Sunday, July 20, 2014

St Thomas Aquinas' Homily Notes on the First Four Fruits of the Holy Spirit as Given in Galatians 5:22

The following homily notes can provide useful points for meditation or further study. I have added some notes and biblical references related to the subject matter treated of in the notes. These additions are in red. Quotations are from the Douay-Rheims Bible, but the scripture links are to the RSVCE for those wanting a more modern translation.


"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith."

It is certain that man ought to possess these fruits chiefly  for three reasons. Firstly, on account of necessity, " Every  tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and  cast into the fire," S. Matt. 3:10. Secondly, on account of  their sweetness, because they refresh the mind with ineffable  delight, "I sat down under His shadow with great delight,  and His fruit was sweet to my taste," Son 2:3. Thirdly,  on account of profit, because they confer many benefits.

I. The first fruit, Love, has three wonderful virtues. 

(1) Because the man who eats this fruit is made unconquerable: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution ... in all these  things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved  us," Rom. 8:35-38. It is because of Christ that we are conquerors, see John 16:33; Col 2:4-15; 2 Cor 2:14-16.

(2) Because every good and evil  profits him who is refreshed by this fruit: "We know that  all things work together for good to them that love God, to  them that are called according to His purpose," Rom. 8:28. "All things;" Gloss: things good and evil.

(3) Because he who eats such fruit shall not die eternally: "Charity never faileth," 1 Cor. 13:8. See Song 8:6-7.

II. The second fruit, Joy, has likewise three great virtues. 

(1) Because the eating of this fruit makes men strong to  conquer every evil spirit: "Spiritual joy is one means of  conquering the enemy," S. Anthony. "Be not sad: for the joy of the Lord is our strength" (Neh 8:10). "Hark, glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: The right hand of the LORD does valiantly" (Ps 118:15).  See 1 Kings 2:1; Ps 35:9.

(2) Because it makes  men live forever: "No joy above the joy of the heart," Sir 30:16."Thou hast made known to me the ways of life, thou shalt fill me with joy with thy countenance: at thy right hand are delights even to the end" (Ps 16:11).

(3) Because it leads those who eat it to  the glory of the heavenly kingdom: "For the kingdom of  God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace,  and joy in the Holy Ghost," Rom. 14:17. "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in a field. Which a man having found, hid it, and for joy thereof goeth, and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field" (Mt 13:44). "But if you partake of the sufferings of Christ, rejoice that, when his glory shall be revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy" (1 Pet 4:13).

III. The third fruit, Peace, likewise has three great  virtues. 

(1) Because it protects man from all evil: "The  peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep  your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus," Philipp. 4:7."Peace I leave with you: my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled: nor let it be afraid" (Jn 14:27). Sometimes what we may think is evil-discipline from our heavenly Father-is in reality meant to bring us to the peaceful fruit of righteousness (see Heb 12:1-11, especially verse 11.

(2) Because it causes men to become sons of God: "Blessed  are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of  God," S. Matt. 5:9. Thus we are called upon to imitate Jesus, the Son of God, the Prince of Peace: For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us...and his name shall be called...the Prince of Peace" (Isa 9:6).

(3) Because in the place where the  fruit is found God willingly dwells and rests, "In Salem
[i.e., peace] also is His tabernacle," Ps 76:2 [76:3 NABRE]. "My people shall sit in the beauty of peace, and in the tabernacles of confidence, and in wealthy rest" (Isa 32:18).

IV. The fourth fruit, Long-suffering, or Patience, has  also three great virtues.

(1) Because the eating of it gives  man wisdom: "He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding," Prov. 14:29. Wisdom fosters patience (long-suffering): "She will bring upon him fear and dread and trial: and she will scourge him with the affliction of her discipline, till she try him by her laws, and trust his soul. Then she will strengthen him, and make a straight way to him, and give him joy, and will disclose her secrets to him, and will heap upon him treasures of knowledge and understanding of justice" (Sir 4:19-21).

(2) Because it preserves the soul  of man: " In patience possess ye your souls," S. Luke 21:19. "For patience is necessary for you: that, doing the will of God, you may receive the promise" (Heb 10:36). "For the Spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God.
Rom 8:17  And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God and joint heirs with Christ: yet so, if we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him" (Rom 8:16-17)
. "Wherein you shalt greatly rejoice, if now you must be for a little time made sorrowful in divers temptations: that the trial of your faith (much more precious than gold which is tried by the fire) may be found unto praise and glory and honour at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 1:6-7).

(3) Because it makes even bitter things sweet, so great is its sweetness: "My brethren, count it all joy when ye full  into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of  your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her  perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting
nothing," S. James 1:2-4. "Dearly beloved, think not strange the burning heat which is to try you: as if some new thing happened to you.  But if you partake of the sufferings of Christ, rejoice that, when his glory shall be revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you be reproached for the name of Christ, you shall be blessed: for that which is of the honour, glory and power of God, and that which is his Spirit resteth upon you" (1 Pet 4:12-14). "And not only so: but we glory also in tribulation, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience trial; and trial hope; and hope confoundeth not: because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost who is given to us" (Rom 5:3-5).

Father Maas' Commentary on Matthew 13:44-52

Mat 13:44  The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in a field. Which a man having found, hid it, and for joy thereof goeth, and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. 

The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure. The treasure, α. As the preceding parables illustrate the efficient force of the kingdom, so do the two following describe its moral power or its desirability [Cajetan]; but there is this difference between them. that in one parable the kingdom is sought, while in the other it is found as if by accident [Cajetan, Jansenius, Sylveira, Schegg, Schanz, Fillion Knabenbauer]; in the one we see its beauty, in the other its many advantages [Chrysostom, Thomas Aquinas].

The “kingdom” is like a treasure, because it incloses countless and numberless goods, as the treasure implies countless and numberless riches [cf. Ps. 19:11; 119:127; Prov. 8:11; Job 28:15–19; Wisd. 7:9]. It is like a “hidden” treasure because its value is not recognized by a soul not illumined by supernatural grace [cf. Acts 9:6; St Bruno]. The finder “hid it,” and thus in the supernatural order the finder must make a careful use of grace [Maldonado]. “For joy thereof” [Vulgate, Chrysostom, Euthymius, Fillion] rather emphasizes “his” joy according to the analogy of “his” fear [cf. Mt. 14:26; Lk. 24:41; Acts 12:14; recent commentators], than the joy over the treasure. But while the treasure and the joy it causes are expressions of the excellency of the kingdom, the sacrifices it demands are indicated by the fact that the finder “selleth all that he hath.” Though according to Rabbinic law [Surenhus. leg. mischn. iv. p. 113] the treasure belongs to the buyer of the field, Jesus does not pronounce his judgment on the manner in which the finder of the treasure acted, just as he employed the parable of the unjust steward without approving of his proceedings [cf. Lk. 16:8].

“The kingdom of heaven” in this parable and the following is Christ himself as the head of the Church [Hilary, Jerome, Paschasius, Thomas Aquinas, Salmeron], or the canon of Sacred Scriptures [Jerome, Origen, Paschasius, Alb.], or the revealed truths of faith in general [Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius], or the desire after heavenly things [Gregory], or charity, or the state of the evangelical counsels [Salmeron, Sylveira Barradas, Lapide, Schegg, etc.]. 

Mat 13:45  Again the kingdom of heaven is like to a merchant seeking good pearls.
Mat 13:46  Who when he had found one pearl of great price, went his way, and sold all that he had, and bought it. 

Again the kingdom of heaven. The pearl. The seeking after the pearl presupposes a general knowledge of its excellency together with an ignorance of the individual object; thus should all men endowed with ordinary intellectual faculties appreciate in general the worth of truth and goodness, though they may doubt, for a time, about what is really true and good. The parable insists on the necessity of being a prudent merchant, of investing all one’s goods in the purchase of the precious pearl [cf. St Bruno, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Gregory hom. xi. in evang.], which is according to the evangelist the “one pearl of great price,” and therefore worthy of notice even among the pearl-kind. The relation of this parable to the foregoing, and the various meanings of “the kingdom” have been considered in the last section.

Mat 13:47 Again the kingdom of heaven is like to a net cast into the sea, and gathering together of all kinds of fishes.  ‎
Mat 13:48 Which, when it was filled, they drew out, and sitting by the shore, they chose out the good into vessels, but the bad they cast forth.  ‎
Mat 13:49 So shall it be at the end of the world. The angels shall go out, and shall separate the wicked from among the just.  ‎
Mat 13:50 And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  ‎

Again the kingdom of heaven. The net. This parable refers principally to the state of the Messianic kingdom “at the end of the world” [cf. v. 49], and shows that preaching on the part of the ministers and faith on the part of the hearers are not sufficient for salvation [cf. Chrysostom, Jansenius, Barradas]. The “net” is a drag, or draw-net, which sweeps the bottom of the water and permits nothing to escape it; it represents the teaching and believing Church [Origen, Hilary, Chrysostom], and may be conceived as being woven of the apostolic doctrine, the testimony of miracles, and the predictions of the prophets [Theophylact, Jerome]. The fishermen implied in the parable are the apostles and their successors in the ministry [cf. Mt. 4:19; Mk. 1:17; Lk. 5:10]. “The sea” is the world with its storms, its instability, and its many bitternesses [cf. Jansenius, Chrysologus, serm. 47], and in particular the waters of baptism may be regarded as the waters in which the fish are caught [St Bruno]. The net was “cast into the sea” when our Lord gave his disciples the commission to teach all nations [St Bruno]; it is a “gathering together of all kinds of fishes” because there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, Greek and barbarian, rich and poor. The net will be “filled,” when after the fulness of the Gentiles has entered, all Israel shall be saved [cf. Rom. 11:25-26], when the gospel shall have been preached to all nations Mt. 24:14]. The gospel does not say that all fish, or men, shall be caught, but that the net shall be full. Then follows the process of separation in the Church as well as in the fisherman’s trade: “they chose out the good into vessels, but the bad [i. e. the putrid and maimed] they cast forth”; there is this difference, however, that in the Church the separation is effected by “the angels” [verse 50], not by the fishermen, and again that the wicked are not merely rejected from the kingdom, but “cast into the furnace of fire, [where] there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The torment and despair indicated by this expression have been pointed out above; we may add here that Jesus repeats this threat of eternal punishment with a frightful frequency [cf. Mt. 5:20 ff.; 8:12; 10:28; 12:32; 13:42, 50], so that these words must be feared rather than explained [Gregory].

Mat 13:51 Have ye understood all these things? They say to him: Yes.  ‎52 He said unto them: Therefore every scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven, is like to a man that is a householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasure new things and old. 
Mat 13:52 He said unto them: Therefore every scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven, is like to a man that is a householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasure new things and old

Have ye understood. Conclusion of the Sermon. As if to show that for the present there is no need of further parables, the evangelist records here our Lord’s question concerning the disciples’ understanding of what has been said, and the disciples’ affirmative answer which is true of their limited knowledge before the coming of the Holy Ghost. Jesus then continues, and draws a practical conclusion regarding the use the apostles must make of their knowledge. “Therefore” is not merely an asseverative particle in the Greek original [cf. Euthymius]; nor does it connect with the parable of the treasure-trove, as if the apostles had to be like the householder because the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure [cf. Augustine, qu. in evang. Mt. 16; Maldonado]; but it connects with the affirmative answer of the apostles [Chrysostom, Jansenius, Sylveira, Barradas, Arnoldi, Schanz, Fillion, Knabenbauer]. “Every scribe” is not every scribe in the Jewish sense, but the scribe “instructed in the kingdom of heaven,” or better “enrolled as a disciple for the kingdom of heaven.” Concerning the Greek word here rendered “instructed,” cf. Mt. 27:57; 28:19; Acts 14:21; in the Greek text the kingdom is construed personally as if it were the teacher of the apostles, so that Euthymius explains it as “the king of heaven.” The “new things and old” represent the revelation of the New and Old Testament [cf. Origen, Hilary, Jerome, Chrysostom, Cyril, Euthymius, Paschasius, Faber Stapulensis, Dionysius the Carthusian, Salmeron, Cajetan, Maldonado], or the teaching of the New Testament confirmed by the authority of the Old [Theophylact], or the Old Testament in the light of the revelations of the New [Thomas], or the truths referring to the old and the new man, i. e. to the unregenerate and the regenerate [Alb. Paschasius, Salmeron], or the truths concerning the horrors of punishment and those referring to the happiness of the kingdom [Gregory], or truths already known and truths as yet unknown, but explained by means of the known [Barradas, Sylveira], or truths in plenty and abundance of all kinds [cf. Jansenius, Maldonado, Barradas, Lapide, Calmet, Lam. Arnoldi, Fillion, Knabenbauer; Cant. 7:13]. According to this last view the expression is proverbial [cf. Maldonado]. The order “new things and old” is either owing to the proverbial character of the expression, or to the importance of the subject [Augustine, civ. dei, xx. 4], or to the order to be observed in teaching, or even to that followed in learning [cf. Knabenbauer].

Father MacEvilly's Commentary on Romans 8:28-30

This post opens with an Analysis of Romans chapter 8 followed by the notes on verses 28-30. Text in purple indicates a paraphrasing of the biblical text being commented on. Text in red, if any, are my additions.


In this chapter, after inferring from the foregoing that the baptized have nothing deserving of damnation, except so far as they consent to the motions of concupiscence (Rom 8: 1), the Apostle tells us that we are rescued from the dominion of concupiscence by the grace of the Gospel (Rom 8:2-4.) He shows the different motions and effects of the flesh and of the spirit (Rom 8:4–9). He exhorts us to live according to the spirit, and points out the spiritual and eternal life of both soul and body, resulting from such a course (Rom 8:9–11). He next exhorts us to follow the dictates of the spirit, and to mortify the deeds of the flesh, in order to escape death and obtain life (Rom 8:12-13)—to act up to our calling as sons of God, and to conform to the spirit of charity and love, which we received, unlike to that of the Jews of old, and by thus acting as sons of God, to secure the Heavenly inheritance, which we shall certainly obtain, on condition, however, of suffering (Rom 8:13–17). Lest this condition should dishearten them, he points out the greatness of God’s inheritance,—so great indeed is it, that he personifies inanimate creatures, and represents them as groaning for this glorious consummation. The very Christians themselves, although in the infancy of the Church, they received the sweet pledge of future glory in the choice gifts of the Holy Ghost, were sighing for it (Rom 8:17–24). The Holy Ghost, besides the assurance he gave them of being sons of God, was also relieving their necessities and prompting them to pray with ineffable ardour of spirit (Rom 8:26-27). The Apostle encourages them to patient suffering by pointing out to them that they were predestined for these sufferings as the means of their sanctification and future glorification (Rom 8:28–30), and, finally, he excites them to confidence in God (Rom 8:31–38).

Rom 8:28 And we know that to them that love God all things work together unto good: to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints.

 But although out infirmity be so great as not to know what to pray for, or how to pray as we ought; still we should not be disheartened under crosses and sufferings. For, we know that by the disposition of an all-wise Providence, all things work together unto the good of those who love God; of those, I say, who have been, by his gratuitous decree, called by him to the profession and practice of sanctity, and obey his call.

“To such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints.” The word “saints” is not in the Greek: “called,” as appears from the Greek, τοῖς κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοῖς οὖσιν, is not a participle, but a noun.

This passage is intended by the Apostle to stimulate the Romans to the patient endurance of the crosses of this life; for we know that all things, whether prosperity or adversity, nay, even their very sins (as is added by some of the Commentators), which serve the purpose of humiliation, work together unto the good of those who love God. And to show that this love regarded the faithful among the Romans, the Apostle explains it, by saying, “such as according to his purpose,” πρόθεσιν, i.e., his gratuitous decree, “are called to be saints."

Commentators are greatly divided as to the object of this “purpose” or decree in question. Some assert that it regards the decree of giving glory; and even these are divided on this subject; one class of them says, that the decree of giving glory is prior to, and quite independent of, the good works of man. Those hold predestination to glory to be, ante prævisa merita (see note below). On the other hand, a second class maintain that the prevision of man’s future merits is prior, in the divine mind, to the decree of giving glory. These are the advocates of Predestination to glory, post prævisa merita (see note below). Others assert, that this decree in question regards not glory directly, but grace and sanctity (Father MacEvilly will treat of this position in the next paragraph, following my note). The advocates of the former opinion ground their interpretation: 1st, On the words “all things work together,” &c. Now, it is only of those called to glory, this could be true. 2ndly, They say, the word “purpose,” in Greek, πρόθεσιν, signifies a decree or infallible efficacy. 3rdly, The words, “called according to his purpose,” (for the words “to be saints,” are not in the Greek), are restrictive of the preceding. 4thly, The word “glorifies,” (verse 30), shows glory to be the term of the decree. Those who think the decree refers to grace and sanctity have a response to these four points. This response is given in the second paragraph below my note.

NOTE: The two Latin phrases, ante prævisa merita, and post prævisa merita, relate to the question "whether God’s eternal resolve of Predestination has been taken with (post) or without (ante) consideration (praevisa) of the merits (merita) of the man" [Ott, L. (1957). Fundamentals of Catholic dogma. St. Louis: B. Herder Book Company.Text within parentheses are my additions].

The advocates of the interpretation, which makes the decree refer to grace and sanctity, ground it: 1st, On the words, “called to be saints,” which is the term of the decree, and the words mean, called to state and profession of sanctity—the meaning in which the same words are taken in the different introductory salutations in the Epistle of St. Paul, 2ndly, The very object of the Apostle introducing the concurrence of all things towards their good, as a motive to induce them to bear patiently the crosses of this life, would prove the same; since all whom he addresses were called to grace and sanctity, but they could not all regard themselves as called to glory. Finally, the general objects of the Apostle in this Epistle, which regards the gratuitous call to grace of the Romans (for it was regarding this alone there was any controversy), makes it probable that here, too, he refers to the same.

In reply to the arguments of the preceding interpretation (that the decree concerns glory), they say: 1st, That “all things,” may be restricted by the subject matter to mean, all sufferings; and that the words, “work together,” do not necessarily imply actual working together, but only that these sufferings are intended, according to the antecedent will of God, for their sanctification. And even though all sufferings may not work together for the good of such as fall away from justice; still the Apostle, in the fervour of his charity, abstracts from the possible chance of their not persevering, and to draw a line of distinction between those called to glory and those rejected from it, would only injure the object he has in view, by throwing some into despondency. 2ndly, They say the word “purpose,” does not involve absolute infallible efficacy (v.g. Acts, 11:23); and morever, even though it did, no inconvenience would result; because, the grace and sanctity, which, in their opinion, it regards, are infallibly conferred. 3rdly. These words are explanatory, not restrictive. 4thly, Glory is only the reward of justice, and are we to wonder if the great charity of the Apostle made him abstract from the possibility of their not persevering, who were called, and represent all those whom God predestined to sanctity, as receiving the crown of glory which is decreed only for those who persevere? The latter opinion seems far the more probable. Hence, we have nothing to do here with the relative probability or improbability of the opinions regarding the decrees of glory, ante prævisa merita, or post prævisa merita. No doubt, the latter opinion appears far more in accordance with the doctrine of the Apostles, asserting that “God wishes all men to be saved,” and “none to perish;” more in accordance with our ideas of the goodnesss of God manifested in the death of Christ for all, and his tears and labours for the conversion of sinners during his mortal life. It is still free for any Theologian to hold either opinion. It is, however, to be observed, that although we can hold, that in predestinating men to glory, God is actuated by the prevision of the good works of those whom he predestines—post prævisa merita—and this is even, as has been just stated, the more probable opinion; still, no one could hold, without falling into the semi-Pelagian heresy, that in predestining men to grace, God is actuated by the prevision of their correspondence with this grace, as the motive of his conferring it. And although we may hold, negative reprobation, or, the non-predestinating, and selecting men out of the mass of perdition, to be, ante prævisa demerita—no doubt a very improbable opinion—still, no one, without falling into the shocking heresy of Calvin, could hold positive reprobation, or the decree of devoting anyone to eternal punishment, to be, ante prævisa demerita. The reason is, that Predestination ante prævisa merita, being a free gratuitous act of goodness of the part of God, he could exercise it as he pleased; but it would be unjust to inflict a punishment without some fault. Hence, God would be cruel and unjust in marking out men for punishment without some fault, i.e., in reprobating them positively, ante prævisa demerita. Of all the errors of Calvin, this is, perhaps, the most shocking and blasphemous. Concerning the subject matter dealt with in the preceding paragraphs see here.
Rom 8:29 For whom he foreknew, he also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of his Son: that he might be the Firstborn amongst many brethren.

Because these are they whom he foreknew, nay, even predestined to a conformity in patience with the model presented by his Son in patient suffering; in order that he who, in his Divine nature, is the only begotten Son of God, would, as Man, be the first begotten among many adopted brethren.

In this verse, the Apostle explains why all things work together unto the good of those “called according to the purpose,” or gratuitous decree of God. The construction of the verse, adopted by the generality of Commentators, is this, “for whom he foreknew (those) he also predestinated.” Such of them as make the passage refer to predestination to glory, by “foreknew,” understand “those whom he foreknew by a knowledge of love and predilection,” i.e., whom he loved from eternity, those he predestined. The others say the words mean, “those whom he foreknew would be conformable to the image of his Son, he predestined to be such.” A’Lapide, whose interpretation has been adopted in the Paraphrase, says that the Apostle in this verse enters on an explanation of the nature of predestination referred to here, and then resumes the word “predestinated,” in next verse (Rom 8:30) in which the sentence suspended is completed. This construction perfectly accords with the style of the Apostle, who, carried away by some idea that occurs to him, sometimes, defers, for a long time, the completion of a sentence (v.g. Rom 5:12; chap. 3. Epistle to the Ephesians). According to this construction, the words of our English version: “For whom he foreknew, he also predestinated,” should be rendered from the Vulgate, quos præscivit et prædestinavit, “whom he foreknew and predestinated;” and, then, a marked difference is clearly perceptible in the text, between the mode in which the words, “he foreknew,” and “predestinated,” in this verse are connected, and the connexion which exists between any of the verbs in next verse. He says here, “whom he foreknew and predestinated.” In the next verse, “whom he predestinated, them he also called—whom he called, them he also justified,” &c. And this interpretation of A’Lapide requires the introduction of no other word in the sentence. Hence, his interpretation is adopted in the Paraphrase, in preference to any other. He connects Rom 8:29 with Rom 8:28, thus: “all things work together, &c.” (verse 28). Because these are they whom God foreknew, and predestinated to be conformable to the image of his Son, or to the model which his Son presents (v. 29). This conformity is to exist in suffering and justice; no doubt, it will extend to glory also. According to A’Lapide, “also” or “and” has the meaning of “because,” “nay even,” as if to say, “he foreknew, because he predestined them to be conformable to the image of his Son,” in justice and suffering. “That he might be the first-born,” &c. This predestination redounds to the glory of Christ, who, as God, is the only begotten, and as Man, is the natural Son of God, and first-born among the others who are only his adopted sons.

Rom 8:30 And whom he predestinated, them he also called. And whom he called, them he also justified. And whom he justified, them he also glorified.

Those (I say), whom he predestined to a conformity in suffering with his Son, he called to these sufferings; and whom he called, he has justified by these sufferings; and whom he justified, he has glorified.

“And whom he predestinated.” Resuming the sentence suspended last verse, he says, “those (I say) whom he predestinated” to a conformity with the Son in suffering, he called to the same; “whom he called, he justified” by these sufferings, “and whom he justified, he glorified” by the same. The Apostle uses the past tense, though some of the events are future in regard to many, to show the certainty of the future events marked out in God’s decrees. We are not to suppose each of the terms which express the order in which the decrees of God are executed to be equally extensive, so that all are glorified, who are called. The words only mean, that out of the “called” are the “justified,” and out of the “justified” the “glorified.”

Sunday, July 06, 2014

My Notes on Hosea 2:14-20 (2:16-22 in Some Versions)

Please Note: the verse numbering of the NABRE differs from that of the RSVCE. I here follow the verse numbering of the RSVCE but have included the NABRE numbering in square brackets [...].

Background: Hosea was commanded by God to marry a woman with the knowledge that she would eventually desert him and engage in unfaithful relations with other men, giving birth to children not his. The prophet's marriage mirrors God's marriage [covenant relations] with the people of the land, His chosen people, Israel (Hos 1:2). Just as Hosea's wife, Gomer, gave birth to children not his, so too, Mother Israel has given birth to children not God's (Hos 1:6; Hos 1:8). God promises to reverse the situation between himself, Mother Israel , and her illegitimate children (Hos 1:10-2:1).

For this to happen Mother Israel must put away her harlotries (Hos 2:2 [4]), lest she suffer punishment, and she and her children remain estranged (Hos 2:3-5 [5-7]). God will take action to ensure that she will give up  her ways and return to him (Hos 2:6-7a [8-9a]). A half-hearted response, which she might in fact be prone to (Hos 2:7b-8), will not be tolerated (Hos 2:9-13 [11-15]). In this way God will lure her back to himself, reestablishing their former, happy relations. This is the subject of today's reading.


Hosea 2:14 [2:16]. Therefore, behold, I will seduce her, and lead her back into the wilderness, speaking tenderly to her heart. (my translation)

The word  therefore  introduces the ultimate reason for God's actions in Hos 2:6-13.

Behold, I will seduce her. If it is a lover Israel wants, it is a lover Israel will get! While most modern translations speak of God “alluring” her into the wilderness, the word used here does in fact have connotations of seduction (see Ex 22:15). God will out-seduce his wife seducers to win her back. The Exodus firmly established God’s relations with his people, therefore it is fitting that he lead her back into the wilderness to rekindle the romance. "Thus saith the Lord: I have remembered thee, pitying thy youth, and the love of thy espousals, when thou followedst me in the desert, in a land that is not sown" (Jer 2:2, Douay-Rheims Translation).

And lead her back into the wilderness. This calls to mind the area east of the Jordan, from which direction the people entered the promised land after the desert wanderings of the Exodus. Here being led into the wilderness may indicate being led into exile.  It may also refer to the fact that Israel will be devastated, itself turned into a wilderness as a punishment intended to turn her to repentance (see Hos 2:9, 12 [11, 14]). The point of the Exodus was to bring the people through a wilderness into a garden land (Jer 2:7) flowing with milk and honey (Ex 3:8, 33:3; Ezek 20:6). Their infidelity would turn that land into a waste (Deut 28:22-24; Amos 1:2; Am 4:9; Hag 1:10-11; Isa 5:8-10; Jer 4:26-27, 9:9-14). My own opinion is that it refers to the second possibility: being led into exile.

Hosea 2:15 [2:17]. From that place her vineyards will be given to her, and I will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And she will respond there as in the days of her youth, like the time she came up out of the land of Egypt. (my translation)

That place.the wilderness, which I understand to symbolize exile.

Her vineyards will be given to her.This is sometimes interpreted as a dowry price, but in ancient Israel the dowry went to the bride's father or guardian. They held it in trust for her, so that,  in the event of divorce or widowhood, she would have something to fall back on. The giving back of her vineyards here indicates that the punishment brought upon Mother Israel (lack of wine and wasted vineyards, Hos 2:8-9, 12 [10-11, 14]) will be reversed. She who once thought such things were her harlot's hire from her lovers (the Baals), will come to realize that they had come from God; Him who has the power to take them away and restore them. God will hold out the garden land of Israel, his vineyard (Ps 80:8-16; Matt 21:33-43), as an enticement to his wife in exile, and she will respond as in the days of her youth. She will again become faithful.

Vineyards represent a new beginning as relief from punishment  (see Gen 5:29 with Gen 9:20), God's gift of gladness (Ps 104: 14-15).

I will make the valley of Achor a door of hope- This valley was the place where Achan as put to death for violating the ban in Joshua 7. When the Israelites conquered Jericho by the hand of the Lord they were supposed to put everything captured into the treasury of the Lord (Josh 6:18-19), but Achan held some things back, and, as a result, he was put to death. The place became known as the valley (or plain) of Achor, which means “trouble” (Josh 7:16-26). Most scholars identify this valley as the modern day El Buqeath Valley in the Northern Judean wilderness. It lies between Hyrcania and Qumran on the Northeastern side of the Dead Sea, and it extends south to the Kidron Valley which runs along the base of the Mount of Olives, thus defining the eastern side of Jerusalem. In his book THE TWELVE PROPHETS Marvin Sweeney suggests that Hosea is hinting that God is here suggesting a reunion between the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the Southern Kingdom of Judah, whose political and religious center was Jerusalem. Like Achan, the Northern Kingdom is robbing God of what rightfully belongs to him. This Valley of Achor (trouble) they find themselves in can lead to the Door of Hope, reunion with the more politically and religiously stable south.

Hosea 2:16 [2:18] It will come to pass on that day, says the Lord, you will call me “my husband,” and no longer will you call me “my Baal”.  
Hosea 2:17 [2:19] And I will cause to turn aside the name of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be brought to mind no more.  
Hosea 2:18 [2:20] For them I will make a covenant on that day with the wild beasts, the birds in the heavens, and the crawling things on the ground; I will remove the bow and the sword and the ones who do battle from the land; I will make you lie down in security
Hosea 2:19 [2:21] And I will betroth you to myself for the ages; I will betroth you to myself in righteousness, and in justice, in love and in mercy.  
Hosea 2:20 [2:22] I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord

Verse 15 spoke of the wife's response to the acts of God's love. Verse 16 treats more fully of that response, and verses 17-20 treats of what God will do for her as a result of it. 

you will call me “my husband,” and no longer will you call me “my Baal”- Mother Israel's confusion and ignorance about where her blessings and gifts come from will be ended, reversing the situation of Hos 2:8.. By attributing the gifts to the Baals who do not exist, they were in effect treating God as a Baal rather than a husband. The names and memories of the Baals will be brought to an end when God renews the covenant with them (vss 17-18 [19-20]). The land will not be given over to scavenging beasts, one of the covenant curses (vs 18 [20]). Warfare, one of the covenant curses, will also be abolished, thus the people will lie down in security (vs 18 [20]). They will come to know God as the source of their blessings (vs 20 [22]).

Saturday, July 05, 2014

My Notes on Jeremiah 1:1-10 for Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

The Superscription:  Jeremiah 1:1-3

Jer 1:1  Words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, of the priests who are in Anathoth, in the land of Benjamin,
Jer 1:2  unto whom the word of Jehovah hath been in the days of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign,
Jer 1:3  and it is in the days of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king of Judah, till the completion of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah, king of Judah, till the removal of Jerusalem in the fifth month. 

Notes on Jer 1:1 

Jeremiah. The meaning of the name is uncertain, however some scholars speculate that it means "one raised up by the Lord."  If this is the case it calls to mind the prophecy of Moses in Deut 18:15-18: "The Lord thy God will raise up for you a prophet...I (God) will raise up for them a prophet like you (Moses) from among their brothers, and will put my words into his mouth."  The ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy is found in our Lord (see Acts 3:19-23), whom many mistook for Jeremiah, raised from the dead (Matt 16:14). 

Hilkiah. The name of Jeremiah's father.  A high priest with this name found the book of the Law in the temple during repairs undertaken by the reform of King Josiah (2 Kings 22:4 ff).  Some have speculated that this was Jeremiah's father, however, the fact that the prophet's father is referred to in general terms as "(one" of the priests that were in Anathoth" rather than high priest militates against this. 

Anathoth. A priestly town in the region of the Tribe of Benjamin (Josh 21:18; 1 Ch 6:45).  According to Isaiah 10:30 it was just a few miles north of Jerusalem.  Just as our Lord's own townspeople opposed him (Mark 6:1-6; Luke 4:16-30), so too, the people of Anathoth opposed Jeremiah (Jer 11:21-23). 

Notes on Jer 1:2

Commenting on verse 1 the Protestant commentator Albert Barnes writes:
The usual title of the prophetic books is “the Word of the Lord,” but the two books of Amos and Jeremiah are called the words of those prophets, probably because they contain not merely the words of those prophets, probably because they contain not merely prophecies, but also the record of much which belongs to the personal history of the writers. This title might therefore be translated the “life of Jeremiah” or “acts of Jeremiah,” though some understand by it a collection of the prophecies of Jeremiah.

But this explanation fails to account for what is said in 1:9 And Jehovah putteth forth His hand, and striketh against my mouth, and Jehovah saith unto me, `Lo, I have put my words in thy mouth. Also, can one really describe Amos as "the record of much which belongs the personal history of" Amos?  

In the days of Josiah, king of the thirteenth year of his reign. Jeremiah describes himself a youth in 1:6, suggesting a date of birth circa 650-645 B.C.  The thirteenth year of Josiah's reign was circa 626.  Josiah was one of the greatest kings of the Davidic line.  He instituted a widespread reform of the covenant (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Ch 33-34). 

Notes on Jer 1:3 

till the removal of Jerusalem in the fifth month. A reference to the Babylonian exile of 587 B.C.  In fact, Jeremiah's ministry lasted beyond this time.  For an explanation see footnote 2 of the NAB. 

The Call of Jeremiah (part 1) 1:4-10

Jer 1:4  And there is a word of Jehovah unto me, saying,
Jer 1:5  `Before I form thee in the belly, I have known thee; and before thou comest forth from the womb I have separated thee, a prophet to nations I have made thee.'
Jer 1:6  And I say, `Ah, Lord Jehovah! lo, I have not known--to speak, for I am a youth.'
Jer 1:7  And Jehovah saith unto me, `Do not say, I am a youth, for to all to whom I send thee thou goest, and all that I command thee thou speakest.
Jer 1:8  Be not afraid of their faces, for with thee am I to deliver thee, --an affirmation of Jehovah.'
Jer 1:9  And Jehovah putteth forth His hand, and striketh against my mouth, and Jehovah saith unto me, `Lo, I have put my words in thy mouth.
Jer 1:10  I have set thee this day over the nations, and over kingdoms, to root up, and to pull down, and to waste, and to destroy, and to build, and to plant.

Notes on Jer 1:4 

And there is a word of Jehovah unto me.  A stock prophetic phrase found throughout the prophetic books. 

Notes on Jer 1:5 

`Before I form thee in the belly, I have known thee; and before thou comest forth from the womb I have separated thee, a prophet to nations I have made thee.' Note the contrast in tenses: "Before I form thee...", "before thou comest forth."  Using the present tense of future events is typical of prophetic literature.  It commuicates the idea that what is being prophecied will come to pass (except when a prophecy is conditional, i.e., wont come to apss if the people repent).  Here, the contrast in tenses seems to emphasize the certainty of God's foreknowledge of the prophet.  St Paul tells us that God chose him before his birth to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles (i.e., poeple of the nations) in Gal 1:15:16. See also Luke 1:13-17. 

Notes on Jer 1:6 

And I say, `Ah, Lord Jehovah! lo, I have not known (how) to speak, for I am a youth.' This reminds one of Moses' initial response to his call in Exodus 4:10.  There Moses claimed to be a poor speaker, here Jeremiah appeals to his youth or inexperience in speaking to men concerning important subjects. 

Notes on Jer 1:7 

Do not say, I am a youth, for to all to whom I send thee thou goest, and all that I command thee thou speakest. His youth and inexperience are irrelevant where God's power is concerned.  The authority of the word, and, consequently the authority of the one preaching it, comes from the source of the word and the mission, namely God. 

Notes on Jer 1:8 

Be not afraid of their faces, for with thee am I to deliver thee, --an affirmation of Jehovah.' "Face" is Hebrew idiom for presence: "Be not afraid in their presence."  "With thee I am" is not merely a statement of the divine presence.  The promise of the divine presence when given in the context of a mission is a promise and guarrantee of divine help and power in the performance of that mission.  See God's promise to deliver St Paul in Acts 26:17. 

Notes on Jer 1:9 

And Jehovah putteth forth His hand, and striketh against my mouth, and Jehovah saith unto me, `Lo, I have put my words in thy mouth. God's striking the mouth of the prophet calls to mind the fact that the angel touched Isaiah's lips with an ember in Isaiah 6:7.  the words "I have put my words into thy mouth" recalls the commissioning of Moses in Exodus 4:10-17.

Words and themes found in verse 7-9 are typical of prophetic call narratives (see Ezek 3:1-10; Matt 28:18-20; ect). 

Notes on Jer 1:10 

I have set thee this day over the nations, and over kingdoms, to root up, and to pull down, and to waste, and to destroy, and to build, and to plant.  Jeremiah's mission is for both Jew and Gentile; and his message is one of both weal and woe.  See Jer 18:7-9; 25:15-38; Jer 30-31,  Jer 46-51; ect.

My Notes on Psalm 85 (With Introduction by Fr. Boylan)

I’ve prefaced my notes on this psalm with a brief introduction by Father Patrick Boylan. 


THIS psalm is a liturgical composition dating from the post-Exilic period. It reflects the griefs and hopes of the post-Exilic community in Israel. The decree of their liberation from Babylon had filled the Exiles with joy, but their homecoming had been full of disappointment. Instead of joy and peace, unsettlement and sadness prevailed throughout the land, and men were wondering why the Lord had brought them back from Babylon only to the disillusionment of Juda. We find in the psalm the same spirit which breathes in the beginning of the books of Aggaeus (Haggai) and Zachary (Zechariah). If the Lord had great designs for Israel when He used Cyrus to set the Exiles free, why does He not begin to accomplish them? Has the divine anger which handed over Jerusalem and its people to the Chaldeans (Babylonians) not been appeased by the sufferings of the Exile? Is that anger about to burst forth against His unhappy people once more? Is there no hope that the old greatness of Israel will be restored? Surely the wonders of the past, and, above all, the grace of liberation from captivity will not end in the destruction of Israel!

The poem falls easily into three parts. In the first (Ps 85:1-3) the graces and mercies of the liberation from the Exile are recalled. We can imagine this part of the psalm as sung by a portion of the people gathered together for worship, by a choir, or by the priests.

The second part of the psalm is (Ps 85:4-7). Here another choir implores the Lord to complete the mercies which the Liberation had begun. Surely He will not be again angry with His people as He had been before the Exile. Surely His wrath will not blaze forth unto the destruction of Israel again! It is time for the Lord to show His gracious favour again, that Israel may live and praise Him.

In the third section (Ps 85:8-13) a soloist sings a prophetic message of comfort for Israel. As if listening to the words of Yahweh the prophet sings. His song is an oracle of hope. Help from the Lord is at hand. The words of Yahweh are words of peace—of rest and of security. The Peace and the Glory of the Lord will soon be seen again in Israel. A wonderful picture of the Lord’s benignant rule is drawn in familiar Messianic colours. Justice, Truth, Graciousness, Peace, as Yahweh’s ministering Angels, will rule everywhere in the land. The earth will be fruitful beyond all hope. Wherever the Lord walks abroad in the land Justice goes before Him and Peace follows in His train. The hope that painted a picture like this at a time of deepest political depression could spring only from the unshakeable conviction that God was on the side of Israel.

The structure of this poem should be compared with that of Ps 124—where the prophetic portion is wanting, and also with that of 93 and 79. 

(Ps 85:1) Lord, thou hast blessed thy land: thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob.

Exile, which consists of both the loss of one’s land and captivity in a foreign nation befell the people as a result of their sins; this in accord with the covenant they entered into with God. If you shall beget sons and grandsons, and abide in the land, and being deceived, make to yourselves any similitude (idol), committing evil before the Lord your God, to provoke him to wrath: I call this day heaven and earth to witness, that you shall quickly perish out of the land, which, when you have passed over the Jordan, you shall possess. You shall not dwell therein long, but the Lord will destroy you, And scatter you among all nations, and you shall remain a few among the nations, to which the Lord shall lead you. And there you shall serve gods, that were framed with men’s hands: wood and stone, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell (Deut 4:25-28).  The purpose of this punishment was medicinal, oriented towards moving the people to repent and once again enjoy God’s blessings: And when thou shalt seek there the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him: yet so, if thou seek him with all thy heart, and all the affliction of thy soul. After all the things aforesaid shall find thee, in the latter time thou shalt return to the Lord thy God, and shalt hear his voice. Because the Lord thy God is a merciful God: he will not leave thee, nor altogether destroy thee, nor forget the covenant, by which he swore to thy fathers (Deut 4:29-31).
Thou hast blessed thy land. By the return of the exiles. Devastation of the land by an invading army and the removal of peoples into exile was another result of covenant infidelity: Thou shalt cast much seed into the ground, and gather little: because the locusts shall consume all. Thou shalt plant a vineyard, and dig it, and shalt not drink the wine, nor gather any thing thereof: because it shall be wasted with worms. Thou shalt have olive trees in all thy borders, and shalt not be anointed with the oil: for the olives shall fall off and perish. Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, and shalt not enjoy them: because they shall be led into captivity. The blast shall consume all the trees and the fruits of thy ground…The Lord will bring upon thee a nation from afar, and from the uttermost ends of the earth, like an eagle that flyeth swiftly, whose tongue thou canst not understand, A most insolent nation, that will shew no regard to the ancients, nor have pity on the infant, And will devour the fruit of thy cattle, and the fruits of thy land: until thou be destroyed, and will leave thee no wheat, nor wine, nor oil, nor herds of oxen, nor flocks of sheep: until he destroy thee. And consume thee in all thy cities, and thy strong and high wall be brought down, wherein thou trustedst in all thy land. Thou shalt be besieged within thy gates in all thy land which the Lord thy God will give thee (Deut 28:38-42, 49-52. See also Isa 1:7-8; 5:8-10, 17; 6:11-13 24:1-13; Jer 5:4-8).  This situation of exile and devastation of the land will be ended when the people return to their God in repentance (Deut 30:1-13). In the context of this psalm these things (sin, invasion, exile, return, bestowal of God’s blessings) have already happened. 

Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob. Turned away (Heb. שׁבת, Gr. απεστρεψας) is a sort of leitmotif in this psalm as will become clear. This is the same word used in Deut 30:1-3 to express repentance which will lead God to turn around the fortunes of his people: Now when all these things shall be come upon thee, the blessing or the curse, which I have set forth before thee, and thou shalt be touched with repentance of thy heart among all the nations, into which the Lord thy God shall have scattered thee, And shalt return to him, and obey his commandments, as I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul: The Lord thy God will bring back again thy captivity, and will have mercy on thee, and gather thee again out of all the nations, into which he scattered thee before.  (see also Ps 14:7; 53:6; 126:4; Jer 30:18; where the NAB translates as “restore”. Also see Jer 29:14; 30:3; 33:26 where the NAB translates as “change your lot”). 

(Ps 85:2) Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people: thou hast covered all their sins.  

Thou hast forgiven is literally “Thou hast turned away”, using the same word as in the previous verse (Heb. שׁבת, Gr. απεστρεψας). Father Stuhlmueller rightly notes that although the blessings in this psalm begin by mentioning the land, it is the forgiveness of sins which is the requisite of the return and the other gifts. 

(Ps 85:3) Thou hast mitigated all thy anger: thou hast turned away from the wrath of thy indignation. 

Thou hast Mitigated all thy anger. The Hebrew reads Thou hast taken away, employing the word  אספת, “to gather for any purpose”. God has gathered up his anger in order to remove it. The Greek text has κατεπαυσας, “to colonize,” “to settle down, desist”).  God has settled down his anger and allowed his people to once again settle down in the land. 

Thou hast turned away from the wrath. Once again the leitmotif  turned away appears. 

Of thy indignation. Indignation translates the Greek θυμου, meaning “hard breath.” The Hebrew word is אפך׃, “nose, nostril.”  A man’s breathing becomes heavy and his nostrils flare when he is angry. These words are often used to express God’s anger. 

(Ps 85:4) Convert us, O God our saviour: and turn off thy anger from us.
Convert us. The Hebrew is שׁובנו, a cognate of שׁבת used in verse 2. The Greek is επιστρεψον, which is formed by the root στρέφω; the Greek απεστρεψας in verse 2 is likewise taken from this root. Once again we have the leitmotif of turning back.  This leitmotif occurs again in the second part of the verse, at least in the Greek version: Turn (αποστρεψον) off thy anger from us.

This and the following verses may appear to contradict the state of things indicated in verses 2-4, but the historical context of the psalm is important. The people have indeed returned from captivity and are once again in the promised land (vs 2). Their sins have been forgiven and God’s anger abated, however, they are again in danger of breaking the covenant. The devastated land, the task of rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple weighed heavy upon them, and some were losing heart. They began to put themselves first and God second. The time period here is the age of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. They are once again experiencing punishment for lack of fidelity to the covenant (see Haggai 1:2-11).  By recalling the past favors of God (vss 2-4) they establish a basis for their appeal. 

(Ps 85:5) Wilt thou be angry with us for ever: or wilt thou extend thy wrath from generation to generation?

Father Boylan: “Surely the wrath which had brought on the Exile, and which for a little time had seemed to be ended, will not be maintained for ever”. (see Ps 77:7-10; Isa   The thought of God’s perpetual wrath towards his people is unthinkable as his past actions in their favor (vss 2-4) indicate, thus the psalm continues: 

(Ps 85:6) Thou wilt turn, O God, and bring us to life: and thy people shall rejoice in thee.
Again note the reference to turning. 

(Ps 85:7) Shew us, O Lord, thy mercy; and grant us thy salvation.

The Psalmists confidence in God (vs 7) based as it is on His way of acting (vss 2-4) forms the basis for this petition. 

Thy mercy. Hebrew, חסדך; Greek, ελεος. See The Concept of “Mercy” In The Old Testament, an excerpt from Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical (Rich In Mercy). 

(85:8) I will hear what the Lord God will speak in me: for he will speak peace unto his people: And unto his saints: and unto them that are converted to the heart. 

I will hear what the Lord God will speak in (to) me is a pledge of fidelity. See Habakkuk 2:1-2. 

For he will speak peace. In biblical usage peace is a total state of well being and can be used as synonymous with life (2 Sam 18:29). This peace will manifest itself in salvation and glory (vs 10); mercy and truth, justice and peace (vs 11); 

Unto them that are converted to (in) the heart. This reflects the Greek Septuagint; the Hebrew reads: But let them not turn again to folly. The RSV follows the Greek. Note once again the leitmotif of turning (the basic meaning of convert). 

(Ps 85:9) Surely his salvation is near to them that fear him: that glory may dwell in our land.

The Greek word translated as near would perhaps be better translated as near at hand, for the basic meaning of  εγγυς is “to squeeze with the hand”. (See Mark 1:15; Matt 3:2). 

That glory may dwell in our land. The divine presence (Ex 24:16) that once tented, encamped, dwelt in the desert tabernacle (Ex 40:35) and the Jerusalem Temple (1 Kings 8:10-13). 

(Ps 85:10) Mercy and truth have met each other: justice and peace have kissed. 

Mercy, truth, justice, peace are gifts of God’s peace and are here personified as divine agents

The absence of these things were declared crimes in Israel by the Prophet Hosea (Hos 4:1-2), and their absence had been detrimental to the land in accord with the covenant punishments mentioned at the beginning of my notes (Hos 4:3). See also Isaiah 59:1-15. 

(Ps 85:11) Truth is sprung out of the earth: and justice hath looked down from heaven. 

Truth is sprung out of the earth. The earth or land upon which the psalmist was certain God’s glory would dwell (vs 10). The land which was once ravaged by God and then blessed (see vs 2 and the notes on it). 

Justice hath looked down from heaven. The gifts of God, manifestations of peace between him and his people, encompass both heaven and earth which had themselves been personified as witnesses to the covenant (Deut 32:1; see also Deut 4:25-26).

Human sin causes ruptures both human and cosmic (Adam and Eve~Gen 3; The generation of Noah~Gen 7:11; the generation of Hosea~Hos 4:1-3; the crucifixion of Christ Matt 27:45-54). But the disharmony introduced by sin is not irreversible (Hos 2:21-23; Isa 32:15-18). 

(Ps 85:12) For the Lord will give goodness: and our earth shall yield her fruit. 

Goodness could here mean blessings both temporal and spiritual. Our earth shall yield her fruit could be taken solely as a reference to agricultural blessings, however, given the close connection in the OT between faithfulness/unfaithfulness and fertility/lack of fertility the words can be taken as a metaphor for spiritual blessing. 

(Ps 85:13) Justice shall walk before him: and ,shall set his steps in the way.

As a herald goes before a king so will justice go before the Lord, guiding his steps in the way (I.e., God will follow the way [path, road] of justice (righteousness).

Friday, July 04, 2014

My Notes on Hosea 8:4-7, 11-13

Immediate Background: Chapter 8 opens with the prophet calling for the sounding of the war horn, for the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel is quickly approaching. The nation is like carrion, being circled by birds of prey because of covenant infidelity and transgressions of the Law (Hos 8:1).  They cry out to the God they have rejected as if they still know Him, but they have rejected that which is good for them and will be beset by enemies (Hos 8:2-3).

Read Hosea 8:4. God Himself had willed the political division of the 12 Tribes of Israel into two different kingdoms because of the sins of Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-43). Thus there formed in the northern part of the Holy Land a new monarchical entity consisting of 10 tribes which retained the name Israel; while in the south the remaining two tribes (Judah and Benjamin)--along with elements from other tribes--continued to be ruled over by the line of David and became known as the Kingdom of Judah (after the tribe to which David had belonged) .  For all of this one can consult 1 Kings 12:1-25.

The first king of the new northern kingdom, Jeroboam, son of Nebat (Jeroboam I), soon instituted a religious division against the south  because he feared that since his subjects still had to go to the temple in Jerusalem--political capital of Judah--they might want to reunite with the line of David, forcing him from power (1 Kings 12:26-32). This event became known as "the sin of Jeroboam" and every king in the north who came after Jeroboam I maintained it, ultimately leading to the downfall of the kingdom (2 Kings 17:21-23).

The final (approximately) 25 years of the northern kingdom during which Hosea preached was marked by a string of very worthless kings. After the death of Jeroboam, son of Joash (called Jeroboam II) who was reigning when Hosea was called to ministry (Hos 1:1), six kings came and went in fairly rapid succession. Four of these were assassinated, the other two were removed from power by the Assyrians. None of these kings ruled by divine warrant and thus they were kings not made by God, princes set up without his knowledge. They were the result of human political power-plays (Hos 7:3-7). In a sense, one could call these kings idols made by human hands; for both these kings and the calf altar of Jeroboam were made by human hands (see verse 5 below)

All of this havoc and chaos can be attributed to the idols of gold and silver which permeate the northern kingdom, but especially of the calf altars Jeroboam I had erected (see verse 5 below, and 1 Kings 12:26-32).

Read Hosea 8:5. God's anger has been kindled  against the calf altar since it construction by order of King Jeroboam I (1 Kings 13:1-3), but the people have not allowed God's punishing judgments to purify them, bringing them to repentance. For God's punishment is intended to purify and lead to repentance (Deut 30:1-10; Hos 2:10-25; Amos 4:6-11; Isa 1:18-31; 2:4-6).

Read Hosea 8:6. The verse expresses stock prophetic polemic against idols; man cannot make gods, let alone the One God. The contrary is vanity (see next verse).

Read Hosea 8:7. It seems to me that this verse can be seen as transitional, and as applying both to the vanity of idolatry/false worship (Hos 7:13-16) and the vanity of foreign political alliances (Hos 7:8-12). Indeed, in Hosea their is a very close connection between the two. Having just denounced the idolatry in the kingdom in the preceding verses, the prophet now turns to denounce the kingdom's foreign alliances (Hos 8:9-10), then returning again to denounce strange worship (Hose 8:11-13).

This verse consists of two proverbs, the second of which has a threat attached to it. The point of the first is this: What one does now has consequences in the future: one reaps what one sows. In the bible wind is often associated with vanity and judgment (Eccl 1:14; Prov 11:29; Job 7:7; 21:18 Ps 1:4; 35:5). To sow these thing in order to reap more is foolish.

The point of the second is this: That which begins with nothing, ends with nothing. Protestant scholar James Luther Mays notes that this verse employs a rhyme, a rarity in Hebrew; he translates as follows (Hebrew words in parenthesis):  "Grain without growth (semah) yields no meal (qemah)." As the threat makes clear, even if the stalk of grain which produced no ear could in fact yield grain, aliens would devour it. This reference to aliens should recall Hos 8:1-3 and its reference to impending doom by enemies.

Read Hosea 8:11.  The multiplicity of altars and what took place on and before them is a sin which increases sinning. Here there is probably a dig against both the calf altars erected by Jeroboam I (1 Kings 12:28-30) in violation of the law of one sanctuary (Deut 12:1-14), and the Baal worship that was practiced in the groves and high places (Hos 4:12-19).

Read Hosea 8:12. So far gone are the people that even if God were to multiply his statutes as the people have multiplied their altars they would remain alien to the people who have themselves become alien to God (Hos 5:7).

Read Hosea 8:13. The people want their sacrifices rather than steadfast love, mercy, and faithfulness, obedience and true devotion (Hos 6:4-6).

My Notes on Amos 8:4-6, 9-12 for Firday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II

Amos 8:4 Hear this, you who walk all over the needy and bring to destruction the poor of the land!
  Amos 8:5 You say, “when will the new moon be past, so that we may sell our crops? When will the sabbath be done, so that we may market the wheat and make the ephah small while making great the shekel; and so that we might weigh with false scales.
  Amos 8:6 So that we might by the lowly for silver, and the poor for the price of a pair of sandals. And so that we may sell even the refuse of the wheat. (My translation)

The oracle opens with a typical prophetic “call to attention” formula: Hear this. The oracle is directed against those who abuse those of lowly means and recalls the prophet’s original indictment of Israel (Am 2:6-16). It also recalls the sarcastic remarks God made concerning their hypocritical worship in Am 4:4-5. Here the two elements of greed and hypocritical worship are combined. Whether or not the subjects of the oracle were actually thinking the thoughts attributed to them is irrelevant. By their practices they were showing contempt for God and right worship regardless of what their intentions were.

The new moon marked the first day of the month on the Hebrew calendar and a special temple sacrifice was to be done for it (Numbers 28:11-15). The text suggests that the people of the Northern Kingdom did no work or commerce on this day though the law of Moses nowhere legislated such a thing. All forms of work and commerce were forbidden on the sabbath except, apparently, in the case of dire necessity. The subjects of the oracle are shown adhering to the devotions only grudgingly, anxiously waiting for the special days to be over so that they can begin their cheating business as usual. The purpose of Sabbath and the worship of God is lost upon them. The ephah was a very ancient standard of measurement for dry good, particularly grain. It is equal to slightly more than twenty and three-quarter quarts. How exactly the ephah was to be made small is unknown. Presumably the grain was mixed with the refuse of the wheat to attain the ephah measure. The shekel was a standard for weighing out silver and gold. Making great the shekel is something of an ironic term. A shekel was a standard of weight by which gold and silver were measured out. One made the shekel great by diminishing its weight. A business man could then weigh out what appeared to be the agreed upon price for a poor man’s wholesale goods. Since the shekel was made “greater” by becoming lighter, the poor man’s profit was less since it took less gold on the balance scale to equal a shekel that had been tampered with. Thus from the cheating businessman’s perspective, a lighter shekel is a greater shekel. False scales and the cheating of people in the area of commerce was strongly condemned in the Bible, suggesting that it was a common abuse . Deuteronomy calls those who engage in such practice “an abomination in the sight of the Lord” (see Dt 25:13-16). Priests and kings were responsible for ensuring that these practices not take place.

Amos 8:9 And it shall come to pass on that day, says the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear of day.
Amos 8:10 And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentations; and I will bring sackcloth onto all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning for an only son, and bring them to the end of a bitter day.

The comparison of the earthquake to the river Nile in Egypt was no mistake. God had promised Israel that if it did not obey him he would afflict them with the plagues of Egypt (see Deut 28:60). One of those plagues (the ninth) was darkness (Exodus 10:21-29). The tenth was the death of the firstborn and the mourning that accompanied it (Ex 11:1-8; 12:29-30). The wearing of sackcloth was a traditional sign of mourning (1 Kings 20:31), as was the shaving of the head (Micah 1:16). As has already become clear, the worship of the northern kingdom is tainted. False feasts and songs of worship, if not repented of, can only lead to mourning and lamentation. It should also be remembered that the vision of the fruit basket with which chapter 8 began was explained as signifying that the temple songs would be turned to mourning as the land became littered with bodies (Am 8:2-3).

Amos 8:11 Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine upon the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the word of the Lord.
Amos 8:12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord and not find it. (ASV. I’ve changed the translation somewhat)

Behold, days are coming is a formulaic prophetic expression announcing a coming event. The event announced here is calamitous, an absence of the word of God, here meaning prophecy. This absence is compared to famine and drought, two major punishments God had promised the people they could avoid by heeding his word (see Deut 28:1-69). The drought and famine which the people were apparently already experiencing as a warning (Amos 1:1; 4:6-7) did not lead to the heeding of the prophetic call to repentance (Amos 2:11-12). God’s patience is nearing its end and too late the people will realize their folly. The Chroniclers judgement concerning Judah in 587 BC could just as easily been directed against Israel in Amos’ day (see 2 Chron 36:15-16).

My Notes on Amos 9:11-15

Quotations are from the RSVCE which is under copyright. “The Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1965, 1966 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”.

Amos 9:11 “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old;

In that day.  The Day of the Lord. A day that could be either one of judgment or blessing, depending on one's status with God. Most of the people in the corrupt Northern Kingdom of Israel (recall the Kingdom of David had split in two) were under the delusion that by merely being a part of the chosen people was enough to make this Day a day of blessing for them. The Prophet, preaching nearly unrestrained, coming punishment, sought to disabuse them of this notion. If God would punish the Pagan peoples for their crimes (Am 1:3-2:3), he would also certainly punish his own people; both what was left to the line of David (i.e., Judah, Am 2:4-5), and the newer Northern Kingdom of Israel where Amos preached (Am 2:6-16, and passim). For sinners in both these kingdoms that constituted God's chosen people the Day of the Lord would be a day of darkness, not light (Am 5:18-20). That day was, for the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the day of the Assyrian conquest which brought the northern kingdom to and end (see 2 Kings 17:1-41). Once the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel have been shaken among the nations by exile (Am 9:1-10), a day will come in which the fortunes of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, the booth of David that is fallen as a result of the Babylonian exile and its aftermath (2 Chron 36:15-21), will begin to be restored. This "day" has already begun and is working towards its fulfillment (Acts 15:13-18).

Amos 9:12 that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,” says the LORD who does this.

Hints at the incorporation of Gentile peoples into God's chosen peopel under the Davidic King

Amos 9:13 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.
Amos 9:14 I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit
 Amos 9:15 I will plant them upon their land, and they shall never again be plucked up out of the land which I have given them,” says the LORD your God.

These things were often associated with covenant fidelity (Deut 28:1-14). Lack of covenant fidelity meant that the blessings would be taken away (Deut 28:15-69; Hosea 2:10-14; Joel 1:2-12, 15-20; Amos 1:2, 4:6-11). An abundance of grain and wine often symbolized the restoration of the people's relationship to God and/or the Messianic Age (Hosea 2:20-24; Joel 2:12-14, 19-27; Isa 25:6-7).


Overview of Amos 7:1-9:15

Amos 7:1-8:3 contains four prophetic visions recounted by the prophet. The first and second visions (Am 7:1-3 and Am 7:4-6) form a set and have the same basic format: The Lord shows Amos a vision which he, Amos, begins to describe with the word ”behold Am 7:1, 4). ” A vision of destruction is then given (Am 7:1, 4), followed by the prophet's intercession that the impending punishment not take place (Am 7:2, 5). To this request the Lord responds favorably (Am 7:3, 6).

The third and fourth of visions-which do not follow immediately upon one another-(Am 7:7-9, Am 8:1-3) likewise form a set and are formatted similar to one another. As in the first set of visions the prophet is shown something by God (Am 7:7, 8:1), however, unlike the first two visions, God is the first to speak (Am 7:8, 8:2). When God speaks, he asks the prophet a question concerning the vision and the prophet responds by describing what he sees (Am 7:8, 8:2). God then tells the prophet the meaning of the visions (Am 7:8-9, 8:2-3). The two visions in and of themselves do not suggest the idea of divine punishment but are interpreted as such by God after the prophet'’s response. This format for the second set of visions effectively puts of any attempt by the prophet to intercede on behalf of the people.

It appears to me that the first set of visions recount things that have already taken place. Twice God punished the people with agricultural disasters (locust, fire) but brought such punishment to and end in response to the prophet'’s plea. No doubt this combination of punishment and mercy was meant to bring the people to their senses and lead them to repentance, but this failed. This is why the second set of visions announce punishments that have yet to come, and that will come without any forgiveness (Am 7:8, 8:2), and why the prophet is commanded to be silent (Am 8:3). 
The visions making up the second set, Am 7:7-9 and Am 8:1-3, are separated by the dispute between Amos and Amaziah (Am 7:10-17), priest of the Temple of Bethel. The sandwiching of the dispute between prophet and priest between the two visions is not accidental. The priest is to be seen as a paradigm representative of the people. His desire not to hear prophecy while maintaining the false worship of Bethel is characteristic of most of the people of the northern kingdom. This attitude explains the significance of the change in the format of the visions. The people (represented by Amaziah) do not want prophets of their prophecies, therefore God will not forever tolerate the prophet's plea for mercy on their behalf; sooner or later judgment must come.

The fourth vision (Am 8:1-3) is followed by a prophetic oracle (Am 8:4-14). It is directed against the false religious piety of the people of the north who anxiously wait for the end of holy days so they can once again start cheating the poor (Am 8:4-6). The joy of their hypocritical rituals will be turned into mourning rites (Am 8:7-10). A famine will come upon the land. A famine not of bread, or water, but of hearing the word of God (Am 8:11-14). The time of divine forbearance, manifested by the sending of prophets to call for repentance, will come to an end. This oracle is followed by a fifth vision detailing the destruction of the Temple at Bethel (Am 9:1-6). Following this comes an oracle announcing the destruction of the northern kingdom and the exile of the people (Am 9:7-10). The book ends on a positive note however, with a messianic promise (Am 9:11-15).

Background Notes on Hosea 8:4-7, 11-13

Note 1: Hosea 8:4-7, 11-13 is the first reading for Tuesday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time. This post is an attempt to give a summary of the broader structure of Hosea as I understand it. A brief suggested reading list is appended at the end of the post. 

Note 2: The verse numbering in this post follows that of the RSV which, on occasion, differs from that found in the NAB and other bibles. Links are to the RSV. Clicking on the link will open a new window which will allow you to view the scripture reference in several different translations. 

Note 3: It is important to remember that after the death of Solomon-and as punishment for his sins-the Kingdom of David split in two (see 1 Kings 11:1-12:32). Ten tribes in the north of the Holy Land formed a new kingdom which retained the name of "Israel," and it is commonly referred to by modern scholars as "the Northern Kingdom." Two tribes remained under the davidic monarchs and become know as "Judah" (Juda), or as "the Southern Kingdom" by modern scholars. For the history of this era one can profitably consult Section 6 of John Bright's A HISTORY OF ISRAEL; the section is entitled The Independent Kingdoms of Israel and Judah: From the Death of Solomon to the Mid-Eighth Century. For dated bu still useful background on the prophet and his book you can consult the Catholic Encyclopedia article "Osee." "Osee is the Greek spelling of Hosea. 


Israel has been committing “harlotry” against her husband, God, but he is intent on having her back. This is the basic message of Hosea 1-3. Through the prophet the people are summoned to here God’s complaint against them (Hosea 4:1-3). The complaint includes the fact that priests have been leading the people astray (Hosea 4:4-14), and they are exhorted to give up the idolatrous sites at Gilgal and Bethel (Hosea 4:15-19). Three groups of people are then called upon to “hear” what the Lord has to say (Hosea 5:1-7); they are: 1. the priests; 2. the House of Israel; 3. the house of the king. They have become their own snare, their own net, their own pit in which they have trapped themselves (Hosea 5:1-2). Their Whoring, deeds and pride hinder at best, and make impossible at worst, any relationship with God (Hosea 5:3). They no longer even know God, but he knows them and their doings (Hosea 5:3-4). Their pride witnesses against them, and their guilt will be their downfall (Hosea 5:5). They still seek with sacrifices this God they no longer know, unaware that he has drawn away from them (Hosea 5:6). By whoring against the Lord with whom they had covenanted, the leaders have raised up illegitimate children.

Israel (and Judah too) have failed to trust in God and  have turned to political alliances instead (Hosea 5:8-14). The political savvy of the nation’s leaders, and the military clout of foreign empires, have replaced trust and confidence in God. What the people do not understand is that their troubles (i.e., hostile enemies, political upheavals) are the result of the covenant infidelities (see Deut 28:25; Deut 28:49-57). And what they especially do not understand is that these troubles are their God’s doing as punishment (Hosea 5:12; Hosea 5:14).

As already indicated, the people do not really know God (Hosea 5:4), even though they seek for him with sacrifice (Hosea 5:6). It is no surprise then that the beautiful prayer of repentance attributed to them (Hosea 6:1-3) is without meaning (Hosea 6:4-6). True devotion and knowledge of God are better than sacrifice (Hosea 6:6).

This lack of knowledge and the false repentance are at the heart of what troubles the kingdom. Protestant scholar, James Luther Mays, entitles Hosea 6:7-7:2 “A Geography of Treachery.” The places named in this passage were often associated with treachery, deceit, and especially, idolatry. Things have gotten so bad that even when God attempts to heal his people they commit more sins (Hosea 7:1). Their lack of knowledge leads to the failure to consider that God remembers their evil deeds: Now their deeds encompass them, they are before my face (Hosea 7:2 RSV).

The politics of Israel are a politics of sin (Hosea 7:3-7). The king and the princes of the kingdom are wicked and this suits the people fine. Intrigue is hidden behind joy and drunkenness and leads to assassination. In Hosea’s day six kings rose and fell, four by assassination (Zechariah, Shallum, Pekahiah, Pekah), the last king (Hoshea) was deposed and arrested by the Assyrians after intriguing against them. The people are compared to a heated oven left unattended and fueled by wine (Hosea 7:4-5); for like an oven their hearts burn with intrigue; all night their anger smolders; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire (Hosea 7:6). In the heat of their anger they consume their kings; none think of calling upon the Lord (Hosea 7:7).

Ephraim (another name of the northern kingdom) mingles with pagan peoples. A cake (a flat loaf of bread) when left unturned in a smoldering oven slowly burns (Hosea 7:8), and this is seen as a  fitting image of the nation, for the pagan peoples it is relying on are slowly devouring them, slowly the kingdom is aging like a man whose hair gradually turns gray (Hosea 7:9).

A silly dove which can’t make up its mind which way to fly, bird-brained Ephraim goes cooing after both Egypt and Assyria. Some of the kings in the north (and the people who supported them) depended on Egypt to aid them against Assyria, others sought to ingratiate themselves with Assyria in order to maintain power (Hosea 7:11). All merit the divine punishment for not relying on God, their protector (Hosea 7:15), an act of rebellion (Hosea 7:12-13). Rather than cry to God from the heart they practice pagan mourning rituals, gashing themselves (Hosea 7:14; 1 Kings 18:28; and see Lev 19:28, Deut 14:1), as if their God was just one of the Baals’ (Hosea 7:16).

The situation is desperate, a bird of prey hovers over the silly dove, Ephraim, a dying kingdom because it has broken Covenant with the Lord (Hosea 8:1). They call to God claiming to know him, but their deeds speak the real truth, and pursuit by enemies is to be their recompense (Hosea 8:2-3; see Deut 28:25).

By intrigue, power politics, deceit and murder kings and princes have been made and broken, this has not been the Lord’s doing. It was a king’s duty to protect the integrity of worship, but the people who made kings for themselves have also made idol. (Hosea 8:4). The premier idol in the land, the bull calf at Samaria, God rejects, and his anger burns against its devotees: How long will it be till they are pure (Hosea 8:5 RSV). It is the work of an artisan and it shall come to naught (Hosea 8:6). He who sows wind (idols, see Isa 41:29) reaps the whirlwind, God’s wrath (Hosea 8:7). Because they relied on the Baals to give them grain God will keep it from them (Hosea 8:7, and see Hosea 2:8-9).  And what grain is produced will be consumed by strangers, one of the covenant curses (Hosea 8:7, and see Deut 28:33-34).

The kingdom itself is being devoured by the alien lovers it has sought help from (Hosea 8:8-10). Their altars serve their sins (Hosea 8:11), for foreign lovers and foreign alliances both lead to idolatry (for lovers, see Exodus 34:16; 1 Kings 11:1-2. For alliances see 2 Kings 16:7-18).

The law was given to God’s people for wisdom, to make of them a great nation (Deut 4:6-8), but in Hosea’s day, if that law were increased ten-thousand times, the people would be unable to comprehend it (Hosea 8:12). They love sacrifice in which the Lord has no delight, and they have forgotten the Lord who made them. But God will not forget their iniquity, or leave them unpunished. Having rejected their maker they have made palaces and fortresses for themselves, these shall be destroyed (Hosea 8:13-14).

A summary cannot possibly do justice the the content of Hosea 1-8, for this reason I have appended a few suggestions for study. 


Jerome Biblical Commentary. Succinct commentaries on all the books of the bible, plus essays on a wide range of related subjects. The work has engendered controversy, and the updated version even more so.

New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. Like the previous commentary this one offers succinct commentaries on all the books of the bible, plus essays on related subjects. an extensive revision of an older work, it has caused much less controversy.

Amos, Hosea, Micah. Old Testament Message, Volume 7. By Father Bruce Vawter.

The Twelve Prophets: Berit Olam Series. By Marvin A. Sweeney. I believe the author is Jewish. The series employed authors from a variety of theological traditions. I cannot recommend all the books in the series. This is the first of two volumes on the Twelve Prophets.

The Minor Prophets: Navarre Bible Commentary Series. A good place to begin. This series was the brain child of Saint Jose Marie Escriva and was compiled by the faculty of the University of Navarre.

Hosea: Anchor Yale Bible Commentary. By Francis I. Andersen and David Noel Freedman. Non-Catholic authors. The series employed authors from a wide variety of theological backgrounds, including a number of well known Catholic scholars. This work is lengthy and somewhat technical.

Grace Abounding: A Commentary on the Book of Hosea: International Theological Commentary Series. Non-Catholic author. The series did employ a few Catholic scholars.