Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost - September 13, 2020

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 14:19-31

The text is much more than a journalistic account of what happened: it is a rhythmic retelling of an experience, strongly conditioned by traditional (probably oral) Israelite forms of story telling. [ FoxMoses]

According to NJBC, material from three sources (traditions) have been edited together to form the text as we have it in this chapter. Most of Chapter 15 is from yet another, unnamed, source.

13:17-19: These verses are from the Elohist (E) tradition. [ NJBC]

13:17: “by way of the land of the Philistines”: The main military road into Canaan – along the Mediterranean. [ NOAB]

13:18: “Red”: The Hebrew means reed. It appears that the word was first translated as “Red” in the Septuagint, which later translations have followed. [ NJBC] See also “the sea” in 14:2, 9, 16, 21-23, 26-29.

13:18: The Hebrew word for sea can also mean lake. The reference is probably to one of the marshy lakes in the eastern Nile delta area, bordering on the wilderness of Sinai – rather than the Gulf of Suez farther south. [ CAB] NJBC suggests Lake Balah; FoxMoses suggests Lake Timsah.

13:18: “prepared for battle”: FoxMoses says that the Hebrew is unclear. CAB says that the phrase is not meant literally, since families and livestock were involved in the migration.

13:19: In Genesis 50:25-26, as he lies on his deathbed, Joseph has made the Israelites promise to take his bones with them when God “will visit you”. [ NJBC] Joseph’s bones are reburied in Joshua 24:32 – marking the conquest of Canaan. [ FoxMoses]

13:20-22: These verses are from the Yahwist (J) tradition. [ NJBC]

13:20: Numbers 33:6 gives the same initial itinerary.

13:20: “Etham”: Probably a frontier fortress. [ NOAB]

13:21: This may reflect the ancient custom of carrying a burning brazier at the head of an army or caravan to indicate the line of march day and night. See also 3:2; 19:9; 33:9; 40:34-38; 1 Kings 8:10-11. [ NOAB]

14:1-4: These verses are from the Priestly (P) tradition. [ NJBC]

14:1-2: That these cities in the northeastern region of the Nile delta are named confirms the theory that the crossing of the sea was in the marshy lake region rather than in the Gulf itself. [ CAB]

14:2: “Baal-zephon”: The name of a Canaanite deity – indicating the mixed cultural situation in this delta region bordering the land of Canaan. [ CAB]

14:5a: This half verse is from the Elohist (E) tradition. [ NJBC]

14:5: “the people had fled”: i.e. they had not just gone to observe a religious observance, as God commanded Moses to tell the Pharaoh in 8:21, 27.

14:5b-6: These verses are from the Yahwist (J) tradition. [ NJBC]

14:7: This verse is from the Elohist (E) tradition. [ NJBC]

14:7: “six hundred”: A nice counterpart to the six hundred thousand (or six hundred units of) Israelite males mentioned in 12:37 as setting out from Ramases. [ FoxMoses]

14:7: “officers”: The Hebrew may also mean teams of three or warriors or a picked team. [ FoxMoses]

14:8-10: These verses are from the Priestly (P) tradition. [ NJBC]

14:8: “boldly”: defiantly, in triumph [ FoxMoses]

14:11-12: These verses are from the Elohist (E) tradition. [ NJBC]

14:11-12: The Israelites are faint-hearted when faced with enemies, as God has predicted they would be, in 13:17. For other complaints (murmurings) against Moses (God) see 15:24; 16:2-3; 17:3; 32:1-4; Numbers 11:4-6; 12:1-2; 14:2-3; 16:13-14; 20:2-13; 21:4-5.

14:13-14: These verses are from the Yahwist (J) tradition. [ NJBC]

14:13-14: An exhortation to holy war: in a holy war, gods fought in the heavens in support of their armies on earth. Yahweh being the only true deity, Israel’s victory is assured. [ NJBC]

14:13: “deliverance”: The Hebrew word means rescue, but extending to the miraculous in the eyes of those who experience the event. [ FoxMoses]

14:15-18: These verses are from the Priestly (P) tradition. [ NJBC]

14:15: “Tell the Israelites to go forward”: Thus countering the Egyptian advance. [ FoxMoses]

14:16: “divide it”: As if as natural an event as stretching out one’s hand! [ FoxMoses]

14:19a: This half verse is from the Elohist (E) tradition. [ NJBC] Note “the angel of God”.

14:19b-20: These verses are from the Yahwist (J) tradition. [ NJBC] Note “the pillar of cloud”.

14:20: “lit up”: FoxMoses says that the Hebrew is unclear.

14:21-31: The battle as described by the two traditions differs:

  • In the Priestly (P) tradition: Moses divides the sea with his rod; the Israelites walk through on dry land, the waters being a wall to left and to right. When they reach the other side, Moses raises his hand and the walls of water crash on the Egyptian army, wiping it out.
  • In the Yahwist (J) tradition: the storm god drives the sea back for long enough for the Israelites to cross; the sea returns to its normal depth in the morning. (The language is like Psalm 48:5-8, where Yahweh throws the kings into panic and uses the wind as his weapon.) [ NJBC]

14:21-23: These verses are from the Priestly (P) tradition. [ NJBC] Tradition heightened the miracle by attributing it to Moses’ wonder-working staff (vv. 16, 21a, 26-27) and by saying that the waters stood like walls (vv. 22b, 29b) [ NOAB]

14:21: “a strong east wind”: Looking back, one recalls the east wind that brought the locusts to Egypt in 10:13; one also looks forward to God’s “strength and ... might” in 15:2.

14:21: “dry land”: The same Hebrew word appears, also as a sign that all is well, in the Flood narrative, another story of deliverance (and of death). Similarly, the word translated as “dry ground” in v. 22 also appears at the end if the Flood story (see Genesis 8:14). [ FoxMoses]

14:24-25b: These verses are from the Yahwist (J) tradition. [ NJBC]

14:24: “At the morning watch”: i.e. before daybreak.

14:24: “threw ... into panic”: A Hebrew phrase used in the Old Testament to describe God’s effect on his enemies: see also, for example, Joshua 10:10 (the Amorites before Joshua’s army); Judges 4:15 (Sisera and his army); 1 Samuel 7:10 (the Philistines). [ FoxMoses]

14:25a: This half verse is from the Elohist (E) tradition. [ NJBC]

14:26: This verse is from the Priestly (P) tradition. [ NJBC]

14:27: This verse is from the Yahwist (J) tradition. [ NJBC]

14:28-29: These verses are from the Priestly (P) tradition. [ NJBC]

14:30-31: These verses are from the Yahwist (J) tradition. [ NJBC]

14:30-31: These verses show the influence of the Deuteronomist. Using language that mirrors the end of the entire Torah (see Deuteronomy 34), the text speaks of seeing, fearing, hand, eyes and the unique-to-Deuteronomy phrase “his servant Moses”: see Deuteronomy 34:5. Significantly then, the final narrative of Israel’s relationship to Egypt is cast as a classic ending in general. [ FoxMoses]

We do not know what actually happened at the Sea, but that has little to do with the meaning of the text. The narrator demonstrates God’s final victory and portrays Israel’s escape in terms of a birthing (through a path, out of water), and these themes had the most influence both on later biblical tradition and on the generations of inspired Jews and Christians that heeded them. [ FoxMoses]

Psalm 114

Psalms 113-118 constitute the so-called Egyptian Hallel, used in connection with great festivals. Psalms 113-114 are sung before the Passover meal, and Psalms 115-118 afterwards. If the Last Supper was a Passover meal, these psalms are “the hymn” sung by Jesus and the disciples: see Matthew 26:30.

A hymn in praise of God’s great work in creating the nation – from leaving Egypt to crossing the Jordan. [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “Jordan turned back”: Joshua 4:23 says: “For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we crossed over”.

Verse 4: CAB sees this verse as describing Israel’s enemies in poetic language.

Verse 8: “who turns the rock into a pool of water”: See also Exodus 17:6 (at Rephidim); Numbers 20:11; Deuteronomy 8:15.

Exodus 15:1b-11,20-21

NJBC says that vv. 1-19 are from none of the traditions identified as contributing to the rest of the Pentateuch. He attributes vv. 20-21 to the Yahwist (J) source.

Verses 1-18: The poetic style of this hymn and the imagery of its celebration of the triumph of Yahweh show clear affinity with sacred poems found by archeologists at sites in the Near East dating from this epoch, especially at Ugarit in Syria. The defeat by Israel of the nations named in vv. 14-15 occurred centuries later; this indicates that the hymn achieved its present form no earlier than the time of Solomon or David. [ CAB]

Verses 1-3: V. 21 attributes this song to Miriam – which is probably correct, because literary material was often attributed to well-known figures independent of its original author. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: See also 14:12-14.

Verse 2: “my father’s God”: A reference to the God of the ancestors ( 3:6). [ NOAB]

Verse 3: See also 14:14 (“The Lord will fight for you ...”), 14:25 (“... the Lord is fighting for them [Israel]”); Psalm 24:8 (“Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord , mighty in battle”).

Verses 4-10: A recital of the divine warrior’s victory at the sea. See also Psalm 78:12-13. [ NOAB] Yahweh, like Baal in Ugaritic texts, is pictured as a storm god battling his enemies with wind, lightning and thunder. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “his picked officers were sunk”: There is an implication that the Egyptian officers were in boats. This differs from the traditions found in Chapter 14.

Verses 8-10: The language is influenced by the ancient myth of a divine battle against the sea, the chaotic power hostile to the rule of the gods. See also Psalms 77:16-19; 114:3-6; Habakkuk 3:8. [ NOAB]

Verse 8: As in Psalm 107:25-27, a storm lifts high mountains of water. [ NJBC]

Verses 11-12: Yahweh’s victory over the Egyptians shows his superiority to their gods; he controls heaven, earth and the underworld (“earth” in v. 12). [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “among the gods”: See also Psalms 80:7-8; 86:8; Genesis 1:26 (“Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, ...”).

Verse 13: “your holy abode”: A mountain in Canaan. See Psalm 78:54 (“... he brought them to his holy hill, to the mountain that his right hand had won”). [ NOAB]

Verse 14: “Philistia”: The coastal region at the eastern end of the Mediterranean settled by Philistine about 1175 BC. So this song was presumably written later, but probably before the Monarchy. [ NOAB]

Verse 15: Numbers 20:18-21 says something different: the Edomites would not allow the Israelites to pass through their territory. See also 21:13.

Verse 17: Canaan is described as a mythical cosmic mountain, Zaphon, the location of God’s “abode” and “sanctuary”. See also Psalm 48:1-3. [ NOAB] The impression is that God brought them to Canaan without the forty-year delay mentioned elsewhere in the Pentateuch and Joshua. [ NJBC]

Verse 17: “the sanctuary”: Understood by later generations as Jerusalem, the site of the Temple on Mount Zion, but the poem is earlier than David’s conquest of Jerusalem in the tenth century. The whole land may be referred to as Yahweh’s mountain, as is the case in Deuteronomy 32:13; Ezekiel 39:4, 17, etc.

Verse 20: “Miriam”: Numbers 26:59 tells us that Moses, Aaron and Miriam were brothers and sister. See also Micah 6:4.

Verse 21: One of the oldest poetic couplets in the Bible. It may have been composed by an eye-witness of the event.

Romans 14:1-12

Verse 1: “not for the purpose of quarrelling over opinions”: NJBC offers without debating minor points. See also 15:5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:11; 11:18; Titus 3:9; Matthew 15:11.

Verse 2: Paul may be referring to those who on certain occasions refrain from eating meat. See also 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; 10:23-33. [ CAB] Their reason for abstaining may lie in their pre-Christian background: see Daniel 1:8 (Daniel abstains from “the royal rations of food and wine”) and Judith 8:6.

Verse 3: See also Colossians 2:16-19.

Verse 5: In Galatians 4:10-11, Paul seems to speak of converts who have fallen back into pagan practices. See also Colossians 2:16-20.

Verse 5: “Let all be fully convinced in their own minds”: See also v. 14 and 1 Corinthians 8:7: “... Since some [converts] have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled”.

Verse 6: “the day”: The Sabbath may be intended.

Verse 8: Paul says, in Philippians 1:21: “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain”.

Verse 11: The quotation is a conflation of Isaiah 49:18 and 45:23, per the Septuagint translation. See also Philippians 2:10-11.

Verse 11: “praise”: The Greek word, exomolesetai, here has the sense of admitting, confessing.

Verse 13: “a stumbling block”: Something which would cause one to fall away from Christ. Jesus uses this terminology in Mark 9:42; Matthew 18:6; Luke 17:1. [ CAB]

Verse 14: See also v. 5 and Acts 10:9-16 (Peter’s vision); 1 Corinthians 8:7. This is a parenthetical comment: ritual cleanliness is not a property of anything created ; it is how it is used that matters. This verse may echo Jesus’ saying regarding the Pharisees’ distinction between clean and unclean: see Matthew 15:11 (“it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles”) and Leviticus 17:15 (“All persons, ... who eat what dies of itself or what has been torn by wild animals, shall wash their clothes, and bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the evening; then they shall be clean”). [ NJBC]

Verse 15: “ruin”: i.e. falling away from Christ.

Verses 17-21: In 1 Corinthians 10:23-24, Paul writes: “‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up. Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other”.

Verse 17: “the kingdom of God”: A term infrequently used by Paul, it here speaks of life in the present, rather than God’s kingdom of the future, as it does elsewhere in his writings: 1 Corinthians 4:20; 6:9-10; 15:24, 50; Galatians 5:21; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; Colossians 1:13. [ CAB]

Verse 19: Paul offers the same idea in writing about eating food which has been offered to idols in 1 Corinthians 8:1-2. [ CAB]

Verse 22: “who have no reason to condemn themselves ...”: i.e. who are free from misgivings about the rightness of their practices/conduct. [ NOAB]

Verse 23: What you do against your conscience is “sin”. [ NOAB]

Verse 23: “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin”: For both the strong and the weak, to make one’s own practice mandatory for others is to usurp God’s place: to do so is sin. Perhaps Paul has the incident in Galatians 2:12-13 in mind.

Matthew 18:21-35

Verses 21-22: In Luke 17:4, Jesus says: “‘if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive”.

Verse 21: “another member of the church”: A footnote in the NRSV says that the Greek means literally my brother. The word ekklesia (church) does not actually appear in the Greek, but it does in v. 17, so the sense is clear.

Verse 22: While God promises “sevenfold vengeance” on anyone who kills Cain (see Genesis 4:15), Lamech says that anyone who kills him will be avenged “seventy-sevenfold” (see Genesis 4:24). Thus he exceeds the law of retaliation, which permits one-for-one retaliation. (See Exodus 21:23-25). [ NJBC] [ HBD] Jesus expects the inverse.

Verses 23-35: A homiletic midrash on 6:12, 14-15 – perhaps to illustrate the closing verses of the Lord’s prayer. [ NJBC]

Verse 28: “slaves”: An Old Testament way of referring not only to slaves but also to court officials or ministers. Here perhaps tax gatherers or finance ministers.

Verse 24: “ten thousand talents”: According to Blomberg, something like a few million to several trillion dollars. Literally a myriad of talents. [ NJBC]

Verse 25: “sold”: For Mosaic law on this point, see Leviticus 25:39. The widow for whom Elisha miraculously produced oil was in danger of having her children sold to pay her debts: see 2 Kings 4:1-7.

Verse 26: See also 8:2 (a leper kneels before Jesus seeking to be made clean) and 17:14-15 (a man kneels before Jesus seeking cure for his epileptic son).

Verses 32-33: See also Luke 7:41-43 (the parable of the two debtors).

Verse 34: “tortured”: According to NOAB, in order to discover whether the debtor was concealing any money or valuables.

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