Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost - October 6, 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.

Lamentations 1:1-6

This poem (vv. 1-22) contains 22 stanzas; each stanza begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It was composed, or adapted for, public recitation on days of fasting and mourning.

Vv. 1-11 comment on the contrast between Jerusalem’s former glory and present disgrace; in vv. 12-22, Zion speaks in her own voice, jolting us to share her internal experience in a more personal way. [NJBC]

1:2: Absence of consolation is a recurring theme: see also vv. 9, 16, 17, 21. [NJBC]

1:2: “lovers ... friends”: That political allies have become enemies is a theme common in laments: see also v. 19; Jeremiah 27:3-6; 30:14; Psalms 38:12; 88:18. [NJBC]

1:6: “daughter Zion”: The city is personified as a maiden. [NOAB]

1:7: “the foe looked on mocking”: The most shameful thing to have happen! See also Job 30:1-9; Psalms 22:7-9; 44:14. [NJBC]

1:8: “all who honoured her despise her”: Her disobedience to God has become obvious to all.

1:9: “Her uncleanness was in her skirts”: Probably a reference to menstruation, as a result of her sin. The law regarding menstruation is found in Leviticus 15:19-24. [NJBC]

1:10: “invade her sanctuary”: Formerly accessible only to priests, the sanctuary of the Temple is now invaded by foreigners (“the nations”) – who previously could not enter: see Deuteronomy 23:3-4 for the law forbidding access by foreigners. [CAB] Foreigners now plunder the Temple with impunity. [NJBC]

1:11-12: The poverty of people searching for bread and selling their prized possession (or precious children) to obtain food evokes no sympathy from neighbouring peoples who see the condition of the city. [CAB]

1:12-22: Zion begins speaking about God (vv. 12-19) and ends by speaking to God. He has summoned an army against Judah. [NJBC]

1:12: The meaning of the text is uncertain. [NJBC]

1:13-17: Jerusalem is personified by the poet, who laments the present pain and disobedience that caused these troubles and led to God’s seeming rejection of his people. [CAB]

1:13-15: Yahweh’s actions are described in a series of images: fire, a net, sickness, a heavy yoke braided of sin. Instead of leading Israel’s warriors to victory as before, Yahweh has summoned an army against them. [NJBC]

1:17: The poet interrupts in this verse; then Zion continues to speak in vv. 18-19. [NJBC]

1:18-20: The poet acknowledges that God is justified in what he has done to punish Judah, even though the inward parts of the people churn as they endure these horrors. [CAB]

1:18-19: Jerusalem reaffirms Yahweh’s righteousness and her sinfulness. [NJBC]

1:19: “I called to my lovers”: see v. 2. Her “lovers” have deceived her. Now she turns to the only one who can help. [NJBC]

1:20-22: In very concrete terms, Zion describes her condition. [NJBC]

1:20: “my stomach ...”: NJBC offers my intestines ... In ancient anthropology, when one was in distress, the intestines pressured the liver and the heart, which broke down, turning to liquid which left a bitter taste in the throat before exiting the eyes as tears.

1:21-22: The glee of the neighbouring peoples (“enemies”) at Judah’s plight leads to a call for God to bring comparable judgment on them. [CAB]

2:1-22: The day of Yahweh’s wrath: the day of Jerusalem’s destruction was the day of the wrath of the LORD. [NJBC]

Lamentations 3:19-26

This chapter is an acrostic in three parts with three verses to each successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Within each stanza each verse begins with the same letter. [NOAB]

The city confesses its sin and calls for renewal and retribution. [CAB]

Verses 1-20: God’s punitive judgement has brought ruin to his people, so that all they “hoped for” (v. 18) is gone, and bitterness prevails. [CAB]

Verses 1-3: The poet seems to be deliberately reversing Psalm 23:4: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff – they comfort me”; similarly, v. 6 with Psalm 23:6, v. 9 with 23:3, v. 15 with 23:5, and v. 17 with 23:6. [NJBC]

Verses 1-18: See also Psalm 56. [NOAB] The poet’s personal distress is described in terms echoing Job’s complaints against God: v. 1: Job 9:34, v. 2: Job 19:8, v. 3: Job 7:18, v. 4: Job 7:5; 30:30, v. 5: Job 19:6, 12, v. 6: Job 23:16-17, v. 7: Job 19:8, v. 8: Job 30:20, v. 9: Job 19:8, vv. 10-11: Job 16:9, vv. 12-13: Job 16:1,12-13, v. 14: Job 30:9, v. 15: Job 9:18, v. 16-18: Job 19:10; 30:19. [NOAB]

Verses 4-9: The poet (“I”, v. 8) is beset, hemmed in, encircled, and abandoned. [NJBC]

Verses 10-13: The enemy (“he”) is like a marauding “bear” or “lion”; he is like an archer shooting arrows into the victim’s body. Job expresses similar feelings in Job 16:12-13: “I was at ease, and he broke me in two; he seized me by the neck and dashed me to pieces; he set me up as his target; his archers surround me. He slashes open my kidneys, and shows no mercy; he pours out my gall on the ground”. [NJBC]

Verses 15-19: The enemy is an ungracious host who torments his guest and feeds him “wormwood”. Only near the end of this section is the enemy named: it is Yahweh! [NJBC]

Verses 19-51: A sage counsels submission and penitence in acknowledgement of God’s righteousness and mercy. [NOAB]

Verse 19: “wormwood and gall”: “Wormwood” is a shrub-like plant belonging to the aster family; its leaves have a bitter taste. “Gall” is a herb both bitter (see Matthew 27:34, Jesus is on the Cross) and poisonous (see Psalm 69:21). [HBD]

Verses 21-39: God’s love endures and will prevail beyond the present time of punishment of the people for their disobedience. God sees and calls to account injustice, as well as sending both “good and bad” (v. 38) on the world. [CAB]

Verses 22-26: There is a basis for hope, i.e. the memory of Yahweh’s ways and justice. His covenant fidelity (Hebrew: hesed) and mercy never cease: they are received daily. [NJBC]

Verse 24: “‘The Lord is my portion’”: Yahweh’s eternal covenant applies to the poet personally. For similar expressions, see Psalm 16:5; 73:26; 142:5; Numbers 18:20 (Yahweh to Aaron). [NJBC]

Verses 25-30: These verses reflect the wisdom tradition. See, for example, Proverbs 13:24 (“Those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them”) and Proverbs 23:13-14 (“Do not withhold discipline from your children; if you beat them with a rod, they will not die. If you beat them with the rod, you will save their lives from Sheol”). [NJBC]

Verses 25-26: Confident of God’s goodness, the sufferer can hope in silence for deliverance and bear up under the yoke, which can have educational value. [NJBC]

Verses 25-27: Note that “good” occurs once in each verse; in Hebrew it is the first word of each verse. [NJBC]

Verse 29: The poet begins to generalize. [JBC]

Verse 29: “put one’s mouth to the dust”: i.e. in self-abasement. [NOAB]

Verse 29: “there may yet be hope”: The crisis calls for careful confidence that avoids presumption, that recognizes God’s transcendence even in matters of grace. For cautious hope in awareness of God’s absolute sovereignty, see Amos 5:15 (“... it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph”) and Joel 2:14 (“Who knows whether he [Yahweh] will not turn and relent ... ?”).

Verses 31-33: The poet reflects, in a more theological way, on God’s justice. Punishment is transitory; what lasts is God’s fidelity (Hebrew: hesed) and mercy. [NJBC]

Verse 33: “he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone”: Literally from the heart. [NOAB]

Verses 34-36: Nothing happens without God’s knowledge. [NJBC]

Verses 37-39: In words similar to Genesis 1, God is seen as creator of all, evil as well as good – as he is in Isaiah 45:7. [NJBC]

Verse 39: Finally we learn the cause of the suffering: it is “sin”. As vv. 1-20 waited until nearly the last verse to name the enemy, vv. 21-39, wait until the last verse to name the cause. [NJBC]

Verses 40-42: What is called for is repentance and confession on the part of the people. [CAB]

Verse 40: Up to this point, the speaker has been I and God he; in the rest of the poem, the speaker is we (Israel) and God you. God and humans are again covenant partners. [NJBC]

Verse 48: “The author writes in 2:11:My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile is poured out on the ground because of the destruction of my people, because infants and babes faint in the streets of the city.”. See also Jeremiah 9:1. [NOAB]

Psalm 137

The tenses in vv. 1-4 in the NRSV translation indicate that the translators consider this psalm to be post-exilic, so Comments is written in this spirit; however, some other scholars translate these tenses differently, considering that the psalm was written during the Exile.

Verse 3: “songs of Zion”: Psalms which emphasize Jerusalem as God’s dwelling place on earth, the “city of God” (46:4). See also 48:1-2; 87:1-3; 101:8; 127:1. [NOAB]

Verse 5: “wither”: Some scholars prefer be forgotten, meaning cease to function. [NJBC]

Verse 6a: 33:2-3 says “Praise the LORD with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings. Sing to him a new song; play skilfully on the strings, with loud shouts”. [NJBC]

Verse 7: Some scholars question whether the Edomites did in fact help the Babylonians sack Jerusalem in 587 BC. They did rejoice over the destruction of the Temple. See 2 Kings 25:8-12 (the Babylonians destroy the Temple and exile the people); Ezekiel 25:12-14 (prophecy against Edom); Psalm 108:10-11; Obadiah 1-16. (Esau was the father of Edom: see Genesis 25:30; 36:8.) [CAB] [NJBC]

Verse 8: “daughter Babylon”: Personification of the Babylonian people. Literally daughter of Babylon. [NOAB]

Verse 9: Such atrocities occurred in warfare in the ancient Near East (see Isaiah 13:16; Hosea 10:14; 13:16; Nahum 3:10) and were no doubt committed by the conquering Babylonians. In an extreme example of the law of talion (see Psalms 54:7; 64:8; 109:17-19; 140:12; 141:9-10), the psalmist hopes that his people have the opportunity to pay them back (v. 8) in kind for what they have done. [NJBC]

2 Timothy 1:1-14

Unlike Titus and 1 Timothy, this book presents Paul as speaking directly to Timothy, so it is the most likely of the Pastoral Epistles to be Pauline or to include substantial Pauline elements. [NOAB]

1:1: “Paul, an apostle”: Paul’s letters often begin with his claim to apostleship: see Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1. See also Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:1. Some in Paul’s time questioned whether he was an apostle: see 1 Corinthians 9:1ff and 2 Corinthians 13:3. [CAB]

1:1: “by the will of God”: In the Pastoral Epistles, Paul’s role as Christ’s emissary was part of God’s plan of salvation. See also Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:15; 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11; Titus 1:3. [NJBC] [CAB]

1:1: “for the sake of”: Can also be translated in accord with. [NJBC]

1:1: “for the sake of the promise of life”: A shorthand summary of Titus 1:2-3: “in the hope of eternal life that God, who never lies, promised before the ages began – in due time he revealed his word through the proclamation with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Saviour”. [NJBC]

1:2: “beloved child”: Can also be translated as legitimate, and hence Paul’s heir. “Child” is Paul’s usual designation for those he has brought to the faith: he writes in Galatians 4:19 “My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you”. See also Philemon 10. [CAB]

1:2: “Grace, mercy and peace”: Only “grace ... and peace” are wished to addressees in letters generally accepted as Pauline.

Verses 3-5: A typical thanksgiving developed with the help of Romans 1:8-11: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world. For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers, asking that by God's will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you. For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you”. [NJBC]

1:3: “clear conscience”: For the importance of a clear conscience, see also 1 Timothy 1:5 (“the aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith”); 1 Timothy 4:2; Romans 2:15; 9:1; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 1 Peter 3:16; Acts 24:16. [CAB]

1:3: “as my ancestors did”: A phrase not found in letters which are generally accepted as Pauline. This phrase accords with the emphasis in 2 Timothy on Christianity’s continuity with its Old Testament roots. See also vv. 9-10; 2:8, 19; 3:8, 14-17. [CAB] See also Acts 24:14-15 (Paul before Felix) and Acts 26:6 (Paul before Agrippa). [NJBC]

1:4: “Recalling your tears”: Acts 20:37-38 tells of the weeping upon Paul’s departure from Ephesus. [NJBC]

1:5: “that lived first ...”: This implies that both Timothy’s mother and grandmother were Christians. Acts 16:1 says that his mother was a Christian of Jewish extraction, but his grandmother is not mentioned there. [CAB] Perhaps his father is omitted because he was a pagan: see Acts 16:1, 3. [NJBC]

1:6: “the laying on of hands”: 1 Timothy 4:14 advises: “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders”. This designates the donation and reception of a gift. Other examples are: Jesus blesses children (see Mark 10:16); Jesus heals with a touch (see Mark 6:5); the Holy Spirit is given to the baptised (see Acts 8:17; 19:6); believers are set aside for special tasks in the Church (see Acts 6:6; 13:3). Laying on of hands is rare in the Old Testament, but see Deuteronomy 34:9 (“Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the LORD had commanded Moses”) and Numbers 27:18-23. We do not know whether the reference in our reading to Timothy’s baptism or to his ordination. NJBC sees this verse as an effort to make clear that Paul alone authenticated Timothy’s mission.

1:7: The structure of this sentence is very like Romans 8:15: “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption ...”. [NJBC] Throughout the letter, Timothy is exhorted to courage and endurance, which are possibilities not because of native human qualities but through the gift of the Holy Spirit. See also Ephesians 1:17.

1:7: “but ...”: The REB offers “but one to inspire power, love and self-discipline”.

1:8: “Do not be ashamed”: Timothy was apparently overawed by his surroundings and did not make his witness boldly. [NOAB] The language is close to that of Paul in Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, ...”. “Not ashamed” also occurs in v. 12. [NJBC]

1:8: “the testimony about our Lord”: In the Pastoral Epistles, the function of ministry is to safeguard the traditions handed down about Jesus and the apostles: see also vv. 13-14; 2:2, 14-15, 24-25; 3:14; 4:2; 1 Timothy 6:20. The “testimony” may mean the actual teachings of Jesus (as in 1 Timothy 6:3) or the preaching about him (as in 1 Timothy 4:13). [CAB] To NJBC, it is Paul – not Christ – who is proposed as the prime model for imitation.

1:8: “of me his prisoner”: This is ironic: being Christ’s, he is actually free. In 1 Corinthians 7:22, Paul writes “For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ”. [NJBC]

Verses 9-11: Much of the language of this schema of revelation is found in the Pauline letters. For this pattern, see also Titus 1:1-3; Ephesians 3:5-7, 9-11; Romans 16:25-26. [NJBC]

1:9: “who saved us”: See also 1 Timothy 1:15; 2:3-4; 4:10; Titus 2:10; 3:4-5. [CAB] For Paul, salvation is usually a future event; however Romans 8:24-25 says “... in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience”. [NJBC]

1:9: “not according to our works ...”: In the gospels, God invites humans to become his own not as a reward for works but because he is gracious. In Galatians 2:16, Paul says: “... we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ ...”. See also Romans 9:10-11; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5. [NOAB] [NJBC]

1:9: “before the ages began”: Titus 1:2 says “in the hope of eternal life that God, who never lies, promised before the ages began”. [CAB]

1:10: “the appearing of ... Jesus”: i.e. the Incarnation. [NOAB] See also Titus 2:11-13 says that “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all ... while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ”. See also Titus 3:4 and 1 Timothy 6:14. [CAB] The Pastoral Epistles use the title “Saviour” both of God and of Christ. [NJBC]

1:10: “who abolished death”: In 1 Corinthians 15:26, this is a future event: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death”. [NJBC] See also Romans 6:9; 8:2; Hebrews 2:14-15. [NOAB]

1:10: “life and immortality”: i.e. immortal life. Paul writes in Romans 8:11: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you”. [NOAB]

1:11: Of Paul’s essential role in working out the plan of salvation, Titus 1:3 says: “in due time he revealed his word through the proclamation with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Saviour”. See also 1 Timothy 2:7. [CAB] [NJBC]

1:12: “until that day”: See also v. 18 wishes “may the Lord grant that he [Onesiphorus] will find mercy from the Lord on that day!”. See also 2 Thessalonians 1:10. [NOAB]

1:13-18: V. 15 illustrates negatively, and vv. 16-18 positively, the principle enunciated in vv. 13-14. Paul and his teaching remain the exemplar for the Christian community. [NJBC]

1:14: “the good treasure entrusted to you”: The Greek word, paratheke, can refer to a deposit of money which is to be returned exactly as received, hence a trust. Scholars sometimes call the body of doctrine which is to be safeguarded the deposit of faith. [NJBC]

1:15-17: Things may be bad in Asia but on the other hand “the household of Onesiphorus” is a blessing.

1:15: We do not know what the precise controversy referred to here was, but note that 2 Corinthians 1:8 mentions “the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself”. 2 Timothy 4:16 says: “At my first defence no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them!”. [CAB]

1:15: “Asia”: i.e. the Roman province of that name in western Asia Minor. [NOAB] Ephesus was the chief city. [JBC]

1:15: “Hermogenes”: Only mentioned here in the New Testament. With Demas, he appears in Acts of Paul and Thecla as an apostate follower of Paul. [NJBC]

1:17: “Onesiphorus”: Both this and the reference in 4:19 are to his household, so one possibility is that Onesiphorus has died. [CAB] Other than these two references, he is known only in Acts of Paul and Thecla, where he is also depicted as a faithful friend of Paul. [NJBC]

1:17: “Rome”: This suggests that Paul’s imprisonment was in Rome. Acts 28:30-31 says that Paul “lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance”.[CAB]

1:18: “Lord ... Lord”: In the Greek, the two words are the same, so we can only conjecture that the first “Lord” refers to Christ and the second to the Father. [NJBC]

1:18: “on that day”: i.e. At the second coming of Christ. See Clipping on v. 12. [NOAB]

Luke 17:5-10

Verses 1-10: A series of sayings points up the themes of responsibility of members of the new community toward each other on such issues as causing others to sin, forgiving those who sin against one, increasing one’s faith, and accepting even a menial role (cooking and serving meals) within the new community. [CAB]

Verses 1-6: These sayings are found in a different sequence and in different settings in Mark 9:42; Matthew 17:20; 18:6-7, 15. [JBC]

Verses 1-2: Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 8:12: “... when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ”. [NOAB]

Verse 2: “millstone”: The millstone common in Palestine was a disk of basalt weighing at least 45 kg (100 lb). [NJBC]

Verse 2: “little ones”: NOAB sees this as a reference to disciples of Jesus, who calls them “children” in Mark 10:24 and “infants” in Matthew 11:25. Followers are as helpless as small children in the face of the mighty force of a person who makes them lose their faith. [NJBC]

Verse 3: “seven times”: For this phrase as meaning many times, see also Genesis 4:24: “If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold”. [JBC]

Verse 6: Jesus emphasizes not power in faith but the power of God, his illustration being figurative. Faith will command only according to God’s will. In Mark 11:23, Jesus uses the figure of a mountain rather than of a mulberry tree. [NOAB]

Verse 6: “it would obey you”: The sense of the Greek verb is it would already have obeyed you. So does fulfilment anticipate faith? [JBC]

Verses 7-10: This parable is known as the Parable of the Unprofitable Servant, although unprofitable is misleading. Unworthy is an improvement. One’s relationship to God makes obedience to him a duty to be fulfilled and not an occasion for reward. [Blomberg]

Verse 7: “take your place at the table”: i.e. eat before I do.

Blomberg sees a second point to this parable: God retains the right to command his followers to live however he chooses.

© 1996-2003 Chris Haslam



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