Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Eighth Sunday after Pentecost - July 18, 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 7:1-14a

This story is also found in 1 Chronicles 17:1-27. [ NJBC]

NJBC says that this is a later theological commentary inserted into an earlier source. The interdependency with Psalm 89 may be in either direction. This passage shows the importance of David’s dynasty to the religious meaning of ancient Israel.

David wishes to build a permanent place for the Ark of God. It had been kept in a tent since the days of the Exodus (Exodus 27-34); it accompanied Israel as the tribes entered the Promised Land (see Joshua 4:1-13) and began to settle there (see Joshua 8:30-35 and Judges 20:27). [ CAB]

Verse 6: This verse ignores the temple at Shiloh. 1 Samuel 1:3 tells us that: “Now this man [Elkanah] used to go up year by year from his town to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord”. See also 1 Samuel 3:3. [ NOAB]

Verses 7-13: The temple would be a sign of social stratification and political centralization: to build it now would be to be rushing things: tribal leaders could see their power dissipating. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: NJBC suggests that this verse is later, and comes from a pro-temple source.

Historically speaking, David’s dynasty was not everlasting: it ended in 587 BC when the Babylonians conquered Judah. NOAB suggests that this passage was written after the fall of Jerusalem, so everlasting has another meaning.

Verses 18-29: David’s gratitude to God is not only for the promise of an ongoing dynasty, but even more for all that God has done for his people: preparing the land and overcoming their enemies. [ CAB]

Psalm 89:20-37

The relationship to 2 Samuel 7:11-17 has been noted above. [ NJBC]

Verses 19-37: The terms of the unalterable covenant that God had once established with the Davidic dynasty. [ NOAB]

Note the marks of royal prerogative: anointing (v. 20), divine protection (vv. 21-22), victory (vv. 23-25), adoptive sonship (v. 27), personal dynasty (v. 28) and security (v. 29).

Verse 19: “faithful one”: That David is intended is supported by vv. 3-4; however elsewhere God appears to Nathan, rather than David. [ NOAB]

Verse 25: “sea ... rivers”: NJBC suggests a connection between the king’s successes and Yahweh’s triumph over, and subduing of, the waters.: see vv. 10-11.

Verse 27: “the firstborn”: 2:7 says that God says to the king in Jerusalem: “‘You are my son; today I have begotten you.’”. [ NOAB]

Verses 36-37: NJBC translates “in the skies” as in heaven. He says that a throne established forever in heaven means a dynasty exercising supreme dominion, unaffected by earthly adversaries.

Verse 37:“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).

The spirit of the psalm is like Isaiah 6:1-6 (Isaiah’s commissioning as a prophet).

Verses 38-45: The king has been defeated in battle, and it seems that God has forsaken his covenant. [ NOAB]

Verses 46-51: Prayer that God will remember his promises and give victory to David’s descendant. [ NOAB]

Verse 52: A doxology (not part of the psalm) marking the end of Book 3 (of 5) of Psalms. The psalter was divided in imitation of the Pentateuch. [ NOAB] The other books end with similar verses.

Ephesians 2:11-22

Epistles that all scholars accept as Pauline emphasize unity in diversity , but Ephesians seems to stress that cultural diversity, the distinction between Jew and Gentile, is a thing of the past. See also Colossians 3:11.

In Romans 5:10-11 and 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, Paul tells us that reconciliation primarily brings union with God.

Verse 11: CAB notes that, in that the terms “the uncircumcision” and “the circumcision” reflect a Jewish categorization of world humanity, the author is Jewish and Gentile readers are envisioned. These terms also appear in Colossians 3:11.

Verse 11: “‘the uncircumcision’”: This term carried a connotation of shame for not being God’s people.

Verse 11: “‘the uncircumcision’ ... ‘the circumcision’”: Since the distinction between Jew and Gentile is removed in Christ, these terms are obsolete. [ NOAB]

Verse 12: “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel”: The author uses the analogy of citizenship to describe the Gentiles’ estrangement from the people of God. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “covenants of promise”: In the sense that they are everlasting (see Isaiah 55:3; Ezekiel 37:26).

Verse 12: “without God”: See also Paul’s speech in front of the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17:22-31).

Verse 12: “hope”: messianic, and of resurrection.

Verse 13: For non-Jews having the same benefits as Jews through Christ, see also Galatians 6:16. For non-Jews having access to the covenants of promise, see also Galatians 3:14. [ CAB]

Verse 13: “far off ... near”: This is a sort of commentary on the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 57:18-19: “I have seen his ways and healed him; I have comforted him, giving him true comfort; peace without measure to those who are far off and those who are near. The Lord said, ‘I will heal them’”. (The NRSV translation is similar.) In the original meaning, it was the Diaspora Jews who were far off, but rabbinic commentary applied the verse to Gentile converts: a proselyte was “brought near” to the covenant. [ JBC] The terms are also used in v. 17.

Note also Zechariah 6:15: “Those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the Lord”. In letters which are generally accepted as Pauline, the reconciliation accomplished through the death of Christ brought peace and union with God: see Romans 5:10-11 and 2 Corinthians 5:18-20. In Ephesians, this understanding of reconciliation is expanded to include peace and unity between Gentiles and Jews. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “by the blood of Christ”: See also Mark 10:45; 14:24; Hebrews 9:11.

Verses 14-16: See also Colossians 1:15-20. Some say that this is a Christological hymn concerning the person and work of Christ. For other Christological hymns, see Philippians 2:6-11; 1 Peter 3:18-19, 22; John 1:1-18; Hebrews 1:1-3; 1 Timothy 3:16. [ CAB]

Verse 14: Paul makes the point that “there is no longer Jew or Greek ...” in Galatians 3:28. See also Romans 1:6. [ CAB]

Verse 14: “dividing wall”: In the Temple, there was a physical barrier (a low wall) between the Court of Israel and that of the Gentiles. Gentiles crossed this line on pain of death. [ NOAB] For Peter’s speech at Cornelius’ house about Jewish relations with Gentiles, see Acts 10:28ff.

Verse 15: Paul wrote that the old humanity has been alienated from God ever since Adam sinned, and that the new humanity is reconciled to Christ through the cross (Romans 5:12-17). But this seems not to be what the author of Ephesians is emphasizing.

Verse 16: “in one body”: See also Colossians 1:22. [ NJBC]

Verse 18: “access”: The word prosagoge denoted in Oriental courts the introduction of a person into the kings’ presence. [ JBC]

Verse 19: Christ unites separated children, Jews and Gentiles, and brings them into the intimacy of God’s family, his “household”. [ JBC] Note the Trinitarian formula. The Qumran community referred to itself as the “household of God”.

Verse 19: “citizens”: The imagery of v. 12 reappears.

Verse 19: “members of the household of God”: In 5:1, Christians are called “beloved children”. They are entitled to “the riches of his glorious inheritance” ( 1:18) that their father “lavished on us” ( 1:7-8). [ NJBC]

Verse 20: “apostles and prophets”: See also 3:5; 4:11; Acts 13:1 (the apostles and prophets in the church at Antioch). [ NOAB] Apostles and prophets receive special gifts. [ JBC]

Verse 20: “cornerstone”: This is a messianic term. See Isaiah 28:16 and Matthew 21:42. [ NOAB] 1 Corinthians 3:11 says that the “foundation is Jesus Christ”. [ NJBC]

Verses 21,22: “holy temple ... dwelling place”: See also 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and 1 Peter 2:4-5. [ NOAB]

Verse 21: CAB notes a shift in imagery for the Church: from “body” (v. 16) to “household” (v. 19) to a structure like a growing temple. I note a similar development in David’s lineage in 2 Samuel 7.

Verse 21: The church as building metaphor merges with the body image to create the picture of a building constructed of living stones that grow and develop into God’s dwelling place, the Temple. The body image is also found in 4:15-16. 2 Peter 2:4-5 says: “Come to him, a living stone,... and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house”. The Qumran community also understood itself as the temple of God. [ NJBC]

One scholar suggests that this passage is told in story form in the parable of the Prodigal Son (see Luke 15:11-32).

Mark 6:30-34,53-56

The parallels are Matthew 14:13-15, 34-36 and Luke 9:10-11. (There is no parallel to vv. 53-56 in Luke.)

I suggest that the creators of the Revised Common Lectionary have made an unfortunate choice in skipping v. 35-44 (the Feeding of the Five Thousand). Reading these verses helps to understand today’s reading. I note that the Feeding of the Five Thousand (from John) is the gospel next week. Mark’s version is the most complete.

The miracle of manna is described in Exodus 16:12-35. “Deserted place” occurs in vv. 31, 32, 35; “bread” (or an equivalent word) occurs in vv. 37, 38, 41 and 44; eating is mentioned in vv. 31, 36, 37, and 42-44. Eating and bread also occur in 6:52; 7:3, 27 and 8:14-21.

Verse 30: “apostles”: NJBC suggests that Mark may use “apostles” here because he has just used “disciples” to refer to the followers of John the Baptist in the previous verse. However, I note that apostoloi, literally those sent out , is particularly appropriate: they are those who have “done and taught”. Apostoloi may be used here in its non-technical sense, so emissaries is a good translation. [ BlkMk] See also just before the story of the death of John the Baptist, i.e. 6:6b-13, Jesus’ instructions to his followers for spreading the good news.

Verse 32: “they went away in the boat”: Mark seems to think of Jesus going from the western or north-western shore of the lake to a place on the eastern shore. [ BlkMk]

Verse 34: “like sheep without a shepherd”: In Numbers 27:16-17, Moses asks Yahweh: “‘Let the Lord , the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint someone over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep without a shepherd’”. Ezekiel 34:5 says: “they [the people of Israel] were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals”. See also 1 Kings 22:17 (Micaiah). [ NOAB]

Verses 35-44: Jesus is Messiah, saviour of his people. [ NJBC] The miraculous feeding of the people of Israel in the Sinai desert is described in Exodus 16 and Numbers 11. The procedure and language correspond with those of the Christian communal meal of the New Covenant evident in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Acts 2:46-47; 27:35-36. [ CAB] This story also points back to Elisha’s feeding of one hundred men in 2 Kings 4:38-44. The parallels in the other gospels are Matthew 14:15-21; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-15. The Feeding of the Four Thousand is found in Mark 8:1-10 and Matthew 15:32-39. [ NJBC]

Verse 36: Where Jesus, the disciples, and the crowd are could hardly be described as a “deserted place”, for there were several towns in the neighbourhood, so it is likely that there is a link here to the story of the gift of manna. [ NJBC]

Verse 37: “two hundred denarii”: i.e. What labourers earned in 200 days: a lot of money. The disciples come close to being hostile. [ NJBC] They misunderstand Jesus.

Verse 38: “fish”: Why “fish”? NJBC says that the most likely interpretation is they anticipate the sea creatures that, according to 2 Esdras 6:52 and 2 Baruch 29:4, will be part of the messianic banquet. [ NJBC] BlkMk says that there was a rabbinic belief that the sea-monster Leviathan would be given to the people as food at the messianic banquet. Bread and fish are used in early Christian art as symbols of the Eucharist.

Verses 39,40: “in groups”: The Greek literally means banquets or drinking parties. [ BlkMk] The point is that the crowd are orderly and act with decorum (hardly what one expects for empty stomachs!), thus contributing to the idea of the messianic banquet. [ NJBC]

Verse 40: “of hundreds and of fifties”: Groupings by hundreds and fifties is also found in Exodus 18:21 and in the Qumran War Scroll. [ BlkMk]

Verse 41: “he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves”: In 14:22, we read that at the Last Supper: “he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it”. This meal in the wilderness points forward to the Last Supper, which in turn points to the messianic banquet. [ NJBC] Jesus may well have used the usual Jewish prayer at the beginning of a meal. The father in a Jewish family “broke the loaves”. [ BlkMk]

Verse 43: “broken pieces”: The same Greek word appears in the context of the Eucharist in Didache 9 and in 1 Clement 34:7. [ HenMk] Perhaps “twelve” is symbolically linked with Israel. [ NJBC] It was considered good etiquette to collect the large pieces of left-over food after a Jewish banquet. [ BlkMk]

Verse 44: “five thousand men”: This is far more than Elisha fed. [ NJBC]

Verses 45-52: Jesus is Son of God. [ NJBC]

Verses 53-56: For belief in Jesus’ power to heal, see also Matthew 4:24; Mark 1:32-34; 3:10; Luke 4:40-41; 6:18, 19. [ NOAB] The enthusiastic reception given to him by the general populace contrasts with the carping attitude of the opponents in the following controversy: 7:1-23. [ NJBC]

Verse 53: In v. 45, the disciples set out to go to Bethsaida, at the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee; but somehow they disembark at Gennesaret, near the western tip of the Sea and some 12 km from their intended destination. (The Sea is 13 km, 8 miles, wide.) Mark appears to explain this by saying that the disciples strained at the oars against an “adverse wind” (v. 48), but it is likely that his sources differed as to where they landed. [ NJBC]

Verse 56: “begged”: Is Jesus still trying to avoid the crowds? [ JBC]

Verse 56: “fringe”: These are the four blue twisted threads (cords or tassels) at the corners of his cloak. In Numbers 15:38-40 God tells Moses to tell the Israelites: “to make fringes on the corners of their garments ... and to put a blue cord on the fringe at each corner. ... when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and not follow the lust of your own heart and your own eyes”. See also Deuteronomy 22:12. That Jesus wore this fringe indicates his observance of Mosaic law. [ NOAB]

Verse 56: “touched it”: The woman with haemorrhages was cured by touching his cloak: see 5:24-30. While those who touched him were healed, their touch made him ritually unclean. [ CAB]

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