Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fourth Sunday of Advent - December 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.

Micah 5:2-5a

4:10: “Babylon”: This verse was clearly either added or edited later. See also Isaiah 48:20; 52:9-12. [ NOAB]

5:1-3: These verses contain allusions to the messianic texts of Isaiah 7 (Isaiah reassures King Ahaz when Jerusalem is about to be attacked); 9; 11; 2 Samuel 7 (God’s covenant with David); Psalm 89. [ NJBC]

5:2: “Bethlehem”: This word is not in the Septuagint translation but is found in the Masoretic Text, so scholars consider it to be a gloss. “Of Ephrathah” indicates which “Bethlehem” is meant. (There was another Bethlehem north-west of Nazareth.) See also Genesis 35:19 (Rachel is buried on the way to Bethlehem); Ruth 4:11 (Ruth and Boaz settle in Bethlehem); 1 Samuel 17:12 (David is a son of Jesse of Bethlehem).

5:2: “from of old”: In John 7:40-43, some doubt whether Jesus fulfilled this prophecy.

Comments: as Matthew 2:5-6 shows, at the time of Jesus, they understood this figure to be the Messiah, the ideal future king, who would bring misery to an end and usher in God’s glorious kingdom: In those verses the “chief priests and scribes” tell “the wise men” that they can find Jesus “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel’”.

5:6: Even though the Assyrians threaten invasions of Israel, their territory will one day be ruled by agents appointed by this king, and all Israelites who are in exile will be rescued.

5:7: The Lord will rule over them in Mount Zion.

Luke 1:46b-55

There is a strange anomaly in vv. 46-47: the NOAB, CAB and QVNR have “My soul magnifies the Lord,” in v. 46 while Nlsn has these words in v. 47. The REB is like the NOAB, CAB and QVNR.

The Magnificat is based largely on Hannah’s prayer: see 1 Samuel 2:1-10. [ NOAB] Both Elizabeth and Hannah were childless for a long time and dedicated their children as Nazirites. [ JBC] Vv. 46-50 deal with Mary and vv. 51-55 universalize from Mary’s experience to reflect God’s dealing with all who hold God in awe (v. 50). [ NJBC]

Some copies of the Old Latin version say that Elizabeth is the speaker, but all Greek manuscripts say the speaker is Mary. [ NJBC]

Verse 47: “God our Saviour”: God is also referred to as Saviour in 1 Timothy 2:3; Titus 3:4; Jude 25. [ NOAB]

Verses 48-49: “all generations will call me blessed ...”: An allusion to Malachi 3:12: “Then all nations will count you happy, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts”. See also Psalm 111:9. [ JBC]

Verse 49: “Mighty”: The might of God, for whom nothing is impossible (v. 37) is contrasted with the “lowliness” (v. 48) of Mary. [ NJBC]

Verses 51-53: The verbs in the Greek are in the aorist (past) tense. Because the aorist can indicate various times of action, scholars differ as to the precise meaning because they do not see how God has accomplished (past tense) all this in the mere conception of Jesus. NJBC prefers the interpretation that these actions are what God characteristically does ( gnomic aorist) and is beginning to do now in the conception of Jesus.

Verses 51-53: Who are the rich, arrogant, mighty, powerful, proud and the lowly, hungry? Scholars vary in their opinions. The poor seem to be those best able to receive God’s grace, without wealth, etc. getting in the way. [ NJBC]

Verse 51: For redemption through God’s might in the Old Testament, see Exodus 6:6 (delivery from slavery in Egypt); Deuteronomy 4:34 (“by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by terrifying displays of power, as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt”); Jeremiah 27:5 (“It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth”); Isaiah 40:10; 51:9. [ JBC]

Verse 52: For the notion that those in need will be saved and that the blind will be given light by God, see Isaiah 40:29-31; 41:8-10, 17-20; 42:7; 57:15; 61:1-3. [ JBC]

Verses 54-55: These verses gather up the ideas of the Magnificat in terms of the servant theology of the Old Testament, and particularly of Deutero-Isaiah. See also Genesis 17:7 (to Abraham); 18:18; 22:17; Micah 7:20; Isaiah 42:1-4; 49:1-7; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12. Jesus applied this theology to himself (see 3:22; 5:35; 9:22) and the very early church thought of him in these terms (see Acts 3:13: “... his servant Jesus ...”). [ NOAB]

Verse 55: “Abraham”: 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. [ NJBC]

God builds the new in salvation history upon promises made to Abraham, but membership in the reconstituted Israel is God’s gift. It elicits a response of appropriate conduct, and is not solely contingent on one’s ethnic heritage. [ NJBC]

Psalm 80:1-7

Superscription: “Of Asaph”: Asaph was appointed by David to share in leading worship, and sang and/or played at the dedication of the Temple Solomon built, as 1 Chronicles 6:31-48 tells us.

Note the metaphors:

  • In v. 1, Shepherd = God; flock = Israel
  • In vv. 8-15: caretaker = God; vine = Israel. [ CAB]

Today, we consider switching metaphors to be bad practice, but in ancient times, it was both common and acceptable.

Verse 1: “Shepherd”: See also Genesis 48:15 (Jacob refers to God as his shepherd); 49:24; Psalms 23:1 (“The Lord is my shepherd ...”); 77:20. [ JBC]

Verse 1: “enthroned upon the cherubim”: See also 1 Samuel 4:4 (“the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim”); 2 Samuel 6:2; Isaiah 37:16. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh”: 78:67-68 says “He rejected the tent of Joseph, he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim; but he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loves”. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “Restore us, O God”: Receive us back into a covenant relationship. Amos and Hosea, prophets in the northern kingdom, declared that Israel’s pact with God was nullified because of the people’s infidelity. See Amos 1:3-2:6 and Hosea 1:9. (There “Lo-ammi” means not my people). [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “shine”: The REB offers shine upon us.

Verses 8-13: These verses depict Israel as a vine, once carefully tended but now forsaken. This metaphor is also found in Isaiah 5:1-7 (the Song of the Vineyard); 27:2-6; Jeremiah 2:2; Hosea 10:1; Ezekiel 17. [ JBC]

Verse 8: “vine”: For the figure of the vine, see also Hosea 10:1-2 and Ezekiel 17. [ JBC]

Verse 8: “nations”: See also 78:55. Deuteronomy 7:1 names them: “the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations mightier and more numerous than you”. [ NOAB]

Verse 10: “mighty cedars”: Mighty trees that are like mountains are God’s work not that of humans. [ JBC]

Verse 11: “sea”: The Mediterranean. [ JBC]

Verse 11: “the River”: The Euphrates. 1 Kings 4:21 states the extent of Solomon’s kingdom: “Solomon was sovereign over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines, even to the border of Egypt”. [ NOAB]

Verses 12-13: 89:40-41 is similar. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “broken down its walls”: Vines were usually protected by walls as a guard against humans and animals. See also Isaiah 5:3-7. [ JBC]

Verse 16: “may they perish ...”: While in vv. 3, 7 and 19 the prayer is that through God’s showing himself (smiling) Israel may be saved, here it is that his grimace may cause Israel’s enemies to perish. [ NJBC]

Verse 17: “the one at your right hand”: NOAB sees this as a personification of Israel rather than the king. Psalm 110:1 says “The Lord says to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool’”. [ JBC]

Verse 17: “the one whom ...”: The Hebrew is ben ‘adam , meaning son of man. [ JBC]

Hebrews 10:5-10

Verse 1: “shadow”: The sense here is foreshadow, rather than the Platonic heavenly-earthly contrast in 8:5 (“a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one”). The “good things to come” will come through Christ. Colossians 2:17 says: “These [dietary laws, Jewish feasts, etc.] are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ”. The annual sacrifices on the Day of Atonement were not able to remove sin; they simply foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: The author’s argument is weak: even though past sins were taken away, there were still the sins committed since last year’s Day of Atonement. But it is merely an overstatement of what the author’s faith assures him to be true. [ NJBC]

Verses 3-4: The Day of Atonement rituals reminded worshippers of their sins, but did not erase them. This statement of the inefficacy of the annual sacrifices contradicts the belief expressed in Jubilees 5:17-18. But is not clear whether it is God or the worshipper who remembers the sins. That it is God who remembers is suggested by 8:12; there God says “‘I will remember their sins no more’”; however, the author would then be saying that the sacrifices served only to remind God of sin (and thus call forth punishment on the offerer). [ NJBC]

Verses 5-7: The quotation is Psalm 40:6-7. The text roughly follows the Septuagint translation. In Psalms, “me” is the psalmist (or possibly Israel in exile); here “me” is Christ at his incarnation. The psalm speaks of ritual being inferior to obedience, rather than repudiation of sacrifice (as here). The majority of manuscripts of the Septuagint have for v. 6b: a body you prepared for me rather than “you have given me an open ear” (which is from the Masoretic text). The Septuagint translation is particularly applicable to Jesus, whose obedience was expressed by his willingness to give his body, himself. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “ sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings”: These terms are probably meant to cover the four main types of sacrifice: respectively peace offerings, cereal offerings, holocausts, and sin offerings (including guilt offerings). [ NJBC]

Verse 10: “God’s will”, carried out by Christ, is his offering of his body, which God “prepared” (v. 5) for him. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “every priest stands day after day”: This indicates that the author has switched from considering the high priest’s sacrifice to that of every priest in the Old Testament. [ NJBC]

Verses 12-13: The quotation is Psalm 110:1, a verse also quoted in 1:3; 8:1; 12:2. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “wait ...”: Thus the author explains the period of time between Christ’s enthronement and his second coming. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “enemies”: The author does not tell us who they are, unlike Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:24-26: “ after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power” and “death”. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “sanctified”: Through the cleansing of the consciences that they may worship the living God ( 9:14), Jesus has given his followers access to the Father; they share in his priestly consecration. [ NJBC] The priesthood of all believers is in view.

Verses 16-17: The quotation is Jeremiah 31:33-34. These verses are also quoted in 8:8-12. [ NJBC]

Verse 19: “confidence to enter the sanctuary”: In 3:6, the author writes: “we are his [Christ’s] house if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belong to hope”. See also 4:16; 6:19-20. [ NJBC]

Verse 20: “opened”: The Greek word, enkainizo, can also mean inaugurate or dedicate. It is translated as inaugurate in 9:18.

Verse 20: As the “curtain” before the Holy of Holies was an obstacle to entering it, so too was Christ’s “flesh” (Greek: sarx). Perhaps the rending of the Temple veil at the death of Jesus is in view: see Mark 15:38. [ NJBC]

Verses 22-24: “faith ... hope ... love”: The triad may be intended. [ NJBC]

Verse 22: “sprinkled clean”: A metaphor for the purifying power of Christ (see 9:13). Jewish ritual sprinkling only produced external purity, but those washed with the blood of Christ are cleansed in their consciences. [ NJBC]

Verse 22: “washed with pure water”: Probably a reference to baptism. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:11: “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God”. See also Titus 3:5. [ NJBC]

Verse 25: While reticence to gather for worship may have been for fear of persecution, it is more likely that it was due to lack of enthusiasm for the faith, bordering on apostasy: part of the reason Hebrews was written. [ NJBC]

Verse 25: “the Day”: of Christ’s second coming. See also Acts 1:10-11 (the Ascension); Philippians 2:16; Romans 13:12; 1 Corinthians 3:13. [ NJBC]

Verses 26-31: These verses tell of the fate of the person who willfully sins. He has a “fearful prospect of judgement”: if you know about Christ and willfully reject him, you will be punished by God!

Verse 26: “willfully ... sin”: The sin is that of turning away from Christ, as v. 29 shows. [ NJBC]

Verse 28: Idolatry is probably the violation of the Law. Deuteronomy 17:2-7 prescribes the death penalty for this sin if confirmed by “two or three witnesses”. [ NJBC]

Luke 1:39-45

In the version of Comments which includes the psalm, several comments on Luke, present in the version with the Magnificat, have been omitted in order to fit the available space. Clippings only includes material which would not fit in either version.

The meaning of God’s inauguration in Jesus of the final stage of salvation history is so rich theologically that Luke interprets it in both vv. 39-45 and 46-56. [ NJBC]

Verse 37: “nothing will be impossible with God”: BlkLk says that this is a reference to Yahweh’s promise to Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18:14: “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son”, i.e. after the normal gestation period, Isaac will be born. It seems that Luke recalls the general sense of Genesis 18, where the promise is that the word will be fulfilled. This explains the reference to the time since Elizabeth’s conception in v. 45.

Verse 39: “with haste”: If this is the correct translation, Luke does not tell us why. Note that v. 56 tells us that Mary then stayed three months with Elizabeth but returned home before John was born.

Verses 41,44: “leaped”: The “leaping” of Esau and Jacob in Rebekah’s womb (Genesis 25:22, Septuagint translation) presents a parallel to the leaping of John the Baptist: such activity is a foreshadowing of future relationships (different as these relationships are). [ NJBC]

Verse 42: Elizabeth’s words recall Sisera’s words to Jael (before she killed him): “Most blessed of women be Jael” (Judges 5:24). They also recall Uzziah’s words to Judith after she decapitated Holofernes: “you are blessed by the Most High God above all other women” (Judith 13:18). In both cases, women liberated Israel. [ NJBC]

Verse 42: In 11:27-28, a woman in the crowd shouts similar words to Jesus. [ NOAB]

Verse 45: “blessed”: In Luke, Mary is the model believer. In 2:19, after the shepherds have told Mary and Joseph what they have heard, “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart”. [ NJBC]

Luke 1:39-45,(46-55)

See on Luke 1:39-45 and Luke 1:46b-55 above.

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