on James 5 :17
Elias was a man subject to like passions - This was Elijah, and a consistency between the names of the same persons as expressed in the Old and the New Testaments should be kept up.
The word ὁμοιοπαθης signifies of the same constitution, a human being just as ourselves are. See the same phrase and its explanation in Acts 14:15, and the note there. There was some reason to apprehend that because Elijah was translated, that therefore he was more than human, and if so, his example could be no pattern for us; and as the design of St. James was to excite men to pray, expecting the Divine interference whenever that should be necessary, therefore he tells them that Elijah was a man like themselves, of the same constitution, liable to the same accidents, and needing the same supports.
And he prayed earnestly - Προσευχῃ προσηυξατο· He prayed with prayer; a Hebraism for, he prayed fervently.
That it might not rain - See this history, 1 Kings 17:1, etc.
And it rained not on the earth - Επι της γης· On that land, viz. the land of Judea; for this drought did not extend elsewhere.
Three years and six months - This is the term mentioned by our Lord, Luke 4:25; but this is not specified in the original history. In 1 Kings 18:1, it is said, In the third year the word of the Lord came to Elijah, that is, concerning the rain; but this third year is to be computed from the time of his going to live at Zarephath, which happened many days after the drought began, as is plain from this, that he remained at the brook Cherith till it was dried up, and then went to Zarephath, in the country of Zidon; 1 Kings 17:7-9. Therefore the three years and six months must be computed from his denouncing the drought, at which time that judgment commenced. Macknight.
on James 5 :17
Elias - The common way of writing the word "Elijah" in the New Testament, Matthew 11:14; Matthew 16:14; Matthew 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 affected; 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. Compare the notes at Acts 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 favored 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 Luke 22:15. This manner of speaking is common in Hebrew. Compare 1 Samuel 26:25; Psalm 118:18; Lamentations 1:2. The reference here is undoubtedly to 1 Kings 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 banded 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 connection with prayer, John 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 the notes at Luke 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 this explained in the notes at Luke 4:25. Compare Lightfoot, Horae Hebraicae, on Luke 4:25.
on James 5 :17
5:17 Elijah was a man of like passions - Naturally as weak and sinful as we are. And he prayed - When idolatry covered the land.