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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost - August 25, 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.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Verse 1: “words”: The Hebrew plural dibre also means actions or events, so history is a good translation. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “Jeremiah”: The name may mean The Lord exalts or Yahweh has established – depending on which Hebrew verb is part of the name. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “Hilkiah”: 2 Kings 22 tells of one Hilkiah, a high priest, who “found the book of the law” in the Temple in 622 or 621 BC, during the reign of Josiah (640-609 BC). This led to religious reform. But NJBC says that this is not the Hilkiah identified in this verse. Even so, Jeremiah’s mission continued through the reform of Josiah.

Verse 1: “priests ... in Anathoth”: Jeremiah may have been a descendant of the priest Abiathar, who was banished by Solomon to Anathoth (see 1 Kings 2:26-27). [NOAB] Anathoth is the present village of Anata, some 5 km northeast of Jerusalem. (Anata is the plural form of the name of the Canaanite goddess Anat; she was Baal’s sister.)

Verses 2-3: The “thirteenth year of his [Josiah’s] reign” would be 627 BC. [NOAB] The text seems to indicate that his ministry started in this year; however, because no oracles can be dated to Josiah’s reign, some scholars say that 627 was the year of Jeremiah’s birth.

Verse 3: “Zedekiah”: He reigned from 597 to 586 BC. The eleventh year of his reign was 586 BC. [NOAB] Chapters 40-44 describe Jeremiah’s activities after the ruin of Jerusalem in 587 BC.

Verse 5: “formed”: For yashar, see also Amos 4:13 (“the mountains”); Jeremiah 51:19 (“all things”); Isaiah 45:18 (“the earth”); 49:5 (“me in the womb”); Psalm 95:5 (“the dry land”). [JBC]

Verse 5: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”: This notion is also found in Job 10:8-12; Psalms 22:10-11; 71:6; 139:13-16. [JBC]

Verse 5: “consecrated”: NJBC offers dedicated.

Verse 6: “I am only a boy”: See also Isaiah 3:4 (“I will make boys their princes, and babes shall rule over them”) and 1 Kings 3:7 (Solomon). Moses had a similar reaction when Yahweh sent him as a messenger (see Exodus 4:10-15) but for a different reason: he had a speech defect. [JBC]

Verses 7-8: See also Ezekiel 2:6-7 (“... You shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear ...”) and Deuteronomy 18:18 (“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people ...”). [JBC]

Verse 9: See also Matthew 10:19-20 (“... it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you”). [NOAB]

Verse 9: “touched my mouth”: See also the prophetic calls of: Isaiah (Isaiah 6:7), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:8-3:3), and Daniel (Daniel 10:16) for similar action on their mouths. [JBC]

Verse 10: God’s word is a dynamic and vital force, not a static and symbolic figure: see Isaiah 55:10-11. [NOAB]

Verse 10: The assemblage of verbs is characteristic of the book: see also 18:7-10; 24:6; 31:27-28; 42:9-10; 45:4-5. NJBC suggests that Jeremiah is charged with restructuring the nations.

Verses 11-16: These verses were inserted by an editor. [NJBC]

Verses 11-12: “almond tree ... watching”: In Hebrew, there is a play on words: “almond tree” is shaqed and “watching” is shoqed. [NOAB] This is a vision which probably occurred early in Jeremiah’s life. [NJBC]

Verses 13-14: This is another vision. [NJBC]

Verses 17-19: These verses are an expansion of vv. 4-8. [NOAB]

Verse 17: “gird up your loins”: i.e. gather your long garment into your belt. [JBC] Respond promptly to the order (e.g. Elijah in 1 Kings 18:46) and prepare immediately for combat (e.g. Yahweh calls Job to legal combat in Job 38:3; 40:7).

Verse 18: “fortified city”: In Ezekiel’s call (Ezekiel 3:8-9), the same steadfast strength is expressed in similar imagery. [JBC]

The predestination of Jeremiah to his office began from the start of his existence (see also Judges 13:5, Samson; Isaiah 49:1-2, the Servant; Luke 1:15, John the Baptizer; Galatians 1:15-16, Paul), and shows an intimate relationship between Yahweh and Jeremiah. The intimacy never ceases to grow, as can be seen throughout the book.

Psalm 71:1-6

JBC suggests that the psalmist was ill as well as persecuted.

Verses 2-3: 31:2-4 is similar. [JBC]

Verses 5-6: The same idea is found in 22:10-11. [JBC]

Verses 12-13: See also 70:2-3. [NJBC]

Verses 14-24: One scholar sees the psalmist as making a vow: if his prayer is answered, he will use his talent for music (v. 22), to celebrate God’s saving acts, so that future generations will know them. [NOAB]

Verse 18: “to all the generations”: The Hebrew is difficult. Another possible translation is in the Temple, in which case “reach the high heavens” (v. 19) is rendered in your holy place. [JBC]

Verse 20: “from the depths of the earth”: i.e. from Sheol (after he dies). The same idea is expressed in 9:13 and 30:3.

Verse 24: “have been”: Another possible translation is would be. [NJBC]

Hebrews 12:18-29

Verses 14-17: The necessity of pursuing peace and purity. [NOAB] If the faithful tolerate “bitterness” (v. 15) or moral defilement, they will forfeit their inheritance, as Esau did. [CAB]

Verse 15: There are similarities between this verse and the Septuagint translation of Deuteronomy 29:18: “Lest there be among you man, or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart has turned aside from the Lord your God, having gone to serve the gods of other nations; lest there be in you a root springing up with gall and bitterness”. [NOAB] [BLXX] Watch over one another to avoid straying from the faith. [NJBC]

Verse 16: “like Esau, an immoral and godless person”: NJBC offers no fornicator or profane person like Esau. He says that fornicator may not refer to Esau. Esau’s profaneness is shown by his giving up his birthright for a single meal: see Genesis 25:29-34. JB translates this verse as And be careful that there is no immorality, or that any of you does not degrade religion like Esau, who sold ... . To degrade religion refers to the sin Esau committed when he surrendered the position that was his by birth, of being heir to the messianic promises.

Verse 17: Esau is an example not only of deviation from the faith but also of the impossibility of repentance after that sin. In 6:4-6, the author says “ For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt”. [NJBC]

Verse 17: “chance to repent”: Per the NRSV footnote, chance to change his father’s mind is also a possible rendering. See Genesis 27:30-40 (Esau seeks Isaac’s blessing). [NOAB]

Verses 18-19: See Exodus 20:18-21 (After God gives the Ten Commandments, the people are terrified by his display of natural phenomena – but he does not say “‘I tremble with fear’”); Deuteronomy 4:11-12; 5:22-27. [NOAB]

Verse 20: In Exodus 19:12-13, Moses tells the people what Yahweh has told him: “‘You shall set limits for the people all around, saying, 'Be careful not to go up the mountain or to touch the edge of it. Any who touch the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch them, but they shall be stoned or shot with arrows; whether animal or human being, they shall not live.' When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they may go up on the mountain’”. [NOAB]

Verse 21: In Deuteronomy 9:19, Moses says “ For I was afraid that the anger that the Lord bore against you was so fierce that he would destroy you. But the Lord listened to me that time also”. [NOAB] That Moses said ‘”I tremble with fear’” is not in the Bible, but is inferred. Further, Deuteronomy 9:19 is part of Moses’ speech given when the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, rather than at Sinai. [JBC]

Verse 22: The author speaks of those who are still on the journey to heaven, yet since they already possess the benefits of Jesus’ sacrifice, he can speak of them as having already arrived. [NJBC] He shows the now and not yet of Christian experience in this world. [JBC]

Verse 22: “the heavenly Jerusalem”: In 11:10, the author says that Abraham “looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God”; Galatians 4:26 (the allegory of Hagar and Sarah; Sarah “corresponds to the Jerusalem above”); Revelation 21:2 (“the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God”); 2 Esdras 8:52 (“... it is for you that paradise is opened, the tree of life is planted, the age to come is prepared, plenty is provided, a city is built ...”). [NOAB] [JBC]

Verse 23: “the firstborn”: These may be either the angels of v. 22 or the entire assembly of the Christian faithful. [NJBC] They may also be the Old Testament exemplars of Chapter 11. [JBC]

Verse 23: “the spirits of the righteous made perfect”: In 11:39-40, the author says “Yet all these [exemplars of the Old Testament] , though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect”. [JBC]

Verse 24: The blood of Abel cried out for vengeance (see Genesis 4:10); that of Jesus brings access to God. Genesis 4:10-11 says: “the LORD said, "What have you done? Listen; your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground! And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand”. In 10:19, the author writes “... we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus”. [NJBC]

Verse 24: “the sprinkled blood”: 9:14 says: “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!”. See also 13:20.

Verse 24: “Abel”: After Cain kills Abel, Yahweh says: “‘What have you done? Listen; your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground! And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand’” (see Genesis 4:10). [NOAB]

Verse 25: The author argues from the lesser to the greater, as he does in 2:2-4: “For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will”. [JBC]

Verse 25: “who warns”: NOAB says that the Greek can also be translated as who is.

Verses 26-29: “At that time” is at the time of the giving (making) of the covenant at Mount Sinai. Since then, through Haggai, God has promised to shake both the earth and the heaven. The author takes this as a promise to shake out from all that he has created all that are ungodly. At the end of time, after the shaking, only the unshakable will remain; the unshakable will be the faithful. So “we” (v. 28), being faithful, “are receiving”, i.e. both have received and are heading towards the fullness of, membership in the kingdom of God, “a kingdom that cannot be shaken” from fidelity. So “let us give thanks” (v. 28), thereby worshipping God properly, i.e. reverently and with due awe. In v. 29, the author switches metaphor: from shaking out to “fire”. In refining gold, heating the ore separated the gold from the dross, the faithful from the ungodly. So Comments says In vv. 26-29, the author interprets God’s words spoken through the prophet Haggai as a reference to the Last Judgement.

Verse 26: The quotation is from Haggai 2:6, 21. [CAB]

Verse 29: See also Deuteronomy 4:24; 9:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8. In Matthew 3:12, John the Baptizer says of Christ: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire”. [NOAB]

Luke 13:10-17

In this rich passage, found only in Luke, the evangelist shows in action the meaning of God’s kingdom, which he will illustrate through parables in vv. 18-21. [NJBC]

Verse 11: “with a spirit”: In 4:33-37, Jesus cures “a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon”. [JBC]

Verse 12: “saw her”: Jesus always had an eye for the needy. [JBC]

Verse 13: “he laid his hands on her”: Jesus heals and blesses, in accordance with Old Testament usage: see Genesis 48:14-20 (Jacob lays his hands on Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and blesses them) and Leviticus 9:22 (Aaron blesses the people). In the New Testament, see also Mark 1:41 (Jesus heals a man of leprosy) and 5:23 (Jairus asks Jesus to lay his hands on his daughter, that she may be made well again and live). For laying on hands for healing, see also Mark 6:5; 7:32; Luke 4:40; for laying on hands in blessing, see also Mark 10:13, 16; Luke 24:50. Jesus does not use the imposition of hands for exorcism; but this and absolution make the chief uses of the action in the liturgy of the early Church. [BlkLk]

Verse 14: “because Jesus had cured on the sabbath”: On this subject, see also:

  • Matthew 12:10-12: Jesus cites the example of saving a sheep on the Sabbath as showing that doing good on this day is in accord with the law.
  • Luke 6:6-11: on the Sabbath Jesus heals “a man [in a synagogue] whose right hand was withered”. When criticised, he asks “is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?”.
  • Luke 14:1-6: Jesus sees a man with dropsy. He asks religious leaders whether it is “ lawful to cure people on the sabbath” – they do not reply. He cures the man. He then cites the example of “a child or an ox that has fallen into a well”, and asks whether they would not “pull it out on the sabbath day”. Again they are silent.
  • John 5:1-18: Jesus heals a paralysed man at the Beth-zatha pool on the Sabbath. [NOAB]

Verse 14: The “leader of the synagogue” recalls one of the Ten Commandments: see Exodus 20:9-10. [NOAB] Detailed rules with regard to the kind of work allowed on the Sabbath, according to the urgency of the injury, were published by the rabbis. A prohibition is found in CD (Damascus Document) 8:22-23: No man shall help an animal in its delivery on the Sabbath day. And if it falls into a pit or ditch, he shall not raise it up on the Sabbath. [BlkLk]

Verses 15,16: “untie his ox ... whom Satan bound ... be set free ...”: BlkLk offers for these verses: Jesus answered him and said, “Hypocrites, does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or ass from the manager and lead him away and water him? This woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has tied up - see! – eighteen years, was it not right that she should be untied from her bonds on the sabbath days?”. “Untie” (v. 15) and “set free” (v. 16) are translations of the same Greek verb; “bound” is a translation of the opposite Greek verb. BlkLk’s translation brings out the sense of what Jesus said better than the NRSV. REB goes part way in making the sense clear.

Verse 15: “untie his ox ...”: Per the Mishnah (Shabbath 7:2), tying and loosing knots are among the 39 kinds of work forbidden on the sabbath, but Shabbath 15:1-2 exempts certain kinds of knots. [JBC]

Verse 15: “lead it away”: CD (Damascus Document) 11:5-7 says that a stubborn animal can be led up to “a thousand cubits” (i.e. half a kilometre) on the sabbath. [JBC]

Verse 16: “daughter of Abraham”: In 19:9, Jesus declares the chief toll collector, Zacchaeus, to be a “son of Abraham”. [NJBC]

Verse 16: “whom Satan bound”: Satanic forces are in conflict with God’s purpose for salvation in his covenant with Abraham, and are the concern of his saving activity. In Matthew 12:24, the Pharisees attribute Jesus’ healing power to evil forces hostile to humankind. In Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus is tempted by the devil (“Satan”) to misuse his powers to his own advantage. The devil and “Satan” are names for evil conceived of as a personal will actively hostile to God. [NOAB]

Verse 16: “be set free from this bondage ...”: What Jesus does on the sabbath is truly a celebration of its deep meaning, i.e. release from the effects of the fallen order. The sabbath’s purpose, according to Jesus, is fulfilled not by forbidding works of compassion, but by encouraging them. Jesus has released her, a captive, from bonds of evil (4:18). [NJBC]

Verse 17: “wonderful things”: BlkLk offers glorious deeds and says that the Greek word is fairly widely used in the Septuagint. Luke is the only evangelist to use the word. It is found in the Septuagint translation of Sirach, e.g. Sirach 44:1.

Verse 18: “He said therefore ...”: To try to avoid being seen only as a wonder-worker (“all the wonderful things he had been doing”, v. 17), Jesus asks (rhetorically): “‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it?’”. BlkLk says that it is Luke who ties together material from one source (up to and including v. 17) with material from the sayings source known as Q (vv. 18-21).

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