Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Third Sunday of Advent - December 12, 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.

Zephaniah 3:14-20

Verses 1-5: The first oracle. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: Only the nature of the accusations shows that Jerusalem rather than Nineveh is addressed. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “defiled”: i.e. ritually contaminated: v. 4 says: “Its prophets are reckless, faithless persons; its priests have profaned what is sacred, they have done violence to the law”. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: Four descriptions of moral flaw, specified in vv. 3-4, where the duty of each order of society defines its sins. Rulers and judges prey on their people; prophets are unfaithful to Yahweh; and priests fail to render the proper decisions. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: While in other contexts these would be words of assurance, the preceding accusation shows that it will be the leaders of the people who will be condemned, and not their enemies. [ NJBC]

Verses 6-8: The second oracle. Yahweh speaks in the first person. It begins with an accusation against Jerusalem (vv. 6-7) but ends with a threat against other nations! (v. 8) [ NJBC]

Verses 9-10: Unexpectedly reprieved, the nations become true servants of Yahweh. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “a pure speech”: This gift symbolizes fidelity (see Isaiah 6:5-7, Isaiah was “a man of unclean lips”), removes the curse of Babel (see Genesis 11:1-9), and, for Christians, anticipates Pentecost (see Acts 2:1-11). [ NOAB]

Verse 9: As in 2:3 and vv. 11-12, judgement brings salvation. While “the peoples” may originally have been my people, the Masoretic Text understands that the Gentiles will serve Yahweh by restoring the exiles to their homeland. See also Isaiah 66:20. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: As elsewhere, wickedness is identified with arrogance and wealth: see 1:11-13, 16, 18; 2:10, 15; 3:1-3, 5. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: Ezekiel 34:11-16 says: “For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out ... I will rescue them ... and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them ... with good pasture ...”. See also Zechariah 8:3, 16. [ NOAB]

Verse 13: “they will pasture and lie down”: An idea also found in other verses perhaps written by later editors: see 2:7, 11. [ NJBC]

Verses 14-20: NOAB says that this passage is generally held to be a later addition.

Verses 14-15: Summons to rejoicing. These verses resemble psalms of enthronement of Yahweh: see Psalms 47; 97; 98. See also Isaiah 40:2; 41:10. [ NOAB] The closest parallels are Isaiah 12:6 (“Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel”); 52:9; Zechariah 2:10; 9:9. [ NJBC]

Verse 15: “is in your midst”: See also Psalms 46 and 48. Yahweh’s presence provides defensive, rather than offensive, help. [ NJBC]

Verse 16: “Do not fear”: In other oracles (Isaiah 7:4; Jeremiah 30:10-11; Isaiah 41:10; 54:4ff) and in the simple language of encouragement (2 Kings 6:16; 1 Chronicles 22:13; 28:20) do not fear usually accompanies assurance of Yahweh’s presence to save.[NJBC]

Verse 17: In Exodus 15:3, part of Moses/Miriam’s victory song after crossing the Reed Sea, we read: “The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name”. See also Isaiah 12:2; 62:5. [ NOAB]

Verse 17: “renew”: The word in Hebrew can also be translated be silent. When so translated, the image is of God overcome, to the extent that he is both silent and sings loudly, as though in his great joy he cannot decide which to do.

Verses 18-20: An oracle predicting changes of fortunes. [ NJBC]

Verses 19-20: In these verses, we find major themes of post-exilic eschatology:

Verse 19: “lame ... outcast”: In the Hebrew, these are adjectives in the feminine singular, so they refer to Jerusalem. No longer reduced to shame by her afflictions, Jerusalem will be honoured by all. [ NJBC]

Verse 20: NJBC feels that this verse is definitely post-exilic editing, even if v. 19 is not. This verse expands on v. 19.

Verse 20: “renowned”: Literally: a name. [ NOAB]

Verse 20: “make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth”: By this, Yahweh fulfils his long-standing promise to the patriarchs: see Genesis 12:2-3 (God’s covenant with Abram). [ NOAB]

Verse 20: “restore your fortunes”: See the promise in 2:7: “The seacoast shall become the possession of the remnant of the house of Judah, on which they shall pasture, and in the houses of Ashkelon they shall lie down at evening. For the Lord their God will be mindful of them and restore their fortunes”. [ NJBC]

Isaiah 12:2-6

11:10-12:6: While most of the first 39 chapters of Isaiah was written in the 700s BC, these verses (and some others) were written centuries later. [ NJBC]

11:11: “a second time”: It is possible that the first time was the Exodus, and the second time will be the return from Exile. The countries from which the people will come are Assyria, Egypt, Upper Egypt (“Pathros”), Ethiopia, Elam (north of the Persian Gulf), Babylonia (“Shinar”), “Hamath” (in Syria) and the Aegean seacoast and islands. This list includes most of the Fertile Crescent, plus Upper Egypt and Ethiopia. [ NOAB] [ JBC]

11:15: “the tongue of the sea of Egypt”: the Red Sea. [ NOAB]

11:15: “”the River”: the Euphrates. [ NOAB]

12:1-6: NJBC considers that these verses were added to the book later.

12:1-3 are a song of deliverance (see also Psalm 116) and vv. 4-6 are a song of thanksgiving. [ NOAB]

12:1, 4: “you will say in that day”: NOAB considers these to be liturgical rubrics.

12:1: The language and form reflect the psalms, especially psalms of thanksgiving, rather than prophecy. See Psalms 9:2; 111:1; 138:1. [ NJBC]

12:2b: See Exodus 15:2 (Moses’ or Miram’s Song) and Psalm 118:14. [ NOAB]

12:4: While “you” in v. 1 is singular, “you” here is plural. This may indicate a different source. [ NJBC]

12:6: “Shout aloud and sing for joy”: Zephaniah 3:14 begins “Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel!” [ NOAB]

12:6: “O royal Zion”: NJBC translates the Hebrew as dweller in Zion. He sees this as a reference to the redeemed community.

12:6: “Holy One”: 1:4 refers to Yahweh as “the Holy One of Israel”. [ NOAB]

Philippians 4:4-7

Verse 1: “joy and crown”: Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20: “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Yes, you are our glory and joy!”. [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “my loyal companion”: Probably a leader in the church at Philippi. The Greek word for “companion” can be understood as a proper name, Syzygus. [ NOAB] It may be simply an affectionate term, yoke-bearer. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “the book of life”: Daniel 12:1 says “... at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book”. For other references to the book of life, see Exodus 32:32; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 4: Paul also mentions rejoicing in Romans 12:12 (“Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer”) and Philippians 3:1 (“Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord”). [ CAB]

Verse 5: “The Lord is near”: This notion is also expressed in Psalm 119:151. The original is marana tha, an Aramaic expression transliterated into Greek meaning Our Lord is come or Our Lord, come. The use of this expression in 1 Corinthians 16:22 suggests that this was an early prayer originating in the Palestinian church. [ HBD] See also Revelation 22:20. [ JBC]

Verse 7: “which surpasses all understanding”: Ephesians 3:20 says “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine”. [ NJBC]

Luke 3:7-18

The parallels are Mark 1:7-8 and Matthew 3:7-12. [ NOAB]

Verses 7-9: John the Baptizer did not understand repentance as adoption of his way of life. Features of it are mentioned in the following verses:

In the desert 1:80; 3:2, 4; 7:24
Abstaining from alcoholic beverages 1:15; 7:33
Prayer and fasting 5:33; 11:1

Verses 7-9: Of the 64 words (in Greek) in these verses, 60 of them are found in the parallel passage in Matthew ( 3:7-10). This similarity is one clue that has led scholars to postulate the existence of a collection of sayings, known as Q (Quelle, a German word meaning source), from which both Matthew and Luke drew. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “crowds”: For evidence that crowds and people (laos) are generally interchangeable in Luke, see also 7:29-30 and 20:1-5. In Matthew 3:7, we read “Pharisees and Sadducees” instead of “crowds”. Later, via flashback, Luke will show that the Pharisees and high priests rejected John’s baptism (see 7:30 and 20:5) but here Luke focuses on those who accept it. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “vipers”: They are also mentioned in Isaiah 30:6; 59:5; Matthew 12:34 (where Jesus calls some Pharisees who claim that he heals through the power of evil “You brood of vipers!”); 23:33. Vipers were creatures of the desert. [ NOAB]

Verse 7: “wrath”: God’s judgement by which he deals with evil in the world: see 1 Thessalonians 1:10 (where Paul speaks of “you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming”). [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “repentance”: The word in Greek literally means returning, or coming back to the way of life charted by the covenant between God and Israel. See also Exodus 19:3-6 (where God commands Moses to tell the Israelites “if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation”); 24:3-8; Jeremiah 31:31-34 (“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. ... I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts ... they shall all know me ... I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more”). [ NOAB]

Verse 8: John demands right living based on a sincere search for God’s will (Matthew 7:15-20; Galatians 5:22-23) and suited to the protestations of repentance. [ NOAB]

Verse 8: “Abraham as our ancestor”: This is a common theme in Luke. See also 1:54-55, 72-73; 3:34; 13:16, 28-29; 19:9; 20:37; Acts 3:13, 25; 7:17, 32; 13:26; 26:6; 28:20; John 8:33, 39; Romans 2:28, 29. [ CAB]

Verse 9: “fire”: For fire as an agent of God’s wrath, see also Matthew 7:19 (“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”); 13:40-42 (“Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age”); Hebrews 6:7-8. [ NOAB]

Verses 10-14: Only Luke has these verses. He emphasizes the acceptance of the message by ordinary and marginalised people. These people also respond to Jesus’ message. [ NJBC]

Verses 10-11: In 6:29, Jesus advises: “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt”. For community ownership of possessions, see Acts 2:44-45 and 4:32-35. [ NOAB]

Verses 10, 12, 14: “What [then] should we do?”: In 10:25, a lawyer asks a similar question; in 18:18, a ruler. In Acts, be baptised is part of the answer: see Acts 2:37-38 (Jewish people after Peter’s sermon at Pentecost); 16:30-33 (the Gentile jailer at Philippi); 22:10-16 (Paul, as he tells the story of his conversion).

Verse 11: One might expect a hermit to tell people to adopt his way of life, but he does not. People are to make proper use of material possessions – an idea that Jesus later preaches. [ NJBC]

Verses 12-13: See Luke 19:2-10 for the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector who gives half his possessions to the poor. [ NOAB]

Verse 12: “tax collectors”: NJBC says that collectors of indirect taxes (customs, tolls, tariffs) are intended here. They collected more than was prescribed, and pocketed the difference. They were despised by both Jews and Gentiles. They eagerly respond to Jesus’ preaching too: see 5:27, 29-20 (Levi); 15:1. See also the parable of the Pharisee and the tax (toll) collector.

Verse 13: The emperor Augustus tried to eliminate abuses in the Roman tax system. John’s words reflect these high ideals. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “Soldiers”: The first Gentile converted to Christianity was Cornelius the centurion: see Acts 10-11. Augustus tried to eliminate extortion in the Roman army. [ NJBC]

Verse 15: In John 1:19-23, when asked “‘Who are you?’”, John the Baptiser answers “‘I am not the Messiah’”. In Luke 7:19, John sends two of his disciples to Jesus to ask him: “‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’”. [ NOAB]

Verse 16: In Acts 1:5, before his ascension, Jesus says “... John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’”. See also Acts 11:16 (Peter explains the events at Cornelius’ house) and Acts 19:4 (some disciples of John are baptised “in the name of the Lord Jesus”). [ NOAB]

Verse 16: “more powerful”: Mightier is used in the New Testament for the leader of the final struggle against evil: see Mark 3:27; Luke 11:20-22; Revelation 18:8. So perhaps this is the meaning here. [ JBC]

Verse 16: “untie the thong ...”: When Paul is visiting the Antioch in central Asia Minor and speaks in the synagogue there, he quotes John the Baptiser as saying: “‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet’” (see Acts 13:25). [ NJBC]

Verse 17: “winnowing”: This image is found in Isaiah 21:10; 41:16; Jeremiah 4:11; 15:7; 51:2. This image is also found in Proverbs.

Verse 17: “unquenchable fire”: i.e. ferocious heat. See also Isaiah 66:24 and Mark 9:43ff. [ JBC]

Verse 17: The same idea is found in v. 7 and v. 9. [ NJBC]

Verse 18: “proclaimed the good news”: To Luke, there are many similarities between John and Jesus. [ NJBC]

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