*Minor differences ignored. Grouped by changes, with first version listed as example.
Go to now. He condemns here another kind of presumption, that many, who ought to have depended on God's providence, confidently settled what they were to do, and arranged their plans for a long time, as though they had many years at their own disposal, while they were not sure, no not even of one moment. Solomon also sharply ridicules this kind of foolish boasting, when he says that "men settle their ways in their heart, and the Lord in the mean time rules the tongue." (Proverbs 16:1.) And it is a very insane thing to undertake to execute what we cannot pronounce with our tongue. James does not reprove the form of speaking, but rather the arrogance of mind, that men should forget their own weakness, and speak thus presumptuously; for even the godly, who think humbly of themselves, and acknowledge that their steps are guided by the will of God, may yet sometimes say, without any qualifying clause, that they will do this or that. It is indeed right and proper, when we promise anything as to future time, to accustom ourselves to such words as these, "If it shall please the Lord," "If the Lord will permit." But no scruple ought to be entertained, as though it were a sin to omit them; for we read everywhere in the Scriptures that the holy servants of God spoke unconditionally of future things, when yet they had it as a principle fixed in their minds, that they could do nothing without the permission of God. Then as to the practice of saying, "If the Lord will or permit," it ought to be carefully attended to by all the godly. But James roused the stupidity of those who disregarded God's providence, and claimed for themselves a whole year, though they had not a single moment in their own power; the gain which was afar off they promised to themselves, though they had no possession of that which was before their feet.
Go to now - The apostle here introduces a new subject, and refers to another fault which was doubtless prevalent among them, as it is everywhere, that of a presumptuous confidence respecting the future, or of forming plans stretching into the future, without any proper sense of the uncertainty of life, and of our absolute dependence on God. The phrase "go to now," (ἄγε νῦν age nun,) is a phrase designed to arrest attention, as if there were something that demanded their notice, and especially, as in this case, with the implied thought that that to which the attention is called is wrong. See James 5:1. Compare Genesis 11:7; Isaiah 1:18.
Ye that say - You that form your plans in this manner or that speak thus confidently of what you will do in the future. The word say here probably refers to what was in their thoughts, rather than to what was openly expressed.
Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city - That is, they say this without any proper sense of the uncertainty of life, and of their absolute dependence on God.
And continue there a year - Fixing a definite time; designating the exact period during which they would remain, and when they would leave, without any reference to the will of God. The apostle undoubtedly means to refer here to this as a mere specimen of what he would reprove. It cannot be supposed that he refers to this single case alone as wrong. All plans are wrong that are formed in the same spirit. "The practice to which the apostle here alludes," says the editor of the Pictorial Bible, "is very common in the East to this day, among a very respectable and intelligent class of merchants. They convey the products of one place to some distant city, where they remain until they have disposed of their own goods and have purchased others suitable for another distant market; and thus the operation is repeated, until, after a number of years, the trader is enabled to return prosperously to his home. Or again, a shopkeeper or a merchant takes only the first step in this process - conveying to a distant town, where the best purchases of his own line are to be made, such goods as are likely to realise a profit, and returning, without any farther stop, with a stock for his own concern. These operations are seldom very rapid, as the adventurer likes to wait opportunities for making advantageous bargains; and sometimes opens a shop in the place to which he comes, to sell by retail the goods which he has bought." The practice is common in India. See Roberts" Oriental Illustrations.
And buy and sell, and get gain - It is not improbable that there is an allusion here to the commercial habits of the Jews at the time when the apostle wrote. Many of them were engaged in foreign traffic, and for this purpose made long journeys to distant trading cities, as Alexandria, Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, etc. - Bloomfield.
Go to now - Αγε νυν· Come now, the same in meaning as the Hebrew הבה habah, come, Genesis 11:3, Genesis 11:4, Genesis 11:7. Come, and hear what I have to say, ye that say, etc.
To-day, or to-morrow, we will go - This presumption on a precarious life is here well reproved; and the ancient Jewish rabbins have some things on the subject which probably St. James had in view. In Debarim Rabba, sec. 9, fol. 261, 1, we have the following little story; "Our rabbins tell us a story which happened in the days of Rabbi Simeon, the son of Chelpatha. He was present at the circumcision of a child, and stayed with its father to the entertainment. The father brought out wine for his guests that was seven years old, saying, With this wine will I continue for a long time to celebrate the birth of my new-born son. They continued supper till midnight. At that time Rabbi Simeon arose and went out, that he might return to the city in which he dwelt. On the way he saw the angel of death walking up and down. He said to him, Who art thou? He answered, I am the messenger of God. The rabbin said, Why wanderest thou about thus? He answered, I slay those persons who say, We will do this, or that, and think not how soon death may overpower them: that man with whom thou hast supped, and who said to his guests, With this wine will I continue for a long time to celebrate the birth of my new-born son, behold the end of his life is at hand, for he shall die within thirty days." By this parable they teach the necessity of considering the shortness and uncertainty of human life; and that God is particularly displeased with those
"Who, counting on long years of pleasure here,
Are quite unfurnished for a world to come."
And continue there a year, and buy and sell - This was the custom of those ancient times; they traded from city to city, carrying their goods on the backs of camels. The Jews traded thus to Tyre, Sidon, Caesarea, Crete, Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, Rome, etc. And it is to this kind of itinerant mercantile life that St. James alludes. See at the end of this chapter, (James 4:17 (note)).
(8) Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
(8) The other fault is this: That men do so confidently determine on these and those matters and businesses, as though every moment of their life did not depend on God.
Go to now, ye that say,.... The apostle passes from exposing the sin of detraction, and rash judgment, to inveigh against those of presumption and self-confidence; and the phrase, "go to now", is a note of transition, as well as of attention, and contains the form of a solemn and grave address to persons, who either think within themselves, or vocally express, the following words, or the like unto them:
today, or tomorrow, we will go into such a city; in such a country, a place of great trade and merchandise; as Tyre then was in Phoenicia, Thessalonica in Macedonia, Ephesus in Asia, and others: some render this as an imperative, or as an exhortation, "let us go", which does not alter the sense.
And continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain; as is customary for merchants to do; nor does the apostle design by this to condemn merchandise, and the lawful practice of buying and selling, and getting gain; but that men should not resolve upon those things without consulting God, and attending to his will, and subjecting themselves to it; and without considering the uncertainty and frailty of human life; as well as should not promise and assure themselves of success, of getting gain and riches, as if those things were in their own power, and had no dependence upon the providence and blessing of God.
Go to now--"Come now"; said to excite attention.
ye that say--boasting of the morrow.
To-day or to-morrow--as if ye had the free choice of either day as a certainty. Others read, "To-day and to-morrow."
such a city--literally, "this the city" (namely, the one present to the mind of the speaker). This city here.
continue . . . a year--rather, "spend one year." Their language implies that when this one year is out, they purpose similarly settling plans for to come [BENGEL].
buy and sell--Their plans for the future are all worldly.
Go to now, ye that say. Presumptuous judgments have just been rebuked. Shall we presume on an uncertain future? The folly of laying plans as if we could command life is exposed.
What is your life? Who knows that he will have a to-morrow, since life is like a vanishing vapor?
Ye ought to say. The proper way is to plan everything subject to the Lord's will.
Ye rejoice in your boastings. It was a boastful manner to use such a language as that of James 4:13 in stating plans.
To him that knoweth to do good. The connection of thought is probably as follows: "I have warned you that such boasting is wrong, and that the right way is to speak submissively (as in James 4:15). If you know how to do the right and yet do it not the sin is the greater on account of your knowledge."
Come now, ye that say - As peremptorily as if your life were in your own hands.
*More commentary available at chapter level.