Taken from a ministry by Greg Quail in April 2004, at Sydney, Australia, and developed with five addresses on this subject in Bhutan 2020, by Greg Quail. Full document is attached below.
The names James and Jacob have the same pronunciation in the Hebrew.
The epistle is divided into 12 sections, as the very first verse is addressed to the twelve tribes scattered, which correspond with the 12 sons of Jacob.
This is a summary of the ministries and the sections in James, corresponding with the blessings that Jacob gave his twelve sons in Genesis 49, and also corresponding with the events in Genesis 29 and 30 when Jacob’s sons were born.
Section 1 – Ch 1:2-18 Testing and the end in view. The thought is Reuben – firstfruit, or firstborn (Gen 49:3), looked on affliction. This section speaks about various trials, or temptations. In Gen 29:31-32, Leah conceived Reuben because God looked upon her affliction, or trials. Also, in this section, the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven by the wind and tossed about. Gen 49:3-4 the word of Jacob to Reuben mentions impetuous as the waters. In the last of this section, James writes according to God’s will He begat us by the word of truth, that we should be a certain first-fruits of His creatures. Reuben is mentioned in Gen 49:3 that he is the firstfruits of Jacob’s vigour.
Section 2 – Ch 1:19-27 Swift to hear. The thought is Simeon – hearing. Gen 49:5 puts Simeon and Levi together; wrath & anger. We only need to look back at Gen 34 to see what they did to the men in Shechem. The words swift to hear can apply to Simeon, for in Gen 29:33 Leah mentions that the Lord heard that she is hated. Simeon in Hebrew means ‘hearing’. This section also speaks about man’s wrath, and in Gen 49:5-7 Jacob mentions the anger of Simeon and Levi.
Section 3 – Ch 2:1-13 Practical Unity. The thought is Levi – practical unity (means united/attached). In this section, James mentions the command of the law to love thy neighbour. Gen 29:34 Leah conceived again and said now this time my husband will be united to me, and called the name of their son Levi. In Gen 49:5-7 Jacob puts Simeon and Levi together, and Levi is united with Simeon for that wicked purpose in Gen 34.
Section 4 – Ch 2:14-26 Faith & Works, and the world to come. The thought here is Judah – Abraham and Rahab, the examples of faith in the epistle of James, in the line of Christ. Gen 49:10 brings out the thought of Judah’s blessing and mentions until Shiloh come. This is a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. Back in Gen 29:35, Leah conceived again and bore Judah, and said this time she will praise the Lord.
Section 5 – Ch 3:1-12 The tongue – greater judgment. The thought here is Dan – tongue – fire from hell; judgment. Gen 49:16-17. Dan means judge – type of the antichrist. James states that teachers receive greater judgment due to the responsibility put on them. Gen 49:16 states that Dan will judge his people. The description in this section about st on fire from hell ties in with the words of Jacob in Gen 49 that Dan will be a serpent on the way, and a horned snake. Back in Gen 30:5-6, Bilhah conceived, and Rachel, who at that stage had not conceived, said that God has done her justice (judged), and called the name of their son Dan.
Section 6 – Ch 3:13-4:6 Emulation, strife, wars, fighting. The thought here is Naphtali – emulation, strife, wars, fighting. The name means wrestling of God. Gen 49:21 – Jacob speaks of Naphtali as a deer let loose. In James 3:17, the wisdom from above is beautifully presented. God gives more grace, as we read in Chapter 4. This section mentions bitter emulation and strife in the hearts of the brethren, and lying against the truth. In Gen 30:7-8 Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant, again conceived, and Rachel said that wrestlings of God she had wrestled with her sister, and prevailed, and called the name of their son Naphtali. This section of James also describes the wisdom from above, and Jacob’s words to Naphtali in Gen 49:21 is that he gives goodly words. The characters of wisdom is pure, peaceful, gentle, yielding. Naphtali is also described by Jacob as a hind, or deer, let loose. By nature, the hind is a gentle, graceful animal and Psalm 22 opens with “Aijeleth Shahar” – the hind of the morning. This is the title of the Psalm, which is part of the divine Word of God.
Section 7 – Ch 4:7-12 Submit, resist, One is Lawgiver and Judge. The thought is Gad. v7-10 submit to God. v11-12 speaking against one another. Gad means fortune/luck involved in conflict, and is reflected in Gen 49:19. This section of James mentions resisting the devil. Gen 49:19 reads about Gad that troops will rush upon him, but he will rush upon the heal. The section of James also mentions the Lawgiver and Judge, and in Deuteronomy 33:20-21, it mentions about Gad that there was reserved the portion of the lawgiver. Back in Gen 30:10-11, Leah decided to give her maidservant, Zilpah, to conceive a son for Jacob. She said fortunately, and called his name Gad.
Section 8 – Ch 4:13-17 Traffic and making gain. The thought here is Asher – doing well financially, giving Royal dainties. Gen 49:20. This is fitting, as this section speaks of those who look forward to making gains, and planning without having God in their thoughts. This section brings the thought of trafficking (commerce trading) and making gain. In Gen 30:12-13 Zilpah bore a second son for Jacob, and Leah said of herself as happy, and the daughters will call her blessed, and she called the name of their son Asher. In Deuteronomy 33:24-25, Asher is described with the words dip his foot in oil, and iron and brass are also mentioned. This is a sign of making gains with trafficking, or trading.
Section 9 – Ch 5:1-6 Wages of labourers kept back. The thought is Issachar – ill-gotten gains i.e. hire of labourers. The name Issachar means hire. Gen 49:14 pictures Issachar as a bony ass – a donkey. James here speaks of the wages of your labourers. Back in Gen 30:14-18, Leah tells him that she has hired him with her son’s mandrakes. God hearkened to Leah, she conceived and said that God gave Leah her hire, and called the name of their son Issachar.
Section 10 – Ch 5:7-8 Patience in the light of the Prospect. The thought is Zebulun – dwelling/living in patience in light of the Lord’s coming. The name Zebulun means dwelling. Gen 49:13 brings the thought of dwelling, about Zebulun dwelling at the shore of the seas. James mentions patience till the coming of the Lord. In Gen 30:19-20 Leah conceived again, and said that now her husband will dwell with her, and called the name of their son Zebulun.
Section 11 – Ch 5:9-12 Suffering & patience; the end of the Lord. The thought is Joseph – the thought here is sufferings & patience, as we see in this section in James. Jacob had much to say about Joseph in Gen 49:22-26. James first mentions here suffering and having patience. In Gen 49:22-26 Jacob’s words about Joseph is that archers have provoked him, shot at, and hated him, but he was firm. Read about this in Gen 39. Back in Gen 30:22-24, Rachel conceived for the first time, and said that God has taken away her reproach, and called the name of their son Joseph. God indeed took away Joseph’s reproach when he suffered for righteousness in Egypt, and he even saved the nation, and his family, from the famine. This section of James also speaks about the end of the Lord, and that the Lord is full of tender compassion and pitiful. The additional words of Jacob to Joseph in Gen 49:22-26 states that God will help him and bless him.
Section 12 – Ch 5:13-18 Pray and sing; call elders; confess faults. The thought here is Benjamin – the need for praying and rejoicing in singing. Gen 49:27 pictures Benjamin as a wolf tearing into pieces and dividing. Benjamin was Jacob’s ‘son of my right hand’ but the descendants of Benjamin were left-handed. James opens this section with suffering, being happy, or being sick. Back in Gen 35:16-18, as Jacob’s family journeyed from Bethel (which he was not supposed to do), Rachel travailed much in childbirth that she died. She initially called the name of the twelfth son Benoni (son of sorrow), but Jacob was wise in calling him Benjamin (son of my right hand).
In conclusion, James 5:19-20 brings the thought of recovery, and here we see the example in Jacob, who lived most of his life doing things his own way, away from thinking about God, but later after losing much, he sought God, and God had mercy on him and he recovered. Look at the section in James about straying from the truth and being brought back. Jacob tells Pharaoh in Gen 47:9 that few and evil have been his days. He confessed his wrongdoings to Pharaoh, but I am sure he also confessed to God, where he tells Joseph in Gen 48:15-16 about God who shepherded him and the Angel that redeemed him from all evil. May we learn from this wonderful and insightful epistle of James. Even if we have gone completely stray, the Lord is gracious and does not give up on us, He finds a way to bring us back to Him.