Matthew 20:12

12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

Matthew 20:12 in Other Translations

King James Version (KJV)
12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
English Standard Version (ESV)
12 saying, 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.'
New Living Translation (NLT)
12 ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’
The Message Bible (MSG)
12 'These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.'
American Standard Version (ASV)
12 saying, These last have spent [but] one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.
GOD'S WORD Translation (GW)
12 They said, 'These last workers have worked only one hour. Yet, you've treated us all the same, even though we worked hard all day under a blazing sun.'
Holman Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
12 'These last men put in one hour, and you made them equal to us who bore the burden of the day and the burning heat!'
New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
12 'These people who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said. 'You have paid them the same as us. We have done most of the work and have been in the hot sun all day.'

Matthew 20:12 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 20:12

Saying, these last have wrought but one hour
Thinking it hard, that they should have the same reward for the service of one hour, others had for the service of many. This is grudged by the Jews F24;

``"Bath Kol", a voice from heaven, went out and said, "Ketiah bar Shallum", is prepared for the life of the world to come; Rabbi wept, and said, there is that obtains his world (or the world to come for himself) (txa hevb) , "in one hour"; and there is that obtains it in many years.''

The same observation is also made by the same person, on account of R. Eleazar ben Durdia F25. So in the parable of the Jews above mentioned, which is the broken remains of a common proverb among them like F26 this; it is observed, that there being one labourer among those that were hired, who did his work better than all the rest, and who was taken notice of by the king; that when

``at even the labourers came to take their wages, this labourer also came to take his; and the king gave him his wages equal with them, (or, as in another place, a perfect one,) the labourers began to press him with difficulty, (or as elsewhere F1 (Nymertm) , "they murmured",) and said, Oh! our Lord, the king, "we have laboured all the day"; but this man has not laboured but two or three hours in the day, and he takes his wages, even as ours, or a perfect reward.''

And so it follows here,

and thou hast made them equal to us, who have borne the burden and
heat of the day;
of all the Jewish rites and ceremonies, which were burdensome and intolerable. The ceremonial law was a burden to the Jewish people; the multitude of sacrifices enjoined them, and the frequent repetition of them, together with the great number of other ordinances and institutions, produced a weariness in them; especially in the carnal part of them, who saw not the things typified by them, the use and end of them, and so did not enjoy spiritual pleasure in them, ( Malachi 1:13 ) . It was a yoke, and a yoke of bondage to them, which brought on them a spirit of bondage, through the fear of death, which was the penalty annexed to it; and it was an insupportable one, which neither they, nor their forefathers, were able to bear, because it made them debtors to keep the whole law: and this was made still more burdensome, by the traditions of the elders, which were added to it, and which the Scribes and Pharisees obliged to the observance of; to which they themselves still added, and bound heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and laid them on men's shoulders. The law was a fiery law, and the dispensation of it was a hot and scorching one; it was uncomfortable working under the flashes of a mount, that burned with fire: the law worked wrath, and possessed the minds of men with a fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation. This may also be applied to such Christians, who are called to more severe service or sufferings for Christ, than others are; who are almost pressed down without measure, and endure fiery trials, are scorched, and made black, with the sun of persecution beating upon them; as the saints under the ten persecutions of the Roman emperors, and as the confessors and martyrs in the times of papal power and cruelty; and who, it might be thought, will have a greater degree of glory and happiness hereafter; and so some have been of opinion, that these are they that shall live and reign with Christ a thousand years, ( Revelation 20:4-6 ) But it rather seems, that others will be made equal with them, who have not endured what they have done; for all the dead in Christ, all that have part in the first resurrection, when Christ comes, as all the saints will then rise, will share in that glory; even the innumerable company, chosen, redeemed, and called, out of every nation, tongue, and people, and will be admitted to the same honour and happiness, ( Revelation 7:9 Revelation 7:13 Revelation 7:15-17 ) And this character will also agree with many other servants of Christ, who are called to harder and more laborious service than others are, and labour more abundantly in the Lord's vineyard than others do, and are longer employed in it; as for instance, the Apostle Paul; and yet the same crown of righteousness that is laid up for him, and given to him, will be given to all that love the appearance of Christ, though they have not laboured for his name's sake, as he has done.


F24 T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 10. 2.
F25 Ib. fol. 17. 1.
F26 Shirhashirim Rabba, fol 21. 4. Midrash Kohelet, fol. 72. 4.
F1 T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 5. 3.

Matthew 20:12 In-Context

10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.
11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.
12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?
14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you.

Cross References 1

  • 1. John 4:8; Luke 12:55; James 1:11
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