Matthew 20:3
And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
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(3) About the third hour.—Reckoning the day after the Jewish mode, as beginning at 6 A.M., this would bring us to 8 A.M. The “market-place” of a town was the natural place in which the seekers for casual labour were to be found waiting for employment. In the meaning which underlies the parable we may see a reference to those who, like St. Matthew (Matthew 9:9) and the disciples called in Matthew 8:19-22, were summoned after the sons of Jonas and of Zebedee.

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.About the third hour - The Jews divided their days into twelve equal parts, or hours, beginning at sunrise and ending at sunset. This was, therefore about nine o'clock in the morning.

Standing idle in the market-place - A place where provisions are sold in towns. Of course, many resort to such places, and it would be the readiest place to meet persons and find employers. They were not, therefore, disposed to be idle, but were waiting in the proper place to find employers.

3. And he went out about the third hour—about nine o'clock, or after a fourth of the working day had expired: the day of twelve hours was reckoned from six to six.

and saw others standing idle in the market place—unemployed.

See Poole on "Matthew 20:16".

And he went out about the third hour,.... About nine o'clock in the morning,

and saw others standing idle in the market place: the place where labourers used to be hired: and may design the world, because a place full of people, and of great wickedness, for the whole world lies in it; a place of trade and traffic in worldly things, and likewise of worldly and carnal pleasure, and also of idleness. Now God's elect before calling, are in this place: they are natives of it, have their conversation according to it: here Christ came in person, and here he sends his ministers, his Gospel, to find them out, and by his Spirit and grace he calls them from hence; so that afterwards they are no more of it, though they are in it: but before conversion they belong to it, and their posture then is standing idle; being sluggish, and slothful in business, unwilling to work, and afraid of a little danger and trouble, sauntering away their time in carnal pleasures, and so clothed with rags, and in a starving, famishing condition: but Christ's eye is upon them; he observes, and takes notice of them in this disagreeable position and situation, and speaks of them in the following manner.

And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
Matthew 20:3. The third hour: somewhere about nine o’clock in the morning. In ordinal numbers the article is unnecessary. See note on 2 Corinthians 7:2.

ἐν τῇ ἀγορᾷ] where they were waiting in expectation of getting employment. The men in question belonged to the class of free labourers; Poll. iii. 82: ἐλεύθεροι μὲν, διὰ πενίαν δὲ ἐπʼ ἀργυρίῳ δουλεύοντες.

Matthew 20:3. τρίτην ὥ.: the article τὴν before τρίτην in T. R., omitted in W. H[111], is not necessary before an ordinal.—ἑστῶτας ἐ. τ. ἀγ.: the marketplace there as here, the place where masters and men met.—ἀργούς (a and ἔργον), not = idle in habit, but unemployed and looking for work.

[111] Westcott and Hort.

Matthew 20:3. Ἄλλους, others) who had not been there at the first hour.

Verse 3. - The third hour. It seems that at this time the Jews divided the day, reckoned between sunrise and sunset, into twelve equal parts, the length of these divisions varying according to the season. The day in Palestine at longest consisted of fourteen European hours twelve minutes, and at shortest of nine hours forty-eight minutes, so that the difference between the longest and shortest division of the so called Jewish "hour" was twenty-two minutes. It is usual to consider the Hebrew day as lasting from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., the sixth hour corresponding to our noon, the first hour being 7 o'clock and the third 9 a.m. This estimate, though not absolutely correct, is near enough to the fact to serve all expository purposes. The four periods mentioned in the parable are quarters of the working day, in which a proportional part of the day's wages might be earned. Standing idle in the marketplace. The Greek agora, the Roman forum, and the Eastern marketplace, was the usual place where idlers and expectant labourers gathered together. Such a scene may often nowadays be witnessed in Oriental cities, and indeed at our own docks, and in many of our small country towns. It must be supposed that the labourers now hired either were not present when the householder first went forth, or that they had then rejected his offer, but now thought better of it. And so, in the case of the others later on. Matthew 20:3
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