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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost - October 30, 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.

Joshua 3:7-17

Chapters 3 and 4 have a complicated literary history, as the many repetitions and contradictions show. For example,

  • In vv. 3-4, the “officers” give instructions to the people and in vv. 5, 9-13 Joshua does. Joshua also commands “the priests” (v. 6).
  • The recipients of the instructions are called “the people” in v. 3 and “the Israelites” (or sons of Israel) in v. 9.
  • In Chapter 4, Joshua twice commands that sets of twelve stones are erected to commemorate the crossing: one set at Gilgal (west of the Jordan, v. 20) and the other set in the bed of the river (4:9).

Attempts to unravel the literary history of this story have been unsuccessful. [NJBC]

Note that this liturgy-like crossing in contrasts with that in 4:10 where the people cross “in haste”. [NJBC]

Similarities to the crossing of the Reed (Red) Sea seem intentional: crossing on dry ground and the “heap” (vv. 13, 16) formed by the waters. Sea and river are also connected in Canaanite mythology. See also Psalm 89:25. [NJBC]

For the importance of this story to Israel’s subsequent worship, see Psalm 114.

Verse 3: The story continues from 1:11, as though the events of Chapter 2 – the story of Rahab and the spies in Jericho – had not happened. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “levitical priests”: The characteristic deuteronomic term for the priesthood, which per Deuteronomy 18:1 were the tribe of Levi. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “the ark of the covenant”: The sign of God’s presence [NOAB]

Verse 4: “two thousand cubits”: About one kilometre (0.6 miles). Quite a distance! 2 Samuel 6:6-7 tells us of Uzzah’s fate after he touched the ark: “... Uzzah reached out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen shook it. The anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God struck him there because he reached out his hand to the ark; and he died there beside the ark of God”.

Verse 5: “Sanctify yourselves”: In preparation for participation in a liturgical act (see 1 Samuel 16:5, Samuel and Jesse’s sons; 1 Chronicles 15:12, David to heads of families of the Levites; 2 Chronicles 29:5, Hezekiah to the priests and Levites; 2 Chronicles 35:6, Joshua to the Israelites) or for a divine revelation (see Numbers 11:18, Yahweh instructs Moses to delegate to the seventy elders; and Joshua 7:13, restoration of the covenant relationship after Achan sins). [NJBC]

Verse 7: The promise of 1:5 is repeated. [NJBC]

Verse 10: “the Canaanites ...”: The list resembles those found in Exodus 34:11; Deuteronomy 7:1; 20:17, all of which verses announce the utter destruction of the people of the land. For similar lists, see 9:1; 11:3; 12:8; 24:11. [CAB] The list appears 28 times in the Bible! The “Hivites” are thought to be the Hurrians of sources outside the Bible; they were at Shechem (see Genesis 34:2), Gibeon (see Joshua 9:7) and in northern Palestine. The “Amorites” (meaning westerner) is a term used in cuneiform sources to designate the inhabitants of northern Syria who eventually founded the first dynasty of Babylon. In the Bible the name is used loosely for people who dwelt east and west of the Jordan (except in this verse). [NJBC]

Verse 12: “twelve”: The number of tribes of Israel, so tribal representatives. [NJBC]

Verse 13: “in a single heap”: This phrase is from the Masoretic Text. Both the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint add “the waters ... shall be cut off”, which are not in earlier Hebrew versions. [NJBC]

Verse 16: “Adam”: Probably modern-day Tell ed-Damiyeh. It is also mentioned in Hosea 6:7. “Zarethan”, generally identified with Tell es-Sa`idiyeh, is 17 km (11 miles) further north. [NOAB] [NJBC]

Verse 16: “the Arabah, the Dead Sea”: The Jordan flows into the Dead Sea just south of Jericho. The “Arabah” is the biblical term for the rift valley from the Sea of Galilee to the Gulf of Aqaba. [NJBC]

Psalm 107:1-7,33-37

Verse 1: The same words are found in 1 Chronicles 16:34; Psalms 106:1; 118:1.

Verses 2-3: The mention of redemption in v. 2 and gathering of the people from the four corners of the earth in v. 3 suggests that this psalm was composed after the Exile. [NJBC]

Verses 4-32: Each stanza gives thanks for a different group of people:

vv. 4-9 For those who have crossed the desert
vv. 10-16 For those who have been freed from prison
vv. 17-22 For those healed from sickness
vv. 23-32 For those who travelled by sea. [NOAB]

Verse 4: At least figuratively, those who returned from Exile wandered in the desert and were supported by God.

Verses 6-7: For other first refrains, see vv. 13-14, 19-20, 28-29. In each stanza, the second verse is varied to fit the context.

Verses 8-9: For other second refrains, see vv. 15-16, 21-22, 31-32. Again in each stanza, the second verse is varied to fit the context. [NOAB]

Verses 10-16: Those who wandered were imprisoned for their rebellion against God. But when they cry out, he releases them, [NJBC]

Verse 22: “offer thanksgiving sacrifices”: In 7:17, a psalmist says: “I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness ...”. See also 66:13-15.

Verses 23-27: The danger of the sea equals that of the desert. Both of these places of danger have their roots in Canaanite mythology, where Baal’s opponents are not only Sea but also Death, who rules over the arid, lifeless desert. Recall the threatening, chaotic sea in Genesis 1:2-3 and the lifeless desert in Genesis 2:4-5, both overcome by Yahweh. [NJBC]

Verses 28-29: Here God’s power subdues the unruly sea. So Jesus’ calming of the sea (see Mark 4:35-41) is a sign of his divine authority. [NJBC]

Verses 33-36: For God’s transformation of river into desert for the wicked and of desert into a well-watered place, see also Isaiah 41:18-19; 43:19-20. [NJBC]

Verses 33-43: These verses are reminiscent of Deutero-Isaiah: Isaiah 35:6-7 foretells: “waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes”; see also Isaiah 41:18; 50:2. These verses were probably not written to follow the first 32 verses. [NOAB] Note that the refrains occur throughout vv. 1-32 but not at all in vv. 33-43. [NJBC]

Verse 41: Psalm 113:7, 9 says: “He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap, ... He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children” ... [NJBC]

Verses 42-43: These verses have a wisdom flavour. Without them, this psalm would end with a simile of the people being like a flock of sheep, as do Psalms 77 and 78. [NJBC]

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Verse 9: Acts 18:2-3 tells us that Paul was a tent-maker by trade. Paul may have used Aquila’s shop to spread the good news. [NJBC] In 1 Corinthians 4:12, Paul writes: “we grow weary from the work of our own hands”. [CAB]

Verse 9: “the gospel of God”: i.e. the good news originating from God which proclaims what God has done. [NJBC]

Verse 10: “and God also”: Perhaps a mild oath supporting the emissaries’ integrity. [NJBC]

Verse 10: “pure, upright, and blameless”: These terms are virtually synonyms. Use of such repetitions is characteristic of 1 Thessalonians: see, for example, 1:5 and 2:3. [NJBC]

Verse 11: In 1 Corinthians 4:15, Paul says: “For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel”; in Philemon 10, he writes: “I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment”. [CAB]

Verse 12: In Romans 16:2, Paul commends Phoebe to his readers “so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well”; in Philippians 1:27, he urges the Christians at Philippi to “live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ”. See also Ephesians 4:1 and Colossians 1:10.

Verse 12: “kingdom”: The Greek word, basileia, is rarely used by Paul but is used frequently in the Synoptic gospels. Both “kingdom” and “glory” refer to God’s end-time reign. [NJBC]

Verses 13-16: Many scholars consider these verses, so critical of Jews, to be a later addition to the letter for two reasons:

  • The anti-Jewish language is not like that Paul uses elsewhere, but especially
  • It is atypical of Paul to offer a second thanksgiving in a letter. [NOAB]

Verse 13: Galatians 1:11-12 is similar: “For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ”. [CAB]

Matthew 23:1-12

Verse 2: “The scribes and the Pharisees”: According to CAB, “scribes” devoted themselves to the interpretation of the Law and “Pharisees” sought the direct relevance of the Law to everyday life. They claimed divinely confirmed interpretation of the Law.

Verse 3: To NJBC, this verse only makes sense as irony.

Verse 4: “heavy burdens”: i.e. minute and perplexing interpretations of the Law. In Luke 11:46, Jesus warns lawyers of his time: “‘Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them’” while in Matthew 11:28-30 he says: “‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. ... For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light’”. In Acts 15:10, Peter says of those who expect Christians to follow Jewish practices: “‘why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?’”. [NOAB]

Verse 5: In 6:1, Jesus warns: “‘Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven’”; in 6:5 he advises: “whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others”. See also 6:16.

Verse 5: “phylacteries”: called tefillin in Hebrew. Wearing them on the head and on the arm is commanded in Exodus 13:9, 16; Deuteronomy 6:8; 11:18. They contained strips of parchment bearing the texts of Exodus 13:9, 16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:18-20. Today the texts are written on paper. [NOAB] CAB gives a longer (and different) list of verses: Exodus 13:1-6; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21.

Verse 5: “fringes”: The texts which prescribe “fringes” are Numbers 15:38-40 and Deuteronomy 22:12. See also Mark 6:56, where Jesus’ wearing of a fringe on his cloak shows his observance of the Law. [NOAB]

Verses 6-7: In Mark 12:38-40, Jesus warns about scribes on most of these grounds. His warning in Luke 11:43 is about Pharisees. See also Luke 14:7-11 and 20:45-47.

Verse 8: James 3:1 says: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness”. [NOAB]

Verse 8: “rabbi”: This term had only recently come into use as a technical term for an authorized Jewish teacher-sage.

Verse 9: “father”: Saul ben Batnith (ca. 80-120 AD) was the first known Jewish sage to bear the title abba (father). Despite the prohibition in this verse, the title gradually crept back into the Church through the monastic movement, where it first served as the title of a spiritual director. [NJBC]

Verse 12: Luke 14:11 is almost identical. See also Luke 18:14. In Matthew 18:4, Jesus says: “‘Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’”. 1 Peter 5:6 advises: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time”. [NOAB]

© 1996-2003 Chris Haslam



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