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THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 5 - Verse 17

Verse 17. Elias. The common way of writing the word Elijah in the New Testament, Mt 11:14; Mt 16:14; 17:3, etc.

Was a man subject to like passions as we are. This does not mean that Elijah was passionate in the sense in which that word is now commonly used; that is, that he was excitable or irritable, or that he was the victim of the same corrupt passions and propensities to which other men are subject; but that he was like afflicted; that he was capable of suffering the same things, or being affected in the same manner. In other words, he was a mere man, subject to the same weaknesses and infirmities as other men. See Barnes on "Ac 14:15".

The apostle is illustrating the efficacy of prayer. In doing this, he refers to an undoubted case where prayer had such efficacy. But to this it might be objected that Elijah was a distinguished prophet, and that it was reasonable to suppose that his prayer would be heard. It might be said that his example could not be adduced to prove that the prayers of those who were not favoured with such advantages would be heard; and especially that it could not be argued from his case that the prayers of the ignorant, and of the weak, and of children and of servants, would be answered. To meet this, the apostle says that he was a mere man, with the same natural propensities and infirmities as other men, and that therefore his case is one which should encourage all to pray. It was an instance of the efficacy of prayer, and not an illustration of the power of a prophet.

And he prayed earnestly. Greek, "He prayed with prayer"—a Hebraism, to denote that he prayed earnestly. Compare Lu 22:15. This manner of speaking is common in Hebrew. Compare 1 Sa 26:25; Ps 118:18; La 1:2.

The reference here is undoubtedly to 1 Ki 17:1. In that place, however, it is not said that Elijah prayed, but that he said, "As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these three years, but according to my word." Either James interprets this as a prayer, because it could be accomplished only by prayer, or he states what had been handed down by tradition as the way in which the miracle was effected. There can be no reasonable doubt that prayer was employed in the case, for even the miracles of the Saviour were accomplished in connexion with prayer, Joh 11:41-42.

That it might not rain. Not to gratify any private resentment of his, but as a punishment on the land for the idolatry which prevailed in the time of Ahab. Famine was one of the principal methods by which God punished his people for their sins.

And it rained not on the earth. On the land of Palestine, for so the word earth is frequently understood in the Bible. See Barnes on "Lu 2:1".

There is no reason to suppose that the famine extended beyond the country that was subject to Ahab.

By the space. For the time.

Of three years and six months. See Barnes on "Lu 4:25"

to see this explained. Compare Lightfoot, Horae Hebraicae, on Lu 4:25.

{+} "Elias" or, "Elijah" {a} "he prayed earnestly" 1 Ki 17:1 {++} "earnestly" or, "in prayer"

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