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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost - November 18, 2012



Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures

Saint Dominic
contemplating the Scriptures

Comments have been prepared by Chris Haslam using reputable commentaries, and checked for accuracy by the Venerable Alan T Perry, of the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton. While not intended to be exhaustive, they are an aid to reading the Scriptures with greater understanding.

Comments are best read with the lessons.

Feedback to is always welcome.


Lessons for this week from the Vanderbilt University web site

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1 Samuel

At one time, the first and second books of Samuel formed a single book. They were separated in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures known as the Septuagint (about 250 BC). 1 Samuel begins with the story of Samuel: hence the name. 1 Samuel is the first of four books which tell the story of Israel's monarchy. Samuel anointed the first king. We then read about King Saul, and later about David's rise to prominence.


1 Samuel 1:4-20

In the time before the monarchy, Elkanah is on his annual pilgrimage to the temple at Shiloh. He has taken his two wives and Peninnah’s children with him. There he participates in a sacrificial meal. God has made Hannah childless (v. 5b); in spite of this, Elkanah “loved her” and gave her “a double portion” of food and drink. “Her rival” (v. 6), Peninnah (v. 4), has taunted her over her barrenness for many years. In spite of her husband’s love and considerate attitude towards her, she has reached the point where she can take it no longer.

This year, after the meal, Hannah goes to the entrance of the temple, where she meets Eli, the priest. (The Jerusalem Temple was yet to be built.) She prays to God and makes a vow: if God will grant her a son, she will make him a “nazirite” (v. 11), a person dedicated (consecrated) to God who will refrain from drink, and not allow his head to be shaved. A first-born son was always dedicated to God, but Hannah offers more:

  • he will be a nazirite throughout his life, and
  • a first-born son was not expected to go as far as becoming a nazirite.
  • Prayer was usually aloud, so Eli (knowing that all have been drinking) thinks Hannah’s silence in prayer is because she is drunk (vv. 13-14). She answers him very coherently (vv. 15-16). Eli realizes his error of judgement, and intercedes with God on her behalf (v. 17). She trusts in God to grant her wish (v. 18). After returning home, Samuel is born to her and Elkanah. Hannah does fulfill her promise. When Samuel is weaned, she takes him to Eli in the temple and gives him to the Lord (v. 24). Samuel is God’s gift to an oppressed woman; his life is God’s gift, and in return his mother gives his life to God (vv. 27-28).


    1 Samuel

    At one time, the first and second books of Samuel formed a single book. They were separated in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures known as the Septuagint (about 250 BC). 1 Samuel begins with the story of Samuel: hence the name. 1 Samuel is the first of four books which tell the story of Israel's monarchy. Samuel anointed the first king. We then read about King Saul, and later about David's rise to prominence.


    1 Samuel 2:1-10

    Hannah is leaving Samuel with Eli, but before heading home with Elkanah, she recites a prayer of thanksgiving. But look at vv. 9-10: what do these verses have to do with Samuel? Scholars agree that an editor has inserted a much later prayer into older material: the notions of guarding the faithful and cutting off (condemning) the wicked are post-exilic (after 450 BC). Notice “king” in v. 10: either this refers to the monarchy (which did not exist) or it is speaking of a future ideal king, a messiah. But look again: note “enemies” (v. 1), “victory”, “adversaries” (v. 10). Hannah has at most one enemy, Peninnah. In Hebrew poetry, an individual (”I”, v. 1) may speak on behalf of the nation: here Hannah speaks on behalf of Israel. At the time, Israel was a small struggling nation with powerful enemies. The editor makes a theological point: God controls the destiny of humankind in every age (v. 6); the story of Samuel is an example. Further, God reverses fortunes: see vv. 4, 5, 7 and 8. The number “seven” (v. 5) symbolizes completion and perfection, so Samuel is a perfect blessing from the Lord. Hannah is raised up but Peninnah is brought low. God can do this because he is omnipotent; even the pillars on which the earth was thought to rest are God’s.


    Hebrews

    Apart from the concluding verses (which may have been added later), this book is a treatise (or sermon) rather than a letter. Its name comes from its approach to Christianity: it is couched is Judaic terms. The identity of the author is unknown; Origen, c. 200 said that "only God knows" who wrote Hebrews. The book presents an elaborate analysis, arguing for the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of Christ as revealer and mediator of God's grace. Basing his argument on the Old Testament, the author argues for the superiority of Christ to the prophets, angels and Moses. Christ offers a superior priesthood, and his sacrifice is much more significant than that of Levite priests. Jesus is the "heavenly" High Priest, making the true sacrifice for the sins of the people, but he is also of the same flesh and blood as those he makes holy.


    Hebrews 10:11-14,(15-18),19-25

    The author has told us how much greater is Christ’s sacrifice of himself than the annual sacrifices of the high priest on the Day of Atonement. Now he says that what any priest offered daily in sacrificial ritual for the forgiveness of sins was worthless, unlike Christ’s “single sacrifice” (v. 12): after Jesus died and rose, he became king. (Kings “sat down”, but priests stood.) Since that time, he has been awaiting the final defeat of his “enemies” (v. 13). (The author does not say who they are.) For by offering himself on the cross he has “perfected” (v. 14), completed, the removal of sin from those whom God has “sanctified”, made holy, set apart for his service. (Elsewhere salvation will be completed when Christ comes again.)

    The writings of the Old Testament, divinely inspired through the “Holy Spirit” (v. 15), foretold this: Jeremiah wrote that there will be a new covenant, one in which God’s ways will be written in peoples’ very being (v. 16), and where God will, in effect, clean off the sin slate (v. 17). We have a new covenant (v. 18), a new deal with God. Vv. 19ff tell of the consequences of the new covenant: since Christ’s sacrifice allows us to enter into God’s presence (“sanctuary”, v. 19) boldly, now that there is no longer a barrier (“curtain”, v. 20) between the faithful and God, and since Christ is “a great [high] priest” (v. 21) who has sacrificed for the Church (“house of God” ), we have three privileges/duties: we can and must

  • approach God in faith with clear consciences (v. 22);
  • “hold fast” (v. 23) to our statement of faith (made at baptism), reciprocating God’s fidelity to us, and
  • stimulate the expression of “love and good deeds” (v. 24) in others.
  • These duties must be performed in the context of the liturgical community, especially since “the Day” (v. 25, Christ’s second coming), is approaching.


    Symbol of St Mark

    Mark

    As witnesses to the events of Jesus life and death became old and died, the need arose for a written synopsis. Tradition has it that Mark, while in Rome, wrote down what Peter remembered. This book stresses the crucifixion and resurrection as keys to understanding who Jesus was. When other synoptic gospels were written, i.e. Matthew and Luke, they used the Gospel according to Mark as a source. Mark is most probably the John Mark mentioned in Acts 12:12: his mother's house was a meeting place for believers.


    Mark 13:1-8

    Jesus has indicated to his disciples that the poor widow who gave all that she has is a good example of discipleship. We are nearing the end of his instructions to them.

    In vv. 1-2, Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple, as the prophets Micah and Jeremiah had done earlier. (His words were later used against him.) Did he mean it literally or figuratively? We don’t know. (Both the Temple and the religious system were destroyed in 70 AD.) Then he and his first four disciples visit the Mount of Olives – a place mentioned in Zechariah 14:4 as being connected with events at the end of the era. They ask him: when will the Temple (“this”, v. 4) be destroyed? How will we know that the end of the era is near? Jesus gives them three indicators:

  • false claimants to being God’s agent of renewal will appear, claiming “I am he!” (v. 6);
  • international political conflicts (v. 8a) will occur, as will
  • natural disasters.
  • There will be other signs too (vv. 14-25). The figure of a woman in labour (“birthpangs”, v. 8) is also used in Jeremiah, Hosea and Micah.

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