Matthew 20:1-16

Matthew 20:1-16
Proper 20A


“For the kingdomI of heavenII is likeIII

Notes on verse 1a

I “kingdom” = basileia. From basileus (king, emperor, sovereign); probably from basis (step, hence foot; a pace); from baino (to walk, to go). This is kingdom, rule, authority, sovereignty, royalty, a realm.
II “heaven” = ouranos. May be related to oros (mountain, hill) with the notion of height. This is the air, the sky, the atmosphere, and heaven. It is the sky that is visible and the spiritual heaven where God dwells. Heaven implies happiness, power, and eternity.
III “like” = homoios. From the same as homou (together); from homos (the same). This is similar to, resembling, like.

aIV landownerV who went out early in the morningVI to hireVII laborersVIII for his vineyard.IX 

Notes on verse 1b

IV {untranslated} = anthropos. Probably from aner (man, male, husband) + ops (eye, face). This is human, humankind. Used for all genders.
V “landowner” = oikodespotes. 12x in NT. From oikos (house – the building, the household, the family, descendants; the temple) + despotes (lord, master, despot; authority who has unrestricted power and jurisdiction) + posis (husband). This is the master of the house, head of a family, or the householder.
VI “morning” = proi. 12x in NT. From pro (before, earlier than, ahead, prior). This is early, at dawn, during the daybreak watch.
VII “hire” = misthoo. 2x in NT– both in this passage. From misthos (wages, pay, or salary; reward, recompense, or punishment; pay for services rendered in a literal or figurative way, good or bad). This is to hire for wages.
VIII “laborers” = ergates. 16x in NT. From ergazomai (to work, labor); {from ergon (word, task, action, employment)}. This is a field laborer – later used to refer to workers in general. It can also be used figuratively for teachers.
IX “vineyard” = ampelon. From ampelos (vine or grapevine as that which coils around); perhaps from the base of amphoteros (both, all); {from amphi (around) + halon (the threshing floor where grain is rolled to separate from the chaff); {from halos (threshing floor); probably from helisso (to roll up, coil, wrap)}}. This is vineyard. Figuratively, it can be the religious life of the people of Israel or the body of Christ.

After agreeingX with the laborers for the usual daily wage,XI he sentXII them into his vineyard. 

Notes on verse 2

X “agreeing” = sumphoneo. 6x in NT. From sumphonos (harmonious, agreeing, consent; having one voice i.e. a shared understanding); {from sun (with, together with) + phone (voice, sound, tone or noise; also a language or dialect); probably from phemi to declare, say, use contrasts in speaking to shed light on one point of view); {from phao (to shine) or phaino (to bring light, cause to appear, shine, become visible or clear)}}. This is to harmonize with, agree, have a shared opinion, an accord. This is the root that “symphony” comes from.
XI “usual…wage” = denarion. 16x in NT. From Latin deni (ten each) + arius (belonging to). This is a silver Roman coin.
XII “sent” = apostello. From apo (from, away from) + stello (to send, set, arrange, prepare, gather up); {probably from histemi (to make to stand, stand, place, set up, establish, appoint, stand firm, be steadfast)}. This is to send forth, send away, dismiss, send as a messenger. It implies one that is sent for a particular mission or purpose rather than a quick errand. This is where “apostle” comes from.

When he went out about nine o’clock,XIII he sawXIV othersXV standingXVI idleXVII in the marketplace;XVIII 

Notes on verse 3

XIII “nine o’clock” = tritos + hora. Literally “the third hour.” Hora is This is a set time or period, an hour, instant, or season. This is where the word “hour” comes from.
XIV “saw” = horao. To see, perceive, attend to, look upon, experience. Properly, to stare at and so implying clear discernment. This, by extension, would indicate attending to what was seen and learned. This is to see, often with a metaphorical sense. Can include inward spiritual seeing.
XV “others” = allos. This is other, another. Specifically, it is another of a similar kind or type. There is a different word in Greek that speaks of another as a different kind (heteros).
XVI “standing” = histemi. Perhaps related to “sent” in v2. See note XII above.
XVII “idle” = argos. Related to “laborers” in v1. 8x in NT. From a (not, without) + ergon (see note VIII above). This is literally not working so it is idle or inactive. It could imply lazy, careless, useless, or slow.
XVIII “marketplace” = agora. 11x in NT. From ageiro (to gather). This is assembly, forum, marketplace, town square, thoroughfare. This is where “agoraphobia” comes from.

and he said to them, ‘You also goXIX into the vineyard, and I will payXX you whatever is right.’XXI So they went. 

Notes on verse 4

XIX “go” = hupago. From hupo (by, under, under the authority of) + ago (lead, bring, guide, spend, drive, carry). This is to lead under so to depart, go away, or die. It is to lead away under the command of someone else, being given a mission or objective to carry out.
XX “pay” = didomi. To give, offer, place, bestow, deliver. This is give in a literal or figurative sense.
XXI “right” = dikaios. From dike (the principle of justice; that which is right in a way that is very clear; a decision or the execution of that decision; originally, this word was for custom or usage; evolved to include the process of law, judicial hearing, execution of sentence, penalty, and even vengeance; more commonly, it refers to what is right); may be from deiknumi (to show, point out, exhibit; figurative for teach, demonstrate, make known). This is correct, righteous, just, or a righteous person. It implies innocent or conforming to God’s standard of justice.

When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, XXII he did the same. And about fiveXXIII o’clock he went out and foundXXIV others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle allXXV day?’ 

They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’

He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’XXVI 

Notes on verses 5-7

XXII “noon and about three o’clock” = hektos + kai + ennatos + hora. Literally “the sixth and ninth hour.” See note K above.
XXIII “five o’clock” = hendekatos. Literally “the eleventh.”
XXIV “found” = heurisko. This is to find, learn, or obtain. It is to discover something, which generally implies a period of searching for it. This is to find in a literal or figurative sense. This is where the word “heuristic” comes from.
XXV “all” = holos. This is whole, complete, or entire. It is a state where every member is present and functioning in concert. This is the root of the word “whole.”
XXVI Some manuscripts add “and whatever may be right you shall receive.”

8 When evening came,XXVII the ownerXXVIII of the vineyard said to his manager,XXIX

Notes on verse 8a

XXVII “came” = ginomai. This is to come into being, to happen, become, be born. It can be to emerge from one state or condition to another or is coming into being with the sense of movement or growth.
XXVIII “owner” = kurios. From kuros (authority, supremacy). This is a respectful address meaning master or sir. It refers to one who has control or power greater than one’s own. So, it was also applied to God and Jesus as Master or Lord.
XXIX “manager” = epitropos. 3x in NT. From epitrepo (to allow, permit, yield, entrust, give license); {from epi (on, upon, against, what is fitting) + the same as trope (turning, change, shifting); {from trepo (to turn)}}. This is a someone who has authority like an administrator, foreman, guardian, or steward. It could also be someone who has care over a child under 14.

‘CallXXX the laborers and giveXXXI them their pay,XXXII beginningXXXIII with the lastXXXIV and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 

Notes on verses 8b-9

XXX “call” = kaleo. Related to keleuo (to command, order, direct); from kelomai (to urge on). This is to call by name, invite, to name, bid, summon, call aloud.
XXXI “give” = apodidomi. Related to “pay” in v4. From apo (from, away from) + didomi (see note XX above). This is to give back, return, give away. It is to restore as when one makes payment – to rend what is due, to sell.
XXXII “pay” = misthos. Related to “hire” in v1. See note VII above.
XXXIII “beginning” = archomai. From archo (to rule, begin, have first rank or have political power). This is to begin or rule.
XXXIV “last” = eschatos. Related to eschaton (end, last); perhaps from echo (to have, possess, hold). This is last, end, extreme, final. It is often used to discuss the end times, prophecies of the future, and the afterlife. The branch of theology focusing on all these topics is called “eschatology.”

10 Now when the first came, they thoughtXXXV they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbledXXXVI against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borneXXXVII the burdenXXXVIII of the day and the scorching heat.’XXXIX 

Notes on verses 10-12

XXXV “thought” = nomizo. 15x in NT. From nomos (what is assigned – usage, law, custom, principle; used for the law in general or of God’s law; sometimes used to refer to the first five books of the Bible or the entire Old Testament; also used to refer to theology or the practice and tradition of interpreting and implementing the law of God); from nemo (to parcel out, assign). This is to practice, think, consider, suppose, hold by custom. This is thinking that something applies given precedent and practice – to do by law.
XXXVI “grumbled” = gogguzo. 8x in NT. This is to murmur or grumble. It is an onomatopoeia to sound similar to the cooing of doves. Figuratively, it is simmering displeasure that is muffled – a dull, constant murmuring.
XXXVII “borne” = bastazo. Related to “kingdom” in v1. Perhaps from the base of basis (see note I above). This is to lift in a literal of figurative sense. It can also mean take up, carry, bear, or remove. Figuratively, it can mean declare, endure, or sustain.
XXXVIII “burden” = baros. Related to “kingdom” in v1 & perhaps related to “borne” in v12. 6x in NT. From barus (heavy, burdensome; figuratively, violent, oppressive; that which presses down on someone so that they cannot move freely) OR perhaps from the base of basis (see note I above). This is weight, burden in a literal or figurative sense. It can also mean authority or abundance.
XXXIX “scorching heat” = kauson. 3x in NT. From kaio (to kindle, light, blaze; light in a literal or figurative sense) OR from kausoo (to burn up; a fire with high heat); from kausis (burning, burning up); from kaio (see above). This is a glare, a scorching heat, a hot wind.

13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend,XL I am doing you no wrong;XLI did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 TakeXLII what belongs to you and go; I chooseXLIII to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowedXLIV to do what I choose with what belongs to me?

Notes on verses 13-15a

XL “friend” = hetairos. 3x in NT. From etes (cousin or member of one’s clan). This is a friend, companion, comrade. It is a friend like one’s own family.
XLI “wrong” = adikeo. Related to “right” in v4. From adikos (unjust, unrighteous, wicked, treacherous); {from a (not, without) + dike (see note XXI above)}. This is to do wrong, harm, commit an injustice, offend. It is causing unjust harm that is contrary to justice.
XLII “take” = airo. This is to lift up in a literal or figurative sense. So, it could mean to lift, carry, or raise. It could also imply lifting something in order to take it away or remove it. Figuratively, this can be used for raising the voice or level of suspense. It can mean sailing off as raising the anchor. It can also correspond to a Hebrew expression for atonement of sin (lift/remove sin).
XLIII “choose” = thelo. This is to wish, desire, will, or intend. It is to choose or prefer in a literal or figurative sense. It can also mean inclined toward or take delight in. It can have a sense of being ready to act on the impulse in question.
XLIV “allowed” = exesti. From ek (out, out of) + eimi (to be, exist). This is what is permitted or what is allowed under the law. It can mean what is right, what holds moral authority, or, more broadly, something that is shown out in public.

Or are youXLV enviousXLVI because I am generous?’XLVII 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”XLVIII

Notes on verses 15b-16

XLV “are you” = ho + ophtalmos + su. Literally “is your eye.” From optanomai (to appear, be seen by). This is eye or sight. It is used figuratively for the mind’s eye, a vision, or for envy.
XLVI “envious” = poneros. From poneo (to toil); related to ponos (pain, trouble, labor, distress, suffering; toil, which implies anguish); from the base of penes (a laborer, poor person, starving or indigent person; someone who works for their living); from pernomai (working for a living; laborer, poor person; to work for daily bread); from peno (to toil to survive day by day). This is bad, evil, wicked, malicious, grievous, or toilsome. Properly, it is something that bears pain – it emphasizes the miseries and pains that come with evil. By contrast, the Greek kakos refers to evil as part of someone’s core character. Also contrasting the Greek sapros, which deals with falling away from a previously embodied virtue. This word can mean ill, diseased, morally culpable, derelict, vicious, malicious, or guilt. It can also refer to the devil or sinners.
XLVII “generous” = agathos. This is good, a benefit, or a good thing. It is good by its very nature, intrinsically good. A different word, kalos, refers to external signs of goodness.
XLVIII Some manuscripts add “for many are called, but few are chosen” = polus + gar + eimi + kletos + oligos + de + eklektos. Kletos is related to “call” in v8. 11x in NT. From the same as klesis (calling, invitation); from kaleo (see note XXX above). This is the called, invited, calling. Used in the NT as God’s calling. Eklektos is related to “said” in v6. From eklego (to choose, select, elect); {from ek (from, from out of) + lego (to speak, tell, mention)}. This is to select or choose. It is making a person choice – a favorite.

Image credit: “Lord, that I Might See!” from the Matyas Church in Budapest, 1970.

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