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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Third Sunday in Lent - March 3, 2013



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.

Isaiah 55:1-9

This is a hymn of triumph celebrating the approaching consummation of Israel’s restoration.

Second Isaiah was written immediately after the fall of Babylon in 539 BC to Cyrus and during the generation following. The author exults in joyful anticipation of exiled Judah’s restoration to Palestine, for which Cyrus is the precipitating agent. Second Isaiah emphasizes the significance of historical events in God’s plan, a plan extending from creation to redemption, and beyond. Blindness to God’s way is a cardinal sin. God is exclusive creator and lord of all whose ultimate manifestation will be accompanied by a new creation. In Chapters 40-55 – 530-510 BC – the relationship is “I – thou”, but in Chapters 56-66, the relationship is more transcendent. From Chapter 56 on, one sees the sobering realities of life in the restored community.

This chapter includes almost every theme found in Chapters 40-54. Chapters 40 and 55 form an inclusio around Chapters 41 to 54, repeating many key themes:

new exodus 40:1-11 55:12-13
the way 40:3, 27 55:12-13
call to pasture or to eat 40:11 55:1-2
the word of the Lord 40:8 55:11
the king Yahweh: 40:11, 23 David: 55:3-5
heaven and earth 40:12 55:8-11
disputation with Israel 40:12-31 55:6-11
forgiveness 40:2 55:6-7
participation of nations 40:4 55:12

Verses 1-2: The style is typical of wisdom literature: see also Sirach 24:18-20. The meal is desacrilized and extended into the daily lives of the people. There is one condition for participation: “thirst” for God: 51:21 says: “hear this, you who are wounded, who are drunk, but not with wine: Thus says your Sovereign, the LORD, your God who pleads the cause of his people: See, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering; you shall drink no more from the bowl of my wrath”. These verses are reminiscent of wisdom’s invitation to a banquet in Proverbs 9:3-6: “... Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed ...”. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “everyone who thirsts, come to the waters”: In John 7:37-38, Jesus says “‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink’”. [NOAB]

Comments: Recall other banquets ...: For the (first) Passover meal, see Exodus 12; for the banquet after the covenant at Sinai, see Exodus 24:5, 11. The abundance of the new era is laid out by later prophecy as a banquet: 25:6 says: “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear”; see also 65:11-15. [NJBC] Song of Solomon 5:1 sings of a nuptial banquet for God and Israel. The notion of a banquet at the end of time is carried forward into the New Testament:

  • the Paschal banquet: see Luke 22:16-18 (“‘I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God ... I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes’”)
  • the Eschatological banquet: see Matthew 5:6 (“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled”) and
  • the Nuptial banquet: see Matthew 9:15 (“‘The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast’”) and Revelation 19:9 (“‘ ...Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb’”). [JBC]

Verses 3-5: The Davidic covenant and its special privileges are neutralized and are transferred to the people. For the Davidic covenant, see 2 Samuel 7:8-16; 23:5; 1 Kings 8:23-25; Psalm 89:2-38. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “everlasting covenant”: The covenant is not “everlasting” in the sense of beginning now and lasting forever, but one bringing the promises of the distant past to present fulfilment. This phrase is also found in 24:5; 61:8; Ezekiel 37:26-28. For Jesus’ “covenant” at the Last Supper, see Matthew 26:28 and Luke 22:20. [NJBC] See also Isaiah 54:10; Jeremiah 33:19-26. Jeremiah 31:31-34 says “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”. [NOAB]

Verse 5: The inclusion of peoples other than Israel is also found in 56:1-8, especially vv. 6-8: “... the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD ... I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer ... for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples”. [CAB]

Verses 6-9: A call for repentance (see Jeremiah 29:10-14 and Matthew 3:2) and trust in God’s inscrutable grace (see Psalm 103:12; Romans 11:33-36). [NOAB] The literary dependance on Jeremiah 29:10-14 accentuates movement away from the single sanctuary, i.e. not only in the Temple. [NJBC] These verses combine the paradoxes of divine grace: God is transcendent, yet near enough to help; humans are helpless, yet required to act energetically; the ways of God are exalted, yet required of humans. See also Job 42:1-6; Sirach 43:28-35; Acts 13:10 (Paul and Barnabas preach in Cyprus). [JBC]

Verse 6: “Seek the LORD”: Similar invitations are found elsewhere in the Bible. See, for example, Amos 5:4; Hosea 10:12. [JBC]

Verses 10-11: As “rain” causes germination and ultimately provides sustenance, so does God’s “word”. “Word” is more than a statement; it includes the potential and fact of accomplishment: it is used in a similar sense in 9:8: “The Lord sent a word against Jacob, and it fell on Israel”. See also Jeremiah 23:18-20. [NOAB] The Word comes from God, but it can be heard only when it is soaked up in human life and spoken with human accents. A scholar attributes to this text the immediate origin of the theology in John 1:1-18. We hear its echo in John’s doctrine of the Eucharist: the Word come down from heaven, and received, as bread: see John 6:32, 35. [JBC]

Verses 12-13: For the new Exodus, see also 43:16-21 and 49:9-11. It will be into an Eden-like land. 51:3 says: “For the Lord will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song”. The symbolism of creation appears often in biblical pictures of the new era. The end-times will be a return to the ideal conditions in Eden. See also Ezekiel 36:35; 47:1-12. [NOAB] The renewal of God’s people will be matched by the renewal of creation itself. [CAB] All the world breaks into song at the wonder of God’s saving power within Israel. The curse of sin is removed forever: see Genesis 3:18 and Isaiah 7:23. [JBC]

Psalm 63:1-8

This is a prayer for deliverance from personal enemies. The psalmist’s almost mystical delight in God’s presence nearly obscures any need for personal security: see also 73:23-28. [NOAB]

Superscription: “A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah”: David never seems to have had the sentiments for Saul expressed in vv. 9-10. [JBC]

Verse 1: 42:1-2 strikes a similar theme: “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God ...” [NOAB] See also Psalm 43. [JBC]

Verse 2: “sanctuary”: In 27:4, a psalmist writes: “One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple”. See also 42:2-4. [JBC]

Verses 2-5: Based on the Hebrew words with which each of these pairs of verses begin and end, NJBC thinks that these pairs are prayers or wishes: May I look ... May 1 bless.

Verse 4: Israelites held that life itself is the supreme good. Only here in the Old Testament is anything prized above it: God’s love. Insights like this eventually led to the belief that God’s love even extends beyond death. Paul writes in Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”. [NJBC]

Verse 6: “watches”: Israelites divided the night into three watches. [NOAB] Later, the Romans divided it into four.

Verse 8: “clings”: The Hebrew verb is often used to denote the proper relationship to God in deuteronomic literature: see Joshua 23:8 (“hold fast”); Deuteronomy 10:20; 11:22, etc. It expresses great intimacy between God and humans: see Genesis 2:24 (“... a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh”) and Ruth 1:14 (Ruth clings to Naomi). [NJBC]

Verse 11: “the king”: 61:6-7 also seek the welfare of “the king”: “Prolong the life of the king; may his years endure to all generations! May he be enthroned forever before God; appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!”.

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Even those called by God can be condemned for infidelity. This passage is a warning against overconfidence: baptism and partaking in the Lord’s supper do not guarantee salvation, anymore than the corresponding acts sufficed for the ancient Hebrews. [NOAB]

Verse 1: “under the cloud”: As in Psalm 105:39: “He [Yahweh] spread a cloud for a covering, and fire to give light by night”.

Verse 1: “cloud”: See Exodus 13:21: “The LORD went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night”. [NOAB]

Verse 1: “sea”: Exodus 14:22 tells us that at the Reed Sea: “The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left”. [NOAB]

Verse 2: “baptised into Moses”: A purely Christian interpretation. In Galatians 3:27 and Romans 6:3, Paul uses the phrase “baptized into Christ”. [NJBC]

Comments: Reed (Red) Sea: The words translated “Red Sea” in the Old Testament are yam suph, meaning literally sea of reeds; Hebrew did not distinguish between a sea and a lake.

Verses 3-4: See Exodus 16:4-35; 17:6; Numbers 20:7-11 (Moses strikes the rock at Meribah); Deuteronomy 8:3. [NOAB]

Verse 4: “the spiritual rock that followed them”: The Jewish legend is based on an interpretation of Numbers 21:17-20: the Hebrew not being too clear, these verses can be read as saying that the rock (and/or the well) accompanied the people of Israel through to Moab. [NJBC]

Verse 4: “the rock was Christ”: Paul sees the rock as a symbol of Christ, perhaps as the work of the pre-existent Christ. [NOAB]

Verse 5: “ they were struck down in the wilderness”: God punishes the Israelites in Numbers 14:29-30. There Yahweh tells Moses and Aaron: “‘I will do to you the very things I heard you say: your dead bodies shall fall in this very wilderness; and of all your number, ... from twenty years old and upward, who have complained against me, not one of you shall come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun”’. [NOAB]

Verse 6: “examples”: The Greek word can also be translated by the technical term types.

Verse 7: “Do not become idolaters”: Exodus 32:4 tells of the moulding or engraving of the Golden Calf. the quotation is like Exodus 32:6. [NOAB] Some Corinthian Christians joined in pagan cult meals: see 8:10 and 10:14-22. [NJBC]

Verse 7: “rose up to play”: The quotation is like Exodus 32:6: “... the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel”. [NOAB] One sense found in Jewish tradition is that this refers to indulgence in sexual immorality. [NJBC]

Verse 8: See Numbers 25:1-9, where the number is 24,000. [NOAB]

Verse 9: For the revolt of the Israelites against Moses and Aaron, see Numbers 16:13-14, 41-49. [NOAB] The Israelites also “spoke against God and against Moses” (concerning food) in Numbers 21:4-6; some Israelites were killed by the serpents God sent. [NJBC]

Verse 10: “the destroyer”: Rabbis believed that there was a special destroying angel, based on Exodus 12:23 (“... the LORD will pass through to strike down the Egyptians ...”); Number 16:41-50; 2 Samuel 24:16 (“... when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it ...”); 1 Chronicles 21:15; Wisdom of Solomon 18:20-25,. [NJBC]

Verse 11: “example”: As in v. 6, the Greek word is tupoi (types) [NJBC]

Verse 11: “the ends of the ages”: The first age (era) was from creation to Christ’s incarnation; the second (and last) is from the incarnation to his second coming. [JBC]

Luke 13:1-9

Comments: It was commonly believed that pain and premature death were signs of God’s adverse judgement: In John 9:2-3, Jesus rejects the idea that a man was born blind because of his or his parents’ sinful ways. This belief was common amongst both Jews and Hellenists. [NOAB]

Verses 1-6: Here suffering represents God’s judgement and is a call to repentance, lest spiritual catastrophe overtake his hearers. [NOAB]

Verse 1: To me, for Luke to be so indirect as he is in this verse is unusual. I have used the most obvious interpretation in Comments, but BlkLk offers another. The contemporary historian Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews 18:3:2, says that when Pilate used Temple funds to build an aqueduct into Jerusalem, some Jews opposed it. Pilate then used a ruse to murder some Jews: his soldiers, in civilian dress, mingled with the crowd, and beat them down with clubs they had concealed. The obvious interpretation would be in accord with what is known of Pilate’s character.

Verse 2: “sinners”: The Greek word literally means debtors. [BlkLk]

Verses 3, 5: In Matthew 5:45, Jesus disconnects natural and moral good and evil. [NJBC]

Verse 4: “tower of Siloam”: Probably a tower that guarded the aqueduct bringing water to the pool of Siloam, to the south of the north-eastern corner of Jerusalem. [JBC] See Clipping above on v. 1.

Verses 6-9: See also Matthew 21:18-20 (Jesus curses the empty fig tree); Mark 11:12-14, 20-21. [NOAB] For an Old Testament antecedent, see Isaiah 5:1-7 (the song of the unfruitful vineyard). In Joel 1:7, the locusts kill God’s fig trees. See also Hosea 9:10. [JBC]

Verse 6: “fig tree”: One may well ask what a fig tree is doing in a vineyard. Whoever this tree stands for, it doesn’t belong in the vineyard.

Verse 7: “Cut it down”: In Matthew 3:10, Jesus says: “Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”; Matthew 7:19; Luke 3:9. [NOAB]

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