Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Eighth Sunday after Epiphany - February 27, 2011

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.

Isaiah 49:8-16a

In one view, Deutero-Isaiah writes chapters 49-55 from Babylon after Cyrus signed the edict allowing Jews to return home: see Ezra 1:1-4. Their new state is barely large enough to support the Jerusalem sanctuary, and in this poor tract of land, 32 x 40 km (20 x 25 miles), the people quickly succumb to discouragement, avarice and cruelty: see Haggai, Nehemiah 5 and Ezra 9-10. Not until 515, upon the insistence of Haggai and Zechariah, did they complete the Temple, the foundation of which had been laid in 536: see Ezra 3:7-4:5; 5:1. [NJBC]

Verses 1-7: CAB writes: the prophet speaks for the faithful component of historic Israel, to describe the role of that remnant as my servant, whose task is to renew God’s people, “to bring back Jacob to him” (v. 5). Not only will the “survivors of Israel” (v. 6) experience freedom and renewal, but they will also become instruments through whom “light” will reach out to all nations, “to the end of the earth”. Though other nations now despise Israel and her God, the rulers will one day “prostrate themselves” (v. 7) before “the Holy One of Israel”.

Verses 1-7: This is the second Servant Song. The other three Servant Songs are in 42:1-7; 50:4-9 and 52:13-53:12.

Verse 1: “called me before I was born ...”: In Jeremiah 1:5, Yahweh tells the prophet: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations”. In Galatians 1:15, Paul says that he believes that he was called before birth. See also Psalm 139:13-15, Luke 1:15 (John the Baptist), Luke 1:31 (Jesus). [NOAB] [NJBC]

Verse 2: “a sharp sword”: A military image is also used for God’s actions in Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12; Jeremiah 1:9; Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 1:16. [NJBC]

Verse 2: “he hid me”: For protection as a possible reason, see Psalms 17:8 (“hide me in the shadow of your wings”) and 27:15; for provision of time to appreciate Israel’s mission, see 51:14-16; 52:13-15. [NJBC]

Verses 3-4: In serving God, Israel will be glorified. Though his ministry appears to be futile, his reward is with God. See also 1 Kings 19:4-18 (Elijah) and Jeremiah 15:15-21.

Verses 4-6: As do other Servant Songs, these verses move in the style of Jeremiah’s confessions (see Jeremiah 11:18-12:6; 15:10-21; 17:14-18; 18:18-23; 20:7-18). They are the personal soliloquy of a sorrowing person of faith.

Verse 4: “in vain”: Also translated for nothing. The Hebrew word, tohu, is used in Genesis 1:2 for the chaotic state of the earth before God created. Isaiah 41:29 says: “... they are all a delusion; their works are nothing; their images are empty (tohu) wind”. [NJBC]

Verse 4: “reward”: Recompense is another translation. The Hebrew word is mispat. [NJBC]

Verses 5-6: A contrast between the old and new Israel. Paul and Barnabas quote these verses at Antioch in Pisidia: see Acts 13:47. See also Acts 26:23 (Paul appears before Festus). [NOAB]

Verse 5: “that Israel might be gathered to him”: God (or possibly Cyrus) leads the new exodus, not Deutero-Isaiah. See also 40:1-11; 45:2-3, 13. [NJBC]

Verse 6: “a light to the nations”: In 42:6, God says through the prophet: “I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations”. [NOAB]

Verse 7: This verse leads us to the fourth Song. [NJBC]

Scholars have identified four Servant Songs in Isaiah. They claim that these sections have been inserted into older text. They have been inserted in places where they link to the surrounding verses. Perhaps the preceding and following verse have been modified to make the fit smoother. But the fit is in no case really smooth. In the case of this Servant Song, the editor appears to have chosen a spot at the beginning of a new section; there is no link between vv. 1-7 and the preceding verses (in Chapter 48), and the section could well begin with v. 8. The Song is inserted with a theme common with the following verses: salvation. But now for the roughness of the fit:

  • Both v. 7 and v. 8 begin “Thus says the LORD”. Surely the first one is enough.
  • While v. 6 tells of the liberation of all nations, v. 23 speaks of the subjugation of other nations to Israel.

Verses 8-9b: Though in bondage as in Egypt (48:10), they will be released and restored: see also 2 Corinthians 6:2. See also 40:1, 11; 41:18; 43:5-6; 45:14; 49:4, 6, 21; 61:2. [NOAB] [NJBC]

Verse 8: “In a time of favour”: This phrase became a common inheritance of Jewish apocalyptic writing. Jesus fulfils this hope: see Luke 2:14. See also 2 Corinthians 6:2 [NJBC]

Verse 8: “kept”: Formed is another translation. 48:10 says: “... I have refined you, but not like silver; I have tested you in the furnace of adversity”. The Hebrew of this verse is difficult. The “furnace of adversity” is the Exile; this metaphor was earlier used to refer to bondage in Egypt: see Deuteronomy 4:20; 45:2-3, 13.

Verses 9c-11: The imagery of the Exodus (see 48:20-22) is combined with that of Israel’s deliverance. [NOAB]

Verse 10: For the messianic theme of water, see also John 4:10-14 (the Samaritan women at the well) and Revelation 7:16. [NJBC]

Verse 13: This melodic interlude reminds us of the song of Miriam sung after the Israelites are rescued from Egypt. [NJBC]

Verses 14-16: Yahweh protests his love for Israel, as he does in Hosea 2:14-23 and Jeremiah 31:20. [NOAB]

Verse 15: One of the most touching expressions of divine love in the entire Bible. [NJBC]

Verse 16: Names written on the palms of God's hands echo such texts as Deuteronomy 6:8 and Jeremiah 31:33. [NJBC]

Verse 16: “your walls”: God is speaking to Jerusalem, the entire people of God. [NJBC]

Verse 18: The seeming clash of images (Jerusalem as both child and spouse of God) is also found in Hosea 1-3. Yahweh as spouse is also found in 62:4-5 and Jeremiah 2:1-3. [NJBC]

Verse 19: As if studded with jewels, ruined Jerusalem will be repopulated. [NOAB]

Verses 20-21: Zion, who had no hope of children, will have more inhabitants than room for them: see also Jeremiah 31:15-17. [NOAB]

Verse 20: “children born in the time of your bereavement”: i.e. born in exile. [NOAB]

Verse 22: “signal”: Usually a signal announced an invasion, but here it announces the beginning of Judah's restoration: see also 30:17 and Jeremiah 6:1. In 5:26, a signal announces that the Assyrians are about to invade. See also 13:2 and 18:3. [NOAB]

Verse 23: “lick the dust of your feet”: Ancient language for a vassal showing homage to a king. [NJBC]

Verses 24-26: Zion remains doubtful and an element of disputation dampens the enthusiasm. [NJBC]

Verse 26: King Cyrus of Persia took the city of Babylon without a battle and never levelled it. Either Deutero-Isaiah wrote these lines before the city fell or he is using stereotyped language. [NJBC] Exaggeration emphasizes what is common to both the Old Testament and the New. [JBC]

Verse 26: “the Mighty One of Jacob”: God is called this in Genesis 49:24. [NJBC]

Psalm 131

An act of humble submission to God's will and guidance: a song of trust. [NOAB]

Verse 2: Perhaps the psalmist means to say that as a weaned child no longer cries fitfully for its mother's milk, but is quiet and content upon her lap, so the psalmist reposes in Yahweh's love. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “O Israel, hope in the LORD”: This is also found in the previous psalm, in 130:7. [NJBC]

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

1:11: “Chloe’s people”: For other female leaders in the Church, see Philippians 4:2-3 (“Euodia” and “Syntyche”), Romans 16:1-2 (“Phoebe”), Acts 16:14 (“Lydia”) and Acts 18:2 (“Priscilla”), 18, 26. [CAB]

1:12: “Apollos”: See also Acts 18:24-19:1. He was an Alexandrian Jew who became a follower of John the Baptist. He was instructed in the faith by Priscilla and Aquila, who are also mentioned in Romans 16:3. He preached in Paul’s absence (see 3:6) and was with Paul at Ephesus when this letter was written (see 16:12). [NOAB] [NJBC]

1:12: “Cephas”: Cepha’ is a Palestinian Aramaic nickname meaning rock. The Greek rendering of Cepha’ is Cephas. The name Peter is the Greek word for rock, petra. For his nicknaming, see Matthew 16:18 and John 1:42. Paul usually calls him Cephas (see also 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Galatians 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14) but he also uses the Greek form petros (see Galatians 2:7-8). [CAB] [NJBC]

1:13: “Christ”: See also 6:15 (Christians are “members of Christ”); 12:12; Galatians 3:16. [CAB]

1:14: “Crispus”: A former official of the synagogue at Corinth: Acts 18:8 tells us that he “became a believer in the Lord, together with all his household”. [CAB]

1:14: “Gaius”: Romans 16:23 speaks of a certain Gaius “who is host to me [Paul] and to the whole church”, indicating that he is a wealthy man whose house was large enough to contain a whole church, made up of a number of smaller house churches. Perhaps this is the same person. [HBD] 1 Corinthians 16:19 tells us that “Aquila and Prisca” also hosted a “church in their house”. [NJBC]

1:16: “the household of Stephanas”: Paul’s first converts in Achaia (in central Greece), as 16:15 tells us. [NOAB]

1:17: “the cross of Christ”: See also 1:23 (“we proclaim Christ crucified”); 1:29-2:2. [CAB]

3:1-4: That the Corinthians are divided shows Paul that they are weak (“people of the flesh, ... infants in Christ”") and not “spiritual people”. [CAB]

3:9: “God's building”: Paul depicts the community using this metaphor in 3:10-16.

Comments: apostles: Paul uses this term of himself and Apollos in 4:9; Blk1Cor uses the word ministers. Both terms can be misunderstood. We tend to think of apostles as the twelve; modern notions of ministers are not what Paul, Apollos and others were in the nascent church. The Greek word apostolos literally means one sent out.

4:2-3: Since Paul did not appoint himself and the Corinthians did not name him, their judgements are meaningless. [NJBC]

4:4: “I am not aware of anything against myself”: NJBC offers my conscience is clear. Paul does not suffer the pain of transgression, but this is no guarantee that the one true judge agrees.

Matthew 6:24-34

The parallel is Luke 12:22-31. [NOAB]

Verse 24: “wealth”: This word is a translation of mammon, the Aramaic word for tangible possessions, which can take control of human life. [CAB]

Verse 25: This verse and v. 34 form an inclusio. [NJBC]

Verse 25: Shelter was not a concern in Palestine.

Verses 25,31: “worry”: The Greek word, merimnao, does not mean be anxious but consider, think about, in the sense here of be preoccupied with or be absorbed by. It also occurs in v. 27. [NJBC]

Verse 28: “toil nor spin”: Perhaps references to men toiling in field labour and women doing housework. [NJBC]

Verse 29: 1 Kings 10:4-7 tell of the Queen of Sheba’s observation of Solomon’s wisdom and splendour. [NOAB]

Verse 30: “you of little faith”: You are unwilling to rest in assurance that God cares about your lives: see also 8:26 (Jesus stills the storm); 14:31 (Jesus walks on water); 16:8. [NOAB]

Verse 33: In Romans 14:17, Paul writes: “the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”. See also Mark 10:29-30; Luke 18:29-30. [NOAB] This is the climactic verse of the whole chapter. [NJBC]

Verse 33: “righteousness”: Another translation is justice. In Matthew, seeking the kingdom and seeking justice are not two distinct quests; Matthew wants to say that there is no authentic search for the kingdom except in a quest whose immediate goal is justice. The justice envisaged is not a justice in God alone but one that we are to produce on earth ourselves. [NJBC]

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