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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost - June 24, 2012



Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures

Saint Dominic
contemplating the Scriptures

Comments have been prepared by Chris Haslam using reputable commentaries, and checked for accuracy by the Venerable Alan T Perry, of the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton. While not intended to be exhaustive, they are an aid to reading the Scriptures with greater understanding.

Comments are best read with the lessons.

Feedback to is always welcome.


Lessons for this week from the Vanderbilt University web site

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1 Samuel

At one time, the first and second books of Samuel formed a single book. They were separated in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures known as the Septuagint (about 250 BC). 1 Samuel begins with the story of Samuel: hence the name. 1 Samuel is the first of four books which tell the story of Israel's monarchy. Samuel anointed the first king. We then read about King Saul, and later about David's rise to prominence.


1 Samuel 17:(1a,4-11,19-23),32-49

Israel’s arch-enemy was Philistia, a nation on the Mediterranean coast. The two armies face each other across a river valley in the hills west of Bethlehem. In ancient times, a dispute between nations might be decided by individual combat, as David and Goliath do here.

“Goliath” (v. 4), “the/this Philistine” (in other verses) is very tall, wears a heavy “coat of mail” (v. 5) and bronze “greaves” (v. 6, shin pads), and carries a javelin (v. 7). Saul and the Israelites are intimidated by the sight of him. David prepares himself (vv. 20, 22); he says: “... who is this ... that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (v. 26)

In v. 32 David offers to represent Israel, but Saul questions David’s military experience. David replies: as a shepherd, to protect the sheep, I have killed “lions and bears” (v. 36); I intend to kill Goliath using the same weapon (a sling). God has protected me from wild animals; he will protect me from Goliath (v. 37).

Saul agrees to David’s offer (he has little choice!); he offers David his “armour” (v. 38), but David, unused to a coat of mail and a helmet, finds them cumbersome, and so removes them. He takes his sling, and stones from the river bed (“wadi”, v. 40). “The Philistine” disdains David, curses him (v. 43) and insults him (v. 44). David answers: “I come ... in the name of the Lord ...” (v. 45); God will give him victory so that “all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (v. 46), that God prevails over material advantage (v. 47). David, using his unconventional weapon (one highly accurate in the hands of a specialist), slays “the Philistine” (v. 49). This victory is the start of David’s move towards the throne.


1 Samuel

At one time, the first and second books of Samuel formed a single book. They were separated in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures known as the Septuagint (about 250 BC). 1 Samuel begins with the story of Samuel: hence the name. 1 Samuel is the first of four books which tell the story of Israel's monarchy. Samuel anointed the first king. We then read about King Saul, and later about David's rise to prominence.


1 Samuel 17:57-18:5,10-16

David has stunned Goliath with a sling (17:49) and killed him with a sword (17:51). “Abner” (17:57), the “commander of the army” (17:55), brings David to Saul. 18:1-4 tell of the deep friendship between David and Jonathan (Saul’s son and heir). “Jonathan made a covenant with David”, giving him gifts that symbolize the transfer of royal succession to him (“robe”, “armour”, “sword”, 18:4). Because David is so successful militarily, Saul makes him commander of the army (18:5), but when the people (“women”, 18:7) sing that he is ten times superior to Saul in his accomplishments, Saul becomes “very angry” (18:8). Saul is jealous of David “from that day on” (18:9).

In 18:10-11, Saul attempts to kill David, but is unsuccessful. (Note that even “an evil spirit” is “from God”, i.e. part of his creation.) “Saul was afraid of David” (18:12), because God helps David and has rejected Saul. David is demoted, but (presumably after another victory), the troops acclaim him commander of the army (“came in, leading the army”, 18:13). Saul’s fear of David changes to “awe of him” (18:15), but all the people love him (18:16). (“Israel and Judah” probably shows that this verse was edited during the Divided Monarchy, at least eighty years after the events described here.)

In the following verses, Saul promises David his first daughter (“Merab”, 18:17) as his wife, but he reneges on the offer (18:19). David continues to be victorious over the Philistines. Expecting David to be killed in battle, Saul then offers David his second daughter, “Michal” (18:20), whom he considers a “snare” (18:21) for David: the “marriage present” (18:25) is to be one hundred Philistine corpses. Realizing that Michal loves David, “Saul was David’s enemy from that time forward” (18:29). Jonathan persuades Saul to promise not to kill David – by arguing that David has been faithful to Saul, and that by killing David he would be committing a sin against an innocent person (19:4-5). Even so, Saul plans to kill David, but Michal foils the attempt (19:12-16).


Psalms

Psalms is a collection of collections. The psalms were written over many centuries, stretching from the days of Solomon's temple (about 950 BC) to after the Exile (about 350 BC.) Psalms are of five types: hymns of praise, laments, thanksgiving psalms, royal psalms, and wisdom psalms. Within the book, there are five "books"; there is a doxology ("Blessed be ... Amen and Amen") at the end of each book.


Psalm 9:9-20

Because each pair of verses begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet, we know that this psalm and Psalm 10 were originally one, even though the themes are different: Psalm 9 expresses thanksgiving; Psalm 10 laments that deviants from God’s ways, who hold God in contempt, pursue those devoted to God.

Those who know God (v. 10) will trust in him, for he is faithful to those who seek him. The avenger of blood (v. 12) is God; he will remember the pleas of those hurt by the wicked. Give me your grace, your freely given gift of love (“gracious”, v. 13), you who restore me from death’s door. “Gates of death” is a figure for Sheol: in Judaism, the abode of those who have died. The psalmist proclaims this in the Temple in Jerusalem (“Zion”, v. 14). Vv. 15-18 express his renewed confidence: the “wicked”, the ungodly have fallen into the trap they created by their deviant behaviour (“their own hands”, v. 16); God is just. Their destiny (and that of those who “forget God”, v. 17) is to be in limbo in “Sheol”. God will one day remember the needy; he will give hope to the poor (v. 18). May God intercede against the ungodly, who think themselves above mortality.


Psalms

Psalms is a collection of collections. The psalms were written over many centuries, stretching from the days of Solomon's temple (about 950 BC) to after the Exile (about 350 BC.) Psalms are of five types: hymns of praise, laments, thanksgiving psalms, royal psalms, and wisdom psalms. Within the book, there are five "books"; there is a doxology ("Blessed be ... Amen and Amen") at the end of each book.


Psalm 133

Deuteronomy 25:5 requires that “when kindred [brothers] reside together”, in order to preserve close family ties, a widow lacking a son be married to her brother-in-law, and bear a son by him – thus continuing her husband’s lineage. Although not mentioned per se, this psalm speaks of the Temple: from which people believed God’s benefits (“oil”, v. 2 and “dew”, v. 3) flowed into human life. “Aaron” (v. 2) is the ancestor of, and model for, all high priests. A high priest was ordained with great quantities of “oil”, so living in community has manifold blessings. Mount “Hermon” (v. 3, a high mountain in Syria) provided relief from the hot climate; the “dew” from “Zion”, God, is even more refreshing, for it is life itself, flowing from the one who is “forevermore”. God has blessed Jerusalem, providing all the blessings of this life. (Life after death was unknown then.)


2 Corinthians

This is a letter, written in the style common in the first century AD. From the text, we know that Paul wrote it in Macedonia after leaving Ephesus, probably in the autumn of 57 AD. It gives us a picture of Paul the person: an affectionate man, hurt to the quick by misunderstandings and evil-doing of his beloved fellow Christians, yet happy when he can praise them. The letter's prime intent is to combat evils which have arisen in the Christian communities in the Achaian peninsula of Greece.


2 Corinthians 6:1-13

As Paul and his coworkers, Timothy and Apollos, (servants) work together with God (the Holy Spirit), they urge the Christians at Corinth to “accept the grace of God” productively, i.e. “not ... in vain”. Based on Isaiah 49:8 (“have”, v. 2, is prophetic), Paul tells them that now is the time when God gives grace, his love to us: now we are being restored to union with God. The servants are aiding “in every way” (v. 4) they can. They have shown themselves true agents of God in enduring physical and mental pressures (“afflictions”, vv. 4, 5a) and “hardships” (listed in v. 5b) – unlike Paul’s critics – by the fruits of the Spirit (vv. 6, 7a and Galatians 5:22-23), using the whole offensive (“right hand”, v. 7) and defensive (“the left”) armament which God provides, whether honoured or discredited (by their critics, who even call them “impostors”, v. 8, i.e. not true to God.) Seen as insignificant (as bad teachers), they are valued by true Christians, “dying” (v. 9) to self-centeredness but alive in following Christ; “sorrowful” (v. 10) that the Corinthian Christians feel hurt that he refused their aid (he did not need it), yet “rejoicing” that they are faithful; living in poverty, yet “making many rich” spiritually and “possessing everything” that matters.

They have laid everything (their innermost thoughts) on the table to the Church (v. 11). He loves without limits all at Corinth – even his opponents who do not love him. May his critics grow up (“children”, v. 13) and imitate his love.


Symbol of St Mark

Mark

As witnesses to the events of Jesus life and death became old and died, the need arose for a written synopsis. Tradition has it that Mark, while in Rome, wrote down what Peter remembered. This book stresses the crucifixion and resurrection as keys to understanding who Jesus was. When other synoptic gospels were written, i.e. Matthew and Luke, they used the Gospel according to Mark as a source. Mark is most probably the John Mark mentioned in Acts 12:12: his mother's house was a meeting place for believers.


Mark 4:35-41

Jesus has told the good news of the Kingdom to the crowds, in a way they could understand, but he has gone further with those close to him: “he explained everything in private to his disciples” (vv. 33-34).

After teaching from a boat, with the crowds along the shore, he now suggests to the disciples that they “go across to the other side” (v. 35), to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. A flotilla of boats follow, but they scatter before the storm. (He is “just as he was”, v. 36, in the same posture as earlier, in the boat.) Squalls (“windstorm”, v. 37) are common on the Sea of Galilee, for the hills around it are high. Jesus is “in the stern”, v. 38, on the helmsman’s seat, well above the waves. He is “asleep”: he has complete confidence in God. The disciples see him as “teacher”; they do not yet know him fully. Jesus is awoken and rebukes (v. 39) the wind – as though it is a demon (see 1:25). To ancients, the sea symbolized the powers of chaos and evil. Jesus commands it to be still: only God can control nature. He castigates the disciples (v. 40): either they lack faith in God (do not follow Jesus’ example of trust in him) or in him (as a worker of wonders). Their question in v. 41 is an implicit confession of Jesus’ divinity: the sea obeys him as it does God in the Old Testament (Genesis 1:2). Jesus’ power extends even to power over natural disasters, then thought to be the work of the devil.

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