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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Annunciation of our Lord - March 25, 2014



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 7:10-14

This passage is set during the Syro--Ephraimite War (734-733 BC). For historical background, see 2 Kings 16:1-20. [ NOAB] Judah, under Ahaz, appealed to Assyria for help. When Assyrian forces captured Damascus, they deported its people and killed King Rezin of Syria. Judah ended up a vassal of Assyria, paying a heavy tribute. Assyria made Galilee and Gilead Assyrian provinces.

Verse 1: “Ahaz”: King of Judah 735-715 BC. [ CAB]

Verse 1: “Aram”: i.e. Syria. [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “Shear--jashub”: The name means A remnant shall return; it is probably symbolic. God has a future purpose for his people that will not be thwarted by two kings. [ CAB] At worst, God’s promises to David, made via Nathan (see 2 Samuel 7:8-16) will be preserved in the remnant; this is supported by 10:20-23: “On that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on the one who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.”. On the other hand, the remnant may be Isaiah and his disciples. [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “the upper pool”: The reservoir south of the Pool of Siloam. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “do not fear”: This also fits in with Israel’s holy--war tradition. Deuteronomy 20:2-4 says: “Before you engage in battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the troops, and shall say to them: ‘Hear, O Israel! Today you are drawing near to do battle against your enemies. Do not lose heart, or be afraid, or panic, or be in dread of them; for it is the Lord your God who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to give you victory.’”. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “Tabeel”: The name means God is good. [ CAB] Tabeel was a region in northern Transjordan. [ JBC]

Verse 8: “Within sixty--five years”: Samaria actually fell in 721 BC, only 13 years later. [ CAB]

Verse 9: “firm in faith”: Calls to faith are characteristic of Isaiah; sometimes they are in other terminology. In 8:17, the prophet writes: “I will wait for the Lord, and I will hope in him”. See also 22:11; 28:16; 30:15. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “you shall not stand at all”: 8:10 says that human counsel will come to “naught” – whereas Yahweh has his own purpose which he will surely carry out: see also 5:12, 19; 14:24 (“... as I have designed, so it shall be; as I have planned, so shall it come to pass”).

Verse 14: “young woman”: The Hebrew word is almah. This word also appears in Genesis 24:43 (“young woman”, Rebekah at the well); Exodus 2:8 (“girl”, Moses’ sister); Psalm 68:25 and elsewhere – where it is translated young woman, girl or maiden. [NOAB] The Hebrew word for virgin is betula. [NJBC]

Verse 15: “curds and honey”: NOAB suggests that this is simple food for a child being weaned.

Verse 15: “by the time he knows”: NJBC sees so that he may know as a superior translation.

Verse 17: “the king of Assyria”: An explanatory note added by a later editor. [ NJBC]

Psalm 45

Superscription: “Of the Korahites”: The Korahites were the Levitical group responsible for singing in the Temple (2 Chronicles 20:19). They are also mentioned in the superscriptions of Psalms 42; 44; 46-49; 84; 85; 87-88. [ CAB]

This psalm is extremely old. Some of the Hebrew is obscure. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “Your throne, O God”: The king seems to be addressed as God. Kings were seen as divine in other nations in the ancient Near East. This is the only possible occurrence of this notion in the Bible. This verse is quoted in Hebrews 1:8. [ NOAB]

Verse 8: “ivory palaces”: 1 Kings 22:39 speaks of the “house” King Ahab built as being an “ivory house”; Amos 3:15, in predicting the downfall of the king, says “the houses of ivory shall perish”. [ NOAB]

Verse 12: The bride may be from Tyre (v. 10), or (the Hebrew being obscure), a gift to her may be Tyrian linen. [ NJBC]

Psalm 40

Some argue that this has always been one psalm, despite beginning with thanksgiving and ending with lament. They note that Psalm 27 also begins with a psalm of confidence and ends with a lament, as does Psalm 89. [ NJBC]

Verses 1-3: In 18:4-6, a psalmist recalls: “The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of perdition assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the Lord ; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears”. [ NOAB]

Verse 2: This verse is perhaps unique in progressing from “the desolate pit” or “miry bog” to “a rock”. To some scholars, it uses the image of a river ordeal known from Mesopotamian literature: a person accused of wrong--doing is cast into a river for judgement. If he survives, he is innocent. See Deuteronomy 22 for another trial by ordeal. [ NJBC]

Verses 6-8: These verses are quoted in Hebrews 10:5-7 (from the Septuagint translation). There it is as though the psalmist is the Son, speaking to the Father. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: Although not apparent in translation, four kinds of sacrifice are mentioned in this verse. For the superiority of obedience to sacrifice, see also 1 Samuel 15:22-23 and Mark 12:33. See also 50:8-15; 51:16, 17; Amos 5:21-24; Hosea 6:6. [ NOAB]

Verse 7: “the scroll of the book”: God’s book of accounts is also mentioned in 56:8 (“your record”). 139:16 says: “Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed”. [ NOAB]

Verse 9: In 22:22, a psalmist makes a vow: “I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you”. [ NOAB]

Verses 13-17: These verses are almost identical to Psalm 70, with “Lord” ( Yahweh) and “God” (elohim) being interchanged. [ NJBC]

Verses 14-16: Note the contrast between vv. 14-15 and v. 16. [ NJBC]

Hebrews 10:4-10

Verse 1: “shadow”: The sense here is foreshadow, rather than the Platonic heavenly--earthly contrast in 8:5 (“a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one”). The “good things to come” will come through Christ. Colossians 2:17 says: “These [dietary laws, Jewish feasts, etc.] are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ”. The annual sacrifices on the Day of Atonement were not able to remove sin; they simply foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: The author’s argument is weak: even though past sins were taken away, there were still the sins committed since a year ago. But it is merely an overstatement of what the author’s faith assures him to be true. [ NJBC]

Verses 3-4: The Day of Atonement rituals reminded worshippers of their sins, but did not erase them. This statement of the inefficacy of the annual sacrifices contradicts the belief expressed in Jubilees 5:17-18. But is not clear whether it is God or the worshipper who remembers the sins. That it is God who remembers is suggested by 8:12; there God says “‘I will remember their sins no more’”; however, the author would then be saying that the sacrifices served only to remind God of sin (and thus call forth punishment on the offerer). [ NJBC]

Verses 5-7: The quotation is Psalm 40:6-7. The text roughly follows the Septuagint translation. In Psalms, “me” is the psalmist (or possibly Israel in exile); here “me” is Christ at his incarnation. The psalm speaks of ritual being inferior to obedience, rather than repudiation of sacrifice (as here). The majority of manuscripts of the Septuagint have for v. 6b: a body you prepared for me rather than “you have given me an open ear” (which is from the Masoretic text). The Septuagint translation is particularly applicable to Jesus, whose obedience was expressed by his willingness to give his body, himself. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “ sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings”: These terms are probably meant to cover the four main types of sacrifice: respectively peace offerings, cereal offerings, holocausts, and sin offerings (including guilt offerings). [ NJBC]

Verse 10: “God’s will”, carried out by Christ, is his offering of his body, which God “prepared” (v. 5) for him. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “every priest stands day after day”: This indicates that the author has switched from considering the high priest’s sacrifice to that of every priest in the Old Testament. [ NJBC]

Verses 12-13: The quotation is Psalm 110:1, a verse also quoted in 1:3; 8:1; 12:2. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “wait ...”: Thus the author explains the period of time between Christ’s enthronement and his second coming. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “enemies”: The author does not tell us who they are, unlike Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:24-26: “ after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power” and “death”. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “sanctified”: Through the cleansing of the consciences that they may worship the living God ( 9:14), Jesus has given his followers access to the Father; they share in his priestly consecration. [ NJBC] The priesthood of all believers is in view.

Verses 16-17: The quotation is Jeremiah 31:33-34. These verses are also quoted in 8:8-12. [ NJBC]

Verse 19: “confidence to enter the sanctuary”: In 3:6, the author writes: “we are his [Christ’s] house if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belong to hope”. See also 4:16; 6:19-20. [ NJBC]

Verse 20: “opened”: The Greek word, enkainizo, can also mean inaugurate or dedicate. It is translated as inaugurate in 9:18.

Verse 20: As the “curtain” before the Holy of Holies was an obstacle to entering it, so too was Christ’s “flesh” (Greek: sarx). Perhaps the rending of the Temple veil at the death of Jesus is in view: see Mark 15:38. [ NJBC]

Verses 22-24: “faith ... hope ... love”: The triad may be intended. [ NJBC]

Verse 22: “sprinkled clean”: A metaphor for the purifying power of Christ (see 9:13). Jewish ritual sprinkling only produced external purity, but those washed with the blood of Christ are cleansed in their consciences. [ NJBC]

Verse 22: “washed with pure water”: Probably a reference to baptism. See also 1 Corinthians 6:11 and Titus 3:5. [ NJBC]

Verse 25: While reticence to gather for worship may have been for fear of persecution, it is more likely that it was due to lack of enthusiasm for the faith, bordering on apostasy: part of the reason Hebrews was written. [ NJBC]

Verse 25: “the Day”: of Christ’s second coming. See also Acts 1:10-11 (the Ascension); Philippians 2:16; Romans 13:12; 1 Corinthians 3:13. [ NJBC]

Verses 26-31: These verses tell of the fate of the person who willfully sins. He has a “fearful prospect of judgement”: if you know about Christ and willfully reject him, you will be punished by God!

Verse 26: “willfully ... sin”: The sin is that of turning away from Christ, as v. 29 shows. [ NJBC]

Verse 28: Idolatry is probably the violation of the Law. Deuteronomy 17:2-7 prescribes the death penalty for this sin if confirmed by “two or three witnesses”. [ NJBC]

Luke 1:26-38

Verse 26: “In the sixth month”: Daniel 9:24-27 can be read as saying that 70 weeks (490 days) will elapse between the beginning of people repenting to the arrival of the new era. Luke probably intended the following arithmetic: “six months” (180 days) + Mary’s pregnancy (270 days) + the time from Jesus’ birth to his presentation in the Temple (40 days) = 490 days. Gabriel links the annunciation of Jesus’ birth with John’s birth. Luke invites reflection on the significance of Jesus’ birth as fulfilment of the verses in Daniel. [ NJBC]

Verse 26: “Nazareth”: An insignificant village, neither mentioned in the Old Testament, Josephus nor rabbinic writings, of some two thousand people. [ HBD]

Verse 27: “Joseph”: Meaning May Yahweh add. [ NJBC]

Verse 28: “favoured one”: NJBC offers O Graced One!. Mary naturally asks: in what way am I graced or favoured?

Verses 31-35: In Romans 1:3-4, Paul writes what is probably a creed from before 50 AD: Jesus was humanly descended from David and designated as Son of God through the Holy Spirit at his resurrection. Vv. 31-35 go beyond this: Jesus was designated as Son of God at his conception. So Mary’s conception is virginal and through the power of the Holy Spirit. [ NJBC]

Verse 31: “Jesus”: This is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua. The Hebrew and Aramaic forms of Jesus and he will save are similar. [ NOAB] To NJBC, the name means God saves.

Verses 32-33: The rest of this book spells out how Jesus is king, especially how he embodies God’s kingdom, which has come for outcasts. Jesus is often called king in the Passion story (e.g. in 23:2-3, 37-38), a time when his power is apparently at an all--time low. [ NJBC]

Verse 33: See also Matthew 28:18 and Daniel 2:44 (a verse in Daniel’s prophecy to Nebuchadnezzar). [ NOAB]

Verse 34: “How can this be?”: Mary’s question parallels Zechariah’s in v. 18. [ NJBC]

Verse 36: “the sixth month”: Luke again reminds us of the prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27. [ NJBC]

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