Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Seventh Sunday after Pentecost - July 11, 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.

2 Samuel 6:1-5,12b-19

The parallel is 1 Chronicles 13:1-16:43. [ NJBC] Psalm 132 may have been used in an annual ritual commemorating this event – probably at New Year. Psalm 89 also shows signs of such a ritual.

The return of the Ark is described in 1 Samuel 5:1-7:2.

The building of the Ark is described in Exodus 25-31 and 35-40. The materials were provided as freewill offerings, of the finest materials. The master craftsman was the best available; his talents were God-given. More than enough materials were contributed. The Ark was about 1.1 m long x 0.7 m high x 0.7 m (45 x 27 x 27 inches) wide. It resembled the small shrines for symbols of the gods used by peoples in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Canaan. It was portable, small enough to carried on a camel. The Ark symbolized God’s presence among his people. It was carried into war (e.g. at the siege of Jericho in the book of Joshua). The tent, where Moses met God, was also a sacred object. At first they were seen as separate, but by the time the Exodus passages were written down, they were joined: the Ark was in the tent. The richness of the Ark is from a later time: this is the richness of the Temple. To avoid people thinking that God lived in the Ark or the tent, later tradition says that the ark was intended to hold the tablets of the Law. Pre-Islamic Arabs also had a portable tent-shrine, called a qubba. It contained two sacred stones, and was taken into battle. In Israel, the Ark was a national symbol of tribal confederacy. In the Temple, the Ark is God’s throne, on which he sits invisibly above two guardian cherubim (see 2 Kings 19:15). [ NJBC] [ HBD]

Verse 2: “Baale-judah”: In 1 Samuel 6:21-7:2, the ark was left at Kiriath-jearim, so either this verse is in error, or Kiriath-jearim is another name for Baale-judah [ NOAB] – but note 1 Chronicles 13:6: “... Baalah, that is, to Kiriath-jearim, which belongs to Judah ...”. (This verse was written later, and may be a justification of the error.)

Verse 5: This verse looks like a later addition, because a full orchestra was probably only available after the Temple was built. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: Per Numbers 4:15, only priests descended from Aaron were permitted to touch the Ark.

Verse 14: “danced”: For other religious dancing, see Exodus 15:20 (The Song of Miriam); 32:19 (The Golden Calf); 1 Kings 18:26 (Elijah and the priests of Baal). [ NOAB]

Verse 14: “ephod”: Samuel wore one as a boy in the temple at Shiloh (see 1 Samuel 2:18). [ NOAB]

Verse 16: “Michal”: She was married to Paltiel (see 3:15-16). Saul had reneged on his deal with David: David had killed one hundred Philistines as a marriage present (see 1 Samuel 18:25-27).

Psalm 24

The spirit of this psalm is like Isaiah 6:1-6 (Isaiah’s commissioning). See also Psalm 15. [ NOAB]

Verse 2: “seas” and “rivers” are both related to Canaanite mythology. [ NJBC] God divided the waters on, below and above the earth. See also Genesis 1:6-13. [ CAB]

Verse 3: “stand”: The marvel of the created world is its firmness, although it rests on the seas “of the deep”, i.e. chaos. God tamed these seas in his creative act. The earth was seen as resting on pillars in the abyss, chaos: Psalm 75:3 says “When the earth totters, with all its inhabitants, it is I who keep its pillars steady”.

Verse 3: This verse asks for instruction, torah. The instruction is in the next verse. To “stand” in the Temple, one needs:

  • to be free from bribery;
  • purity of heart, i.e. a clear conscience, especially with respect to neighbours;
  • aversion to idols; and
  • not to have harmed others by lying conduct.

The reward for such moral conduct is in v. 5. [ JBC]

Verses 6,10: “Selah”: This 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).

Verses 7-10: Both the pilgrims and God enter the Temple. [ NJBC]

Verses 8,10: Again, torah is sought and is given.

In one Canaanite myth, the gods, with “heads” (v. 7) bowed, cower at the challenge of the powers of chaos. When the creator god returns from battling these forces, the assembled gods hear his triumphant cry, “Lift up your heads ...”, and acclaim him king. In the Israelite version, the gods are replaced by the gates of Jerusalem (or the Temple). [ NJBC]

Ephesians 1:3-14

Many scholars consider that Paul was not the author of Ephesians because the thought and style of the book after different from those of definitely Pauline epistles. They point out:

  • Forty words in Ephesians which are not found in definitely Pauline epistles.
  • Some terms have a different meaning in this book.
  • In Ephesians, we find loose collections of phrases and clauses in long sentences: this is not characteristic of Paul. (Many are split into multiple sentences in the NRSV.) An example: 1:15-23 is one sentence in the Greek. [ NOAB]

These scholars hypothesize that Ephesians was written by a follower of Paul, a person who interpreted Paul for a slightly later generation. As he wrote, he referred to Pauline epistles. Others say that Paul simply changed his thought and style (perhaps at a time when he had more time to write.) Colossians is like Ephesians, but is Colossians Pauline? [ NOAB]

Note the baptismal resonances in v. 5 (“adoption as his children ... good pleasure”), v. 6 (“Beloved”), v. 7 (“forgiveness of our trespasses”), and v. 13 (“marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit”). A scholar has hypothesized that such resonances throughout the letter indicate that the purpose of the letter was to recall to new converts the implications of their baptism.

Verse 1: “Ephesus”: This word is missing from some early manuscripts, so this may have been a circular letter, sent to several churches; [ NOAB] however, NJBC notes that, even if this is the case, the grammatical syntax of this verse is faulty.

Verse 1: “saints”: i.e. members of God’s holy people and participants in the heavenly assembly. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: This is in the style of a traditional Jewish eulogy praising God. See also Genesis 9:26; Psalm 31:21; 72:18-19; 144:1; 1 Kings 1:48; 2 Chronicles 6:4; Tobit 13:1; 1 Maccabees 4:30; 1 Peter 1:3; 1QH (*Qumran Hymns) 18:14. [ CAB]

1QH 18:14 ( Vermes: 10:14) says: “Be blessed, Lord, God of compassion and of abundant favour, because you have made me know these things so that I may recount your marvels, and I do not keep silent day and night.” [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “with every spiritual blessing”: 1QSb (*Qumran Rule of the Blessings) 1:5 says: “May he bestow upon you all the blessings ... in the congregation of the holy ones.” [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “in the heavenly places”: Can also be translated as among heavenly beings. This expression is only found in this letter (in 1:20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12), albeit with differing nuances. It refers to either the spiritual world behind and above the material universe, or the realm of God from which the entire created order is governed. It speaks of union of the earthly and spiritual worlds. [ CAB] [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “he”: i.e. God. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “he chose”: The notion of selection was developed extensively in pre-Christian Judaism. See 1QH (*Qumran Hymns) 13:10; 15:23; 1QS (Rule of the Community) 1:4; 11:7; 1QSb (Qumran Rule of the Blessings) 1:2; 1QM (War Scroll) 10:9. [ NJBC]

1QH13:10: “You have set me as a reproach and a mockery of traitors, foundation of truth and of knowledge for those on the straight path. ...”

1QS 11:7: “... For those whom God has selected he has given them an everlasting possession; until they inherit them in the lot of the holy ones.”

1QSb 1:2: “remain constant in his holy covenant and walk with perfection [on all the paths of] his truth, those he has chosen for an eternal covenant”

1QM 10:9: “... And who is like your people, Israel, whom you chose from among all the peoples of the earth”. [ Martinez]

Verse 4: “in Christ”: This phrase occurs frequently throughout this letter in contexts referring to the unity of Jews and Gentiles (e.g. 2:13 and 3:11).

Verse 4: “foundation of the world”: This term is seldom found in early New Testament writings; it is more common in later ones. See Matthew 25:34; Luke 11:50; John 17:24; 1 Peter 1:20; Hebrews 4:3; 9:26; Revelation 13:8, 17:8.

Verse 4: “holy and blameless”: This phrase also appears in Colossians 1:22 and Ephesians 5:27. This rests on an Old Testament precedent (Deuteronomy 14:2). In the Qumran community, this meant to be without blemish: see 1QSa (Rule of the Congregation) 2:8-9. The author of Ephesians seems to require Christians to be holy and blameless because they are involved in the heavenly realm. Taken literally, this is clearly non-Pauline – and deviates from the faith unless Christ’s “redemption through his blood” (v. 7) makes us such – which it, of course, does. [ NJBC]

1QSa 2:8-9: “these shall not enter to take their place among the congregation of famous men, for the angels of holiness are among their congregation. ...”. [ Martinez]

Verse 5: “destined us ... according to the good pleasure of his will”: This is God’s initiative. Predestination is not foreign to Pauline thought. It is also found in the Qumran literature.

Verse 5: “adoption”: The Greek word is a legal term, indicating conferral of all rights and privileges of natural birth. For the adoption of Israel, see Romans 9:4; for the adoption of all believers, see Romans 8:15, 23; Galatians 4:5. [ CAB]

Verse 6: “to the praise of his glorious grace”: i.e. to the Father’s. This is repeated in briefer form referring to Christ (v. 12) and the Holy Spirit (vv. 13-14). [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “grace”: the Father’s unmerited favour, his free gift. [ CAB]

Verse 6: “the Beloved”: The identification of Christ as God’s Beloved recalls the baptism scene in the synoptic gospels, in which a voice from heaven identifies Jesus as “the Beloved” (Mark 1:11 and parallels). Also in these scenes, the voice says “I am well pleased” or I take pleasure: see v. 5. [ NJBC] For Israel as beloved, see the Septuagint translation of Deuteronomy 32:15; 33:5, 26, Isaiah 44:2. For Abraham as beloved, see 2 Chronicles 20:7. For Moses as beloved, see Sirach 45:1. For Samuel as beloved, see Sirach 46:13. (In some cases, the NRSV does not translate the word as beloved .) [ CAB] Jesus is also called beloved in Matthew 3:17; 12:18; 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35.

Verse 7: “redemption through his blood”: See also 1:14; 4:30; Mark 10:45; 14:24; Romans 3:24; 8:23; Colossians 1:14, 20; Hebrews 9:11-14. [ NOAB] Redemption and forgiveness are possible because of Christ’s death, into which the Christian is incorporated through baptism. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “mystery”: Everywhere in Ephesians (except in 5:32) and throughout Colossians, “mystery” refers to God’s age-long purpose, now disclosed to his chosen, to call Gentiles as well as Jews to share in Christ’s redemptive work ( 3:4-6). [ NOAB] In late Judaism, everything is regulated according to God’s mysteries. The God of knowledge is in control of all things because the unalterable course of events was decreed by him before all eternity (1QS (*Qumran Rule of the Community) 3-4, especially 3:9-10). Not only the human world (1QH (Hymns) 1:15) but also the angelic (1QM (War Scroll) 14:14) and the cosmic (1QH (Hymns) 1:11-15) have been determined by him. These mysteries have been revealed by chosen interpreters: see 1QH (Hymns) 1:21; 1QpHab (Habakkuk Pesher) 7:4-5. [ NJBC] See also Romans 16:25-26; 1 Corinthians 2:1; 4:1; Colossians 1:26.

Verse 9: “in Christ”: Here the author retains Paul’s sense of the Christian community. Paul uses this notion in 1 Corinthians 1:13; 12:12 (“... just as the body is one and has many members ...”); Galatians 3:16.

Verse 10: “fullness of time”: In Galatians 4:4, the concern is chronological time, but here it is the gatherings of all times. See also Tobit 4:5; 2 Esdras 4:37; Acts 1:7. [ NOAB] [ CAB] It is when God’s eternal purposes are accomplished and brought to fulfilment.

Verse 10: “gather up ...”: God’s plan is for all people; it gives them mutual benefits, and sets common standards. See also 1:20-23 and Philippians 2:9-11. [ CAB]

Verse 11: “inheritance ... destined”: see also Numbers 26:55 and Colossians 1:12. [ CAB] “We” here may be both us Jews and all Christians . In the Qumran literature, for the children of light as destined inheritors: see 1QM (War Scroll) 1:5 and 1QH (Hymns) 3:22-23.

1QM 1:5: “[... There] will follow a time of salvation for the people of God and a period of rule for all the men of his lot, and of everlasting destruction for all the lot of Belial.” (Belial is the devil, Satan.)

1QH 3:22-23: “... can enter in communion with the congregation of the sons of heaven. You cast eternal destiny for man with the spirits of knowledge, so that he praises your name together in celebration, and tells of your wonders before all your works. ...” [ Martinez]

Verses 11-14: The position in God’s plan of the recipients of the letter: they are beneficiaries of God’s plan in Christ. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “you also”: Here the meaning is you Gentiles, as well as we Jews; [ NOAB] however, elsewhere “you” refers to the recipients and “we” to all Christians. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “heard ... believed ... marked with the seal”: A reflection of missionary reports such as those in Acts 8:12-17; 10:34-48; 19:2. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “marked”: Devotees of gods sometimes branded themselves with the name of the deity to whom they belonged, and who protected them. Stamped with ownership (as a slave was). See also 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Revelation 7:3-4. [ CAB]

Verse 14: “pledge”: 2 Corinthians 1:22 says that the Holy Spirit, already given, is an advance installment of what is in store for Christians (see also 2 Corinthians 5:5); God will finish what he has begun (see Romans 8:16-17, 23, Philippians 1:6). [ CAB]

Mark 6:14-29

The parallels are Matthew 14:1-12 and Luke 9:7-9. [ NOAB]

Verses 14-16: For Jesus to be seen as John, John must have done miracles, but John 10:41 says “John performed no sign”. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “Herod”: This is Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great; he was Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea; he was not a “king”. The list of who Jesus might be is also found in 8:28. [ NOAB]

Verse 15: “It”: The antecedent is unclear. Some scholars consider it to be either the miracles performed by the disciples (vv. 12-13) or Jesus’ fame (v. 14a) – or both.

Verse 15: “Elijah”: see also Malachi 3:1: “I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me ...” [ NJBC]

Verse 15: Comments: a prophet like Moses: In Deuteronomy 18:15, Moses says: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet”.

Verse 16: “raised”: This points forward to the resurrection of Jesus.

Verse 17: “prison”: According to the contemporary historian Josephus, John was imprisoned at a fort and prison at Machaerus, 8 km (5 miles) east of the Dead Sea, on the Nabatean border. [ NOAB]

Verse 17: “Herodias”: According to Josephus, Herodias was Herod Antipas’ niece. He also says that Herodias married another brother of Herod Antipas, also called Herod. Philip married Salome. NJBC says that Herodias’ daughter may have been called Herodias, although Josephus says her name was Salome. It appears that Mark is in error here.

Verse 18: A little strangely, in this story, Herod appears not to have seen John as a political threat; however Josephus says John was imprisoned as one.

Verses 21-26: These verses appear to have been written in the light of a story in the book of Esther, where the “king” is Xerxes of Persia. (In Esther, “Ahasuerus” is Xerxes). Specific points of contact are:

v. 21: “banquet for his courtiers”

Esther 1:1-22

v. 22: “Herodias came in”

Esther 2:14

v. 22: “she pleased Herod and his guests”

Esther 2:9

v. 23: “even half of my kingdom”

Esther 5:3; 7:2 [ JBC]

Verse 22: “his daughter Herodias”: Some manuscripts say “the daughter of Herodias”, as does Matthew 14:6. [ NOAB]

Verse 22: The presence of such people at the banquet suggests a banquet in Herod’s capital city of Tiberias in Galilee; however, Josephus says that John was killed at Machaerus. So were the “courtiers”, etc. on vacation? [ NJBC]

Verse 25: A “platter” was a wide, flat dish. Note “immediately”: Herodias had planned this. [ NJBC]

Verse 26: An Old Testament model for this is Jephthah in Judges 11:29-40. Mark presents Herod as caught between his public boast and the concrete reality of her request. The fact that his word and reputation were more important to him than John’s life adds to the repugnance of the story. Herod is victim of his own foolish promise. [ NJBC]

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