Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fourth Sunday in Lent - March 19, 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.

1 Samuel 16:1-13

Saul probably became king because of his prowess as a military leader (see 14:47-48). Probably by defeating Nahash, an Ammonite king, he won a base of power extending from beyond Benjamin and across the Jordan into Gilead. Saul was then officially made king at Gilgal (see 1 Samuel 9-11). The Israelites struck down the Philistines from Michmash to Aijalou (1 Samuel 14), thus temporarily excluding them from the central hill country.

Saul lost God’s favour when he disobeyed Samuel’s instructions: he failed to wait for Samuel at Gilgal (even though Samuel was late arriving, see 13:7-14) and did not destroy all the plunder of a holy war, as God required (see 15:10-29).

Verse 1: “oil”: Priests (see Exodus 29:1-7) and prophets (see 1 Kings 19:16) were sometimes anointed, but the ceremony was more relevant to kingship, so the king came to be called “the Lord ’s anointed” (see 16:6 and 24:6), or simply “the anointed one”. After the monarchy, the title was applied to an ideal future king in the form of Messiah in Hebrew and Christos in Greek (see Matthew 1:16).

Comments: Samuel’s route to Bethlehem is through Saul’s territory: Assuming that he starts from the sanctuary at Shiloh.

Verses 6,8,9: “Eliab ... Abinadab ... Shammah”: 1 Chronicles 2:13-16 says “Jesse became the father of Eliab his firstborn, Abinadab the second, Shimea the third, Nethanel the fourth, Raddai the fifth, Ozem the sixth, David the seventh”. 17:13-14 names the three eldest and David, the youngest.

Verses 10-11: “made seven of his sons pass before Samuel ... There remains yet the youngest”: Here there are eight sons but in 1 Chronicles 2:13-16 there are seven. NJBC suggests that 1 Samuel is correct. Seven is the perfect number. Showing David as the seventh son would glorify him.

Verse 12: “ruddy”: In 17:42, David is described as “only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance”. [ NOAB]

Verse 14: “Now the spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.”: David’s courage and leadership in skirmishes with the Philistines, and his popularity as a commander earned him great notoriety and caused Saul to feel threatened. Saul became increasing obsessed with jealousy and suspicion. He even drove David into hiding in the desert and pursued him there. The conflict was resolved when Saul, defeated by the Philistines on Mount Gilboa, killed himself (see 31:4).

Psalm 23

A song of trust, probably a royal prayer reinterpreted after the Exile. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: Revelation 7:17 applies these words to the “Lamb” (Christ). [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “soul”: i.e. the vitality, the individualized principle of life. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “darkest valley”: NOAB says that shadow of death is an ancient, but probably fanciful, rendering. See also 44:19; 107:10; Job 3:5; Isaiah 9:2 where the same Hebrew expression occurs and is translated in terms of darkness. [ NOAB] NJBC disagrees; he says that shadow of death is possible.

Verse 5: Kings in the ancient Near East would give lavish banquets on special occasions; hence this image continues the theme of the provident shepherd-king. See 1 Kings 8:65-66 for a “festival” given by Solomon for all the people. [ NJBC]

Verse 6a: The psalmist prays that only the good effects of the covenant now pursue him throughout his life. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “I shall dwell”: NJBC offers may I dwell. The Hebrew verb can mean return or dwell; the ambivalence is probably deliberate, alluding to the exiles’ hope of returning home. See also 27:4.

Verse 6: “the house of the Lord”: The Hebrew term can also mean the land of Israel in general. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “my whole life long”: The Hebrew literally means for length of days. [ NOAB]

For Yahweh as shepherd, see also Psalm 79:13, Isaiah 40:11, and Ezekiel 34:15ff.

Ephesians 5:8-14

4:17-19: These verses reflect a common Jewish view of pagan moral conduct. See also 2:3; Colossians 1:21; Romans 1:28; 2:15. [ NJBC]

4:17: “the futility of their minds”: See also Romans 1:18-32. [ CAB]

4:20: Learning about Christ has direct implications for daily living. [ CAB]

4:22-24:: As with filthy, worn-out clothes. Colossians 3:9-10 says “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator”. [ NJBC]

4:22: In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul writes: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”. [ CAB]

4:24: In Galatians 3:27, Paul writes: “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ”. See also Romans 6:1-14. [ CAB]

4:25: See also Zechariah 8:16 (“... Speak the truth to one another”) and Romans 12:5 (“... we are members one of another ...”). [ NOAB]

4:26: If you are angry, let it be neither in a sinful spirit nor prolonged. See also Psalm 4:4; Colossians 3:8; James 1:19-20. [ NOAB]

4:28: Thieves are to share with the needy not just in restitution but in liberality. [ NOAB]

4:29: Colossians 3:8 admonishes: “... now you must get rid of all such things – anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth”. [ NOAB]

4:30: All Christians together form a living temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells ( 2:21-22), so offence against any member of the community is an offence against the Holy Spirit. [ NJBC]

4:30: “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God”: See also Isaiah 63:10 (“they rebelled and grieved his holy spirit”) and 1 Thessalonians 5:19 (“Do not quench the Spirit”). [ CAB]

4:30: “you were marked with a seal”: 1:13 says “In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit”. [ NJBC]

4:31: See also 1 Timothy 1:19-20 (“... By rejecting conscience, certain persons have suffered shipwreck in the faith ...”) and James 1:19-20 (“... let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger ...”). [ CAB]

4:31: “all bitterness ...”: Elements of a traditional list of vices are incorporated into the parenesis (teaching/exhortation). Such lists were common in Hellenistic moral tracts as well as in the New Testament, e.g. Romans 1:29-31; Galatians 5:19-21, and in the Qumran literature e.g. 1QS (Rule of the Community) 4:3-5; CD (Damascus Document) 4:17-19. The vices listed in this verse are disruptive to communal life. [ NJBC]

4:32: “forgiving one another ...”: Reminiscent of the petition in the Lord’s Prayer that God forgive those who forgive others, but the imperative and the condition are reversed. Christian conduct is a corollary of Christian doctrine: see also Philippians 2:5-8 and Colossians 3:1-3. [ NJBC] [ NOAB]

5:1: “be imitators of God”: i.e. in forgiving (in 4:32) and in loving. This is closer to Matthew 5:43-48 than to Paul, who speaks of imitating Christ and himself: see 1 Corinthians 11:1; 4:16; Galatians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; Philippians 3:17. [ NOAB] [ NJBC] [ CAB]

5:2: “gave himself up”: i.e. to death, as a sacrifice. [ NOAB]

5:3-5: This list of vices is like the one in Colossians 3:5. See also 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Romans 1:29-32. [ CAB]

5:4: “obscene ... talk”: Shameful is another translation. The same Greek word is used in v. 12.

5:4: “silly ... talk”: Foolish talk is another translation.

5:4: “vulgar talk”: i.e. talk of a licentious nature. [ NOAB]

5:5: “one who is greedy”: i.e. one sets up something to worship other than God. Colossians 3:5 says “Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry)”. [ NOAB]

5:6: “the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient”: i.e. they will be punished at the end of time.

5:7: See also 1 Corinthians 5:9-10. [ CAB]

5:6-20: The vocabulary is reminiscent of the language in the Qumran literature. The author contrasts the children of darkness (disobedience) with the children of light. See also 1QS (Rule of the Community) 5:1-2; 3:10-11; 1:5; 2:24-25. As at Qumran, the light-darkness dualism is wholly ethical and not ontological, as in later Gnosticism. [ NJBC]

5:8-17: These verses appear to be an insert loosely connected to the foregoing. V. 18 seems to follow naturally after v. 7.

5:8: In 1 Thessalonians 5:5, Paul says: “... you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness”. In Philippians 2:15, Paul writes of Christians as “children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world”. [ CAB]

5:11: “expose them”: A translation not favoured by some scholars is reprove them. Responsibility for correcting sinners was also important at Qumran: see 1QS (Rule of the Community) 5:24-6:1. [ NJBC]

5:14: “for everything that becomes visible is light”: This verse is a non sequitur from v. 13, unless the author is somehow saying that the children of light reveal the light of Christ.

5:14: The hymn from which the quotation is taken seems to combine ideas in Isaiah 60:1 and 26:19. [ CAB]

5:15-17: “not as unwise people but as wise ... So do not be foolish”: See also 1QS (Rule of the Community) 4:23-24. [ NJBC]

5:16: Colossians 4:5 says “Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time”. [ NOAB]

5:18: “Do not get drunk with wine”: See also Proverbs 23:31-35. [ CAB]

5:19-20: Colossians 3:16-17 has similarities: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”. [ CAB]

John 9:1-41

BlkJn says that this is the second sign in the second group of three signs.

Comments: where beggars habitually gathered: V. 8 tells us he was a beggar. In Acts 3:1-10, Peter cures a beggar near the Temple. [ BlkJn]

Verse 2: “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”: This question illustrates the belief, common at the time, that illness and physical misfortunes were punishment for sin. This was what Job’s friends believed. Luke 13:2, 4 also illustrates this belief, and shows that Jesus did not share it. [ BlkJn]

Verse 3: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him”: BlkJn, arguing from the construction of the clauses in the Greek and noting the characteristically Semitic refusal (or inability) to distinguish the purpose and the consequence of an action, tries to reproduce this ambiguity: [This did] not [happen because] this man or his parents sinned, but for the works of God to be shown forth in him.

Verse 3: “God’s works”: Both those performed by God and by the godly. [ BlkJn] In 11:4, on hearing of Lazarus’ illness, Jesus says: “‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it’”.

Verse 4: “night”: For the symbolism, see also 3:2 (Nicodemus) and 13:30 (Judas Iscariot). [ BlkJn]

Verse 5: “I am in the world”: 1:10 says: “He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him” and in 3:19 Jesus says: “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil”. [ BlkJn]

Verse 5: “I am the light of the world”: 8:12 says: “‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’” [ BlkJn]

Verse 6: In Mark 10:51, Jesus asks if the blind man, Bartimaeus, wishes help. Here he doesn’t ask. [ BlkJn]

Verse 6: “saliva”: It was usual to use spittle as a means of healing in ancient times, but here it is simply used to make “mud” (which would stick to the man’s eyes). Jesus uses the spittle and dirt, the material from which proto-human was made (see Genesis 2:7), to complete the creative act in the blind man. [ BlkJn]

Verse 7: As Naaman was challenged by Elisha to have faith (by washing in the Jordan), so the blind man is challenged to wash in the pool of Siloam: see 2 Kings 5:10. [ BlkJn]

Verse 7: “the pool of Siloam”: The pool still exists; it is on the south side of the site of the Temple. It is fed by the overflow of the intermittent Virgin’s Spring sent by the tunnel Hezekiah made: see 2 Kings 20:20. [ BlkJn]

Verse 7: “Siloam ... (which means Sent)”: “Sent” is a symbol of Jesus as sent from God to give light. Perhaps John also intends an allusion to Isaiah 8:6, the waters of Shiloah which Jews refused to receive – as they refused Christ. [ NOAB]

Verse 7: “he ... came back able to see”: For similar healings in the synoptic gospels, see, for example, Mark 10:46-52 (Bartimaeus) and Mark 8:22-26 (the blind man at Bethsaida).

Verse 13: “They”: i.e. the neighbours and friends. [ NOAB]

Verse 16: “‘This man is not from God’”: BlkJn points out the odd order of the words in Greek: so he translates this clause: This is not the man from God.

Verse 16: “they were divided”: For division that results from Jesus’ presence among humans, see also 7:43 and Luke 12:51.

Verse 17: “He is a prophet”: The miracle authenticates Jesus as a messenger from God. [ NOAB] Sight to the blind is promised in the prophetic books (see Isaiah 29:18; 35:5) and especially in Isaiah 42:6-7 where it is linked to renewal of the covenant. The Samaritan woman also proclaims Jesus as a prophet: see 4:19. [ BlkJn]

Verse 24: “‘Give glory to God!’”: This is a technical term meaning tell the truth! It is a formula used when people are to confess their sins. In Joshua 7:19, Joshua urges Achan: “give glory to the Lord God of Israel and make confession to him”. See also 1 Samuel 6:5; Jeremiah 13:16; Acts 12:23 (Agrippa dies); Mishnah Sanhedrin 6:2. [ BlkJn] [ NOAB]

Verse 25: “‘now’”: BlkJn says that the Greek word, arti, is emphatic, so he translates it as at present.

Verse 28: “You are his disciple”: An expression of baffled rage. The Pharisees attempt to cover their own defeat by denouncing the one who has been blind. [ NOAB]

Verse 30: “‘astonishing’”: BlkJn translates the Greek as marvellous.

Verse 31 : “‘We know ...’”: From Old Testament teachings. [ NOAB]

Verse 31: “‘God does not listen to sinners’”: In Isaiah 1:15, God, through the prophet, says to unrepentant sinners: “ When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood”. [ BlkJn] See also Psalm 66:18.

Verse 31: “he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will”: Proverbs 15:29 says “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous”. [ NOAB]

Verse 34: Blinded by their pride of learning (see 7:15), the Pharisees attribute the man’s refusal to be persuaded by them to his sins. [ BlkJn]

Verse 34: “they drove him out”: If we take this literally, the examination of the man took place in a synagogue. Synagogues were used for many communal purposes besides than worship. The man is branded as an outcast. [ BlkJn]

Verse 35: “‘the Son of Man’”: In John, both the humiliated and the exalted Christ. Jesus appears to have used this title to avoid the then popular connotations of Messiah. Note that when he is in Samaria, Jesus acknowledges that he is the Messiah: see 4:26.

Verses 36,38: “‘sir ... Lord’”: The Greek word in both cases is Kurie (Kyrie). It is possible that in v. 38 the meaning is no more than sir and “worshipped him” may only be an extravagant gesture of respect: see Matthew 8:2; 9:18; 18:26, 20:20. However John probably intends us to take the second Kurie as divine “Lord” and “worshipped” in the full sense it has in every other case in John. [ BlkJn]

Verse 38: “I believe”: For belief as a result of a sign , see also 4:53 (Jesus heals an official’s son). [ BlkJn]

Verse 39: Jesus came as the light but also for judgement: see also 3:19 (Nicodemus) and 5:22. [ BlkJn]

Verse 39: “‘who do not see may see’”: Isaiah 35:5 prophesies: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped”.

Verse 39: “‘those who do see may become blind’”: This is from Isaiah 6:9-10. These verses are also quoted in 12:40 and Matthew 13:14-17. [ BlkJn]

Verse 41: “now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains”: Proud refusal to admit spiritual blindness demonstrates their sin. Sin and disbelief are closely linked in 8:24; however 3:36 says: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God's wrath”.

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