Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost - September 19, 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.

Proverbs 31:10-31

Verse 1: “Lemuel. An oracle”: The Hebrew text is obscure; two translations of the Hebrew are possible:

  • “Lemuel. An oracle”: Here massa is translated as “oracle”. Note the possible parallel with 30:1: “The words of Agur son of Jake”. [ NOAB]
  • Lemuel of Massa: The tribe of Massa was in northern Arabia, so on this reading, he was a foreigner in Israelite terms. Per Genesis 25:14, Massa was a descendant of Ishmael, Abraham’s son by Hagar. [ CAB] Wisdom under God is important for foreigners too.

However, NJBC says that “Lemuel” may be fictitious.

Verse 1: “that his mother taught him”: For the importance of a mother’s teaching, see also 1:8 (“do not reject your mother's teaching”) and 6:20. The preparation of future rulers for their duties was also a concern in Egyptian wisdom literature. [ NJBC]

Verses 3-7: These warnings about loose women and drink are reminiscent of Chapters 1-9. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “strong drink”: It does, however, have appropriate uses: for easing the pain of those near death and for those in hopeless misery. [ CAB]

Verses 8-9: The major positive advice is that the king uphold the rights of the poor. [ CAB] See also 16:10-15. [ NJBC]

Verses 10-31: This poem is acrostic: each of the verses begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Finding wisdom is also mentioned in Job 28:12, 20. [ NOAB] These verses may form an interpretative framework for the whole book. To NJBC, the wife is an everyday, practical, and domestic counterpart to the exalted, didactic, and public figure of Wisdom presented in Chapters 1-9. Indeed, she may represent Wisdom finally settled down in her house and serving those who have accepted her invitation.

Verse 10a: A rhetorical question which emphasizes the incomparable value of this woman. [ NJBC]

Verse 10: “wife”: The advantages of a good wife appear five times in Proverbs ( 5:15-19; 11:16; 12:4; 18:22; 19:14) and three times in Sirach ( 7:19; 26:1-4, 13-18).

Verse 10: “more precious than jewels”: Wisdom is compared to jewels in 3:14-15; 8:10-11; 16:16; 20:15. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verses 11-12: Comments: The wife’s values to her husband are reminiscent of those of wisdom to her followers.: See 3:13-18 and 4:6 (“Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you”). [ NJBC]

Verse 15: 9:1-3 also speak of Wisdom going about household duties: “Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars. She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table. She has sent out her servant girls ...”.

Verse 25: “laughs at the time to come”: In 1:26, Wisdom warns: “I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you”.

Verse 28: 27:1-2 advises: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. Let another praise you, and not your own mouth – a stranger, and not your own lips”.

Psalm 1

This psalm looks almost like an expansion of Jeremiah 17:5-8: “... Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord . They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit”. [ NOAB]

A variant of Acts 13:33 calls Psalm 2 the first psalm. A scholar claims that Psalms 1 and 2 were originally one psalm.

Verse 1: “Happy”: Literally the happiness of. [ NOAB] This is typical of wisdom literature. Proverbs 3:13 says “Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding”. See also Proverbs 8:32-33; Psalms 32:1; 34:9. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: See also Psalm 119, a psalm about the benefits of keeping the Law. [ NOAB] The identification of wisdom with the Torah suggests that this psalm is late post-exilic. See also Sirach 24. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “yield their fruit”: See also Jeremiah 17:7-8 (quoted above) and Psalm 92:13-15. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “chaff that the wind drives away”: Zephaniah 2:1-2 advises: “Gather together, gather, O shameless nation, before you are driven away like the drifting chaff, before there comes upon you the fierce anger of the Lord, before there comes upon you the day of the Lord's wrath”. See also Job 21:18 and Isaiah 17:13. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “way of the righteous ... way of the wicked”: For the two ways, see also Deuteronomy 30:15-20. The “way of the wicked” forms an inclusio with the “path that sinners tread” in v. 1. [ NJBC] The Didache (mid second century AD, or later) and the Epistle of Barnabas (circa 130 AD) also speak of the “two ways”.

James 3:13-4:3,7-8a

In the Jewish view, the teacher is almost identical with wisdom. Paul’s understanding of wisdom is found in 1 Corinthians 1-4, especially 2:6-16: “... among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God's wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory ...”. [ NJBC] True wisdom is not a human achievement, but is from God. It reveals itself in a good life. [ NOAB]

3:13: “works”: The teaching of 2:14-26 (“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? ...”) is here applied to wisdom. [ NJBC]

3:13: “gentleness”: The word in the Greek is prayte . It is also found in Galatians 5:23; 6:1; Ephesians 4:2; 2 Timothy 2:25; Titus 3:2; 1 Peter 3:16; Matthew 5:5 (in the teaching of Jesus, NRSV: “meek”); Matthew 11:29 (in the example of Jesus). [ CAB] [ NJBC]

3:14: In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul writes: “... we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us”. [ CAB]

3:14: “hearts”: Paul prays that the Lord “may strengthen their hearts in holiness” in 1 Thessalonians 3:13.

3:14: “the truth”: That Christian revelation, as put into practice by the wise person is meant is also the case in 1:18 and 5:19. [ NJBC]

3:15: On (true) wisdom being of heavenly origin, see also Proverbs 2:6; 8:22-31; Wisdom of Solomon 7:25; 9:4, 9-10; Sirach 1:1-4, 24. Paul opposes divine wisdom to the wisdom “of the world” (see 1 Corinthians 1:20), which characterizes the person who is “unspiritual” (see 1 Corinthians 2:14). [ NJBC] See also the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10, the Beatitudes) and 2 Corinthians 4:7.

3:16: “envy and selfish ambition”: These vices are in the lists of 2 Corinthians 12:20 (NRSV: “selfishness”) and Galatians 5:19-21 (NRSV: ”quarrels”). [ CAB] Zeloo (“envy”) means moved with jealousy in this context. Erithea (“selfish ambition”) has the connotation of factious and seeking to win followers in rivalry with other factions.

3:17: Wisdom and godliness are intimately connected: see Job 28:28 (“the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom”) and Sirach 19:22-24. [ NOAB]

3:17: “wisdom from above”: See Clipping on 3:15.

3:18: See also Isaiah 32:16-18; Amos 6:12; Proverbs 11:30 (“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life ...”); Matthew 5:6 (“‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled’”), 9-10; 2 Corinthians 9:10; Philippians 1:11; Hebrews 12:11. [ NOAB] [ CAB]

3:18: This verse is reminiscent of the association of wisdom, peace and righteousness in the Septuagint translation of Proverbs 3:9 (Honour the Lord with your just labours, and give him the first of your fruits of righteousness), 17-18; 11:30 and of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:9: “‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’”). [ NJBC] [ BLXX]

4:1: “conflicts and disputes”: These words probably refer to the human situation in general rather than specific events. See also 1 Peter 2:11. [ CAB] NJBC offers wars and fightings.

4:1: “cravings”: See also Romans 7:5-25; 1 Peter 2:11-12; Titus 3:3 (“... we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another”). [ NOAB]

4:2: “because you do not ask”: This echoes, in negative form, the gospel exhortations on prayer: see Matthew 7:7-11; Mark 11:24 (“‘... whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours’”); John 14:13-14; 1 John 3:22. Prayer corrects envious desires, centring instead on actual needs. [ NJBC]

4:3: See also 1:5-8; 5:13-18; Luke 11:9-13. For the proper approach to prayer in other books, see 1 John 5:14 (“... if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us”) and Matthew 6:33. [ NJBC]

4:4: “Adulterers”: The Old Testament prophets pictured the covenant as a marriage between God and Israel. This epithet reflects Old Testament prophetic representation of unfaithfulness to God as adultery (see Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 3:6-10; Ezekiel 16; Hosea 2:2; 3:1), perhaps echoing the usage of Jesus: In Matthew 12:39, he answers some scribes and Pharisees who seek a sign from him with “‘An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah’”. See also Matthew 16:4 and Mark 8:38. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

4:4: “world”: This pejorative sense of “world” (i.e. opposition to God) is also found in Paul’s writings, 2 Peter, John and 1 John. [ NJBC]

4:4: “enmity with God”: In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says: “‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth’”. See also Luke 16:11. [ NOAB]

4:5: The quotation is not in the Bible. It may be an allusion to Exodus 20:5: “... I the Lord your God am a jealous God...”. See also Deuteronomy 4:24 (“... the Lord your God is a devouring fire, a jealous God”) and Zechariah 8:2. [ NOAB] On the other hand, the author may be quoting an apocryphal work or a lost variant from a Greek version of the Old Testament. [ NJBC]

4:5: “spirit”: i.e. the inner, God-given life breathed into humans at their creation. 2:26 says “... the body without the spirit is dead ...”. [ NJBC]

4:6: The quotation is from the Septuagint translation of Proverbs 3:34. [ NOAB] 1 Peter 5:5-9 also quotes this verse in the context of submission to God and rejection of the devil. This is an example of common dependence of James and 1 Peter (and other early Christian writings) on a shared stock of Bible-based parenesis (teaching material). [ NJBC]

4:7-10: The ten imperatives are a development based on the Septuagint translation of Proverbs 3:34. [ NJBC]

4:7: “Submit yourselves therefore to God”: 1 Peter 5:6 says: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time”. [ CAB]

4:7: “Resist the devil”: 1 Peter 5:9 advises: “Resist him [the devil], steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering”. [ CAB]

4:8: “double-minded”: The Greek word is not known in Greek literature prior to James, but its background in Old Testament theology has to do with those who cannot commit themselves wholly to God. It is also found in 1:7. [ CAB]

4:9: See also Isaiah 32:11; Jeremiah 4:13 and Micah 2:4. [ NOAB]

4:10: A common scriptural theme. See also Job 5:11; 22:29; Psalm 149:4; Proverbs 3:34; 29:25; Matthew 18:14; 1 Peter 5:6. [ CAB] This reflects the teaching of Jesus: in Matthew 23:12, he says: “‘All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted’”. See also Luke 14:11. [ NJBC]

4:11-12: The author writes of another cause of quarrels: judging others, rather than leaving judgement to God. The stricture against judging others is also found in Matthew 7:1-5; Luke 6:37-42; Romans 2:1; 14:4, 10. But the notion that in judging others one is going against the “law” to love one’s neighbour is unique to James. [ NJBC]

4:11: “Do not speak evil against one another”: Leviticus 19:16 commands: “You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people”. See also Psalm 50:20; Proverbs 20:13; Romans 1:30; 2 Corinthians 12:20; 1 Peter 2:1. [ CAB]

4:12: “one”: i.e. God. [ NOAB]

4:12: “to save and to destroy”: A notion also found in Matthew 16:25, where Jesus says “‘ those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it’”, and Luke 6:9. [ NJBC]

Mark 9:30-37

Verses 30-32: The parallels are Matthew 17:22-23 and Luke 9:43-45. [ NOAB]

Verse 30: “They went on ...”: Thus Mark introduces a new scene. A similar formula is found in 7:24: “From there he set out and went away ...”.

Verse 30: “He did not want anyone to know it”: Jesus is notably more concerned about news spreading of who he is in Jewish territory than he is in Gentile territory.

Verse 31: “betrayed”: Delivered is another possible translation of the Greek. This theme becomes increasingly important from now on ( 14:21, 41; 15:1, 10, 15). Jesus’ death is pivotal to the divine plan of salvation. The mode of Jesus’ death is not made clear. Jesus’ teaching also emphasizes his violent death and his resurrection in 8:31; 10:33-34 and Luke 9:22. [ NJBC]

Verses 33-37: The parallels are Matthew 18:1-5 and Luke 9:46-48. [ NOAB]

Verse 33: “Capernaum”: Two other verses in Mark also tell us about Jesus in Capernaum:

  • 1:21: “They [Jesus and his disciples] went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught” and
  • 2:1: “When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home”.

Verse 33: "the house": 1:29 says “As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John”.

Verse 34: Luke 22:24 also tells us of the disciples arguing over rank. [ NOAB]

Verse 34: “who was the greatest”: Matthew 18:1 adds “in the kingdom of heaven”. James and John, in Mark 10:37, suggest an eschatological context, but in our reading nothing suggests such a context. [ NJBC]

Verse 35: In 10:43-44, Jesus says: “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all”. This notion is also found in Matthew 20:26-27; 23:11; Luke 9:48; 22:26. [ NOAB]

Verse 36: 10:16 also tells us of Jesus’ concern for children: “he took them [little children] up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them”. [ NOAB]

Verses 38-40: There are other ways to ultimate goodness, i.e. God, than being an explicit follower of Jesus.

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