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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost - September 18, 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 16:2-15

15:22-27: The experience of bitter water made potable signifies the combination of God testing his people and providing for their needs – which characterizes the Exodus experience as a whole. [CAB] This is the first of many stories of Yahweh testing his people in the wilderness. All tests concern the people’s food or drink and Moses’ authority. [NJBC]

15:22a: This half verse is from the Priestly (P) tradition. [NJBC]

15:22b-25a: These verses are from the Yahwist (J) tradition. [NJBC]

15:22: “Red Sea”: FoxMoses offers Sea of Reeds. See last week’s Clippings on Exodus 13:18.

15:22: “Shur”: FoxMoses notes that some scholars translate the Hebrew as Wall, the outer fortified boundary of Egypt, so the edge of civilisation. In Numbers 33:8, Shur is identified with the wilderness of Etham. [NOAB]

15:23: “Marah”: The name means bitter.

15:24: “complained”: Or murmured. For other complainings, see 14:11-12; 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.

15:25: People believed that the leaves or bark of certain trees had magical properties for sweetening or healing water. See also 2 Kings 2:21 (Elisha purifies water with salt). [NOAB]

15:25: “the Lord made for them a statute and an ordinance”: Evidence of Israel’s early government. [FoxMoses]

15:25b-26: These verses are from none of the traditions identified as contributing to the rest of the Pentateuch. [NJBC]

15:26: “diseases”: A recurring theme in the Pentateuch. Deuteronomy 28:58-60 says “If you do not ... observe ... this law ... then the LORD ... will bring back upon you all the diseases of Egypt”. [FoxMoses] The first plague made the water of the Nile undrinkable: see 7:20-21. As God showed his power to the Egyptians ten times, so he will test Israel in the wilderness ten times: see also 16; 17:2-7; Numbers 11; 12; 13-14; 16; 17; 20:1-13; 21:4-9. [NOAB]

15:26: “who heals you”: Deuteronomy 7:15 tells the Israelites that Yahweh will protect them from all diseases. See also Psalm 103:3.

15:27-16:3: These verses are from the Priestly (P) tradition. [NJBC]

15:27-16:1: “Elim”: meaning terebinths, the great trees mentioned in Genesis 12:6 (Abram goes to “to the oak of Moreh”) and 18:1. [FoxMoses]

15:27: “twelve ... seventy”: Numbers that are obviously typological. [FoxMoses]

16:1ff: This story is also found in Numbers 11; Psalms 78:17-31; 105:40. In Psalm 78, the quail turn out to be poisonous, killing those who craved them! [NJBC]

16:1: “the wilderness of Sin”: Probably on the Sinai peninsula. This “wilderness” is also mentioned in 17:1 and Numbers 33:11.

16:1: “whole congregation”: The Hebrew word is ‘eda. It is used somewhat interchangeably with other words to indicate the leadership (elders) of the people. [FoxMoses]

16:3: “by the fleshpots”: The food there was seasoned. [NOAB]

16:4-5 : These verses are from the Yahwist (J) tradition. [NJBC]

16:4: Yahweh is not angry, so the people’s dissatisfaction is a means of testing them: see 15:25. [FoxMoses]

16:4: “I will test them”: See also Deuteronomy 8:3, 16; Matthew 6:11 (“‘Give us this day our daily bread’” in the Lord’s Prayer).

16:5: Vv. 22-30 also tells of gathering twice as much on the “sixth day”, the day before the Sabbath. At the time of this story, the Sabbath law was yet to be given.

16:6-27: These verses are from the Priestly (P) tradition. [NJBC]

16:6-7: “‘In the evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD’”: These two clauses seem to be saying the same thing in different ways. Why they are, in effect, repeated in vv. 8 and 12 is unknown. [NJBC]

16:7: “the glory of the LORD”: 40:34 says that "the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle". See also Numbers 14:22; 16:19; Ezekiel 11:23.

16:9: “Draw near”: The Hebrew word, karev, is often used in connection with the Priestly (P) tradition. [FoxMoses]

16:13-36: The account as presented here has been shaped by the later legal developments in Israel. [CAB]

16:13: “quails”: Numbers 11:31-35 also tells of the giving and gathering of quail due to “a wind [that] went out from the LORD”, which “brought quails from the sea and let them fall beside the camp”.

16:14: “a fine flaky substance”: FoxMoses offers something fine; the Hebrew is mahn. It is doubted whether sufficient would normally be produced to feed a sizeable population; however, note that the text stresses the divine element (v. 15). Any attempt to explain it scientifically misses the point of the story. [FoxMoses]

The description here (and in v. 31 and Numbers 11:7-9) corresponds fairly closely to the honey-dew excretion of two scale-insects that feed on the twigs of the tamarisk tree. [NOAB]

16:16-27: These verses give the instructions from the Priestly (P) tradition corresponding to the instructions from the Yahwist (J) tradition in vv. 4-5 and 28-30. [NJBC]

16:18: “nothing over ... no shortage”: As always in a good miracle story, there is exactly the right quantity. [FoxMoses]

16:19: As in the cases of the Passover sacrifice (see 12:10 and 34:25) and of the festival offering (see 23:18), nothing is to be kept until morning: perhaps to preserve the perfection of God’s offering by not risking it going bad. [FoxMoses]

16:20: “Moses was angry with them”: But apparently God’s ire is not raised – perhaps because, in the view of the Priestly (P) tradition, the people heard the Law for the first time at Sinai, so were not expected to keep Law that had not yet been given. [NJBC]

16:22-36: Teaching on the sabbath has been inserted from the Priestly (P) tradition. To this tradition, the Sabbath was instituted at Creation: see Genesis 2:2-3.

16:23: “sabbath”: This day has not been mentioned by name until this verse, so it is possible that this story may have originally been after Chapter 20, where the command to observe the Sabbath is given. [FoxMoses]

16:28-31: These verses are from the Yahwist (J) tradition. [NJBC]

16:28: “you”: The Hebrew word is plural, so God is referring to the people (and not to Moses).

16:31: “manna”: It is now called man by the Bedouin. [NJBC] It is not an everyday occurrence.

16:32-35a: These verses are from the Priestly (P) tradition. [NJBC]

16:32-33: Keeping a portion of the manna makes it possible for future generations to see how Yahweh sustained their ancestors in the wilderness. [NJBC]

16:33-34: “before the LORD ... before the covenant”: Mention of the Ark of the Covenant here seems out of place – but the Pentateuch is not always chronological. [FoxMoses] In the Priestly (P) tradition, the Ark is sometimes designated by its principal contents, “the covenant”, as represented by the tablets of the Law: see 25:21; 27:21; 31:18; Leviticus 16:13; Numbers 17:4. These verses also presuppose the existence of the Tent of Meeting.

16:35b-36: These verses are from the Yahwist (J) tradition. [NJBC]

Psalm 105:1-6,37-45

See also Psalm 78. [NOAB]

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

Verse 37: “with silver and gold”: Exodus 12:35-36 tells us: “The Israelites had done as Moses told them; they had asked the Egyptians for jewelry of silver and gold, and for clothing, and the LORD had given the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. And so they plundered the Egyptians”. [NJBC]

Verse 38: “for dread of them had fallen upon it”: i.e. Egypt. This is the language of holy war. Exodus 15:16 says “Terror and dread fell upon them [the Edomites]; by the might of your arm, they became still as a stone until your people, O LORD, passed by ...”. In 1 Samuel 11:7, Saul, inspired by God, uses a dramatic example to show the Israelites what will befall them if they lack courage. “Then the dread of the LORD fell upon the people, and they came out as one”, ready to fight. [NJBC]

Verse 39: “cloud ... fire”: Symbols of God’s presence which preceded and protected the Israelites in the wilderness.

Verse 41: Exodus 17:6 tells us Yahweh’s command to Moses: that he strike the rock to make water flow from it. [CAB]

Verses 44-45: 25:12-14, a psalmist asks: “Who are they that fear the LORD? He will teach them the way that they should choose. They will abide in prosperity, and their children shall possess the land. The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes his covenant known to them”. [NJBC]

Philippians 1:21-30

Verses 12-26: Paul’s own situation. [NJBC]

Verse 13: “imperial guard”: The NRSV footnote notes that the Greek is praetorium. As usually in the New Testament (see also Matthew 27:27; John 18:28, 33; Acts 23:35), this term refers to the precincts of the Roman governor’s palace, where the guard was quartered and prisoners were held. [NJBC]

Verse 14: “dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear”: God has emboldened others to fill the vacuum of preaching created by Paul’s imprisonment. [NJBC]

Verses 15-18: That some of his fellow Christians regarded Paul with suspicion and ill-will also appears in Galatians and in 1 and 2 Corinthians – especially in 2 Corinthians 10-13. [NOAB]

Verse 15: “from envy and rivalry”: As though reaching the goal of oneness with God is competitive, as Paul had to face in Corinth: see 2 Corinthians 10:12; 11:21-22; 13:1-3.

Verse 17: “to increase my suffering ...”: That some proclaim Christ other than with goodwill causes Paul distress over and above that of being imprisoned. [NJBC]

Verse 18: “rejoice”: A theme through to the end of Chapter 2. [CAB] Zeal for the gospel transforms Paul’s hurt into joy. [NJBC]

Verse 19: “the help of the Spirit”: In the Synoptic gospels Jesus pledges the help of the Holy Spirit to Christians arraigned before earthly tribunals: see Mark 13:11; Matthew 10:20; Luke 12:12. [NJBC]

Verse 19: “this will turn out for my deliverance”: This is a quotation from the Septuagint translation of Job 13:16. Paul identifies himself with Job’s plight and with his hope. [NJBC]

Verse 20: Paul’s eventual release will mean vindication not only for him but also for the Christian gospel. It will show that the gospel is not a subversive political message against the Roman government. [CAB]

Verse 20: “Christ will be exalted”: The power of the risen Lord, operative through the Holy Spirit, will be so effective as to demand public acknowledgement. The Greek word translated as “body” is soma; here it means Paul’s whole being as others see him. [NJBC]

Verse 21: Through baptism, Paul’s whole existence, his mind set, has been taken over by Christ. In Galatians 2:19-20, he writes: “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”. See also Galatians 3:27-28; Philippians 3:7-11; Romans 6:3-11. [NJBC]

Verse 22: “live in the flesh”: i.e. continue his earthly life.

Verse 23: “depart”: The word simply means die. There is no implication of separation of the soul from the burden of the body. [NJBC]

Verse 23: “to ... be with Christ”: There seems to be a notion here of some state of being with Christ before the General Resurrection. This idea may also be in 2 Corinthians 5:2-4: “For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling – if indeed, when we have taken it off we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life”

Verses 26-30: Exhortation for community unity and steadfastness. [NJBC]

Verse 26: “boasting”: i.e. rejoicing: see v. 18.

Verse 26: “when I come to you again”: We do not know whether Paul got to visit the Philippian Christian community again.

Verse 27: “live your life”: The Greek word, politeuesthai literally means discharge one’s duty as a citizen, so NJBC offers live your communal pattern of life.

Verse 28: “intimidated by your opponents”: Probably a reference to day-to-day harassment by non-Christians. Persecution per se is unlikely to be in view. [NJBC]

Matthew 20:1-16

There is another vineyard parable in 21:33-44. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “early”: i.e. about 6 a.m. [NOAB]

Verse 2: “vineyard”: An important prophetic symbol for the people of God in their need: see Isaiah 5 (the song of the unfruitful vineyard) and Jeremiah 12:10. [CAB] Jesus’ hearers would have identified the story as about them.

Verse 3: “in the marketplace”: The usual place to seek day-labourers in the Near East. [NJBC]

Verse 8: Leviticus 19:13 says: “... you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a labourer until morning”. Deuteronomy 24:14-15 says: “You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy labourers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns. You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them; otherwise they might cry to the LORD against you, and you would incur guilt.”

Verse 8: “beginning with the last”: To NJBC, this is evidence that this parable is a midrash on 19:30 (quoted below).

Verse 9: “the usual daily wage”: Per the NRSV footnote, the Greek literally means a denarius. There were smaller coins in circulation so the landowner could have paid the labourers hired later less than a full day’s pay. [NOAB]

Verse 11: “they grumbled”: See also Exodus 16:3-8 (read today). [NJBC]

Verse 12: In 21:31, the last verse of the parable of the two sons, Jesus says: “‘"Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you”.

Verse 15a: i.e. I can enter into different contracts.

Verse 15b: Per the NRSV footnote, literally: Is your eye evil because I am good?

Verse 16: This is found only in Matthew. It is put a little more softly in 19:30: “... many who are first will be last, and the last will be first”.

Verse 16: To NJBC, this verse forms a chiasm with 19:30, where the saying occurs in the reverse order.

Comments: A scholar has defined a parable as ...”: The scholar is C. H. Dodd.

Irenaeus saw the groups of labourers as who have been saved in various periods of history but to Blomberg the various hours at which the workers start working merely illustrate the diverse nature of the citizens of the Kingdom.

© 1996-2003 Chris Haslam



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