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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Eighth Sunday after Pentecost - August 7, 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 37:1-4,12-28

Other stories about Joseph are in Chapters 39-47 and 50.

This passage is from the Yahwist (J) and Elohist (E) traditions [NJBC], except for v. 2 where “story” is literally begettings, usually a sign of the Priestly (P) tradition.

The initial blame for what happens to Joseph lies with Jacob (vv. 3-4). Joseph’s own behaviour seals his fate: he tells on his brothers (v. 2) and suggests that he is superior to them (v. 8), and indeed to his parents (v. 9).

Verse 2: “seventeen”: Note the numerical balance with 47:28: Joseph lives with Jacob for the first seventeen years of his life and for the last seventeen. [FoxMoses]

Verse 2: “Bilhah and Zilpah”: See 30:1-13. Dan and Naphtali are the sons of Bilhah, and Gad and Asher the sons of Zilpah.

Verse 3: “a long robe with sleeves”: By giving Joseph the robe, Jacob sets him apart as a non-labourer and a member of the ruling class. [CAB] The Septuagint translates the Hebrew as many-coloured coat; FoxMoses offers ornamented coat. It is a luxurious robe (see 2 Samuel 13:18-19), different from the ordinary sleeveless tunic that reached to the knees. While wearing it, it would be impossible to do manual labour. [NOAB]

Verse 4: “hated him”: Such a violent reaction has once before (in the case of Leah in 29:33) led not to disaster but to fulfilment of the divine plan; there hatred leads to competition to have children. [FoxMoses]

Verse 4: “peaceably”: or civilly. Peace is a Jacob key word. [FoxMoses]

Verses 5-11: Joseph’s dreams are prophetic of his future elevation in Egypt: see 42:6 and 50:18. [NOAB] Note the pairs of dreams as in 40:5-19 (the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer and baker) and 41:1-7 (Pharaoh’s dreams). [NJBC]

Verse 6: “Listen”: In biblical Hebrew, the word can also mean understand. [FoxMoses]

Verse 9: “eleven stars”: Apparently the eleven constellations that ancients pictured in animal form - here interpreted as Joseph’s brothers. [NOAB]

Verse 10: “your mother”: Rachel has already died (see 35:16-19), but remember this is a dream. NJBC suggests that this implies that she is still alive.

Verse 12: “Shechem”: Where Abraham built an altar and God made him a promise: see 12:6-7. The previous scene takes place in Hebron (35:27), several days travel from Shechem. [NOAB] The geography is difficult: Shechem is too far from Hebron for Jacob to pasture his flocks there. [NJBC]

Verse 13: “Come”: Repeated in vv. 20 and 27. Ironically Jacob’s decision to send Joseph to his brothers sets this part of the plot in action. [FoxMoses]

Verse 14: “well”: The Hebrew word, shalom, is translated as peaceably in v. 4.

Verse 15: “a man”: Possibly another divine messenger, like the “man” with whom Jacob wrestled, in 32:24. [FoxMoses]

Verse 17: “Dothan”: Some 30 km (20 miles) north of Shechem. [NJBC]

Verse 21: “Let us not take his life”: Literally let us not strike him mortally. [FoxMoses]

Verse 22: “Reuben”: Perhaps a scribal mistake for Judah, Joseph’s advocate in v. 26 [NOAB], or perhaps from a different tradition. [NJBC]

Verse 22: “that he might rescue him ...”: See v.

Verse 25: “they sat down to eat”: FoxMoses adds bread.

Verse 29: “he tore his clothes”: A customary sign of mourning.

Verse 30: “and I”: In Hebrew, the sound expresses the emotion. [FoxMoses]

Verse 30: “where can I turn?”: FoxMoses offers where am I to go?, i.e. what is to become of me?

Verses 31-32: The brothers create an alibi.

Verse 33: “He recognized it”: See 27:23, where Isaac did not recognize Jacob. Jacob’s youth comes back to haunt him, in a sense. [FoxMoses]

Verse 33: “It is my son’s robe”: The Hebrew says only my son’s robe, thus conveying the shock more dramatically – but some ancient versions include It is. [FoxMoses]

Verse 34: “many days”: i.e. longer than the normal mourning period. [FoxMoses]

Verse 35: “Sheol”: The abode of the dead, where Jacob can go “mourning” to meet his son. [NJBC]

Verse 36: “Midianites”: The Hebrew is Medianites. [FoxMoses]

Verse 36: “Potiphar”: The word means gift of Re, the sun god. In 40:4, he is captain of the guard. [NJBC]

Verse 36: “officials”: Literally eunuch, a common ancient Near East title for such a position. Originally it was intended literally but later on an official was not necessarily a eunuch.

Psalm 105:1-6,16-22,45c

See also Psalm 78.

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

Verses 16-22: See Genesis 37:39-50.

Verse 17: “he had sent ...”: God also acts providentially in v. 26. There he sends Moses and Aaron. [NJBC]

Verse 18: A merism meaning completely bound. The English equivalent is bound hand and foot. [NJBC]

Romans 10:5-15

9:30: See also 3:22; 10:6, 20; Galatians 2:16; 3:24; Philippians 3:9; Hebrews 11:7. [NOAB]

9:32-33: Paul’s conflation of Isaiah 28:16 and 8:14 has the effect of making the Old Testament say almost the opposite of what it actually says! [NJBC]

Isaiah 8:14-15 says: “He [the Lord of hosts] will become a sanctuary, a stone one strikes against; ... he will become a rock one stumbles over – a trap and a snare for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble; they shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”.

Isaiah 28:16 says: “thus says the Lord GOD, See, I am laying in Zion a foundation stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: ‘One who trusts [in it] will not panic’”.

In Isaiah 8:14-15, the “rock” is an impediment to Israel, but in Isaiah 28:16, the “stone” is a symbol of salvation; here in Romans they are interpreted as Christ. See also Matthew 21:42. Belief (or trust) in Christ brings salvation: in 10:10-11, Paul writes: “... one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’”. [NOAB] Paul really mangles the verses from Isaiah!

The same conflation is found in 1 Peter 2:6-8, Mark 12:10 (parallels: Matthew 21:42 and Luke 20:17) and Acts 4:11.

10:1: Paul also prays that Jews may be included in salvation in Romans 1:16. [NJBC]

10:2: “zeal for God”: See also Acts 21:20; 22:3; Galatians 1:14 (Paul’s zealousness as a Jew); Philippians 3:6 (Paul’s credentials as a Jew); John 2:17; 1 Maccabees 2:26-27. [NJBC]

10:3: They try to establish righteousness with respect to the Law – their own righteousness – but not directly God’s, leaving their fate in his hands.

10:4: There are three possible meanings:

  • The law of Moses, with its demands and consequences, is no longer in effect: Christ is the termination of the law. (See also Galatians 3:23-26.)
  • In Christ, the Law is brought to its proper conclusion and fulfilment. (See also Matthew 5:17.)
  • The Law functions to drive people to ask for deliverance; this is available in Christ.

Paul may intend all three meanings. NJBC sees the third meaning as the most likely: the final and purposive goal of the Law is Christ. He notes that in 9:31-33 there is pursuit of oneness with God; one pursues a goal.

10:5: The quotation is from Leviticus 18:5. Paul also quotes it in Galatians 3:12. Paul emphasizes “does”. One must actually practise the Law completely to find life through it – which Paul has shown is impossible: see 3:9-10. [NOAB] Note that Paul accepts a common understanding of his time: that Moses wrote Leviticus.

10:6: “Do not say in your heart”: From Deuteronomy 8:17 and 9:4 (Septuagint translation). Both passages issue a warning against trust in one’s own achievements. [CAB] Paul takes the speaker as being the righteousness of God [BlkRom]; in Deuteronomy, the speaker is Moses; he tells what God has commanded him to say.

10:6-8: “Who will ascend into heaven?”: This is a quotation from Deuteronomy 30:12. In these verses, Paul generally quotes Deuteronomy 30:11-14; however, “Who will descend into the abyss” is probably based on Psalm 107:26 while Deuteronomy 30:13 asks: “Who will cross to the other side of the sea ...?”.

10:6: “(that is, to bring Christ down)”: CAB offers another interpretation: to bring into effect God’s salvation.

10:7: “Who will descend into the abyss?”: Based on Psalm 107:26. The “abyss” was the place of the dead, where disobedient spirits awaited judgement. Revelation 9:1 says: “... the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit”.

10:7: “(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)”: CAB offers another interpretation: to bring about the final stage of God’s salvation. Perhaps 1 Peter 3:19 tells us what Jesus did between his crucifixion and his resurrection: “... he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison”, i.e. to those who had died.

10:8: The quotation is Deuteronomy 30:14. Faith-based grace was (and is) available to the Israelites. In the original context, Moses says that God’s word of love and justification is God’s gift, not something humans can achieve or do.

10:8: In 2:29, Paul says: “... a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart – it is spiritual and not literal”. See also 6:17.

10:9: In 2 Corinthians 4:5, Paul writes: “For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake”. [NJBC]

10:9: “Jesus is Lord”: This affirmation of faith also appears in 1 Corinthians 12:3 and Philippians 2:11. [NJBC]

10:9: “God”: i.e. the Father.

10:10: “justified”: The Greek word is translated as “righteousness” in 9:30 and 10:3-6. [NOAB]

10:11: Again the quotation is from Isaiah 28:16. [NOAB]

10:12: “the same Lord is Lord of all”: Jesus is the risen Lord of Jew and Greek: in 9:5, Paul writes: “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen”. See also 1 Corinthians 8:6 and Philippians 2:9-11. [NJBC]

10:13: In the Old Testament, those who call “on the name of the Lord” are sincere and pious Israelites: see Joel 2:32. Early Christians often applied Old Testament references to “Lord” to Jesus. In the original context, they refer to God.

10:14-21: Paul says that Israel did not take advantage of the opportunity offered to it by the prophets and the gospel; so the fault lies with Israel. The opportunity to believe in Christ was offered to all, but especially to Israel; it cannot claim that it did not hear the gospel. Paul proposes for himself four difficulties or objections, perhaps echoing comments from missionary sermons among Jews, and to each he proposes a brief answer by quoting the Old Testament:

  • How can people believe the gospel unless it has been fully preached? (vv. 14-15)
  • But it has not been fully accepted by everyone! (vv. 16-17)
  • But perhaps the Jews did not hear it! (v. 18)
  • Perhaps they did not understand! (vv. 19-21) [NJBC]

10:15: The quotation is Isaiah 52:7, a text originally referring to the good news announced to Jews left in ruined Jerusalem that deliverance from Babylonian captivity was coming and that Jerusalem’s restoration was close at hand. In Paul’s hands, the “good news” has overtones of his good news, the gospel. So to him, the goods news has indeed been preached to Israel. [NJBC]

10:16: The quotation is Isaiah 53:1, in which Isaiah saw a refusal to believe comparable to the one in Paul’s time. In Isaiah’s time, despite the prophet’s preaching, not all Jews accepted his message. [NJBC]

10:18: The quotation is Psalm 19:4, in which the psalmist sings of nature proclaiming the glory of God everywhere. Paul accommodates the words to the preaching of the gospel: properly authorized preachers have done their job, so Israel has had the opportunity to believe in Christ. [NJBC]

10:19: The quotation is Deuteronomy 32:21, in which Yahweh, through Moses, tries to educate Israel and announces that it will be humiliated by unbelievers (the Babylonians). In quoting this verse, Paul implies a comparison of Israel’s situation in his time with what it was at the time of the Exile. How much greater should Israel’s humiliation be now than then. Gentiles understand the good news, but Jews generally do not. [NJBC]

10:20-21: The quotations are Isaiah 65:1 and 65:2. In the original context, the same people are envisaged by both verses, but Paul, influenced by the Septuagint translation (which has ethnos, nation in v. 1 and laos, people, in v. 2) splits the two verses such that they apply to different peoples: in v. 1 he applies “nation” to Gentiles and in v. 2 “people” to Jews. [NJBC] (The NRSV follows the Septuagint in Isaiah 65:1-2.) So, to Paul, authentic preachers did speak in an intelligible way, so Israel had a proper opportunity to understand. [NJBC]

10:20: “who did not seek me”: Recall that in 9:30 the Gentiles “did not strive” for godliness.

Matthew 14:22-33

The parallels are Mark 6:45-52 and John 6:15-21.

Verse 22: “go on ahead to the other side”: It seems that Jesus sends the disciples to Gentile territory, on eastern shore of the Lake of Galilee, but they land at Gennesaret, on the northwestern shore (see v. 34).

Verse 23: “he went up the mountain ... to pray”: A model for Christians, who need periods of silent, personal prayer as well as prayer in common. [NJBC]

Verse 24: “was far from the land”: Literally was many stadia from the land. A stadion was about a fifth of a kilometre (220 yards). [NOAB]

Verse 25: “early in the morning”: Literally in the fourth watch of the night, i.e. between 3 am and 6 am. [NOAB]

Verse 25: “walking toward them on the sea”: In Canaanite myth and the Old Testament, the Lord overcomes the waves of death (see Psalm 77:19; Job 9:8; Isaiah 43:16; Sirach 24:5-6). [NJBC] In Genesis 1:6-7 and Psalm 89:9-10, God controls the water. [CAB]

Verses 27-32: Jesus shares in the divine power to save. [NJBC]

Verses 29-31: This insertion into Matthew’s Marcan source gives prominence to Peter, as do other Matthean special traditions (16:17-19 and 17:24-27). [NJBC] Peter’s conduct shows impulsive love and faith weakened by doubt. See also on Thomas in John 20:28-29.

Verse 33: Here the disciples understand and believe, unlike in the Marcan parallel.

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