Mark 12:1
And he began to speak to them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and dig a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to farmers, and went into a far country.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XII.

(1-12) And he began to speak unto them by parables.—See Notes on Matthew 21:33-36. The parable which, like that of the Sower, and like that only, is related in all the first three Gospels, was one which had obviously impressed itself strongly, as that had done, on the minds of those who heard it, and was reproduced by independent reporters with an almost textual exactness.

A place for the winefat.—Better, simply, a vine vat.

Mark

DISHONEST TENANTS

Mark 12:1 - Mark 12:12
.

The ecclesiastical rulers had just been questioning Jesus as to the authority by which He acted. His answer, a counter-question as to John’s authority, was not an evasion. If they decided whence John came, they would not be at any loss as to whence Jesus came. If they steeled themselves against acknowledging the Forerunner, they would not be receptive of Christ’s message. That keen-edged retort plainly indicates Christ’s conviction of the rulers’ insincerity, and in this parable He charges home on these solemn hypocrites their share in the hereditary rejection of messengers whose authority was unquestionable. Much they cared for even divine authority, as they and their predecessors had shown through centuries! The veil of parable is transparent here. Jesus increased in severity and bold attack as the end drew near.

I. The parable begins with a tender description of the preparation and allotment of the vineyard.

The picture is based upon Isaiah’s lovely apologue {Isaiah 5:1}, which was, no doubt, familiar to the learned officials. But there is a slight difference in the application of the metaphor which in Isaiah means the nation, and in the parable is rather the theocracy as an institution, or, as we may put it roughly, the aggregate of divine revelations and appointments which constituted the religious prerogatives of Israel.

Our Lord follows the original passage in the description of the preparation of the vineyard, but it would probably be going too far to press special meanings on the wall, the wine-press, and the watchman’s tower. The fence was to keep off marauders, whether passers-by or ‘the boar out of the wood’ {Psalm 80:12 - Psalm 80:13}; the wine-press, for which Mark uses the word which means rather the vat into which the juice from the press proper flowed, was to extract and collect the precious liquid; the tower was for the watchman.

A vineyard with all these fittings was ready for profitable occupation. Thus abundantly had God furnished Israel with all that was needed for fruitful, happy service. What was true of the ancient Church is still more true of us who have received every requisite for holy living. Isaiah’s solemn appeal has a still sharper edge for Christians: ‘Judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it?’

The ‘letting of the vineyard to husbandmen’ means the committal to Israel and its rulers of these divine institutions, and the holding them responsible for their fruitfulness. It may be a question whether the tenants are to be understood as only the official persons, or whether, while these are primarily addressed, they represent the whole people. The usual interpretation limits the meaning to the rulers, but, if so, it is difficult to carry out the application, as the vineyard would then have to be regarded as being the nation, which confuses all. The language of Matthew {which threatens the taking of the vineyard and giving it to another nation} obliges us to regard the nation as included in the husbandmen, though primarily the expression is addressed to the rulers.

But more important is it to note the strong expressions for man’s quasi-independence and responsibility. The Jew was invested with full possession of the vineyard. We all, in like manner, have intrusted to us, to do as we will with, the various gifts and powers of Christ’s gospel. God, as it were, draws somewhat apart from man, that he may have free play for his choice, and bear the burden of responsibility. The divine action was conspicuous at the time of founding the polity of Judaism, and then came long years in which there were no miracles, but all things continued as they were. God was as near as before, but He seemed far off. Thus Jesus has, in like manner, gone ‘into a far country to receive a kingdom and to return’; and we, the tenants of a richer vineyard than Israel’s, have to administer what He has intrusted to us, and to bring near by faith Him who is to sense far off.

II. The next scenes paint the conduct of the dishonest vine-dressers.

We mark the stern, dark picture drawn of the continued and brutal violence, as well as the flagrant unfaithfulness, of the tenants. Matthew’s version gives emphasis to the increasing harshness of treatment of the owner’s messengers, as does Mark’s. First comes beating, then wounding, then murder. The interpretation is self-evident. The ‘servants’ are the prophets, mostly men inferior in rank to the hierarchy, shepherds, fig-gatherers, and the like. They came to rouse Israel to a sense of the purpose for which they had received their distinguishing prerogatives, and their reward had been contempt and maltreatment. They ‘had trial of mockings and scourgings, of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were slain with the sword.’

The indictment is the same as that by which Stephen wrought the Sanhedrim into a paroxysm of fury. To make such a charge as Jesus did, in the very Temple courts, and with the already hostile priests glaring at Him while He spoke, was a deliberate assault on them and their predecessors, whose true successors they showed themselves to be. They had just been solemnly questioning Him as to His authority. He answers by thus passing in review the uniform treatment meted by them and their like to those who came with God’s manifest authority.

If a mere man had spoken this parable, we might admire the magnificent audacity of such an accusation. But the Speaker is more than man, and we have to recognise the judicial calmness and severity of His tone. Israel’s history, as it shaped itself before His ‘pure eyes and perfect judgment,’ was one long series of divine favours and of human ingratitude, of ample preparations for righteous living and of no result, of messengers sent and their contumelious rejection. We wonder at the sad monotony of such requital. Are we doing otherwise?

III. Then comes the last effort of the Owner, the last arrow in the quiver of Almighty Love.

Two things are to be pondered in this part of the parable. First, that wonderful glimpse into the depths of God’s heart, in the hope expressed by the Owner of the vineyard, brings out very clearly Christ’s claim, made there before all these hostile, keen critics, to stand in an altogether singular relation to God. He asserts His Sonship as separating Him from the class of prophets who are servants only, and as constituting a relationship with the Father prior to His coming to earth. His Sonship is no mere synonym for His Messiahship, but was a fact long before Bethlehem; and its assertion lifts for us a corner of the veil of cloud and darkness round the throne of God. Not less striking is the expression of a frustrated hope in ‘they will reverence My Son.’ Men can thwart God’s purpose. His divine charity ‘hopeth all things.’ The mystery thus sharply put here is but that which is presented everywhere in the co-existence of God’s purposes and man’s freedom.

The other noteworthy point is the corresponding casting of the vine-dressers’ thoughts into words. Both representations are due to the graphic character of parable; both crystallise into speech motives which were not actually spoken. It is unnecessary to suppose that even the rulers of Israel had gone the awful length of clear recognition of Christ’s Messiahship, and of looking each other in the face and whispering such a fiendish resolve. Jesus is here dragging to light unconscious motives. The masses did wish to have their national privileges and to avoid their national duties. The rulers did wish to have their sway over minds and consciences undisturbed. They did resent Jesus’ interference, chiefly because they instinctively felt that it threatened their position. They wanted to get Him out of the way, that they might lord it at will. They could have known that He was the Son, and they suppressed dawning suspicions that He was. Alas! they have descendants still in many of us who put away His claims, even while we secretly recognise them, in order that we may do as we like without His meddling with us! The rulers’ calculation was a blunder. As Augustine says, ‘They slew Him that they might possess, and, because they slew, they lost.’ So is it always. Whoever tries to secure any desired end by putting away his responsibility to render to God the fruit of his thankful service, loses the good which he would fain clutch at for his own. All sin is a mistake.

The parable passes from thinly veiled history to equally transparent prediction. How sadly and how unshrinkingly does the meek yet mighty Victim disclose to the conspirators His perfect knowledge of the murder which they were even now hatching in their minds! He foresees all, and will not lift a finger to prevent it. Mark puts the ‘killing’ before the ‘casting out of the vineyard,’ while Matthew and Luke invert the order of the two things. The slaughtered corpse was, as a further indignity, thrown over the wall, by which is symbolically expressed His exclusion from Israel, and the vine-dressers’ delusion that they now had secured undisturbed possession.

IV. The last point is the authoritative sentence on the evil-doers.

Mark’s condensed account makes Christ Himself answer His own question. Probably we are to suppose that, with hypocritical readiness, some of the rulers replied, as the other Evangelists represent, and that Jesus then solemnly took up their words. If anything could have enraged the rulers more than the parable itself, the distinct declaration of the transference of Israel’s prerogatives to more worthy tenants would do so. The words are heavy with doom. They carry a lesson for us. Stewardship implies responsibility, and faithlessness, sooner or later, involves deprivation. The only way to keep God’s gifts is to use them for His glory. ‘The grace of God,’ says Luther somewhere, ‘is like a flying summer shower.’ Where are Ephesus and the other apocalyptic churches? Let us ‘take heed lest, if God spared not the natural branches, He also spare not us.’

Jesus leaves the hearers with the old psalm ringing in their ears, which proclaimed that ‘the stone which the builders rejected becomes the head stone of the corner.’ Other words of the same psalm had been chanted by the crowd in the procession on entering the city. Their fervour was cooling, but the prophecy would still be fulfilled. The builders are the same as the vine-dressers; their rejection of the stone is parallel with slaying the Son.

But though Jesus foretells His death, He also foretells His triumph after death. How could He have spoken, almost in one breath, the prophecy of His being slain and ‘cast out of the vineyard,’ and that of His being exalted to be the very apex and shining summit of the true Temple, unless He had been conscious that His death was indeed not the end, but the centre, of His work, and His elevation to universal and unchanging dominion?Mark 12:1-11. He began to speak unto them by parables — “Christ having showed the rulers, chief priests, and scribes, the heinousness of their sin, in rejecting John the Baptist, (Matthew 21:28-32,) judged it proper, likewise, publicly to represent the crime of the nation, in rejecting all the messengers of God from first to last, and among the rest his only-begotten Son; and in mis-improving the Mosaic dispensation, under which they lived. At the same time, he warned them plainly of their danger, by reason of the punishment which they had incurred, on account of such a continued course of disobedience and rebellion. The outward economy of religion, in which they gloried, was to be taken from them; their relation to God as his people cancelled; and their national constitution destroyed. But because these were topics extremely disagreeable, he couched them under the veil of a parable, which he formed upon one made use of long before, by the Prophet Isaiah 5:1.” — Macknight. A certain man planted a vineyard, &c. — See this parable explained at large in the notes on Matthew 21:33-46.12:1-12 Christ showed in parables, that he would lay aside the Jewish church. It is sad to think what base usage God's faithful ministers have met with in all ages, from those who have enjoyed the privileges of the church, but have not brought forth fruit answerable. God at length sent his Son, his Well-beloved; and it might be expected that he whom their Master loved, they also should respect and love; but instead of honouring him because he was the Son and Heir, they therefore hated him. But the exaltation of Christ was the Lord's doing; and it is his doing to exalt him in our hearts, and to set up his throne there; and if this be done, it cannot but be marvellous in our eyes. The Scriptures, and faithful preachers, and the coming of Christ in the flesh, call on us to render due praise to God in our lives. Let sinners beware of a proud, carnal spirit; if they revile or despise the preachers of Christ, they would have done so their Master, had they lived when he was upon earth.See this parable explained in the notes at Matthew 21:33-46.

See this parable explained in the notes at Matthew 21:33-46.

CHAPTER 12

Mr 12:1-12. Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen. ( = Mt 21:33-46; Lu 20:9-18).

See on [1481]Mt 21:33-46.Mark 12:1-12 In the parable of the vineyard let out to wicked

husbandmen Christ foretells the reprobation of the

Jews, and the calling of the Gentiles.

Mark 12:13-17 His reply to the insidious question concerning paying

tribute to Caesar.

Mark 12:18-27 He confutes the Sadducees who questioned him

concerning the resurrection.

Mark 12:28-34 He shows which are the two great commandments of

the law.

Mark 12:35-37 He proposes a difficulty to the scribes concerning the

character of Christ.

Mark 12:38-40 He cautions the people against their ambition and hypocrisy,

Mark 12:41-44 and values the poor widow’s two mites above all the

gifts of the rich.

Ver. 1-12. This parable is related by Matthew, and by Luke also: See Poole on "Matthew 21:33", and following verses to Matthew 21:46. Matthew 21:12 tells us, that the rulers of the Jewish church knew that he had spoken this parable against them, and they needs must know it, considering what Matthew adds to this parable, (which Mark and Luke have not), that he also told them, Matthew 21:43, Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. By the man planting a vineyard, is to be understood God, who, Psalm 80:8-11, brought a vine out of Egypt, and cast out the heathen, and planted it in the land of Canaan, and prepared room for it, and caused it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river. It was a noble vine, a right seed, Jeremiah 2:21. God planted it in a fruitful hill; he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, Isaiah 5:1,2. The church of the Jews then was this vineyard, which God hedged by his providence, and gave them all means necessary for the production of fruit. The servants sent to receive the fruit, so abused by the husbandmen, (as Mark 12:2-5,) were the prophets. 2 Chronicles 36:16 is a compendious exposition of these verses.

They mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words and misused his prophets. The son mentioned as sent at last was Christ, and the latter part of the parable is prophetical, foretelling what they should do unto him, and also of the ruin of the Jewish nation and church, and the passing of the gospel to the Gentiles, who should more freely believe in Christ, and embrace and receive the gospel: so as they should not obtain their end; but Christ, though rejected by them, should yet be the Head of a far larger and more glorious church, according to a prophecy owned by themselves as a piece of holy writ, Psalm 118:22. See Poole on "Matthew 21:33", &c.

And he began to speak unto them by parables,.... As of the two sons the father bid go to work in the vineyard; and of the planting of a vineyard, and letting it out to husbandmen, as here; though the latter is only related by this evangelist, yet both are by Matthew. This was not the first time of his speaking by parables to the people, though it might be the first time he spake in this way to the chief priests and elders, and who are particularly designed in them.

A certain man planted a vineyard. The Persic version adds, "with many trees": that is, with vines, though sometimes other trees, as fig trees, were planted in vineyards; see Luke 13:6. This man is, by the Evangelist Matthew, called an "householder": by whom is meant God the Father, as distinguished from his Son, he is afterward said to send: and by the "vineyard", planted by him, is meant the vineyard of the Lord of hosts, the men of Israel, Isaiah 5:1;

and set an hedge about it, or "wall", as the Persic version renders it; meaning either the law, not the Jews oral law, or the traditions of the elders, which were not of God's setting, but the ceremonial and moral law; or the wall of protection by divine power, which was set around the Jewish nation especially when they went up to their solemn feasts.

And digged a place for the winefat. The Syriac and Arabic versions add, "in it"; and the Persic version, "in the vineyard"; for this was made in the vineyard, where they, trod and squeezed the grapes when gathered; and may design the altar in the house of the Lord, where the libations, or drink offerings, were poured out;

and built a tower. The Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions add, "in it"; for this also was built in the vineyard, and may intend either the city of Jerusalem; or the temple in it, the watch house where the priests watched, and did their service, day and night.

And let it out to husbandmen; or "workmen", as the Arabic version renders it, who wrought in it, and took care of the vines. The Ethiopic version renders it, "and set over it a worker and keeper of the vineyard"; by whom are meant the priests and Levites, to whom were committed the care of the people, with respect to religious things:

and went into a far country; left the people of the Jews to these husbandmen, or rulers, whether civil or ecclesiastical, but chiefly the latter, to be instructed and directed by them, according to the laws and rules given them by the Lord; See Gill on Matthew 21:33.

And {1} he began to speak unto them by {a} parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.

(1) The calling of God is unbounded, without exception, in regard to place, person, or time.

(a) This word parable, which the evangelists use, not only signifies a comparing of things together, but also speeches and allegories with hidden meaning.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Mark 12:1-12. See on Matthew 21:33-46. Comp. Luke 20:9-19. Matthew makes another kindred parable precede, which was undoubtedly likewise original, and to be found in the collection of Logia (Mark 12:28-32), and he enriches the application of the parable before us in an equally original manner; while, we may add, the presentation in Mark is simpler and more fresh, not related to that of Matthew in the way of heightened and artificial effect (Weiss).

ἤρξατο] after that dismissal of the chief priests, etc.

αὐτοῖς] therefore not as Luke has it: πρὸς τὸν λαόν, to which also Matthew is opposed.

ἐν παραβολαῖς] parabolically. The plural expression is generic; comp. Mark 3:22, Mark 4:2. Hence it is not surprising (Hilgenfeld). Comp. also John 16:24.

Mark 12:2. According to Mark and Luke, the lord receives a part of the fruits; the rest is the reward of the vine-dressers. It is otherwise in Matthew.

Mark 12:4. Observe how compendiously Matthew sums up the contents of Mark 12:4-5.[146]

κἀκεῖνον] The conception of maltreatment lies at the foundation of the comparative also, just as at Mark 12:5. Comp. on Matthew 15:3.

ἐκεφαλαίωσαν] they beat him on the head. The word is not further preserved in this signification (Vulg.: in capite vulnerarunt), but only in the meaning: to gather up as regards the main substance, to set forth summarily (Thuc. iii. 67. 5, viii. 53. 1; Herod. iii. 159; Sir 35:8); but this is wholly inappropriate in this place, since it is not, with Wakefield, Silv. crit. II. p. 76 f., to be changed into the meaning: “they made short work with him.”[147] We have here a veritable solecism; Mark confounded κεφαλαιόω with ΚΕΦΑΛΊΖΩ, perhaps after the analogy of ΓΝΑΘΌΩ and ΓΥΙΌΩ (Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 9 5).

ἠτίμησαν (see the critical remarks): they dishonoured him, treated him disgracefully, the general statement after the special ἐκεφαλ. The word is poetical, especially epic (Hom. Il. i. 11, ix. 111; Od. xvi. 274, al.; Pind. Pyth. ix. 138; Soph. Aj. 1108; Ellendt, Lex. Soph. I. p. 251), as also in this sense the later form ἀτιμόω, of frequent use in the LXX. (Eur. Hel. 462, al.), which in the prose writers is used in the sense of inflicting dishonour by depriving of the rights of citizenship (also in Xen. Ath. i. 14, where ἀτιμοῦσι is to be read).

Mark 12:5. Κ. ΠΟΛΛΟῪς ἌΛΛΟΥς] Here we have to supply: they maltreated—the dominant idea in what is previously narrated (comp. κἀκεῖνον, Mark 12:4-5, where this conception lay at the root of the ΚΑΊ), and to which the subsequent elements ΔΈΡΟΝΤΕς and ἈΠΟΚΤΕΝΝΌΝΤΕς are subordinated. Comp. Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 252 [E. T. 293]. But Mark does not write “in a disorderly and slipshod manner,” as de Wette supposes, but just like the best classical writers, who leave the finite verb to be supplied from the context in the case of participles and other instances. See Bornemann, ad Xen. Sympos. iv. 53; Hermann, ad Viger. p. 770; Nägelsbach, Anm. z. Ilias, ed. 3, p. 179.

Mark 12:6. The ἔτι ἕνα εἶχεν υἱὸν ἀγ. (see the critical remarks), which is peculiar to the graphic Mark, has in it something touching, to which the bringing of ἝΝΑ into prominence by the unusual position assigned to it contributes. Then, in vivid connection therewith stands the contrast of Mark 12:7-8; and the trait of the parable contained in Mark 12:7 f. certainly does not owe its introduction to Mark (Weiss).

Mark 12:8. Not a hysteron proteron (Grotius, Heumann, de Wette), a mistake, which is with the greatest injustice imputed to the vividly graphic Mark; but a different representation from that of Matthew and Luke: they killed him, and threw him (the slain) out of the vineyard. In the latter there is the tragic element of outrage even against the corpse, which is not, however, intended to be applied by way of special interpretation to Jesus.

Mark 12:9. ἐλεύσεται κ.τ.λ.] not an answer of the Pharisees (Vatablus, Kuinoel, following Matthew 21:41); but Jesus Himself is represented by Mark as replying to His own question.[148]

Mark 12:10. οὐδέ] What Jesus has set before them in the way of parable concerning the rejection of the Messiah and His divine justification, is also prophesied in the Scripture, Psalm 118:22; hence He continues: have ye not also read this Scripture, etc.? On γραφή, that which is drawn up in writing, used of individual passages of Scripture, comp. Luke 4:21; John 19:37; Acts 1:16; Acts 8:35.

Mark 12:12. καὶ ἐφοβ. τ. ὄχλ.] καί connects adversative clauses without changing its signification, Hartung, Partikell. I. p. 147 f.; Winer, p. 388 [E. T. 545]. It is an emphatic and in the sense of: and yet. Especially frequent in John.

The words ἔγνωσαν γὰρεἶπε, which are not to be put in a parenthesis, are regarded as illogically placed (see Beza, Heupel, Fritzsche, Baur, Hilgenfeld, and others), and are held to have their proper place after κρατῆσαι. But wrongly. Only let ἔγνωσαν be referred not, with these interpreters, to the chief priests, scribes, and elders, but to the ὄχλος, which was witness of the transaction in the temple-court. If the people had not observed that Jesus was speaking the parable in reference to (πρός) them (the chief priests, etc., as the γεωργούς), these might have ventured to lay hold on Him; but, as it was, they might not venture on this, but had to stand in awe of the people, who would have seen at once in the arrest of Jesus the fulfilment of the parable, and would have interested themselves on His behalf. The chief priests, etc., were cunning enough to avoid this association, and left Him and went their way. In this manner also Luke 20:19 is to be understood; he follows Mark.

[146] All the less ought the several δοῦλοι to be specifically defined; as, for instance, according to Victor Antiochenus, by the first servant is held to be meant Elias and the contemporary prophets; by the second, Isaiah, Hosea, and Amos; by the third, Ezekiel and Daniel. That the expression in vv. 2–4 is in the singular, notwithstanding the plurality of prophets, cannot in a figurative discourse be surprising, and cannot justify the conjecture that here another parable—of the three years of Christ’s ministry—has been interwoven (Weizsäcker).

[147] This explanation is set aside by αὐτόν, which, moreover, is opposed to the view of Theophylact: συνετέλεσαν καὶ ἐκορύφωσαν τὴν υβριν. The middle is used in Greek with an accusative of the person (τινά), but in the sense: briefly to describe any one. See Plat. Pol. ix. p. 576 B.

[148] That the opponents themselves are compelled to pronounce judgment (Matthew), appears an original trait. But the form of their answer in Matthew (κακοὺς κακῶς κ.τ.λ.) betrays, as compared with Mark, a later artificial manipulation.Mark 12:1-12. Parable of the wicked vinedressers (Matthew 21:33-46, Luke 20:9-19).Ch. Mark 12:1-12. Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen

1. by parables] Another Parable spoken at this time was that of “the Two Sons” (Matthew 21:28-32), and “the Marriage of the King’s Son” (Matthew 22:1-14). St Mark relates only the second of these three Parables.

A certain man planted a vineyard] Our Lord seems to take up the words of the prophet Isaiah (Mark 5:1-7) and to build His teaching the more willingly on the old foundations, as He was accused of destroying the Law. Comp. Deuteronomy 32:32; Psalm 80:8-16; Ezekiel 15:1-6; Hosea 10:1. By the Vineyard we are to understand the Kingdom of God, as successively realized in its idea (1) by the Jew, and (2) by the Gentile. Trench’s Parables, p. 193.

planted] The householder not merely possessed, he “planted” the vineyard. So God planted His spiritual vineyard (a) under Moses (Deuteronomy 32:12-14; Exodus 15:17), (b) under Joshua, when the Jews were established in the land of Canaan.

an hedge about it] Not a hedge of thorns, but a stone wall to keep out wild boars (Psalm 80:13), jackals, and foxes (Numbers 22:24; Song of Solomon 2:15; Nehemiah 4:3). The word only occurs (a) here, (b) in the parallel Matthew 21:33, (c) in Luke 14:23, “go ye into the highways and hedges,” and (d) Ephesians 2:14, “the middle wall of partition.” “Enclosures of loose stone, like the walls of fields in Derbyshire or Westmoreland, everywhere catch the eye on the bare slopes of Hebron, of Bethlehem, and of Olivet.” Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, p. 421.

a place for the winefat] “dalf a lake,” Wyclif; “digged a pit to receauve the lycour of the wynepresse,” Geneva; “digged a trough,” Rhemish Version. The original word only occurs here in the N.T., and = the Latin lacus. The winepress, = torcular (Matthew 21:33), consisted of two parts; (1) the press (gath) or trough above, in which the grapes were placed, and there trodden by the feet of several persons amidst singing and other expressions of joy (Jdg 9:27; Isaiah 16:10; Jeremiah 25:30); (2) a smaller trough (yekeb), into which the expressed juice flowed through a hole or spout (Nehemiah 13:15; Isaiah 63:2; Lamentations 1:15). Here the smaller trough, which was often hollowed (“digged”) out of the earth or native rock and then lined with masonry, is put for the whole apparatus, and is called a wine-fat. This word occurs also in Isaiah 63:2; Hosea 9:2, marg.; compare press-fat, Haggai 2:16; and fat, Joel 2:24; Joel 3:13. Fat from A. S. fæt = a vessel, vat, according to the modern spelling. Comp. Shakespeare, Ant. and Cleop. ii. 7. 120:—

“Come thou monarch of the vine,

Plumpie Bacchus, with pinke eyne:

In thy fattes our cares be drown’d.”

and built a tower] i. e. a “tower of the watchman,” rendered “cottage” in Isaiah 1:8; Isaiah 24:20. Here the watchers and vinedressers lived (Isaiah 5:2), and frequently, with slings, scared away wild animals and robbers. At the corner of each enclosure “rises its square grey towers, at first sight hardly distinguishable from the ruins of ancient churches or fortresses, which lie equally scattered over the hills of Judæa.” Stanley, p. 421.

to husbandmen] By these the spiritual leaders and teachers of the Jewish nation (Malachi 2:7; Ezekiel 34:2) are intended. Their land, secluded and yet central, was hedged round on the east by the river Jordan, on the south by the desert of Idumæa, on the west by the sea, on the north by Libanus and Anti-Libanus, while they themselves were separated by the Law, “the middle wall of partition” (Ephesians 2:14), from the Gentiles and idolatrous nations around.

went into a far country] “for a long while,” adds St Luke, or “many times.” “At Sinai, when the theocratic constitution was founded, and in the miracles which accompanied the deliverance from Egypt, the Lord may be said to have openly manifested Himself to Israel; but then to have withdrawn Himself again for awhile, not speaking to the people again face to face (Deuteronomy 34:10-12), but waiting in patience to see what the Law would effect, and what manner of works the people, under the teaching of their spiritual guides, would bring forth.” Trench, Parables, p. 197.Verse 1. - And he began to speak unto them in parables. This particular parable which follows was specially directed against the scribes and Pharisees; but it was uttered in the presence of a multitude of the people. "He began to speak... in parables." He had not used this form of instruction till now in Jerusalem. A man planted a vineyard. The imagery of the parable would be familiar to them from Isaiah (Isaiah 5:1). But Palestine was eminently a land of "vineyards," as well as of "oil olives." The man who planted the vineyard is no other than God himself. "Thou hast brought a vine" out of Egypt; thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it." The imagery is specially appropriate. No property was considered to yield so rich a return as the vineyard, and none required such unceasing care and attention. The vine represents the kingdom of God in its idea and conception; not the Jewish Church in particular. The owner of this vineyard had himself made it. (He had "planted it." This planting took place in the establishment of the Jewish polity in the land of Canaan, when the heathen were cast out. He set a hedge about it. This and the following descriptions are not mere ornaments of the parable. The "hedge" was an important protection to the vineyard. It might be a wall or a "quick hedge," a living fence. The vineyards in the East may now be seen often with a strong hedge planted round them. Such hedges, made of the prickly cactus, are to be seen at this day in the neighborhood of Joppa. Figuratively, this hedge would represent the middle wall of partition which then existed between the Jew and the Gentile; and in this, their separation from the idolatrous nations around them, lay the security of the Jews that they should enjoy the continued protection of God. It is well remarked by Archbishop Trench that the geographical position of Judaea was figurative of this, the spiritual separation of the people - guarded as Judaea was eastward by the river Jordan and its chain of lakes, northward by Antilibanus, southward by the desert and Idumaea, and westward by the Mediterranean Sea. Digged a place for the winepress (ληνός torcular); the words are literally, digged a pit for the winepress (ὤρυξεν ὑπολήνιον); the digging could only apply to the pit, a place hollowed out and then fitted with masonry. Sometimes these pits were formed out of the solid rock. Examples of these are frequent in Palestine. There were usually two pits hollowed out of the rock, one sloping to the other, and with openings between them. The grapes were placed in the upper pit; and the juice, crushed out by the feet of men, flowed into the lower pit, from whence it was taken out and put into wine-skins. "I have trodden the winepress alone." And built a tower. The tower (πύργον) was probably the watch-tower, where a watchman was placed to guard the vineyard from plunderers. Particular directions are given in the rabbinical writings (see Lightfoot) for the dimensions both of the winepress and of the tower. The tower was to be ten cubits high and four cubits square. It is described as "a high place, where the vine-dresser stands to overlook the vineyard." Such towers are still to be seen in Palestine, especially in the neighborhood of Bethlehem, of Hebron, and in the vine-growing districts of Lebanon. And let it out to husbandmen. The husbandmen would be the ordinary stated teachers of the people, though not excluding the people themselves. The Jewish nation in fact, both the teachers and the taught, represented the husbandmen, each member of the Church, then as now, being required to seek the welfare of the whole, body. And went into a far country (καὶ ἀπεδήμηδε); literally, and went into another country. St. Luke (Luke 20:9) adds (χρόνους ἱκανούς), "for a long time." Wine-fat (ὑπολήνιον)

Rev., winespress. Only here in New Testament. The wine-press was constructed in the side of a sloping rock, in which a trough was excavated, which was the wine-press proper. Underneath this was dug another trough, with openings communicating with the trough above, into which the juice ran from the press. This was called by the Romans lacus, or the lake. The word here used for the whole structure strictly means this trough underneath (ὑπό) the press (ληνός). This is the explanation of Wyc.'s translation, dalf (delved), a lake.

Went into a far country (ἀπεδήμησεν)

But this is too strong. The word means simply went abroad. So Wyc., went forth in pilgrimage ; and Tynd., into a strange country. Rev., another country. See on Matthew 25:14.

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