Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Seventh Sunday after Pentecost - July 31, 2011



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 32:22-31

30:32-36: Striped or speckled colouration in animals was unusual, so Laban seemingly has nothing to lose. [NOAB]

30:37-40: In the ancient world, cattle breeders thought that colours seen by an animal when she conceived affected the colour of her offspring. [NOAB]

This story is a combination of the Yahwist (J) and Elohist (E) traditions. [NJBC]

Before re-entering the Promised Land, Jacob undergoes a struggle that chastens his self-confidence and prepares him for a new relationship with Esau. [NOAB] He has sent an emissary to Esau (vv. 4-9), but Esau appears to threaten him with a battle.

31:55 in the Hebrew is 32:1 in the NRSV. The NRSV follows the Septuagint and Vulgate translations. [NJBC]

32:12: The first sign of a change in Jacob’s personality. [FoxMoses]

32:22: “his eleven children”: They include Dinah. Joseph and Benjamin are yet to be born.

32:22: “Jabbok”: Present day Wadi Zerka, which empties into the Jordan about 40 km north of the Dead Sea. There is word-play here on the name of the river: ‘abaq in Hebrew. It sounds much like Jacob. [NJBC]

32:24: This verse is somewhat repetitive, hence the thinking that this story combines two traditions.

32:24: “left alone”: Perhaps in a psychological sense. [FoxMoses]

32:25: “struck”: One scholar, FoxMoses, offers touched – perhaps in homage, for the injury has already happened.

32:28: In effect, the man removes implied Esau’s curse (see 27:36, quoted below) – or, as if to say, you can’t be blessed with such a name. [FoxMoses]

32:28: “Jacob”: His name means heel-sneak. 25:26 says: “Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau's heel; so he was named Jacob”. In 27:36, Esau says: “‘Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright; and look, now he has taken away my blessing’”.

32:28: “Israel”: To FoxMoses, the name means God fights and to NOAB it means God rules. NJBC says that the etiology is unknown.

32:28: “with humans”: i.e. Esau and Laban.

32:29: In ancient folklore, the name of a divine being was often withheld, for to know it would be to have power over him. In Judges 13:17-18, an angel of God refuses to disclose his name to Manoah, Samson’s father, and in Exodus 3:13-14, God declines to give his name to Moses. [FoxMoses]

Comments: We read in earlier chapters that God promised to preserve Jacob's life: See, for example, Genesis 28:10-22 (Jacob’s dream at Bethel).

32:30: The common Old Testament idea was that one could not see God’s face without dying. [NJBC] In Exodus 33:20, God says to Moses: "'you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live'". Deuteronomy 34:10 says: 'Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face". See also Judges 6:22-23 (Gideon) and 13:22 (Manoah).

32:31: “The sun rose upon him”: According to FoxMoses, a sign of favour.

32:31: “Penuel”: A variant spelling of Peniel, perhaps from the other tradition.

32:32: An editorial comment explaining the origin of the Israelite taboo against eating the corresponding muscle of an animal. [NOAB] But this is not one of the biblical laws. [CAB]

32:32: “thigh muscle”: FoxMoses translates the Hebrew as sinew, and says that it means the sciatic nerve. To NJBC the meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain.

Psalm 17:1-7,15

Superscription: “A Prayer of David”: One of 74 psalms for which David’s name appears in the superscription. Others are said to be of Asaph, the Korahites, Moses, Jeremiah and Heman. Because almost half of the psalms were of David, the Jewish tradition developed that David was the author of Psalms.

A prayer for deliverance from personal enemies. [NOAB] NJBC offers an alternative interpretation: that it was prayed by a king threatened by rebels and foreign enemies.

Verse 1: “just cause”: Literally righteousness – forming an inclusio with v. 15.

Verses 3-5: Protestations of innocence. The accusers have probably accused him formally, and he has replied with a public declaration of innocence. See also 4:2-4 and 26:4-7. [NOAB] He seems to boast, but this was an accepted way of reminding God of one’s fidelity. See also 7:8-11; 18:21-24; 26:2.

Verses 7-10: NJBC notes that the Hebrew is difficult.

Verse 8: “apple of the eye”: i.e. pupil, the most important and precious part of the eye. This expression also occurs in Zechariah 2:8 and Deuteronomy 32:10. [CAB]

Verse 8: “wings”: Suggests God’s heavenly home and his ability to encompass all the earth. [CAB]

Verses 13-14: NJBC notes that the Hebrew is difficult. A probable translation is Destroy them with your power, O Yahweh, destroy them from the world! Make them perish from among the living!.

Romans 9:1-5

The problem of Israel’s unbelief. [NOAB]

Verse 1: “confirms it”: or bears witness in. [BlkRom]

Verse 3: Paul echoes Moses’ prayer for the unruly Israelites in Exodus 32:32 [NJBC]. There Moses asks God that if he will not “forgive their sin” he may be blotted “out of the book that you have written”.

Verse 3: “accursed”: The Greek word is anathema, meaning banned. It also occurs in 1 Corinthians 16:22 and Galatians 1:8-9. [BlkRom]

Verse 4: “Israelites”: The title Israel is given to Jacob, and hence to his descendants, as God's people, in Genesis 32:28. In 2 Corinthians 11:22, Paul says: “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I”. [NJBC]

Verse 4: “adoption”: For the adoption of Israel as the “son of God” see Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 14:1; Jeremiah 3:19; Hosea 11:1. For the adoption of Christians, see Romans 8:15, 23. Because adoption was not common in Israel, the Greek word for it is not found in the Septuagint translation. Paul borrowed the term from contemporary legal language. [NJBC]

Verse 4: “glory”: See Exodus 16:10-11 (God appears in a cloud); 24:16-17; 33:18 (Moses); 40:34-35 (the tabernacle); Leviticus 9:6, 23; Numbers 14:10 (at the tent of meeting), 21 (all the earth shall see it); 16:19; 1 Kings 8:10-11 (“the house of the LORD”). For the glory to which Christians will be admitted, see Romans 2:7; 5:2. [NJBC]

Verse 4: “covenants”: See Genesis 6:18 (Noah); 9:9; 15:17-21 (Abraham); 17:2 (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), 7, 9; 21:27; 26:28; Exodus 2:24; 19:5; 2 Samuel 7:5-6; 23:5 (David); Sirach 44:12, 18. BlkRom considers it more likely that Paul, with other Jewish writers, is referring to the three covenants in the great covenant of Exodus: at Horeb (Deuteronomy 29:1), in the plains of Moab, and at mounts Gerizim and Ebal. NJBC notes that while the plural form (covenants) is found in many manuscripts, some important manuscripts read the singular; in this case, Paul refers to the pact of Sinai.

Verse 4: “the giving of the law”: The giving of the Ten Commandments is found in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:1-33. [NOAB]

Verse 4: “the promises”: See Genesis 12:2; 21:12 (to Abraham); Deuteronomy 18:18-19 (to Moses); 2 Samuel 7 (to David). It is possible that Paul is speaking of messianic promises. [BlkRom] [NJBC]

Verse 5: “the patriarchs”: i.e. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob plus possibly the sons of Jacob and David. [CAB] In 11:28, they are named as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Verse 5 “according to the flesh”: i.e. by physical descent.

Verse 5: “Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever”: In a footnote the NRSV offers two other translations:

  • “Messiah, who is God over all, blessed forever” and
  • “Messiah. May he who is God over all be blessed forever”.

Whether Christ is called God here depends on the punctuation one inserts. [CAB]

Verses 6-7: God chose Isaac not Ishmael: see Genesis 21:12. Paul uses the same argument in Galatians 4:21-31.

Verse 9: God chose Sarah, not Hagar: see Genesis 18:10, 14. [NOAB]

Verses 10-12: See Genesis 25:21, 23. [NJBC]

Verse 13: The quotation is from Malachi 1:2-3. [NOAB]

Verse 15: The quotation is Exodus 33:19. [NOAB]

Verse 17: The quotation is based on Exodus 9:16.

Verse 18: Israel’s election, like God’s justification of the ungodly, rests in the sovereign will of God and in God’s freedom towards his creation.

Verse 18: “hardens the heart”: At times, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is ascribed at times to God (see Exodus 4:21; 7:3; 9:12) and at times to Pharaoh himself (see Exodus 7:14; 8:15, 19, 32). [NJBC]

Matthew 14:13-21

Verse 1: “Herod”: i.e. Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. [NOAB]

Verse 2: Herod thinks that Jesus is John the Baptist returned to life.

Verse 3: “Philip”: Actually his half-brother. [NOAB]

Verse 4: John interprets Leviticus 20:10, 21. [NJBC]

Verse 6: “the daughter of Herodias”: According to Josephus, her name was Salome. See his Antiquities of the Jews 10.8.5.4. [NOAB]

Verse 10: “the prison”: At Machaerus, a fortified place about 8 km (5 miles) east of the Dead Sea. [NOAB]

Verses 13-21: The parallels are Mark 6:30-44 and Luke 9:10-17, and possibly John 6:1-13. A second miraculous feeding is described in Matthew 15:32-39 and Mark 8:1-10. See also Matthew 26:26 (the institution of the Last Supper) and Acts 2:46. [NOAB] [NJBC]

Verse 13: “this”: Clearly John’s death, not Herod’s misunderstanding of whom Jesus is – as is shown by the Marcan parallel.

Verse 14: “cured their sick”: In Mark, Jesus’ compassion leads to teaching, not healing. [NJBC]

Verse 15: “deserted place”: The Greek word, eremos, is translated as desolate by BlkMt. It is rendered as wilderness in11:7 and as desert place in 24:26. Such translations make the Feedings of the Five Thousand even more dramatic.

Verse 19: “blessed ... broke ... gave”: The ritual of the daily Jewish meal, but also points forward to the Last Supper. [NJBC]

Verse 19: “the disciples gave them to the crowds”: The disciples mediate between Jesus and the crowds. [NJBC]

Verse 20: The crowds represent all Israel. The “twelve baskets” represent the twelve tribes of Israel under the twelve disciples. [NJBC] In 19:28, Jesus says “‘Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’”

Verse 21: The men, and women and children, sat separately, per tradition.

The feeding stories echo Exodus 16 and Numbers 11 (manna and quail), as well as 2 Kings 4:1-7, 42-44 (Elisha multiplying oil and bread for the widow). [NJBC]

© 1996-2003 Chris Haslam



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