Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost - August 28, 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.

Exodus 3:1-15

As part of his training, Moses experiences many of the events that will later happen to Israel. He prefigures Israel.

Comments: Jethro (or Reuel): Exodus 2:16-19 suggests that Zipporah’s father was called Reuel. Numbers 10:29 says “Reuel the Midianite, Moses' father-in-law”. Judges 4:11 adds to the confusion. [HBD]

3:1-4a: NJBC says that these verses are from the Yahwist (J) tradition.

3:1: “beyond the wilderness”: In the middle of nowhere – almost like Jonah in the bowels of the boat or of the great fish. [FoxMoses]

3:1: “the mountain of God”: In the Elohist (E) tradition and in Deuteronomy, it is called “Horeb”; in the Yahwist (J) and Priestly (P) traditions, it is called Sinai (see Exodus 19). [NJBC] It appears that a later editor (known as the Deuteronomist) has edited this verse. CAB says that it has now been identified as the high peak in the southern part of the Sinai peninsula, but some scholars have proposed that it may actually have been a mountain in the northeastern section. It was probably a Midianite sacred place. [NOAB]

3:2: “the angel of the LORD”: As in Genesis 16:7 (the birth of Ishmael), the angel is not a heavenly being subordinate to God but Yahweh (NRSV: LORD) himself in earthly manifestation. Exodus 14:19 says “The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them”. [NOAB] Many sources indicate that Israel shared with the Midianites a holy place of God in the desert: see Judges 1:16; 4:17-22; 1 Samuel 15:6. [CAB]

3:2: “fire”: It was conceived to be the form of the divine appearance. See also Genesis 15:17 (Abram’s vision); Exodus 19:18 (Yahweh descends on Mount Sinai “in fire”); Psalm 104:3-4 (“flame and fire” are Yahweh’s messengers); Ezekiel 1:27 (Ezekiel’s throne chariot vision). [NOAB]

3:2: “bush”: The bush (Hebrew seneh, a wordplay on Sinai) that burns but is not consumed mediates the divine voice. [NJBC]

3:4b: NJBC says that these verses are from the Elohist (E) tradition.

3:5: NJBC says that this verse is from the Yahwist (J) tradition.

3:5: “Remove the sandals from your feet”: A form of respect still practised by Muslims.

3:6: NJBC says that these verses are from the Elohist (E) tradition.

3:6: “the God of your father”: As in Genesis 26:24 (Yahweh appears to Isaac) and 31:42 (Jacob to Laban), the God of the ancestors is not known in general or abstract terms but by concrete historical relationships with particular persons. [NOAB]

3:6: “Moses hid his face ...”: The vision of God veiled in fire aroused dread (“you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live”, 33:20), for divine holiness was experienced as a mysterious power that threatened human existence (see 19:10-13). [NOAB]

3:7-9: Vv. 7-8 from the Yahwist (J) source are duplicated by the Elohist (E) source in v. 9. God intervenes because he has seen and heard the cry of the suffering people (see also 2:23-25) and wishes to lead them out of Egypt. [NJBC]

3:8: “a land flowing with milk and honey”: A description found often in the Pentateuch but not in Genesis. [FoxMoses] The “milk” was from sheep or goats; the “honey” was grape juice reduced to a molasses-like syrup. It was usually fermented. These foods made it a paradise in the eyes of semi-nomads. [NOAB]

3:8: “the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites”: The Canaanites were the inhabitants of a territory that included parts of what is now Israel (with the occupied territories) and Lebanon. The Hittites were an Indo-European people who established a strong kingdom in east central Asia Minor in the second millennium BC. Sometime around 1650 BC they began to expand their territory to include Syria and Lebanon. By 1200 BC they, in turn, had been conquered. While the Amorites are one of the primary people of the land in biblical tradition, they are particularly associated with what is now Jordan. From the biblical record, the Perizzites seem to have lived in the central highlands of Palestine. The Hivites inhabited the land around Shechem and Gibeon, and at the foot of Mount Hermon and on Mount Lebanon. The Jebusites seem to have lived in the Jerusalem area. [HBD]

3:9-15: NJBC says that these verses are from the Elohist (E) tradition.

3:11-4:17: Moses, reluctant to obey God’s command as are, for example, Gideon in Judges 6:11-22 and Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:4-10, raises four excuses or objections to God:

  Moses God
1. What are my qualifications for the commission? (3:11) Have faith that “I will be with you”. My presence will be confirmed by “you” (plural) worshipping on Sinai. (3:12)
2. People will not believe that I speak for a god if I don’t know his name (3:13) My name is “I am who I am” and “I am”; I am Yahweh, “the God of your ancestors” (3:14-15)
3. People will not believe that God has commissioned me (4:1) Show them three miracles: convert your staff into a snake and back again (4:2-5), catch and then cure a dread skin disease (4:6-8), and convert the water of the Nile into blood (4:9).
4. I have a speech impediment (4:10) “I will be with your mouth” (4:12); you will tell Aaron what he is to say (4:15).

3:11-12: God's word will be confirmed by a sign (as it is in Isaiah 7:10-17), i.e. the return of Israel to Sinai for worship. A sign may be an extraordinary wonder (4.1-9) or an ordinary phenomenon. What makes it significant, therefore miraculous, is that God's presence and power are disclosed to the eyes of faith. [NOAB]

3:12: Ordinary prophets received a sign from God before being empowered by God; Moses is alone in the Bible in receiving a sign after empowerment from God to carry out his mission. [NJBC]

3:13-15: Moses' second question assumes a polytheistic environment; thus he must know the identity of the God who is dealing with him. [NOAB]

3:13-15: Moses' second objection is that the people will not believe that he speaks for God; hence, he asks for the name of the mysterious voice. The divine name manifests God to the worshipper; the old name, God of the father, is not adequate for the new age. [NJBC]

3:14: “I AM WHO I AM”: I AM WHO I AM is an etymology of the cultic name for the God of Israel, YHWH, probably pronounced Yahweh. (The NRSV, following ancient synagogue practice, substitutes the LORD.) YHWH is treated as a verbal form derived from to be and formulated in the first person because God is the speaker. Actually YHWH is a third person form and may mean He causes to be. The name does not indicate God's eternal being but God's action presence in historical affairs. [NOAB]

The etymology of the name Yahweh is disputed. It is surely a form of the verb to be and probably the causative form, cause to be, create. Some scholars suggest that it is a shortened form of a sentence name, (God who) creates (the heavenly host). [NJBC]

The NRSV footnote offers the following other translations: I AM WHAT I AM and I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.

3:15: “The LORD”: The name is here introduced for the first time; however the tradition in Genesis 4:26b traces the worship of Yahweh back to the time of Adam’s grandson Seth. This contrasts with other traditions that claim that the sacred name was introduced in the time of Moses. [NOAB] 6:2-3 says: “God ... spoke to Moses ...: ‘I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name ‘The LORD' I did not make myself known to them’”. According to NJBC, Genesis 4:26b is from the Yahwist (J) tradition and Exodus 6:2-3 from the Priestly (P) tradition.

3:16-22: NJBC says that these verses are from the Yahwist (J) tradition.

3:16: “the elders”: Holders of political power in such a tribal society. [FoxMoses]

3:16: “I have given heed to you ...”: On his death-bed, Joseph had promised liberation from Egypt: see Genesis 50:24. [FoxMoses]

3:18: The initial request made of Pharaoh is not for emancipation but to observe a religious festival. [FoxMoses]

3:18: “sacrifice”: i.e. make animal sacrifices. [FoxMoses]

3:21-22: “you will not go empty-handed”: There is probably a legal background of furnishing a freed slave with provisions, but it looks like the booty of war! [FoxMoses] In a sense, Yahweh defeats Pharaoh. [NJBC] See also 12:35-36.

Yahweh’s victorious people will plunder the defeated Egyptians; these verses are a witty adaptation of the victor's taking the clothing and jewelry of a defeated army (see also Joshua 7:21; Judges 5:30; 2 Chronicles 20:25). It is also compensation for their unpaid labour. [NJBC]

4:1-16: NJBC says that these verses are from the Yahwist (J) tradition.

4:1-9: This narrative reflects superstitious magic which flourished in Egypt and claims that Moses was given power to excel in these “secret arts” (see 7:11; 8:18-19; 9:11). [NOAB]

4:2-9: God responds with three signs, demonstrations of the divine power that Moses can count on in the future. The staff-turned-snake and the Nile-turned-bloody anticipate the first plague in 7:8-24 and his leprous hand looks forward to Moses' vindication as leader in Numbers 12. [NJBC]

4:3: See also 7:8-12. Serpent magic was practised in Egypt from ancient times. The sign was the reverse of a trick whereby a snake is made rigid by hypnotism, so that it can be picked up by the tail. [NOAB] Converting his staff into a snake is a symbol of power. The snake was a Canaanite symbol of fertility. [CAB]

4:9: The Nile was understood to be the bearer of life. [CAB] The Nile was regarded as divine to the Egyptians, so not only would such a plague be miraculous and devastating, it would also be a direct swipe at Egyptian religion. [FoxMoses]

4:10: The nature of Moses’ speech impediment is unclear. Stuttering is more likely than stammering.

4:11: See also Jeremiah 1:6. In Hebraic thought human conditions were not ascribed to secondary causes but to God whose will is sovereign in all things. (Deuteronomy 32.39). [NOAB]

4:14: Having responded patiently to each of Moses' objections up to this point, Yahweh finally is angered by Moses' attempt to push the mission onto someone else. [NJBC]

4:15: The relation between God and God's prophetic spokesperson is analogous to the relation between Moses and Aaron. See 7:1 In 16:9, Moses asks Aaron to speak for him. [NOAB]

4:17: NJBC says that this verse is from the Elohist (E) tradition.

4:17: “staff”: This is the staff Moses will use to initiate plagues. Moses and Aaron act for God as well as speaking for him. [NJBC]

Psalm 105:1-6,23-26,45c

See also Psalm 78. [NOAB]

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

Verses 16-22: See Genesis 37:39-50. [NOAB]

Verses 23-28: See Exodus 1:1-15:21. [NOAB]

Verse 23: “Ham”: See also Genesis 10:6. [NOAB]

Verse 26: “He sent ...”: God also acts providentially in v. 17. There he sends Joseph “ahead of them”. [NJBC]

Romans 12:9-21

Verse 9: See also 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; Galatians 5:14, 22; 1 John 4:19. [NOAB] [CAB]

Verse 10: “mutual affection”: The Greek word philadelphia is also used in 1 Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:7. [CAB]

Verse 11: “serve the Lord”: Some manuscripts have kairo (time, in the sense of opportune time) rather than kyrio (Lord), leading to the translation serve the hour and the interpretation meet the demands of the time in which you live. [NJBC]

Verse 12: “Rejoice in hope”: See also 5:2-5 and 1 Peter 1:3-9. [CAB]

Verse 12: “be patient in suffering”: See also 5:2-4; 8:24-25; 1 Corinthians 13:7; 1 Thessalonians 1:3. [CAB]

Verse 13: “Contribute to the needs of the saints”: There is possibly a hint here to support the impoverished members of the Jerusalem church. [NJBC]

Verse 14: See also Exodus 23:4-5; 2 Chronicles 28:8-15; Matthew 5:38-39, 44; Luke 6:29, 35; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9.

Verse 14: “who persecute you”: This verse echoes Jesus’ words in Luke 6:27-28. Some important manuscripts (including P46) omit “you”, thus giving the verse a more general sense: bless (all) persecutors. There is no reason to think that Paul knew of official persecution in the Roman church when he wrote. [NJBC] See also 1 Corinthians 4:12; James 3:9-12; 1 Peter 2:23.

Verse 15: In Philippians 3:1 and 4:4, Paul also calls on his readers to rejoice in the Lord.

Verse 16: Paul also advises his readers to live in harmony with one another in 15:5, as he does in 2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 2:2; 4:2.

Verse 16: “associate with the lowly”: This translation assumes that tapeinos (“lowly”) is masculine, but if it is neuter the translation is give yourselves to lowly tasks. [NJBC] Paul may have intended the ambiguity. [BlkRom]

Verse 16: “do not claim ...”: This is Proverbs 3:7, freely quoted. [NJBC]

Verse 17: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil”: This may also echo Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:39, 43-44. [NJBC] Paul seems to have Proverbs 3:4 (in the Septuagint translation) in mind. [BlkRom]

Verse 17: “take thought ...”: In 1 Corinthians 10:32, Paul advises: “Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God”. See also 2 Corinthians 4:2; 8:21; 1 Timothy 5:14; 1 Peter 2:12, 15; 3:16.

Verse 18: In Mark 9:50, Jesus says: “... be at peace with one another”. See also Matthew 5:9 and 1 Timothy 2:1-2.

Verse 19: “never avenge”: NJBC offers never look for revenge. Even desiring revenge is outside Christian conduct.

Verse 19: “Vengeance is mine ...”: Vengeance is God’s, not ours. [NOAB] The quotation is Deuteronomy 32:35. See also Leviticus 19:18; Proverbs 20:22; 24:29; 2 Chronicles 28:8-15.

Verse 20: The quotation is Proverbs 25:21 in the Septuagint translation. [NOAB]; however NJBC finds “heap burning coals ...” to be obscure. There are two interpretations in patristic writings.

Verse 21: This verse summarizes vv. 14-21.

Matthew 16:21-28

The parallels are Mark 8:31-9:1 and Luke 9:22-27.

Verse 21: See also Luke 9:43-45; 17:25; 18:31-34. Jesus accepted rejection because he insisted that he himself be freely followed: see Mark 10:33-34. [NOAB]

Verse 21: For Jerusalem as the city where prophets are put to death by the religious authorities, see 23:29-39. There Jesus accuses the religious leaders of showing that they “are descendants of those who murdered the prophets”. [NJBC] Only one such murder is mentioned in the Old Testament (see 2 Chronicles 24:20-22), but Jewish legend had added others to the list of national martyrs. [NOAB]

Verse 21: “the elders and chief priests and scribes”: The three groups of leaders compose the Sanhedrin; elders were lay leaders. Note that the Pharisees are not explicitly mentioned. [NJBC]

Verse 22: “rebuke”: Peter wants only a theology of grace and glory; he wants to separate Christ from the cross. [NJBC]

Verse 23: Jesus sees in Peter’s words a continuation of Satan’s temptation of him in the desert: see Matthew 4:10 and Luke 4:8. [NOAB]

Verse 23: “You are a stumbling block to me”: Ironic after 16:18: “... I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church...”! [NJBC]

Verses 24-28: These verses contain five sayings. The first three can be understood as a commentary on the great commandment in Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” as it was understood by early rabbis:

  • The “heart” refers to the two effective impulses or drives, good and evil: to “deny themselves” (v. 24) is self-denial, submission of one’s will to God’s;
  • The “soul” means “life” (v. 25), even martyrdom;
  • “Might” means wealth, property and other external possessions (see Mishna Berakot 9:5): here gaining the whole world (v. 26). [NJBC]

Verse 24: “cross”: In Jesus’ day, the cross was proverbial for suffering and cruelty, so this is unlikely to be a reference to Jesus’ crucifixion. [NJBC] Crucifixion was a Roman means of execution in which the condemned carried the cross (actually the cross-arm) to the scene of death. Jesus sees that acceptance of his message with its promise also may bring destruction. Only those who in faith accept the threat of destruction will find life. See also Matthew 5:11-12; 10:38-39; Mark 10:29-31; Luke 14:27; 17:33; John 12:25. [NOAB]

Verse 26: “life”: Life here is not mere physical existence, but the higher or spiritual life, the real self. In Luke 12:15, Jesus says: “‘... Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions’”. [NOAB]

Verses 27-28: Two sayings which paint end-time rewards of discipleship. The “Son of Man” will come as judge; the Kingdom will be his. [NJBC]

Verse 27: In Psalm 62:12, a psalmist says of God: “... you repay to all according to their work”. In Matthew 10:33, Jesus says: “... whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven”.

Verse 28: In Mark 9:1, Jesus says: “... there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power”. In 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18, Paul tells of those already dead and those still alive meeting “the Lord in the air”. James 5:7 advises readers to be “patient, ... until the coming of the Lord”. Revelation 1:7 says: “... He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be ...”.

Verse 28: “taste death”: i.e. become personally acquainted with death. [NOAB]

Verse 28: Comments: some today see the Transfiguration (which follows in Chapter 17) as fulfilment of this prophecy: Note that mention of the Transfiguration as a “vision” (see 17:9) fits with seeing “the Son of Man coming”. [NJBC]

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