Bible Commentaries
Matthew 20

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Verses 1-99

20:1-16. “For the kingdom of the heavens is like to a man, a householder,” i.e. in the preparation for the kingdom, God deals with His servants as a householder does with his hired labourers, who pays them each and all the stipulated wage. Just so God when the kingdom comes will give to all who enter His service the eternal life which He has promised to them. The parable, as originally spoken, can hardly have had any other object than that of warning Christ’s first disciples, that others who should become His disciples at a later date would also be partakers of privileges equal to theirs who had first joined Him (cf, Galatians 2:6) The statement that the payment of wages began with the last hired, is a literary device to account for and to emphasise the dissatisfaction of the first hired labourers. The editor has been led by this feature to insert the parable here as an explanation of Mk.’s difficult v. 31. The first called will be as the last called, because all alike will receive an equal reward. A somewhat similar question is solved on parallel lines in 2 Es 5:41, 42. God has made promises of love to His people: “And I said, O Lord, Thou hast made the promise unto them that be in the end: and what shall they do that have been before us, or we, or they that shall come after us? And He said unto me, I will liken My judgement unto a ring: like as there is no slackness of them that be last, even so there shall be no swiftness of them that be first.” Cf. also Apoc. Bar 30:2 “the first will rejoice, and the last will not be grieved.” This does not, however, exclude the thought of differences of position in the kingdom; cf. 19:28.

(L) 1. For the kingdom of the heavens is like—for the formula, cf. on 11:16, 13:24—to a householder, —cf. 13:52, —who went out early—“the time of working,” says the Babyl. Talmud (Bab. Mez 832), “is from sunrise”—to hire labourers into his vineyard.] For the earthly estate owner as contrasted with God, see the parable from the Mechilta, cited by Fiebig, Altjüdische Gleichnisse Jesu, 69. For a somewhat similar parable, with, however; a very different application, see Jer. Talm. Berakhoth 5:3 quoted by Lightfoot.—μισθώσασθαι ἐργάτας] misses the ring of the original לאנורי אנירי; cf. Bab. Mez 76b.

(L) 2. And having agreed with the labourers at the rate of a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.] For the denartus, cf. on 18:28. It was equivalent in value to the Greek drachma which Tobit received as his daily wage (5:14), and the word, like many other Latin terms, passed into Jewish use.

(L) 3. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing in the market place unemployed.]—ἀγορά] had passed into Jewish usage. See Dalman’s Wörterbuch. The third hour is 9 a.m.

(L) 4. And he said to them, Go also ye into the vineyard, and whatsoever is fair I will give to you. And they went.]

(L) 5. Again he went out about the sixth (= 12) and the ninth (= 3 p.m.) hour, and did likewise.]

(L) 6. And about the eleventh hour (= 5 p.m.) he went out, and found others standing; and he saith to them, Why have you stood all the day unemployed?]

(L) 7. They say to him, Because no one hired us. He saith to them, Go ye also into the vineyard.]

(L) 8. And when it was evening, the master of the vineyard saith to his bailiff, Summon the labourers, and pay to them the wage, beginning from the last unto the first.]—ὲπίτροπος] has passed into Jewish usage; see Dalman, Wörterbuch.

(L) 9. And they came (who had been hired) about the eleventh hour, and received each a denarius.]

(L) 10. And the first came, and thought that they would receive more; and they also received each a denarius.]

(L) 11, 12. And having received it, they murmured against the householder, saying that these last laboured one hour, and thou hast made them equal to us, who bore the weight of the day and the heat.]—γογγύζειν] only here in Mt. It is equivalent to אתרעם, Jer Talm. Berakhoth 53. It is a vernacular word found in the LXX. N.T., and later writers; cf. Kennedy, Sources, 39. It occurs in Ox. Pap. i. 33, iii. 14, 2nd cent. a.d.—καύσων] a colloquial word found in the LXX. N.T., and late writers; cf. Kennedy, 154. καύσων occurs 15 times in the LXX. generally of a hot blasting wind = Heb. קָדִים, It is used as here of heat in Athenæus, iii. p. 73a μελιλώτινοι στέφανοι πάνυ εὐώδεις καὶ καύσωνος ὥρᾳ ψυκτικώτατοι.

(L) 13. And he answered and said to one of them, Friend, I do not wrong you: didst not thou agree with me at a denarius?]—Ἑταῖρος] cf. 11:16. It occurs again in the vocative, 22:12, 26:50.

(L) 14. Take what is thine, and go: it is my will to give to this latest (comer) even as to thee.]

(L) 15. May I not do what I will with my own (or in my house)? or is thine eye grudging because I am liberal?] i.e. “do you grudge my generosity?” For πονηρός and ὀφθαλμός cf. on 6:22.

(E) 16. So thelastshall befirst,” and thefirst” “last.”] That is, “in a similar way the saying about first and last will be fulfilled. All alike will receive the reward of eternal life, whether they become disciples of the kingdom at an earlier or at a later period.”

At this point C D S1 S2 al add πολλοὶ γάρ εἰσιν κλητοὶ ὀλίγοι δὲ ἐκλεκτοί. But it is almost impossible to give the words any meaning in this connection. They are genuine in 22:14.

17-19. From Mark 10:32-34.

(M) 17. And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples privately, and on the way He said to them.] Mk. has: And they were on the way going up to Jerusalem: and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed; and they who followed were afraid. And taking again the Twelve, He began to tell them the things which were about to happen to Him.” Mt. abbreviates Mk., omitting as often the unexplained amazement or fear of the disciples; cf. 19:24 = Mark 10:24, 18:6 = Mark 9:6, Matthew 8:27 = Mark 4:41, Matthew 17:23 = Mark 9:32; or of the multitude, cf. Mark 5:15.Mark 5:33; Mark 5:33, and Mk.’s πάλιν and ὅτι.

(M) 18. Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man shall be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death.] So Mk. The agreement in “chief priests and scribes” without “elders” is proof of dependence. Cf. on 16:21.

(M) 19. And shall deliver Him to the Gentiles for mocking, and scourging, and crucifying: and on the third day He shall be raised again.]—εἰς τὸ ἐμπαῖξαι] Mk. has καὶ ἐμπαίξουσιν, and adds καὶ ἐμπτύσουσιν αὐτῷ—καὶ σταυρῶσαι] Mk. has καὶ�

17-19. Mt. and Lk. agree against Mk. in omitting Mk 32b, and in the omission of ὅτι, Mk 33; and of πάλιν Mk 32; in εἶπεν Mat_17, Lk 31; and in τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ Mat_19, Lk 32. See Introduction, p. xlviii.

17. καὶ�al S1 S2. μέλλων δὲ ἁναβαίνειν, B 1. The μέλλων is in Mt.’s style, cf. 16:27, 17:12, 22, 20:22, 24:6, but is weakly attested here.

20-28. From Mark 10:35-45.

(M) 20. Then there came to Him the mother of the sons of Zebedee with her sons, worshipping Him, and asking something from Him.] Mk. has: “And there come to Him James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, saying to Him, Teacher, we wish that Thou wilt do for us whatsoever we ask.” The substitution of the mother instead of the two sons as the chief petitioner (cf. αὐτῇ, v. 21) is probably due to a desire to minimise the ambition of the Apostles. See Introduction, p. xxxiii.—τότε] See on 2:7.—προσκυνεῖν] See on 2:2.—προσῆλθεν] for Mk.’s historic present, as often. For the verb, see on 4:3—αἰτοῦσα] For the active voice, see on 14:7.

(M) 21. And He said to her, What do you wish? She saith to Him, Say that these my two sons shall sit, one at Thy right hand, and one at Thy left hand, in Thy kingdom.] Mk. has: “And He said to them, What do you wish that I should do for you? And they said, Grant to us that we may sit, one at Thy right hand, and one at Thy left hand, in Thy glory.”—εἷς—καὶ εἷς] see Blass, P. 144.

(M) 22. And Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Can you drink the cup which I am about to drink? They say to Him, We can.] Mk. has: “And Jesus said to them, Ye know not what ye ask. Can you drink the cup which I drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized? And they said to Him, We can.”—μέλλω] see on 16:27. Mk.’s “cup” and “baptism” both signify suffering. For “cup” as a metaphor of sorrow, cf. Lamentations 4:21, Isaiah 51:17. For “baptism,” cf. Luke 12:50. Mt. omits the latter clause as synonymous with the first, cf. 8:3, or simply on the ground of its obscurity.

(M) 23. He saith to them, Of My cup indeed ye shall drink; but to sit at My right hand and at the left is not Mine to give, but (it shall be given to those) for whom it has been prepared by My Father.] Mk. has: “And Jesus said to them, The cup which I drink, ye shall drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, shall ye be baptized. But to sit at My right hand or at the left is not Mine to give, but (it shall be given to those) for whom it has been prepared.”

For Mt.’s addition, ὑπὸ τοῦ πατρός μου, cf. 25:41, ὁ ἡτοίμασεν ὁ πατήρ μου, D 1 22 a b c ff1 2 g1 h.

(M) 24. And the ten having heard, were vexed about the two brethren.] Mk. has: “And the ten, having heard, began to be vexed about James and John.”—ἠγανάκτησαν] The aor. as often for Mk.’s ἤρξαντο and inf.—τῶν δύο�

(M) 25. And Jesus having called them, said, Ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones have authority over them.] Mk. has: “And Jesus having called them, saith to them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones have authority over them.” δέ for καί, as often. εἶπεν for λέγει, as often.—οἱ ἄρχοντες] Mk. has οἱ δοκοῦντες ἄρχειν, an unusual paraphrase. See Swete.—οἱ μεγάλοι] Mk. adds αὐτῶν.—κατεξουσιάζειν] is a very rare word. Its occurrence in Mt. and Mk. is proof of dependence. See on Luke 22:25.

(M) 26. Not so is it amongst you. But whosoever wishes amongst you to be great shall be your minister.] So Mk. with δέ after οὕτως, and ἐν ὑμῖν after γενέσθαι instead of before μέγας.

(M) 27. And whosoever wishes among you to be first shall be your servant.] So Mk. with πάντων for ὐμῶν.

(M) 28. Even as the Son of Man did not come to be ministered to but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.] So Mk. with καὶ γάρ for ὥσπερ.

This is the first passage in the Gospel where the death which has been foretold is described as intended to have a definite result or effect. For the idea of expiatory self-sacrifice, cf. 2 Mac 7:37, 38, 4 Mac 17:22. “Give his life”: cf. Mechilta (Ugol.) 207. “Moses gave his life for three things, and they were called by his name,” 274.

22. πίνειν] C E al add from Mk. καὶ τὸ βάπτισμα ὃ ἑγὼ βαπτίζομαι βαπτισθῆναι.

23. πίεσθε] C X al add from Mk. καὶ τὸ βαπτισμα ὃ έγὼ βαπτίζομαι βαπτισθἡσεσθε.

(M) 28.�2 adds here: “But seek ye, that from littleness ye may increase, and not from greatness become little. What time ye are bidden to a supper party be not sitting down to meat in an honourable place, that there may not come one more honourable than thou, and the lord of the supper say to thee, ‘Bring thyself down’; and thou be confounded in the eyes of the guests. But if thou sit down to meat in a lesser place, and there come one less than thou, and the lord of the supper say to thee, ‘Bring thyself, and come up and sit down to meat’; then thou shalt have more glory in the eyes of the guests” (Burk.). S1 is wanting here, but did not contain the passage. D a b e ff1 2 g1 h m n and 6 Vulgate MSS have the same insertion, but without the negative in the second clause. The passage is ancient, and finds parallels in the Canonical Gospels. For the first sentence, with the negative to the second clause, cf. Matthew 23:12, Luke 14:11, Luke 18:14. For the rest, compare Luke 14:8-11. The negative of S2 looks like an afterthought to bring the originally independent first sentence into harmony with the following passage.

29-34. From Mark 10:46-52.

(M) 29. And as they go forth from Jericho, there followed Him a great multitude.] Mk. has: “And they come into Jericho. And as He goes forth from Jericho, and His disciples and a great (ἱκανοῦ) multitude.” Mt. abbreviates, omitting the quite needless statement of the entry into Jericho, including the Lord and His disciples (who have been mentioned in the last paragraph) in αὐτῶν for αὐτοῦ, inserting a verb for the ὄχλος, and substituting the more usual πολύς for ἱκανός

(M) 30. And behold two blind men sitting by the roadside heard that Jesus is passing by, and cried, saying, Lord, have pity on us, Thou Son of David.] Mk. has: “The son of Timæus, Bartimæus, a blind beggar, sat by the roadside. And having heard that it is Jesus, the Nazarene, he began to cry, and to say, Thou Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.”—καὶ ἰδού] see on 1:20.—δύο] Mt. substitutes two men for Mk.’s one, and as a consequence omits Mk.’s name of one man. But cf. his omission of the name Jairus in 9:18. For the “two,” see on 8:28.—Ἰησοῦς] Mt. omits Mk.’s ὁ Ναζαρηνός. Cf. the same omission in 28:5 = Mark 16:6. In 26:69 = Mark 14:67 he substitutes ὁ Γαλιλαῖος.—ἔκραξαν] the aor., as often, for Mk.’s ἤρξατο and inf.—ἔκραξαν λέγοντες for Mk.’s κράζειν καὶ λέγειν: cf. on 8:3.—Κύριε] for Mk.’s Ἰησοῦ, see on 8:2.—υἱός] nom. for vocative; cf. Blass, 86 f. See on Luke 18:38.

(M) 31. And the multitude rebuked them, that they should be silent. But they cried the more, saying, Lord, have pity on us, Thou Son of David.] Mk. has: “And many were rebuking him, that he should be silent; but he was crying much the more, Thou Son of David, have pity on me.”—ἐπετίμησεν and ἔκραξαν] aors. for Mk.’s impfs., as often.

(M) 32. And Jesus stood and called them, and said, What will ye that I should do for you?] Mt. abbreviates three verses of Mk.

(M) 33. They say to Him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened.] Mk. has: “And the blind man said to Him, Rabboni, that I may see.”

(M) 34. And Jesus, having compassion, touched their eyes; and straightway they saw, and followed Him.] Mk. has: “And Jesus said to him, Go, thy faith hath saved thee. And straightway he saw, and was following Him on the way”; ἥψατο τῶν ὀμμάτων αὐτῶν] ὄμματα occurs only here and in the omitted section, Mark 8:22-26. The clause here is probably a reminiscence of that passage.—ἠκολούθησαν] aor. for Mk.’s imperf., as often.

29-34. Mt 33 and Lk 41 agree against Mk. in Κύριε for Mk.’s Ῥαββουνεί. Cf. also παράγει, Mt 30 = παρέρχεται, Lk 37. Mk. has ἐστι.

O quotations from the Old Testament borrowed from a collection of Messianic prophecies. See pp.61 f.

L the Matthæan Logia.

Bab. Babylonian Talmud.

LXX. The Septuagint Version.

Ox. Pap. Oxyrhynchus Papyri.

E editorial passages.

S Syriac version: Sinaitic MS.

S Syriac version: Curetonian.

al i.e. with other uncial MSS.

M the Second Gospel.

X passages in which Mt. and Lk. agree closely, borrowed from an unknown source or sources.

Burk. Burkitt.

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Matthew 20". International Critical Commentary NT. 1896-1924.