Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost - November 8, 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.

Joshua 24:1-3a,14-25

Joshua fulfils the covenant of Moses in Deuteronomy 11; 27; 31. See 8:30-35 for related material. This section forms a fitting conclusion to the book: all Israel unite under Joshua’s leadership in the service of Yahweh. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “Shechem”: This is modern Tell Balata. It became an important Israelite cultic and political centre. It was one of the few major cities in Canaan not described as destroyed by the Israelites, so it seems that its incorporation into Israel was accomplished without a battle; however, see the perhaps allegorical tale in Genesis 34 (the rape of Dinah by Shechem, son of Hamor). For Abraham at Shechem, see Genesis 12:6; for Jacob there, see Genesis 33:18-20. The site of Shechem was continuously occupied from the Late Bronze Age into the early Iron Age. [ NOAB] [ CAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “summoned the elders ... of Israel”: The wording is almost identical to 23:2. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “before God”: Presumably in the presence of the Ark. [ NJBC]

Verses 2-13: Note that this summary of God’s interventions on Israel’s behalf mentions neither the events at Sinai nor his guidance in the wilderness. [ NOAB] While generally similar to other accounts of Yahweh’s actions on behalf of his people, it uses unique terminology (“darkness”, v. 7) and refers to worship of other gods by Israel’s ancestors in both Mesopotamia and Egypt. (That Israel worshipped other gods in Egypt is also mentioned in Ezekiel 20:5-8 and 23:30-33, but it is not mentioned in the Pentateuch.) Note the absence of an altar, unlike in other covenant ceremonies (see 8:30-31 and Deuteronomy 27:6) and of sacrifice (Exodus 24:3-8; Deuteronomy 27:7). Most remarkably, Israel is given a choice not to worship Yahweh. Although this element is present in Deuteronomy 30:19, it is much more prominent here. See also 1 Kings 18:21. These verses appear to be from a tradition which is not represented elsewhere. [ NJBC]

Verses 2-4: A summary of Genesis 12-50, but without reference to the stories about Joseph. [ NJBC]

Verses 5-6: The language is similar to 1 Samuel 12:8, part of another deuteronomic summary. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: Note the shift from Yahweh speaking to third-person narrative. The NRSV follows the Masoretic Text in reverting to “I” in v. 8 while the Septuagint continues with “they” to v. 13. This is evidence of a complicated editing history which cannot be disentangled with any certainty. There is a similar shift in 1 Samuel 12:11. [ NJBC]

Verses 9-10: The Balaam incident is recalled here differently from the account in Numbers 22. [ NOAB] Nowhere else is a battle with Balak recorded: see Deuteronomy 2:9 and Judges 11:25. Further, the reference to God as “he” is anomalous in this context. That Balaam sought to curse Israel is found only here. (The Israelites did indeed kill Balaam: see 13:22.) [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “citizens”: The Hebrew literally means masters . Per 2:2-3; 10:1, 28, 30; 12:9, Jericho had a king, so not mentioning him here shows that this verse is from a different tradition. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “Jericho”: The recollection of how Jericho fell is different here from the account in Joshua 6. [ NOAB]

Verse 12: “the hornet”: A vivid image, found elsewhere only in Exodus 23:28 and Deuteronomy 7:20. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “two kings”: God’s help in defeating the Amorites has already been mentioned in v. 8. The Septuagint translation has twelve kings here. The two kings were Sihon and Og. These two kings are mentioned in various verses in Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua and elsewhere. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: A recapitulation of Deuteronomy 28:30-33.

Verse 15: “choose”: A choice between God and other gods is also offered by Elijah in 1 Kings 18:21. Elsewhere, false gods are chosen: see Judges 1:1-3:6 and Isaiah 41:24. Here, surprisingly, the choice is an open one. [ NJBC]

Verse 15: “in whose land you are living”: This is in contrast with Chapters 1-12, but as in Judges 1:1-3:6, the Amorites still occupy (and control) much of Palestine. [ NJBC]

Verse 19: “he is a holy God”: Yahweh is “holy” in that he does not permit worship of other deities. [ NJBC]

Verse 19: “jealous”: The exact form of the Hebrew word only occurs elsewhere in Nahum 1:2: “A jealous and avenging God is the Lord, the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and rages against his enemies”. See also Exodus 20:25; 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; 6:15. [ NJBC]

Verse 22: “witnesses”: Usually “witnesses” were third parties, but here they are participants in the pact. In international treaties, they were the gods of the two nations. This is a succinct summary of deuteronomic theology. Witnesses to legal agreements are also mentioned in Ruth 4:9-10 and Genesis 23:17. [ NJBC]

Verse 23: “put away the foreign gods”: Almost the same words as in Genesis 35:2 (Jacob). This verse resumes the command begun in v. 14. [ NJBC]

Verse 26: “the book of the law of God”: The exact wording occurs elsewhere only in Nehemiah 8:18. Elsewhere in Joshua the teaching is either explicitly or implicitly that of Moses. [ NJBC]

Verse 26: “a large stone”: Here the stone is simply a memorial to the covenant, another “witness” (v. 27), but in 8:32 stones have a different role: “Joshua wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses”. That the Hebrew word translated “stone” is ‘eben (any stone) rather than masseba (a standing stone) probably avoided violation of Deuteronomy 16:21-22: “You shall not plant any tree as a sacred pole beside the altar that you make for the LORD your God; nor shall you set up a stone pillar – things that the Lord your God hates.” Sacred poles were part of Canaanite religion. [ NJBC]

Verse 26: “the oak”: Not just any oak, but the well-known oak mentioned in Genesis 12:6 (“Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh”); Genesis 35:4 (Jacob); Deuteronomy 11:30; Judges 9:6 (site of Abimelech’s coronation). It is especially the tree of Genesis 35:4, a terebinth that is alluded to. Joshua is thus linked with Moses and the ancestral tradition. [ NJBC]

Verse 27: “a witness”: Stones were also witnesses to Jacob’s covenant with Laban (see Genesis 31:44-53) and in the Sinai covenant ceremony (see Exodus 24:4) and of the altar in 22:34. [ NJBC]

Psalm 78:1-7

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.

It is extremely difficult to date this psalm. It may be as early as the reign of Solomon, and could be post-exilic. It could also have been written during the reforms of Josiah. A similar survey of salvation history is found in 1QS 1:18-24. [ JBC] [ NJBC]

1QS (*Qumran Community Rule) 1:18-24 says:

... When they enter the covenant, the priests and the Levites shall bless the God of salvation and all the works of his faithfulness and all those who enter the covenant shall repeat after them: ‘Amen, Amen’. The priests shall recite the just deeds of God in his mighty works, and they shall proclaim all his merciful favours towards Israel. And the Levites shall recite the sins of the children of Israel, all their blameworthy transgressions and their sins during the dominion of Belial. [ Martinez]

Belial is the devil.

The cycle is:

  • The people sin
  • God punishes them.
  • The people repent
  • God delivers/saves them - and so back to the first bullet.

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]

Verses 5-8: The giving of the Law. [ NOAB]

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

In Greek, this passage is four sentences, each of which forms a section: vv. 13, 14, 15-17, 18.

Verse 13: “those who have died”: Literally those who have fallen asleep: thus the NRSV footnote. The Greek word is found in the Septuagint translation of Psalm 13:4. See also Matthew 9:24, Jesus’ explanation of the state of the daughter of a leader of the synagogue: “for the girl is not dead but sleeping”. See also John 11:11, where Jesus says “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” Asleep is a common New Testament description of physical death. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “we believe ...”: A longer credal formula is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7.

Verse 14: “God will bring with him ...”: The Christian is united with Christ in his death and resurrection. See Romans 6:3.

Verses 15-17: Paul explains v. 14.

Verse 15: “by the word of the Lord”: i.e. by authorized revelation, not Paul’s personal opinion. [ NOAB] See also 4:2 (“... you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus”); Luke 14:14; John 5:28-29.

Verse 15: Comments: He includes himself among those who will still be alive: That he expects to still be alive when Christ comes again suggests that this letter was written before that to the Philippians, for there he wonders whether he will be put to death before the second coming. See Philippians 1:22-24. [ CAB]

Verse 16: In Matthew 24:30-31, Jesus says “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see 'the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven' with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other”. [ NOAB]

Verse 16: “with a cry of command”: See also Matthew 25:6 and Revelation 22:12 (“‘See, I am coming soon ...’”). [ CAB]

Verses 16-17: God will take the initiative. [ NJBC]

Verse 16: “with the archangel’s call”: See also Jude 9 (the archangel Michael). [ CAB]

Verse 16: “with the sound of God’s trumpet”: The sound of the trumpet heralding the end of time is found in the Old Testament in Isaiah 27:13; Joel 2:1, 15; Zechariah 9:14 and also in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 15:52; Matthew 24:31; Revelation 11:15; 14; 17; 19; 20. [ CAB]

Verse 16: “will descend from heaven”: In Mark 13:26, Jesus says: “‘Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory’” and in Luke 17:24 he says: “‘For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day’”. [ CAB]

Verse 16: “the dead in Christ”: See also 1 Corinthians 15:18. [ CAB]

Verse 16: “will rise first”: The resurrection hope as expressed in 1 Corinthians 15:12-28; 14:14. [ CAB]

Verse 16: “first”: Apocalyptic descriptions usually portray the end-time victory as a procession.

Verse 17: “we will be with the Lord forever”: The reality of ultimate salvation is being with the Lord. See also v. 14 and Matthew 25:46; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:10. [ NJBC] [ CAB]

Verse 17: “clouds ... in the air”: In apocalyptic literature, the usual avenue to and from heaven. Telling of a vision, Daniel says in Daniel 7:13: “As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven ...”. The Aramaic translated as “human being” literally means son of man.

Verse 18: A call to mutual encouragement is also found in 5:11. [ NJBC]

Matthew 25:1-13

Nuptial imagery, used in Song of Songs, was applied by the rabbis to the relationship between God and his people. See also 9:14-15 and 22:1-14. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “bridesmaids”: The Greek word, parthenos, literally means virgins. Considering that the bride is never mentioned, the ten may well be brides. If so, polygamy is in view. To NJBC, they represent the disciples and/or expectant believers: Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:2: “I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ”. The bridesmaids accompany the bridegroom to the house of the bride and then escort both to the house where the wedding will take place. [ JANT]

Verse 1: Jesus also advises preparedness for the kingdom in Luke 12:35-38 and Mark 13:34.

Verse 1: “the bridegroom”: He is a natural symbol for God, stemming from the Old Testament concept of God as the husband of his people. See, for example, Isaiah 54:4-6; Ezekiel 16:7-34; Hosea 2:19. [ Blomberg]

Verse 2: “foolish ... wise”: These labels recall 7:24-27 (building on rock rather than on sand); 23:17, 19; 24:45. The wisdom in view is a practical one about salivation. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “oil”: Oil is a frequent symbol in earlier Hebrew literature for joy and for anointing a priest or king. In this parable, it likely represents anything an individual must do in order to be ready to meet the Lord. Preparedness, like oil in this parable, cannot be shared. [ Blomberg] To NJBC, the oil stands for good works (an idea found in many older commentaries); they are not completely transferable.

Verse 10: Revelation 19:9 says: “... the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb’”.

Verse 10: “the door was shut”: Admission is not automatic. [ NJBC]

Verses 11-12: Jesus presents the same idea in also Luke 13:25 and Matthew 7:21-23.

Verse 13: Jesus also advises being prepared for his second coming in 24:42; Mark 13:35; Luke 12:40.

Verse 13: “Keep awake”: The Greek is gregoreo.

Blomberg offers three main points of the parable:

  • Like the bridegroom, God may delay his coming longer than people expect.
  • Like the wise bridesmaids, his followers must be prepared for such a delay – discipleship may be more arduous than the novice suspects.
  • Like the foolish bridesmaids, those who do not prepare adequately may discover a point beyond which there is no return – when the end comes it will be too late to undo the damage of neglect.

The principal point seems to be the third.

Verse 10: “the bridegroom came”: The Palestinian custom was that the bridegroom fetched his bride from her parents’ home to his own. [ NOAB]

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