral consequences of fulfilling those desires.
The yetzer ra is not viewed as a bad thing. It was created by God, and all things created by God are good. The Talmud notes that without the yetzer ra (the desire to satisfy personal needs), man would not build a house, marry a wife, beget children or conduct business affairs. But the yetzer ra can lead to wrongdoing when it is not controlled by the yetzer tov. Genesis 6:5 specifically refers to the yetzer ra as an inclination to wickedness. There is nothing inherently wrong with hunger, but it can lead you to steal food. There is nothing inherently wrong with sexual desire, but it can lead you to commit rape, adultery, incest or other sexual perversion.
The yetzer ra is generally seen as something internal to a person, not as an external force acting on a person. The idea that "the devil made me do it" (cf. Gen 3:13) is not in line with the majority of thought in Judaism. People have the ability to choose which impulse to follow: the yetzer tov or the yetzer ra. That is the heart of the Jewish understanding of free will. The Talmud notes that all people are descended from Adam, so no one can blame his own wickedness on his ancestry. On the contrary, we all have the ability to make our own choices, and we will all be held responsible for the choices we make. (See the article Human Nature at the Judaism 101 website.)
So, it is the yetzer ra that "strongly desires with envy." Jacob is picturing the "adulteress" as envying what the world has and is willing to resort to their tactics to get it. David Stern, citing Yechiel Lichtenstein (1827-1912), a Messianic Jewish commentator, suggests a connection with Genesis 4:7 in which God says to Cain, "Sin is crouching at the door, and its desire is for you, but you must master it" (738). Cain was jealous of his brother and the spirit in him acted out that jealousy by killing his brother.
6 But He gives abundant grace. Wherefore Scripture says, "God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble."
But: Grk. de, conj., used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also" (BAG). The first meaning applies here. He gives: Grk. didōmi, pres., generally to give something to someone, often with the focus on generosity, but may be used to mean bestow, hand over, impart, or entrust (BAG). In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan (SH-5414, first in Gen 1:29), to give, put or set, with the same range of meaning (DNTT 2:41). Based on the rest of the verse, the subject of the verb is God. abundant: Grk. megas, adj., exceeding a standard and therefore impressive; great, large. The adjective may denote (1) spatial size; (2) volume measurement; (3) degree or intensity; (4) volume in decibels; (5) rank, status or importance; (6) comparison; or (6) a superlative.
Most Bible versions are divided between translating megas as a comparative, "greater" and "more." "Greater" or "more" than who or what? LSG notes that megas is used in Greek literature in an adverbial sense, greatly, exceedingly, mightily. NLT opts for the adverbial sense with "generously." More likely is that Jacob intends megas as a superlative, abundant, exceptional, excellent or outstanding. God's generosity exceeds expectations.
grace: Grk. charis, disposition marked by inclination to generosity, frequently unmotivated by the worth of the recipient; thus, grace, gracefulness, graciousness, favor, thanks or gratitude. In the LXX charis occurs about 190 times in the derivative form of charin of which only about 75 have a Hebrew equivalent, of which 61 are for Heb. hēn (SH-2580), favor, first in Genesis 6:8 in regards to Noah receiving the favor of God, and the others for Heb. racham (SH-7356), compassion, mercy, first in Genesis 43:14 (DNTT 2:116). The use of hēn in biblical history depicts the stronger coming to the help of the weaker who stands in need of help by reason of his circumstances or natural weakness. Jacob affirms that God's favor and generosity is intended for certain beneficiaries.
Wherefore: Grk. dio (from dia, "through," and hos, "which"), inferential conj., therefore, for this reason, on account of which, wherefore. Scripture says: Grk. legō, pres., lit. "it says." See the previous verse. Jacob then quotes from Proverbs 3:34. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 4 above. resists: Grk. antitassō, pres. mid., a military word that means to set opposite to, range in battle against, to line up against and thus, 'oppose, resist.' the proud: Grk. huperēphanos, adj., showing oneself above others, haughty or arrogant. HELPS says the adjective properly means, "over-shine, trying to be more than what God directs." Jacob's observation may be comparable to the saying of John, "The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil" (1Jn 3:8). but: Grk. de, conj. He gives: Grk. didōmi, pres. grace: Grk. charis.
to the humble: Grk. tapeinos, adj., may mean (1) modest in one's manner or expression, lowly in spirit; or (2) at a relatively low level in circumstance or status, lowly or humble. The first meaning fits best here. HELPS says the word means being God-reliant rather than self-reliant, which contrasts with the envious yetzer ra. There are various Hebrew words that mean "humble" and the proverb Jacob quotes has Heb. ani (SH-6041), afflicted, humble, needy, poor or weak. Solomon offers a contrast between the afflicted to those who mock faithfulness to God. The humble recognize their utter dependency on God and do not abandon God in difficult times. Out of His love for the world (John 3:16), God sends the sunshine and the rain on the evil and the good (Matt 5:45; Acts 14:17). Yet, His generous favor is for those who continue to trust Him in spite of circumstances.
7 Therefore, be subject to God; but resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Therefore: Grk. oun, inferential conj. See verse 4 above. be subject: Grk. hupotassō, aor. pass. imp., 2p-pl., to be in compliance with requirements for order; to subject, so subordinate, to bring into compliance, to submit. Hupotassō, from tassō, originated as a military term where a rank structure is clearly defined (DNTT 1:476). God is the disciple's supreme commander. to God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 4 above. Because God gives abundant favor He deserves submission and loyalty from His covenant people. but: Grk. de, conj. resist: Grk. anthistēmi, aor. imp., take a position in opposition to, resist, hold one's own, take a stand against, oppose, withstand.
the devil: Grk. diabolos, adj., slanderer, false accuser. Diabolos occurs 21 times in the LXX to translate the Heb. word satan, "adversary," mostly of the angelic adversary (13 times in Job alone), but also a wicked human opponent (e.g. 1Kgs 11:14, 23, 25). Diabolos occurs 38 times in the Besekh, primarily in reference to Satan (DNTT 3:468f). Scripture presents this super-human person as real, and not a literary fiction. The term is also used of human adversaries, such as Judas (John 6:70), Elymas the magician (Acts 13:10) and slanderers (1Tim 3:11; 2Tim 3:3; Titus 2:3).
The devil (aka "Satan") was created by God in the beginning with all the other angels. Scripture gives no information about the creation of angels, although they must have been created very early in the creation week. Precisely when and how Satan became evil remains a mystery. Hints as to his origin are found in two passages directed initially to the kings of Tyre (Ezek 28:11-17) and Babylon (Isa 14:12-15). These passages indicate that Satan was not created to be an adversary or a deceiver. His sin was pride and in his arrogance he believed he could overthrow God and reign over creation.
In the Tanakh Satan appears most frequently in the book of Job. God's repeated emphasis in Job on His creation of the space-time-matter universe hints that Satan may have come to consciousness in the waters that were formed on the second day. The creation scientist Dr. Henry Morris suggests that "Even though they [the angels] had later observed God create the earth, stars, and living beings [Job 38:4-7], they had not seen him create the universe itself. Thus, Satan may have persuaded himself that God, like the angels, must have simply 'evolved' somehow, out of the eternal primordial chaos" (The Remarkable Record of Job, Baker Book House, 1988; p. 52). Thus, Satan inspired the original evolutionary mythology and its modern "scientific" incarnation that pervades human institutions.
In the Besekh we learn that from the beginning the devil was a liar (in relation to Chavvah, Eve) and a murderer (in relation to Abel) (John 8:44). Satan is the chief opponent of Yeshua and the good news (Mark 4:15), a tempter (Mark 1:13), the ruler of this world (John 12:31; 1Jn 5:19), and the head of a demonic empire (Mark 3:23-26). Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10), going about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1Pet 5:8). The devil is wholly committed to the destruction of all that is good and holy.
and: Grk. kai, conj. he will flee: Grk. pheugō, fut. mid., to make a decisive movement away to avoid a hazard, to flee or to escape. from: Grk. apo, prep. used generally as a marker of separation, whether from a place or person; from. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. The phrase "from you" probably denotes "from your congregation." Although the devil is the god of this world (2Cor 4:4; 1Jn 5:19), Yeshua has overcome our enemy (John 16:33; Col 1:13; 2:15; Heb. 2:14; 1Jn 3:8 Rev 5:5) and we can also overcome the devil (cf. 1Jn 2:13-14; 5:4-5).
8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Draw near: Grk. engizō, aor. imp., 2p-pl., to come or draw near, approach, here in a spiritual sense. to God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 4 above. The verbal entreaty can be applied individually as well as by the whole congregation. Jacob will proceed to explain how "drawing near" is accomplished. and: Grk. kai, conj. He will draw near: Grk. engizō, fut. to you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. God's drawing near is conditioned on our drawing near to Him. Jacob's command is no doubt based on the appeal in Zechariah 1:3, "Return to me," says ADONAI-Tzva'ot, "and I will return to you" (CJB).
Cleanse: Grk. katharizō, aor. imp., 2p-pl.,to clean or cleanse, and is used of (1) physical washing for removal of stains or dirt (Matt 23:25); (2) physical healing of skin disease that enabled communal restoration (Matt 8:2-3); and (3) removal of the guilt or defilement of sin (2Cor 7:1; Heb 9:22; 1Jn 1:7). The third usage is in view here. In the LXX katharizō has wide application and is normally associated with removal of uncleanness that will enable a person to have contact with God and/or other people. The verb renders Heb. taher (SH-2891), to cleanse or purify, which may depict either process or result, as well as Heb. kaphar (SH-2722), make atonement (DNTT 3:104). Jacob appeals for a moral revival.
your hands: pl. of Grk. cheir, the body part with fingers. The Hebrew Scriptures often provide exhortations related to body parts, such as eyes, ears, hands, feet, etc. The plural noun emphasizes both hands, which together is figurative of behavior. you sinners: pl. of Grk. hamartōlos, voc., one who fails to meet religious or legal standards, i.e., an outsider relative to the "in-group." In the LXX hamartōlos renders primarily Heb. chatta, sinful, sinners (BDB 308; Ex 16:38; Num 32:14; 1Kgs 1:21; Ps 1:1), but also ra', which has a range of meaning from disagreeable to ethically or morally wicked (BDB 948; Gen 13:13; 28:8), and rasha, wicked, criminal (BDB 957; 2Chr 19:2; Ps 7:9). Generally in the Tanakh a "sinner" was someone who willfully violated Torah commandments, and which tended toward habitual practice.
Among first century Jews the term took on a broader meaning. Among the Pharisees, the ultimate "in-group," the category of "sinner" included prostitutes and thieves, persons of low reputation, Sabbath violators, and tax collectors because they worked for the Roman government. Indeed, habitual violation of traditions they considered important was enough to label a person as a "sinner." Some Pharisees were outraged because Yeshua associated with "sinners" and even allowed one to touch him (Matt 9:11; Luke 7:39). Eventually they labeled Yeshua a sinner because he healed on the Sabbath (John 9:16). Modern Christians commit the same error by including mistakes or falling short of God's perfection as sin and therefore believers are never allowed to escape the label of "sinner." When one begins to call light dark, then the meaning of "sinner" loses its force.
and purify: Grk. hagnizō, aor. imp., 2p-pl., to cleanse in such a way that one is purified. The verb is used of both ceremonial washing for entry into the temple (John 11:55; Acts 21:24, 26; 24:18), and inward purification of the soul (1Pet 1:22; 1Jn 3:3). The difference between "cleanse" and "purify" is likely the difference between changing behavior and changing attitudes. your hearts: pl. of Grk. kardia, the pumplike organ of blood circulation, here used metaphorically as the center for personhood, character, cognition, emotion and volition. you double-minded: Grk. dipsuchos, adj., voc., lit. "two-souled," indecisive, wavering. Jacob used this term in the first chapter to describe someone "unstable in his ways." He enjoins his readers to make up their minds to follow God's commands for relationships. Jacob may echo David, "Who may go up to the mountain of ADONAI? Who can stand in his holy place? Those with clean hands and pure hearts" (Ps 24:3-4 CJB).
9 Be miserable, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into gloom.
Be miserable: Grk. talaipōreō, aor. imp., 2p-pl., be miserable or distressed. BAG adds to be wretched and, in giving expression to this feeling, lament or complain. and: Grk. kai, conj. mourn: Grk. pentheō, aor. imp., 2p-pl., engage in grieving; grieve, mourn, lament. and: Grk. kai. weep: Grk. klaiō, aor. imp., 2p-pl., express grief or sorrow aloud, to cry, sob or weep. This verb does not express a silent dropping of tears, but a vocal cry. In the LXX klaiō is used mostly to translate Heb. bakah, weep, cry aloud (DNTT, II, 416). Bakah expresses profound grief (1Sam 1:7; Lam 1:16), and also deep sorrow in mourning for the dead (Gen 50:1). The Hebraic usage expresses dependence on God, by addressing one's cries or complaints to him in prayer (e.g., Judg 15:18; 16:28). A further feature in the Tanakh is a corporate lamentation accompanied by a general fast (Jdg 20:23, 26; Ps 74; 79; 80).
This is the verb that expresses the verbalization of grief by the mothers of Bethlehem who lost their sons to Herod's malice (Matt 2:18), the grief of the widow of Nain whose son had died (Luke 7:13), and the mourning of the disciples over the crucifixion of Yeshua (Mark 16:10). However, Jacob's command to weep refers to sincere sorrow over having sinned, as the woman who wet Yeshua's feet with her tears, both in sincere repentance and realization of God's forgiveness (Luke 7:37-48), and Peter weeping over his betrayal (Matt 26:75).
let your: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. laughter: Grk. gelōs, laughter, and by implication mirth, joy or rejoicing (Mounce). This term may allude to the hedonism mentioned in verse 1 above. be turned: Grk. metatrepō, aor. pass. imp., to turn, in the sense of undergoing an alternate or contrary condition. into: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit; in, into, to, toward. mourning: Grk. penthos, mourning, sorrow, sadness, grief. and: Grk. kai. your: Grk. humeis. joy: Grk. chara, joy, as an emotional response experienced in a variety of circumstances, including sharing in a celebration. into: Grk. eis. gloom: Grk. katēpheia, downcast appearance, of lowness in spirits, dejection, gloom. Mounce adds 'sorrow.' Jacob commands those guilty of bitter jealousy and selfish ambition (3:14) to stop and take stock of themselves.
10 Be humbled before the Lord, and He will exalt you.
Be humbled: Grk. tapeinoō, aor. pass. imp., 2p.-pl., may mean (1: cause to be low spatially, make low, level; (2) make or consider unimportant in a good sense, humble; (3) cause to be or appear low in status in a disparaging sense; or (4) cause to experience loss. The second meaning applies here. Many versions have "humble yourselves," even though the reciprocal pronoun "yourselves" in not in the Greek text. Since the verb is in the passive voice it could mean to accept the humbling caused by God. before: Grk. enōpion, prep., from a word meaning "facing" with the basic idea of being 'in sight of' or 'in the presence of.' Here the preposition has the connotation of being under the scrutiny.
the Lord: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) 'one in control through possession,' and therefore owner or master; or (2) 'one esteemed for authority or high status,' thus lord or master. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, first translating the divine title Adonai (SH-136, Lord; Gen 15:2), and Heb. words used of men to denote higher rank or authority, primarily adôn (SH-113, master, lord; Gen 18:12). Over 6,000 times kurios replaces YHVH ("LORD" in Christian versions). Kurios does not translate YHVH, but serves as an interpretive circumlocution for all that is implied by use of the divine name (DNTT 2:511f).
Kurios is the principal title by which disciples and members of the public addressed Yeshua during his earthly ministry, over twice as many times as any other title (e.g., Rabbi, Teacher, Master). With the absence of a definite article Jacob may have intended "Lord" as equivalent to YHVH. and: Grk. kai, conj. he will exalt you: Grk. hupsoō, fut., cause to be higher in status, elevate, exalt. Jacob returns to the theme of Zechariah 1:3, mentioned in verse 8 above. He is not speaking in an eschatological sense, but the temporal sense of enjoying the presence of the Lord here and now.
11 Do not speak against one another, brothers. The one speaking against a brother, or judging his brother, speaks against Torah, and judges Torah: and if you judge Torah, you are not a doer of Torah, but a judge.
Do not: Grk. mē, adv., a particle of qualified negation, not. Mē differs from the other standard negative particle, oú, in that oú is objective, dealing only with facts and makes a strong negation or prohibition, while mē is subjective, involving will and thought (DM 265f). speak against: Grk. katalaleō, pres. imp., 2p-pl., attack verbally, disparage, defame or slander. one another: Grk. allēlōn, pl. reciprocal pronoun, each other or one another. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, voc., lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant "brother." In the LXX adelphos renders Heb. ach (SH-251), a male sibling (Gen 4:2; 20:5), a male relative of the same tribe (Gen 13:8; Num 16:10) or the people of Israel (Ex 2:11; 4:18).
In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites (Matt 4:18; 5:22-24; Mark 3:22; Acts 1:14; 3:22; 7:13). The plural noun is often used in the apostolic letters to address members of the congregation, which can be taken literally as references to the Jewish constituency of the congregation, and in the Diaspora fig. of God-fearing Gentiles who had become disciples. The plural "brothers" probably refers to the leaders of congregations and heads of households. The fact that Jacob addresses "brothers" does not exclude women from the application of his exhortations.
The one speaking against: Grk. ho katalaleō, pres. part. The participle emphasizes not only the action, but the character of the person engaging in verbal attacks. The participle is masculine so the guilty party is probably male. a brother: Grk. adelphos. The singular noun might allude to someone in congregational leadership or another member of the congregation. or: Grk. ē, conj. judging: Grk. krinō, pres. part., may mean (1) distinguish in making a selection, prefer; (2) subject to scrutiny and evaluation of behavior, judge, often in legal contexts, or (3) draw a conclusion. In the LXX krinō is used mainly to translate three Hebrew verbs (DNTT 2:363): (1) dîn (SH-1777), means to judge, usually in a legal sense, but also to punish or obtain justice for someone; (2) rîb (SH-7378) means to quarrel, to litigate, to carry on a lawsuit; and shaphat (SH-8199) means to judge in a legal sense or to govern.
his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun used to distinguish a person or thing from or contrast it with another, or to give him (it) emphatic prominence. The pronoun may mean (1) self, (2) he, she, it, or (3) the same. The second meaning applies here. brother: Grk. adelphos. Jacob is not saying that disciples must never observe and assess behavior. Disciples must be able to recognize a false prophet (Matt 7:16). Individuals are expected to confront an offender (Lev 19:17-18; Matt 18:15). Believers have the duty to determine whether a matter or prophetic message conforms to wisdom and/or Scripture (Luke 7:43; 12:57; John 7:24; Acts 13:46; 15:19; 1Cor 14:29). The concern of Jacob is the negative expression of opinion about others, finding fault and criticizing. So he warns against spreading uncorroborated rumors and accusations without evidence.
speaks against: Grk. katalaleō, pres. Torah: Grk. nomos may mean either (1) a principle or standard relating to behavior or (2) codified legislation, i.e. law. In the LXX nomos translates primarily torah (SH-8451), direction, instruction or law, first in Exodus 12:49. In the Tanakh the noun especially refers to commandments, statutes and ordinances decreed by God and given to Israel through Moses. In the Besekh nomos can refer to (1) specific commandments given to Israel (Matt 12:5; Luke 2:22), (2) that plus the entire Pentateuch (John 1:45), (3) that plus the Prophets (Matt 5:17; John 1:45), (4) that plus the Writings (Luke 24:44; John 10:34), (5) as a synonym for Scripture (Matt 5:18; Luke 16:17), and (6) universal principles derived from Scripture (Matt 22:36-40; 23:23). Jacob's use of nomos here, as in 1:25 and 2:8, refers to the written commandments of God as a body of divine instruction and authority for life.
and: Grk. kai, conj. judges: Grk. krinō, pres. Torah: The instruction of the God of Israel sets forth the way a person is meant to live in an ethical and moral way in order to enjoy life to the full and to please God. So to unethically judge a brother is tantamount to speaking against and judging Torah. Gossip and slander are equivalent to rejecting the standards of due process required in the Torah and fails to do justice (Mic 6:8). Rejection of Torah instruction exposes oneself to the judgment of God. and: Grk. kai. if: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker used to introduce a circumstance or assumption considered factual or valid for the sake of argument. you judge: Grk. krinō, pres., 2p-sing. you are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 4 above. not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 1 above.
a doer: Grk. poiētēs, one who performs according to directives, in this case the directives of God, the Torah. of Torah: Grk. nomos. but: Grk. alla, conj., adversative particle used adverbially to convey a different viewpoint for consideration; but, on the other hand. a judge: Grk. kritēs, judge, generally in reference to an official office of one presiding over a court. Jacob essentially accuses the offenders of practicing law without a license and assuming an office for which they have not been appointed (cf. Luke 12:14). In a sense those who say the Torah has been canceled and has no authority over the disciple of Yeshua has in effect judged the Torah. Yeshua warned in the Sermon on the Mount, "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 5:19).
12 The One is lawgiver and judge, the one able to save and to destroy: but who are you, the one judging your neighbor?
Jacob then quotes from Isaiah 33:22, "For ADONAI is our judge; ADONAI is our lawgiver; ADONAI is our king; He will save us."
The One: Grk. heis, the cardinal number one, an allusion to the Shema, "ADONAI is one" (Deut 6:4). Among Jews "The One" was a circumlocution for ADONAI (cf. Ps 3:3; 37:24; Isa 40:26; 45:7; 49:7; Amos 9:5-6; Zech 14:9; John 1:33; 6:46; 7:18; 11:27; 12:45; 15:21; Acts 10:42; Rom 5:17; 2Cor 4:6; Jas 5:20). is lawgiver: Grk. nomothetēs, one who enacts legislation, lawgiver. The term occurs in the LXX only in Psalm 9:20 where it renders "fear." The MT has "put them in fear, O God," but the LXX has "place, O LORD, a lawgiver over them" (ABP). and: Grk. kai, conj. judge: Grk. kritēs. See the previous verse. the One able: Grk. ho dunamai, pres. mid. part., to be capable for doing or achieving, here reflecting divine power.
to save: Grk. sōzō (from saos, 'free from harm'), aor. inf., to deliver, or rescue from a hazardous condition, often in the sense of bodily harm (Matt 14:30), as well from spiritual peril (Matt 24:13). In the LXX sōzō translates no less than 15 different Hebrew verbs, but primarily yasha (SH-3467), to deliver or save (e.g., 1Sam 23:5). The verbs are used in relation to various external threats and bodily peril, especially enemies (DNTT 3:206). Two important principles may be noted in the Tanakh. First, deliverance may involve human agency (e.g., Gideon, Jdg 7:2). Second, regardless of human agency deliverance comes ultimately from God Himself (Ps 18:2; 44:3). By God's power and name foes are vanquished and evil is defeated. In the Besekh sōzō frequently refers to rescue from spiritual peril, including deliverance from God's wrath on the Day of the Lord.
and: Grk. kai. to destroy: Grk. apollumi, aor. inf., may mean (1) cause severe damage; destroy, kill; or (2) experience disconnection or separation; lose, perish. The first meaning applies here. Destruction of God's enemies often occurs as part of bringing deliverance to God's people. but: Grk. de, conj. who: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why.. are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 4 above. you: Grk. su, personal pronoun, singular. Jacob addresses the hypothetical judging person. the one judging: Grk. ho krinō, pres. part. See the previous verse. your neighbor: Grk. plēsion, adv., indicating nearness whether in proximity or circumstance, generally rendered as "neighbor." Plēsion is used in the LXX to render Heb. reya (SH-7453), friend, companion, or fellow, including a fellow citizen (BDB 945f). The royal command to love one's neighbor (Lev 19:18) precludes, by definition, judging (in a pejorative sense) that same neighbor.
ADDITIONAL NOTE: Considering which Hebrew word Jacob used in verses 11 and 12 of the original letter for "judge" would yield different interpretations.
1. Din. Jacob is not condemning din, because rabbis had the authority to conduct Beit Din (house of judgment) proceedings. (See my web article Jewish Jurisprudence.) Yeshua instructed his disciples to follow a system to judge errant members and impose discipline (Matt 18:15-18). Even though normally a Beit Din required a minimum of three Jews knowledgeable and observant of Jewish Law (halakhah, cf. Matt 18:19-20), in exigencies halakhah permitted one Jew to conduct a Beit Din (cf. Luke 12:14; 1Cor 6:5). Congregational leaders have the right to judge and confront sinning members (1Cor 5:1-3; Titus 3:10-11). Also, Yeshua promised that the apostles will judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt 19:28; cf. Rev 20:4).
2. Rib. It is possible that Jacob was condemning litigation. Do not go to law against your brother. The apostle Paul asserts that it is better to be defrauded than sue a brother (1 Cor 6:1-8).
3. Shaphat. This is the most likely word for Jacob to use in the context. "Do not presume you have the right to criticize or find fault and deny your neighbor due process as if you were a law court judge." [Due process includes the principles of impartiality, orderly discovery, presentation of evidence and the right of self-defense.] Wrongful shaphat might take a variety of forms.
a. Assuming you have the right to judge (Luke 12:14).
b. Judging by appearance (John 7:24).
c. Defamation, whether by slander (written) or libel (written) (Lev 18:15-16).
d. Judging hypocritically (Rom 2:1-2).
e. Making mountains out of molehills (Rom 14:3-4).
f. Condemning unbelievers (1Cor 5:12).
g. Imposing personal standards on others (Col 2:16).
h. Discriminating on the basis of economic or social status (Jas 2:2-4).
i. Making fallacious statements (Col 3:8; 4:6): such as (1) an Ad Hominem attack, which judges a person’s position because of an irrelevant fact about the person; (2) Hasty Generalization, which means leaping to a conclusion on insufficient sample; (3) Straw Man, which simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position; (4) Personal Attack substitutes abusive talk for evidence.
j. Litigation. It’s only logical that if you refrain from shaphat, you’ll refrain from rib.
The rabbinic sages agreed with Jacob.
"Judge every one by his good qualities (i.e., from his favorable side) … "Judge everyone from his favorable side." It happened that a girl was led in captivity, and two pious men went to redeem her. One of them entered into a house of harlots. When he came out again, he said to his companion: "What were thy suspicions of me (when you saw me enter this house)?" He said: "I thought you went to investigate what sum her ransom would be." He answered: "I assure you that so it was. As thou hast judged me from my favorable side, so may the Lord judge thee in the same manner." Avot 1:6
“R. Ishmael said: "He that refrains himself from judgment, frees himself from enmity, and rapine, and false swearing; and he that is arrogant in decision is foolish, wicked, and puffed up in spirit. Judge not alone, for none may judge alone save One; and say not, 'Accept ye my opinion,' for they are free to choose, and not thou." Avot 4:7-8
Not only do we have to be careful about our own judgments, but accepting the criticisms and hurtful gossip of others without proper analysis.
"Do not associate with a gossip." (Prov 20:19)
"Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses." (1Tim 5:19)
The Talmud has a pithy way of describing how we should handle the critical judgments of others.
"R. Eleazar said: Why do the fingers of man resemble pegs? … The reason is that if a man hears an unworthy thing he shall plug his fingers into his ears." Ketubot 5b
13 Come now, those saying, today or tomorrow we will go into this city, and work a year there, and trade, and make a profit:
Jacob now switches his attention to a different group of people. Come: Grk. agō, pres. imp., may mean (1) to cause movement by taking the lead, lead, bring, carry or take; (2) to cause a specific time for something, spend or (3) to go. Mounce points out that when agō is used in the imperative mood, as here, the verb means to "look, pay attention, listen." Jacob is using the verb in the sense of a person not being close enough in a spatial sense to hear properly and Jacob beckons the person closer. "Come over here and listen to what I'm saying." Some versions convey this sense with: "Listen" (CJB, GNB, NIRV, NIV, NLV), "Look" (NLT) and "Pay attention" (CEB, GW, NOG). now: Grk. nun, adv., a term of time in the present, now, sometimes emphatically meaning "just now."
those: pl. of Grk. ho, voc, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun, "the ones." saying: Grk. legō, pres. part., voc. pl. See verse 5 above. today: Grk. sēmeron, today, as within the daylight hours of this very day, or perhaps in a more collective sense expressing a very short time. or: Grk. ē, conj. indicating an alternative. tomorrow: Grk. aurion generally means the next day, tomorrow, but also may lack a nocturnal interval and mean soon, in a short time (cf. 1Cor 15:32). Jacob is likely using the two time references in a literal sense. we will go: Grk. poreuomai, pres. mid., 1p-pl., to move from one part of an area to another; depart, go, journey, make one's way, transport, travel. In the LXX poreuomai renders mainly Heb. halak (SH-1980), to go, come, walk, first occurring in Genesis 3:14 (DNTT 3:946). The verb often has the literal sense of going, journeying or traveling (e.g., Gen 12:4), but narrative in the Besekh seldom mentions the physical act of walking.
into: Grk. eis, prep. this: Grk. hode, demonstrative pronoun referring to what is present; this one here. The pronoun refers to a specific place the travelers have in mind. city: Grk. polis, a population center whose size or number of inhabitants could range broadly, a city or town. and: Grk. kai, conj. work: Grk. poieō, fut., 1p-pl., may mean (1) produce something material, make create, construct; or (2) be active in bringing about a state or condition, do, perform, make. With the following designation of time the verb has the meaning of to pass or to stay (Thayer). In the LXX poieō over 3200 times renders two Hebrew words (DNTT 3:1153): (1) bara (SH-1254), to shape or create, used generally of God's creative activity (e.g., Gen 1:1), and (2) asah (SH-6213), do, make, or accomplish, first used of fruit-bearing (Gen 1:11) and then of all kinds of divine (Gen 1:26) and human endeavor (Gen 3:7).
Most versions translate the verb as "spend" or "stay," and a few versions have "continue" (BRG, JUB, KJV, NMB, WBT). The verb poieō is used of spending time in a place in other Besekh passages (Acts 15:33; 18:23; 20:3; 2Cor 11:25). Only once does the LXX use poieō to indicate spending or passing time (Eccl 6:12, Heb. asah), but there the subject is the futility of a lifetime of labor. Considering the following verses Jacob might be applying the reality check of Solomon's observation. In any event, the purpose of the trip Jacob describes is concrete and tangible, not to just pass time. Thayer notes that the verb can mean to labor or do work, as in Ruth 2:12 (Heb. asah; LXX poieō), and Matthew 20:12. Two translations of the Syriac New Testament, Etheridge and Lamsa, have "work."
a year: Grk. eniautos, a year, which by Jewish reckoning would be determined by the lunar calendar. The plan for investing a year in the city is wise, because of the inherent challenges of starting a new commercial venture in a new place. Working for a year in a certain area does not imply a lack of compliance with the Torah's requirements to come to the annual pilgrim festivals in Jerusalem. there: Grk. ekei, adv., in that place, as opposed to here or another place, 'there.' and: Grk. kai. trade: Grk. emporeuomai, fut. mid., engage in business or trade, doing business by trading; to make a gain by exchanging, e.g., bartering or investing (HELPS). In the LXX emporeuomai is used for trade in the commercial sense and renders four different Hebrew verbs (e.g., Gen 34:10, 21; 42:34; 2Chr 9:14; Prov 31:14; Ezek 27:13, 21; Hos 12:1; Amos 8:6) (DNTT 1:268).
and: Grk. kai. make a profit: Grk. kerdainō, fut., 1p-pl., gain, a mercantile term for profitable investment. Jacob does not view the goal of business in a negative light, contrary to modern socialism. Only by making a profit can business continue and provide the capital to expand business. God is very much in favor of making a profit. In the Torah God promised Israel the blessing of an increase in harvests and herds (Deut 7:13). In the patriarchal story of Job Satan complained that God had blessed Job's work and increased his possessions (Job 1:10). When the story ends God doubles Job's wealth (Job 42:10-12). The patriarchs, kings and many noble men identified in Scripture were prosperous men and never is their accumulation of wealth impugned. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-23) the rich man is not condemned because of his profits in farm production, but because he was not rich in charity.
14 who do not know of tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a vapor appearing for a while, and then disappearing.
who: pl. of Grk. hostis, indefinite pronoun used in reference to an immediately preceding comment, whoever, anyone who. do not: Grk. ou, adv. negation. know: Grk. epistamai, pres. mid., to grasp mentally, understand, or to acquire information, know. of tomorrow: Grk. aurion. See the previous verse. In other words, you don't know what tomorrow will bring. What is: Grk. poios, interrogative pronoun; which, what. your: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. life: Grk. zōē, the state of being alive in a physical sense as opposed to being dead. In the LXX zōē renders Heb. chay (SH-2416), alive or living, with both literal and figurative uses. For: Grk. gar, conj., is generally accepted as a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that." The conjunction has four uses: (1) explanatory, (2) expressive of astonishment, (3) causal and, (4) inferential. The fourth use is intended here.
you are: Grk. eimi, pres., 2p-pl. See verse 4 above. a vapor: Grk. atmis, breath, moist vapor, steam. appearing: Grk. phainō, pres. mid. part., may mean (1) function in a manner that makes observation possible; shine, appear, or (2) be in a state or condition of being visible or observed; appear. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX x renders Heb. or (SH-215), to be or become light (Gen 1:16); and Heb. ra'ah (SH-7200), to be seen or appear (Num 23:3) (DNTT 2:488). for: Grk. pros, prep. a little while: Grk. oligos, adj., little, small, whether in extent or quantity, here of time; a while or a little while. and: Grk. kai, conj. then: Grk. epeita, adv. with the idea of addition as a component, thereupon, then. disappearing: Grk. aphanizō, pres. pass. part., cause to be in a condition not subject to appearance, hid from view, disappear, perish. As he does in 1:10-11 Jacob reminds his readers of the brevity of life (cf. Job 14:1-2; Ps 90:5-6; 103:15-16; Isa 40:7-8).
15 Instead you are to say, "If the Lord wills we will live, and we will do this or that."
Instead: Grk. anti, prep. used to indicate something replaced by or exchanged for another, instead. The biblically enlightened view does not go on to advocate the view of Hellenistic hedonism, "let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die" (Isa 22:13; 56:12; Luke 12:19; 1 Cor 15:32). you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. are to say: Grk. legō, pres. inf., say, here introducing a principle by which one should live. See verse 5 above. If: Grk. ean, conj. which introduces a possible circumstance that determines some other circumstance with the sense that if x happens then y will follow. the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 10 above. The title probably is in reference to its use in the LXX for YHVH, not specifically of Yeshua.
wills: Grk. thelō, aor. subj., to wish, will or desire. The subjunctive mood is the mood of mild contingency or probability; looks toward what is conceivable or potential. In Scripture the term "will of God" may refer to (1) God's sovereign will, which is unknowable, (2) God's lifestyle will, which is revealed in the Torah and (3) God's special will, which was God's supernaturally revealed instruction to certain Bible characters. Here Jacob is referring to God's sovereign will. we will live: Grk. zaō, fut., the state of being alive, in terms of physical existence, but the verb can also refer to being alive in a manner that transcends mere physical existence. Jacob may be engaging in a play on words, considering the previous verse. and: Grk. kai, conj. we will do: Grk. poieō, fut. See verse 13 above.
this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun that signifies something of a particular nature, 'this,' here set in contrast to the pronoun following. or: Grk. ē, conj. indicating an alternative. that: Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun that signifies something more remote 'that over there' as opposed to 'this over here.' Jacob is not opposed to planning or engaging in business for profit, but the lack of humility in the face of God's sovereign will. Humility recognizes that God is in control to accomplish those things that are for our good and His glory (cf. John 15:5; Rom 8:27-28; 1Pet 4:19; Gal 5:22: Php 2:13; Heb 13:20-21). Conversely, humility does not presume on God's sovereign will. Death could intervene before plans are accomplished or some other hindrance could arise. The apostle Paul always submitted his plans to God’s sovereign will (Acts 18:21; Rom 1:10; 15:32; 1Cor 4:19). For more information on this topic see my web article The Will of God.
16 But now you boast in your arrogance: all such boasting is evil.
But: Grk. de, conj. Jacob is describing what someone is doing in contrast to what he should be doing (verse 15). now: Grk. nun. See verse 13 above. you boast: Grk. kauchaomai, pres. mid., 2p-pl., have or express pride in being intimately associated or involved with some person, thing, or circumstance, boast. in: Grk. en, prep. your: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. arrogance: pl. of Grk. alazoneia, arrogance, posturing. The plural form indicates multiple occurrences. all: Grk. pas, adj. indicating comprehensiveness as qualified by the context; all, entire, whole. such: Grk. toioutos, demonstrative pronoun, drawing attention to something that precedes or follows in the text with focus on quality or condition, such, such as this. boasting: Grk. kauchēsis, the act of boasting, glorying, exultation; boasting, boast.
is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 4 above. evil: Grk. ponēros may mean (1) marked by lowness in social worth or deviation from an acceptable moral or social standard, particularly as prescribed by God in his Word, (2) low in quality, bad, poor, or (3) in deteriorated or undesirable state or condition, of physical circumstances. In the LXX ponēros renders Heb. ra, which can mean evil, bad or of little value (DNTT 1:565). In the Tanakh ra is used to describe both that which is ethically evil (Deut 1:35; 4:25) and something that is unpleasant, disagreeable or injurious (e.g. Deut 22:14; 28:35; Isa 3:11). Jacob might be using the term in the sense of bad as an effect on the congregation, but at worst the boasting of arrogance imitates the evil one.
17 Therefore, the one knowing to do good, and not doing it, to him it is sin.
Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. See verse 4 above. the one knowing: Grk. oida, perf. part., to have information about, to know something. to do: Grk. poieō, pres. inf. See verse 13 above. good: Grk. kalos, adj., meeting a high standard, fine or good. and: Grk. kai, conj. not: Grk. mē, adv. doing it: Grk. poieō, pres. part. to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. it is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 4 above. sin: Grk. hamartia refers to a behavioral action, as well as its result, every departure from the way of righteousness, both human and divine. In Greek culture hamartia meant to miss the mark, to lose, not share in something, be mistaken, all of which is the result of ignorance. Hamartia essentially meant to fail and could mean anything from stupidity to law-breaking, that does not conform to the dominant ethic, to the respect due to social order and to the polis (DNTT 3:577).
In the LXX hamartia translates a whole range of Hebrew words for guilt and sin, particularly Heb. chata (lapse, sin). In the Tanakh a sin is an offense against the religious and moral law of God. In ancient Israel sin was tantamount to rejecting God’s covenant. Hamartia is not displaying the imperfections that separate humanity from divinity, but violating the clear instructions of God. Hamartia is the dominant word for sin in the apostolic writings. The degree of intentionality is not a factor in defining sinful behavior, only whether the express requirements or prohibitions of Torah commandments have been violated. Religious people may erect their own codes for determining prohibited behavior, but God's judgment is based strictly on the commandments He gave to mankind as recorded in Scripture.
The "good" for Jacob is not something that an individual might imagine, but a good work as defined by Torah expectations (cf. Eph 2:10), such as the Royal Law to love one's neighbor. In this context the good work is to exercise humility by submitting plans to the sovereign will of God. Sin is the result of knowing exactly what to do and refusing to do it.
ABP: Charles Van der Pool, The Apostolic Bible Polyglot (An interlinear LXX, with Strong's numbers and English translation). The Apostolic Press, 2006.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology. 3 Vols., ed. Colin Brown, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)
Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Zondervan Pub. House, 1986.
Moseley: Ron Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. Lederer Books, 1996.
Metzger: Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. United Bible Societies, 1994.
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
NASBEC: New American Standard Bible Exhaustive Concordance, Updated Edition. Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Tarn & Griffith: Sir William Tarn and G.T. Griffith, Hellenistic Civilization. 3rd Edition. Edward Arnold Publishers, Ltd., 1952.
Copyright © 2013-2018 Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.