Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Ninth Sunday after Pentecost - August 11, 2019

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 1:1,10-20

Scholars recognize chapters 40-66 as being written later; they see differences in historical background, literary style, and theological emphases in these chapters. Chapters 24-27 and 34-35 also date from later periods. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “The vision of Isaiah”: For other visions by prophets, see 6:1-13 (Isaiah’s calling and commissioning); Jeremiah 1; Ezekiel 1-3. [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “Isaiah”: The name means The Lord gives salvation . [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “in the days ...”: This may be an editorial expansion. [ NOAB] The reigns of these kings are described in 2 Kings 14-20. [ CAB]

Verses 2-20: God’s diagnosis and prescription for Israel’s ailment. [ CAB]

Verses 2-3: A poetic exhortation reminiscent of God’s address to the heavenly host in 40:1-2. [ NOAB] These verses are reminiscent (perhaps a forerunner) of the wisdom tradition:

  • To “know” and to “understand” are used without grammatical objects
  • The father-son relationship
  • Use of a proverb (v. 3a), and
  • Some of the vocabulary.

Verse 2: “children”: In Jeremiah 3:19-22, we also read of Judah as God’s “children”. [ NOAB] Rebellious children are likely to come to grief!

Verse 3: “ox ... donkey”: In ancient minds, both animals were proverbial for stupidity and stubbornness. Israel does not even recognize its master. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “Israel”: i.e. Judah. “Israel” was the traditional name of Judah. [ CAB]

Verse 3: “know”: Failure to “know”, to “understand”, is the cause of the disaster, as is also stated in 5:13 and 6:9-10 (“... Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand”). Knowledge here is profound, identifying comprehension of the right relationship with God; it is a recurring prophetic theme: see also Jeremiah 1:5; Hosea 2:20; 4:1, 6; 5:4. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verses 4-9: These verses are in a different metre, so may have a different origin from the preceding and following verses. They are linked to vv. 2-3 by “children”. They are an appeal to a people heedless of the significance of Judah’s devastation by the armies of Tilgath-Pileser III (734-733 BC) or of Sennacherib (701 BC – see 36:1). [ NOAB] NJBC favours 701 BC, after Hezekiah's rebellion against Sennacherib.

Verse 4: “nation ... people ... offspring ... children”: Note the increasing intimacy of the words describing Judah. The effect is to heighten the culpability expressed in the qualifying words. Judah's sin is the rejection of trust in Yahweh through power politics (i.e. covenanting with Egypt in order to rebel against Assyria). [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “Holy One of Israel”: God’s unapproachable separateness, which he has bridged by his election of Israel as his people, an act of grace: see Hosea 8:1 and Jeremiah 3:20. See also 5:19, 24; 10:20; 12:6; 17:7; 29:19; 30:11, 12, 15; 37:23. [ NOAB]

Verses 5-6: As a result of divine punishment that has already come, Israel is depicted as a sick and wounded human body. [ CAB] She is covered with bloody wounds from head to foot, as a son chastised with a rod. See also Proverbs 10:12; 13:24; 20:30; 22:15; 23:13-14; 26:3; 29:15; Isaiah 10:5-6. [ NJBC]

Verses 7-9: Destruction of the cities and seizure of lands has already begun. Sennacherib invaded Judah between 705 and 701 BC, and claims to have destroyed 46 walled cities. [ CAB]

Verse 8: Jerusalem has not yet been seized. Her lonely isolation is compared to Sodom and Gomorrah, cities destroyed by God for the depravity of their inhabitants, [ CAB] but (v. 9) there is a difference: being God’s son, Jerusalem is not totally destroyed.

Verses 9,10: “Sodom ... and ... Gomorrah”: For the story of these two cities, and their fate, see Genesis 18:16-19:28; Jeremiah 23:14; Ezekiel 16:46-58. [ NOAB]

Verses 10-20: For Judah’s superficiality, see also Amos 5:21-24 and Jeremiah 6:20, where Yahweh asks through the prophet: “Of what use to me is frankincense that comes from Sheba, or sweet cane from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor are your sacrifices pleasing to me”. [ NOAB]

Verse 10: “teaching”: The Hebrew word is torah, which is often translated as law; [ NOAB] however the sense of the word here is, as in the Wisdom literature, generalized instruction of a son by a father in the ways of God. See also 2:3; 5:24; 8:16; 30:9. [ NJBC]

Verses 11-15: The sanctuary originally designed for the exclusive honouring of Yahweh has now become a royal chapel devoted to enhancing the prestige and wealth of the ruler and his rich supporters, who together exploit the poor and seize their lands. [ CAB]

Verse 14: In Leviticus 26:30, God tells Israel, through a spokesman, that if they continue to disobey him “I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars; I will heap your carcasses on the carcasses of your idols. I will abhor you”. [ NOAB]

Verses 16-17: The leaders of Judah have forgotten the basic intent of the covenant: to create and sustain a people who are mutually supportive and are concerned for all of God’s people. [ CAB] See also Exodus 22:21-22 and Amos 5:6-7. [ NOAB]

Verses 18-25: The option is open to renew the covenant and rebuild responsibility with the community; otherwise the prospect is divine judgement, which will take the form of invasion by an enemy power. Ironically, the faithlessness and corruption of the city has converted those who should be God’s people into “my enemies” (v. 24), on whom his wrath will now fall. The result of this fiery outpouring will be purification (“smelt away your dross”, v. 25) but not destruction. [ CAB]

Verse 18: “argue it out”: Job 23:7 says “There an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted forever by my judge” [ NOAB]

Verse 18: “scarlet”: In Revelation 17:4, the garments of “Babylon” (Rome) are scarlet. [ NOAB]

Verse 18: “like snow”: For white as the colour for purity, see Revelation 19:8. [ NOAB]

Verse 19: Judah may repent and return: in Jeremiah 7:5-7, we read: “... if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever”. [ NOAB]

Verse 20: The alternative is destruction: in Jeremiah 7:22-24, Yahweh says through the prophet: “... in the day that I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to them or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them, ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.’ Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but, in the stubbornness of their evil will, they walked in their own counsels, and looked backward rather than forward”. [ NOAB]

Verse 24: “I will pour out my wrath”: 49:26 says: “I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine. Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord your Saviour, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob”. [ NOAB]

Verse 24: “Mighty One of Israel”: This recalls Israel’s patriarchal traditions: see also Genesis 49:24 (“Mighty One of Jacob”); Psalm 132:2, 5. [ NOAB]

Verse 25: “as with lye”: NOAB says that thoroughly is also a possible translation. NJBC says that a different vowel is intended in the Hebrew, so he offers in a furnace.

Verses 26-27: The self-serving kings will be replaced by earlier forms of leadership: “judges” and “counsellors”, who will be concerned for the welfare of all. “The city of righteousness” will be a transformed community where things are set to right, so that God’s intended order and mutual support of the people will prevail. [ CAB]

Verse 26: There will be a new creation. Amos 9:11 says “On that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen, and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old”. See also Revelation 3:12; 21:1-4 (“... I saw a new heaven and a new earth ...”). [ NOAB]

Verses 27-28: NJBC sees these verses as a later addition, probably an editorial comment on the foregoing. While v. 26 supposes universal conversion of Jerusalem, here a distinction is made between the lot of those who are converted and those who are not.

Verses 28-31: But those who oppose God, those who desert his ways, and those who value personal gain above responsibility for all of God’s people will be destroyed. [ CAB]

Verses 29-31: Judah is faithless; the comparison is based on one of Isaiah’s rare references to pagan religious practices. See also 57:5 and Ezekiel 6:1-14. [ NOAB] However, NJBC says that a possible interpretation is that Isaiah is condemning the rich for coveting the property of others. Wisdom literature includes comparison of the wicked with vegetation: see Job 15:30-35 and Psalm 37:35-37.

Verse 29: “oaks ... gardens”: i.e. pagan worship

Psalm 50:1-8,22-23

This psalm appears to be part of a covenant-renewal liturgy and may have close ties to prophetic circles. God, the overlord, raises charges against his vassal, Israel, for violating the covenant. [ NJBC]

Superscription: “A Psalm 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. See 1 Chronicles 6:31-48.

Verses 1-6: For God taking Israel to court, see also Jeremiah 2:9-13: “Therefore once more I accuse you, says the Lord, and I accuse your children's children ...”. [ NJBC]

Verses 1,4: “the earth ... the heavens”: They are often witnesses to God’s trial of his covenant people in the Old Testament: see, for example, Isaiah 1:2. To ancient people, the firmament was a giant pudding bowl over the earth; beyond it was a hierarchy of “heavens”.

Verse 3: 18:8 says of Yahweh: “Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him”. See also Habakkuk 3:4. [ NOAB]

Verse 5: “sacrifice”: For sacrifice in a covenant context, see also Genesis 31:51-54 (Laban and Jacob enter into a covenant with Yahweh which is sealed with meals and sacrifice).

Verse 6: “Selah”: This word is probably a liturgical direction, added to the original text of the psalm. It may mean lift up, either to indicate the lifting up of the voices of the singers in a doxology, or to call for lifted-up instrumental music in an interlude in the singing. [ NOAB]

“Selah” is one of the greatest puzzles of the Old Testament. Its meaning seems to be connected with rising or lifting. But it is not clear whether the congregation rises or lifts up its hands, head, or eyes, or whether the music rises at the indicated points. The word probably indicates that the singing should stop to allow the congregation an interlude for presenting its homage to God by some gesture or act of worship. [ ICCPs]

Verses 7-23: Yahweh’s arraignment of the nation. [ NOAB]

Verses 8-13: They have brought animal sacrifices in abundance, but this is not what God wants. In 40:6, a psalmist says of Yahweh: “Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear”. This idea is also found in 51:16, 17; Amos 5:21-24; Hosea 6:6. [ NOAB]

Verses 14-15: God’s demand is rather for thanksgiving and prayer. [ NOAB]

Verse 14: “thanksgiving ... vows”: Two types of communion sacrifice which established union between God and the offerer. [ NJBC]

Verse 15: “Call on me”: Calling on the Lord’s name often accompanied sacrifice: see also 1 Kings 18:26 (the prophets of Baal call on Baal’s name) and 1 Chronicles 21:26 (David calls on Yahweh’s name). [ NJBC]

Verses 16-21: The heart of the case Yahweh brings against the people: failure to keep the laws of the covenant. [ NJBC]

Verse 16: “the wicked”: Probably the accused, i.e. Israel. [ NJBC]

Verses 18-21: Some of the charges are based on the Ten Commandments.

Hebrews 11:1-3,8-16

10:32: “enlightened”: i.e. baptized.

10:34: “plundering of your possessions”: CAB says that this is a reference to seizure of possessions by the Roman authorities.

10:35-36: The ground of their “confidence” (faith) concerning the future was, and must remain, the fulfilment of God’s promise conveyed through the prophets who spoke of the speedy deliverance of his people. [ CAB]

10:37-38: The quotation from prophetic books is per the Septuagint translation. “‘In a very little while’” is from Isaiah 26:20 (NRSV: “for a little while”); the rest of the quotation is Habakkuk 2:3-4. (The author inverts the first and second lines of v. 4.) [ NJBC]

11:1-40: These verses spell out the biblical precedents of this “confidence” (see 10:35), but also the relative limits of it in the experience of men and women of faith before the coming of Christ. [ CAB]

11:1: Scholars interpret this verse in various ways:

  • NOAB says that, instead of defining faith comprehensively, the author describes those aspects of it that bear upon the argument.
  • CAB says that the explanation of “faith” here conforms in style to the definitions in Greek philosophical writings, and that the crucial terms “conviction” and “assurance” carry philosophical meaning as to how ultimate reality can be known. But the writer has made a crucial addition: “faith” is also oriented toward the future and is grounded in the hope of fulfilment of God’s purpose. The “assurance” is that the heavenly realities, which humans have “not seen”, will be revealed to God’s faithful people, just as the “ancestors” (v. 2) looked forward to this reality.
  • NJBC says that the meanings of the words hypostasis (“assurance”) and elenchos (“conviction”) are much disputed. He considers that the words mean reality and demonstration. (The REB seems to agree.) “Faith” then is the reality of good things and events hoped for, the proof of things one cannot see, the latter being the heavenly world, and the former, those of that world. At least in 1:3 (NRSV: “very being”), hypostasis clearly means reality or substance.

11:3: This verse seems to break the continuity of the argument, for it deals with the author’s faith and that of his addressees, rather than that of the ancients, but it exemplifies the second aspect of faith mentioned in v. 1. [ NJBC]

11:3: “worlds”: It is surprising that the NRSV uses this word and the REB universe, for while the Greek aion can mean either world or age, it always carries with it a sense of time. Course of history fits the context here. [Abbott Conway] The course of history is here seen as disclosing an eternal world which exists in the heavens but is “not visible” as yet to humans. [ CAB]

11:3: “word of God”: It was the instrument for shaping creation: Genesis 1:3 begins “Then God said”. See also Psalm 33:6 and Wisdom of Solomon 9:1. [ CAB]

11:4-38: These verses present Old Testament figures and events as examples of faith, who were faithful in spite of not having the promises we have: Abel (v. 4), Enoch (v. 5), Noah (v. 7), Abraham (vv. 8-19), Isaac (v. 20), Jacob (vv. 21-22), Moses (vv. 23-28), those who passed through the Reed (Red) Sea (v. 29), the capture of Jericho (v. 30), Rahab (v. 31), judges of ancient Israel (Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah, v. 32-33), David, Samuel and the prophets (v. 32-33). (For a similar list of heroes, see Sirach 44:1-50:21). [ NJBC]

11:4: “Abel”: See Genesis 4:3-10. The superiority of Abel’s sacrifice over Cain’s met with God’s approval. An enduring witness to faith is given by his example. [ CAB] NJBC notes that the Old Testament does not mention Abel’s motivation for sacrifice. He suggests that the author was influenced by his own conviction that without faith it is impossible to please God (see v. 6) and the statement in Genesis 4:4 that God was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice.

11:4: “ he died, but through his faith he still speaks”: This may be a reference to Genesis 4:10 (where Yahweh says to Cain “your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground!”), but is more likely an indication of the enduring witness to faith given by Abel’s example:. [ NJBC]

11:5: “Enoch”: See Genesis 5:21-24 (“... Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him”). He so pleased God that God took him into his presence without experiencing death. [ CAB]

11:6: A general axiom referring to the existence and the moral government of God. [ NOAB]

11:6: “must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him”: The two objects of faith should probably be understood as synonymous, i.e. not merely the fact of God’s existence but also his existence as the one who has entered into relations with humans, on the basis of his grace. [ NJBC]

11:7: “Noah”: See Genesis 6:13-22. He expressed his confidence in the unknown future by doing God’s will in building the Ark. His action saved his family, and renounced the evil works of his contemporaries. [ CAB] Perhaps the author draws on the tradition alluded to in 2 Peter 2:5, that Noah warned his contemporaries of the imminent flood and urged them to repentance, though without success. They were thus condemned. The event vindicated his faith, which was a condemnation of their unbelief.

11:8-9: See also Genesis 12:1-8 (God calls Abram); 26:3 (God appears to Isaac); 35:12 (God appears to Jacob). [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

11:10: For Abraham’s sojourn in Canaan interpreted as an indication of his realisation that his permanent dwelling would be nowhere on earth, but in the heavenly city, see also v. 16; Galatians 4:26 (the allegory of Hagar and Sarah); Revelation 21:2. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

11:11: See also Genesis 17:19 (God tells Abraham that Sarah will bear a son); 21:2. [ NOAB]

11:11: “By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old – and Sarah herself was barren – because he considered him faithful who had promised”: The NRSV footnote offers as an alternative translation: By faith Sarah herself, though barren, received power to conceive, even when she was too old, because she considered him faithful who had promised. NJBC offers by faith Sarah herself received power for the sowing of seed . He says that the Greek text seems to attribute to Sarah the male role in the conception of Isaac. The original story is in Genesis 18:1-15. [ NJBC]

11:12: The author thinks of Yahweh’s words to Abram:

  • in Genesis 15:5-6: “‘Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’” And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness”
  • in Genesis 22:17: “‘I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.’”

In Genesis 32:12, Jacob reminds God that he has said: “‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted because of their number’”. Colossians uses phrases found in Romans 4:19: “He [Abraham] did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb”. [ NOAB]

11:17: The story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac is found in Genesis 22:1-10. [ NOAB]

11:18: Hebrews quotes Genesis 21:12: “God said to Abraham, "Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you”. [ NOAB]

11:19: “figuratively”: NJBC considers it more likely that the Greek en parabole means that Isaac’s deliverance from death is a symbol of Jesus’ resurrection.

11:19: Abraham received Isaac “back” when he was told to offer a ram instead of his son: Genesis 22:13 tells us: “Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son”. [ NOAB]

11:20-22: Isaac, Jacob and Joseph all express faith in God’s promise when they are about to die. [ JBC]

11:20: In the story of Isaac giving the birthright to Jacob, we read in Genesis 27:27-29: “So he [Jacob] came near and kissed him [Isaac]; and he [Isaac] smelled the smell of his garments, and blessed him, and said, ‘Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed’. May God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine” and in Genesis 27:39-40: “Then his father Isaac answered him: ‘See, away from the fatness of the earth shall your home be, and away from the dew of heaven on high. By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you break loose, you shall break his yoke from your neck’”. [ NOAB]

11:21: In Genesis 48, Jacob, on this deathbed, blesses Joseph’s sons.

11:22: Genesis 50:24-25 says: “Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die; but God will surely come to you, and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’ So Joseph made the Israelites swear, saying, "When God comes to you, you shall carry up my bones from here.’” . Exodus 13:19 tells us that, when the Israelites left Egypt, “Moses took with him the bones of Joseph who had required a solemn oath of the Israelites, saying, ‘God will surely take notice of you, and then you must carry my bones with you from here’”. [ NOAB]

11;23-28: Four instances of faith connected with Moses. [ NJBC]

11:23: Exodus 2:1-2 tells us “Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months”. Exodus 1:22 says: “Pharaoh commanded all his people, ‘Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live’”. [ NOAB]

11:24-27: The glorification of Moses presented here does not correspond to the Old Testament account: see Exodus 2:11-15. [ NJBC]

11:26: “abuse suffered for the Christ”: In 13:12-13, the author writes “Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured”. In a similar vein, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 10:3-4, sees “the spiritual rock” (that, according to legend, followed the people of Israel in the desert), as Christ. [ NOAB] This is a christological interpretation of Moses’ choice to share his people’s suffering. [ NJBC]

11:27: “him who is invisible”: John 1:18 says “No one has ever seen God ...”. Colossians 1:15 says that Christ is “the image of the invisible God”. See also 1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16. [ NOAB]

11:28: “sprinkling of blood”: i.e. on the lintels and doorposts: see Exodus 12:21-31. [ NOAB]

Luke 12:32-40

12:32-34: God’s providential care of his people makes unnecessary anxiety about appearance or daily needs, since a share in the life of God’s “kingdom” is not gained by human merit but by the Father’s gift. [ CAB]

12:33-34: See also Matthew 6:19-21; Mark 10:21; Luke 18:22; Acts 2:45 (Christians share their possessions); 4:32-35. Jesus spoke against abuse, not possession, of property: in v. 15, he tells the crowd: “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions”. [ NOAB] Luke’s version puts a positive spin on Jesus’ words; Matthew 6:21 says “‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.’”

12:35-13:9: Another series of images depicts the accountability of God’s people. [ CAB]

12:35-48: See also Matthew 24:43-51. [ NOAB]

12:35-38: Similar ideas are to be found in the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids: see Matthew 25:1-13. Jesus is presented as a servant in Luke 22:24-27 and as the Suffering Servant in 23:6-25. [ NJBC]

12:35: Ephesians 6:14 advises: “Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness”. See also Mark 13:33-37 (“Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come ...”). [ NOAB]

12:37: The language suggests that Jesus’ mind moved to the Messianic banquet (see 13:29; 22:16), to which a marriage feast served as an analogy. [ NOAB]

12:37: “slaves”: For the use of slave (Greek; doulos ) as a designation for a Christian, see Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 7:22; Galatians 1:10. See also Acts 4:29 (prayer after the release of Peter and John) and 16:17 (on the lips of the slave girl at Philippi). [ NJBC]

12:39: “thief”: The same motif is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-11; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3. [ NOAB]

A nuptial banquet is a messianic theme: see Song of Solomon 5:1 and Revelation 19:9. The eschatological feast is mentioned in Isaiah 55:1-13; 65:11-13; Revelation 3:20; 19:9. [ JBC]

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