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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost - November 11, 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.

Ruth 3:1-5;4:13-17

The story of Ruth and Boaz begins in 2:1.

3:1: “I need to seek some security for you”: Naomi has prayed, in 1:9, that Yahweh may grant both her daughters-in-law “security” in the form of husbands. [NOAB]

3:4,8: “feet”: The Hebrew word can mean genitals. That the relationship between Ruth and Boaz is honourable according to the standards of their time, however, is shown by subsequent events. [NOAB]

3:9: “spread your cloak over your servant”: To spread one’s cloak over a woman means to take her as one’s wife. [NOAB] NJBC points out that garments are often symbolic: e.g. Jonathan giving David his robe (1 Samuel 18:4) and Elisha inheriting prophetic powers from Elijah (2 Kings 2:13-14).

3:9: For the obligation of the “next-of-kin” to protect the honour and property of the family, see Leviticus 25:25 and Joshua 20:3 (where the “avenger of blood” is the deceased’s nearest relative). Further, for the obligation of a surviving brother was to marry the wife of his deceased brother, see Deuteronomy 25:5-6. The obligation of the latter law to Boaz is not obvious, since he was not Ruth’s brother-in-law. [NOAB] However, here it extends to other relatives as well. [CAB]

3:10-11: Boaz asks God to bless Ruth because she is looking for a husband in accordance with Israelite custom. [NOAB]

3:12-13: Boaz assures Ruth that the levirate marriage will be fulfilled, if not with her family’s nearest of kin then with him. [NJBC]

3:12: Boaz informs Ruth that there is another male relative who has a prior claim that must be respected. [NOAB]

3:15: “six measures of barley”: This is an enormous quantity. CAB suggests that Boaz may send such a large quantity of grain to Naomi in keeping with the law requiring that those who take on obligations to persons and property provide an offering of money or goods as evidence before Yahweh that the responsibility will be fulfilled completely in the future. See Leviticus 27:1-33.

3:18: Naomi is certain that Ruth’s status will be settled soon. [NOAB]

4:1: “the gate”: Such gates of a city were enclosed structures of more than one story with several rooms. This was where the elders met to adjudicate disputes, as they are commanded to do in Joshua 20:4. [NOAB] CAB says that “the gate” was a central open space, adjacent to the main city gate, where public discussion and official decisions by the leaders of the community took place.

4:2: “the elders of the city”: i.e. leading and influential men who interpreted traditional Israelite law and settled disputes. [NOAB] Note that there are ten of them, so they form a minion, the minimum number required for public worship.

4:6: “without damaging my own inheritance”: We are not told how the man’s inheritance would be jeopardized. [CAB]

4:7: The procedures described here do not follow the prescriptions of Deuteronomy 25:7-10: “But if the man has no desire to marry his brother's widow, then his brother's widow shall go up to the elders at the gate and say, ‘My husband's brother refuses to perpetuate his brother's name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband's brother to me.’ Then the elders of his town shall summon him and speak to him. If he persists, saying, ‘I have no desire to marry her,’ then his brother’s wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, pull his sandal off his foot, spit in his face, and declare, ‘This is what is done to the man who does not build up his brother's house.’ ...”. The precise way of handling such situations probably changed over time and differed regionally, as well. [NOAB]

NJBC sees this verse as parenthetic, a note to the first readers, that shows that even though the drama is set in early Israel it was actually written much later.

4:10: “may not be cut off from ... the gate of his native place”: i.e. maintain his place of honour in the community. [CAB]

4:12: “Tamar”: Her story is in Genesis 38. Her situation was like Ruth’s. There Judah offers each of his three oldest sons in marriage to her, but each dies. While Judah withholds his fourth son, the youngest, from her, she finds a way of having sons by him. These sons (twins) are “Perez” and Zerah. Vv. 18-22 say that Boaz is in the ancestral line from Perez to David. [NOAB] [HBD]

Psalm 127

Superscription : “A Song of Ascents: for Solomon”: “Ascents” may indicate that this psalm was sung by pilgrims going up to Jerusalem. Solomon is very much part of the wisdom tradition and was builder of the Temple. (See also Psalm 72; it bears the superscription “Of Solomon”.) [JBC] This would mean that “the house” (v. 1) is the Temple.

This psalm can be interpreted differently. One scholar sees it as an appeal to freedom from national anxiety, a freedom based on confidence in the God who built Israel’s chief city, and who continued to provide them with sons to assure the continuity of their historic life. NJBC sees vv. 1-2 as saying that anxiety has no place in the lives of the faithful, and links Matthew 6:25-34 to these verses.

This psalm is closely linked to Psalm 128. [NJBC]

A scholar believes that the two parts of the psalm (vv. 1-2 and vv. 3-5) were originally two independent poems.

Verse 1: “guards the city”: See also 121:4 for Yahweh as the guardian of Israel. [NJBC]

Verse 2: “sleep”: One scholar would translate this as honour; NJBC renders it prosperity.

Verse 5: “Happy”: Blessed is another translation. Beatitudes are characteristic of wisdom language. See also Psalms 1:1; 32:1; 34:8; Proverbs 3:13. [NJBC]

Hebrews 9:24-28

9:15-10:18: Christ’s death as the sacrifice ratifies forever the new covenant, replacing the elaborate but temporary system of purification decreed under the Law of ancient Israel. The latter dealt with sin at the earthly level and on a repeated, temporal basis, but Christ’s sacrifice for us was “once for all” (9:28) and has eternal effects. The new community now awaits his reappearance from heaven, when he will take its members forever into God’s presence. This radical change was anticipated in the Old Testament. No further offering for human sin is necessary. [CAB]

9:15: Christ’s death redeemed also the Old Testament saints (see also 11:39-40), and inaugurated the new covenant. See also Romans 3:24-25 and 1 Corinthians 11:25 (the Last Supper: “... This cup is the new covenant in my blood...”). [NOAB]

9:15,17: “covenant ... will”: The Greek word is the same, per the NRSV footnote. [NOAB]

9:18-20: See Exodus 24:6-8, where Moses says: “See the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words”. [NOAB]

9:23: “the heavenly things themselves need better sacrifices than these”: Does the author really mean that the heavenly tabernacle really needs purification? Surely not. There seems to be no satisfactory interpretation. NJBC suggests that the intermediate heavens may be in view, that they correspond to the outer part of the earthly tabernacle. Perhaps Job 15:15 may then be pertinent: “God puts no trust even in his holy ones, and the heavens are not clean in his sight”.

9:24: “mere copy”: The Greek word is antitypon, antitype, but with the meaning of “copy”. [NJBC]

9:24: “to appear in the presence of God on our behalf”: See also 7:25 and Romans 8:34, where Paul writes: “It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us”. [NJBC]

9:25-26: While the author rejects repeated suffering by Jesus, he does not reject the eternal presence of his one sacrifice. [NJBC] The author may use the language of Platonism, with its eternal heavenly reality contrasted with temporal earthly shadow, but he modifies it in view of his strong Christian faith: it is Jesus’ sacrifice on earth that really counts.

9:25: The high priest entered the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement. As noted in Comments last week, the author earlier used “Holy Place” as the name of the outer “tent”. Here he must mean the Holy of Holies. For the Day of Atonement liturgy, see Leviticus 16:1-34, especially v. 14: “He shall take some of the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle the blood with his finger seven times”.

9:28: “the sins of many”: See also Isaiah 53:12 (part of the fourth Servant Song, “... he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors ...”); Mark 10:45 (“... the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many”); Romans 5:19; Revelation 7:9-10. [NOAB]

9:28: “appear a second time”: The author may also be thinking of the emergence of the high priest from the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement. See also Acts 1:10-11 (“... This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven”) and Philippians 3:20. [NOAB] The appearance of Jesus will be like that of the high priest emerging from the Holy of Holies. For a fine portrait of the high priest’s emergence, see Sirach 50:1-5. [NJBC]

9:28: “save”: See also 1:14. [NJBC]

Mark 12:38-44

The parallels of vv. 38-40 are Matthew 23:1-36 [CAB] and Luke 20:45-47. The parallel of vv. 41-44 is Luke 21:1-4. [NOAB]

Verse 39: “best seats in the synagogues”: James 2:2-3 asks rhetorically: “For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please,’ while to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there,’ or, ‘Sit at my feet,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?”. [NOAB]

Verse 39: “places of honour”:In Luke 11:43, Jesus says: “Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honour in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces’. See also Luke 14:7-11. [NOAB]

Verse 41: “putting money into the treasury”: There were thirteen chests in the temple court, each one labelled with the purpose to which the funds would be put. The chests were shaped like an inverted trumpet – for protection against theft. [NOAB]

Verse 42: “small copper coins”: i.e. lepta. [NJBC]

Verse 42: “penny”: A labourer’s daily wage was 64 pennies. [NOAB] The Greek word is quadrans, meaning a fourth part; hence the translation farthing in the King James Version.

Verse 43: Jesus’ words are a paradox which require the disciples to do some thinking.

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