Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost - November 16, 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.

Judges 4:1-7

See Chapter 5 for an older poetic account of the story. [ NOAB] Similarly, Exodus 15 is an older poetic account of the crossing of the Reed Sea, while Exodus 14 is the later prose account. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “Jabin”: Joshua 11:1-4 suggests that while being King of Hazor, he was leader of a coalition fighting the Israelites. [ NOAB] See also Psalm 83:9, where both Jabin and Sisera are mentioned. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “Hazor”: It was an important city in Galilee because of its proximity to trade routes. It was 14 kilometres north of the Sea of Galilee. [ NOAB]

Verse 2: “Sisera”: This is not a Semitic name. He may have been a Philistine in the service of Jabin. [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “nine hundred chariots”: The quantity may have been increased to show how desperate the situation was. [ NOAB] Israel’s enemies appear to be more technologically advanced than they are.

Verse 4: “Deborah”: She is the only female judge, the first of the few women in the Bible called prophets. (Others are Miriam in Exodus 15:20, Huldah in 2 Kings 22:14-20, and Noadiah in Nehemiah 6:14.) The other two women with whom a poem is associated are Miriam in Exodus 15 and Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. The name “Deborah”, also borne by Rebecca’s nurse in Genesis 35:8, may mean leader. Being a prophet, she also guides Israel spiritually. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “Mount Tabor”: Some 560 metres (1,800 feet) high, Mount Tabor stands in the northeastern corner of the Jezreel Valley (southwest of the Sea of Galilee). [ NOAB]

Verses 8-9: Barak refuses to fight alone, so Deborah agrees to go with him. V. 21 tells us “Jael wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, until it went down into the ground – he was lying fast asleep from weariness – and he died”. So the glory is actually another woman’s (Jael’s), not hers.

Verse 11: The narrative is interrupted briefly to prepare for vv. 17-22, the killing of Sisera. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “Kenites”: The Kenites were travelling metalworkers. [ NOAB]

Verses 14-16: The Israelites attack Sisera and his army but it is Yahweh that swings the balance.

Comments: Due to a heavy rainstorm or to the Kishon River overflowing its banks: 5:21 tells us: “The torrent Kishon swept them [the enemy] away, the onrushing torrent, the torrent Kishon ...” (part of the Song of Deborah).

Verse 17: Sisera thinks that Jael’s tent is a safe haven but it is not.

Psalm 123

CAB considers those who heap scorn to be non-Israelite.

Two other verses psalms mention turning “my eyes” to Yahweh: 121:1-2 says “I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord ...” and 141:8 “... my eyes are turned toward you, O GOD, my Lord ...”. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “hand”: 104:28 indicates that the hand is the source of blessings: “These all look to you to give them their food in due season; ... when you open your hand, they are filled with good things”. [ NJBC]

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

These verses come close to repeating 4:13-18, albeit from a different perspective, so some scholars consider it to be a corrective added to this letter by a later author. There Paul commends the fate of the dead to God; here he reflects on the implications of the Day of the Lord for those who are alive. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “the times and the seasons”: i.e. the day(s) when the things mentioned in 4:13-17 (i.e. the fate of the faithful departed and the manner of Christ’s second coming) will occur. In Acts 1:6-7, the apostles ask Jesus “‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’” and he replies “‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority ...”. [ CAB]

Verse 1: “brothers and sisters”: Some desired an eschatological timetable: see Acts 1:6-7. [ NOAB]

Verse 2: Paul reiterates Jesus’ warning: in Matthew 24:43-44, Jesus says: “‘if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour’”. See also Luke 12:39-40. [ NOAB]

Verse 2: “the day of the Lord”: This is, in the Old Testament, the day when God will vindicate his cause and execute judgement: see Amos 5:18-19 (“Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord! Why do you want the day of the Lord? It is darkness, not light; as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear; or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall, and was bitten by a snake”); Joel 2:31 (“The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes”); Malachi 4:5 (“Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes”); Zephaniah 1:7. [CAB]

In the New Testament, Acts 2:20-21 tells us: “The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” and in 1 Corinthians 5:5 Paul predicts the destiny of a man who is living immorally: “you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord”. In Philippians 1:6, 10, a later letter, Paul calls it “the day of Christ”, but here in 1 Thessalonians the implication is that “the Lord” is God. Speculation about the coming of the end-times is characteristic of an apocalyptic world view. Some apocalyptic writings divide this coming into periods: see Daniel 9:2, 24-27 and 2 Esdras 14:5. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “peace and security”: See also Jeremiah 6:14. In Ezekiel 13:10-17, Yahweh speaks through the prophet of the fate of those who preach peace and security falsely. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “sudden destruction”: In Luke 21:34-36, Jesus advises: “‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man’”. [ CAB]

Verse 3: “pregnant woman”: This is a common Old Testament prophetic expression for the suddenness, precariousness, and inevitability of the Day of the Lord: see Isaiah 13:8; 21:3; 37:3; Jeremiah 6:24; Hosea 13:13; Mark 13:8. [ NOAB] [ CAB] [ NJBC]

Verses 4-8: Many scholars believe that this exhortation reflects Christian baptismal catechesis. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: In Romans 13:12, Paul writes: “the night is far gone, the day is near”. [ CAB]

Verse 5: “children of light and ... of darkness”:Job 22:11 speaks of darkness as evil. In Luke 16:8 Jesus contraststhe “children of this age” with the “children of light”. John 12:36 and Ephesians 5:8 advises the faithful to “live as children of light”. In 1 John 1:5-6 we read: “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all”. The Qumran community contrasted the children of light with the children of darkness: see 1QS (Rule of the Community) 1:9-10; 3:13; 1QM (War Scroll) 1. See also Testament of Naphtali 2:7-10. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “let us not fall asleep”: i.e. in carelessness and sin. In Matthew 24:42, Jesus advises: “Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming”. See also Matthew 24:49; Luke 12:39, 45; Mark 13:35-36. [ CAB]

Verse 8: “breastplate ... helmet”: The military analogy is also found in Isaiah 59:17; Wisdom of Solomon 5:17-23; Romans 13:12; 2 Corinthians 6:7; 10:4; Ephesians 6:11-17. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “faith ... love ... hope”: At least two of these notions also appear in each of 1:3; Romans 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Galatians 5:5-6; Colossians 1:4-5; Hebrews 10:22-24; 1 Peter 1:21-22. [ CAB]

Verses 8,9: “salvation”: i.e. all the benefits of life in Christ, present and future. [ CAB]

Verse 9: “destined”: i.e. pre-ordained but not pre-destined.

Verse 10: According to NJBC, another fragmentary credal formula. In 1:10, Paul writes: “... to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming”.

Verse 10: “awake or asleep”: Salvation accrues to all, whether they are alive or not. In 4:14, Paul says: “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died”. See also 4:16-17. [ NJBC]

Matthew 25:14-30

Perhaps Mark 13:34 contains the germ of, or a vestige of, this parable: “It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch”.

The first and second slaves play one role. [ Blomberg]

Comments: This would have caused a stir in Jesus’ day, for a rabbinic maxim commends burial of money as a way of protecting it: On the other hand, the Jewish law which commended burial of money spoke only of safeguarding the trust of a friend or client, not of an appropriate way of dealing with finances intended for investment. (Luke 19:13, a verse in a possible parallel, says: “He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, ‘Do business with these until I come back’”.) So perhaps the third slave’s behaviour should be seen as foolish. On this reading, neither the action of the slave (nor the response of the master) is implausible, but is unusual. [ Blomberg]

Verses 14,20,22: “entrusted ... handed over ... handed over”: The Greek verb is paradidomi, a technical term for tradition. So an earlier version of the story might have reproached a static (possibly Sadducean) attitude to religious tradition, which refuses to develop it. The third slave then hides his talent and guards tradition in a static way. [ NJBC]

Verse 15: “to each according to his ability”: This phrase has led, in modern languages, to the use of the term talent for gift, aptitude and flair. [ NJBC]

Verse 19: “After a long time”: Perhaps an indication that Christ’s second coming will not be within the lifetimes of those who knew Jesus during his earthly life.

Verse 21: “trustworthy”: Here the meaning of the Greek word includes believing and risk-taking. [ NJBC]

Verses 24-25: See Job 23:13-17; Mishna ‘Abot 1:3; 2:15; 3:17. [ NJBC]

Verse 27: “invested my money with the bankers”: Probably a risky proposition, as is all finance. Perhaps Jesus is saying that disciples are expected to take risks.

Verse 27: “with interest”: Perhaps moderate capitalism is in view. [ NJBC]

Verses 28-29: To many scholars, these verses do not seem to fit with the parable; however in v. 29, Jesus may well have been implying the context, expecting the hearer to understand “have” as have earned and “have not” as have not earned. V. 28 makes sense in this context when one rereads v. 14: “a man ... entrusted [all] his property to them”. [ Blomberg] To NOAB, Jesus speaks in two settings simultaneously: as the third slave had his original talent, yet earned nothing by it, so individuals can have their earthly existence and all that derives from it, yet lack merit in the final judgement (v. 30).

Verse 29: In Mark 4:25, Jesus says: “... to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away”; in Matthew 13:12, he says “to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away”; in Luke 8:18, he says “for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away”. [ NJBC]

Verse 30: “worthless”: i.e. without value to his master. [ NOAB]

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