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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost - September 1, 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 2:4-13

In the late 600s BC, the Assyrian empire was disintegrating so Assyria’s control of the northern kingdom, Israel, was weak. Thus King Josiah of Judah was able to exercise considerable influence over Israel.

Verses 1-3: These verses introduce a section of early prophecies under Josiah. 2:1-4:2 are directed mainly at Israel and 4:3-6:30 exclusively at Judah. The author has clearly dedicated the whole collection to Jerusalem and Judah. [NJBC]

Verse 2: “devotion”: The Hebrew word is hesed, meaning the mutual faithful and merciful love between Yahweh and Israel at the time of the Exodus, made concrete in the Sinai covenant. Both Hosea and Jeremiah present this notion of love with the symbolism of marriage, and the time in the desert as a period of great religious fidelity. [NJBC]

Verse 2: “as a bride”: God defended his “bride” against all attempts to violate her. [NOAB]

Verse 3: “first fruits”: Exodus 23:19 says “The choicest of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God ...”; thus the “first fruits” were sacred. In Exodus 4:22, Yahweh instructs Moses to tell the Pharaoh that “Israel is my firstborn son”; so Israel is sacred. Therefore the period in view is that of the judges, when Yahweh repressed severely all attempts of the neighbouring peoples to subdue his chosen people. [NJBC]

Verses 7-13: “you”: The Hebrew is the second person masculine plural, in contrast to vv. 14-19 where it is second person feminine plural. [NJBC]

Verse 8: “The priests ...”: See also Hosea 4:4-10 for the same rebuke. They were also in charge of the divine oracle and gave short instructions on particular matters, especially those related to sacrificial laws. [NJBC]

Verses 10-13: Yahweh calls upon the heavenly host to witness the folly unprecedented in both west and east of a people who forsake the “fountain of living water” for the stagnant water at the bottom of leaky “cisterns”. [NOAB]

Verse 10: “Cyprus”: The Hebrew is Kittim, the Hebrew name for Cyprus. The name is derived from that of a seaport on the southeast coast of the island called Kition. However, Jeremiah probably means all the islands of the Mediterranean coast. [NJBC]

Verse 10: “Kedar”: In Genesis 25:13, “Kedar” is a son of Ishmael; Ishmael is Abraham’s son by Hagar. [NJBC]

Verse 11: “their glory”: Two verses speak of “glory” as a divine attribute:

  • Numbers 14:21: “... all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD ...” and
  • Isaiah 6:3: “... one [seraph] called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory’”. [NJBC]

Verse 12: “O heavens”: Deuteronomy 4:26 tells us that the heavens as witnesses in another covenantal ceremony: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to occupy; you will not live long on it, but will be utterly destroyed”. For another, see Deuteronomy 30:19. [NJBC] See also Isaiah 1:2 and Micah 6:1. [NOAB]

Verse 13: “fountain of living water”: See John 4:10-15 (Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well) and 7:37-38: “On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water’”. [NOAB]

Verse 13: “cracked cisterns”: Jeremiah uses this image to define the futility of foreign alliances, as it appears from v. 18. Forsaking Yahweh’s covenant, Israel can expect only drought, i.e. severe punishment. [NOAB]

Verses 14-19: Israel has been reduced to slavery by the political powers with whom she has tried to conclude treaties. The Nile and the Euphrates are no better sources of true water than “cracked cisterns” (v. 13). [NOAB]

Verse 15: “The lions”: i.e. Assyria or Babylon. [NOAB]

Verse 16: V. 36 says: “How lightly you gad about, changing your ways! You shall be put to shame by Egypt as you were put to shame by Assyria”.

Verse 16: “Memphis”: The capital of Lower Egypt, about 20 km (14 miles ) south of Cairo. [NOAB]

Verse 16: “Tahpanhes”: A city on the eastern frontier of the Nile delta, a border fortress, also known as Baal-Zaphon. The Greeks called it Daphne; it is modern Tell Defneh. [NOAB] [NJBC]

Verse 16: “have broken the crown of your head”: Isaiah 3:17 foretells: “the Lord will afflict with scabs the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will lay bare their secret parts”. See also Isaiah 7:20. [NOAB]

Verses 18-19: See also v. 36. NOAB suggests that we not look for particular treaties here. Attempts to save the nation through alliances with Egypt and Assyria (or Babylon) are futile; neither the waters of the Nile nor of the Euphrates are like God’s “living water” (v. 13).

Psalm 81:1,10-16

See also Psalm 50.

Verses 2-3: Accompanying musical instruments are also mentioned in 149:3 (“making melody to him with tambourine and lyre”) and 150:3-4 (“Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!”). [NJBC]

Verse 3: “Blow the trumpet”: For the blowing of a trumpet on a solemn feast, see Leviticus 23:24. The feast is identified as the Feast of Booths in Leviticus 23:34. [JBC]

Verse 3: “festal day”: The commandment concerning the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles) in Deuteronomy 16:13-15 is “You shall keep the festival of booths for seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing floor and your wine press. Rejoice during your festival, you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female slaves, as well as the Levites, the strangers, the orphans, and the widows resident in your towns. Seven days you shall keep the festival for the LORD your God at the place that the LORDwill choose; for the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all your undertakings, and you shall surely celebrate”. [NOAB]

Verse 5a: The Hebrew is difficult, so the translation is somewhat speculative.

Verse 5a: “when he went out over the land of Egypt”: This can be translated as In his [God’s] going forth over/against Egypt or In his [Israel’s] going forth from Egypt. [NJBC]

Verse 7: “I tested you”: See also Exodus 20:20; Deuteronomy 8:2, 16; 13:4. In Exodus 20:18-20, after the receipt of the Ten Commandments, there are thunder and lightning. Moses then tells the people “God has come to test you”. [NJBC]

Verse 7: “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 9-10: See Exodus 20:2-3 (the Ten Commandments). [NJBC]

Verses 14-15: The correct translation may be May they cringe ... may their fates be sealed. Deuteronomy 33:29 says: “Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD ... , the shield of your help, and the sword of your triumph! Your enemies shall come fawning to you, and you shall tread on their backs.”. See also Psalm 18:45. [NJBC]

Verse 16: “finest of the wheat ... honey from the rock”: God’s sustenance for his people is also expressed in these terms in Deuteronomy 32:13-14. [NJBC]

Hebrews 13:1-8,15-16

Verse 2: “hospitality”: See also Romans 16:1-2 (welcome and help Phoebe); 1 Peter 4:9 (“Be hospitable to one another without complaining”); 3 John 5-8. [NOAB]

Verse 2: “entertained angels”: For the story of Abraham and the three men at Mamre, see Genesis 18:1-8. [NJBC] See also Genesis 19:1-3 (Lot entertains two angels who come to Sodom); Judges 6:11-18 (Gideon entertains an angel at Ophrah); 13:3-22 (Samson’s parents provide hospitality to an angel); Tobit 5:4-9. [NOAB] [CAB]

Verse 5: “I will never leave you or forsake you”: The quotation is from Joshua 1:5. There Yahweh tells Joshua “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you”. [NOAB]

Verse 6: The quotation is Psalm 118:6. [NOAB]

Verse 7: Support your leaders. [CAB]

Verse 8: John tells us in Revelation 1:17-18: “When I saw him [Christ], I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades’”.

Verse 9a: See also 9:10; Romans 14:17; Colossians 2:16. [JBC]

Verse 10: The emphatic position of the first words implies that this is an answer to the charge that Christians are at a disadvantage with respect to sacrifice.

Verse 10: “altar”: Probably the sacrifice of Christ, in which believers participate. There is no convincing reason to think that the Eucharist is in view. This verse may be speaking of useless meals, i.e. the sacrificial meals of Judaism. [NJBC]

Verse 11: As is commanded in Leviticus 16:27. [NOAB]

Verse 12: A rather inexact comparison between the Day of Atonement ritual and Jesus’ suffering. Jesus “suffered outside the city gate” of Jerusalem. [NOAB]

Verse 14: “the city that is to come”: i.e. the new, heavenly Jerusalem. In 11:10, the author speaks of “the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God”. See also 12:22. [NOAB]

Verse 15: “sacrifice”: i.e. of thanksgiving. Leviticus 7:12 commands: “If you offer it [the sacrifice of the offering of well-being] for thanksgiving, you shall offer with the thank offering unleavened cakes mixed with oil, unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes of choice flour well soaked in oil”. See also Psalm 50:14, 23; Hosea 14:2. [NOAB]

Verse 15: “the fruit of lips”: This is from the Septuagint translation of Hosea 14:3: “... turn to the Lord your God: speak to him that you may not receive the reward of unrighteousness, but that you may receive good things; and we will render in return the fruit of our lips”. [BlkHeb]

Verse 17: “leaders”: See also v. 7. [NOAB]

Verse 19: “that I may be restored to you”: Perhaps from prison. [CAB]

Verse 20: The is the only explicit reference in Hebrews to the resurrection; however resurrection is presumed when Jesus’ exaltation is mentioned, as it is in 1:3: “he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high”. [JBC]

Verse 20: “great shepherd of the sheep”: In the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 63:11, Moses is called “the shepherd of the sheep”. [NJBC]

Verse 21: “make you complete in everything good”: While the Greek word translated “complete” can mean this, BlkHeb considers that another meaning, equip, is more likely, so he offers may equip you with all that is good.

Verses 22-25: NJBC sees Hebrews as a homily, up to this point. He says that these verses (and v. 19) may be the ending added when Hebrews was sent, as a letter, to a group of Christians.

Verse 22: “I appeal to you ... bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly”: This letter is, in fact, quite brief, but to its first readers it may have seemed long, because it is condensed and the arguments are complex. [BlkHeb]

Verse 22: “my word of exhortation”: This designation is also given to a synagogue sermon in Acts 13:15 (Paul and Barnabas visit the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia). [NJBC]

Verse 22: “briefly”: i.e. considering the extent of the subject. [NOAB]

Verse 23: “Timothy”: There is no way of knowing whether this is the “Timothy” of the Pastoral Epistles.

Verse 24: “Greet all your leaders and all the saints”: The “saints” are God’s people. Noting that “all” appears twice, BlkHeb thinks that the author is advising the particular church to which he writes to overcome internal strife in which some members recognize certain leaders, and other members recognize certain other leaders.

Verse 24: “Those from Italy”: Perhaps local residents of Rome or expatriates where the author writes. [CAB]

Luke 14:1,7-14

Verses 1-6: For Jesus healing on the Sabbath, 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 13:10-17: on the Sabbath Jesus heals a crippled woman. There he cites the example of taking an ox or donkey to give it water on the Sabbath. His opponents are “put to shame”.
  • John 5:1-18: Jesus heals a paralysed man at the Beth-zatha pool on the Sabbath. [NOAB]

Jesus is “lord of the sabbath” (6:5): he champions works of compassion on the sabbath. [NJBC]

Verse 1: “a leader of the Pharisees”: The Pharisees had no leaders. The Greek is literally from the Pharisees. [JBC]

Verse 2: “dropsy”: i.e. edema. The body retains too much fluid, with attendant problems of swelling and poor blood circulation. In western societies, edema is often due to excessive consumption of sodium. [NJBC] Congestive heart failure is the other major cause.

Verse 3: “‘Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?’”: Rabbinic evidence from a slightly later time is that healing was permitted if there is a danger to life. But much casuistry was possible: certain things had a medicinal value but could be enjoyed by a healthy person as food or be used for the care of his health. Such foods did not count as medicine, and might therefore be given to a sick man on the Sabbath. [BlkLk]

Verse 5: “a child or an ox ... well”: In Aramaic, there is a pun here. A scholar quoted by BlkLk offers as the original: Which of you shall have an ox (be`ira) or an ass (bar hamra) fallen into a well (bera) ... The Aramaic word for “ass” literally means son of the yoke; this would account for the word “child”. [BlkLk] The NRSV footnote says that donkey is a possible translation.

Verse 6: Perhaps because there was a difference of opinion among them on this matter. [BlkLk]

Verse 7: “the guests”: The Greek word is keklemenoi. The parable of the Great Dinner, which follows in vv. 16-24, contrasts those considered elect and those deemed non-elect. [NJBC]

Verse 8: Proverbs 25:6-7 advises: “Do not put yourself forward in the king's presence or stand in the place of the great; for it is better to be told, ‘Come up here,’ than to be put lower in the presence of a noble”. In Luke, the same idea is found in 11:43 and 20:46. [NOAB]

Verse 10: “then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you”: BlkLk offers then you will have respect from those reclining with you. Guests reclined at table. Theologically, it is God alone who can allot places in the heavenly kingdom. See also Mark 10:40 (Jesus’ reply to James and John as they seek special status) and Matthew 20:23.

Verse 11: The same saying is found in Matthew 23:12, in a different setting. This teaching is also found in James 4:6, 10; 1 Peter 5:5 and Philippians 2:5-11. Jesus gives secular wisdom a theological orientation. [NJBC] [BlkLk]

Verses 12-14: Luke tells us in Acts 4:32 that, for a time, the Christian community held all possessions in common. [NJBC]

Verse 12: James 2:2-4 asks: “For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please,’ while to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there,’ or, ‘Sit at my feet,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?”. See also Matthew 5:43-48. [NOAB] Jesus answers questions that arise about religiously correct people, all of which occur in the context of eating with Pharisees:

  • Should they associate with the religiously unclean? See 7:36-50 (a woman, a sinner, anoints Jesus’ feet with an ointment)
  • What renders one ritually unclean?: see 11:37-54 (Jesus does not wash before dinner)
  • Who should be invited to meals?: this passage

It is likely that these questions also arose in the community which first read this gospel. [NJBC]

Verse 13: “the poor, the crippled ...”: They are mentioned again in the next parable: see v. 21. 1QSa (Qumran Rule of the Community, Appendix A) 2:5-22 lists the following people as forbidden entry into the eschatological banquet: those who are afflicted in the flesh, crushed in feet or hands, lame, blind, deaf, or dumb; those who suffer from defective eyesight or senility. Jesus adds the “poor” to this list – but all will be invited to the banquet! In both the Old Testament and the Qumran literature, “the poor” is used as a designation for Israel. [NJBC]

Verse 14: Jesus appeals not to a spirit of material gain, i.e. the hope of reward in the judgement, but rather to the faith that the principle of love will be vindicated. See Colossians 3:23-24. [NOAB]

Verse 14: “the resurrection of the righteous”: Belief varied as to whether the ungodly would be raised as well as the godly:

  • Acts 24:15 shows Paul as believing in the resurrection of both. This belief is found in Daniel 12:2 and some parts of 1 Enoch. The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs also envisages all being resurrected at the end of time, though perhaps not all at the same time.
  • Luke presents a view that has more in common with:
  • Psalms of Solomon, which sees only the resurrection of the godly, and
  • 2 Maccabees, where resurrection is the reward of the martyrs. (For example, 2 Maccabees 7:9: “the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws”.) [BlkLk]

Note the chronological sequence in these verses: v. 1: enter to take food; v. 7: choose places; v. 12: at lunch or dinner; v. 16: at dinner.

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