Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fifth Sunday after Pentecost - July 2, 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 22:1-14

Two traditions have been woven tightly together in this story: Elohist (E) and Yahwist (J). The result of the editing is that the Elohist predominates.

Verse 1: “After these things”: A conventional opening to a new section, meaning sometime afterwards. See also 15:1; 22:20; 39:7; 40:1. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “God tested Abraham”: See also Hebrews 11:17-19. Elsewhere in the Pentateuch, God tests the people Israel: see Exodus 15:26; 16:4; Deuteronomy 8:2, 16; 13:3; 33:8. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “Here I am”: Often used to indicate readiness and availability with respect to God’s command. See also 31:11 (Jacob); 46:2 (Jacob); Exodus 3:4 (Moses); 1 Samuel 3:8 (Samuel).

Verse 2: “your only son”: Realizing that “only” is inaccurate, the Septuagint translated this as favoured.

Verse 2: “Moriah”: A word-play on the Hebrew word ra’a , meaning to see. In vv. 8 and 14, the Hebrew translated in the NRSV as “provide” can be translated as see for himself to. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “one of the mountains”: In 2 Chronicles 3:1, the mountain is identified as the site of Jerusalem; however, Samaritan tradition locates the scene at Mount Gerizim – note that 12:6 refers to Shechem. Abraham is the first Israelite worshipper there. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “fire”: A torch, brand or fire-stone. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 8: Another interpretation is that Abraham deflects Isaac’s question. It is also possible that irony is intended, as in God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering – my son. [ FoxMoses]

Verses 9-10: This story may have a secondary message for future Israelites: that child sacrifice is not to be practised. Infant sacrifice was widely practised by the Canaanites and in the Phoenician colonies of North Africa – and even in Israel, as Old Testament polemic against it shows: see 2 Kings 16:3 and Micah 6:7. Israelites practised it in critical times to avoid divine wrath: for Josiah’s destruction of the altar used for child sacrifice, see 2 Kings 23:10. Israel recognized that the first-born belonged to Yahweh (see Exodus 13:11-16; 34:19-20) but, based on this story, an animal was to be sacrificed in place of the first-born. Animal sacrifice acquires the same aura of reverence and holiness that previously belonged to human sacrifice.

Verse 10: “kill”: The Hebrew word is a technical term used specifically to describe animal sacrifice.

Verse 11: “the angel of the Lord”: For the angel’s role in story of the flight of Ishmael and Hagar, see 21:17-19. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: Abraham has learnt to give up control over his own life (which would continue in his son) in order to receive life as a gift from God. [ NJBC]

Verses 15-19: God has made promises to Abraham six times: see 12:2-3, 7; 13:14-17; 15; 17; 18. Now the angel repeats for the seventh and climatic time ( 12:2-3, 7; 13:14-17; 15; 17; 18) the great promises in their most generous form. For the first time, Abraham is blessed because he has heeded God’s command. [ NJBC]

Verse 16: “says the Lord”: A phrase often found in the prophetic books. 15:1 says “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great’”. See also Exodus 4:22; 5:1; 8:1; 2 Samuel 7:5; 12:7; 24:12; Isaiah 1:11; 3:15. [ NJBC]

Verse 17: “possess the gate”: i.e. possess or take the city. [ FoxMoses]

This is the last time God speaks to Abraham. After this story, we know that God will come to the rescue of his chosen in the direst circumstances, but it is difficult being chosen! Love, mentioned here for the first time by name, almost leads to heartbreak. So it will be for the rest of Genesis.

Psalm 13

Verses 1-4: In 6:4, a psalmist asks Yahweh: “Turn, O Lord, save my life; deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love”. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “Will you forget me forever?”: In 31:13, a psalmist says: “For I hear the whispering of many – terror all around! – as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life”. 77:9 asks: “‘Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?’”. [ NJBC]

Verses 3-4: See 4:2-4 for another prayer for help. [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “Give light to my eyes”: 38:10 says: “My heart throbs, my strength fails me; as for the light of my eyes – it also has gone from me” so “Give light to my eyes” means give me strength and the will to live. [ NOAB]

Verse 5: See 3:3-4 for a similar idea. [ NOAB]

Romans 6:12-23

Verse 12: “sin”: For Paul, hamartia (sin) is that personified active force that came into human history through Adam, has reigned over human beings up to Jesus’ coming, and seeks to continue to reign. It can entice Christians too. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “their passions”: In P46 (the oldest text of Romans) and elsewhere (notably in the writings of Irenaeus and Tertullian), the text is obey it, i.e. sin. The sense of the text is much the same. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: Paul uses a military figure: “instruments of wickedness” is literally weapons of wickedness and “instruments of righteousness” is literally arms of righteousness. “Wickedness” (iniquity) and “righteousness” are also contrasted in 1QS (*Qumran Rule of the Community) 3:20-21. There sedeq (uprightness) is closely linked to observance of the law, whereas for Paul it assumes all the connotations of the new Christian life. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “instruments of righteousness”: Righteousness here is God’s act of grace towards the sinner that enables him or her to live in grace, i.e. to be no longer under the control of sin. Paul makes an allusion to Isaiah 11:5 (“Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.”) and 59:17 (“He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in fury as in a mantle”). [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “will have”: NJBC considers the future tense here to express a categorical prohibition, so must is an appropriate translation.

Verses 16-22: “slaves”: Note that in 1:1 Paul calls himself (literally) a slave (Greek: doulos) of Christ. He uses the word as it was used in the Old Testament (strangely, the NRSV consistently translates the word as servant):

  • Certain persons called themselves slaves of Yahweh: see Psalms 27:9; 31:16; 89:50.
  • Slave was used to describe great figures who served Yahweh in the story leading to salvation (salvation history): Moses in 2 Kings 18:12; Joshua in Judges 2:8, and Abraham in Psalm 105:6.

Paul sees himself as being in the same lineage.

Verse 17: “form of teaching”: “Form” translates typos, a word which has two meanings: (1) a visible impression (of a stroke or a die), a mark, an image (as in our word typewriter), and (2) a compendious, terse, presentation of a topic. (It is so used in Plato’s Republic). Being coupled with didache (teaching) here, the latter sense seems more likely. So the reference seems to be to a succinct summary of faith which was “entrusted” to the newly baptised. [ NJBC]

Verse 18: “set free from sin”: The notion of Christian liberty is operative from this point on in Romans: in 8:2, Paul writes: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death”. See also 7:3 and 8:21. [ NJBC]

Verse 19: “to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity”: Paul is probably not thinking of typical pagan vices, but rather the same forms of sin of which the Qumran community repudiated their members: see 1QS (Rule of the Community) 3:5; 4:10, 23-24. [ NJBC]

Verse 19: “sanctification”: In the sense in which Paul uses “saints” in 1:7: “To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints ...”. See also 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8. [ NOAB]

Verse 22: “eternal life”: i.e. God’s future, the world to come. The term “eternal life” is used infrequently by Paul but he does also use it in 2:7; 5:21; Galatians 6:8. [ NJBC]

Verse 23: “wages”: The Greek word literally means ration money, as paid to a soldier – a regular, recurrent payment. The idea is that the more one sinned, the more justification God had for cutting one off from him when one physically died. [ NJBC]

Matthew 10:40-42

Verse 40: Comments: Jewish law considered that one’s agent is like oneself.: See Mishna Berokot 5:5. [ NJBC]

Verse 41: There seem to have been some bad prophets in Matthew’s community: see 7:15-16 (“Beware of false prophets ...”) and 23:34. See also Didache 11:3-6. [ NJBC]

Verse 41: “righteous person”: Scholarly opinions vary regarding to whom this is a reference. One scholar suggests that it is a person who has suffered persecution for the faith and remains in the community as an honoured witness. [ NJBC]

Verse 42: “little ones”: Jesus calls his disciples “children” in Mark 10:24 and refers to them as “infants” in Matthew 11:25. So an interpretation (which may be different from that given in Comments ) is that Jesus is referring here to those who have started the journey to understanding God’s ways but have a long way to go. See also 18:6, 10, 14 where Jesus also refers to “little ones”. Clearly, “little ones” are very important to God. [ NJBC]

Verse 42: “their”: This is a gender-neutral way of saying his or her or one’s. The reference is to the person who gives to the “little ones”.

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