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 32:1-3a, 6-15
1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. 2 At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, 3 where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him.
6 Jeremiah said, The word of the LORD came to me: 7 Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” 8 Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the LORD, and said to me, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.
9 And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. 10 I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. 11 Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; 12 and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. 13 In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, 14 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. 15 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.
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 a portion of an extended post-Exilic prose insert that begins at Jer. 31:38. The New Oxford Annotated Bible refers to this section as an “Appendix” to the “Book of Consolation” (Chapters 30 and 31) in which the writer said that YHWH would restore Judea after the Exile.
Today’s reading purported to be set in 588 BCE (v.1), just before the Exile began. The NOAB notes that chronologically, this Chapter should follow Chapter 37. In 588, the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem for a second time, and King Zedekiah imprisoned Jeremiah. The Jewish Study Bible says that the grounds for Jeremiah’s imprisonment would have been “treason because of his claims that God had given Jerusalem into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.” Jeremiah was able, however, (through Baruch) to arrange the purchase of land even though he was in prison.
Jeremiah’s purchase of land was intended to show a faith in the future restoration of Judea and was a metaphor for God’s promise to restore Jerusalem. The purchase price of 17 shekels of silver would have been seven ounces of silver (about $150 today) – a price much lower than the prices of other sales recorded in the Bible.
The sale of the land to Jeremiah by his cousin Hanamel was consistent with the law in Leviticus 25:25 that if a family member has financial difficulties, his land should be sold to a relative. The NAOB characterized this (vv.9-14) as “the most detailed account of a business transaction in the Bible.”
Baruch, referred to in v.13, was Jeremiah’s secretary and was said to have recorded portions of what became the “Book of Jeremiah” (Jer. 36:4).
Amos 6:1a, 4-7
1 Alas for those who are at ease in Zion, and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria.
4 Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the stall;
5 who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp, and like David improvise on instruments of music;
6 who drink wine from bowls, and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
7 Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile, and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away.
After Solomon died in 930 BCE, the Kingdom of Israel split into two parts, the North (called Israel with 10 tribes) and the South (called Judea with two tribes). Each of the Kingdoms had its own king.
The reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel (788-747 BCE) was very prosperous but was a time of great inequality between rich and poor in which large landowners gained control of the lands of small farmers. (A three-liter bottle of wine is called a “Jeroboam.”)
Amos was a cattle herder and cared for fig trees in Judea, but he was called by YHWH to go north to prophesy (speak for the LORD) against the evils in Israel from about 760 to 750 BCE. Amos is one of the 12 “minor” prophets whose works are shorter than the three “major” prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel). He was the first (chronologically) of the prophets whose words left an indelible stamp on later thought in Israel about God. He used vivid language and called for justice and righteousness, terms that deal with social equality and concern for the disadvantaged.
The writings included announcements that the “Day of the LORD” was imminent and urged that the special covenant with the LORD entailed special ethical responsibilities. Some of his presentations are indictments, some are exhortations, and others are visions.
In today’s reading, Amos (speaking for YHWH) harshly criticized the conspicuous consumption by the wealthy in both Jerusalem/Zion (v.1) and in Northern Israel and predicted their doom. His mention of the “ruin of Joseph” (v.6) was a colloquial reference to the impending destruction of Northern Israel by Assyria in 722 BCE.
The “back story” to this reference to “the ruin of Joseph” is that according to Numbers 18, the Tribe of Levi was not allocated land because they were priests and received tithes from the other tribes. Therefore, there would have been only 11 tribes receiving land. To fix this, Joseph was not counted as one of the 12 tribes, but Joseph’s two sons (Ephraim and Manasseh) were both counted among the 12 Tribes of Israel and allocated land.
Because the Tribe of Ephraim became the largest and most prosperous of the Northern 10 tribes and King Jeroboam was an Ephraimite, the nation of Northern Israel was sometimes referred to as “Ephraim” or “Joseph.”
The reference to David (v.5) reflected the tradition that David was an accomplished musician (1 Sam. 16:23) who played the lyre to soothe King Saul. Later Jewish tradition attributed the authorship of the entire book of Psalms to David.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible notes that revelry (v.7) was “marzeah” in Hebrew, a ritual banquet of Canaanite origin.
1 Timothy 6:6-19
6 There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; 7 for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; 8 but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. 9 But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
11 But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will bring about at the right time — he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 16 It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
17 As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, 19 thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.
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.
Today’s reading is most of the last chapter of the letter. The author emphasized contentment (v.6), the translation of the word “autarkeia”) which The NAOB described as a Stoic term meaning “self-sufficiency.”
He cautioned against love of money as a “root of all kinds of evil” (v.10). The author encouraged the active “pursuit” of righteousness and “fighting the good fight of the faith” (v.12). The reference to Pontius Pilate in verse 13 is the only mention of him (outside the Gospels and Acts) that appears in the New Testament. The “manifestation” (epiphaneias in Greek) is a reference to the Second Coming, a term used in many of the Pastoral Letters.
The references in verses 15 and 16 of God as all powerful, immortal, and invisible reflect the influence of Greek philosophy on the Jesus Follower Movement.
19 Jesus said, “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24 He called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25 But Abraham said, `Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27 He said, `Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house — 28 for I have five brothers– that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham replied, `They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30 He said, `No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, `If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”
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.
Today’s reading is part of a chapter that deals primarily with the danger of riches. The “rich man” (v.19) in this story has historically been named “Dives” – which is Latin for “rich man.” Being dressed in purple was a sign of wealth. Purple was difficult to produce because it was derived from a specific kind of shellfish. The rich man’s selfishness was shown by his failure to assist the poor man “at his gate” (v.20).
The poor man named “Lazarus” is not to be confused with the brother of Martha and Mary who was raised from the dead by Jesus as recounted in John 11.
The story does not describe Lazarus’ character, but his presence “with Abraham” (v.22) indicated a blessed afterlife condition. The Jewish Annotated New Testament notes that “salvation in the Gospel of Luke is not contingent upon Jesus’ sacrificial death.”
Even in Hades, the rich man saw the poor man as a servant in that he asked Abraham to send him to the rich man with a drop of water (v.24) and to send him to “my father’s house” (v.27) to warn his brothers.
Although the reference in the text to someone coming back from the dead was to the poor man (v.28), some commentators see the reference in verse 31 (“someone rising from the dead”) as evoking Jesus’ Resurrection. After the Destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the primary division between the Jesus Followers and the Pharisees was whether Jesus had been resurrected.