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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fourth Sunday after Epiphany - February 2, 2014



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.

Micah 6:1-8

Part of a series of laments, threats and denunciations directed against all classes of Israelites – an extension of themes found in 1:2-3:12.

There are parallels to this lawsuit in Isaiah 1; 3, Hosea and Amos. [ NJBC]

Verses 1-2: Yahweh is both judge and accuser. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “controversy”: The Hebrew word is rib. This word is also found in Isaiah 3:13 (“argue his case”); Hosea 4:1-3 (“indictment”); 12:2. [ NOAB]

Verses 3-5: A lamentation, a resumption of the professions of faith of Israel, e.g. the one in Joshua 24:2-13. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “I ... redeemed you”: God takes the initiative in saving his people: see also Deuteronomy 9:26 and 21:8.

Verse 5: “Balak”: For the story of Balak’s scheme, and prophecies about the Israelites, see Numbers 22-24. [ CAB]

Verse 5: “Shittim”: Shittim was in Moabite territory, north of Mount Nebo and across the border from Jericho: see Numbers 33:48-49. At Shittim, Joshua was commissioned to succeed Moses (see Numbers 27:23) and from there spies were sent into the Promised Land: see Joshua 3. [ HBD]

Verse 5: “Gilgal”: Gilgal was between the Jordan and Jericho. It became Joshua’s base of operations. [ HBD]

Verses 6-7: V. 6a is the general question; vv. 6b, 7a and 7b are particular questions.

Verse 7b: “Shall I give my firstborn ...”: For the prohibition of child sacrifice, see Leviticus 20:2-3; Deuteronomy 12:31; Ezekiel 20:26. Human sacrifice was rejected by Yahweh: see Jeremiah 7:31 and 19:5. See also Genesis 22 (the near--sacrifice of Isaac). [ NJBC]

Verse 8: This verse sums up the legal, ethical and covenantal requirements of religion, and sounds major notes of Amos (see Amos 5:24); Hosea (see Hosea 2:19-20; 6:6) and Isaiah (see Isaiah 7:9 and 30:15). [ NOAB]

For the entry into the Promised Land, see Joshua 2-4.

Psalm 15

See also Isaiah 33:13-16.

Verse 1: “holy hill”: Pre--Israelite gods were thought on live on mountains. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: Paul writes in Romans 13:10: “Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law”. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “interest”: The Hebrew word is neshek; it is derived from a verb meaning to bite. Another Hebrew word, tarbith , is also translated as interest; its roots are similar to those of a word meaning increase. Some scholars say that the two words express a single notion; others see two different concepts here:

  • neshek: Interest bitten off a loan at the time of lending, and
  • tarbith: Accrued interest resulting in an increase when a loan is repaid.

Early Israelite society was agrarian, and poor. What was lent was necessities of life, so charging interest was unreasonable; however, later a commerce--based economy arose. Here interest was charged on non--essential goods. Interest is prohibited in Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35-37 and Nehemiah 5:7: in all cases, on charitable loans for relief of distress, and not on purely business loans. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “shall never be moved”: Another translation is shall not stumble. In the Old Testament, stumbling or falling is an image of ruin: see Proverbs 3:23; 4:12; Isaiah 40:31; 63:13; Jeremiah 31:9. [ NJBC]

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Believers must detach themselves from the standards of fallen humanity – the cause of the divisions at Corinth – if they are to understand the way God relates to them. [ NJBC]

Verse 18: The fact of acceptance or rejection of humanity is the basis of division of humanity into two groups. God has not predestined some to salvation and others to condemnation. In the future, the status of a member of either group may change. In 5:5, writing of a sexually immoral man, Paul says “you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord”. Note also 10:12: “So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall”. [ NJBC]

Verse 18: “the cross”: Paul writes in 2:1-2: “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

Verse 19: The quotation is Isaiah 29:14 in the Septuagint translation. There Yahweh, through the prophet, counsels King Ahaz to accept the advice of “wise” counsellors: to trust in God to deliver Judah from the Assyrians. [ NOAB]

Verses 20-25: Proud, self--centred humans want God to be at their disposal, but God’s way of dealing with human sin through the cross of Christ stands in contrast to human power and wisdom. Those who have been “called” (v. 24) by the message of the cross find in it God’s “power” and “wisdom”. [ CAB]

Verse 20: The questions are inspired by Isaiah 19:11; 33:18; 44:25; Job 12:17. [ NJBC]

Verse 21: “the wisdom of God”: Not a divine plan, but the organization and beauty of creation. In Romans 1:19-20, Paul writes: “For what can be known about God is plain to them [those who suppress the truth], because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made”. [ NJBC]

Verse 21: “the world did not know God through wisdom”: Rational speculation, which in the world passes for wisdom, had failed to perceive that God has acted through a suffering saviour. [ NJBC]

Verse 22: “demand signs”: i.e. demand miracles. In so doing, Jews refuse to trust in God, thus camouflaging their contentment with the status quo. [ NJBC]

Verse 22: “Greeks”: The Greek word is ethnoi, the same word translated as “Gentiles” in v. 23, so Paul means non--Jews in general. In Galatians 3:28 he writes: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”. [ NJBC]

Verse 23: “stumbling block to Jews”: Because of their particular messianic expectations. [ NJBC]

Verse 23: “foolishness to Gentiles”: Because of their rationalism. [ NJBC]

Verse 24: “those who are the called”: Even though Paul uses kletoi, the called ones, he speaks of those who hear and accept the good news. Paul often calls members of the Church the called ones. In Romans 8:28, he writes: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose”. See also 2:2 and Romans 1:6-7. [ NJBC]

Verse 24: “Christ ...”: The authentic humanity of Jesus makes visible God’s intention for humans and radiates an attractive force that enables response. [ NJBC]

Verse 28: See also Romans 9:24-26.

Verse 31: Paul cites Jeremiah 9:23-24 rather freely, as he does in 2 Corinthians 10:17. See also Galatians 6:14. [ NOAB]

Matthew 5:1-12

The parallel is Luke 6:17, 20-23. [ NOAB] By comparing Matthew’s version with Luke’s, and hypothesizing that the two gospels share a common source of Jesus’ sayings (known to scholars as Q for Quelle, the German word for source), it is likely that only three of the beatitudes were actually said by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: vv. 3, 4 and 6. The last one (vv. 10-12) may well come from Matthew’s time: when Christians were beginning to face persecution. The other beatitudes may have been said by Jesus on other occasions.

Comments: the “crowds” hear too: 7:28 says “Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching”.

Verse 1: “he sat down”: Teachers in the Near East then usually sat while teaching. See also Luke 4:20-21 (Jesus reads from Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth). [ NOAB] As Moses first instructed the Israelites from the “mountain” in Sinai (see Exodus 19), so Jesus teaches his followers from a “mountain”. [ CAB] The “mountain” is one of revelation. [ NJBC]

Verses 2-10: While in Luke Jesus addresses those who hear him on this particular occasion, here he speaks more generally, e.g. to “poor in spirit” wherever (and whenever) they may be. See also Romans 15:26 (“the poor among the saints”) and Galatians 2:10 (the Council of Jerusalem). [ CAB]

Verses 3-11: “Blessed are”: The book of Revelation contains seven beatitudes: see Revelation 1:3 (“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it”); 14:13 (“Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord”); 16:15 (“Blessed is the one who stays awake and is clothed”); 19:9 (“Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb”); 20:6 (“Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection”); 22:7 (“Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book”); 22:14 (“Blessed are those who wash their robes”). [ BlkMt]

Verse 3: “poor in spirit”: Isaiah 66:2 says: “... this is the one to whom I will look, to the humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at my word”. See also Isaiah 11:4; 57:15; 61:1. [ NOAB] [ BlkMt] Another interpretation: those who feel a sense of spiritual emptiness in the general religious environment of Jesus’ day.

Verse 4: BlkMt says that those who “mourn” include all who undergo life’s hard experiences, crushing disappointments, and bitter losses, and yet in conscious or mute faith turn to God for help. They will be comforted by God’s comforting, renewing, strengthening presence and help. Their sorrow will be turned into joy as God’s rule is established in the world. Isaiah 61:1 says: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners”. [ BlkMt]

Verse 4: “those who mourn”: They mourn to see evil reign on earth. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: As foretold in Psalm 37:11: “... the meek shall inherit the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity”. “Meek” means slow to anger, gentle with others, connoting a form of charity. [ NJBC] BlkMt says that the word “meek” means more than gentle, humble and trustful towards God even though outward conditions of life are not easy. It is the opposite of the self--centred, brazen attempt to be independent of God. It accepts life under God without complaint or bitterness. While in the psalm “the land” is the Promised Land (though the notions of faith and worship of God are not absent), here the phrase “the earth” (or land) is figurative: the “meek” will enter the Kingdom of God and will know all the privileges of fellowship with God.

Verse 6: In a prophetic section, Isaiah 55:1-2 says: “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” See also John 4:14; 6:48-51. [ NOAB]

Verse 7: “the merciful”: i.e. those who are understanding, gentle, forgiving, and quick to relieve the suffering and need of others. God will deal mercifully with those who have shown mercy to their fellow humans. See also 18:21-35 and James 2:13. [ BlkMt] Alternatively, those who pardon their neighbours (see 6:12, 14-15; 18:35), who love (see 9:13; 12:7; 23:23), especially who love the needy (see 25:31-46), and even love their enemies (see 5:44-47). [ NJBC]

Verse 7: Comments: who pardon: See 6:12 (“forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”, the Lord’s Prayer), 6:14-15 (“‘... if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you ...’”); 18:35. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: They will receive mercy on the Day of Judgement. [ NOAB]

Verse 8: “pure in heart”: This is not synonymous with chastity, but includes it. Psalm 24:3-4 says that those who “shall ascend the hill of the Lord” are “Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully”. See also Hebrews 12:14. [ NOAB] To CAB, it concerns clarity of insight about God’s will for his people, as stated in Proverbs 3:3-6. NJBC points out that while in the Old Testament this term refers to ritual and moral impurity being cleansed (see Psalm 24:4; 51; Isaiah 1:10-20), in Matthew purity of heart stands close to justice and includes covenant fidelity, loyalty to God’s commands, and sincere worship. BlkMt says that “the pure in heart” are those who are single--minded in complete loyalty to God and his purposes. This is the opposite of those who are “double-minded and unstable in every way” (see James 1:7ff).

Verse 8: “see God”: See also 1 Corinthians 13:12 (“... now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face ...”); 1 John 3:2 (“... when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is”); Revelation 22:4 (“they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads”). [ NOAB]

Verses 9-12: “peacemakers”: The faithful community will work to reconcile others to God. [ CAB] The term “peacemakers” is based on the Old Testament word shalom, a many--sided concept involving total well--being. In Matthew, peacemaking is closely related to love of neighbour – and thus to the beatitude of the merciful (v. 7). [ NJBC] BlkMt says that “peacemakers” are those whose attitudes, words, and actions preserve friendship and understanding where it exists and restore it where it is destroyed by human friction and strife.

Verse 9: “children of God”: BlkMt offers Sons of God, a literal translation of the Greek. He says that sons of often means having the nature and showing the spirit of someone. By bringing good will, understanding, and reconciliation into damaged human relationships they do God’s work and will be recognized as his sons.

Verse 10: 1 Peter 3:14 says: “... even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed ...” and 1 Peter 4:14 says “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you”. [ NOAB]

Verse 10: “persecuted”: This means ridiculed, denounced, ill--treated, and perhaps even injured and threatened with death.

Verse 10: “for righteousness’ sake”: i.e. because they are dedicated to God’s will and by their confession, way of life, and open witness show their dedication to God’s righteous cause. [ BlkMt]

Verse 11: “revile you and persecute you ...”: Do not be intimidated or surprised if you are reviled or persecuted. Do not give any basis in attitude or action for such hostile charges and ill--treatment. [ BlkMt] In Matthew 23:37, Jesus says “‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!’”. See also 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 and Acts 7:52 (Stephen’s speech before the Sanhedrin). [ NOAB]

Verse 12: If you have given no basis for such charges or ill--treatment, you may “be glad” even when being persecuted. You do not earn your salvation, for it is a gift from God; however faithfulness is necessary to qualify for salvation. [ BlkMt]

Verse 12: “they persecuted the prophets”: You are in a noble succession if you are persecuted, for Israel persecuted Old Testament prophets (as Hebrews 11:32-38 says). God cared for his “prophets”; he will preserve and reward his ill--treated followers. [ BlkMt]

All of the reward verbs are in the future tense, except the first and the last. Thus future eschatology is in view. [ NJBC]

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