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The Parable of the Tenants

33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner[a] who planted a vineyard.[b] He put a fence around it, dug a pit for its winepress, and built a watchtower. Then[c] he leased it to tenant farmers[d] and went on a journey. 34 When the harvest time was near, he sent his slaves[e] to the tenants to collect his portion of the crop.[f] 35 But the tenants seized his slaves, beat one,[g] killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other slaves, more than the first, and they treated them the same way. 37 Finally he sent his son to them,[h] saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and get his inheritance!’ 39 So[i] they seized him,[j] threw him out of the vineyard,[k] and killed him. 40 Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will utterly destroy those evil men! Then he will lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him his portion at the harvest.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.[l]
This is from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?[m]

43 For this reason I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people[n] who will produce its fruit. 44 The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, and the one on whom it falls will be crushed.”[o] 45 When[p] the chief priests and the Pharisees[q] heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46 They wanted to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowds, because the crowds[r] regarded him as a prophet.

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  1. Matthew 21:33 tn The term here refers to the owner and manager of a household.
  2. Matthew 21:33 sn The vineyard is a figure for Israel in the OT (Isa 5:1-7). The nation and its leaders are the tenants, so the vineyard here may well refer to the promise that resides within the nation. The imagery is like that in Rom 11:11-24.
  3. Matthew 21:33 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.
  4. Matthew 21:33 sn The leasing of land to tenant farmers was common in this period.
  5. Matthew 21:34 tn See the note on the word “slave” in These slaves represent the prophets God sent to the nation, who were mistreated and rejected.
  6. Matthew 21:34 tn Grk “to collect his fruits.”
  7. Matthew 21:35 sn The image of the tenants mistreating the owner’s slaves pictures the nation’s rejection of the prophets and their message.
  8. Matthew 21:37 sn The owner’s decision to send his son represents God sending Jesus.
  9. Matthew 21:39 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the implied result of the tenants’ decision to kill the son in v. 38.
  10. Matthew 21:39 tn Grk “seizing him.” The participle λαβόντες (labontes) has been translated as attendant circumstance.
  11. Matthew 21:39 sn Throwing the heir out of the vineyard pictures Jesus’ death outside of Jerusalem.
  12. Matthew 21:42 tn Or “capstone,” “keystone.” Although these meanings are lexically possible, the imagery in Eph 2:20-22 and 1 Cor 3:11 indicates that the term κεφαλὴ γωνίας (kephalē gōnias) refers to a cornerstone, not a The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The use of Ps 118:22-23 and the “stone imagery” as a reference to Christ and his suffering and exaltation is common in the NT (see also Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet 2:6-8; cf. also Eph 2:20). The irony in the use of Ps 118:22-23 here is that in the OT, Israel was the one rejected (or perhaps her king) by the Gentiles, but in the NT it is Jesus who is rejected by Israel.
  13. Matthew 21:42 sn A quotation from Ps 118:22-23.
  14. Matthew 21:43 tn Or “to a nation” (so KJV, NASB, NLT).
  15. Matthew 21:44 tc A few witnesses, especially of the Western text (D 33 it sys Irlat Or Eussyr), do not contain 21:44. However, the verse is found in א B C L W Z Δ (Θ) 0102 ƒ1, 13 565 579 700 1241 1424 M lat syc,p,h co. The NA27 and NA28 put this verse in brackets, which normally indicates some doubt as to its authenticity, but Metzger’s Textual Commentary claims that the committee concluded that the verse was an “accretion,” including it not because of authenticity but because of its longstanding role in the textual tradition (TCGNT 47). Some scholars see the verse as scribally borrowed from the parallel in Luke 20:18, but both the wording and word order are different enough that such an imperfect assimilation cannot account for the great variety of witnesses that have a uniform reading here. In light of the lack of adequate explanation for the rise of this verse as it is written, the longer reading should be Grk “on whomever it falls, it will crush him.”sn This proverb basically means that the stone crushes, without regard to whether it falls on someone or someone falls on it. On the stone as a messianic image, see Isa 28:16 and Dan 2:44-45.
  16. Matthew 21:45 tn Here καί (kai) has not been translated.
  17. Matthew 21:45 sn See the note on Pharisees in 3:7.
  18. Matthew 21:46 tn Grk “they”; the referent (the crowds) has been specified in the translation for clarity. Both previous occurrences of “they” in this verse refer to the chief priests and the Pharisees.