Matthew 20:1
For the kingdom of heaven is like to a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XX.

(1) For the kingdom.—The division of the chapter is here singularly unfortunate, as separating the parable both from the events which gave occasion to it and from the teaching which it illustrates. It is not too much to say that we can scarcely understand it at all unless we connect it with the history of the young ruler who had great possessions, and the claims which the disciples had made for themselves when they contrasted their readiness with his reluctance.

To hire labourers into his vineyard.—The framework of the parable brings before us a form of labour in some respects lower than that of the “servants,” or “slaves,” who formed part of the household, and had been bought or born to their position. The labourers here are the “hired servants” of Luke 15:17, engaged for a time only, and paid by the day. Interpreting the parable, we may see in the householder our Lord Himself. It was indeed a title which He seems to have, as it were, delighted in, and which He applies directly to Himself in Matthew 10:25; Matthew 13:27; Matthew 13:52. And the “vineyard” is primarily, as in Isaiah 5:1, the house of Israel, which the Anointed of the Lord had come to claim as His kingdom. The “early morning” answered accordingly to the beginning of our Lord’s ministry; the “labourers” He then called were the disciples whom, at the outset of His ministry, He had summoned to follow Him. He had promised them a reward. Though at the best they were unprofitable servants, He yet offered them wages, and the wages were the kingdom of heaven itself (Matthew 5:3; Matthew 5:10); in other words, “righteousness, and peace, and joy;” in other words, yet again, “eternal life, seeing and knowing God” (Matthew 5:8; John 17:3). We may trace, I believe, something of a subtle and peculiar fitness in our Lord’s choice of this form of labour, as distinct, on the one side, from free and willing service, and, on the other, from the task-work of slaves. It was not in itself the best or most adequate symbol of the relation of the disciples to their Lord, but as their question, “What shall we have, therefore?” implies, it was that on which their minds were dwelling, and therefore He chose it, adapting Himself so far to their weakness, that He might teach them the lesson which they needed.

Matthew 20:1. For the kingdom of heaven, &c. — The manner in which the following parable is here introduced, (and it is the same in the original,) evidently shows that it was spoken in illustration of the sentence with which the preceding chapter concludes, and from which, therefore, it ought not to have been disjoined. The primary scope of this parable seems to be, to show that many of the Jews would be rejected for their disobedience to the gospel call, and many of the Gentiles accepted in consequence of their obeying it. The secondary, That, of the Gentiles, many who were first converted would be the last and lowest in the kingdom of glory, and many of those who were last converted, would be first and highest therein. The parable seems, also, to have a third intention, namely, to show that those Gentiles who should obey the gospel, whether sooner or later, should be admitted to privileges equal to those conferred on the believing Jews. The kingdom of heaven is like a householder — That is, the manner of God’s proceeding in his kingdom resembles that of a householder, or master of a family, in the management of his vineyard. Which went out early in the morning — Namely, at six, called by the Romans and Jews the first hour. From thence reckoning unto the evening, they called what is nine with us the third hour; twelve, the sixth; three in the afternoon, the ninth; and five, the eleventh. To hire labourers into his vineyard — At the time when the vintage was to be gathered in. As the householder here represents Christ, so the vineyard signifies his church, in which, as in a vineyard, much work is to be done, for which labourers are wanted. With respect to the different hours here mentioned, by early in the morning, or the first hour, some of the ancient fathers understood the ages preceding the flood, in which Adam and Eve, Abel, Enoch, Noah, and probably some others, were called. By the third hour they understood the patriarchal ages succeeding the flood; and by the sixth hour, the times of Moses and the promulgation of the law, and of the establishment of the Jewish Church; by the ninth hour, the times of the prophets; and by the eleventh, those of the Messiah and the calling of the Gentiles. But Dr. Whitby justly objects that, as this parable is intended to illustrate the kingdom of heaven, or the gospel dispensation, and the state of things in the gospel church, that exposition of the fathers cannot be the true one. He therefore explains the first call, early in the morning, of the earliest days of Christ’s preaching, preceded by that of John the Baptist; that of the third hour, as referring to the mission of the apostles) when they were first sent forth to preach in Judea. By the call of the sixth hour, he understands their preaching after the ascension of Christ and the descent of the Holy Ghost, when the church was in its meridian glory; by that of the ninth hour, the preaching of the same apostles to the dispersed Jews in their synagogues, in different parts of the world; and that of the eleventh hour, to the calling of the Gentiles. This exposition, if it do not imply too great a nicety of distinction, seems very plausible, and might probably be intended, partly at least, by our Lord. But others of the ancient fathers, comparing human life to a day, considered the parable as referring also to the several periods of the life of man, namely, to those called and obeying the call in childhood, in youth, in middle age, in declining years, and in old age; and doubtless the parable is capable of, and probably was intended to receive, such an application.20:1-16 The direct object of this parable seems to be, to show that though the Jews were first called into the vineyard, at length the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, and they should be admitted to equal privileges and advantages with the Jews. The parable may also be applied more generally, and shows, 1. That God is debtor to no man. 2. That many who begin last, and promise little in religion, sometimes, by the blessing of God, arrive at a great deal of knowledge, grace, and usefulness. 3. That the recompense of reward will be given to the saints, but not according to the time of their conversion. It describes the state of the visible church, and explains the declaration that the last shall be first, and the first last, in its various references. Till we are hired into the service of God, we are standing all the day idle: a sinful state, though a state of drudgery to Satan, may be called a state of idleness. The market-place is the world, and from that we are called by the gospel. Come, come from this market-place. Work for God will not admit of trifling. A man may go idle to hell, but he that will go to heaven, must be diligent. The Roman penny was sevenpence halfpenny in our money, wages then enough for the day's support. This does not prove that the reward of our obedience to God is of works, or of debt; when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants; but it signifies that there is a reward set before us, yet let none, upon this presumption, put off repentance till they are old. Some were sent into the vineyard at the eleventh hour; but nobody had hired them before. The Gentiles came in at the eleventh hour; the gospel had not been before preached to them. Those that have had gospel offers made them at the third or sixth hour, and have refused them, will not have to say at the eleventh hour, as these had, No man has hired us. Therefore, not to discourage any, but to awaken all, be it remembered, that now is the accepted time. The riches of Divine grace are loudly murmured at, among proud Pharisees and nominal Christians. There is great proneness in us to think that we have too little, and others too much of the tokens of God's favour; and that we do too much, and others too little in the work of God. But if God gives grace to others, it is kindness to them, and no injustice to us. Carnal worldlings agree with God for their penny in this world; and choose their portion in this life. Obedient believers agree with God for their penny in the other world, and must remember they have so agreed. Didst not thou agree to take up with heaven as thy portion, thy all; wilt thou seek for happiness in the creature? God punishes none more than they deserve, and recompenses every service done for him; he therefore does no wrong to any, by showing extraordinary grace to some. See here the nature of envy. It is an evil eye, which is displeased at the good of others, and desires their hurt. It is a grief to ourselves, displeasing to God, and hurtful to our neighbours: it is a sin that has neither pleasure, profit, nor honour. Let us forego every proud claim, and seek for salvation as a free gift. Let us never envy or grudge, but rejoice and praise God for his mercy to others as well as to ourselves.For the kingdom of heaven ... - The word "for" shows that this chapter should have been connected with the preceding. The parable was spoken expressly to illustrate the sentiment in the last verse of that chapter: "Many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first." The kingdom of heaven means here the church, including, perhaps, its state here and hereafter. See the notes at Matthew 3:2. It has reference to rewards, and the meaning may be thus expressed: "Rewards shall be bestowed in my kingdom, or on my followers, in the same manner as they were by a certain householder - in such a way that the last shall be equal to the first, and the first last."

A householder - A master of a family. One at the head of family affairs.

His vineyard - No inconsiderable part of Judea was employed in the culture of the grape. Vineyards are often used, therefore, to represent a fertile or well-cultivated place, and hence the church, denoting the care and culture that God has bestowed on it. See the notes at Isaiah 5:7. Compare Jeremiah 12:10. For the manner of their construction, see the notes at Matthew 21:33.

CHAPTER 20

Mt 20:1-16. Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard.

This parable, recorded only by Matthew, is closely connected with the end of the nineteenth chapter, being spoken with reference to Peter's question as to how it should fare with those who, like himself, had left all for Christ. It is designed to show that while they would be richly rewarded, a certain equity would still be observed towards later converts and workmen in His service.

1. For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, &c.—The figure of a vineyard, to represent the rearing of souls for heaven, the culture required and provided for that purpose, and the care and pains which God takes in that whole matter, is familiar to every reader of the Bible. (Ps 80:8-16; Isa 5:1-7; Jer 2:21; Lu 20:9-16; Joh 15:1-8). At vintage time, as Webster and Wilkinson remark, labor was scarce, and masters were obliged to be early in the market to secure it. Perhaps the pressing nature of the work of the Gospel, and the comparative paucity of laborers, may be incidentally suggested, Mt 9:37, 38. The "laborers," as in Mt 9:38, are first, the official servants of the Church, but after them and along with them all the servants of Christ, whom He has laid under the weightiest obligation to work in His service.Matthew 20:1-16 The parable of the labourers who were hired at

different hours to work in the vineyard.

Matthew 20:17-19 Jesus foretells his own passion and resurrection,

Matthew 20:20-28 answereth the petition of the mother of Zebedee’s

children, and checks the indignation of the other

disciples thereat.

Matthew 20:29-34 He giveth sight to two blind men.

See Poole on "Matthew 20:16".

For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man,.... That is, the Gospel dispensation, or times of the Messiah, may fitly be represented by a man

that is an householder, or master of a family, as Christ is; See Gill on Matthew 10:25 He is master of the whole family of God, in heaven, and in earth, of all the children of God, and household of faith; his house they are, he is Father and master, son and firstborn, priest and prophet there.

Which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard: by "the vineyard" may be meant the church, which, like a vineyard, is separated by electing, redeeming, and calling grace, and by the order and ordinances of the Gospel, from the rest of the world; is set with various vines, with trees of righteousness, with pleasant plants, both fruitful and profitable; and which are dear and valuable to Christ; and about which much care is used to preserve, keep, and improve them. This may be called "his", Christ's, being what he has chosen for himself, his Father has given him, and he is heir of; which he has purchased with his blood, and which he plants, waters, takes care of, and enjoys. The "labourers" design either the ministers of the Gospel, who labour in the word and doctrine, who are, or at least ought to be, labourers in Christ's vineyard, and not loiterers; whose work in study, meditation, and prayer, in the ministration of the word and ordinances, and in performing other services they are called unto, is very laborious; and made more so, through the wickedness of some, and weakness of others: the employment of these labourers in the vineyard is various; the business of some is to plant; they are chiefly made use of in conversion: the work of others is to water; these are instruments in edification, and means of the growth of grace: others have a good hand at pruning, giving reproofs and corrections, in a suitable manner, with success, to the checking of sin, and bringing forth more fruit: others are useful in propping and supporting the vines, comforting and strengthening weak believers; and others in protecting and defending the outworks of the church, the doctrines and ordinances of it: or else private Christians in general may be intended, who all are, or should be labourers, both in the exercise of grace; for there is the work of faith, and the labour of love, to God, Christ, and his people, in which they should be continually employed; and in the discharge of duty, with regard to themselves; and in the care of their own vineyard, with respect to their families, which are their charge, and also to the church of Christ, of which they are members. These labourers are said to be "hired" by the householder, or owner of the vineyard, Christ, not strictly and properly speaking; nor does it mean that he had no prior right to their obedience, or that there is any merit in their labour, or that that is the condition of their salvation; but it signifies the influence of his grace, in making them willing to serve him cheerfully, and labour in his vineyard freely; to encourage them in which, he makes them many gracious, and exceeding great and precious promises, and particularly that of eternal life: for which purpose, it is said, that he "went out", either from his Father as mediator, being sent by him; or from heaven into this world, by the assumption of human nature; or by his Spirit, and the influence of his grace, in the calls of his people, to their several services, in his church; and that "early in the morning": some of them being very early called to labour there; meaning either in the morning of the world, as Adam, Abel, Seth, Enoch, and others; or in the morning of the Jewish church state, as Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and the like; or in the morning of the Gospel dispensation, as the apostles of Christ, which seems most likely; or in the morning of youth, as Timothy and others. Several things, in this first part of the parable, might be illustrated from the Jewish writings. They have a parable indeed, which, in the several parts of it, greatly resembles this, and begins thus (m);

"to what is R. Bon like? to a king that hath a vineyard, , "and hires labourers into it", &c.''

Out of which some other things will be remarked, in the following parts of this parable: of a son's being sent, and going out to hire labourers into the vineyard, take the following instance (n):

"it happened to R. Jochanan ben Matthia, that said to his son, , "go out, and hire labourers" for us: "he went out", and agreed with them for their food.''

The time of hiring labourers, here mentioned, exactly agrees with the Jewish accounts (o).

"Says R. Juda ben Bethira, when the face of all the east is light unto Hebron, all the people go out, every man to his work; and when it is so light, it is good "to hire labourers we say".''

Upon which the gloss says,

"every man goes out to his work, not for labourers, but the "householder", who , "rises earlier to find labourers to hire".''

Perhaps it may not be worth while to observe, how large a spot of ground, set with vines, was, by them, called a vineyard: it is frequently said by them (p),

"that a vineyard planted by less than four cubits, is no vineyard; but R. Simeon, and the wise men, say it is a vineyard.''

(m) Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 21. 3. Vid. Midrash Kohelet, fol. 72. 4. & Talmud Hicros. Beracot, fol 5. 3.((n) Misua Bava Metzia, c. 7. sect. 1.((o) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 28. 2.((p) T. Hieros. Sheviith, fol. 33. 2. T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 37. 2. & 33. 1.

For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an {1} householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.

(1) God is bound to no man, and therefore he calls whoever and whenever he desires. This only every man ought to take heed of, and upon this bestow his whole endeavour, that he go forward and come to the mark without stopping at all or staggering, and to not curiously examine the doings of other men, or the judgments of God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 20:1. The parable is peculiar to Matthew.

γάρ] explaining and confirming what has been said in Matthew 19:30.

ἀνθρ. οἰκοδ.] See notes on Matthew 13:24, Matthew 18:23.

ἅμα πρωΐ] Comp. notes on Matthew 13:29, Acts 28:23 : ἀπὸ πρωΐ. Classical writers would say: ἅμα ἕῳ, ἅμα τῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ἅιμα ὄρθρῳ, and such like.

εἰς τὸν ἀμπελ. αὐτοῦ] into his vineyard, into which he wished to send them, Matthew 20:2. Comp. Acts 7:9; and see, in general, Wilke, Rhetor, p. 47 f.

On the whole parable, see Rupprecht in the Stud. u. Krit. 1847, p. 396 ff.; Steffensen, ibid. 1848, p. 686 ff.; Besser in the Luther. Zeitschr. 1851, p. 122; Rudel, ibid. p. 511; Münchmeyer, ibid. p. 728. For proof that it is not to be regarded as furnishing directions for the regulation of offices, see Köstlin, d. Wesen d. Kirche, 1854, p. 52 ff.Matthew 20:1-16. Parable of the hours, peculiar to Mt., and, whatever its real connection as spoken by Jesus, to be interpreted in relation to its setting as here given, which is not impossible. The parable is brought in as illustrating the aphorism in Matthew 19:30.Ch. Matthew 20:1-16. The Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard. Peculiar to St Matthew

1. For the kingdom of heaven, &c.] There are many possible applications of the parable, but the only true explanation of its meaning to the disciples at the time must be reached by considering the question to which it is an answer. The parable is addressed solely to the disciples. The thread of thought may be traced in this way: It is impossible for a rich man, one who trusts in riches, to enter the kingdom of heaven. The disciples, through Peter, say “We at any rate left all and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” Our Lord’s answer is (1) partly encouraging, (2) partly discouraging.

(1) All who have in a true sense given up all for Christ shall have a great reward (ch. Matthew 19:28-29).

(2) But (Matthew 20:30) priority of time is not everything. The parable is given in explanation of this point. Not only will the disciples not be the only called, but they may not reach a higher place or a higher reward than some who follow them. Still all who work shall have their reward. But they must beware of a spirit very prevalent among hard workers, and not think too much of their own labours, or be displeased because others are equally rewarded.

labourers into his vineyard] i. e. workers for the Church of Christ.Matthew 20:1. Γάρ, for) referring to the last verse of the preceding chapter. There is a similar connection of a parable with what immediately Preceded it, in ch. Matthew 18:23. Peter is taught to be more diffident in asking questions (cf. ch. Matthew 19:27), and in comparing himself with others; cf. Luke 17:5; Luke 17:10, where we see that they think more rightly who consider themselves as unprofitable servants, than they who consider themselves better than others.Verses 1-16. - Parable of the labourers in the vineyard. (Peculiar to St. Matthew.) Verse 1. - For. The following parable is intended to illustrate the apophthegm at the end of the last chapter, which is repeated almost in the same words at the close, "Many that are first," etc., and "The last shall be first," etc. It taught the apostles a lesson in answer to Peter's question (Matthew 19:27), "What shall we have therefore?" and the primary lesson was that the reward of the kingdom is not of debt, but of grace. There are many difficulties in the parable, which may be better noticed after we have expounded its literal bearing and details. The kingdom of heaven is like. That is, what happens in the kingdom of heaven is parallel to the case of a householder, etc. The kingdom of heaven is the Church of Christ, whether militant on earth (when the labourers are hired) or triumphant in heaven (when the reward is bestowed). We may refer to Matthew 13:24, 45, where an analogous comparison is found. Early in the morning (ἅμα πρωί); i.e. at the end of the last night watch (see on ver. 3), wishing to secure labourers, who at vintage time were probably in great request. Vineyard. The Church is elsewhere so called by our Lord (Matthew 21:28, 33, etc.), and in the Old Testament (see Psalm 80:8; Isaiah 5:1; Jeremiah 12:10). For (γάρ)

Explaining and confirming Matthew 19:30.

Early in the morning (ἅμα πρωὶ)

Along with the dawn. "Here (at Hamadan, in Persia), we observed every morning, before the sun rose, that a numerous band of peasants were collected, with spades in their hands, waiting to be hired for the day to work in the surrounding fields. This custom struck me as a most happy illustration of our Saviour's parable, particularly when, passing by the same place late in the day, we found others standing idle, and remembered his words, 'Why stand ye here all the day idle?' as most applicable to their situation; for on putting the very same question to them, they answered us, ' Because no man hath hired us.'" (Morier, "Second Journey through Persia," cited by Trench, "Parables.")

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