The Parable of the Tenants

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Contents

Matthew 21:33-41; Mark 12:1-9; Luke 20:9-16

Synopsis of Parable:

A householder planted a vineyard, and cared for it, then lent it to some husbandmen to take care of it while he went to a far country. When the fruit grew, the householder sent servants to the husbandmen, but they killed them. The man sent more, but the husbandmen killed them too. Then the householder sent his son, but the husbandmen killed him as well to "seize his inheritance." What will the owner do? He will destroy those wicked men.

Parable Given in Response to:

This parable was given to the Pharisees while they were questioning Jesus.(Matthew 21:23-27; Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8.)

Symbolism Chart

Symbol Meaning Verse Found Notes
↓Householder God Matthew 21:33
↓Vineyard Earth Matthew 21:33
↓Servants Prophets Matthew 21:34
↓Husbandmen Ancient Israel Matthew 21:33
↓Son Jesus Matthew 21:37

The Parable of the Tenants

As presented in the King James Version of Matthew 21:33-41
Click here to read the account in Mark 12:1-9.
Click here to read the account in Luke 20:9-16.

Matthew 21:33 Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:
34 And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.
35 And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.
37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.
38 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 inheritance.
39 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.
40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?
41They 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.

Explanation of the Interpretation of Symbols

The Householder is God Back to Top ↑

Once again, the parable contains God. Here, God is the householder.

This interpretation is universal among denominations and needs not a full discussion.

The Vineyard is Earth Back to Top ↑

There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower. Matthew 21:33 The vineyard is, once again, Earth.

This time, the parable mentions various improvements done to the vineyard. Such as building a winepress and a tower. These are all things that are needed to make a vineyard profitable. You need a winepress to process the grapes, and a tower to store the materials and finished products.

Likewise, here on earth God also had the temple built. In fact, he was very peculiar about who would build it.(1 Chronicles 17:11, 12, cf. 1 Chronicles 22:11.) While that does not mean that these improvements represent the temple, it is a fact that God has put plenty of thought into the creation and maintenance of this world.(Genesis 1:1-2:3.) And he wants it to yield fruit,(John 15:8.) just as the owner of a vineyard would want their vines to bear fruit too.

The Servants are the Prophets Back to Top ↑

The servants are the prophets, and we know that because they belonged to God, just as servants belong to their master.(Samuel belonged to God, 1 Samuel 1:11, 28. ) God used the prophets just as he would, even if they would try to run away(Like Jonah. Jonah 1:3, 4.) or became too discouraged.(Such as Elijah. 1 Kings 19:4-8.) Yet just as a master takes care of his servants, so to did God his prophets.(Jonah, Jonah 4:1-11; Elijah 1 Kings 19:9-18.)

However, the Israelites did not always treat these prophets well, a claim Jesus makes separately from this parable: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee. Matthew 23:36, 37 cf. Luke 13:34 This helps to interpret both the servants and the husbandmen.

This interpretation only seeks to differentiate the servants as prophets, instead of angels. Angels too, listen to God.(Psalms 103:20.) However, the angels cannot be a proper interpretation for the servants here because angels do not die.(Luke 20:36, comparing the children of God to the dying angels.) There is no record of an angel ever having died, although some angels will put into everlasting fire.(Matthew 25:41.)

The Husbandmen are Ancient Israel Back to Top ↑

The husbandmen are the ancient Israelites. They were the ones that killed the prophets, and they were the ones that ended up killing the son, Jesus. 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 inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. Matthew 21:38, 39 Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him...Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.Matthew 21:38, 39; 26:3, 4; 27:22, 23

There are no other popular interpretations for this symbol, however, it should be noted that various groups of Jewish leaders and even Christian theologians are trying to take the blame away from the Jews for Jesus's death. However, the audience of chief priests and elders that Jesus was talking to(Matthew 21:23.) knew instantly who the tenants were. That is why it the author recorded these two verses directly after the parable: And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.Matthew 21:45, 46

The Son is Jesus Back to Top ↑

An in-depth discussion of this point is not needed. To deny that Jesus was the son of God is to deny Jesus himself, and therefore render him and all his words useless to us, including this parable. Various demons called Jesus "son of God,"(Matthew 4:3, 6; 8:29; Mark 3:11; Luke 4:3, 9, 41; 8:28. For people, see Matthew 14:33; 27:54; Mark 1:1, 15:39; John 1:34, 49; 11:27; 20:31.) The angel announcing Jesus's birth to Mary saying, that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. Luke 1:35 Jesus also called himself that phrase in this passage: Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. John 9:35-37

There are no other interpretations for this symbol.

This interpretation does not change any established theology in the dominant denominations.

In Conclusion Back to Top ↑

This is a parable about how God saw Ancient Israel. And the conclusion is the same: 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.Matthew 21:41 Even the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.

Mark's Account of The Parable of the Tenants

As presented in the King James Version of Mark 12:1-9
Click here to read the account in Luke 20:9-16.
Click here to return back to the account in Matthew 21:33-41.

Mark 12:1And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.
2 And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard.
3 And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty.
4 And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled.
5 And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some.
6 Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.
7 But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.
8 And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.
9 What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.

Luke's Account of The Parable of the Tenants

As presented in the King James Version of Luke 20:9-16
Click here to read the account in Mark 12:1-9.
Click here to return back to the account in Matthew 21:33-41.

Luke 20:9Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time.
10 And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty.
11 And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty.
12 And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out.
13 Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him.
14 But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.
15 So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?
16 He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid.

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