Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: First Sunday in Lent - February 26, 2023

Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures
Author's note:
Sometimes I have material left over when I edit Comments down to fit the available space. This page presents notes that landed on the clipping room floor. Some may be useful to you. While I avoid technical language in the Comments (or explain special terms), Clippings may have unexplained jargon from time to time.

A hypertext Glossary of Terms is integrated with Clippings. Simply click on any highlighted word in the text and a pop-up window will appear with a definition. Bibliographic references are also integrated in the same way.

Genesis 2:15-17;3:1-7

2:4b-3:24 are from a different tradition from 1:1-2:3 as is evident from the flowing style and the different order of the events of creation. The title “Lord God” is only found in Genesis in chapters 2 and 3. [ NOAB]

2:4a: “These are”: An introduction added by a later editor, as these words are 5:1; 6:9 and 10:1. [ NOAB]

2:4b: “In the day”: i.e. when.

2:5: “plant of the field ... herb”: A scholar offers shrubs and grass. [ NJBC]

2:7: “then”: Literally in the day. A day does not always have 24 hours. [ NJBC]

2:7: Human nature is not a duality of body and soul, but rather God’s “breath” animates the dust and it becomes “living being”, earth creature, or psycho-physical self. See also Psalm 104:29 and Job 34:14-15. There is no sexual differentiation until v. 22. [ NOAB]

2:7: “man ... from ... ground”: Hebrew: adam ... adama . [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

2:9: “knowledge”: Experiential and relational, not just intellectual.

2:9: “good and evil”: This is merism. When Psalm 139:2 says “You know when I sit down and when I rise up” it means that God knows the psalmist’s every physical movement. We say he knows his subject from A to Z meaning that he knows it completely. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil confers wisdom: see 2 Samuel 14:17 and Isaiah 7:15. [ FoxMoses] [ NOAB]

2:9: “the tree of life”: Proverbs 3:18 says: “She [Wisdom] is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy”. The tree of life is also mentioned in Revelation 22:2, 14, 19. [ NOAB]

2:10: “A river flows”: This may be the “stream” or flow of v. 6. [ NJBC]

2:10-14: The river that flows out of Eden (meaning delight) divides into four great rivers which water the then-known world. In Ugaritic and Akkadian texts, the high god lives at the source of all the life-giving waters of the earth. So the Garden is the locale of God. See also Isaiah 51:3; Ezekiel 31:8-9; Joel 2:3. [ NJBC]

2:11: “Pishon ... Havilah”: Locations unknown. This verse, 10:7 and 1 Chronicles 1:9 locate Havilah in Cush in southern Mesopotamia; however in Genesis 10:26-29 and 1 Chronicles 1:20-33 Havilah is a descendant of Shem – which would locate it in eastern or southeastern Arabia. [ NJBC]

2:12: “bdellium and onyx”: Identification uncertain. [ FoxMoses] Bdellium is a resin from a tree of the balsam family.

2:13: “Gihon”: This is also the name of the spring in Jerusalem, but here it flows in “Cush” in southern Mesopotamia. [ NJBC]

2:17: “die”: i.e. be cut off, excluded from community with God, driven from the Garden, as in Ezekiel 18. In late Judaism and in Christianity, God made humans incorruptible: see Wisdom of Solomon 2:23 and Romans 5:12 – but not here. [ NJBC]

2:18: “‘It is not good’”: in contrast to the refrain in Chapter 1. [ FoxMoses]

2:18: “as his partner”: Literally, opposite to him – so his equal. [ FoxMoses]

2:18-20: Part of human’s charge to cultivate the land is to name animals. Naming shows his God-given mastery over them; they are for him. [ CAB] [ NJBC]

2:20: “there was not found”: No animal was a suitable, equal, companion – so God needed to create woman. [ NJBC]

2:21-22: These verses parallel other ancient peoples’ concept of an original being that was androgynous. [ FoxMoses]

2:21: “the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man”: As he did upon Abram: see 15:12. [ NJBC]

2:22-23: These verses are an old explanation of marriage.

2:23: “at last”: After all the animals God has paraded before human.

2:25-3:1: “naked ... crafty”: Interestingly the Hebrew word, arum, has both meanings. [ NJBC]

Comments: the snake, ..., also a character in other ancient epics : For example, in the Gilgamesh Epic from Mesopotamia.

3:5: “like God”: The Septuagint translation has divine beings. They may be of the heavenly court. See also “us” and “our” in v. 22; 1:26; 11:7; Isaiah 6:8. See also 1 Kings 22:19 and Job 1:6. The singular form in Hebrew, Elohim, is an ordinary name for God; in the plural, it means divine beings. The singular and plural forms of the word are the same. [ NOAB]

3:8-11: The disobedience of the three is not hidden from God.

3:12: The man’s attitude towards woman has changed from that in 2:23.

3:13-19: The order of punishment is the same as the order of disobedience.

3:15: “he”: i.e. the human descendants of Eve. Christian tradition has sometimes taken this as a reference to Christ. [ NJBC]

3:16-19: Both the increased pain in child-bearing and the difficulties of agriculture symbolize the loss of the original ease with oneself and one’s environment. [ NJBC]

3:17: “the man”: Hebrew: adam. Taken to be a proper name by later editors – as in the genealogy in chapter 5. [ NOAB]

3:20: “Eve”: The name means life-giver.

3:21: God protects even in a time of judgement: see also 4:15 (Cain murders Abel). God makes a conciliatory sign; he accommodates to human limitations. [ NOAB]

3:24: “cherubim”: One scholar offers winged-sphinxes , thus distinguishing them from the chubby cherubs of art. They were guardians of sacred areas (see 1 Kings 8:6-7), represented as winged creatures like the Sphinx of Egypt, and half-human, half-divine. See Ezekiel 41:18-19. They were represented on the Ark of the Covenant: see Exodus 25:18. [ NOAB] [ FoxMoses]

3:24: “sword”: A divine sword (see Jeremiah 47:6) was placed near the cherubim to warn banished human beings of the impossibility of overstepping their creaturely bounds: see Ezekiel 28:13-16. [ NOAB]

Psalm 32

Superscription: “Of David”: The Hebrew words can also be interpreted as meaning by, about or for David. [ JBC]

Superscription: “Maskil”: Scholars are unsure of the meaning of this term. It may relate to the manner of a psalm’s performance and/or a class of composition. The latter hypothesis is supported by the use of other apparent class names in parallel fashion above other psalms. This term appears above 13 psalms. [ HBD]

This is a wisdom psalm. See vv. 1-2 and 8-10 for wisdom features. [ NJBC] It is one of the seven traditional penitential psalms. [ JBC]

Verse 1: “covered”: For covering sin, where God is the subject, meaning taking sin away, see also Nehemiah 4:5 (“Do not cover their guilt, and do not let their sin be blotted out from your sight”) and 1 Peter 4:8. [ NJBC]

Verses 3-5: In antiquity, the admission of sin usually took the form of a recounting of one’s sins in general terms: see Ezra 9:6-15; 10:1; Nehemiah 1:6-11. [ NJBC]

Verses 3-4: 18:4-6 also tell of a psalmist’s grave illness: “The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of perdition assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help”. [ NOAB]

Verses 4,7: “Selah” : This is probably a liturgical direction, added to the original text of the psalm. It may mean lift up, either to indicate the lifting up of the voices of the singers in a doxology, or to call for lifted-up instrumental music in an interlude in the singing. [ NOAB]

Selah is one of the greatest puzzles of the Old Testament. Its meaning seems to be connected with rising or lifting. But it is not clear whether the congregation rises or lifts up its hands, head, or eyes, or whether the music rises at the indicated points. The word probably indicates that the singing should stop to allow the congregation an interlude for presenting its homage to God by some gesture or act of worship. [ ICCPs]

Selah is also found 74 times in 39 psalms in the book of Psalms and three times in Habakkuk 3 (part of a psalm preserved there).

Verse 5: Healing from illness came only after acknowledgement of sin. [ NOAB]

Verses 6-10: These verses can also be interpreted as the psalmist commending to the congregation similar faith in God (vv. 6-7, 10) and obedience to God’s will (vv. 8, 9). [ NOAB]

Verse 11: Psalm 31, another psalm that is mostly on the lips of an individual, also ends with directing attention to the congregation, calling on them to praise God: 31:23-24 says “Love the Lord , all you his saints. The Lord preserves the faithful, but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord”. [ NJBC]

Romans 5:12-19

Verse 12: “Therefore”: The Greek is dia touto, literally meaning for this reason. [ NJBC] The first sentence in Comments summarizes vv. 1-11.

Verse 12: “death came through sin”: Wisdom of Solomon 2:24 says “... through the devil’s entry death entered the world ...”. [ NJBC]

Verses 12,14,20: Paul pictures the world as a stage. He personifies three actors: Sin (Hamartia), Death (Thanatos) and Law (Nomos). [ NJBC]

Verses 13-14: Paul divides the pre-Christian era into two sub-eras: from “Adam to Moses” and from Moses to Jesus. He says that before Moses, before there was a law, no one could be charged with breaking a non-existent law; even so people died. [ NJBC]

Verses 13-16: 1 Corinthians 15:45 tells us that Christ is “the last Adam”. See also 1 Corinthians 15:21-23, 45-49; Galatians 3:17; Romans 3:20; 7:7-8. [ NJBC] [ CAB]

Verse 15: “many”: The Greek word also means all in 5:18; 12:5; 1 Corinthians 10:17 (where it is translated as such). [ NJBC]

Verse 16: “the free gift”: Paul writes in 3:23-24: “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”.

Verse 16: “justification”: REB translates the Greek as acquittal.

Verse 17: “dominion in life”: This notion is developed in 6:12-23. [ CAB]

Verse 18: “leads to justification and life”: One scholar offers for acquittal and life. [ NJBC]

Verse 19: In 1:5, Paul speaks of Jesus as the one “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name”. See also Hebrews 12:2. [ CAB]

Verse 20: “But law came in, ... multiplied”: This is explained in 7:7-13. [ NOAB]. In Galatians 3:19, Paul asks: “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by a mediator”. [ CAB]

Verse 21: “death”: Death is a cosmic force (see 8:38 and 1 Corinthians 3:22), the “last enemy” to be vanquished (see 1 Corinthians 15:56).

Matthew 4:1-11

The parallels are Mark 1:12-13 and Luke 4:1-13. The accounts illustrate Jesus' habitual refusal to allow his sense of mission to be influenced by concern for his safety or for merely practical interests. [ NOAB]

Note that Mark tells of this event in only two verses: “... the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him”. He probably tells what the disciples knew of this event: they knew that Jesus had been tempted but they did not know exactly what had gone on in Jesus’ consciousness. The accounts in Matthew and Luke (which both seem to come from the Q source), are a narrative midrash or interpretation of the event in such as way as to make it pastorally useful for believers. This is accomplished by linking Jesus’ experience with the fasts of Moses and Elijah and the rebellion of the Israelites against divine nourishment (manna) during the Exodus. [ NJBC] Hebrews 2:18 is particularly instructive: “Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested”, as is Hebrews 4:15.

Evil forces are personified, as are sin, death and law in Romans 5. Both “the tempter” (v. 3) and “Satan” (v. 10) are names for evil conceived as a personal will actively hostile to God. See also Luke 13:11, 16. [ NOAB]

Another interpretation: Jesus refuses to use his power in self-gratifying ways, to allow his sense of mission to be influenced by concern for his safety or merely practical interests.

Verse 2: “forty days and forty nights”: For Moses’ fast on Mount Sinai being of this duration, see Exodus 34:28; for Elijah’s fast on the same mountain, see 1 Kings 19:8. [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “Son of God”: The tempter is calling Jesus the representative of Israel (rather than messiah). [ NJBC]

Verse 4: The quotation is Deuteronomy 8:3. In Deuteronomy 6-8 the word of God is the chief nourishment. [ NOAB]

Verse 5: “the holy city”: Jerusalem is only called this in the New Testament in Matthew and Revelation. In the Old Testament, Jerusalem is called “holy” in Nehemiah 11:1, 18; Isaiah 53:1; Daniel 9:24. [ BlkMt]

Verse 5: “pinnacle of the temple”: The Greek word translated as pinnacle literally means little wing. It seems to be some lofty projection or pinnacle from which one might well fall to one’s death. God’s power might be expected to be at its greatest around the Temple. [ BlkMt]

Verse 6: The quotations are Psalm 91:11-12, in the Septuagint translation. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “bear you up”: i.e. keep you from serious injury or death. [ BlkMt]

Verse 7: The quotation is Deuteronomy 6:16. Putting God to the test would show lack of faith. [ BlkMt] Paul picks up on this in 1 Corinthians 10:9. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: There is no mountain from which one can see “all the kingdoms of the world”. [ BlkMt]

Verse 10: The quotation is Deuteronomy 6:13. [ NOAB]

Verse 11: “suddenly angels came and waited on him”: BlkMt says that the ministry of “angels” probably included both spiritual support and provision in some way of needed food for the body.

The temptation of Jesus has universal significance:

  • Jesus stands for Israel because he is the beginning of the new people of God, the founder of a new humanity;
  • the basic temptation is not to love God with a unified heart, at the risk of life, at the cost of wealth;

Jesus is here shown to be the perfect lover of God

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