Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Eighth Sunday after Pentecost - July 23, 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 28:10-19a

In Chapter 27, the blessing of Jacob, Isaac is an old man who is almost senile, but here is fully in command of his faculties.

Verse 2: “Paddan-aram”: Meaning field of Aram or country of Aram. This form of the name is characteristic of the Priestly (P) source. Per 24:10, it is Abraham’s ancestral home. [ NJBC] [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “God Almighty”: The Hebrew is El Shaddai meaning literally God, the One of the Mountain(s). Other religions in the area believed that various gods dwelt on various mountains.

Verse 4: Note the two blessings bestowed on Abraham. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 5: “Laban ... Bethuel”: 24:47-50 tell of Bethuel and Laban’s agreement that Rebekah shall be Isaac’s wife. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “Canaanite women”: 36:2-3 tells us that one of his Canaanite wives is Basemath, a daughter of Ishmael. Much later, a Priestly (P) concern that went along with ritual purity was racial purity. One expression of this was Ezra’s injunction to expel foreign wives. So it is likely that a Priestly editor added this verse. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: Esau is clearly polygamous. He marries his first cousin.

Verses 10-22: Perhaps this is a combination of the Yahwist (J) tradition (vv. 12, 16-17) and the Elohist (E) tradition (vv. 11-12, 17-18, 20-23), but it is also possible that it is from an independent tradition. The base story probably explained the origin of the name Bethel. For similar etiology, see 32:1-3. NJBC suggests that J may have added the context of Jacob's journey and inserted the promises to Abraham (vv. 13-15). Then the message to Jacob of personal safety (v. 15) was expanded to include his vow to return to the holy place.

Verse 10: In this and the following verses, Jacob obeys Rebekah’s command to flee to Haran to avoid Esau’s wrath over losing his birthright. They thus continue the story in 27:43-46. [ NJBC]

Verse 10: “Haran”: Rebekah was also from Haran.

Verse 11: “a certain place”: Literally the place. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “under his head”: NJBC notes that the Hebrew can also mean against his head: perhaps as a minor form of protection.

Verse 12: “ladder”: NJBC is adamant that a stairway or ramp is intended, not a ladder. Ziggurats had stairways or ramps.

Verse 12: “angels”: The Hebrew mal’ak literally means messengers. The notion is one of sons of God, members of the heavenly court. A group (community) of angels is also found in 32:1-2; they are with Jacob as he approaches Esau, seeking reconciliation. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “beside him”: The Hebrew can also mean over or over against. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 13: See also 12:2-3, 7; 13:14-16; 26:3-5, 24-25. God identifies himself in a solid, historical contextual way, not an abstract one.

Verse 17: “afraid”: i.e. full of awe. [ NOAB]

Verse 17: “gate of heaven”: To ancient people, a place where God (or gods) came down to meet people. [ NOAB]

Verse 18: That Jacob sets up a “pillar” is surprising, given that later (when the story was edited) pillars were associated with pagan religions – although Joshua erected a pillar to mark where the Israelites accepted a covenant (see Joshua 24:26). In other religions, they were often seen as sexual symbols of union with gods. In later Israelite religion, they were prohibited probably because they were a drawing card to Canaanite religion: see Exodus 23:24; Deuteronomy 7:5; Leviticus 26:1. Hosea and Micah denounced them: see Hosea 3:4 and Micah 5:13. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 19: “Bethel”: Bethel later became a town, but at this point it was unsettled.

Verse 19: “Luz”: The author/editor tells us the Canaanite name of the place; however in Joshua 16:2, Bethel and Luz are different places. [ NJBC]

Verses 20-22: Strangely, Jacob’s vow is conditional on what God has already promised him: see v. 15. For another conditional vow, see 2 Samuel 15:7-9 (Absalom’s vow). [ NJBC]

Verse 21: Israel’s ancestors enjoyed a personal relationship with God. Here Jacob, the direct father of Israel, accepts such a relationship. [ NOAB]

Verse 22: “God’s house”: The northern sanctuary at Bethel flourished from the time of Jeroboam (see 1 Kings 12:26-29, late 900s BC) to the time of Josiah (see 2 Kings 23:15-20, late 600s BC). In Saul’s time, worshippers went up to God there: see 1 Samuel 10:3. Jacob fulfils his promise to set up “God’s house” in Genesis 35. [ NOAB] [ CAB]

Psalm 139:1-12,23-24

Verse 6: The psalmist is unable to comprehend God: such knowledge is “so high”. Note also v. 16: God’s thoughts are so profound.

Verses 7-12: In Amos 9:2, Yahweh tells, through the prophet, of his ability to reach evildoers wherever they are: “Though they dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down”. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: In early Israel, people in Sheol were thought to be separated from God, but here they too are God’s. [ NOAB]

Verses 13-18: That Yahweh created the psalmist is partly why God knows him so well. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 14: One of God’s “works” is the creation of human beings. [ NJBC]

Verse 15: Genesis 2:7 says: “... the Lord God formed man [Adam] from the dust of the earth [soil] ...”. [ JBC]

Verse 16: The idea that God keeps a record of the deeds of humans is also found elsewhere in the Old Testament. [ NOAB]

Verse 18: To count all God’s thoughts, the psalmist would need to live for ever.

Verses 19-22: A prayer for vindication and deliverance. The psalmist identifies his enemies as enemies of God: as sinners, enemies of God are worthy of rejection. This is a (strange!) declaration of his loyalty to God. [ NOAB]

Romans 8:12-25

Verses 12-13: These verses probably belong to the preceding section. [ JBC]

Verse 12: “debtors”: BlkRom says that we are under obligation to God, rather than being “debtors” – for there is no actual debt. The same Greek word is used in 1:14-15: “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish – hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome.”

Verse 13: In 6:12, Paul admonishes “do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions”. See also Colossians 3:5 and Galatians 5:24. [ CAB]

Verses 14-15: Note Paul’s play on the word pneuma, here meaning spirit or Spirit. We are made “children” by the Spirit; we are not slaves. [ JBC]

Verse 14: God’s action continues in the life of the believer. In 2:4, Paul asks: “... do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”. In Galatians 5:18, Paul writes “... if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law”. See also 1 Corinthians 12:2. [ CAB]

Verse 14: “children of God”: In Galatians 4:24-26, Paul writes “Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother”.

Verse 15: “a spirit of slavery”: At times Paul does speak of Christians as slaves, but only to make a particular point. Examples are 6:16 and 1 Corinthians 7:22. [ NJBC]

Verse 15: “spirit”: Paul may intend Spirit. [ NJBC]

Verse 15: “adoption”: The Greek word used here is also found in 8:23; 9:4; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5. [ CAB] In 9:4, Paul uses it to describe Israel as chosen by God. This Greek word is not found in the Septuagint translation, probably because adoption was not common until more recent times among Jews. It was known in Hellenic society, and was quite common among the Roman aristocracy, as a means of acquiring a worthy heir. When a man had no heir, or only a dissolute one, he would choose someone to adopt - sometimes even a freed slave - who would become the heir both to the man's property and also to his reputation and station in the community. Paul’s use of the term shows that Christians have status with God. [ JBC]

Verse 15: “When we cry”: NJBC offers which enables us to cry. In 9:27, “cry” has the sense of cry aloud, proclaim.

Verse 15: “Abba”: This is the Aramaic word of familiar address to a father. Paul uses it in Galatians 4:6: “because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”. Jesus addressed the Father as Abba in his prayers: see Mark 14:36. [ NOAB] In the Greek text of Luke 11:2, the Lord’s Prayer begins Abba. The early church used this title for the Father, as indeed does a Christian song sung today. [ NJBC]

Verse 16: In proclaiming that God is our Father, we are stating that we recognize ourselves to be adopted by God. The Spirit shares with us in this recognition, and is the mechanism by which we are active as children.

Verse 17: “heirs of God”: Paul discusses the promise to Abraham, that he would be the “father of many nations”, in Chapter 4 (especially 4:17). It is now fulfilled. [ CAB]

Verse 17: “joint heirs with Christ”: Christ has already received a share of the Father’s glory; the Christian will receive a share. In Jesus’ time, a son inherited his father’s estate; God’s estate is his glory. [ NJBC]

Verses 18-25: In Philippians 3:14, Paul writes: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus”. See also 1 Corinthians 1:7. [ CAB]

Verse 18: “the glory about to be revealed to us”: In 5:1-2, Paul says: “... since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God”. [ NOAB]

Verse 19: “the creation”: Recall that God’s promise to Noah (in Genesis 9:12-13) included “every living creature”. [ NJBC]

Verse 20: “the one who subjected it”: God’s curse on proto-human (Adam) for eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. [ JBC]

Verse 21: See also 1 Corinthians 15:23-28. When humans (in and through Christ) are restored to full godliness, so too will all createdness. [ NJBC]

Verse 22: Non-human createdness also shares in the stress and pain humans now endure. See also Galatians 4:19. [ CAB]

Verse 22: “groaning in labour pains”: An idea common in Greek philosophy. [ NJBC]

Verse 23: “first fruits”: The offering of the first yield of the harvest to God symbolized the sanctification of the whole harvest: see Leviticus 23:15-21 for the ordinance, but “first fruits” is often used in connection with a pledge or guarantee of future benefits. [ NJBC]

Verse 24: “we were saved”: It may be that the tense in the Greek is one which expresses a general truth rather than something that occurred in the past. This fits better with the mention of “hope” here and in v. 25. [ NJBC]

Verse 24: “what is seen”: NJBC offers what he [or she] sees.

Matthew 13:24-30,36-43

There are no real parallels to this passage. NJBC suggests that it is Matthew’s rewriting of Mark 4:26-29.

Verse 24: “someone”: i.e. a householder who has slaves. In v. 27, the slaves are scandalized that there are weeds, because they trust the householder/farmer! [ NJBC]

Verses 28-30: Within the community, there are both good and bad apples .

Verse 30: “Let both of them grow together ...”: Be patient and tolerant (however, remember the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:1-20, Matthew 13:1-23, and Luke 8:1-15: weeds can choke the wheat!) [ NJBC]

According to Leviticus 19:19 the sowing of the weeds renders the whole field ritually impure. Simply gathering the weeds (as suggested by the slaves) would not be enough to right the wrong. Jesus’ story would therefore grab the attention of the crowd.

Verse 38: “world”: The Greek word is kosmos, meaning humanity. [ NJBC]

Verse 38: “the evil one”: Evil personified, as it is in 5:37; 6:13; 13:19. Note that “the devil” is named in v. 39. [ NJBC]

Verse 42: See also Luke 12:49. An apocalyptic vision of Hell. [ NOAB]

Verse 42: “weeping and gnashing of teeth”: See also 8:12; 13:50; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28. [ NJBC]

Verse 43: This verse is similar to Daniel 12:3, a description of the end-times; however, “righteous” replaces Daniel’s “wise” and “kingdom” replaces “sky”. [ NOAB]

This passage contrasts with Paul’s view that the Christian community should be made up only of saints. From this parable alone, it may seem that evil should be allowed free reign in the Church – because God will handle it later. [ NJBC]

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