Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Third Sunday in Lent - March 12, 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.

Exodus 17:1-7

NJBC says that v. 1 is from the Priestly (P) tradition, vv. 2 and 4-7 from the Yahwist (J) tradition, and v. 3 from the Elohist (E) tradition.

Comments: This reading is about one of the tests: The other tests are in 15:22-27 (lack of potable water at Marah) and Chapter 16 (lack of food in the wilderness of Sin). [ FoxMoses]

Verse 1: “by stages”: Numbers 33:1-49 begins: “These are the stages by which the Israelites went out of the land of Egypt ...” [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “Rephidim”: In Numbers 33:12-13, they camp at Dophkah and Alush before reaching Rephidim. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “Give us water to drink”: Soon after crossing the Reed (Red) Sea, the thirsty Israelites come to an oasis at Marah, but find the water there undrinkable. They grumble against Moses. Yahweh shows Moses a piece of wood, which he throws into the water, thus making it potable. 15:22-27 continues: “There the Lord made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he put them to the test. He said, ‘If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.’”. [ NOAB]

Verse 2: “‘Why do you test the Lord?’”: i.e. why do you demand proof that God is in your midst: see v. 7b. God may test the Israelites, but the Israelites may not test God. [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “us ... our”: In the Hebrew text, these words are singular, not plural. Thus the complaint is personalized. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 6: In the Sinai Peninsula, subsurface water lies below the limestone surface rock. The trick is where to tap into it. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “Strike the rock”: See Numbers 20:1-13 for a variation on this story which proves to be Moses’ undoing. [ FoxMoses] There it is implied that he failed to interpret the giving of water as a sign from God: see Deuteronomy 32:50-52. Among the suggestions as to what is Moses’ sin, which caused him not to lead the Israelites across the Jordan and into the Promised Land, are:

  • Moses is instructed to speak to the rock, but instead he struck it – twice – apparently not trusting that God could work the miracle simply through words.
  • Psalm 106:32-33 says that Moses spoke “words that were rash” on this occasion – suggesting that his words in Numbers 20:10 are the problem.

Verse 7: “Massah and Meribah”: These are names that became memorials of Israel’s faithlessness: see Numbers 27:14; Deuteronomy 6:16; 9:22; 32:51; 33:8; Psalm 95:8. “Meribah” is one of the springs at Kadesh-Barnea (in the Negev Desert, the southern-most part of Israel): see Numbers 20:13; 27:14; Deuteronomy 32:51. Kadesh-Barnea was in “the wilderness of Zin”. Some traditions in 15:23-18:27 come from this oasis south of Beersheba. [ NOAB] In vv. 8-15, the Amalekites fight against the Israelites. The Amalekites claimed control of the wilderness in the region of Kadesh-Barnea: see Genesis 14:7; Numbers 13:29; 14:25. Israel spent most of its forty years in the wilderness in this area. [ NJBC]

Psalm 95

This psalm has a number of parallels to Psalms 81 and 100. The same shift from invitation to worship God to warning about the need for obedience occurs in Psalm 81. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “For the Lord is a great God”: NJBC says that the Hebrew says literally For he is El the great. El was the head of the Canaanite pantheon and thus the name of the supreme deity.

Verse 3: “a great King”: Yahweh is also called “a great king” in 47:2 and 48:1. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “For he is our God, ... his hand”: See also 79:13 and 100:3. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “the sheep of his hand”: i.e. his sheep.

Verses 7b-11: These verses are quoted in Hebrews 3:7-11 and 4:3-11. That worship without obedience is displeasing to God is a cardinal principle of Old Testament religion: see also, for example, Psalms 15 and 24:3-6. [ NOAB]

Romans 5:1-11

Paul develops these ideas further in 8:1-39: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death ...”. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “justified by faith”: This is the theme of 3:21-31. [ CAB]

Verse 1: “peace”: In Hebrew, this is shalom, the state of being in which one enjoys all the benefits of a right relationship with God, namely partnership in reconciliation, eternal well-being and wholeness of life. Being justified is very similar, although it implies action.

Verse 1: “through our Lord Jesus Christ”: Christ is active as the mediator, the interface between the Father and humans, in carrying out God’s plan of/for salvation. In some form or other, Paul makes frequent use of this phrase in this chapter: see also vv. 2, 9, 11, 17, 21. [ JBC] He writes in 1:5: “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 2:16. “Through” means mediated by, in the Father’s plan of salvation. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “obtained access”: JBC offers secured an introduction. We have been introduced into the sphere of divine favour through Christ. He has, as it were, led Christians into the royal audience chamber and into the divine presence.

Verse 2: “we boast in our hope ...”: In contrast to the boasting by Jews of their relationship to God mentioned in 2:17: “But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God”. [ CAB]

Verses 2,3,11: “boast”: In Paul’s writings, this word is sometimes meant in the obvious sense, but not here. Basking in glory is what he means here. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “boast in our sufferings”: Paul also uses the word “boast” in 2 Corinthians 11:30; 12:9 and also 1 Corinthians 1:31; 3:21; 2 Corinthians 10:17; Galatians 6:13; Philippians 3:3. [ CAB]

Verse 3: “endurance”: See also 8:25 (where the Greek word is translated as “patience”) and 15:4-5. [ CAB]

Verse 4: “character”: The Greek word is dokime, from a verb meaning to test, so the sense is proven-ness under testing. [ CAB]

Verse 4: “hope”: Openness to God’s future. [ CAB]

Verse 5: “and hope”: The sense is easier to see if we insert such between and and hope. A human may disappoint one by not doing what he or she commits to do, but God is not like this. [ NJBC]

Verses 5,8: “God’s love has been poured ... through the Holy Spirit”, “Christ”: In v. 5, God is the Father. These verses lead later to the doctrine of the Trinity.

Verse 5: “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit”: In the Old Testament and Apocrypha, pouring out of a divine attribute is commonplace: for example, mercy in Sirach 18:11, wisdom in Sirach 1:9, grace in Psalm 45:2, and wrath in Hosea 5:10 and Psalm 79:6. See especially Joel 2:28 for the outpouring of the Spirit. [ NJBC]

Verses 6-11: Christ, in his death, has borne the consequences of our sin and thus has reconciled us to God. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “weak”: NJBC offers helpless.

Verse 6: “Christ died for the ungodly”: Paul writes in 4:5: “But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness”. [ CAB]

Verse 8: God’s love is unconditional, spontaneous, not dependent on human love for him.

Verse 9: “justified by his blood”: This is a restatement of 3:24-25: “they [those who have fallen short of true godliness] are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith ...”. [ CAB] In 4:25, justification is the result of Christ’s resurrection, but here it is the result of his death. [ NOAB]

Verse 10: In Galatians 2:20, Paul writes: “... the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”. [ CAB]

Verse 10: “while we were enemies”: Perhaps Paul thinks partly of himself here, as a former persecutor of Christians.

Verse 11: In 1 Corinthians 1:30-31, Paul writes: “He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’”. [ CAB]

Verse 11: “we have now received reconciliation”: In 3:21-22, Paul writes: “But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe”. [ NOAB]

John 4:5-42

Verses 3-4: “he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria”: The direct route from Judea to Galilee was through Samaria. The Samaritans were a mixture of Jews whom the conquering Assyrians (in 721 BC) had deemed too insignificant to deport to Babylon and of Gentile people whom the Assyrians had settled in Palestine. See 2 Kings 17; Ezra 4:1-3; Nehemiah 4:1-9. Relations between Jews and Samaritans were never good, but in 52 AD a clash was so serious that it was resolved by Roman intervention (see Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 20.6.1-3 118-36; Jewish Wars 2:12.3-5 232-46). [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “Sychar”: No Samaritan city by this name is known. Traditionally, scholars have considered “Sychar” to be Shechem, but most scholars today think that “Sychar” was Askar. The two villages were close together, and within sight of Mount Gerizim. [ CAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 5: In Genesis 33:19, Jacob buys land at Shechem. In Genesis 48:22 he gives land to Joseph and his brothers, giving Joseph a double portion. In Hebrew, portion sounds like Shechem. See also John 1:51, where Jesus tells Nathanael, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man”. Jacob, with his ladder to heaven, is the type (forerunner) of Jesus. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “It was about noon”: That a person would visit the well to draw water in the middle of the day is surprising; Water was usually drawn during the less hot times of the day: morning and evening. That the woman draws water about noon suggests that she was an outcast from her village.

Verse 9: “(Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans)”: Clearly this is a note for readers unfamiliar with the strained relations between Jews and Samaritans. Whether John the Evangelist wrote these words or they were added by a later editor is unclear. [ NJBC]

Verse 10: “the gift of God”: Traditions found in targums show that Numbers 21:16-20 was interpreted such that the place name “Mattanah” there was interpreted in terms of its root (which means gift) combined with the promise in 21:16c, “I [God] will give them water.” Jesus’ comment that he is “the gift from God” may echo this tradition. 7:37-39 links “thirsty”, “living water” and “Spirit”: Jesus becomes the source of living water, the Spirit. [ NJBC]

Verse 10: Comments: A legend about Jacob: for him water rose to the top of the well and overflowed: For the legend, see Targum Yerusalmi I Numbers 21:17-18 and Targum Neofit I Genesis 28:10. [ NJBC]

Verse 10: “living water”: In Jeremiah 2:13, Yahweh, speaking through the prophet, refers to himself as “the fountain of living water”. See also Jeremiah 17:13. [ NOAB]

Verse 11: “the well is deep”: Today it is 23 to 32 metres (75 to 105 feet) deep.

Verse 12: In 8:53, Jews ask the same question about Jesus’ stature compared to Abraham. [ NJBC]

Verses 13-15: Not only is Jesus greater than Jacob (for whom the well was an entirely adequate source of water for him, his family and his flocks) but Jesus supplants the reality described in the Old Testament. He is also “the bread of life” which supplants the bread from heaven. See also 6:49-51. In Exodus 16:4, Yahweh tells Moses “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you”. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life”: In 10:10, Jesus says: “‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly’”. [ NOAB]

Verses 17-18: Jesus’ insight would not surprise his readers: see 1:42 (Jesus knows who Simon Peter is); 1:48 (he knows Nathanael); 2:24-25 (“... he himself knew what was in everyone”). [ NJBC]

Verse 22: The Samaritans accepted only the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) as Scripture.

Verse 22: “for salvation is from the Jews”: John has already told his readers that Jesus supplants Jewish purification rites (see 2:6-11, the wedding at Cana, and 3:25-30) and that the “risen Lord” supplants the Jerusalem Temple (see 2:13-22, Jesus cleanses the Temple), so they know the sense in which this clause is meant. [ NJBC]

Verse 23: “truth”: Jesus is the truth, for he is the revelation of God. In 8:45, Jesus tells some unbelievers: “... because I tell the truth, you do not believe me”. See also 14:6; 17:17-19. [ NJBC]

Verse 25: “(who is called Christ)”: BlkJn offers (which means Christ).

Verse 25: “‘I know that Messiah is coming’”: The exact nature of Samaritan messianic hopes is unknown. Whatever it was, it was surely based on Deuteronomy 18:15 (a prophet like Moses) for they recognized none of the prophetic books. [ BlkJn]

Verse 26: “I am he”: Perhaps Jesus points to his divinity, in an echo of God’s self-identification in Exodus 3:14: “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you’’”. This is the first of a series of self-revelatory sayings, all echoing an Old Testament formula This is particularly striking in those sayings ( 6:20; 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5-8) in which Jesus uses the words I am without any predicate. This verse is in striking contrast to the synoptic gospels, where Jesus tells his disciples not to disclose to anyone who he is. Perhaps he felt he could say openly in Samaria what would have seriously impeded his mission in Jewish territory. [ BlkJn]

Verse 27: Whether the disciples were dumbfounded that he would speak to a woman or that they already knew his freedom from Jewish prejudice in the matter is unknown. See Mark 7:25-30; Matthew 15:22-28 (the Canaanite woman’s faith); John 7:53-8:11 (a woman caught in adultery). [ BlkJn]

Verse 34: “‘to do the will of him who sent me’”: This is a common expression in Jesus’ ministry: see also 5:30 and 6:38. Jewish tradition could understand Torah as food: in Proverbs 9:5 Wisdom says “Come, eat of my bread ...”. See also Sirach 24:21. [ NJBC]

Verse 34: “complete his work”: This is echoed at the conclusion of Jesus’ ministry: see 5:36; 17:4; 19:30 (as he dies, Jesus says “‘It is finished’”). [ NJBC]

Verses 35-42: The following would have been part of Comments, had there been space:

V. 35a is probably a proverb meaning no need to rush: little could be in the fields done for “four months” after sowing (in the days before drilling of seed), but God’s harvest is different: “the fields are ripe for harvesting”. Sowing (preaching the good news) and reaping of this harvest, of “fruit for eternal life” (v. 36), of those who believe, are now consecutive. “‘One sows and another reaps’” (v. 37) usually means that people are deprived of the reward for their labours, but here it has another, positive, meaning: “others [prophets, John the Baptist, perhaps the woman] have laboured” (v. 38); the disciples now join in telling the gospel. Meanwhile, starting from the woman’s witness and going on to their own experiences (“we have heard for ourselves”, v. 42), many Samaritans are converted to belief in Christ. Jesus “is truly the Saviour of the [whole] world”.

Verse 36: “wages”: The only point in mentioning the reward seems to be that the harvest is really being gathered now. [ BlkJn]

Verse 36: “sower and reaper may rejoice together”: This is a sign of the new era. Leviticus 26:5 describes the ideal reward as being when the wheat harvest, grape harvest and sowing follow consecutively. This idea is also found in Amos 9:13. [ NJBC]

Verses 37-39: See also 12:23-24. The woman is the first missionary.

Verse 37: “‘One sows and another reaps’”: Normally the sower’s lot is sorrow and the reaper’s is joy: see Psalm 126:5-6. [ NJBC]

Verse 40: “he stayed there two days”: In 1:38, the Greek word translated “stayed” infers conversion. So was the conversion of these Samaritans of short duration, i.e. not permanent? There is no evidence of the conversion of Samaritans outside this gospel before the preaching of Philip (see Acts 8:5-17). Perhaps this is an isolated episode not recorded in the other gospels. [ NJBC]

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