Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost - October 15, 2023

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 32:1-14

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

Verses 1-6: We are reminded of the real world of human frailty. We have seen it before, in Chapters 19 and 20. There the people were fearful – they feared too close an approach to God, a power beyond their ability to deal with. Now their fear goes the other way, with Moses, their intermediary, absent. They break the first Commandment aided and abetted by Aaron, their spokesman with God and priest. [ FoxMoses]

The central question is: how will the all-holy God accompany a sinful people? [ NJBC]

In Anglican, Greek and Reformed numbering, two commandments are broken: the first and second; in Lutheran and Roman Catholic numbering, the first is broken. Exodus 20:3-5 commands: “you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments”. See also Deuteronomy 5:6-9.

Verse 1: “delayed”: FoxMoses offers shamefully late. He says that the Hebrew word, boshesh , carries with it the connotation of causing shame/embarrassment.

Verse 1: “gods”: Visible symbols of the divine presence as in pagan idolatry. [ NOAB] See also vv. 4, 8.

Verse 1: “go before us”: There is probably an implication here, as in 23:23, of leading, especially into battle. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 4: “formed it in a mould”: FoxMoses offers fashioned it with a graving tool.

Verse 4: “calf”: Or young bull, a symbol of fertility in Canaan. [ FoxMoses] See also 1 Kings 12:28; Hosea 8:5. In ancient Near East iconography, the bulls figure prominently either as representations of gods, e.g. Bull El in the Ugaritic texts, or as animal thrones of deities standing upon their backs. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “These are your gods ...”: In 1 Kings 12:28-30, Jeroboam I uses the same words to lead the northern kingdom into separation from God, an act that to the northern deuteronomic historian nullifies the divine promise given earlier to Jeroboam’s dynasty: see 1 Kings 11:31-39. [ NJBC] (Northerners are to worship at Bethel and Dan.)

Verse 4: “gods”: See also v. 8. All known modern Jewish translations and commentaries have god in the singular. Two Christian translations, the Jerusalem Bible and the Contemporary English Bible, also have god (and God) in the singular. The Septuagint and Vulgate translations have gods.

Verse 5: “an altar”: In the people’s eyes, the images represent Yahweh. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “a festival to the Lord”: In this verse, Yahweh is in view, despite the references to “gods” in vv. 1, 4 and 8. (The Hebrew for both god and gods is Elohim.) The new cultic symbol is to be dedicated. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: In eating and drinking before the calf, the people reject the rite in 24:11. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “well-being”: The Hebrew is shalom, a word which includes in its meaning peace (with God and one another).

Verse 6: “rose up”: FoxMoses offers proceeded.

Verse 6: “revel”: FoxMoses suggests that there is a sexual connotation, as in Genesis 26:8 (Isaac fondles Rebekah); 39:14, 17 (Potiphar’s wife falsely accuses Joseph of sleeping with her). This would support the use of the calf as a divine symbol.

Verses 7-14: The people have committed what amounts to a capital crime, so the issue is now what the punishment should be. [ FoxMoses] Moses’ first intercession. In Numbers 14:13-19, Moses uses a different argument to convince God to save the Israelites. [ NOAB]

Verses 7,9: “Your people ... this people”: God dissociates himself from the Israelites, then Moses does likewise!

Verse 7: “acted perversely”: FoxMoses offers wrought ruin. He says that the Hebrew word, shahet , is often used to describe moral decay, e.g. in Genesis 6:11-12 (before the Flood): “Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth”.

Verse 8: “turn aside from the way”: Probably meaning the way of God. Intertestamental Judaism called its system of laws Halakhah , from the Hebrew halokh, to go/walk. Later still, Christianity became known as The Way. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 11: “implored”: Literally softened. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 13: “Remember”: The particular form of the Hebrew verb means remember to one’s credit. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 13: “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven”: Recalling the promise to Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 15:5; 22:17; 26:4. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 14: “the Lord changed his mind”: God is free to change his announced plan, as he has already done in saving Noah and some others from the Flood (see Genesis 6:5-6) and will do in sparing Israel from a plague of locusts (see Amos 7:1-6). [ NOAB]

Verse 16: “the work of God”: Or God’s making, unlike the making of the calf. [ FoxMoses]

Verse 21: Aaron’s excuse sounds pathetic!

Psalm 106:1-6,19-23

The story of God’s great deeds, with a confession of sin and prayer for help. Unlike Psalm 105, which also tells the Exodus story, the mood here is sombre, stressing the perversity and obtuseness of the Israelites. [ NOAB]

Paul recalls this psalm in Romans 1:23-28. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: See also 105:45. Not the way Israel has behaved in the past! [ NOAB]

Verses 4-5: See also v. 47. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: The theme: whatever God has done, the Israelites have always been unfaithful (vv. 7, 13-14, 19, 21, 24-25, 28-29, 32, 34-39, 43); even so, God has constantly forgiven their disobedience and shown mercy (vv. 8, 15, 23, 30, 44-46). So the psalmist is able to seek God’s help for himself (vv. 4-5) and for the nation (v. 47). [ NOAB]

Verses 16-18: See Numbers 16 for these incidents. [ NOAB]

Verses 19-23: See Exodus 32. [ NOAB]

Verses 24-27: See Numbers 14:1-35 and Deuteronomy 1:19-28 – the report of the spies and the people’s refusal to enter the Promised Land. [ NJBC] [ NOAB]

Verses 28-31: For deviating from Yahweh’s ways to follow the “Baal of Peor”, see Numbers 25:1-13. “The dead” are the Moabite gods, who are ineffective, as good as dead – unlike the living God. See also Leviticus 26:30; Jeremiah 10:1-6. [ NJBC]

Verses 32-33: See also Numbers 20:2-13; Exodus 17:1-7; Psalms 81:7; 95:8. [ NOAB]

Verses 34-39: Israel’s waywardness in the days of the judges . See Judges 2:11-19. The Israelites did not learn from the Baal Peor incident; rather they again associated with other (pagan) nations, and thereby were influenced into idolatry and even human sacrifice (Jeremiah 19:4-5), thus making God angry (v. 40). [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 41: This verse may refer to the Exile and v. 46 to the return from the Exile. So the psalm is probably post-exilic. [ NJBC] See also v. 47.

Verse 48: A doxology which, rather than being part of the psalm, marks the end of Book 4 of the Psalter. “Praise the Lord ” really belongs to v. 47. [ NOAB]

Philippians 4:1-9

Verse 1: “joy and crown”: Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20: “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Yes, you are our glory and joy!”. [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “my loyal companion”: Probably a leader in the church at Philippi. The Greek word for “companion” can be understood as a proper name, Syzygus. [ NOAB] It may be simply an affectionate term, yoke-bearer. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “the book of life”: Daniel 12:1 says “... at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book”. For other references to the book of life, see Exodus 32:32; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “The Lord is near”: This notion is also expressed in Psalm 119:151. The original is marana tha, an Aramaic expression transliterated into Greek. meaning Our Lord is come or Our Lord, come. The use of this expression in 1 Corinthians 16:22 suggests that this was an early prayer originating in the Palestinian church. [ HBD] See also Revelation 22:20. [ JBC]

Verse 7: “which surpasses all understanding”: Either beyond the human mind to grasp or as achieving more than we can possibly hope for. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: The values are from Stoic philosophy. [ NJBC]

Verses 10-20: Perhaps Paul’s thank-you note for the provisions brought by Epaphroditus, who became ill soon after his arrival at the prison. See 2:25-28. If this was indeed a separate letter, it is probably the earliest of the letters making up the book – placed at the end to soften the harsh tone of Chapter 3. [ NOAB] [ CAB]

Verse 11: “content”: i.e. financially independent. See also 1 Thessalonians 2:5-9; 1 Corinthians 9:4-18; 2 Corinthians 11:7-10; 12:13-18. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “distress”: The frustrations of being in prison, of being falsely accused about his teachings.

Verse 15: “in the early days of the gospel”: i.e. in Europe. Paul’s first missionary work on this continent was in Philippi: see Acts 16:9-10. [ NJBC]

Verse 15: “when I left Macedonia”: See Acts 16:40. Macedonia was a Roman province in what is now northern Greece and southern Albania. Philippi was one of its major cities and Thessalonica its capital. [ CAB]

Verse 15: “no church shared with me ... except you alone”: Paul writes to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 11:8-9: “I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for my needs were supplied by the friends who came from Macedonia. So I refrained and will continue to refrain from burdening you in any way”. [ CAB]

Verse 16: Acts 17:1 tells us that Paul went from Philippi to Thessalonica. [ NOAB]

Verse 17: “the profit”: Paul’s language is commercial but the profit, credit, is spiritual. Note also “I am paid in full” (v. 18), i.e. please don’t send me any more gifts at the moment, and “riches” (v. 19).

Verse 18: “a fragrant offering”: Language taken from the Old Testament which suggests that the true recipient of the gifts is God. For example, Exodus 25:1-6 says: “The Lord said to Moses: Tell the Israelites to take for me an offering; from all whose hearts prompt them to give you shall receive the offering for me. ... spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense”. See also Exodus 30:7; 31:11. [ NJBC]

Verse 18: Paul mentions his sending of Epaphroditus, and the latter’s illness, in 2:25-30. [ CAB]

Verse 19: “his riches in glory”: God’s repayment will be in glory, in which he is supremely rich. Glory is divine power and presence, working the transformation into God’s own likeness. [ NJBC] See also 3:21; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; Romans 5:2; 8:18-25, 29-30.

Verse 21: “saint”: A common Pauline term for a fellow Christian. Literally: one set apart for the service of God in the world. See also 1 Corinthians 1:2. [ CAB]

Verse 22: “the emperor’s household”: Probably some of his jailers are converts to the faith. While it is tempting to see Paul’s imprisonment as being in Rome, recall that we know that he was also in prison in Caesarea and Ephesus. He may also have served time elsewhere. Members of the imperial household and administration were the emperor’s household even when out in the provinces.

Verse 23: Three other Pauline letters end with these words or similar ones. See Galatians 6:18; Philemon 25; 1 Thessalonians 5:28.

Matthew 22:1-14

This parable is known as The Wedding Feast or The Great Supper. The parallel is Luke 14:15-24 (although see below). The Lucan version follows the dinner at the home of a Pharisee, whom Jesus challenges to invite those who cannot repay his hospitality: the “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” ( 14:13). [ NOAB] [ CAB]

Blomberg makes a good case for viewing the parables in Matthew and Luke as two different teachings of Jesus given on two different occasions.

If the three parables in Chapters 21-22 were given consecutively, the first audience was the members of the Sanhedrin (“the chief priests and the elders of the people”, 21:23), a body who later in the same week judged Jesus, in spite of their apparent incompetence to do so ( 21:27).

Verse 2: “wedding banquet”: The imagery of a meal as a symbol of the end-time celebration of God’s people was standard in Jewish thought. [ Blomberg] See Isaiah 25:6-10.

Verses 3-4: The double invitation merely reflects Middle-Eastern custom.

Verse 3: “his slaves”: Per NJBC, the prophets.

Verse 4: “everything is ready”: Twice in this verse and once in v. 8 the idea of readiness occurs. NJBC sees this as connoting extreme eschatological urgency.

Verse 5: In Luke 14:18-20, the excuses of the guests are more explicit; however, whether here or in Luke, the excuses are very lame and would strike the first hearers as ridiculous. They point out how absurd it is to reject God’s call to his kingdom. In the Lucan version, it is possible that the reasons for not serving in a holy war are in view: see Deuteronomy 20:5-9. If so, a contrast is intended: there are no acceptable reasons for not enlisting for the Kingdom when called. [ Blomberg]

Verse 6: The intended guests’ violence was a known method of signalling their insurrection and refusal to show allegiance to their sovereign. [ Blomberg]

Verse 7: Refusal to attend the marriage feast of a king’s son is tantamount to high treason. [ Blomberg]

Verse 7: “burned their city”: CAB and NJBC see this as a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Further, CAB sees those subsequently invited as those on the margin of society (even though v. 10 says “both good and bad”).

Verse 8: “those invited were not worthy”: They must show an appropriate moral and spiritual response: see also 10:10, 11, 13, 37-39. [ NJBC] Luke 14:24 puts it more strongly: “none of those who were invited will taste my dinner”.

Verse 9: “main streets”: Where crowds swarm in an oriental city. The people there are the outcasts of Israel: tax collectors and people from despised trades. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “invite everyone”: The Luke 14:21 is more extreme: “bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame”.

Verse 10: “both good and bad”: Real sinners are invited too. The Church includes both: see 13:37-43, 47-50. [ NJBC]

Verses 11-13: Unlike the parable in Luke, the second set of guests are not said to be poor or of lacking time to prepare properly for the banquet, so perhaps one should assume that they (including the incorrectly attired man) had time to don appropriate apparel. [ Blomberg]

Verse 11: “wedding robe”: This represents a converted life full of good deeds. Sinners are invited but are expected to repent. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “Bind him hand and foot”: This is part of salvation history but does not fit the story line. [ NJBC]

Blomberg makes three main points:

  • God invites many people of different kinds into his kingdom.
  • Overt rejection of God’s invitation leads to eventual retribution.
  • Failure to prepare adequately even when apparently accepted by God proves no less culpable or liable to eternal punishment.

There is a striking parallel in the Talmud which is attributed to a first-century rabbi:

This may be compared to a king who summoned his servants to a banquet without appointing a time. The wise ones adorned themselves and sat at the door of the palace, [“for”], said they, “is anything lacking in a royal palace?” The fools went about their work, saying, “can there be a banquet without preparations?” Suddenly the king desired [the presence] of his servants: the wise entered adorned, while the fools entered soiled. The king rejoiced at the wise but was angry with the fools. “Those who adorned themselves for the banquet,”, ordered he, “let them sit, eat and drink. But those who did not adorn themselves for the banquet, let them stand and watch. [ Blomberg]

NJBC says that Matthew has modelled his tradition on the parable of the Vineyard (see 21:33-46).

© 1996-2022 Chris Haslam

Web page maintained by

Christ Church Cathedral
© 1996-2023
Last Updated: 20231003

Click on a button below to move to another page in the site.
If you are already on that page, you will be taken to the top.

July 7
July 14
July 21