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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost - November 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.

Habakkuk 1:1-4;2:1-4

The ancient editor has arranged the prophecies in such a way as to replace the historical sequence of the prophecies by a new theological pattern of redemptive history. Will God – indeed can he – remain faithful to the promise and deal lovingly with Israel, even in the face of the overwhelming power and arrogance of the great empires of the time? [NJBC]

1:1: “oracle”: Literally burden, a technical term meaning prophetic word or message of doom. Isaiah 13:1; 14:28-29; Nahum 1; Zechariah 9:1 introduce oracles against other nations. See also Jeremiah 23:33-40 (“burden”) and Malachi 1:1 (“An oracle. The word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi”). [NOAB] [CAB] [NJBC]

1:2-2:5: This dialogue raises the question: does Yahweh rule the world justly? [NOAB] In 1:2-4, the prophet speaks; 1:5-11 is God’s response. In 1:12-17, Habakkuk speaks again, and God answers in 2:1-5. The prophet asks: why do I see evil and suffering in the world around me? [NJBC]

1:2-11: Perhaps this section was originally concerned with ungodly members of the Israelite community. In its present form it is directed against the “Chaldeans”, neo-Babylonians. They ruled the ancient Near East from 612 to 539 BC. [NOAB] They destroyed the Assyrian capital, Nineveh, in 612 BC, and assumed domination of the ancient Near East with their defeat of the Egyptians at Carchemish in 605 BC.

1:2-4: Psalm 22:1-2 says “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.” [NOAB]

1:2: Psalm 13:1-2 asks questions too: “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”. See also Jeremiah 14:9 and Revelation 6:9-10 (the martyrs, when the fifth seal is opened). [NOAB]

1:2: “Violence!”: A key word in Habakkuk found also in 1:3, 9; 2:8, 17 referring to the violation of basic human rights and anarchy of the times. [NJBC]

1:3: Jeremiah expresses himself similarly in Jeremiah 20:8: “For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, "Violence and destruction!" For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long”. See also Jeremiah 20:10. [NOAB]

1:4: Psalm 119:126 declares: “It is time for the LORD to act, for your law has been broken”. See also Jeremiah 12:1-4. [NOAB]

1:4: “justice never prevails”: Micah 7:2-3 tells us: “The faithful have disappeared from the land, and there is no one left who is upright; they all lie in wait for blood, and they hunt each other with nets. Their hands are skilled to do evil; the official and the judge ask for a bribe, and the powerful dictate what they desire; thus they pervert justice”. See also Isaiah 59:14.

1:5: Paul quotes this verse when he speaks in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch: see Acts 13:41. [NOAB]

1:5: “work”: Yahweh’s actions in creating and intervening in history are often described as a “work”: for example, Isaiah 5:12 speaks of those “who do not regard the deeds of the LORD, or see the work of his hands!”. See also Isaiah 28:21; 29:23.

1:6: The “Chaldeans”, wicked as they are, are instruments of God’s choosing. For nations other than Israel being God’s agents, see also Isaiah 10:5-27 (“Assyria, the rod of my anger”); 41:2-3 (“Who has roused a victor from the east, summoned him to his service?”); 42:24; 44:28; 45:1-6; Jeremiah 5:14-19; 27:6-7; 51. [NOAB]

1:6: “Chaldeans”: See Clipping on 1:2-11.

1:8: “Their horses are swifter than leopards”: i.e. swift cavalry.

1:8: “more menacing than wolves at dusk”: Wolves that prowl at night were proverbially hungry and fierce.

1:8: “eagle”: The author probably means vultures. They were known for their lack of pity.

1:10: “heap up earth”: Earthworks were constructed against a city’s walls to bring forward engines of war, e.g. battering rams. [NJBC] 2 Samuel 20:15 tells of Joab’s forces building a siege-ramp against the wall of Abel of Beth-Maacah.

1:12: “You shall not die”: As the NRSV translates the Hebrew, this clause affirms Yahweh’s immortality; however NJBC offers we [Israel] shall not die. He says that this phrase seems out of place here.

1:12: “O Rock”: A metaphor frequently applied to God: see also Deuteronomy 32:4 (“The Rock, his work is perfect, and all his ways are just”), 18, 30-31; 2 Samuel 23:3; Psalms 18:2, 31; 92:15; 95:1; Isaiah 30:29. [NOAB]

1:13: “why ...”: The heart of Habakkuk’s problem. Perhaps he recalls Psalm 5:4-6: “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil will not sojourn with you. The boastful will not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers”. [NOAB]

1:14: “people”: NJBC sees this as being the Chaldeans.; thus this verse leads into vv. 15-17.

1:15: “seine”: A kind of net for collecting fish.

2:1: “watchpost”: See also Psalm 130:5-6 (“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope ...”); Isaiah 21:8; Hosea 9:8. [NOAB]

2:2-5: Yahweh answers with the assurance that although Habakkuk may not see its final outcome, the divine justice is inexorable and will come in due time; in the meantime the godly must live faithfully. [NOAB]

2:2: “make it plain ...”: See also Isaiah 8:1. In Revelation 1:19, John is commanded to “write what you have seen, what is, and what is to take place after this”. [NOAB]

2:3: “for the appointed time”: See also Daniel 8:19 (“... appointed time of the end ...”); 2 Peter 3:8-10; Hebrews 10:37. [NOAB]

2:4: “the proud”: i.e. the ungodly. [NOAB]

2:4: “Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them”: The Hebrew also can be translated: the man’s throat, inflated and distended with greed, mirrors his soul, which has been wrapped in pride. Nepesh can mean throat, appetite or soul. Note that 2:5 talks about throats: Death has an insatiable hunger. [NJBC]

2:4: “the righteous live by their faith”: Paul picked up this idea, with an implication that trust in God is the sole ground for a right relationship with God: see Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11. See also Hebrews 10:38-39. [NOAB] NJBC offers the just by steadfast fidelity shall live.

Psalm 119:137-144

A scholar, observing that Psalm 1 also emphasizes the Law, suggests that Psalms 1 and 119 formed an envelope around an earlier edition of the Psalter, that 120-150 were added later. [NJBC]

2 Thessalonians 1:1-4,11-12

Did Paul write 2 Thessalonians? While 1 Thessalonians assumes that Christ will come again soon (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), and emphasizes that his appearance will be a surprise, and that we cannot know when it will happen (see 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11), the thrust of 2 Thessalonians is in the opposite direction: Christ will come, but not soon. While most scholars explain the contrast between the two letters by saying that Paul wrote the second letter soon after the first to overcome the disruption that expectation of the imminent end caused, and to say that ethical conduct still matters, others see the shift in emphasis as being so abrupt as to make Pauline authorship unlikely. They also point out that significant differences in style suggest a different author for the second letter. That 2 Thessalonians claims to be written by Paul should not surprise us: in the ancient world, writing in the name of a sage was considered an honour to him. [NOAB]

Verse 1: “Silvanus”: This is generally thought to be the same person as the Silas mentioned in Acts 15:22, 40; 16:19-25; 17:1-9; 18:5. [NOAB] This may be the same Silvanus as in 1 Peter 5:12. [CAB] Silvanus is a Latinization of Silas. Silas is either Semitic or a shortened Greek form of Silvanus. [HBD]

Verse 1: “Thessalonians”: Thessalonica was founded in 315 BC. In 167 BC it became the capital of one of the districts of the Roman province of Macedonia. Acts 17:1-13 reports a positive response there to Paul’s message, from both Jews and Gentiles, but also that his preaching and its response led eventually to hostilities against Paul. See also Acts 20:4; Philippians 4:16; 2 Timothy 4:10. [CAB]

Verses 3-4: See Romans 1:8-15 for a similar thanksgiving. [NOAB]

Verse 3: Comments: faith works itself out in love: In Galatians 5:6, Paul says “the only thing that counts is faith working through love”. See also 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10. [CAB]

Verse 4: “steadfastness”: NJBC offers patient endurance.

Verse 4: “we ourselves boast of you”: See also 2 Corinthians 8:1-5. [CAB]

Verses 5-11: CAB says that this section is a working out of Paul’s principle articulated in Romans 12:14-21, especially the admonition found in v. 19: “... never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’”. In 2 Thessalonians, traditional apocalyptic imagery is used to portray when and how God’s vengeance on the ungodly oppressor will occur.

Verses 5-6: To suffer persecution for the faith is a guarantee of a future reward, for God is a just judge: see also Philippians 1:28; Romans 2:5-11; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

Verse 5: 1 Peter 4:17-18 asks “For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And ‘If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinners?’”. [CAB]

Verse 5: “to make you worthy ...”: The same notion as suffering for Christ. [CAB]

Verse 6: “just of God to repay ...”: NJBC offers just on God’s part ... For God’s sovereign right to punish the wicked, see Isaiah 66:6 and Psalm 137:8. For God’s recompense in the end times, see also Romans 8:18. [CAB]

Verse 7: “to give relief ...”: In Acts 3:19-21, Peter tells a crowd: “Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets”. See also 1 Thessalonians 4:17; 5:10.

Verse 7: “revealed”: The Greek word is apokalypsis. The book of Revelation is also called The Apocalypse.

Verse 7: “with his mighty angels”: In Jewish apocalyptic literature, God comes in judgement with angels who execute the decrees of his power: see 2 Enoch 29:3; Testament of Judah 3:10; 1 Enoch 61:10. The New Testament transfers this imagery to Christ (see Matthew 13:39, 49; 16:27; 24:30-31; 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 12:8-9) and the power of God becomes the power of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 1:24; 6:14; 2 Corinthians 13:4). [JBC]

Verses 7b-10: This description of judgement is dependent on the Old Testament and Jewish apocalyptic writings. Isaiah 2:10 is a primary source. Traditional apocalyptic imagery is used to portray when and how God’s vengeance on the unjust oppressor will occur: see Philippians 1:28.

Verse 8: “in flaming fire”: Fire is a common ingredient in Old Testament theophanies: see Exodus 3:2 (the burning bush); Psalm 18:8; Ezekiel 1:4, 13, 27; Habakkuk 3:4; Isaiah 66:15-16. In Acts 26:13, Paul says of Christ’s appearance to him on the road to Damascus: “I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions”. [CAB]

Verse 8: “vengeance”: i.e. just recompense (not revenge). [NOAB]

Verse 8: “on those who do not know God”: Pagans throughout all ages are considered culpably ignorant of not religiously acknowledging the Lord. See Romans 1:18-32 and Wisdom of Solomon 13:1-9. [NJBC] In Psalm 79:6, the psalmist asks of God: “Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you, and on the kingdoms that do not call on your name”. [CAB]

Verse 8: “on those who do not obey the gospel”: Paul speaks about obeying the gospel in Romans 1:5 and 2 Corinthians 9:13. [CAB]

Verse 9: “eternal destruction ...”: i.e. endless ruin in separation from Christ, not annihilation. [NOAB] NJBC offers everlasting just punishment and says that the writer is not speaking of physical punishment, roasting. (In some Jewish apocalyptic literature, the wicked will be annihilated.)

Verse 9: “separated from the presence of the Lord”: Jesus describes such a state as being in “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (see Matthew 25:41). In Luke 13:27, he says of the fate of the ungodly: “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out”. [CAB]

Verse 10: “he comes to be glorified by his saints”: The Lord’s glory is shown in the transforming power of his resurrection. Made immortal, the faithful will share angelic status. What Christ has done for his people will be seen, and added to his glory. [NJBC]

Verse 10: “to be marvelled at”: The admiration of the saved in Christ their saviour. NJBC offers to be held in awe.

Verse 10: “on that day”: The second coming of Christ: see also 2 Timothy 1:12, 18. [NOAB]

Verse 10: “because our testimony to you was believed”: This manifestation of God’s glory will happen because Christians are faithful to apostolic testimony. [NJBC]

Verse 12: “so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you”: The language is borrowed from Isaiah 66:5. The idea is mutual glorification. In the ancient Near East, knowing a person’s name involved sharing in his power. Jesus’ name is his character and fame: in Philippians 2:9, Paul says of him: “Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name”. [NOAB]

Luke 19:1-10

It would not be permissible for a faithful (and clean) Jew to accept a dinner invitation to the house of a Gentile or a sinner. Zacchaeus, knowing this, would not even think to invite Jesus, but Jesus invites himself! This self-invitation indicates that Jesus intends to break with the customs of closed table-fellowship – as he is accused of by those who grumble (v. 7). This openness, as practised here and elsewhere in the Gospels, is seen by many modern commentators as a significant sign of the openness of God's kingdom.

Verse 1: “Jericho”: On a main trade route and an important customs centre. [NOAB]

Verse 2: “Zacchaeus”: The name means clean. It also occurs in Ezra 2:9 (“Zaccai”); Nehemiah 7:14; 2 Maccabees 10:19.

Verse 7: In 5:27-32, Jesus has answered objections regarding his association with tax collectors. Now a tax collector answers them. There and in 15:1-2, Pharisees grumble about Jesus dining with tax collectors. [NOAB] Here “all ... grumble”. [BlkLk]

Verse 8: “will”: The Greek can be translated will continue to. If this is intended, the lesson Jesus teaches has a little less impact.

Verse 8: “four times as much”: The Law placed the following obligations on those who commit commercial crimes:

  • He who steals an ox must pay back five oxen; if he steals a sheep he must repay four sheep: see Exodus 22:1.
  • When you repent of robbery or fraud, you shall pay back the principal plus 20%: see Leviticus 6:5.
  • If you commit any wrong, you shall repay the principal plus 20%: Numbers 5:6-7. [NOAB]

Perhaps Zacchaeus’ promise to compensate any he has defrauded as though he had stolen a sheep is significant.

Verses 9-10: By ancient Near East custom, the house was open, so the crowd would have heard what Jesus said.

Verse 9: “he too is a son of Abraham”: BlkLk notes that this notion of salvation as promised only to Jews is also found in 13:16 and perhaps also in 13:28. Acts 1:6 (“‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’”) and 2:39 show that it left its mark on the apostles’ conception of the Kingdom. The idea of salvation in Christ being only for Jews cannot have been invented by Luke, for he saw clearly that salvation is for Gentiles too, and records the surprise of Jewish Christians at this fact (see, for example, Acts 10:45, the conversion of Cornelius and his family: “The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles”). In fact, both Mark and Matthew have the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman (whose daughter Jesus heals when she persists in claiming that his healing is also available to Gentiles). It seems that Luke’s sources said that salvation in Christ was for Jews only.

Verse 10: “to save the lost”: Like God, portrayed as a shepherd in Ezekiel 34:16, Jesus seeks out the lost to save them. [BlkLk]

For other tax collectors who respond generously to God’s call, see 3:12-13; 7:29-30; 15:1-2; 18:9-14.

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