During Pentecost Season 2022, the Revised Common Lectionary offers two “tracks” of readings from the Hebrew Bible. Congregations may choose either track.
The first track of readings follows major stories and themes, read mostly continuously from week to week. The second track of readings thematically pairs the reading from the Hebrew Bible with the Gospel reading.
The readings from the Epistles are the same in both tracks.
Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
1 These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.
4 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; 6 take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
After the righteous and reforming King Josiah was killed in battle at Megiddo (from which we get the Greek word Armageddon) in 609 BCE, the fortunes of Judea took a sharp downward turn. Babylon threatened Judea’s existence, and Judea had a series of hapless kings from 609 until Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The Babylonians deported many Judean leaders to Babylon in 597 and a larger number in 586 (the Babylonian Exile). Jeremiah’s prophesy (i.e., speaking for YHWH) began around 609 and continued until 586 BCE when he died in Egypt.
Most Bible scholars agree that the Book of Jeremiah underwent substantial revisions between the time of Jeremiah (627 to 586 BCE) and the First Century. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, there were different versions of the Book of Jeremiah. The Greek Septuagint Translation (the LXX – dating from 300 to 200 BCE) has some chapters that are not in the Hebrew versions.
Sections in the book that are in “poetry style” are generally attributed to the prophet, and parts in “prose style” were added later by writers whose theological outlook was closely aligned with the Deuteronomists. (In fact, Chapter 52 in Jeremiah is virtually word-for-word with 2 Kings 24:18 to 25:30 written by the Deuteronomists after the Exile.)
Today’s reading is part of an extended insertion in the Book of Jeremiah that begins with Chapter 26. The incidents reported in these four chapters (26-29) represent an early interpretation of the significance of the life and message of Jeremiah and were likely written by the Deuteronomists in 75 years the after the Exile (which ended in 539 BCE).
The “elders among the exiles” (v.1) would have been those leaders sent to Babylon in the first wave of the Exile in 597 BCE. (A larger group was sent in 586 when the Temple was destroyed.)
The “directions” given by YHWH in verses 4 to 7 are what actually – as a matter of history – had happened in Babylon when the Exiles were there. In effect, after the Exile, the Deuteronomists interpreted the behaviors of the Judeans in Babylon during the Exile as reflecting the “will” of YHWH. Later in the chapter, the Deuteronomist said that YHWH will “visit” the Judeans only after their seventy years in Babylon (597 to 539 BCE) are completed (v.10).
2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c
1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. 2 Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my LORD were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”
8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, `Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.
15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.”
The authors of the Book of Kings were also the authors of the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges and Samuel. These books were given their final form around 550 BCE – long after the events they described. The authors used the stories in these books to demonstrate that it was the failures of the Kings of Israel and the Kings of Judea to worship YHWH and obey God’s commands that led to the conquest of Northern Israel in 722 BCE by the Assyrians and the conquest of Judea by the Babylonians in 597 BCE. (The conquests were not seen as the result of the Assyrians’ and Babylonians’ greater wealth and more powerful armies.)
After Solomon’s death in 928 BCE, the nation divided in two. The Northern Kingdom consisted of 10 tribes and was called “Israel.” The Southern Kingdom had two tribes, Judah and Benjamin and was called “Judea.” For the most part, the Deuteronomists portrayed the Kings of the North as unfaithful to YHWH, and Ahab (873-852 BCE) was one of the worst offenders. His wife was the Baal-worshiping foreigner, Jezebel.
Consistent with the theological view that YHWH controlled all that occurs, the authors of Kings asserted, somewhat surprisingly, that YHWH gave victory to Naaman, a general of Aram (modern Syria) over Israel around 850 BCE (v. 1). This occurred presumably because King Ahab and his successors did not worship YHWH faithfully.
Elisha, the successor to Elijah, was in Samaria, the capital of Northern Israel at this time. The King of Aram heard from his wife (who learned from an Israeli slave girl) that Elisha was a prophet who could cure Naaman of his leprosy (which could have been any skin ailment). The King sent Naaman to Elisha and to the King of Israel along with staggeringly generous offerings (750 lbs. of silver and 150 lbs. of gold). Naaman also had a letter from the King of Aram to the King of Israel asking that Naaman be cured of his leprosy (v.5).
The King of Israel’s reaction emphasized that YHWH controlled life and death (v.7) and it also showed the foolishness of the Kings of Israel. The King refused the gifts and (in his anger and frustration) was about to tell Naaman to return to Aram. Elisha prevailed on the King of Israel to allow Naaman to come to see that he (Elisha) was a true prophet (speaker for God).
Elisha’s prescription did not involve divine guidance or prayer as Naaman expected (v.13). Instead, Elisha directed Naaman to wash seven times in the River Jordan. After initially refusing to do so, Naaman’s servants convinced him, and he went to the River Jordan and was healed (v.14).
In the verses that follow today’s reading, Naaman stated that YHWH’s power was not territorially limited to the lands of Israel and Judea – it extended to the whole world (v.15), an important theological message the Deuteronomists sought to convey. Naaman also took some soil from Israel so he could make offerings to YHWH (v.17).
The Jewish Study Bible points out: “One motif of the story is that people of higher status are dependent on people of lower status: Naaman on counsel from his wife reporting information from and Israelite slave girl (vv.2-3); the king of Aram on the king of Israel, and the latter on Elisha (vv.5-8); and Naaman on the advice of his own servants and Elisha (vv.13-15).”
2 Timothy 2:8-15
8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David — that is my gospel, 9 for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. 11 The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us; 13if we are faithless, he remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself.
14 Remind them of this and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.
The Letters to Timothy and Titus are called “Pastoral Letters” because they concerned the internal life, governance and behavior of the early Christian churches and their members. Most scholars agree they were written in the early Second Century in Paul’s name by some of his followers (Paul died in 63 CE). Writing a document in someone else’s name was a common practice in the First and Second Centuries. By then, the Jesus Follower Community had become more institutionalized and concerns about “heresy” had arisen.
The Pastoral letters were written to Paul’s “co-workers” but have a broader audience. By the time they were written, Paul was regarded as an authoritative figure of the past.
2 Timothy is more personal than 1 Timothy. The author, writing as Paul, treated Timothy as his “beloved child,” loyal disciple and his spiritual heir. In the letter, Paul was portrayed as near death.
Today’s reading includes a synopsis of the “gospel” (good news) that Paul preached in his epistles (e.g. Rom. 1.3). Jesus is the Messiah, was resurrected, and is a royal ruler (v.8). A recitation of hardships was a common motif in Paul’s epistles and are repeated here (vv.9-10) to emphasize the depth of “Paul’s” faithfulness.
The sayings in verses 11 to 13 are likely a quotation from a hymn that would have been used in the Jesus Follower Community early in the Second Century.
11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
The Gospel According to Luke is generally regarded as having been written around 85 CE. Its author also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Both books were written in elegant and deliberatively crafted Greek and presented Jesus of Nazareth as the universal savior of humanity. Both emphasized the Holy Spirit as the “driving force” for events.
The Gospel followed the same general chronology of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as the Gospel of Mark, and more than 40% of Luke’s Gospel was based on Mark. The other portions of Luke include (a) sayings shared with the Gospel According to Matthew but not found in Mark and (b) stories that are unique to Luke such as the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Presentation in the Temple, the Prodigal Son, and the Good Samaritan.
In today’s reading, Jesus was traveling between the Galilee and Samaria (v.11). The 10 lepers who approached nevertheless “kept their distance” (v.12) as prescribed by Leviticus 13.
Jesus directed the lepers to “show themselves to the priests” (v.14), so the “other nine” – presumably Jewish — lepers would have gone to Jerusalem where the priests were at the Temple. On the other hand, as The Jewish Annotated New Testament points out, the Samaritan leper would have been going to Mount Gerizim in Samaria.
Commentators point out that the phrase translated as “made you well” is the Greek word “sesōken” which is literally translated as “saved you.”