2 sn There are several options for the meaning of Jesus’ reply Let the dead bury their own dead: (1) Recent research suggests that burial customs in the vicinity of Jerusalem from about 20 b.c. to a.d. 70 involved a reinterment of the bones a year after the initial burial, once the flesh had rotted away. At that point the son would have placed his father’s bones in a special box known as an ossuary to be set into the wall of the tomb. (See, e.g., C. A. Evans, Jesus and the Ossuaries, 26-30.) Thus Jesus could well be rebuking the man for wanting to wait around for as much as a year before making a commitment to follow him. In 1st century Jewish culture, to have followed Jesus rather than burying one’s father would have seriously dishonored one’s father (cf. Tobit 4:3-4). (2) The remark is an idiom (possibly a proverbial saying) that means, “The matter in question is not the real issue,” in which case Jesus was making a wordplay on the wording of the man’s (literal) request (see L&N 33.137). (3) This remark could be a figurative reference to various kinds of people, meaning, “Let the spiritually dead bury the dead.” (4) It could also be literal and designed to shock the hearer by the surprise of the contrast. Whichever option is preferred, it is clear that the most important priority is to preach the gospel (proclaim the kingdom of God).
4 sn This is what we proclaim to you…so that our joy may be complete. The prologue to 1 John (1:1-4) has many similarities to the prologue to the Gospel of John (1:1-18). Like the prologue to the Fourth Gospel, the prologue to 1 John introduces the reader to important themes which will be more fully developed later in the body of the work. In the case of 1 John, three of these are: (1) the importance of eyewitness testimony to who Jesus is (cf. 4:14; 5:6-12), (2) the importance of the earthly ministry of Jesus as a part of God’s revelation of himself in Jesus Christ (cf. 4:2; 5:6), and (3) the eternal life available to believers in Jesus Christ (5:11-12; 5:20). Like the rest of the letter, the prologue to 1 John does not contain any of the usual features associated with a letter in NT times, such as an opening formula, the name of the author or sender, the name(s) of the addressee(s), a formal greeting, or a health wish or expression of remembrance. The author of 1 John begins the prologue with an emphasis on the eyewitness nature of his testimony. He then transitions to a focus on the readers of the letter by emphasizing the proclamation of this eyewitness (apostolic) testimony to them. The purpose of this proclamation is so that the readers might share in fellowship with the author, a true fellowship which is with the Father and the Son as well. To guarantee this maintenance of fellowship the author is writing the letter itself (line 4a). Thus, in spite of the convoluted structure of the prologue in which the author’s thought turns back on itself several times, there is a discernible progression in his thought which ultimately expresses itself in the reason for the writing of the letter (later expressed again in slightly different form in the purpose statement of 5:13).
1 sn In this chapter wisdom is personified. In 1:20-33 wisdom proclaims her value, and in 3:19-26 wisdom is the agent of creation. Such a personification has affinities with the wisdom literature of the ancient Near East, and may have drawn on some of that literature, albeit with appropriate safeguards (Claudia V. Camp, Wisdom and the Feminine in the Book of Proverbs, 23-70). Wisdom in Proverbs 8, however, is not a deity like Egypt’s Ma'at or the Assyrian-Babylonian Ishtar. It is simply presented as if it were a self-conscious divine being distinct but subordinate to God, but in reality it is the personification of the attribute of wisdom displayed by God (R. B. Y. Scott, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes [AB], 69-72; and R. Marcus, “On Biblical Hypostases of Wisdom,” HUCA 23 [1950-1951]: 157-71). Many have equated wisdom in this chapter with Jesus Christ. This connection works only in so far as Jesus reveals the nature of the Father, just as Proverbs presents wisdom as an attribute of God. Jesus’ claims included wisdom (Matt 12:42) and a unique knowledge of God (Matt 11:25-27). He even personified wisdom in a way that was similar to Proverbs (Matt 11:19). Paul saw the fulfillment of wisdom in Christ (Col 1:15-20; 2:3) and affirmed that Christ became our wisdom in the crucifixion (1 Cor 1:24, 30). So this personification in Proverbs provides a solid foundation for the similar revelation of wisdom in Christ. But because wisdom is a creation of God in Proverbs 8, it is unlikely that wisdom here is to be identified with Jesus Christ. The chapter unfolds in three cycles: After an introduction (1-3), wisdom makes an invitation (4, 5) and explains that she is noble, just, and true (6-9); she then makes another invitation (10) and explains that she is valuable (11-21); and finally, she tells how she preceded and delights in creation (22-31) before concluding with the third invitation (32-36).
1 tn The meaning of קֹהֶלֶת (qohelet) is somewhat puzzling. The verb קָהַל (qahal) means “to assemble, summon” (HALOT 1078-79 s.v. קהל), and is derived from the noun קָהָל (qahal, “assembly”; HALOT 1079-80 s.v. קָהָל). Thus קֹהֶלֶת might mean: (1) convener of the assembly, (2) leader, speaker, teacher, or preacher of the assembly, or (3) member of the assembly. Elsewhere in the book, קֹהֶלֶת is used in collocation with statements about his position as king in Jerusalem (Eccl 1:12), his proclamations about life (Eccl 1:2; 7:27; 12:8), and his teaching of wisdom and writing wise sayings (Eccl 12:9-10). Thus, קֹהֶלֶת probably means “the leader of the assembly” or “speaker of the assembly.” (See also the following study note.) Rabbinic literature treats קֹהֶלֶת as a traditional surname for Solomon, that is, “Qoheleth,” relating it to the noun קָהָל. For example, this explanation is found in rabbinic literature (Qoheleth Rabbah 1:1): “Why was his name called Qoheleth [קֹהֶלֶת]? Because his words were proclaimed in public meeting [קָהַל], as it is written (1 Kgs 8:1).” The LXX rendered it ἐκκλησιαστής (ekklēsiastēs, “member of the assembly,” LSJ 509), as was the custom of relating Greek ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia, “assembly”) to Hebrew קָהָל. The book’s English title, “Ecclesiastes,” is simply a transliteration of the Greek term from the LXX. Symmachus’ παροιμιαστής (paroimiastēs, “author of proverbs,” LSJ 1342 s.v.) is not a translation of קֹהֶלֶת but refers to his authorship of many proverbs (Eccl 12:9-10). In terms of the participial form, קֹהֶלֶת is used substantively to designate the profession or title of the author. The term is used in 12:8 with the article, indicating that it is a professional title rather than a personal surname: הַקּוֹהֶלֶת (haqqohelet, “the Teacher”). Substantival participles often designate the title or profession of an individual: כֹּהֵן (kohen), “priest”; רֹזֵן (rozen), “ruler”; שֹׁטֵר (shoter), “officer”; נֹקֵד (noqed), “sheep-breeder”; שֹׁפֵט (shofet), “judge”; יֹצֵר (yotser), “potter”; כֹּרֵם (korem), “vine-dresser”; יֹגֵב (yogev), “farmer”; שׁוֹעֵר (shoʿer), “gate-keeper”; צוֹרֵף (tsoref), “smelter”; and רֹפֵא (rofeʾ), “doctor” (IBHS 614-15 §37.2a). In terms of its feminine ending with a male referent, Joüon 1:266-67 §89.b suggests that it is intensive, e.g., מוֹדַעַת (moda’at) “close relative” from מוֹדָע (modaʿ) “kinsman.” The feminine ending is used similarly in Arabic in reference to a male referent, e.g., Arabic rawiyat “a great narrator” from rawi “narrator” (C. P. Caspari, A Grammar of the Arabic Language, 1:233c). So קֹהֶלֶת may mean “the leader/teacher of the assembly” from the noun קָהָל. When used in reference to a male referent, feminine forms denote a professional title or vocational office (as in Arabic, Ethiopic, and Aramaic), e.g., סֹפֶרֶת (soferet), “scribe”; פֹּכֶרֶת (pokheret), “gazelle-catcher”; פֶּחָה (pekhah), “provincial governor”; and פְּרָעוֹת (peraʿot), “princes” (GKC 393 §122.r). Occasionally, a professional name later became a personal name, e.g., the title סֹפֶרֶת (“scribe”) became the name “Sophereth” (Ezra 2:55; Neh 7:57), פֹּכֶרֶת (“gazelle-catcher”) became “Pokereth” (Ezra 2:57; Neh 7:59), and perhaps קֹהֶלֶת (“assembler”) became the surname “Qoheleth” (HALOT 926 s.v. פֹּכֶרֶת הַצְּבָיִים). Many translations render קֹהֶלֶת as a professional title: “the Speaker” (NEB, Moffatt), “the Preacher” (KJV, RSV, YLT, MLB, ASV, NASB), “the Teacher” (NIV, NRSV), “the Leader of the Assembly” (NIV margin), “the Assembler” (NJPS margin). Others render it as a personal surname: “Koheleth” (JPS, NJPS) and “Qoheleth” (NAB, NRSV margin).
1 sn Do we take this commission at face value? Does the Lord really want to prevent his people from understanding, repenting, and being healed? Verse 9, which ostensibly records the content of Isaiah’s message, is clearly ironic. As far as we know, Isaiah did not literally proclaim these exact words. The Hebrew imperatival forms are employed rhetorically and anticipate the response Isaiah will receive. When all is said and done, Isaiah might as well preface and conclude every message with these ironic words, which, though imperatival in form, might be paraphrased as follows: “You continually hear, but don’t understand; you continually see, but don’t perceive.” Isaiah might as well command them to be spiritually insensitive because, as the preceding and following chapters make clear, the people are bent on that anyway. (This ironic command is comparable to saying to a particularly recalcitrant individual, “Go ahead, be stubborn!”) Verse 10b is also clearly sarcastic. On the surface it seems to indicate Isaiah’s hardening ministry will prevent genuine repentance. But, as the surrounding chapters clearly reveal, the people were hardly ready or willing to repent. Therefore, Isaiah’s preaching was not needed to prevent repentance! Verse 10b reflects the people’s attitude and might be paraphrased accordingly: “Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their mind, repent, and be restored, and they certainly wouldn’t want that, would they?” Of course, this sarcastic statement may also reveal that the Lord himself is now bent on judgment, not reconciliation. Just as Pharaoh’s rejection of Yahweh’s ultimatum ignited judgment and foreclosed, at least temporarily, any opportunity for repentance, so the Lord may have come to the point where he has decreed to bring judgment before opening the door for repentance once more. The sarcastic statement in verse 10b would be an emphatic way of making this clear. (Perhaps we could expand our paraphrase: “Otherwise they might…repent, and be restored, and they certainly wouldn’t want that, would they? Besides, it’s too late for that!”) Within this sarcastic framework, verse 10a must also be seen as ironic. As in verse 9 the imperatival forms should be taken as rhetorical and as anticipating the people’s response. One might paraphrase: “Your preaching will desensitize the minds of these people, make their hearing dull, and blind their eyes.” From the outset the Lord might as well command Isaiah to harden the people because his preaching will end up having that effect. Despite the use of irony, we should still view this as a genuine, albeit indirect, act of divine hardening. After all, God did not have to send Isaiah. By sending him, he drives the sinful people further from him, for Isaiah’s preaching, which focuses on the Lord’s covenantal demands and impending judgment upon covenantal rebellion, forces the people to confront their sin and then continues to desensitize them as they respond negatively to the message. As in the case of Pharaoh, Yahweh’s hardening is not arbitrarily imposed on a righteous or even morally neutral object. Rather his hardening is an element of his righteous judgment on recalcitrant sinners. Ironically, Israel’s rejection of prophetic preaching in turn expedites disciplinary punishment, and brings the battered people to a point where they might be ready for reconciliation. The prophesied judgment (cf. 6:11-13) was fulfilled by 701 b.c. when the Assyrians devastated the land (a situation presupposed by Isa 1:2-20; see especially vv. 4-9). At that time the divine hardening had run its course and Isaiah is able to issue an ultimatum (1:19-20), one which Hezekiah apparently took to heart, resulting in the sparing of Jerusalem (see Isa 36-39 and cf. Jer 26:18-19 with Mic 3:12).This interpretation, which holds in balance both Israel’s moral responsibility and the Lord’s sovereign work among his people, is consistent with other pertinent texts both within and outside the Book of Isaiah. Isa 3:9 declares that the people of Judah “have brought disaster upon themselves,” but Isa 29:9-10 indicates that the Lord was involved to some degree in desensitizing the people. Zech 7:11-12 looks back to the pre-exilic era (cf. v. 7) and observes that the earlier generations stubbornly hardened their hearts, but Ps 81:11-12, recalling this same period, states that the Lord “gave them over to their stubborn hearts.”