Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fifth Sunday after Epiphany - February 7, 2021

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.

Isaiah 40:21-31

Verses 12-31: These verses shift attention back to exile and the weary people. While vv. 1-11 resonate the exuberant hope of chapters 41-48, the tone of these verses is overcast with the gloom of chapters 49-54. [ NJBC]

Verses 12-17: God’s voice thunders in a series of questions, in which irony plays a part, as in Job 38:1-42:6. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “waters ... heavens ... earth”: The world’s three divisions. “Waters” is seas. [ NOAB]

Verses 13-31: The impossibility of measuring God’s power over nature and history, or of offering him advice, is contrasted with his concern for helpless humanity and his special care for those who rely on him. [ CAB]

Verses 13-14: For God as the source of all knowledge and wisdom, see also Proverbs 8:22-31 and Job 38:2-39:30. [ NOAB]

Verse 13: Paul quotes this verse in 1 Corinthians 2:16. He associates the mystery of Christ crucified and the mystery of Israel’s temporary estrangement from salvation in Christ (see Romans 11, especially 11:34) with a new universal salvation in Christ Jesus. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “spirit of the Lord”: The active, life-giving power of God. 61:1 says “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted ...” and Genesis 1:2 says “... a wind [spirit] from God swept over the face of the waters”. See also Psalm 104:20. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: Unlike other deities, Yahweh depends on no one else for knowledge. Angels approve and carry out divine decisions, but they never form or challenge them.

Verse 14: “justice”: Throughout the Bible, “justice” (Hebrew: mispat) indicates the authoritative declaration of what is just and the effective achievement of it. God will act in a way consonant with his own goodness and with the covenant between him and Israel. [ NJBC]

Verse 15: Not even the mightiest nation can stand in God’s way: neither the Greek colonies along the coast of modern Turkey (“Tarshish”, Psalm 72:10; Isaiah 11:11; Jeremiah 2:10) nor the neighbouring giant powers, symbolized by the majestic cedars of Lebanon (see 1 Kings 5:6; Isaiah 10:34; Psalm 29:6). [ NJBC]

Verses 18-20: Idols cannot be compared with him: see also 42:17; 45:16, 20; Jeremiah 10:1-16. [ NOAB]

Verses 19-20: Deutero-Isaiah never tires of ridiculing the pseudo-deities of other nations, who posed such a severe temptation for many who felt that Yahweh had been defeated by these gods in the collapse of their own nation. See especially 44:9-20. [ NJBC]

Verse 22: “circle of the earth”: Proverbs 8:27 uses “circle in the same sense: “When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep”. See also Job 22:14. [ NOAB]

Verse 22: “like grasshoppers”: Although this phrase can be demeaning (as in Numbers 13:33), it can also, as here, be a term of endearment, as also in 41:14: “Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you insect Israel! I will help you, says the Lord ...”. [ NJBC]

Verse 26: “created”: A word reminiscent of Genesis 1:1 and used more often by Deutero-Isaiah than by other Old Testament writers. See also v. 28 and 41:20; 42:5; 43:7, 15; 45:7-8, 12, 18; 54:16. [ NOAB]

Verse 26: “these”: To NJBC, this is a reference to stars. In Babylonian mythology they were prominent deities. Psalm 147:4 helps in seeing the reference as being to stars: “He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names”. Here Yahweh creates them effortlessly but elsewhere they were deliberately left for other nations to worship: see Deuteronomy 4:19; 29:25; 32:8-9. The notion that God created the stars is a decided advance in Israel’s monotheism. [ NJBC]

Verse 26: “host”: i.e. of heaven. In 3:1, God is called “the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts”. [ NOAB]

Verses 28-31: The omnipotent God is concerned for the people he has created. [ NOAB]

Verse 28: “everlasting God”: This recalls Genesis 21:33: “Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God”. [ NJBC]

Verse 28: “faint or grow weary”: Key words that reappear frequently and tie the servant songs with Deutero-Isaiah and Trito-Isaiah: see vv. 29-31 and 43:22-24; 44:12; 49:4; 50:4; 57:10; 62:8; 65:23. The servant turns the liability of weariness into a way of ministering to fellow Israelites! [ NJBC]

Verse 31: “wait”: Expression of confidence that God will not desert his people is a common concept from this period on. [ NOAB] An excellent Old Testament description of faith. [ NJBC]

Psalm 147:1-11,20c

A Hallelujah psalm. (Hallelujah means Praise the Lord: see vv. 1, 20.)

A communal hymn generally dated to the post-exilic era. Support for this dating is provided especially by vv. 2-3 which contain such late themes as the rebuilding of Jerusalem by Yahweh (see Ezekiel 40-48) and the gathering of exiles (see Isaiah 56:8 and Nehemiah 1:9). [ NJBC]

Verse 4: See also Isaiah 40:26 (see today’s first reading). [ NOAB]

Verses 13-14: The themes in these verses also occur in Psalms 127 and 128:

security of the city 127:1
blessing of children 127:3-4; 128:3-4, 6
prosperity and peace of the city 128:5-6
provision of food 127:2; 128:2 [ NJBC]

Verses 15-18: 33:6 says “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth”. [ NJBC]

Verses 15a,18a: Parallel to the creative word in the natural world is God’s word to Israel. [ NJBC]

Verses 16-18: Job 37:6-11 says “For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth’; and the shower of rain, his heavy shower of rain, serves as a sign on everyone's hand, so that all whom he has made may know it. ... From its chamber comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds. By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast. He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning.” [ NOAB]

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

In 1 Thessalonians 2:7, Paul speaks of his restraint from asserting his rights as an apostle: “... we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children”. [ NOAB]

Verses 1-2: “an apostle”: In 15:8-9, Paul writes: “Then he [Jesus] appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles ...”. See also Galatians 1:1, 11-12; Acts 9:3-6 (Paul’s vision), 17. [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?”: See 15:8 (quoted above). [ NJBC]

Verse 4: i.e. at the expense of the church. [ NOAB]

Verse 5: “the brothers of the Lord”: In Matthew 13:55, some who have heard Jesus in the synagogue ask “... And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?”. That they and “Cephas” (presumably Peter) are mentioned suggests that the opposition to Paul originated in Jerusalem. Of Jesus’ brothers, Paul only names one: James (see Galatians 1:19). See also Mark 3:31; 6:3; Acts 1:14. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “a believing wife”: Mark 1:30 tells us that Peter was married: “Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever ...”. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “Barnabas”: He is mentioned in Galatians 2:1 as Paul’s companion on his visit to Jerusalem. In Galatians 1:13, Paul says of him: “even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy”, meaning the hypocrisy of Jerusalem Christians. “Only” is singular in the Greek so Paul may have suddenly remembered another apostle whose practice mirrored his own. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “ have no right to refrain from working for a living”: Paul employs four arguments to justify the right to support:

  • From common sense (v. 7-8, “on human authority”), an argument also used in 2 Timothy 2:3-6
  • Mosaic law (vv. 8-9)
  • Ancient cultic practice (v. 13), and
  • Jesus’ directive for the Palestinian mission (v. 14) [ NJBC]

Verse 9: The quotation is from Deuteronomy 25:4. The ox has a right to eat the grain. [ NOAB]

Verse 11: A quid pro quo. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “If others ...”: Other missionaries have passed through Corinth, and have had the right to support accepted. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: In Judaism, this is prescribed in Leviticus 7:28-35. It was also the practice in Hellenic cults. [ NOAB]

Verse 14: In Luke 10:7, Jesus tells the pairs of emissaries he sends out: “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid”. Deuteronomy 25:4 and this verse are quoted in 1 Timothy 5:18. [ NOAB]

Verses 15-18: In 2 Corinthians 11:7-12, Paul says that his mission to the Corinthians is financed by “friends who came from Macedonia”. [ NOAB]

Verse 17: “entrusted with a commission”: In Galatians 1:15-17, Paul tells us “ ... when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, ... I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.” [ NJBC]

Verse 18: “free of charge”: NJBC sees this as a feeble joke. The wages of one not entitled to any is to work for nothing!

Verse 18: “not to make full use of”: The verb in Greek is katachraomai, meaning overuse. NJBC says that Paul uses this word deliberately to disguise a mental reservation, because while at Corinth he was subsidized from Macedonia.

Verses 20-22: Paul proceeds with his mission with consideration and tact, not cowardice and compromise. [ NOAB]

Verse 21: This verse is difficult to understand; in Comments I present a general understanding of vv. 19-23. Blk1Cor says “this is one of the most difficult sentences in the epistle”. It is perhaps helpful to recall Galatians 6:2, where the “law of Christ” is fulfilled by bearing one another’s burdens, i.e. in love. Christ fulfills “God’s law” but now love helps us to be obedient to God, as Paul is, “entrusted with a commission”. NJBC also sees an allusion to the “law-less” at Corinth, i.e. those who saw no requirement for ethical behaviour because the Second Coming was thought to be so close. See 6:12 and 10:23.

Verse 22: Comments: eating meat left over from pagan rites : In 8:12-13, Paul submits himself to the conscience (and discipline) of the “weak” and recommends such discipline to others who have progressed significantly in their journeys of faith: “... when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ”. [ NJBC]

Verse 22: “win the weak”: As will become clear in 10:23-11:1, the hearts of the weak also needed to be changed. [ NJBC]

Verses 24-27: Athletic metaphors on the importance of self-discipline out of consideration for others. [ NOAB] In a sense, Paul trains himself to better carry out his God-given commission.

Mark 1:29-39

Verses 29-34: The parallels are Matthew 8:14-17 and Luke 4:38-41. [ NOAB]

Verse 29: “the house of Simon and Andrew”: Archeologists may have discovered this house south of the synagogue at Capernaum. The four disciples are called in vv. 16-20. [ NJBC]

Verse 30: “fever”: We do not know what kind of “fever” this was. Such ailments, which [mostly] come and go quickly, are common in the Near East. Malaria is a possibility. [ BlkMk]

Verse 31: “He ... took her by the hand”: Jesus could be accused of contracting uncleanness. [ HenMk]

Verse 31: “she began to serve them”: The religious authorities generally disapproved of a woman’s serving at table but in villages women always had more freedom, and the Pharisees still had little influence in Galilee. [ BlkMk] HenMk quotes a rabbinic writer, admittedly 200 years later: “‘One must under no circumstances be served by a woman, be she adult or child’”. The meal she served them what would be the one at the end of Shabbat, which would be an important part of her religious practice – a big mitzvah – especially with guests. [Christopher Seal]

Comments: wait a few hours: Some scholars see 1:24-34 as being the events of one Jewish day. This view would place the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law near the end of the day.

Verses 35-39: See also Matthew 4:23-25 and Luke 4:42-44. [ NOAB]

Verse 35: For prayer as part of many recorded momentous events in Jesus’ life, see also Luke 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28 (the Transfiguration); 11:1; 22:41-46 (on the Mount of Olives). [ NOAB]

Verse 35: “he ... went out to a deserted place”: This recalls his initial preparation by the Spirit for ministry in the “wilderness” (v. 12). [ CAB]

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