Matthew 21:33

The Parable of the Tenants

33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place.

Matthew 21:33 in Other Translations

33 Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:
33 "Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country.
33 “Now listen to another story. A certain landowner planted a vineyard, built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built a lookout tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers and moved to another country.
33 "Here's another story. Listen closely. There was once a man, a wealthy farmer, who planted a vineyard. He fenced it, dug a winepress, put up a watchtower, then turned it over to the farmhands and went off on a trip.
33 "Listen to another parable: There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a watchtower. He leased it to tenant farmers and went away.

Matthew 21:33 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 21:33

Hear another parable
Which, though Luke says was spoken to the people, who, were gathered round about him, yet was directed to, and against the chief priests; who continued with him till it was delivered, and the application of it made; when they perceived it was spoken of them. The design of it is, to set forth the many favours and privileges bestowed on the Jewish nation; their unfruitfulness, and the ingratitude of the principal men among them; and their barbarous usage of the servants of the Lord, and particularly of the Son of God himself: the consequence of which would be, the removal of the Gospel from them, and the miserable destruction of them. So that this parable is partly a narrative, of some things past, and partly a prophecy of some things to come:

there was a certain householder:
by whom the great God of heaven and earth is meant; who may be so called, either with respect to the whole world, which is an house of his building, and the inhabitants of it are his family, who live, are nourished, and supplied by him; or to the church, the house of the living God, the family in heaven and in earth, called the household of God, and of faith; or to the people of Israel, often called the house of Israel, the family, above all the families of the earth, God took notice of, highly favoured, and dwelt among.

Which planted a vineyard:
of the form of a vineyard, the manner of planting it, and the size of it, the Jews say many things in their Misna F6.

``He that plants a row of five vines, the school of Shammai say, "it is a vineyard"; but the school of Hillell say, it is not a vineyard, unless there are two rows--he that plants two vines over against two, and one at the tail or end, (Mrk hz yrh) , "lo! this is a vineyard"; (it was a little vineyard;) but if two over against two, and one between the two, or two over against two, and one in the midst, it is no vineyard, unless there are two over against two, and one at the tail or end.''

Again F7,

``a vineyard that is planted with less than four cubits (between every row), R. Simeon says, is no vineyard; but the wise men say it is a vineyard.''

And the decision is according to them. Now by this vineyard is meant, the house of Israel and the men of Judah, the nation of the Jews, as in ( Isaiah 5:7 ) from whence our Lord seems to have taken many of the ideas expressed in this parable; who were a people separated from the rest of the world, and set with valuable plants, from whom fruit might reasonably be expected: the planting of them designs the removing them out of Egypt, the driving out the natives before them, and settling them in the land of Canaan, where they were planted with choice vines, such as Joshua, Caleb and where they soon became a flourishing people, though for their iniquities, often exposed to beasts of prey, the neighbouring nations, that were suffered at times to break in upon them. The Jews often speak F8 of the house of Israel, as the vineyard of the Lord of hosts, and even call their schools and universities vineyards: hence we read F9 of (hnbyb Mrk) , the vineyard in Jabneh, where the scholars were placed in rows, as in a vineyard.

And hedged it round about;
as it was usual to set a hedge, or make a wall round a vineyard, which according to the Jewish writers, was to be ten hands high, and four broad; for they ask F11,

``(rdg hz ya) , "what is a hedge?" That which is ten hands, high.''

And elsewhere F12,

``An hedge that encompasses a vineyard, which is less than ten hands high, or which is ten hands high, but not four hands broad, it has no circuit (or void place between that and the vines)--an hedge which is ten hands high, and so a ditch which is ten hands deep, and four broad, lo! this is lawful to plant a vineyard on one side of it, and herbs on the other; even a fence of reeds, if there is between the reeds the space of three hands, lo! this divides between the vineyard and the herbs, as an hedge.''

By this "hedge" is designed, either the law, not the oral law, or the traditions of the elders, which the Jews F13 call (hrwtl gyo) , "an hedge for the law", which was none of God's setting, but their own; but either the ceremonial law, which distinguished them from other people, was a middle wall of partition between them, and the nations of the world, and kept them from coming among them, and joining together; or the moral law, which taught them their duty to God and man, and was the means of keeping them within due bounds; or else the protection of them by the power of God, which was an hedge about them, is here intended; and which was very remarkable at the time of their three feasts of passover, pentecost, and tabernacles; when all their males went up to Jerusalem, and the whole country was, left an easy prey to the nations about them; but God preserved them, and, according to his promise, suffered not their neighbours to have any inclination or desire after their land.

And digged a winepress in it;
which is not (Uyrx) , "the ditch", that went through a, vineyard; for this cannot be said of a winepress, and is Dr. Lightfoot's mistake F14; but (tg) , "the winefat", in which they squeezed the grapes and made the wine, and this used to be in the vineyard: the rule about it is this,

``(Mrkbv tgh) , the winepress that is ten hands deep and four broad, R. Eliezer says, they may set in it; but the wise men do forbid it F15.''

By this may be meant, the altar where the drink offerings of wine were poured forth; and so the Targumist F16 renders it by (yxbdm) , "my altar I have given them, to atone for their sins": though one of their commentators F17, by it, understands the prophets, who taught Israel the law, that their works might be good before God and men; they urged and pressed them to the performance of them, as grapes are squeezed in the winepress:

and built a tower;
the same the Jews call (hrmwv) , "the watch house"; which was an high place, in which the watchman stood to keep F18 the vineyard, and which was built in the vineyard; of this they say,

``(Mrkbv hrmwv) , the "watch house which is in the vineyard", that is ten hands high and four broad, they set in it F19.''

By this is meant, either the city or Jerusalem, which stood in the midst, and on the highest part of the land of Israel; or the temple, which stood on the highest part of Jerusalem, where the priests and Levites kept their watch every night; and so the Targumist F20 interprets it, by (yvdqm) , "my sanctuary I built among them": that is, the temple:

and let it out to husbandmen;
of which there were different sorts, as there were different methods of hiring and letting out fields and vineyards among the Jews: one sort was called (rkwvh) , and such was he, who hired of his neighbour a field to sow in it, or a vineyard to eat of the fruit of it, for a certain sum of money yearly; see ( Song of Solomon 8:11 ) another sort was called (rkwxh) , and this was one that hired a field, or a vineyard, and agreed to give the proprietor of it yearly, so many measures of the fruit thereof, whether it yielded more or less; and there was a third sort, called (oyra) , or (lbqm) , and such was he, who agreed to give the owner half, or a third, or a fourth part of the increase of the field, or vineyard F21. Now it is not of the former, but of the latter sort of letting out and farming, that this is to be understood; not of letting it out for money, but for fruit, as appears from ( Matthew 21:34 ) and by the husbandmen are meant, the rulers of the Jews, civil and ecclesiastical, especially the latter; the priests, Levites, and Scribes, who were intrusted with the care of the Jewish people, to guide and instruct them, and cultivate the knowledge of divine things among them, that they might bring forth fruits of righteousness; and to offer their gifts and sacrifices, and the like, which are meant by letting out the vineyard to them: and went into afar country; which must be interpreted consistent with the omnipresence of God, who is every where, and cannot be said properly to move from place to place; but fills heaven and earth with his presence, and cannot be contained in either: but this phrase seems to design his taking up his residence in the thick darkness, in the tabernacle and temple, when the civil and ecclesiastical state of the Jews was settled, and God did not appear to them in that visible manner he had done before; but having fixed their order of government, worship, and duty, left them to themselves and their rulers; for many years; in which he expressed much longsuffering and patience towards them.


F6 Misna Kilaim, c. 4. sect. 5, 6. Maimon. Hilch. Kilaim, c. 7. sect. 7.
F7 Ib. c. 5. sect. 2. Maimon ib. sect. 1.
F8 Tzeror Hammor, fol. 148. 2. Zohar in Exod. fol. 2. 1.
F9 T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 7. 4. T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 42. 2.
F11 Misn. Kilaim, c. 4. sect. 3.
F12 Maimon. Hilch. Kilaim, c. 7. sect. 14, 15.
F13 Pirke Abot. c. sect, 1.
F14 Horae in Mark xii. 1.
F15 Misn. Kilaim, c. 5. sect. 3.
F16 Targum Jon. in Isa. v. 2. Vid. T. Hicros. Succa, fol. 54. 4.
F17 R. David Kimchi in loc.
F18 Maimon. in Misn. Kilaim, c. 5. sect. 3. Aben Ezra in Isa. v. 2.
F19 Misn. Kilaim, c. 5. sect. 3. Maimon. Hilch. Kilaim, c. 7. sect. 22.
F20 Targum Jon. in Isa. v. 2.
F21 T. Hieros. Demai, fol. 25. 1. Gloss in T. Bab. Moed. Katon, fol. 11. 2. & in Bava Metzia, fol. 103. 1. in Avoda Zara, fol. 21. 2. Maimon. Hilch. Shecirut, c. 8. sect. 1, 2. Bartenora in Misn. Pea, c. 5. sect. 5. & in Demai, c. 6, sect. 1.

Matthew 21:33 In-Context

31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”“The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.
32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place.
34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.
35 “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third.

Cross References 3

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