Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost - October 17, 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.

Job 38:1-7,(34-41)

Our passage logically follows Chapter 31. (Many consider Elihu’s speech in Chapters 32-37 to be a later insertion.) In 31:35-37, Job has said: “O that I had one to hear me! ... Let the Almighty answer me!”

Job complains of God’s indifference and injustice. Now God responds with a series of rhetorical questions which point to the absolute sovereignty of God as evident in the establishment of the earth, the control of the seas, the continuing pattern of alternating day and night, his ability to shape the surface of the earth, and his ability to get rid of the wicked. Under God’s sovereignty are access to Sheol, control of the seasons and fertility cycles, the movement of the stars and clouds, and the life of wild animals and war horses. [ CAB]

Another scholar: Throughout, Job has asked why misfortune happened (e.g. 3:11, 16, 20; 13:24). The Yahweh now offers him the right to challenge the divine rule, but first he has questions to ask Job. Their apparent purpose is to lead Job into the mystery of God’s creation, of which Job and his suffering form only one part. The questions range through the whole of creation: earth (vv. 4-7); Sheol (vv. 16-18); “light, and ... darkness” (vv. 19-21); weather phenomena (vv. 22-30); the constellations (vv. 31-33); “clouds” and “waters” (vv. 34-38); providential care of the animal world (from “lions” to “eagle”) ( 38:39-39:30).

The questions mentioned in Comments and their verses are:

Were you present at creation? vv. 4-15
Do you know your way around the cosmos? vv. 16-24
Would you know how to operate it? vv. 25-33
Would creation and creatures obey your commands? vv. 34-38
Are you capable of providing for animals and birds? 38:39-39:30

38:1: “whirlwind”: For other theophanies, see Nahum 1:3 (“His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet”); Zechariah 9:14 (“Then [at the end of the era] the Lord will appear over them, and his arrow go forth like lightning; the Lord GOD will sound the trumpet and march forth in the whirlwinds of the south”); Psalms 18:7-15; 50:3; Ezekiel 1:4; Habakkuk 3.

38:2: “counsel”: i.e. the sum total of God’s plans and works. Who and what, after all, is Job? Is he another god, a rival to Yahweh? [ NJBC]

38:3: “I will question you, and you shall declare to me”: Job has rashly invited this in 13:22: “Then call, and I will answer; or let me speak, and you reply to me”. [ NJBC]

38:3: “shall declare”: The REB says “must answer”.

38:4-15: The origins of the earth, sea and light are described in reverse order to Genesis 1:3-10, in vv. 4-7, 8-11 and 12-15 respectively. While the creation of the earth was greeted with shouts of joy, the sea is pictured at first as a baby which needed and received Yahweh’s tender care. [ NJBC]

38:13-14: The imagery is obscure to us. [ NJBC] To CAB, the combination of images of shaking dust from a cloth and of a mould that shapes clay is used to describe God’s ability to shape the surface of the earth and to get rid of the wicked.

38:19: “dwelling ... place”: i.e. where light and darkness are kept when they are not in use, i.e. light during the night and darkness during the day. [ NJBC]

38:22: “storehouses”: i.e. where God keeps the elements ready for use. [ NJBC]

38:25-33: God provides the elements, but not exclusively for human benefit. [ NJBC]

38:31-32: Stars and constellations (“Pleiades”, “Orion”) were regarded as having an effect on the weather; hence their position here. [ NJBC]

38:39-39:30: Nine creatures are described in increasing detail. The first seven are free and independent of human beings. [ NJBC]

39:26-30: NJBC considers that these verses belong after 38:41. He notes the common theme of their young ones in 38:39, 41; 39:3-4 and 39:30. The three birds go together, symmetrically with the three animals that follow. Further, he considers 39:13-18 to be an insertion that breaks the symmetry. There are then seven strophes of 3, 4; 4, 4, 4, 4; 4, 3 lines.

38:39-41;39:26-30: Can Job feed the little ones? [ NJBC]

39:1-12: Are the wildest animals under God’s control?:

  • Even though mountain goats need no human help in giving birth, God even knows the dates of their pregnancies
  • God ensures that the wild ass finds the pasture it needs
  • The wild ox serves him (although God’s question seems unreasonable: the animal is a rimu, a kind of buffalo, now extinct, powerful and dangerous to humans). [ NJBC]

39:13-18: The ostrich. This section is not in the Septuagint translation, so is a comparatively recent addition. It does not make a specific point about Job’s inability to control created-ness (unlike the other sections). It is linked to the older material by v. 18b. It contrasts the (apparent) callousness of the bird and its remarkable speed. For its proverbial callousness, see Lamentations 4:3: “... my people has become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness.” [ NJBC]

39:19-25: The horse, an animal which impressed the author.

40:3-5: Is Job’s elaborate statement – of silence – evasive, humble, or defiant? He does not say that he has sinned. But note 42:7: while God is angry with Eliphaz and his two friends, he is at peace with Job, for Job has spoken of God “what is right”. [ NOAB]

Psalm 104:1-9,25,35b

One division of the rest of the psalm is:

vv. 10-18 God’s continuing care for the earth and its inhabitants, animal and human
v. 19 God’s careful demarcation of the limits of months and days
vv. 21-23 The ways predatory animals and humans use day and night
vv. 25 Summary of God’s works
v. 26 The sea
vv. 27-30 Longer summary
vv. 31-34 Concluding act of praise
v. 35 Prayer for the restoration of the original, intended, harmony of creation

Verse 1: “Bless the Lord, O my soul”: Probably added in imitation of the last verse of the previous psalm. [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “honour and majesty”: A nimbus of radiance is characteristic of gods in the ancient Near East. [ NJBC]

Verses 2-4: This is a much more mythological account of the creation of the heavens than in Genesis 1. [ NOAB]

Verse 2: “light”: Genesis 1:3 says “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light”; 1 Timothy 6:16 says “It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen”. [ NOAB]

Verses 2b,3a: “stretch out ... on the waters”: Genesis 1:6-8 tells of the creation of the sky, the separator between waters Psalm 29:10 says “The Lord sits enthroned over the flood ...”.

Verse 3: “clouds”: 68:4 says “... lift up a song to him [God] who rides upon the clouds ...”.

Verse 3: “clouds ... wind”: The wind blows from the Mediterranean. See also Psalm 29.

Verse 4: “fire and flame”: This could be a reference to lightning. This verse is quoted in Hebrews 1:7.

Verse 5a: In Job 38:4, Yahweh asks Job: “"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”.

Verse 6: “the waters stood above the mountains”: Genesis 7:19-20, describing the Flood, says: “The waters swelled so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered; the waters swelled above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep”. [ NJBC]

Verses 7-9: God’s rule is based on his control over the powers of chaos, symbolized by the waters of the sea. See also 74:12-17 (“... You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the dragons in the waters ...”) and Job 38:8-11. [ NOAB]

Verse 9: “so that they might not again cover the earth”: In Jeremiah 5:22, Yahweh says through the prophet: “I placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail, though they roar, they cannot pass over it”. See also Proverbs 8:29. [ NJBC] The mountains were inundated once more, at the time of the Flood.

Verses 13-14: The winter rain and its effects. [ NJBC]

Verse 29: “breath”: The Hebrew word is ru’ah. It is also translated as spirit and as wind. Human beings are dependent on God for agriculture and food production. [ NJBC]

Verse 30: The west wind (“spirit”) brings rain that will recreate or renew the earth with vegetation. These are autumnal rains, so we have now completed the agricultural year, which began in v. 13. See also Isaiah 32:15-20; 44:2-4. In Genesis 8:22, God promises: “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease”. [ NJBC]

Verse 31: “glory”: The Hebrew word is kabod. It probably refers to the magnificence of the created world, the visible manifestation of God’s glory. See also 19:2. Agriculture is precarious: it is possible that the hot, dry east wind will continue to blow and the rains may not come. [ NJBC]

Verse 35a: Characteristically, the Revised Common Lectionary omits this half verse. The presence of sinners may cause God to refrain from sending the autumnal rains as punishment, so may they be annihilated. [ NJBC]

Verse 35b: “Praise the Lord !”: This belongs to the next psalm, which ends with this exclamation.

Hebrews 5:1-10

4:14-5:14: The author resumes the theme of Jesus our high priest. In 2:17-18, the author says of Christ: “he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested”. Jesus has two qualifications of a priest: divine appointment (see 5:4) and the ability to “sympathize with our weaknesses” ( 4:15). [ NOAB]

4:14: “great high priest”: Philo uses this designation for the Logos (the “Word” of John 1:1-14) in his writings. Elsewhere in Hebrews, Christ is simply the “high priest”. The author may include “great” here because he is making a comparison. [ NJBC]

4:14: “who has passed through the heavens”: The author has the pre-existence of Christ in mind. 1:1-2 says: “God ... has spoken to us by a Son, ... through whom he also created the worlds”. Note the plurals. The Greek word translated as “worlds”, aion, can also mean ages. There appears to be the concept of a number of worlds, the visible and the invisible, the latter being several heavens. 2 Enoch 3-20 also speak of multiple heavens. [ NJBC]

4:15-16: Because Christ experienced real, human testing, he is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses”. [ NOAB]

4:15: “tested as we are, yet without sin”: The author says that the only difference between Jesus’ temptations and ours is that he did not succumb to them. [ NJBC]

4:16: At God’s “throne of grace” (see also 8:1 and 12:2) humans “receive mercy” for past sins and “find grace” for present and future “need”. [ NOAB] Here the author thinks of the confident access to God that has been assured by the redemptive work of Jesus. [ NJBC]

5:1: “gifts and sacrifices”: To NOAB, grain and animal sacrifices; however NJBC thinks that no such distinction is intended. As Chapter 9 shows, the author is principally concerned with the Day of Atonement rite prefiguring Christ’s offering of himself. [ NJBC]

5:2: The Old Testament provides no way of atoning for deliberate and defiant (high-handed) sins. Numbers 15:30 says “... whoever acts high-handedly ... affronts the Lord, and shall be cut off from among the people”, i.e. receive the death penalty. Deuteronomy 17:12 is even stronger: “As for anyone who presumes to disobey the priest appointed to minister there to the LORD your God, or the judge, that person shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.” [ NOAB]

5:2: “deal gently”: The Greek word corresponds to a term of Stoic philosophy signifying the right mean between passion and lack of feeling . [ NJBC]

5:2: “ignorant and wayward”: The way of atoning for unwitting sins (those committed unintentionally) is given in Leviticus 4. [ NOAB]

5:4: “Aaron”: In Exodus 28:1 God chooses Aaron and his sons as priests. [ NOAB]

5:5: “‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’”: This is also found in Psalm 2:7, so the author may be reinterpreting this psalm in Christian terms, as was often done with Psalm 110:4. It is also found in some manuscripts of Luke 3:22. [ CAB]

5:6,10: Psalm 110 begins: “The Lord [ Yahweh] says to my lord ...”. In Judaism, “my lord” is David, but early Christians reinterpreted it as Christ; thus God the Father says to God the Son, the Lord. So “you” here is Christ. Then in v. 4 it speaks of Yahweh swearing “‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’”. In Hebrews 7:1-10, the author deduces from Genesis 14:17-20 (where King Melchizedek of Salem, a “priest of God Most High”, brings out “bread and wine” and blesses Abram, and in return receives a tithe from him) that this mysterious priest-king was greater than both Abraham and his descendant Levi. Psalm 110:4 is also quoted in 7:17, 21. [ NOAB]

5:6: “the order of Melchizedek”: i.e. According to the rank which Melchizedek held. [ NOAB]

5:7-8: Note that one trait Jesus does not share with the Judaic high priest is being “subject to weakness” (v. 2). In 7:28, the author specifically contrasts Jesus with the Jewish high priest in this respect. It is important, however, to note that the contrast applies to the present exalted state of Christ. While on earth, Jesus experienced the weakness of human nature, especially its fear of death. Exalted, he can sympathize with those who are weak. Paul’s concept is similar: “he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God” (2 Corinthians 13:4). [ NJBC]

At Gethsemane, Jesus “prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him ... He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want’” (Mark 14:35-36). [ NOAB] So the question arises: in what way was Jesus heard? God was able to save him from dying, to rescue him, but he did not. So perhaps there is a double meaning here – or does the author see the resurrection as God’s answer to the prayer of Gethsemane?

5:8: “Although he was a Son”: The author considers Jesus’ sonship in two different ways:

  • He became Son when exalted, and
  • He was always Son because he existed with the Father even before he appeared on earth.

Later theology said that the resurrection-exaltation gave Jesus’ human nature full participation in his divine nature. The two concepts are entirely compatible. [ NJBC]

5:8: “learned ... through what he suffered”: Learning through suffering is common in contemporary Greek literature, but the idea occurs only three times in the New Testament: here, in Romans 5:19, and in Philippians 2:8. [ NJBC]

5:9: “made perfect”: Jesus completed his divinely appointed discipline for priesthood. This phrase is characteristic of this letter (see also 2:10; 7:19, 28; 9:9; 10:1, 14; 11:40; 12:23) and means made complete, brought to maturity. [ NOAB] The Greek word, teleosis, is used in the Septuagint translation of priestly consecration, translating a Hebrew phrase to fill [the hands]: see Exodus 29:9, 29, 33, 35; Leviticus 16:32; 21:10; Numbers 3:3. This cultic notion of perfection is certainly present in Hebrews. [ NJBC] NOAB says: Jesus completed his divinely appointed discipline for the priesthood.

5:9: “eternal salvation”: Our salvation is “once, for all”, not salvation from our sins until next time we sin (and again present ourselves on the annual Day of Atonement). 9:12 says: “he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption”. [ NOAB]

The author uses the word “eternal” here and in 9:12, 14, 15; 13:20 (but not in 6:2) to speak of realities that endure because they belong to the heavenly sphere, which is characterized by permanence, as opposed to the transitory realities of earth. [ NJBC]

Mark 10:35-45

The parallels are Matthew 20:20-28 and Luke 22:24-27. [ NOAB]

Verse 35: ”James and John”: Of the disciples, only Peter, James and John (the inner circle) were present in the Garden of Gethsemane and at the Transfiguration. They should have known better than to make such a request. [ NJBC]

Verse 37: In Matthew 20:20, it is their mother who asks on their behalf. Perhaps Matthew softened the request. See also Matthew 19:28. Perhaps the image is of Jesus enthroned as eschatological judge. [ NJBC]

Verse 38: In 14:36, in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus asks: “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want”. See also Luke 12:50; John 18:11. [ NOAB]

Verse 38: “cup”: What is allotted by God may be a blessing (see Psalms 16:5; 116:13; Jeremiah 16:7) or an (adverse) judgement (see Isaiah 51:17-22; Lamentations 4:21; Psalm 75:8; Jeremiah 25:15-18; Habakkuk 2:15-16). [ JBC] The cup as Jesus’ suffering and death is mentioned in Luke 22:20 and John 18:11. Two examples of the user of the word “cup” are:

  • as a blessing: “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116:13)
  • as a judgement: “to you also the cup shall pass; you shall become drunk and strip yourself bare” (Lamentations 4:21).

Note Isaiah 51:22: “See, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering; you shall drink no more from the bowl of my wrath”. For the cup as an image in the passion story, see 14:23 and 14:36. [ NJBC]

Verse 38: “baptized”: In 1:4, John the Baptizer calls people to baptism “with water”, thereby symbolizing recognition and confession of sin together with acceptance of God’s judgement and forgiveness. [ NOAB]

Verse 39: “We are able”: During the Passion, these disciples show cowardice! [ NJBC]

Verse 39: “The cup that I drink”: Jesus may mean that James and John will suffer martyrdom.

Verse 40: This verse seems to imply subordination of the Son to the Father. This was exploited by the Arian heretics in the early centuries of the Church.

Verse 40: “has been prepared”: In Matthew 20:23 the phrase is made more precise by adding “by my Father”. [ NOAB] For whom these places are prepared is not made clear. [ NJBC]

Verse 42: NJBC suggests that there may be irony here, for only God is the ultimate sovereign. Exercise of power impresses people, but Jesus was the exception to the rule. See also Matthew 4:8-10; 11:8; Luke 4:5-8; 7:25. [ BlkMk]

Verse 43: “servant”: The Greek word is diakonos. A “slave”, doulos, ranked below a diakonos. Here the deacon is the highest order of ministry. By the time of 1 Timothy 3:8-13, and perhaps in Philippians 1:1, diakonos had become an ecclesiastical technical term, though elsewhere in the letters generally accepted as being by Paul diakonos means servant or minister in a general sense.

Verse 45: “Son of Man”: Here this term denotes Jesus’ authority, and his own voluntary lowliness. [ JBC]

Verse 45: “to give his life”: A reference to 1 Maccabees 2:50; 6:44 where the phrase refers to martyrdom. [ NJBC]

Verse 45: “ransom”: The Greek word, lytron, conveys the idea of deliverance by purchase on behalf of a captive, slave or criminal. [ NJBC] During the Last Supper, Jesus says: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” ( 14:24). See also Luke 4:18 and 1 Timothy 2:5-6.

Verse 45: “for many”: This echoes Isaiah 53:11-12 (part of a Servant Song): the Servant “... bore the sin of many ...”. [ NJBC]

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