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Parable of the Unfaithful Husbandmen.
MATT. XXI. 33-41.---MARK XII. 1-9. --LUKE XX. 9-16.
"There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a wine-press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. 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 heritance. 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? 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."-Matt. xxi. 33-41. i. 33—4
45 44 1
THE design of this parable was borrowed in part from the prophecy of Isaiah, although it is considerably extended hy our Lord. Isaiah v. 1, 2. It was spoken to the chief priests and elders, ver. 23, as was the parable which we last noticed. This is evident from ver. 33, "Hear another parable;" a sure proof that both were delivered to the same persons. Let us attend first to the illustration of the terms of the parable, and second to its true ap -¡plication.
"There was a certain householder which plant ed a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and dig
ged a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country." The vineyards of the east were sometimes hedged about with thorns, and sometimes enclosed by walls. Psalms lxxx. 12. The wine press is repre sented to have been dug in the vineyard. This, says Kenrick, "is agreeable to the custom of the east, where wine presses are not moveable, as with Europeans, but formed by digging hollow places in the ground, and surrounding them with mason work." The tower was placed so as to overlook the whole vineyard, and it was designed not for purposes of security, but of watching, to guard the vineyard from thieves, when the fruit was ripe.2 "And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. The rent of the vineyard was paid from the products of it.This was a very/ general custom, as we have illustrated under the parable of the "Unjust Steward."
The means of divine instruction which God from time to time had afforded the Jews, are, in the parable, represented by a vineyard hedged round about, and put in the most perfect order. AY
The servants whom the householder sent to the husbandmen to receive the fruits of the vineyard, represent those whom God had sent, at different times, to the house of Israel, to induce them to.
" Exposition on the passage.
2 Mr. Buckingham, an eastern traveller of considerable note, remarks, that in the route between Jerusalem, and the convent of St. Elias, he was particularly struck with the appearance of several small and detached square towers, in the midst of the vineyards. These, his guide informed him, were used as watch towers, whence watchmen to this day look out, in order to guard the produce of the lands from depredations.'
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bring forth fruit worthy of the distinguished advantages which they had enjoyed.
These servants were treated with contumely and cruelty. Some were beaten, some were stoned, and some were slain. Other servants were sent, and they were treated in the same manner. Last of all the householder sent his son, and he was slain. The application of this can hardly be mistook. All the messengers whom God had sent to the house of Israel met with such a reception from the Jewish nation, more particularly from their priests and elders, and ecclesiastical leaders. They shed the blood of the prophets, Matt. xxiii. 30; the apostles were persecuted in every variety of form; and Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Jewish nation seized and slew.
"When the lord of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto these husbandmen?" inquired Jesus. The answer is, "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." This was the fate of
1 Matthew represents this answer to have been made, by the chief priests and elders: but Mark (xii. 9) and Luke (xx. 16) represent Christ himself as answering the question. Bp. Pearce notices the discrepancy without attempting to account for it. The usual opinion is that the answer was given by Christ, and not the priests and elders; and that the words in Matt. they say unto him, are an interpolation. This suspicion is confirmed by one or two ancient MSS. not having the words. See A. Clarke on Matt. xxi. 41. The suspicion is confirmed also by Luke's account, since there the Pharisees are represented as saying "God forbid," when they heard that the lord of the vineyard would destroy the husbandmen. xx. 15. Kenrick According to the evangelists Mark and Luke, Jesus himself answered the question which he had proposed; and Luke adds, "when they," i. e. the priests, "heard it, they said, God forbid. This corresponds perfectly well to the question which Christ puts to them in 43d verse, which seems to imply that they had denied the propriety of the conclusion which he had made. It is high
the house of Israel. They were miserable, and they were miserably destroyed. The means of divine instruction were taken away, and conferred on a people who would make good use of them; or to use the words of Christ, in which he himself makes a direct application of the parable, "the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof," ver. 43.
That this is the true application of the parable, there seems no room for doubt. We have shown, that our Lord derived the design from Isaiah v. 1, 2. There the vineyard is expressly said to be the house of Israel. The figure is varied but a trifle; and the destruction of the Jews is represented by the destrnction of the vineyard, of which the walls were broken down, that it lay waste; it was neither pruned nor digged; briars and thorns sprung up in it; and the clouds gave it no rain.
The object of God in sending his servants to the Jews, was to induce them to bring forth fruits worthy of the distinguished advantages they enjoyed. John, the Baptist, told the Pharisees, to "bring forth fruits meet for repentance," Matt. iii. 8. This is very well represented by the master's sending his servants to the husbandmen, to receive the fruits of the vineyard.
The chief priests and elders saw plainly that they were intended as the husbandmen who had the charge of the vineyard, and who had behaved so unfaithfully in maltreating the messengors of God. See verse 45. "And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that
ly probable, therefore, from these circumstances, that the words, they say unto him, have been introduced into this place by some mistake, a conjecture which is confirmed by the authority of one manuscript copy of the originnl, which omits them." Note on Matt. xxi. 41.
he spake of them." And then, as though to verify that to which they took such strong exceptions, "they sought to lay hands on Jesus, but they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet." Ver. 46. They then stood ready to seize the heir and kill him, but they were afraid of the people, who had been instructed by Jesus, and in whose affections he held a high place. They never, however, abandoned their object; and afterwards they succeeded in slaying him.
The coming of Christ in his glory, at the end of the legal dispensation, is represented by the lord of the vineyard's returning to his household; at which time the Jews, the enemies of Jesus, who shed the blood of the prophets and apostles, and crucified Jesus Christ, were destroyed, as will be shown more fully under a succeeding parable. The words of Jesus, recorded in Matt. xxiii. 34-36, illustrate this. "Wherefore, behold I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify, and some of them shall ye Scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood ot Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily, I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation." Their guilt in destroying the different messengers whom God had sent, is here described, and the punishment thereof is denounced; and all this we are as sured should come upon that generation. Hence, the Jews were destroyed during that generation. The kingdom of God, which till the death of Christ, had been preached only to them, was afterward preached to the Gentiles, according to the last command