Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fifth Sunday after Pentecost - July 9, 2017



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 24:34-38,42-49,58-67

This story is from the Yahwist (J) tradition. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “his servant”: Probably Eliezer of Damascus. 15:2 tells us that if Abraham continues not to have a son, Eliezer will be his heir. [ NOAB]

Verse 2: “Put your hand under my thigh”: See also v. 9. An old form of oath-taking. A modern agreement includes penalties for failing to keep it. For example, if I fail to make regular car payments, the bank may repossess my car. The ancient equivalent was one or more curses. In 46:26 and Exodus 1:5, sons are said to come from a father’s “thigh” (although the NRSV does not so translate the Hebrew), so “thigh” is the male genital organ. Children were seen as being a gift from God. If Abraham’s servant fails to keep the pact, he will be cursed with childlessness, and thus separated (to a degree) from God. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “swear by ... the God of heaven and earth”: The Hebrew is the God of heaven and the God of earth. Thus there are two witnesses, as required for an ancient covenant. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “you will not get a wife ...”: Note the fear of corruption by Canaanite culture. See also Exodus 34:15-16 and Ezra 10. Deuteronomy 7:3-4 forbids Israelites to marry Canaanites. [ NOAB]

Verse 7: “who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth”: 12:1 says: “ Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.” [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “To your offspring I will give this land”: This is a quotation from 12:7. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 7: “his angel”: As in the appearance to Hagar in 16:7, the angel is probably God. See also 21:17, 19; Exodus 14:19 (crossing the Reed Sea). [ NOAB]

Verse 10: “camels”: It appears that the story changed to reflect a later form of transportation, for it seems that Israel first encountered camels in the Midianite raids of about 1200-1000 BC. [ NJBC]

Verse 10: “Aram-naharaim”: Literally Aram of the Two Rivers , namely the Tigris and Euphrates. Aram was at the head-waters of these rivers, in north-west Mesopotamia. It is also called Haran and Paddam-aram. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 11: Jacob and Rachel meet under similar circumstances: see 29:1-14. See also Exodus 2:15-22 (Ruel gives Zipporah to Moses in marriage after they meet at a well). [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “steadfast love”: The Hebrew word, hesed, signifies loyalty arising from a relationship between a strong person and a weaker, where the stronger shows the weaker favour or helps him or her. When applied to God’s relationship with humans, it involves benevolent action, loyalty in deeds, and gracious (loving) favour. [ NOAB]

Verse 15: Rebekah’s ancestry is given more clearly in 22:20-23: Nahor is Abraham’s brother; Bethuel is Nahor’s son; Rebekah is Bethuel’s daughter. [ NOAB] But 29:5, a verse also attributed to this tradition, says that Laban is Nahor’s son. This would make Rebekah and Isaac cousins. [ JBC] The former relationship is more likely: Abraham was childless until his old age, so a generation was skipped.

Verse 26: Only when Rebekah has agreed to provide lodging is the head servant sure that Yahweh has granted him success. [ NJBC]

Verses 34-49: The head servant diplomatically omits Abraham’s insistence that Isaac not return to Haran. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 41: “oath”: Literally oath-curse. Written from the servant’s viewpoint. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 49: “so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left”: If Laban (and Bethuel) do not wish to enter into a covenant with Abraham, the head servant will be free from his oath. [ NJBC]

Verse 50: “Laban and Bethuel answered”: NJBC says that “and Bethuel” is generally considered by scholars to be a later addition to the text (either due to editing or errant copying) because Rebekah’s brother Laban is the one who gives consent. The legal arrangements are in accord with Hurrian practice, as found in documents from the 1400s BC found at Nuzi (now in northeastern Iraq). Note also “her mother’s household” in v. 28; if Bethuel is alive, one would expect her father’s household .

Comments: It seems that the family worships Abraham’s God (v. 50), although they also have household gods:

31:19 tells is that “... Rachel stole her father's household gods.”; in 31:30 Laban asks Jacob: “why did you steal my gods?”. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 55: “Let the girl remain with us a while ...”: Scholars offer two other translations: a few days, perhaps ten and a year or ten months. Delaying tactics are also found in stories about Laban: see 29:27 (his delay in giving Jacob the hand of Rachel in marriage); 30:25-28 (Laban delays Jacob’s return home after Joseph is born) and 31:26-30. [ NJBC]

Verse 59: “her nurse”: Genesis never tells us of the death of Rebekah, but when Isaac dies, so does the nurse. Perhaps Rebekah dies at the same time. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 60: “gain possession of the gates ...”: See 22:17 for this blessing on Abraham. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 62: “Beer-lahai-roi”: 16:14 tells us how this place acquired its name and it is “between Kadesh and Bered”, in the southern Negev desert. There Sarai identifies “the angel” with God. [ NJBC] [ FoxMoses]

Verse 65: “my master”: Abraham’s death is recorded in 25:8.

Psalm 45:10-17

Superscription: “Of the Korahites”: The Korahites were the Levitical group responsible for singing in the Temple: see 2 Chronicles 20:19. They are also mentioned in the superscriptions of Psalms 42; 44; 46-49; 84; 85; 87-88. [ CAB]

This psalm is extremely old. Some of the Hebrew is obscure. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “Your throne, O God”: The king seems to be addressed as God. Kings were seen as divine in other nations in the ancient Near East. This is the only possible occurrence of this notion in the Bible. This verse is quoted in Hebrews 1:8. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “God”: The Hebrew word is elohim, which usually means God but can mean superhuman being. In 2 Samuel 7:14ff, David is compared to a messenger of elohim; Zechariah 12:8 compares David’s “house” to elohim. Members of the heavenly court were called sons of elohim. Elohim connotes a realm of being higher than that of an ordinary mortal. Because the king was anointed and had a special relationship with Yahweh, he was considered a sacral being, something divine. Some have attempted to translate the phrase as your throne is a divine one. [ JBC]

Verse 7: “God, your God”: JBC considers that before this psalm was northernized, this read Yahweh, your God.

Verse 8: “ivory palaces”: 1 Kings 22:39 speaks of the “house” King Ahab built as being an “ivory house”; Amos 3:15, in predicting the downfall of the king, says “the houses of ivory shall perish”. [ NOAB]

Verse 9: “Ophir”: 1 Kings 10:11 speaks of “gold” and “almug wood and precious stones” from Ophir being gifts from the queen of Sheba to Solomon. [ JBC]

Verse 10: “daughter”: It seems that the scribe is sufficiently distinguished that he can call the bride “daughter”. [ JBC]

Verse 12: The bride may be from Tyre (see also v. 10), or (the Hebrew being obscure), a gift to her may be Tyrian linen. [ NJBC]

Song of Solomon 2:8-13

Gender differences, not apparent in an English translation, are fairly clearly shown in the Hebrew text. Some English translations, such as the REB, indicate who is speaking. [ NJBC]

1:1: “The Song of Songs”: This is a Hebrew idiom for the greatest song. Scholars believe that this book was written after the exile, but that some portions are much earlier. [ NJBC]

1:2-8: The first song: the arrival of the bride [ CAB]

1:2-4: The bride speaks. She arrives at the royal palace eager to be kissed and taken to the king’s bedroom (his “chambers”) for she knows his reputation as a lover. [ CAB]

1:3: “maidens”: The bride’s attendants also love her. [ CAB]

1:4b: The “daughters of Jerusalem” (v. 5) speak.

1:5-7: The bride speaks.

1:5: “black”: She is dark-skinned because she is from “Kedar” in northern Arabia. Genesis 25:13 tells us that Kedar is a son of Ishmael, a son of Abraham. [ CAB]

1:6: Her swarthiness is because of her labour in the vineyard. Her labour there was imposed by her brothers, but she is the true vineyard, given to her lover. [ NJBC]

1:7: She asks for a meeting at noon. [ NJBC]

1:6: “vineyards”: Though she has been assigned responsibility for the family vineyards, she has does not now protect her own vineyard (a symbol of virginity). [ CAB]

1:7: “where you pasture your flock”: In search of the king as her sexual companion, she asks where he makes his flock “lie down”, i.e. where he keeps his harem. [ CAB]

1:7: She asks for a meeting “at noon”. [ NJBC]

1:7: “veiled”: She does not want to be treated as a widow and thereby excluded from access to the king. [ CAB]

1:8-10: The bridegroom speaks.

1:8: He replies, in a way that teases her: “follow the tracks of the flock”. [ NJBC]

1:9-2:7: The second song: the king and the bride converse. [ CAB]

1:8: “kids”: The bride’s attendants. [ CAB]

1:9-10: He tells her his true feelings about her; her beauty is like that of a horse drawing “Pharaoh’s chariots”. (This kind of poetry is also found in Egypt.) [ NJBC] [ CAB]

1:11: The daughters of Jerusalem speak.

1:12-14: The bride speaks. She responds by praising the intimacy and charm which his presence (symbolized by “henna” and “myrrh”) brings to her. [ NJBC] Henna is used to make a red dye. It was used as body paint. One use of myrrh was as a perfume for garments (see Psalm 45:8), for a lover’s couch (see Proverbs 7:17). It was part of the cosmetic treatment used to purify young girls for the king’s bed (see Esther 2:12-13). [ HBD]

1;12: “my nard gave forth its fragrance”: I am bathed in aphrodisiac flagrances. [ CAB]

1:14: “En-gedi”: This was an oasis, with fresh water and hot springs, on the western shore of the Dead Sea, near its centre. Archeological evidence is that it was first settled in the time of Josiah, ca. 639 BC; archeologists have found the remains of an ancient perfume factory at En-gedi [ CAB]. Josiah lived long after Solomon, so it is likely that this book is attributed to Solomon rather than being literally Song of Solomon. [ HBD]

1:15: The bridegroom speaks.

1:15: I am attracted by your beauty, especially your fluttering eyes. [ CAB]

1:16a: The bride speaks.

1:16b-17: The bridegroom speaks.

1:16b-17: The bridal chamber is beautiful, and its furnishings are the best. [ CAB]

2:1: The bride speaks. “Sharon” was a fertile area bordered by an impenetrable forest and marshes. The “rose of Sharon” is a kind of crocus, a “lily” ( 2:2. [ HBD] She says that she is like a simple wildflower. The calyx, or rod in the bloom of this lily, combined with the mention of “valley” ( 2:2), are allusions to male and female sexual organs. This fits with “brambles” being his previous love relations with other women. [ CAB]

2:3: “With great delight ...”: She develops the metaphor of the apple tree, in order to show the delights of his love (“shadow”, “fruit”). [ NJBC] Both “raisins” and “apples” are erotic symbols. [ CAB]

2:4-5: She proclaims her love-sickness. Paradoxically, what causes it is also its cure. [ NJBC] “His intention” shows that the union is not yet completed, that the present relationship is limited to fondling and caressing. She feels “faint” ( 2:5) at the prospect of the union. [ CAB]

2:7: The bride speaks.

2:7: “gazelles”: See Comment on 2:9. The “daughters of Jerusalem” (the members of his harem) are commanded solemnly by an oath, sworn on “the gazelles or the wild does”. [ NJBC] Do not stimulate him further until the proper time for her union with him comes. [ CAB]

2:7: “ do not stir up or awaken love until it is ready!”: Love is not artificial or calculated: it has its own time. [ NJBC]

2:8-17: The third song: the king approaches [ CAB]

2:8-13: The bride speaks, then she tells us what the bridegroom says to her.

2:9: JBC notes that the word translated “gazelle” is saba’ot , which is also the word for [Lord of] hosts. 2:10b-13: NJBC says that the bridegroom’s invitation to the bride includes celebration of the changes she has made in him, which are compared to the change in the seasons.

Comments: his darling (in another translation): The translation is the REB.

2:11-13: The description of Spring has been called the most beautiful song to nature in the Old Testament. [ NJBC]

2:12: “turtledove”: Representative of wildlife. [ CAB]

2:14: The bridegroom speaks.

2:14: “O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff”: REB translates the Hebrew as My dove, that hides in holes in the cliffs or in crannies on the terraced hillside. He finds her inaccessible. “Cleft” and “covert” are sexual symbols. [ NJBC] CAB says that a “covert of the cliff” is a cave.

2:15: REB says that the daughters of Jerusalem speak, but NJBC says that the bride speaks: The woman answers his request with a saucy reply, a tease. She reminds him that this is the season when “foxes” invade the vineyards, which are in bloom. The “foxes” are ardent suitors. [ NJBC]

2:16-17: The bride speaks.

2:16: The words are almost a formula to express mutual possession. 6:3 says “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he pastures his flock among the lilies” and 7:11 “Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the fields, and lodge in the villages”. [ NJBC]

2:16: “the lilies”: i.e. the delights he finds in her person. [ JBC]

2:17: She invites him to be like a “gazelle” (v. 9) on the “mountains”, i.e. herself. [ NJBC] 4:5-6 says “Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that feed among the lilies. Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, I will hasten to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense.”

Romans 7:15-25a

Verses 1-6: An analogy from marriage. [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “Do you not know”: A frequent phrase in Paul’s writings, usually indicating something his readers already know well. He also uses it, for example, in 6:3; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:2; 9:24.

Verse 1: “the law”: Mosaic law is meant generally, but also specifically: Numbers 5:20, 24; 30:10-14 deal with marriage. See also Proverbs 6:29. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “adulteress”: A wife was the property of her husband; infidelity was considered to be adultery. See Exodus 20:17 (on of the Ten Commandments). Other ordinances are found in 21:3, 22; Leviticus 20:10. [ NJBC]

Verses 4-6: The “law” here is Mosaic law, as it is in 2:12-37; 3:19-21, 28-31; 4:13-16; however, Paul uses the word with a different meaning later. [ NOAB] See Clipping on v. 21.

Verse 4: A wife was no longer considered married when her husband had died, and was free to marry another man, so in the same way having died to Mosaic law, Christians are free to belong to Christ. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “bear fruit for God”: Marriage was expected to “bear fruit” in terms of progeny; the union of Christ and the Christian is also like this. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “in the flesh”: NJBC offers a helpful translation (interpretation): merely natural lives .

Verse 5: “our sinful passions, aroused by the law”: In 5:20, Paul writes: “But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”. See also 7:13 and Galatians 2:19. [ CAB]

Verse 6: In 10:4, Paul says “For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes”. See also Galatians 3:23-26 and 2 Corinthians 3:6. [ CAB]

Verse 6: “that which held us captive”: i.e. Mosaic law. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “the new life of the Spirit”: A reference to baptism. In 6:3-4, Paul writes: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life”. [ JBC]

Verses 7-23: A view of Mosaic law and sin as seen through Christian eyes. [ NOAB]

Verse 7: As in 3:1-20, Paul anticipates questions which might come from his readers. and then proceeds to answer them. This form of rhetoric, developed in Greek philosophical debate, was called diatribe. See also 3:5; 4:1; 6:1; 9:14, 30. [ CAB]

Verse 7: “the law”: i.e. Mosaic law. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “I would not have known sin”: I has been variously interpreted as Paul (before and after his conversion), Adam, adherents to Judaism, humans in general, or a Jewish boy before his coming of age (Bar mitzvah). The most likely interpretation is that he means one, as he does in 1 Corinthians 8:13; 13:1-3, 11-12; 14:6-19; Romans 14:21; Galatians 2:18-21. This is a rhetorical device also found in psalms of thanksgiving. To Paul, sin is something historical and corporate. See also 3:20; 5:13; 7:8. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “You shall not covet”: All of the commandments can be seen as being about coveting. This particular commandment is found in Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21. [ CAB]

Verse 8: “Apart from the law sin lies dead”: NJBC offers without the law, sin was life-less. It was like a corpse, unable to do anything; it could not make evil into an identifiable revolt against God: see also 4:15; 5:13.

Verse 9: “sin revived”: BlkRom offers sprang to life.

Verse 10: Leviticus 18:5 says “You shall keep my statutes and my ordinances; by doing so one shall live: I am the Lord”. Only by keeping the Law at all times could one live, but doing so was impossible. [ NOAB] See also Deuteronomy 4:1 (before entering the Promised Land); Deuteronomy 6:24; Galatians 3:12; Romans 10:5. [ JBC]

Verse 11: The Law itself is of God, but it makes one aware of sin (see Galatians 3:19) and also causes one to sin, e.g. by coveting.

Verse 13: A summary of vv. 7-13. [ CAB]

Verse 14: “spiritual”: i.e. of divine origin. [ CAB]

Verse 14: “of the flesh”: i.e. focussed on worldly desires. [ CAB]

Verse 15: God’s peace comes only as a gift (see 5:1-11 and 8:3). Paul says: I want his peace, but I find myself separated from God. [ CAB]

Verse 16: The Qumran sect also recognized this conflict within humans. They explained it by postulating that God had place two spirits in humans: a spirit of truth and one of perversity. But Paul sees things differently: the division is within humans themselves.

Verse 17: It is possible to read this verse, in isolation, as saying that one is not responsible for one’s evil deeds, but elsewhere Paul shows that he really does not mean this: see, for example, 1:31-2:5; 5:12, 14.

Verse 18: “in my flesh”: NJBC offers in my natural self.

Verse 19: One wants a life of harmony with God. [ CAB]

Verse 21: “law”: i.e. principle, pattern, precept, as in “law of faith” (in 3:27). [ NJBC] (The Greek word, nomos, is the origin of our word norm.)

Verses 24-25: We are threatened by complete defeat with evil permeating our lives, but in seeking God’s mercy through Christ we find freedom from the guilt and power of sin. [ NOAB]

Matthew 11:16-19,25-30

Verse 2: “When John heard in prison”: John the Baptist had been incarcerated for denouncing Herod Antipas for marrying his brother’s wife. See 14:3-4.

Verses 4-5: Jesus takes Isaiah 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 61:1-2 as predictions of the activities of the Messiah, although the cleansing of lepers is not mentioned there. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: Jesus’ statement of the Messiah’s deeds are not what was popularly expected; he pronounces a blessing on those who adapt to seeing the Messiah in this new way.

Verse 10: The quotation is Malachi 3:1. In Exodus 23:20, as God reaffirms the promise that the Israelites will enter the Promised Land, he promises to send an “angel in front of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared”. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 12: This verse is puzzling. A time of “violence” was expected to precede the coming of the Messiah. It is also true that the Romans had occupied Israel by force and that John the Baptist had been mistreated. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: i.e. all scripture (the Old Testament) points to the Messiah.

Verse 14: “he is Elijah who is to come”: In Malachi 4:5, God says through the prophet: “... I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes”. Jesus infers that this verse in Malachi is not to be taken literally. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 18: John the Baptist was thought by many to be crazy. In Luke 7:33, Jesus says: “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’”. [ NOAB]

Verse 19: Jesus is denounced as violating the traditions of Israel.

Verse 19: “by her deeds”: The parallel in Luke ( 7:34-35) has “by all her children” rather than “by her deeds”. Luke’s version fits better with v. 16, so is probably the original. In Luke 16:16, Jesus says: “The law and the prophets were in effect until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force”.

Verses 20-24: In Luke 10:13-15, Jesus pronounces woe on Chorazin but not on Bethsaida and Capernaum. [ NJBC]

Verse 21: “Chorazin”: Some 4 km (3 miles) north of Capernaum, on the Sea of Galilee. The ruins of a synagogue can be seen there today. [ NOAB]

Verse 21: “Bethsaida”: Near the most northern point of the Sea of Galilee. [ NOAB]

Verse 21: “Tyre and Sidon”: Phoenician cities on the Mediterranean coast, condemned in both Isaiah 23:1-18 and Ezekiel 26-28. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 21: “sackcloth and ashes”: Symbols of repentance. See also Genesis 37:34 (Jacob, at the loss of Joseph); 1 Kings 21:27 (Elijah tells of Yahweh’s judgement on Ahab and Jezebel); Jonah 3:5-8 (the reaction of the people of Nineveh on hearing Jonah’s prophecy).

Verse 23: “Capernaum”: Jesus’ own place of residence: see 4:13. Jesus alludes to Isaiah 14:13, 15. There, aspirations to divinity are dashed by being brought down to Sheol (the equivalent of “Hades”). [ NJBC]

Verse 24: “Sodom”: The destruction of the city for its wickedness is described in Genesis 19:24-28. [ NJBC]

Verses 25-30: See also Luke 10:21-22. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verses 25-27: “Father”: The word occurs five times in three verses. Note the note of intimacy in v. 27: “my Father”. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 25: “revealed”: Understanding spiritual realities involves God’s disclosure. See also 11:25; Luke 24:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:6-16.

Verse 26: “gracious will”: NJBC offers good pleasure.

Verse 27: For Jesus’ special relationship with the Father that he could share with others, see also John 3:35 and 13:3. For Jesus as the exclusive revelation of the Father, see 28:18; John 3:35; 10:15; 13:3. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 28: Jesus speaks as did Lady Wisdom (wisdom personified) in Proverbs 8. [ NJBC]

Verse 28: “rest”: In Jeremiah 6:16, sabbath rest is a symbol of the Kingdom of God.

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