James 5:14

14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for 1the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, 2anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;

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James 5:14 Meaning and Commentary

James 5:14

Is any sick among you?
&c.] Which is often the case; the bodies of the saints, as well as others, are liable to a variety of diseases; they are sick, and sometimes nigh unto death, as Epaphroditus was: and then,

let him call for the elders of the church;
in allusion to the elders of the congregation of Israel, ( Leviticus 4:15 ) . By these may be meant, either the elder members of the church, men of gravity and soundness in the faith, persons of long standing and experience; who have the gift and grace of prayer, and are not only capable of performing that duty, but of giving a word of counsel and advice to the sick. It was a kind of proverbial saying of Aristophanes the grammarian;

``the works of young men, the counsels of middle aged persons, and (eucai gerontwn) , "the prayers of ancient men" F26:''

or rather officers of churches are meant, particularly pastors, who are so called in Scripture; these should be sent for in times of sickness, as well as physicians; and rather than they, since their prayers may be the means of healing both soul and body: so in former times, the prophets of God were sent to in times of sickness, for advice and assistance. It is a saying of R. Phinehas ben Chama F1 that

``whoever has a sick person in his house, let him go to a wise man, and he will seek mercy for him.''

And it follows here,

and let them pray over him;
or for him, for the recovery of his health:

anointing him with oil, in the name of the Lord;
which some think was only done in a common medicinal way, oil being used much in the eastern countries for most disorders; and so these elders used ordinary medicine, as well as prayer: or rather this refers to an extraordinary gift, which some elders had of healing diseases, as sometimes by touching, and by laying on of hands, or by expressing some words, and so by anointing with oil; see ( Mark 6:13 ) which extraordinary gifts being now ceased, the rite or ceremony of anointing with oil ceases in course: however, this passage gives no countenance to the extreme unction of the Papists; that of theirs being attended with many customs and ceremonies, which are not here made mention of; that being used, as is pretended, for the healing of the souls of men, whereas this was used for corporeal healing; that is only performed when life is despaired of, and persons are just going out of the world; whereas this was made use of to restore men to health, and that they might continue longer in it, as follows.


F26 Apud Harpocratian. Lex. p. 125.
F1 T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 116. 1.

James 5:14 In-Context

12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.
14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord ;
15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

Cross References 2

  • 1. Acts 11:30
  • 2. Mark 6:13; Mark 16:18

Footnotes 1

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