Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: The Epiphany - January 6, 2019

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 60:1-6

Verses 1-3: Fallen Zion is bidden to “arise, shine” (see also 42:6-7) and reflect the “glory of the Lord”. [ NOAB] These verses may be the source of Revelation 12 and John 1:4-18. In Israel, sunrise comes suddenly; there is neither dawn nor dusk. Darkness immediately surrenders to brilliant light. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “shine”: The Hebrew word can be translated glow . God is radiating a dazzling presence from the city. See also Deuteronomy 33:2 (“... The Lord came from ... , ... dawned ... upon us; he shone forth ...”) and Malachi 4:1. [ JBC]

Verse 1: “glory of the Lord”: See also 6:3; Ezekiel 1:4-28 (the vision of the chariot); Ezekiel 10:4; 43:1-9; Exodus 40:34; 1 Kings 8:11. [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “Nations”: In 66:18, God says through the prophet: “I am coming to gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them ...”. [ NOAB]

Verses 4-9: Unlike in Isaiah 2:2-4 and Micah 4:1-3, nations come to Jerusalem to rebuild the city, not just to receive instructions from Yahweh at the Temple. [ NJBC]

Verses 4-5: Zion welcomes her children home, as they do in 49:18, 22. [ CAB] Her poverty is replaced by wealth (see also 45:14 and 61:6). [ NOAB]

Verse 6: People from the Arabian peninsula associated with Abraham and the early ancestral days (see Genesis 25:1-4, 13-15; 28:9; 36:3; Jeremiah 6:20; Ezekiel 27:21) now participate in their ancient patrimony. One day, all nations will become God’s children through faith (see Romans 4:17). Matthew 2:1-12 (the visit of the wise men) weaves these and other themes into the infancy narrative. This passage thereby came into the ancient Church liturgy for the feast of Epiphany. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “Midian”: Midianites (or Kenites – see Judges 1:16) were distant blood relatives of Israel. Genesis 25:1-2 tells us that one of the sons Abraham had by Keturah was Midian.

Verse 6: “Sheba”: Genesis 10:1-7 says that Sheba was a descendant of Noah through Ham, Cush and Raamah. [ NOAB]

Verse 7: “Kedar”: Kedar was a confederation of tribes in (or on the edge of) the northern Arabian desert. They were powerful from the 700s BC to the 400s BC, controlling the eastern trade route from Arabia to the Fertile Crescent. [ HBD] 21:16-17 foretells the imminent end of Kedar, and makes particular mention of the might of Kedar's archers. [ NOAB]

Verse 7: “Nebaioth”: an Arab tribe. According to Genesis 25:13, Nebaioth was a descendant of Abraham through Ishmael (Abraham’s son by Hagar). [ NOAB]

Verses 8-9: Some returning exiles (“children”) and wealth from the west arrive by ship. [ NOAB]

Verse 9: “Tarshish”: NOAB says that this is Sardinia or Tartessus in southern Spain. 1 Kings 22:49 tells of “ships of the Tarshish type”, so the reference here may be to ships capable of making long journeys. 1 Kings 10:22 says “king had a fleet of ships of Tarshish at sea with the fleet of Hiram. Once every three years the fleet of ships of Tarshish used to come bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks”, so the ships may have traded with Africa. Jonah 1:3 tells us that Jonah “went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish”. [ NJBC]

Comments: Jerusalem, destroyed by foreigners Jeremiah 52:13-16 tells of the destruction of the city by the Babylonians (in 586 BC). [ NOAB]

Verses 10-16: Revelation 21:24-27 picks up on the peace and reconciliation spoken of in these verses. 1 Chronicles 22:2 tells of David gathering together aliens resident in Israel. Ezra 4:1-3 tells of Samaritans (“adversaries”) offering to help the returned exiles rebuild the Temple, and being refused. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: This is a prose addition (in the midst of poetry). It is probably from Zechariah 14:16-19. It also disturbs the serene spirit of these lines. [ NJBC]

Verses 13-14: As in the time of Solomon (see 1 Kings 5:8-10), wood from “Lebanon” and wealth from the nations will build the Temple and the holy city. See also 41:19; 35:1-10; 49:26. [ NOAB]

Verses 15-16: 54:6-7 speaks of Jerusalem as “like a wife forsaken”; 49:14-15 speaks in similar terms; Zion will be exalted. See also 1:24 and Ezekiel 16:1-63 (God's faithless bride). [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 16: “I, the Lord , am your Saviour and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob”: A quotation from 49:26. [ NJBC]

Verses 17-22: Justice is blended into an apocalyptic vision of the future. [ NJBC]

Verses 17-18: The new Jerusalem will surpass Solomon’s city in beauty and tranquillity. [ NOAB]

Verses 19-20: God’s glory will perpetually illumine the joyful city: see also 35:10 and Revelation 21:4. [ NOAB]

Verses 21-22: In the divinely restored city, God will be glorified. [ NOAB]

Psalm 72:1-7,10-14

The superscription “Of Solomon” is only found here and in Psalm 127. NJBC suggests that this psalm is very early; even a tenth century date is possible.

Verses 1-4: The king is to be guarantor of justice for the helpless (see also vv. 12-15). The king’s reign is described in messianic language. May the new king be like the expected ideal king. [ NJBC]

Verses 4-5: That a king had a supernatural aura was common in the thought of peoples in the ancient Near East. Even in Israel, the king could be called God’s son (see 2:7) and possibly even “God” (see 45:6). [ NOAB]

Verses 6-7: The king as provider of cosmic order and the fertility of the earth is a motif found in Egyptian royal theology. [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “righteousness”: i.e. Godly conditions.

Verses 8-10: The king’s ideal universal empire. [ NOAB]

Verse 8: The language of sea and river recalls Canaanite mythology. See also Psalm 24. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: The same words are found in Zechariah 9:10. This verse is like Micah 7:17, Isaiah 49:23, and the Armana tablets. [ JBC]

Verse 8: “from sea to sea”: Probably from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. [ JBC]

Verse 8: “the River”: i.e. the Euphrates. [ NOAB] 1 Kings 4:21 says “Solomon was sovereign over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines, even to the border of Egypt ...”.

Verse 9: “May ... his enemies lick the dust”: Desert dwellers is probably intended. May they be subject to him.

Verse 10: “Tarshish”: It is in the western Mediterranean, possibly in Spain. “Sheba” and “Seba” are in southern Arabia, but perhaps “Seba” is related to modern Saba, the ruling family of Kuwait. [ NOAB]

Verse 10: “the isles”: Crete, Cyprus and the Aegean islands.

Verse 16: NJBC notes that this verse is obscure and very difficult.

Verse 17: “name”: Probably includes the notion of offspring. [ NJBC]

Verse 17: “May all nations be blessed in him”: An echo of the promise to the ancestors: see also Genesis 12:3 (God to Abraham); 22:18; 26:4; 28:14 (God to Jacob at Bethel). This may allude to a covenant of a royal grant, which served as the pattern for God’s covenant with the patriarchs and kings of Judah. [ NJBC]

Verses 18-19: This is a doxology marking the end of Book 2 of the Psalter. It is not part of the psalm. The book of Psalms was divided into five books, in imitation of the Pentateuch, the five books of the Law. Blessing God for ever and “Amen” are also found in 41:13; 89:52; 106:48, the ends of other books. [ NOAB]

Verse 20: An editorial marker indicating the end of a collection of psalms now included in the Psalter. [ NOAB]

Ephesians 3:1-12

After v. 1, Paul digresses (v. 2-12). He continues with his intended thinking in v. 14. This passage depends on Colossians 1:23-29. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: “for surely you have already heard”: Literally if indeed you have heard, but in the sense that they have surely already heard. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “the mystery was made known to me”: See also 1QpHab (*Qumran Habakkuk Pesher) 7:4-5; 1QH (Hymns) 9:21 ( Vermes: 1:21). [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “as I wrote above ...”: i.e. in reference to the mystery of Christ mentioned in 1:9 and 2:13-17; however, some scholars see this as a reference to all the letters of Paul, so to them Ephesians was written by Paul. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “understanding”: As stated in v. 6. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “holy apostles”: Colossians 1:26 says “the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints”. The author wishes to recall the solid foundation on which the church is built (see 2:20), and therefore underscores the role of apostles and prophets. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “the very least”: In 1 Corinthians 15:9, Paul writes “I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God”. [ CAB]

Verse 9: “God who created”: At creation, God established his providential control of the cosmos, and only in the present era are his designs becoming known. [ NJBC]

Verse 10: “rulers and authorities”: See also 6:12 (“For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”). God’s wisdom put an end to their control (see 1QS (*Qumran Rule of the Community) 4:18-23) through subjugation of all things to Christ.

Matthew 2:1-12

Verse 1: “King Herod”: The events told here fit his character, as known from other sources. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “wise men”: In later Christian tradition, they were called kings under the influence of Psalm 72:10 (which identifies the kingdoms of three kings), Isaiah 49:7 and 60:10. The number of kings settled at three, due to the three gifts. Eventually the three were named Caspar, Balthasar and Melchior – but only in the western Church. Caspar became black. [ NJBC] Isaiah 49:7 says “Thus says the Lord ... to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, ‘Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.’”.

Verse 2: In Jeremiah 23:5, God says through the prophet: “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land”.

Verse 2: “star”: The star that leads to Christ is probably a midrashic element derived from Numbers 22-24 (the Balaam narrative), especially 24:17 (“... a star shall come out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel ...”). The star there is identified with the Messiah in Targum Ongelos and Targum Yerusalmi I. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: In John 7:42, some ask Jesus “‘Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?’”. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: In quoting Micah 5:2, Matthew (or the wise men) change(s) “clans” to “rulers”. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “Bethlehem”: It is the town of David’s ancestor, Ruth (see Ruth 1:1-4), and of David’s immediate family (see 1 Samuel 16; 17:12). [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “gold, frankincense, and myrrh”: In later tradition, gold came to signify the kingship of Christ, incense his deity, and myrrh his redemptive suffering – or virtue, prayer and suffering. The list of gifts may be influenced by Isaiah 60:6 (“... bring gold and frankincense ...”), 11, 13. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “frankincense, and myrrh”: Aromatic resin gums found in tropical countries of the East. [ NOAB]

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