Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fourth Sunday after Pentecost - June 24, 2012



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.

1 Samuel 17:(1a,4-11,19-23),32-49

The text usually refers to Goliath as the/this Philistine, so it is likely that in the original story (before later editing), David’s opponent was not identified. [JBC]

In 2 Samuel 21:19, it is Elhanan, one of David’s warriors, who kills Goliath; in 1 Chronicles 20:5 (written much later), Elhanan kills Lahmi, brother of Goliath. [NOAB] [JBC]

In this part of 1 Samuel, at least two stories have been combined, but they are not fully harmonized:

  • A folktale-type story of a young shepherd who distinguishes himself in battle in the hope of winning royal favour and the hand of the king’s daughter in marriage (17:12-14, 17-30, 41, 48b, 50, 55-18:5, 18:17-19, 21b-30)
  • A sophisticated and theologically oriented story, a prelude to the collection of stories portraying David’s rise to the throne of Israel (16:14-23, 17:1-11, 32-40, 42-48a, 49, 51-54). [NJBC]

JBC says that 17:32-40, 42-48a, 49 and 51-54 are shared with the stories.

For individuals representing armies, rather than the whole armies fighting, see 2 Samuel 2:14-16. [JBC]

Verses 5-7: Goliath’s height is “six cubits and a span” (three metres or 10 feet) in the Masoretic Text, but “four cubits and a span” (two metres or 6 feet) in other texts. Three metres is the stuff of folktales (fish stories!); two metres is more believable (at least to us). People are generally taller now than in earlier ages.

Both his name and armour are atypical for the age. His “coat of mail” weighs about 65 kg (150 lbs); the REB says that it was made of bronze. “Greaves” are like modern-day shin pads. The REB has for v. 6b: “one of his weapons was a bronze dagger”. The head of his spear weighs 7 kg (15 lbs). This is ultra high-tech equipment for the day. See also the Clipping on v. 38.

Verses 12-18: These verses are an insertion, not connected with our story.

Verses 24-31: Saul will give his daughter to the man who kills the Philistine. “Eliab” (v. 28) is angry because David has left the sheep; he suggests that David has just come to see the battle. Saul sends for David.

Verse 33: Saul’s objection is that David does not have military experience – as is shown in v. 39 by his inability to walk in armour.

Verse 36: “lions”: The range of Asiatic lions then extended to Palestine. (They are now an endangered species, found only in a wildlife park in India.)

Verse 38: Unlike Goliath, Saul has only a bronze helmet and a mail shirt. He offers David his own armour, perhaps because such equipment is not available from the normal supply of armour. Perhaps Saul, as king, has collected his armour from the spoils of another battle; perhaps Philistine military equipment was more advanced at the time than Israelite equipment.

Verse 40: “wadi”: An Arabic word for a stream or stream bed. Many streams in this area only flow seasonally.

Verse 49: Goliath is stunned (knocked unconscious) by the stone, but is killed with a sword (v. 51) – although v. 50 may say that he was actually killed by the stone: perhaps he was (in one version of the story) just run through with the sword for good measure.

A comparison of Saul and David:

Saul David
Abandoned by God God is with him
Struck by unkingly fear Bears himself in a spirited fashion
Trusts in arms Trusts in God
Unable to deliver his people from the Philistines Has leadership qualities. He delivers the nation from the Philistines and shows them that God is with him. [NJBC]

Comments: “one highly accurate in the hands of a specialist”: Judges 20:16 tells us of the Israelite army on another occasion: “Of all this force, there were seven hundred picked men who were left-handed; every one could sling a stone at a hair, and not miss”. [NJBC]

1 Samuel 17:57-18:5,10-16

17:55-58: Note how completely unknown David is to Saul (“whose son is this young man?”, v. 55), in contrast to 17:32-40, but in entire consistency with 16:1-13. This suggests that stories from two sources have been brought together. [NOAB] [CAB]

18:1: “Jonathan” is son of Saul per 13:16. According to Chapters 13-14, he is a valiant warrior.

18:7: “Saul has killed ...”: In 29:5, the Philistine military commanders ask: “Is this not David, of whom they sing to one another in dances, ‘Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?". This song, celebrating David’s triumphs, echoes more the reality of the future than the facts of the past. [NJBC]

18:10-11: This event is also recorded in 19:9-10. It fits that context better. [JBC]

Psalm 9:9-20

In the Septuagint translation, Psalms 9 and 10 are one psalm, but in the Masoretic text, they are two. The acrostic form perhaps excuses the lack of logical progression. [NOAB]

Verses 4-5 give thanks for the defeat and destruction of the psalmist’s enemies by the divine king and judge. [NJBC]

Verse 12: “the afflicted”: Scholars hold various views on who specifically they are.

Verse 16: “Higgaion”: This word has the root meaning of sigh or meditate. It probably refers to a pause in the singing for meditation or for a musical interlude.

“Higgaion” is a Hebrew word that appears in three Psalms. In two of them it seems to have some sort of musical connotation: here and in Psalm 92:3 (where it is translated “melody”). In Psalm 19:14, it is translated “meditation”. [HBD]

“Selah” is probably a liturgical direction, added to the original text of the psalm. It may mean lift up, either to indicate the lifting up of the voices of the singers in a doxology, or to call for lifted-up instrumental music in an interlude in the singing. [NOAB]

Selah is one of the greatest puzzles of the Old Testament. Its meaning seems to be connected with rising or lifting. But it is not clear whether the congregation rises or lifts up its hands, head, or eyes, or whether the music rises at the indicated points. The word probably indicates that the singing should stop to allow the congregation an interlude for presenting its homage to God by some gesture or act of worship. [ICCPs]

Selah is also found 74 times in 39 psalms in the book of Psalms and three times in Habakkuk 3 (part of a psalm preserved there).

One who acknowledges deliverance (vv. 4, 13) proclaims praise in the Temple (v. 14) and develops the themes of God’s judgement and reign over the peoples (9:5-12, 19-20, 10:15-16). But the scandal of the wicked remains (10:1-11). May God intervene and save the poor from them.

Psalm 133

NOAB sees this as a wisdom psalm although NJBC says that it may well be a song of pilgrimage with connections to the wisdom psalms.

Verse 1: “good and pleasant”: To NJBC, these are qualities of the place where worshippers are gathered for a festival, namely Zion.

Verse 1: “kindred”: Literally brothers. [NOAB]

Comments: Deuteronomy 25:5: This was known as levirate marriage. Here such marriage is said to be God’s wish. Deuteronomy 25:5-6 commands: “When brothers reside together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband's brother shall go in to her, taking her in marriage, and performing the duty of a husband's brother to her, and the firstborn whom she bears shall succeed to the name of the deceased brother, so that his name may not be blotted out of Israel”.

Comments: A high priest was ordained with copious quantities of “oil”: As mentioned in the description of the ordination ceremony in Exodus 29:7. [NOAB]

Verse 3: The dew that comes from “Zion” is more refreshing than that from “Hermon”, for Zion’s dew is life itself. [NJBC] See also Isaiah 26:19. In ancient Near East thinking, the temple was the place from which the god’s benefits flowed into human life (see also Psalm 132:14-15), the chief benefits being “life”, which is “eternal” in the sense that it comes from God, the inexhaustible source of life.

Some scholars point out that, meteorologically, rain storms which fall on Mount Hermon continue eastwards, rather than southwards to Jerusalem. True as this is (see Psalm 29), I note that the Jordan River depends on Mount Hermon for water, and the Jordan was a valuable source of water for Israel.

Verse 3: “the mountains of Zion”: Several manuscripts have Mount Zion – which NJBC considers to be preferable.

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Verse 1: “we”: See also 1 Corinthians 3:9; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; Acts 19:1. [NJBC]

Verse 1: Human cooperation is essential if the power of the gospel is to act effectively. In 1 Corinthians 15:10, Paul says: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain”. The word translated “in vain” is kenos, meaning (in Paul’s usage) non-productive. [NJBC] Note also 1 Corinthians 1:17: “For Christ did not send me to baptise but to proclaim the gospel ... so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power”. Emptied here is kenou. (The REB translates this clause lest the cross of Christ be robbed of its effect.) In 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, Paul says that being baptized and sharing in the Lord’s Supper alone do not assure us of salvation: we also need to be productive (in spreading the good news).

Verse 2: “have listened” and “have helped” are in the prophetic perfect. Isaiah 49:8 is a verse in one of the Servant Songs. [JBC]

Verses 3-7: Paul’s ministry is characterized not by success by human standards, but by hardship – and virtues which God bestows through his power at work through the apostles. [CAB] Paul’s self-recommendation is the antithesis of that of his opponents (see 5:12); he stresses suffering (see 4:10-11) and internal attitudes, not external trappings of spiritual power. [NJBC]

Verse 4: See also 11:23-29: “Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman – I am a better one: with far greater labours, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death ...”. [NOAB]

Verses 4-5: What Paul has endured. The words in Greek translated “afflictions” and “calamities” have similar meanings. V. 5a is a list of “afflictions/calamities”: (not all are recorded in the New Testament):

  • “beatings” – with rods, a Roman punishment (see Acts 16:23), and stoning (see Acts 14:19)
  • “imprisonments” (see Acts 16:22-23)
  • “riots” – i.e. mob action (see Acts 14:5, 19; 17:5; 18:12; 19:23) [JBC]

“Hardships”:

  • “labours” – tiring work Paul has had to do to fulfill his basic needs, as a tentmaker (see 1 Thessalonians 2:9, 2 Thessalonians 3:8, Acts 18:3, 1 Corinthians 4:12)
  • “sleepless nights” – see 2 Corinthians 11:27 and 2 Thessalonians 3:8
  • “hunger” – he has had little to eat, because of his way of life [JBC]

Verses 6-7: He has endured them through gifts of the Spirit:

  • “purity” – integrity, holiness of life
  • “knowledge” – of the gospel and how to apply it to concrete situations (see 1 Corinthians 14:6 and Romans 15:14)
  • “patience” – acceptance of the shortcomings of others
  • “kindness” – his attitude towards those with shortcomings (see 1 Corinthians 9:19-22)
  • “holiness of spirit” – godliness
  • “truthful speech” – a quality his opponents definitely lack [JBC]

He has received these gifts “in the power of God” – Paul’s success is from God, not himself (see also 1 Corinthians 2:4, 2 Corinthians 2:17, 4:2) [JBC]

Verse 9: “dying, and see – we are alive”: This is a summary of 4:7-5:10.

Verse 10: “sorrowful”: Paul has refused help from the Christians at Corinth because “friends who came from Macedonia” had already helped him sufficiently (see 11:7-11). He did not wish to burden the Christians at Corinth with a request for support (see 12:14-18).

Verse 13: “children” : In 1 Corinthians 13:11, Paul writes: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways”.

2 Corinthians is a composite of several letters. In 7:2-13, Paul says that he has learnt through Titus that his letter (the one we are reading) has led his critics to a change of heart, that they desire to correct the problems in the community. They have developed obedience and a sense of awe, realizing what God is doing amongst them through the apostle and his aides.

Mark 4:35-41

The parallels are Matthew 8:18, 23-27 and Luke 8:22-25. [NOAB]

Jesus saves the lives of the disciples and demonstrates the power over all creation granted to him by the Father.

This is the first of four stories showing Jesus’ ability to act in ways beyond human ability:

  • 4:35-41: (this story): he has power over evil (Satan) in nature
  • 5:1-20: In exorcising a demon, he defeats possession by the devil
  • 5:25-34: In healing the woman with vaginal bleeding, he demonstrates his power over disease
  • 5:21-24, 35-43: In healing Jairus’ daughter, he shows power over death. [NJBC]

Verse 38: “asleep”: A sign of his complete confidence in God. Jesus may fulfil Psalm 4:8 and Proverbs 3:24-26. [NJBC]

Verse 38: “Teacher”: For other uses of such titles as expressions of the disciples’ attitude toward Jesus, see also Matthew 17:4 (the Transfiguration); Mark 9:5; 11:21 (Jesus curses the fig tree); 14:45 (Judas); Luke 8:24; 17:13 (Jesus cleanses ten lepers); John 1:38 (the first disciples). [NOAB]

Verse 38: “do you not care ...”: Both Matthew and Luke soften this question. [NJBC]

Verse 39: For God alone as ruler of the sea, of chaos, see Psalms 74:13-14; 89:9 (There, “Rahab” is a mythical monster symbolizing the powers of chaos.) [NJBC]

Verse 39: “Peace! Be still!”: A similar formula in 1:25 (where Jesus performs an exorcism) suggests that here Jesus is manifesting control over the powers of evil. [NJBC]

Verse 39: “dead calm”: This shows Jesus’ complete and effective action over evil. [NJBC]

Verse 39: God’s work in creation is the conquest of the sea or of the sea dragon (see Genesis 1:2; Psalm 89:9; Job 9:8; 26:12-13) and is parallelled by the deliverance of Israel (see Psalm 74:12-14; Isaiah 51:9; 63:12-13; Exodus 15:8). In Psalm 107:23-31, God is portrayed as stilling a storm. [NJBC]

Verse 40: “faith”: Faith trusts God to achieve his purpose, even through apparent destruction. See also Matthew 6:25-33; 10:38; Mark 14:35-36 (Garden of Gethsemane). [NOAB]

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