Matthew 20:8
So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) When even was come.—It was one of the humane rules of the Mosaic law that the day-labourer was to be paid by the day, and not made to wait for his wages (Deuteronomy 24:15). This law the householder keeps, and his doing so is a feature in his character.

Beginning from the last unto the first.—The order is not without its significance. It was a practical illustration of the words which had introduced the parable, that the last should be the first.

Matthew 20:8. When even was come — Then, as usual, the day-labourers are called and paid. Faithful labourers shall receive a portion of their reward when they die. It is deferred till then, that they may exercise patience in waiting for it; but no longer. As soon as Paul, that faithful labourer, departs, he is with Christ. The general time of reckoning, indeed, and the full payment, will be after the resurrection, in the evening of the world. Then every one will receive according to the deeds done in the body. When time ends, and with it the world, then the state of retribution commenceth. Then it will be said, Call the labourers, and give them their hire. Observe, reader, ministers call them into the vineyard to do their work; death calls out of it to receive their penny: and to those to whom the call into the vineyard is effectual, the call out of it will be joyful. Observe again, they did not come for their pay till they were called: we must with patience wait God’s time for our rest and recompense.

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.When even was come - That is, when the twelfth hour had come; the day was ended, and the time of payment was come.

The steward - A steward is one who transacts business in the place of another. He was one who had the administration of affairs in the absence of the householder, who provided for the family, and who was entrusted with the payment of laborers and servants. He was commonly the most trusty and faithful of the servants, raised to that station as a reward for his fidelity.

Beginning from the last unto the first - It was immaterial where he began to pay, provided he dealt justly by them. In the parable this order is mentioned to give opportunity for the remarks which follow. Had those first hired been first paid, they would have departed satisfied, and the point of the parable would have been lost.

8. So when even was come—that is, the reckoning time between masters and laborers (see De 24:15); pointing to the day of final account.

the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward—answering to Christ Himself, represented "as a Son over His own house" (Heb 3:6; see Mt 11:27; Joh 3:35; 5:27).

Call the labourers and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first—Remarkable direction this—last hired, first paid.

See Poole on "Matthew 20:16".

So when even was come,.... At six o'clock, or when the sun was set, which was the time of paying labourers their wages: thus in the parable of the Jews, before referred to, which bears some resemblance to this, it is said,

"bre tel, (s) that "at evening time" the labourers came to take their wages.''

Sooner than this, one that was hired for a day, could not demand it; nor was the master of the vineyard, who hired him, obliged to pay him till the sun was set (t), which was the time of his going forth from his labour (u). This even may be understood, either of the evening of the Jewish state, upon the calling of the Gentiles; or of the end of the world, the close of the Gospel dispensation; when the work of it will be over, when all the elect of God, Jews and Gentiles, shall be called and gathered in, and all brought to repentance towards God, and faith in Christ.

The lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward: by the lord of the vineyard may be meant God the Father, who has chosen and separated the vineyard of the church for himself; and has made it the care and charge of his Son Jesus Christ; who, as mediator, may be designed by "his steward"; who has not only all the stores of grace in his hand, to distribute to his people, in this life, as their cases require; but has also eternal life and happiness in his possession for them; not only the promise of it, but that itself; and has a power of giving it to as many as the Father hath given him; and which he, the righteous judge, and faithful steward, will give at the day of judgment, to all that love his appearing.

Call the labourers, and give them their hire; the proper time being come: for the Jews say (w).

"it is an affirmative precept to give the wages of an hired person in its time; as it is said, Deuteronomy 24:15 at "his day thou shalt give him his hire"; and if it is prolonged after its time, it is transgressing a negative precept, as it is said, (in the same place,) "neither shall the sun go down upon it."''

So Jews and Gentiles were called to partake of the same Gospel privileges; and so will all the faithful labourers in the Lord's vineyard be called together, and have the reward of eternal life bestowed upon them, and be bid to enter into the joy of their Lord, and inherit the kingdom prepared for them, as they before were ordered to go into the vineyard, and work. And though eternal life may be called hire or reward, because as hire is given to labourers, so is eternal life; and as that is given at the even and close of the day, and when the labourer has done his work, so everlasting glory will be given to the saints at the end of life, and when they have done the will and work of God: yet it will not be bestowed by way of merit, or, as if there was a just proportion between the work, labour, and services of the saints, and the glory that shall be revealed in them. Their purest services, even their sufferings for Christ, are not worthy to be compared with that; nor are there any that are done by them, but what are due to God, what he has a right unto, and are their duty to perform; so that when they are done by them in the best and most perfect manner, they are but unprofitable servants: nor can they, by anything they do, be profitable to God, or give anything to him, which can be obligatory upon him, to do anything for them, or be a valuable consideration for anything they should receive from him; and therefore they cannot merit anything at his hand, and much less eternal life: besides, their services are impure and imperfect, and whenever anything is well done by them, it is done not by their own strength and might, but by the assistance and grace of God; and therefore they can have no demand upon him for what they do: eternal life, though a reward, is not a reward of debt, but of grace; it is the free gift of God through Christ; God has graciously promised it in the covenant of his grace, before the world began; he has given it into the hands of his Son for his people, with whom it is sure; and he gives it freely to all the sheep the Father has given him.

Beginning from the last unto the first; beginning with the last that was called and sent into the vineyard, and so proceeding on to the next to them; giving them their wages as he went along, till he came to the first, who were early in the morning hired into this service; intimating, that some such method will be taken in the introducing of the saints into the kingdom of the Messiah here, and into his everlasting kingdom hereafter; whereby that saying of our Lord's which occasioned this parable, will be also fulfilled, "the first shall be last, and last first".

(s) Shirashirim Rabba, fol. 21. 3. Midrash Kohelet, fol. 72. 4. T. Hicros. Beracot, fol. 5. 3.((t) Bartenora in Misn. Bava Metzia, c. 9. sect. 11. (u) Jarchi in Leviticus 19.13. (w) Maimen, Helch. Secirut, c. 11. sect. 1.

So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 20:8. Ὀψίας δὲ γεν.] i.e. at the close of the twelfth hour (six o’clock in the evening).

τῷ ἐπιτρόπῳ αὐτοῦ] the chief of the servants (οἰκονόμος), to whom was entrusted the management of the household, Luke 8:3.

τὸν μισθόν] the wages in question. The οἰκονόμος had instructions from his master to give the same amount of wages to all, although all had not wrought the same number of hours.

ἕως τῶν πρώτων] is connected with ἀπόδος αὐτ. τ. μισθ., without anything requiring to be understood (and continuing, and such like), as is evident from those passages in which the terminus ad quem is placed first; for example, Plat. Legg. vi. p. 771 C: πάσας τὰς διανομὰς ἔχει μέχρι τῶν δώδεκα ἀπὸ μιᾶς ἀρξάμενος. Comp. Luke 23:5; Acts 1:21; John 8:9.

Matthew 20:8-12. The evening settlement.

Matthew 20:8. Ὀψίας δὲ γενομένης, but when even was come) A prophetic allusion is made to the Last Judgment. The evening of each individual’s life resembles the evening of the world.—ἀπὸ τῶν ἐσχάτων ἕως τῶν πρώτων, from the last unto the first) They were all divided into these two classes; for all are reckoned amongst the first, who came before the eleventh hour; see Matthew 20:9-10.

Verse 8. - When even was come. According to Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 24:15), a hired labourer was to be paid his wages at sunset, i.e. at the twelfth hour. Steward. The lord himself is said to have hired the labourers, but he commits the payment of them to his steward, as his representative, to whom such matters of detail were entrusted. From the last. Those last hired were first to receive their hire (τὸν μισθόν), that which it had been agreed to pay them, in one case "a penny," in the others "that which was just." Why the last are rewarded first is one of the difficulties of the parable. To say that this is done because in their one hour's work they did more than all the rest, is a solution which is supported by nothing in the story itself. It should, in the primary interpretation, rather be conceived as depending on the lord's good pleasure. Matthew 20:8
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