on Matthew 21 :33
There was a certain householder - Let us endeavor to find out a general and practical meaning for this parable. A householder - the Supreme Being. The family - the Jewish nation. The vineyard - the city of Jerusalem. The fence - the Divine protection. The wine-press - the law and sacrificial rites. The tower - the temple, in which the Divine presence was manifested. The husbandmen - the priests and doctors of the law. Went from home - entrusted the cultivation of the vineyard to the priests, etc., with the utmost confidence; as a man would do who had the most trusty servants, and was obliged to absent himself from home for a certain time. Our Lord takes this parable from Isaiah 5:1, etc.; but whether our blessed Redeemer quote from the law, the prophets, or the rabbins, he reserves the liberty to himself to beautify the whole, and render it more pertinent.
Some apply this parable also to Christianity, thus: - The master or father - our blessed Lord. The family - professing Christians in general. The vineyard - the true Church, or assembly of the faithful. The hedge - the true faith, which keeps the sacred assembly enclosed and defended from the errors of heathenism and false Christianity. The wine-press - the atonement made by the sacrifice of Christ, typified by the sacrifices under the law. The tower - the promises of the Divine presence and protection. The husbandmen - the apostles and all their successors in the ministry. The going from home - the ascension to heaven. But this parable cannot go on all fours in the Christian cause, as any one may see. In the ease of the husbandmen, especially it is applicable; unless we suppose our Lord intended such as those inquisitorial Bonners, who always persecuted the true ministers of Christ, and consequently Christ himself in his members; and to these may be added the whole train of St. Bartholomew Ejectors, and all the fire and faggot men of a certain Church, who think they do God service by murdering his saints. But let the persecuted take courage: Jesus Christ will come back shortly; and then he will miserably destroy those wicked men: indeed, he has done so already to several, and let out his vineyard to more faithful husbandmen.
Digged a wine-press - Ωρυξε ληνον. St. Mark has υποληνιον, the pit under the press, into which the liquor ran, when squeezed out of the fruit by the press.
on Matthew 21 :33
The parable of the vineyard - This is also recorded in Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19.
Hear another parable - See the notes at Matthew 13:3.
A certain householder - See the notes at Matthew 20:1.
Planted a vineyard - A place for the cultivation of grapes. It is often used to represent the church of God. as a place cultivated and valuable. Judea was favorable to vines, and the figure is frequently used, therefore, in the sacred writers. See Matthew 20:1. It is used here to represent the "Jewish people" - the people chosen of the Lord, cultivated with care, and signally favored; or perhaps more definitely, "the city of Jerusalem."
Hedged it round about - This means he enclosed it, either with a fence of wood or stone, or more probably with "thorns," thick set and growing - a common way of enclosing fields in Judea, as it is in England,
And digged a wine-press in it - Mark says, "digged a place for the wine-fat." This should have been so rendered in Matthew. The original word does not mean the "press" in which the grapes were trodden, but the "vat or large cistern" into which the wine ran. This was commonly made by digging into the side of a hill. The "wine-press" was made of two receptacles. The upper one, in Persia at present, is about 8 feet square and 4 feet high. In this the grapes are thrown and "trodden" by men, and the juice runs into the large receptacle or cistern below. See the notes at Isaiah 63:2-3.
And built a tower - See also the notes at Isaiah 5:2. In Eastern countries at present, these towers are often 80 feet high and 30 feet square. They were for the keepers, who defended the vineyards from thieves and animals, especially from foxes, Sol 1:6; Sol 2:15. Professor Hackett (Illustrations of Scripture, pp. 171, 172) says of such towers:
They caught my attention first as I was approaching Bethlehem from the southeast. They appeared in almost every field within sight from that direction. They were circular in shape, 15 or 20 feet high, and, being built of stones, looked, at a distance, like a little forest of obelisks. I was perplexed for some time to decide what they were; my traveling companions were equally at fault. Suddenly, in a lucky moment, the words crossed my mind, 'A certain man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge about it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country,' Mark 12:1. This recollection cleared up the mystery. There, before my eyes, stood the towers of which I had so often read and thought; such as stood there when David led forth his flocks to the neighboring pastures; such as furnished to the sacred writers and the Saviour himself so many illustrations for enforcing what they taught.
These towers are said to be sometimes square in form as well as round, and as high as 40 or 50 feet. Those which I examined had a small door near the ground, and a level space on the top, where a man could sit and command a view of the plantation. I afterward saw a great many of these structures near Hebron, where the vine still flourishes in its ancient home; for there, probably, was Eshcol, whence the Hebrew spies returned to Joshua with the clusters of grapes which they had gathered as evidence of the fertility of the land. Some of the towers here are so built as to serve as houses: and during the vintage, it is said that the inhabitants of Hebron take up their abode in them in such numbers as to leave the town almost deserted.
And let it out ... - This was not an uncommon thing. Vineyards were often planted to be let out for profit.
Into a far country - This means, in the original, only that he departed from them. It does not mean that he went out of the "land." Luke adds, "for a long time." That is, as appears, until the time of the fruit; perhaps for a year. This vineyard denotes, doubtless, the Jewish people, or Jerusalem. But these circumstances are not to be particularly explained. They serve to keep up the story. They denote in general that God had taken proper care of his vineyard - that is, of his people; but beyond that we cannot affirm that these circumstances of building the tower, etc., mean any particular thing, for he has not told us that they do, and where he has not explained them we have no right to attempt it.
on Matthew 21 :33
21:33 A certain householder planted a vineyard - God planted the Church in Canaan; and hedged it round about - First with the law, then with his peculiar providence: and digged a wine press - Perhaps it may mean Jerusalem: and built a tower - The temple: and went into a far country - That is, left the keepers of his vineyard, in some measure, to behave as they should see good. Mark 12:1; Luke 20:9.