Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fifth Sunday after Pentecost - July 13, 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.

Genesis 25:19-34

Scholars are not sure of the traditions from which this chapter is drawn. One suggests that vv. 1-6, 11b may be from the Yahwist (J) source and vv. 7-11a, 12-34 from the Priestly (P) source. “These are the descendants of” (v. 19) usually marks P material. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: In 1 Chronicles 1:32, Keturah is called a concubine, not a wife. V. 20 says that Isaac was 40 when he married Rebekah. Per 21:5, Abraham was 100 when he fathered Isaac. So either Abraham married Keturah before Sarah died or he married Keturah when he was at least 140 years old – if Genesis is strictly chronological. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “Medan” and “Midian” may be one and the same. “Midian” was a tribe in the Arabian desert: see 37:28, 36; Exodus 2:15ff; Numbers 22; 25; 31; Judges 6. “Ishbak” and “Shuah” are found in Assyrian literature as Yashbuq and Suhu. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “Sheba” was in southwest Arabia (or possibly modern Kuwait). “Dedan” was near Edom. In 10:7, they are shown as descendants of Ham, a son of Noah. “Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim” are found only here; they are not in the parallel, 1 Chronicles 1:28-33. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “Ephah, Epher, Hanoch”: These are family names in the tribes of Judah, Manasseh and Reuben. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “Abida, and Eldaah”: In inscriptions of the Sabaeans, a people of southwest Arabia, these are personal names.

Verse 6: If Keturah was a concubine, Abraham “gave gifts” to the sons listed in vv. 2-4.

Verses 7-10: Some more arithmetic, of which the authors and editors of Genesis may have been aware, but maybe not: given that Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born, and that Isaac was 60 when Esau and Jacob were born, they were 15 when Abraham died. So Abraham’s death should follow the story of their birth rather than preceding it. [ NJBC]

Verses 7-8a: These verses are similar to those describing the death of Isaac: see 35:28-29. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: Note the pattern in the lifespans of the Patriarchs: Abraham (175 = 7 x 5 x 5), Isaac (180 = 5 x 6 x 6), and Jacob (147 = 3 x 7 x 7).This is unmistakably a purposeful scheme, meant to convey that human history is orderly and meaningful. [ FoxMoses] However, Ishmael’s lifespan is 137 years, a prime number.

Verse 8: “was gathered to his people”: Possibly this reflects the ancient Near East practice of placing the deceased’s bones in the ancestral burying place. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: Chapter 23 tells of Sarah’s death (in what was later Hebron) and Abraham’s purchase of the “cave of Machpelah” as a burial place. [ NOAB]

Verse 11: “Beer-lahai-roi”: An oasis in the Negev Desert. FoxMoses offers the Well of the Living-One Who-Sees-Me.

Verses 12-18: This list is in the same format as in Chapter 5, the descendants of Adam. [ NOAB]

Verse 13: “Nebaioth ... Kedar”: Arabian tribes. Nebaioth’s sister married Esau: see 28:9; 36:3. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “Dumah”: In Isaiah 21:11, this is a place name associated with Seir. [ NJBC]

Verse 15: “Tema”: An oasis in northwestern Arabia. [ NJBC]

Verse 16: As the Israelites are later, the Ishmaelites are divided into twelve tribes. [ NOAB]

Verse 18: “Shur”: In 16:7, Hagar runs away to a spring on the way to Shur. 20:1 tells us that “Abraham journeyed toward the region of the Negeb, and settled between Kadesh and Shur”. The Wilderness of Shur was the desert to the east of lower Egypt. [ NOAB]

Verse 20: “forty years old”: While the key ages in Abraham’s life are multiples of 25, those in Isaac’s life are multiples of 20. See also v. 26. He dies at the age of 180: see 35:27-29.

Verse 20: “Bethuel ... Laban”: See 24:24, 47, 50. [ NJBC]

Verse 20: “Paddan-aram”: Meaning field of Aram or country of Aram. This form of the name is characteristic of the Priestly (P) source. [ NJBC]

Verse 21: In the ancient Near East, fertility and the lack of it were traced to the divine. In 16:2, Sarai says to Abram “You see that the Lord has prevented me from bearing children”. 20:17-18 says “Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. For the Lord had closed fast all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife”. See also 30:2 (Jacob and Rachel); 33:5 (Esau and Jacob); 1 Samuel 1:6 (“the Lord had closed her [Hannah’s] womb”). [ NOAB]

Verse 22: “struggled together”: FoxMoses offers almost crushed each other.

Verse 25: “hairy”: See 27:11ff for the giving of the birthright. 32:3 tells us that Esau was by then “in the land of Seir, the country of Edom”. The land was southeast of the Dead Sea. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 25: “Esau”: NJBC says that the word means rough one; another says that the meaning is uncertain.

Verse 26: Hosea 12:3 refers to this metaphorically: “In the womb he [Israel] tried to supplant his brother [Judah], and in his manhood he strove with God”. [ NOAB]

Verse 27: Recall that Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve, also adopted two different ways of life: one nomadic and the other settled and agrarian. [ NOAB]

Verse 28: “he was fond of game”: FoxMoses notes that the Hebrew is difficult. He offers (he brought) hunted game for his mouth.

Verse 28: Note that each parent has a favourite. It is Rebekah’s favourite that wins the succession.

Verses 29-30: “famished”: FoxMoses translates the Hebrew as weary.

Verse 31: “birthright”: The son who possessed the birthright became leader of the family upon his father’s death and inherited twice as much as any of his brothers: see Deuteronomy 21:15-17. [ NOAB]

Verse 33: “first”: FoxMoses translates this as here and now, stressing the immediacy of the demand.

Verse 34: “despised”: Some scholars translate the Hebrew as belittled.

36:31-39 tells of Edom’s attainment of nationhood before Israel. For Israel’s later ascendancy over Edom, see 2 Samuel 8:12-14 and 2 Chronicles 25:11-24. [ NOAB]

Psalm 119:105-112

Verse 106: See Nehemiah 10:29 for the practice of swearing an oath to keep the Law. [ CAB]

Romans 8:1-11

Verse 1: “condemnation”: In Galatians 3:10, Paul calls this the “curse” as Deuteronomy 27:26 does. See also 2 Corinthians 3:7, 9. This verse concludes 7:14-25. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “you”: The Greek word is singular. Some important manuscripts have me rather than you. While this fits better with the foregoing (especially 7:24), scholars believe that me is a copyist’s correction. The principle here is lectio difficilior potior, Latin for the more difficult reading is the stronger (i.e. more likely to be original). The logic is quite simple: it is more likely that a copyist will correct a difficult or improbable phrase to make it more straightforward or more accurate, than that the copyist would intentionally make a text more difficult. So the more difficult is likely to be original, while the less difficult is most likely a copyist's correction.

Verse 3: “sending his own Son”: See also 2 Corinthians 5:19-21 and Romans 3:24 (“they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”). [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “the likeness of sinful flesh”: Paul is careful in his wording. Jesus suffered the effects of sin and suffered death, but he did not sin.

Verse 3: “to deal with sin”: A footnote in the NRSV notes that sin offering is another translation. The reasoning of the translators is probably that the Greek word, hamartia, meaning sin, occurs in the Septuagint translation in the sense of sin offering in Leviticus 4:24; 5:11; 6:18. “Deal with” sin means take it away, expiate it. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “he condemned sin in the flesh”: The Father passed definitive judgement on the force that Adam’s transgression unleashed in the world (see 5:12), and thereby broke its dominion over humans – in making Christ a human, and in his resurrection. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: In this way, through the principle of new life, the uprightness that the Law demanded is finally obtained. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “death”: i.e. total death, including spiritual death. Definitive separation from God. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “since”: The Greek words, ei per, can be translated if, in reality. [ NJBC]

Verse 10: In Galatians 2:20, Paul writes: “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”. See also Ephesians 3:17. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 10: “if Christ is in you”: 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!”. For the Spirit being in you, see v. 9. [ NJBC]

Verse 10: “the Spirit is life”: One scholar translates this as your spirit is alive: in contrast to the “body”. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “him”: i.e. the Father. This verses stresses the essential oneness of God. John 5:21 says “... just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes”. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “will give life to your mortal bodies”: i.e. the resurrection of Christians. In 1 Thessalonians 4:14, Paul writes “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died”. See also Philippians 3:10, 21; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:14. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “his Spirit”: i.e. Christ’s Spirit. It is the spirit as related to the risen Christ that is the life-giving principle.

Verses 12-17: The Holy Spirit does not make slaves of us, but rather “children of God” (v. 14). [ NOAB]

Verse 13: It is still possible for a baptised Christian to be tempted to live immorally, “according to the flesh”. We should make use of the Spirit: this is the debt (in an accounting sense) that we owe Christ. [ NJBC]

Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

The parallels are Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15. [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “the house”: Perhaps his home in Capernaum.

Verse 3: “parables”: Parables are stories drawn from everyday life which convey a spiritual meaning. Jesus used this technique because:

  • Vivid (and sometimes humourous) images made his teaching easy to remember.
  • The stories caused people to think about what he said, to reflect on it.
  • The stories prompted those present to declare for or against his message.
  • By teaching by analogy (or metaphor), he probably reduced hostility to him. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “birds”: In 1 Kings 14:7-11, God tells Jeroboam, through the prophet Ahijah, the fate that he and his household will suffer for his evil ways (including deserting Yahweh to worship other gods). This fate includes “anyone [of Jeroboam’s household] who dies in the open country, the birds of the air shall eat”. The fate of King Baasha in 1 Kings 16:1-4 is the same. The link is also found in contemporary Jewish literature: see Jubilees 11:5-24 and Apocalypse of Abraham 13.

Verse 6: “scorched”: The sun in Palestine is indeed hot. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: This is a refrain also found in 11:15 and 13:43. [ NJBC]

Verses 11-16: Jesus contrasts those (e.g. his disciples) who trust in him and so have the opportunity for deeper understanding of God’s purpose and plan for humankind (“the secrets of the kingdom of heaven”) versus those who do not trust and so are destined for condemnation. Perhaps the people will understand if he tells the good news in parables; perhaps stories will penetrate their thick-headedness. Understanding is a gift from God. Some are chosen, and some are not. In the Marcan and Lucan parallels, Jesus speaks to the disciples privately, so we should not assume that the crowd heard what he said in these verses (as is sometimes the case). Matthew appears to have collected together parables from various times in these chapters. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “have”: i.e spiritually. 25:29 is identical. In Mark 4:24-25, Jesus says “‘... the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away’”. Luke 8:18 and 19:26 are similar. [ NOAB]

Verse 13: Jesus sees this situation as a fulfilment of Isaiah 6:9-10. He quotes these verses, from Isaiah’s commissioning as God’s messenger, in vv. 14-15. (His words are from the Septuagint translation.) Isaiah is told by God that however stubborn the people are, he must tell them God’s word. In the early centuries of the Church, Christians used these verses from Isaiah to explain Israel’s rejection of the gospel. See also Romans 9-11 (the relationship of Judaism to oneness with God obtained through faith in Christ). The verses from Isaiah are also quoted in John 12:40 and Acts 28:26-27 (Paul in Rome). [ NOAB] [ CAB] [ NJBC]

Verses 16-17: For spiritual perception guided by faith, see also Mark 4:9 and Luke 8:10. In the parallel in Luke 10:23-24, “righteous people” is “kings”. The insights which have been given to the disciples were not available before Jesus came. In John 8:56, Jesus says: “Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.”. Hebrews 11:13 says that the Patriarchs “died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them”. See also 1 Peter 1:10-12. [ NOAB] [ CAB] [ NJBC]

See 2 Esdras 8:41-44 for a parallel which is probably Jewish. (Parts of 2 Esdras are Christian.)

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