Matthew 21
Expositor's Greek Testament


And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,
Matthew 21:1-11. The entry (Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:29-44).

Matthew 21:1, ὅτε ἤγγισαν ἐ. ., when, etc. The evangelist does not, like a modern tourist, make formal announcement of the arrival at a point near Jerusalem when the Holy City came first into view, but refers to the fact in a subordinate clause. The manner of entry is the more important matter for him.—εἰς Βηθφαγὴ, to Bethphage = the house of figs, mentioned here and in the synoptical parallels, nowhere else in O. or N. T., but from Talmudic sources appears to have been a better known and more important place than Bethany (Buxtorf, Talm. Lex., p. 1691). No trace of it now.—εἰς τ. . τ. Ἐλαιῶν, to the Mount of Olives; the εἰς, in all the three phrases used to define the position, means near to, towards, not into.—τότε, then, introducing what for the evangelist is the main event. Bengel’s comment is: vectura mysterii plena innuitur. It is possible to import too much mystery into the incident following.

Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.
Matthew 21:2. εἰς τὴν κώμην: that is, naturally, the one named, though if we take εἰς before Βηθφαγὴ as = into, it might be Bethany, on the other side of the valley. Some think the two villages were practically one (Porter, Handbook for Syria and Palestine, p. 180).—ὄνον δ. καὶ πῶλον, a she-ass with her foal, the latter alone mentioned in parall.; both named here for a reason which will appear.—λύσαντες ἀγάγετε, loose and bring; without asking leave, as if they were their own.

And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.
Matthew 21:3. ἐάν τις, etc. Of course it was to be expected that the act would be challenged.—ἐρεῖτε, ye shall say, future with imperative force.—ὅτι, recitative, introducing in direct form the words of the Master.—ὸ Κύριος, the Lord or Master; not surely = Jehovah (Alford, G. T.), but rather to be taken in same sense as in Matthew 8:25, or in Matthew 21:30 of this chap.—αὐτῶν χρείαν ἔχει, hath need of them; in what sense? Looking to the synop. narratives alone, one might naturally infer that the need was physical, due to the fatigue of a toilsome, tedious ascent. But according to the narrative in 4th Gospel the starting point of the day’s journey was Bethany (Matthew 12:1; Matthew 12:12). The prophetic reference in Matthew 21:4 suggests a wholly different view, viz., that the animals were needed to enable Jesus to enter Jerusalem in a manner conformable to prophetic requirements, and worthy of the Messianic King. One is conscious of a certain reluctance to accept this as the exclusive sense of the χρεία. Lutteroth suggests that Jesus did not wish to mix among the crowd of pilgrims on foot lest His arrival should be concealed and the interest awakened by His presence lessened.

All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
Matthew 21:4. ἵνα πληρωθῇ: is to be taken here as always in this Gospel, in its strictly final sense. Such is the view of the evangelist and the view he wishes his readers to take. But it does not follow from this that Christ’s whole action proceeded from a conscious intention to fulfil a prophecy. On the contrary, the less intention on His part the greater the apologetic value of the correspondence between prophecy and fact. Action with intention might show that He claimed to be, not that He was, the Messiah. On the other hand, His right to be regarded as the Messiah would have stood where it was though He had entered Jerusalem on foot. That right cannot stand or fall with any such purely external circumstance, which can at best possess only the value of a symbol of those spiritual qualities which constitute intrinsic fitness for Messiahship. But Jesus, while fully aware of its entirely subordinate importance, might quite conceivably be in the mood to give it the place of a symbol, all the more that the act was in harmony with His whole policy of avoiding display and discouraging vulgar Messianic ideas and hopes. There was no pretentiousness in riding into Jerusalem on the foal of an ass. It was rather the meek and lowly One entering in character, and in a character not welcome to the proud worldly-minded Jerusalemites. The symbolic act was of a piece with the use of the title “Son of Man,” shunning Messianic pretensions, yet making them in a deeper way.

Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
Matthew 21:5. he prophetic quotation, from Zechariah 9:9, prefaced by a phrase from Isaiah 62:11, with some words omitted, and with some alteration in expression as compared with Sept[114]

[114] Septuagint.

And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,
And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.
Matthew 21:7-11. τὴν ὄνον καὶ τὸν πῶλον: that both were brought is carefully specified in view of the prophetic oracle as understood by the evangelist to refer to two animals, not to one under two parallel names.—ἐπέθηκαν: the two disciples spread their upper garments on the two beasts, to make a seat for their Master.—καὶ ἐπεκάθισεν ἐπ. αὐτῶν: if the second αὐτῶν be taken to have the same reference as the first the meaning will be that Jesus sat upon both beasts (alternately). But this would require the imperfect of the verb instead of the aorist. It seems best, with many ancient and modern interpreters, to refer the second αὐτῶν to the garments, though on this view there is a certain looseness in the expression, as, strictly speaking, Jesus would sit on only one of the mantles, if He rode only on one animal. Fritzsche, while taking the second . as referring to ἱμάτια, thinks the evangelist means to represent Jesus as riding on both alternately.

And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.
Matthew 21:8. ὁ δὲ πλεῖστος ὄχλος, etc., the most part of the crowd, follow the example of the two disciples, and spread their upper garments on the way, as it were to make a carpet for the object of their enthusiasm, after the manner of the peoples honouring their kings (vide Wetstein, ad loc.).—ἄλλοι δὲ ἔκοπτον: others, a small number comparatively, took to cutting down branches of trees and scattering them about on the way. Had they no upper garments, or did they not care to use them in that way? The branches, if of any size, would not improve the road, neither indeed would the garments. Lightfoot, perceiving this—“hoc forsan equitantem prosterneret”—thinks they used garments and branches to make booths, as at the feast of tabernacles. It was well meant but embarrassing homage.

And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
Matthew 21:9. οἱ ὄχλοι: the crowd divided into two, one in front, one in rear, Jesus between.—ἔκραζον: lip homage followed the carpeting of the way, in words borrowed from the Psalter (Psalm 118:25-26), and variously interpreted by commentators.—Ὡσαννὰ τῷ υἱῷ Δ. Hosanna (we sing) to the son of David (Bengel).—εὐλογημένος, etc. (and we say), “Blessed, etc.,” repeating words from the Hallel used at the passover season.—Ὡσαννὰ ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις = may our Hosanna on earth be echoed and ratified in heaven! All this homage by deed and word speaks to a great enthusiasm, the outcome of the Galilean ministry; for the crowd consists of Galileans. Perhaps the incident at Jericho, the healing of the blind men, and the vociferated title Son of David with which they saluted the Healer, gave the keynote. A little matter moves a crowd when it happens at the right moment. The mood of a festive season was on them.

And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
Matthew 21:10. ἐσείσθη: even Jerusalem, frozen with religious formalism and socially undemonstrative, was stirred by the popular enthusiasm as by a mighty wind or by an earthquake (σεισμός), and asked (Matthew 21:11), τίς οὗτος;—ὁ προφήτης, etc.: a circumstantial answer specifying name, locality, and vocation; not a low-pitched answer as Chrys. (and after him Schanz) thought (χαμαίζηλος ἦν αὐτῶν ἡ γνώμη, καὶ ταπεινὴ καὶ σεσυρμένη, Hom. lxvi.), as if they were ashamed of their recent outburst of enthusiasm. Rather spoken with pride = the man to whom we have accorded Messianic honours is a countryman of ours, Jesus, etc.

And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.
And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
Matthew 21:12-17. Jesus visits the Temple (Mark 11:11; Mark 11:15-19, Luke 19:45-48).

Matthew 21:12. εἰσῆλθεν, etc. He entered the Temple. When? Nothing to show that it was not the same day (vide Mk.).—ἐξέβαλεν. The fourth Gospel (Matthew 2:14 f.) reports a similar clearing at the beginning of Christ’s ministry. Two questions have been much discussed. Were there one or two acts of this kind? and if only one was it at the beginning or at the end as reported by the Synop.? However these questions may be decided, it may be regarded as one of the historic certainties that Jesus did once at least and at some time sweep the Temple clear of the unholy traffic carried on there. The evangelists fittingly connect the act with the first visit of Jesus to Jer. they report—protest at first sight!—πάντας τοὺς πωλ. καὶ ἀγ.: the article not repeated after καὶ. Sellers and buyers viewed as one company—kindred in spirit, to be cleared out wholesale.—τὰς τραπέζας, etc.: these tables were in the court of the Gentiles, in the booths (tabernae) where all things needed for sacrifice were sold, and the money changers sat ready to give to all comers the didrachma for the temple tax in exchange for ordinary money at a small profit.—κολλυβιστῶν, from κόλλυβος, a small coin, change money, hence agio; hence our word to denote those who traded in exchange, condemned by Phryn., p. 440, while approving κόλλυβος. Theophy. says: κολλυβισταί εἰσιν οἱ παρʼ ἡμῖν λεγόμενοι τραπεζῖται· κόλλυβος γὰρ εἶδός ἐστι νομίσματος εὐτελῆς, ὥσπερ ἔχομεν τυχὸν ἡμεῖς τοὺς ὀβολοὺς ἢ τὰ ἀργύρια (vide Hesychius and Suicer).—τὰς περιστεράς, doves, the poor man’s offering. The traffic was necessary, and might have been innocent; but the trading spirit soon develops abuses which were doubtless rampant at that period, making passover time a Jewish “Holy Fair,” a grotesque and offensive combination of religion with shady morality.

And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
Matthew 21:13. γέγραπται, it stands written, in Isaiah 56:7; from the Sept[115] but with omission of πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, retained in Mk., and a peculiarly appropriate expression in the circumstances, the abuse condemned having for its scene the court of the Gentiles.—σπήλαιον λῃστῶν, a den of robbers, a strong expression borrowed from another prophet (Jeremiah 7:11), pointing probably to the avarice and fraud of the traders (τὸ γὰρ φιλοκερδὲς ληστρικὸν πάθος ἐστί, Theophy.), taking advantage of simple provincials. This act of Jesus has been justified by the supposed right of the zealot (Numbers 25:6; Numbers 25:13), which is an imaginary right: “ein unfindbar Artikel” (Holtz., H. C.), or by the reforming energy befitting the Messiah (Meyer). It needed no other justification than the indignation of a noble soul at sight of shameless deeds. Jesus was the only person in Israel who could do such a thing. All others had become accustomed to the evil.

[115] Septuagint.

And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.
Matthew 21:14-17, peculiar to Mt.

Matthew 21:14. τυφλοὶ καὶ χωλοὶ: that the blind and lame in the city should seek out Jesus is perfectly credible, though reported only by Mt. They would hear of the recent healing at Jericho, and of many other acts of healing, and desire to get a benefit for themselves.

And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased,
Matthew 21:15. τὰ θαυμάσια: here only in N.T., the wonderful things, a comprehensive phrase apparently chosen to include all the notable things done by Jesus (Meyer), among which may be reckoned not only the cures, and the cleansing of the temple, but the enthusiasm which He had awakened in the crowd, to the priests and scribes perhaps the most offensive feature of the situation.—τοὺς παῖδας, etc.: the boys and girls of the city, true to the spirit of youth, caught up and echoed the cry of the pilgrim crowd and shouted in the temple precincts: “Hosanna, etc.”. ἠγανάκτησαν, they were piqued, like the ten (Matthew 20:24).

And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?
Matthew 21:16. ἀκούεις, etc.: the holy men attack the least objectionable phenomenon because they could do so safely; not the enthusiasm of the crowd, the Messianic homage, the act of zeal, all deeply offensive to them, but the innocent shouts of children echoing the cry of seniors. They were forsooth unseemly in such a place! Hypocrites and cowards! No fault found with the desecration of the sacred precincts by an unhallowed traffic.—ναί, yes, of course: cheery, hearty, yea, not without enjoyment of the ridiculous distress of the sanctimonious guardians of the temple.—οὐδ. ἀνέγνωτε as in Matthew 19:4 : felicitous citation from Psalm 8:3, not to be prosaically interpreted as if children in arms three or four years old, still being suckled according to the custom of Hebrew mothers, were among the shouting juniors. These prompt happy citations show how familiar Jesus was with the O. T.

And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.
Matthew 21:17. Βηθανίαν, Bethany, 15 stadia from Jerusalem (John 11:18), resting place of Jesus in the Passion week—true friends there (vide Stanley, S. and P.).—ηὐλίσθη, passed the night; surely not in the open air, as Wetstein and Grotius think. At passover time quarters could not easily be got in the city, but the house of Martha and Mary would be open to Jesus (cf. Luke 21:37).

Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.
Matthew 21:18-22. The barren fig tree (Mark 11:12-14; Mark 11:19-26).—The story of two morning journeys from Bethany to Jerusalem (vide Mk.) is here compressed into one.

Matthew 21:18. ἐπείνασε, He felt hungry. The fact seems to favour the hypothesis of a bivouac under the sky overnight. Why should one be hungry leaving the hospitable house of friends? (vide Mk.). This was no difficulty for the Fathers who regarded the hunger as assumed (σχηματίζεται πεινᾶν, Euthy.).

And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.
Matthew 21:19. συκῆν μίαν: εἶς in late Greek was often used for τις, but the meaning here probably is that Jesus looking around saw a solitary fig tree.—ἐπὶ τῆς ὁδοῦ, by the wayside, not necessarily above (Meyer).—ἦλθεν ἐπʼ αὐτήν, came close to it, not climbed it (Fritzsche).—εἰ μὴ φύλλα: leaves only, no fruit. Jesus expected to find fruit. Perhaps judging from Galilean experience, where by the lake-shore the fig time was ten months long (Joseph., Bell. J., iii. 108. Vide Holtz., H. C.), but vide on Mark 11:13.—οὐ μηκέτι, etc.: according to some writers this was a prediction based on the observation that the tree was diseased, put in the form of a doom. So Bleek, and Furrer who remarks: “Then said He, who knew nature and the human heart, ‘This tree will soon wither’; for a fig tree with full leaf in early spring without fruit is a diseased tree” (Wanderungen. p. 172).—καὶ ἐξ. παραχρῆμα, cf. Mk.’s account.

And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!
Matthew 21:20. οἱ μαθηταὶ, etc.: the disciples wondered at the immediate withering of the tree. Did they expect it to die, as a diseased tree, gradually?

Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
Matthew 21:21 contains a thought similar to that in Matthew 17:20, .v.τὸ τῆς συκῆς, the matter of the fig tree, as if it were a small affair, not worth speaking about. The question of the disciples did not draw from Jesus explanations as to the motive of the malediction. The cursing of the fig tree has always been regarded as of symbolic import, the tree being in Christ’s mind an emblem of the Jewish people, with a great show of religion and no fruit of real godliness. This hypothesis is very credible.

And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?
Matthew 21:23-27. Interrogation as to authority (Mark 11:27-33, Luke 20:1-8), wherewith suitably opens the inevitable final conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders of the people.

Matthew 21:23. ἐλθόντος αὐτοῦ ἐ. τ. .: coming on the second day to the temple, the place of concourse, where He was sure to meet His foes, nothing loath to speak His mind to them.—διδάσκοντι: yet He came to teach, to do good, not merely to fight.—ἐν ποίᾳ ἐξουσίᾳ, by what sort of authority? the question ever asked by the representatives of established order and custom at epoch-making initiators. So the Judaists interrogated St. Paul as to his right to be an apostle.—ταῦτα, vague (cf. Matthew 11:25) and comprehensive. They have in view all the offences of which Jesus had been guilty, throughout His ministry—all well known to them—whatever He had done in the spirit of unconventional freedom which He had exhibited since His arrival in Jerusalem.—καὶ τίς: the second question is but an echo of the first: the quality of the authority (ποίᾳ) depends on its source.—ταύτην, this authority, which you arrogate, and which so many unhappily acknowledge. It was a question as to the legitimacy of an undeniable influence. That spiritual power accredits itself was beyond the comprehension of these legalists.

And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.
Matthew 21:24. esus replies by an embarrassing counter-question as to the ministry of the Baptist.—λόγον ἔνα, hardly: one question for your many (Beng.) rather: a question, or thing, one and the same (cf. for εἶς in this sense Genesis 41:25-26; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 1 Corinthians 11:5), an analogous question as we should say; one answer would do for theirs and for His.

The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?
Matthew 21:25. τὸ βάπτισμα τὸ Ἰ., the baptism as representing John’s whole ministry.—ἐξ οὐρ. ἢ ἐξ ἀνθ., from heaven or from men? The antithesis is foreign to legitimist modes of thought, which would combine the two: from heaven but through men; if not through men not from heaven. The most gigantic and baleful instance of this fetish in modern nines is the notion of church sacraments and orders depending on ordination. On the same principle St. Paul was no apostle, because his orders came to him “not from men nor by man,” Galatians 1:1.—ἐὰν εἴπωμεν, etc. The audible and formal answer of the scribes was οὐκ οἴδαμεν, in Matthew 21:27. All that goes before from ἐὰν to προφήτην is the reasoning on which it was based, either unspoken (παρʼ or ἐν ἑαυτοῖς, Mt.) or spoken to each other (πρός, Mark 11:31); not likely to have been overheard, guessed rather from the puzzled expression on their faces.—οὐκ ἐπιστεύσατε: the reference here may be to John’s witness to Jesus, or it may be general = why did ye not receive his message as a whole?

But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.
Matthew 21:26. ἐὰν δὲ, etc.: the mode of expression here is awkward. Meyer finds in the sentence an aposiopesis = “if we say of men—we fear the people”. What they mean is: we must not say of men, because we fear, etc. (cf. Mk.).

And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.
Matthew 21:27. οὐδὲ ἐγὼ, etc.: Jesus was not afraid to answer their question, but He felt it was not worth while giving an answer to opportunists.

But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.
Matthew 21:28-32. Parable of the two sons, in Mt. only, introduced by the familiar formula, τί δὲ ὑμῖν δοκεῖ (Matthew 17:25, Matthew 18:12), and having for its aim to contrast the conduct of the Pharisees towards the Baptist with that of the publicans. And as the publicans are simply used as a foil to bring out more clearly the Pharisaic character, the main subject of remark, it is highly probable that the son who represents the Pharisee was mentioned first, and the son who represents the publican second; the order in which they stand in [116], and adopted by W. and H[117] The parable, therefore, should read thus: “A certain man had two sons. He said to one, Go work, etc. He replied, Yes, sir, and went not. To the other he said the same. He replied, I will not, and afterwards went.”

[116] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[117] Westcott and Hort.

Matthew 21:28. τῷ ἀμπελῶνι: constant need of work in a vineyard, and of superintendence of workers.

He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
Matthew 21:29. ἐγώ: laconic and emphatic as if eager to obey—κύριε, with all due politeness, and most filial recognition of paternal authority, the two words = our “Yes, sir”.

And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.
Matthew 21:30. οὐ θέλω, I will not, I am not inclined; rude, sulky, unmannerly, disobedient, and making no pretence to filial loyalty.

Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.
Matthew 21:31. o the question, Who did the will of the father? the answer, when the parable is arranged as above, must, of course, be ὁ ὕστερος; the nay-sayer, not the yea-sayer. It is a wonder any answer was given at all when the purport of the parable was so transparent.—ἀμὴν λέγω ὑ.: introducing here, as always, a very important assertion. The statement following would give deadly offence to the Pharisees.—τελῶναι, πόρναι, the publicans and the harlots, the two socially lowest classes. Jesus speaks here from definite knowledge, not only of what had happened in connection with the Baptist ministry, but of facts connected with His own. He has doubtless reminiscences of the “Capernaum mission” (chap. Matthew 8:9-13) to go upon.—προάγουσιν, go before, anticipate (προλαμβάνουσιν, Euthy.), present tense: they are going before you now; last first, first last. Chrysostom, in Hom. lxvii., gives an interesting story of a courtesan of his time in illustration of this.

For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.
Matthew 21:32. ἐν ὁδῷ δικαιοσύνης: not merely in the sense of being a good pious man with whose life no fault could be found (Meyer; the Fathers, Chrys., Euthy., Theophy.), but in the specific sense of following their own legal way. John was a conservative in religion not less than the Pharisees. He differed from them only by being thoroughly sincere and earnest. They could not, therefore, excuse themselves for not being sympathetic towards him on the ground of his being an innovator, as they could with plausibility in the case of Jesus. The meaning thus is: He cultivated legal piety like yourselves, yet, etc.—ὑμεῖς δὲ ἰδόντες, when ye saw how the sinful took John’s summons to repent ye did not even late in the day follow their example and change your attitude. They were too proud to take an example from publicans and harlots.—τοῦ πιστεῦσαι, inf. of result with τοῦ.

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:
Matthew 21:33-46. Parable of the rebellious vine-dressers (Mark 12:1-12, Luke 20:9-19).

Matthew 21:33. ἄλλην π. ., hear another parable; spoken at the same time, and of kindred import. The abrupt introduction betrays emotion. Jesus is aware that He has given mortal offence, and here shows His knowledge by foreshadowing His own doom. The former parable has exposed the insincerity of the leaders of Israel, this exposes their open revolt against even divine authority.—ἀμπελῶνα: it is another vineyard parable. They were both probably extemporised, the one suggesting the other, the picture of non doing calling up the companion picture of mis doing.—φραγμὸν α. περιέθηκε, etc.: detailed description of the pains taken by the landlord in the construction of the vineyard, based on Isaiah’s song of the vineyard (chap. Matthew 5:2), all with a view to fruitfulness, and to fruit of the best kind; for the owner, at least, is very much in earnest: a hedge to protect against wild beasts, a press and vat that the grapes may be squeezed and the juice preserved, a tower that the ripe fruit may not be stolen.—ἐξέδετο, let it out on hire; on what terms—whether for a rent in money or on the metayer system, produce divided between owner and workers—does not here appear. The latter seems to be implied in the parallels (Mark 12:2, ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν, Luke 20:10, ἀπὸ τοῦ καρποῦ).—ἀπεδήμησεν, went abroad, to leave them freedom, and also to give them time; for the newly planted vines would not bear fruit for two or three years. No unreasonableness in this landlord.

And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.
Matthew 21:34. καιρὸς: not merely the season of the year, but the time at which the new vines might be expected to bear.—τοὺς καρποὺς: the whole, apparently implying a money rent. The mode of tenure probably not thought of by this evangelist.—αὐτοῦ should probably be referred to the owner, not to the vineyard = “his fruits,” as in A. V[118]

And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
Matthew 21:35. λαβόντες οἱ γ., etc. The husbandmen treat the messengers in the most barbarous and truculent manner: beating, killing, stoning to death; highly improbable in the natural sphere, but another instance in which parables have to violate natural probability in order to describe truly men’s conduct in the spiritual sphere. On ἐδείραν Kypke re-remarks: the verb δέρειν for verberare is so rare in profane writers that some have thought that for ἔδειραν should be read ἔδῃραν, from δαίρω.

Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.
Matthew 21:36. πλείονας τ. π., more than the first. Some take πλ. as referring to quality rather than number: better than the former (Bengel, Goebel, etc.), which is a legitimate but not likely rendering. The intention is to emphasise the number of persons sent (prophets).—ὡσαύτως: no difference in the treatment; savage mood chronic.

But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.
Matthew 21:37. ὕστερον, not afterwards merely, but finally, the last step was now to be taken, the mission of the son and heir; excuses conceivable hitherto: doubt as to credentials, a provoking manner in those sent, etc.; not yet conclusively proved that deliberate defiance is intended. The patient master will make that clear before taking further steps.—ἐντραπήσονται (pass. for mid.), they will show respect to. It is assumed that they will have no difficulty in knowing him.

But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.
Matthew 21:38. ἰδόντες: neither have they; they recognise at once the son and heir, and resolve forthwith on desperate courses, which are at once carried out. They eject the son, kill him, and seize the inheritance. The action of the parable is confined to a single season, the messengers following close on each other. But Jesus obviously has in His eye the whole history of Israel, from the settlement in Canaan till His own time, and sees in it God’s care about fruit (a holy nation), the mission of the successive prophets to insist that fruit be forthcoming, and the persistent neglect and disloyalty of the people. Neglect, for there was no fruit to give to the messengers, though that does not come out in the parable. The picture is a very sombre one, but it is broadly true. Israel, on the whole, had not only not done God’s will, but had badly treated those who urged her to do it. She killed her prophets (Matthew 23:37).

[118] Authorised Version.

And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.
When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?
Matthew 21:40-46. Application.—ὅταν οὖν ἔλθῃ ὁ κ., etc.: what would you expect the owner to do after such ongoings have been reported to him? Observe the subjunctive after ὅταν compared with the indicative ἤγγισεν after ὅτε, Matthew 21:34. ὅτε points to a definite time past, ὅταν is indefinite (vide Hermann, Viger, p. 437).

They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.
Matthew 21:41. λέγουσι, they say: who? the men incriminated, though they could not but see through the thin veil of the allegory. In Mk. and Lk. the words appear to be put into Christ’s mouth.—κακοὺς κακῶς ἀπολέσει: a solemn fact classically expressed (“en Graeci sermonis peritiam in Matthaco”—Raphel, Annot.) = He will badly destroy bad men.—οἵτινες, such as; he will give out the vineyard to husbandmen of a different stamp.—τ. κ. ἐν τοῖς καιροῖς αὐτῶν: the fruits in their (the fruits’) seasons, regularly year by year.

Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
Matthew 21:42. οὐδέποτε ἀνέγνωτε, etc.: another of Christ’s impromptu felicitous quotations; from Psalm 118:22-23 (Sept[119]). This quotation contains, in germ, another parable, in which the ejected and murdered heir of the former parable becomes the rejected stone of the builders of the theocratic edifice; only, however, to become eventually the accepted honoured stone of God. It is an apposite citation, because probably regarded as Messianic by those in whose hearing it was made (it was so regarded by the Rabbis—Schöttgen, ad loc.), and because it intimated to them that by killing Jesus they would not be done with Him.

[119] Septuagint.

Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
Matthew 21:43. διὰ τοῦτο, introducing the application of the oracle, and implying that the persons addressed are the builders = therefore.—ἡ βασιλεία τ. θ.: the doom is forfeiture of privilege, the kingdom taken from them and given to others.—ἔθνει, to a nation; previously, as Paul calls it, a no nation (οὐκ ἔθνει, Romans 10:19), the reference being, plainly, to the heathen world.—ποιοῦντι τ. κ. α.: cf. Matthew 3:8; Matthew 3:10; Matthew 7:17, bringing forth the fruits of it (the kingdom). The hope that the new nation will bring forth the fruit is the ground of the transference. God elects with a view to usefulness; a useless elect people has no prescriptive rights.

And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
Matthew 21:44. his verse, bracketed by W. H[120], found in the same connection in Lk. (Luke 20:18), looks rather like an interpolation, yet it suits the situation, serving as a solemn warning to men meditating evil intentions against the Speaker.—ὁ πεσὼν: he who falls on the stone, as if stumbling against it (Isaiah 8:14).—συνθλασθήσεται, shall be broken in pieces, like an earthen vessel falling on a rock. This compound is found only in late Greek authors.—ἐφʼ ὃν δʼ ἂν πέσῃ, on whom it shall fall, in judgment. The distinction is between men who believe not in the Christ through misunderstanding and those who reject Him through an evil heart of unbelief. Both suffer in consequence, but not in the same way, or to the same extent. The one is broken, hurt in limb; the other crushed to powder, which the winds blow away.—λικμήσει, from λικμός, a winnowing fork, to winnow, to scatter to the winds, implying reduction to dust capable of being so scattered = grinding to powder (conteret, Vulg[121]). For the distinction taken in this verse, cf. chaps. Matthew 11:6; Matthew 12:31-32.

[120] Westcott and Hort.

[121] Vulgate (Jerome’s revision of old Latin version).

And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.
Matthew 21:45. he priests and Pharisees of course perceived the drift of these parabolic speeches about the two sons, the vine-dressers, and the rejected stone, and (Matthew 21:46) would have apprehended Him on the spot (Luke 20:19) had they not feared the people.—ἐπεὶ, since, introducing the reason of the fear, same as in Matthew 21:26.—εἰς προφήτην = ὡς π., Matthew 21:26, and in Matthew 14:5, also in reference to John. On this use of εἰς vide Winer, § 32, 4, b.

But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.
The Expositor's Greek Testament - Nicoll

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