Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Ninth Sunday after Pentecost - July 30, 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 29:15-28

God works through ordinary human events to achieve his objectives.

Verses 1-14: For Abraham’s steward meeting Rebekah at the well, see 24:11-33. Moses also meets Zipporah at a well: see Exodus 2:15-22. [ NJBC]

Verse 2; “well”: Because the well was covered with a large stone, it may well have been a cistern. [ CAB]

Verse 6: “Rachel”: The name means “ewe”. [ CAB]

Verse 7: 25:27 tells of an earlier time: “When the boys grew up, Esau was a skilful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents”. So it seems that Jacob has, in effect, distanced himself from shepherding, but here he offers practical advice on it. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “ it is not time for the animals to be gathered together”: i.e. for nighttime protection. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 10: “his mother’s brother”: Repetition of these words three times emphasizes the kinship between Rachel and Jacob. [ FoxMoses] In 24:29; 25:20; 27:43; 28:2 Rebekah is Laban’s sister but she is his daughter in this chapter and 46:25. This is evidence that stories are drawn from various traditions. Note that the Bible does not cover up these differences.

Verse 11: Jacob is well able to seize an opportunity. It is not clear why he weeps. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “kinsman”: The Hebrew literally means brother ; however, the word is sometimes used for kinship wider than a filial relationship.

Verse 12: “she ran ...”: It appears that she leaves her father’s sheep for Jacob to tend. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “my bone and my flesh”: This echoes Genesis 2:23: Adam says “This [Eve] at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”); it implies that Jacob becomes a member of the family rather than a hired hand. [ NJBC]

Verse 16: “Leah”: Her name means wild cow. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 17: A contrast between Leah and Rachel fits well with the story that follows: see Comments.

Verse 17: “lovely”: FoxMoses suggests that Leah is being praised for her on attribute, in contrast to Rachel’s total beauty.

Verse 18: Usually, a man paid a marriage price for his bride (see Exodus 22:16-17 and Deuteronomy 22:29 for the ordinances) but here Jacob asks for her as a reward for service: see also Joshua 15:16-17 (Caleb); 1 Samuel 17:25 (David and Goliath); 18:17 (Saul and David). [ NOAB]

Verse 20: “they seemed to him but a few days”: Outside the Song of Songs, this is one of the few mentions of the effect of romantic love in the Bible. However, later Jacob complains about his years of servitude: see 31:38-40. [ NJBC]

Verse 22: “made a feast”: Judges 14:12 and Tobit 11:18 mention a seven-day feast. See also v. 27. [ NJBC]

Verse 25: Comments: That a bride was veiled makes this possible : Recall that Rebekah donned a veil when she first saw Isaac: see 24:65. [ NOAB]

Verse 26: For the story of Isaac’s blessing on Jacob, see Chapter 27.

Verse 27: “week”: See Clipping on v. 22.

Verse 31: “unloved”: FoxMoses offers hated.

This is an appropriate point at which to discuss Israelite polygamy and monogamy. According to the Oxford Companion to the Bible:

Although monogamy may have been the ideal, polygamy was accepted and practised throughout Israel's history ..., although to what extent we cannot be sure, since the sources for the most part are derived from and describe the elite ruling and upper classes. ... By the Roman period, monogamy seems to have been the common practice.

The idealizing of monogamy is based on an inference and not on clear evidence.

In Chapters 30, the fathers of nine Israelite tribes, Levi, Dinah and Joseph are born:

Son (Daughter) Mother
Reuben Leah 29:32
Simeon Leah 29:33
Levi Leah 29:34
Judah Leah 29:35
Dan Bilhah 30:2-6
Naphtali Bilhah 30:7-8
Gad Zilpah 30:9-11
Asher Zilpah 30:12-13
Issachar Leah 30:14-18
Zebulun Leah 30:19-20
(Dinah) Leah 30:21
Joseph Rachel 30:22-24

When the Promised Land was divided among the tribes, Levi was not apportioned a tribal territory; rather Moses set the Levites apart for priestly duty (see Numbers 3:5-16) and Joshua gave them 48 towns scattered throughout Israel (see Joshua 21:1-45). Rather than Joseph receiving a territory, his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh did, as adopted sons of Jacob (see 48:4-5). For the birth of Benjamin to Rachel, see 35:16-24.

Psalm 105:1-11,45c

Psalm 78 also recites Israel’s history. [ NOAB]

1 Chronicles 16:8-22 is a composite of Psalms 105; 96; 106. [ NJBC]

Verses 8-10: See also Genesis 15:18-21 (Abraham); 17:1-8; 26:1-5 (Isaac); 28:10-15 (Jacob). [ NOAB]

An outline of the rest of the psalm:

vv. 12-15 the people in Canaan
vv. 16-22 Joseph
vv. 23-24 the people in Egypt
vv. 25-38 the plagues and the Exodus
vv. 39-41 times in the desert
vv. 42-45 the people enter the Promised Land [ NOAB]

Psalm 128

This psalm shares vocabulary and themes with Psalm 127. Note the wisdom themes: awe for Yahweh, the reward of children, and God’s blessing on those who live a godly life. Presence of these themes indicates to scholars that this psalm is roughly contemporary with Proverbs and other wisdom literature. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “Peace be upon Israel”: Psalm 125 also ends with these words. [ NJBC]

Romans 8:26-39

Verse 26: “that very Spirit intercedes”: It is not clear from the text as to whether the Spirit intercedes with or without our participation. Some manuscripts add for us, thus clarifying the issue. In 8:15-16, it is clearly with our participation. [ NJBC]

Verse 27: This verse is difficult to understand because it was written before the Trinitarian notion was clearly defined. Paul does not have the language to express this notion. In 1 Corinthians 2:16, Paul asks rhetorically: “‘For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”. In Romans 8:15-6, he says: “... When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God”. [ CAB]

Verse 27: “searches the heart”: This is an expression of an activity of God rooted in the Old Testament.

In 1 Samuel 16:7, Yahweh tells Samuel: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature ... for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart”. See also 1 Kings 8:39 (Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the Temple); Psalms 17:3; 139:1. [ CAB]

Verse 28: “We know that all things work together ...”: There are three possible translations:

  • In everything God works for good with those who love him.
  • God makes all things conspire for the good of those who love him
  • All things work together for good for those who love God (thus the NRSV).

There are important manuscripts that support each of these translations. [ NJBC] Another way of putting the NRSV translation: Within God’s providence, things come out right in the end – because God is in control.

Verses 29-30: Paul tells us what God’s plan, his “purpose” (v. 28) is. [ NOAB]

Verses 29-30: “predestined”: Paul thinks of predestination in a corporate sense, not on the individual level. In the 400s AD, Augustine picked up on this theme. Much later Calvin read Augustine as writing of predestination of individuals. But a logical approach has limitations in understanding God.

Verse 29: “conformed to the image of his Son”: See also v. 17; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:4-6; Philippians 3:20-21. [ NJBC]

Verse 31: In Psalm 118:6, a psalmist says: “With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can mortals do to me?”. [ NOAB]

Verse 32: See also 4:25; 5:8; John 3:16; Genesis 22:12, 16 (Isaac); Isaiah 53:12; 1 Corinthians 3:21-23; 4:7. [ NOAB] [ CAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 33: Isaiah 50:7-8 says: “The Lord God helps me; ... he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me.”. [ CAB]

Verse 34: “at the right hand of God”: Psalm 110 begins: “The Lord says to my lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool’”. See also Ephesians 1:20. [ CAB]

Verse 34: “intercedes for us”: Hebrews 7:25 says that Christ, the great high priest, “is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them”. See also Hebrews 9:24. Paul never writes of Christ as priest. 1 John 2:1 says: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous”. [ CAB]

Verse 35: “the love of Christ”: Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:14: “... the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died”. See also Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:19. [ CAB]

Verse 35: “Will hardship ...”: In the context in which Paul wrote, being a Christian was sometimes difficult and dangerous. Paul experienced all of these hazards:

“hardship” 2 Corinthians 1:4-8; 2:4; 4:17
“distress” 2 Corinthians 6:4; 12:10
“persecution” 1 Corinthians 4:12; 2 Corinthians 4:9; 12:10; Galatians 5:11
“famine” (hunger) 1 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 11:27
“nakedness” 1 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 11:27
“peril” (danger) 1 Corinthians 15:30; 2 Corinthians 11:26
“sword” 2 Corinthians 11:26 [ CAB]

Verse 37: “we are more than conquerors”: Revelation 2:7 says “ To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God”. See also Revelation 2:11, 17, 28; 3:5; 12:11. [ CAB]

Verse 37: “him”: This refers either to Christ (as in v. 35) or to God (as in 5:5, 8). 5:8 says: “... God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us”. [ NJBC]

Verse 38: “neither death, nor life”: This is expanded in 14:8: “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's”. [ NOAB]

Verse 38: “nor angels, nor rulers, ... nor powers”: i.e. supernatural beings of any kind, whether good or malevolent. Angelology was of great interest when Paul wrote. Ephesians 6:12 lists malevolent heavenly beings who can harm faith. [ NOAB]

Verse 39: “nor height, nor depth”: Paul may be thinking of Psalm 139:8: “If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there”. In astrology (primitive astronomy), stars were thought to rise from the abyss to a highest point. [ NOAB]

Matthew 13:31-33,44-52

The parallels to vv. 31-32 are Luke 13:18-19 and Mark 4:30-32. Luke 13:20-21 parallels v. 33. [ CAB] [ NJBC]

The shift from speaking to the crowds to addressing only the disciples seems to happen in v. 36.

Verse 32: Jesus’ hearers would have known Ezekiel 17:23; 31:6 and Psalm 104:16-17. There birds nest in mighty cedars of Lebanon. In Daniel 4:10-12, Nebuchadnezzar sees a tree reaching to heaven, visible to the end of the earth: truly a tree of amazing size.

Verse 32: “the greatest of shrubs”: The mustard shrub grows to about 4 metres (13 feet) in Palestine.

Verse 33: “three measures of flour”: Genesis 18:6 tells us that “three measures” were used for a large baking of bread for a household. 1 Samuel 1:24 mentions an “ephah” in the same context. An ephah was three measures, and is equivalent to 20 litres or quarts. So perhaps Jesus is not exaggerating here.

Verse 34: This verse tells us of Jesus’ use of parables in his teaching. People were dependent on what they remembered; they could not look things up in a book (or on the Internet). They would ponder what they heard.

Verse 35: The quotation is Psalm 78:2. The first clause is per the Septuagint translation; the second is an adaptation to the current context. Matthew says that Jesus has access to the divine mind. [ NJBC]

Verses 36-43: Jesus interprets the Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat (see vv. 24-30). [ NJBC]

Verse 42: “the furnace of fire”: This is an apocalyptic vision of Hell. [ NJBC]

Jesus is shown as being realistic about the membership of the Christian community: some members will be good, and others will be bad. This may differ somewhat from Paul’s view of a church of saints, although recall 1 Corinthians 1, especially verses 11-13 (“... I belong to ...”). One can read the Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat, and its interpretation(s), as saying that sifting the evil from the good is only to be done by God’s agents at the end of time, that we should not reject bad apples now. But the health of the community is important for its continuance. Elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus says clearly that his followers should be totally devoted to his cause: see Luke 14:25-33; Matthew 8:18-22; 22:11-13 (the man who comes to the wedding banquet but is not dressed for it – and his fate).

Verses 44-45: The “merchant” habitually searches while the man in v. 44 happens upon the treasure. Jesus is probably saying that the Kingdom is open to both kinds of people.

Verse 44: That a treasure was buried in a field would not be surprising to Jesus’ audience. There were no alternatives for safeguarding something of value. The “someone” is a man. The treasure had been hidden by someone else.

Verses 47-50: See also vv. 3-9 (the Parable of the Sower), vv. 24-30 (the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds) and 22:11-13.

Verse 47: “kind”: The Greek word, genos, usually means race or tribe. So Jesus is clearly talking about people, those of every nation.

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