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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost - September 28, 2014



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 17:1-7

NJBC says that v. 1 is from the Priestly (P) tradition, vv. 2 and 4-7 from the Yahwist (J) tradition, and v. 3 from the Elohist (E) tradition.

Verse 1: “by stages”: Numbers 33:1-49 begins: “These are the stages by which the Israelites went out of the land of Egypt ...” [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “Rephidim”: In Numbers 33:12-13, they camp at Dophkah and Alush before reaching Rephidim. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “Give us water to drink”: Soon after crossing the Reed (Red) Sea, the thirsty Israelites come to an oasis at Marah, but find the water there undrinkable. They grumble against Moses. Yahweh shows Moses a piece of wood, which he throws into the water, thus making it potable. 15:22-27 continues: “There the Lord made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he put them to the test. He said, ‘If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.’”. [ NOAB]

Verse 2: “‘Why do you test the Lord?’”: i.e. why do you demand proof that God is in your midst: see v. 7b. God may test the Israelites, but the Israelites may not test God. [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “to kill us and our children”: In the Hebrew text, “us” and “our” are singular, not plural. Thus the complaint is personalized. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 6: In the Sinai Peninsula, subsurface water lies below the limestone surface rock. The trick is where to tap into it. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “Strike the rock”: See Numbers 20:1-13 for a variation on this story which proves to be Moses’ undoing. [ FoxMoses] There it is implied that he failed to interpret the giving of water as a sign from God: see Deuteronomy 32:50-52. Among the suggestions as to what Moses’ sin, which caused him not to lead the Israelites across the Jordan and into the Promised Land, are:

  • Moses is instructed to speak to the rock, but instead he struck it – twice – apparently not trusting that God could work the miracle simply through words.
  • Psalm 106:32-33 says that Moses spoke “words that were rash” on this occasion – suggesting that his words in Numbers 20:10 (“Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”) are the problem.

Verse 7: “Massah and Meribah”: These are names that became memorials of Israel’s faithlessness: see Numbers 27:14; Deuteronomy 6:16; 9:22; 32:51; 33:8; Psalm 95:8. “Meribah” is one of the springs at Kadesh-Barnea (in the Negev Desert, the southern-most part of Israel): see Numbers 20:13; 27:14; Deuteronomy 32:51. Kadesh-Barnea was in “the wilderness of Zin”. Some traditions in 15:23-18:27 come from this oasis south of Beersheba. [ NOAB] In vv. 8-15, the Amalekites fight against the Israelites. The Amalekites claimed control of the wilderness in the region of Kadesh-Barnea: see Genesis 14:7; Numbers 13:29; 14:25. Israel spent most of its forty years in the wilderness in this area. [ NJBC]

Psalm 78:1-4,12-16

Other psalms used at major festivals were 105; 106; 135 and 136. All recite the history of God’s dealings with Israel. This psalm emphasizes the disobedience and ingratitude of the people, especially noting the defection of the Ephraimites (vv. 9-10, an event not found elsewhere in the Old Testament) which led God to reject them in favour of Judah (vv. 66-69). [ NOAB] Shechem was in Ephraim. This psalm therefore explains why Jerusalem became the proper religious centre, rather than Shechem.

Verses 1-4: The poet addresses the community in the style of the wisdom writers. [ NOAB] See also 49:1-2, which NJBC says is clearly a wisdom psalm.

Verse 2: Jesus cites this verse with reference to his teaching in Matthew 13:35. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “Zoan”: We can figure out that “Zoan” is Ramases from Isaiah 19:11, 13; Ezekiel 30:14.

Philippians 2:1-13

Verse 1: “If ...”: The condition is rhetorical. [ NOAB]

Verses 6-11: Clues to this being an early Christian hymn which Paul quotes are its rhythmic character, use of parallelism, and occurrence of rare and uncharacteristic language. For other fragments of early Christian hymns on the subject of Christ’s work, see 1:15-20; Ephesians 2:14-16; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 3:18-19, 22; Hebrews 1:3. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “in humility”: While in the Old Testament lowliness was an appropriate posture vis-à-vis God, in the secular Greco-Roman world it was a despised and abject condition. But Paul tells us that for Christians freely adopting such a stance, in imitation of Christ, is virtuous. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: From 4:2, it appears that two members of the community, Euodia and Syntyche, are not “of the same mind in the Lord”.

Verse 6: “in the form of God”: i.e. pre-existent and divine (see John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Romans 8:3; Galatians 4:4), sharing in God’s very nature. [ NOAB]

Verse 7: “slave”: Perhaps an allusion to Isaiah 52:13-53:12, one of the Servant Songs. [ NOAB]

Verse 8: See also Matthew 26:39 (Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane), John 10:18 (“‘No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord ...’”); Romans 5:19; Hebrews 5:8; 12:2.

Verse 9: “highly exalted him”: In his resurrection and ascension: see also Acts 2:32-33 (Peter’s speech on the day of Pentecost); 5:30-31; Ephesians 1:20-21.

Verse 9: “the name ...”: The name is “Lord” (v. 11), the title of Israel’s covenant God, applied by Christians to the risen and glorified Jesus. See also 1 Thessalonians 1:1. [ NOAB]

Verses 10-11: Comments quotes Isaiah 45:22-24 in the REB translation.

Verse 11: In Romans 10:9, Paul writes: “... if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”. See also 2 Corinthians 9:13.

Verse 12: “fear and trembling”: i.e. humbly and with constant dependence on God’s help. [ NOAB]

Verse 13: “will”: NJBC translates the Greek as goodwill and explains that it is goodwill towards fellow members of the community.

Verse 14: “without murmuring”: In 1 Corinthians 10:9-10, Paul advises: “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer”.

Verse 15: “crooked and perverse generation”: Deuteronomy 32:5 says that “his degenerate children [the Israelites] have dealt falsely with him, a perverse and crooked generation”.

Verse 15: “shine like stars”: Daniel 12:3, speaking of the Day of Judgement, says “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever”.

Verse 16: “the day of Christ”: i.e. the day when Christ returns and the present age ends. In 1 Corinthians 1:8, Paul writes: “He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ”. See also 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and 2 Peter 3:10.

Verse 17: “poured out as a libation”: i.e. condemned to death.

Matthew 21:23-32

Verses 23-27: The parallels are Mark 11:27-33 and Luke 20:1-8. See also John 2:18-22.

Verse 23: “By what authority ...”: Jesus is not of the priestly tribe of Levi; nor is he a rabbi. [ NOAB]

Verses 24-25: To answer with one’s own question is to argue in a rabbinic way.

Verse 25: “from heaven”: i.e. from God.

Verse 26: For John as a prophet, see 11:9 (“more than a prophet”); 14:5 (the crowd considered John to be a prophet); Luke 1:76 (“... you, child [John], will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins”).

Verse 28: While the “vineyard” (usually an indication that the parable is about Israel) is probably not significant here, “today” is: the matter is urgent.

Verse 30: “I go, sir”: The second son is dutifully polite.

Verse 30: “he did not go”: In James 2:14-26, the author asks: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?”.

Verse 32: Luke 7:29-30 tells us “... And all the people who heard this, including the tax collectors, acknowledged the justice of God, because they had been baptized with John's baptism. But by refusing to be baptized by him, the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God's purpose for themselves”.

Verse 32: “in the way of righteousness”: i.e. reconciliation with God by faith [ NOAB]; as a true spokesman for God. [ Blomberg] This phrase is common in the wisdom literature: see Proverbs 8:20; 12:28; Psalm 23:3. The doctrine of the two ways is found in the Qumran literature.

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