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Bible Commentaries

Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Matthew 20

Verse 1

Matthew 20:1 . Γάρ , for ) referring to the last verse of the preceding chapter. There is a similar connection of a parable with what immediately Preceded it, in ch. Matthew 18:23 . Peter is taught to be more diffident in asking questions (cf. ch. Mat 19:27 ), and in comparing himself with others; cf. Luke 17:5 ; Luke 17:10 , where we see that they think more rightly who consider themselves as unprofitable servants, than they who consider themselves better than others.

Verse 2

Matthew 20:2 . Συμφωνήσας , when he had agreed ) He deals with the first labourers more by legal compact; with the latter, more by mere liberality, even in the hiring them, though He blames them for standing idle; see Matthew 20:4 ; Matthew 20:6-40.20.7 . They make up for their previous idleness by their obedience, without stipulating for a fixed amount of wages. The day, divided into twelve hours, signifies not the whole duration of the world, nor that of the New Testament dispensation, which the life of a single labourer can never equal; neither, as it seems, does it represent the space of life given to each human being, in which one labours a longer and another a shorter time from his call to his death: although one who came before us might labour only one hour ( i.e. the last), and another who comes after us may begin at the first; so that in this passage that saying should hold good, “ In any hour is any hour ;” [878] But it represents the space of time from the first calling of the apostles to the ascension of Christ and the descent of the Paraclete. The denarius is that one amount of wages in the present and future life, equally offered to all, mentioned in ch. Matthew 19:29 ; Matthew 19:21 ; the difference of which, though corresponding with the difference of labours, is not only not apparent in this life, but frequently appears inverted: therefore the middle term, equality, is here assumed. [879] The evening is that time when each one is, or appears to be, much nearer the close than the commencement of his labours; and therefore, in the case of the disciples, the time then close at hand, immediately before the departure of our Lord. They cast their own evening and that of others into the same balance, who compare themselves with others. The labourers are all who are called, not only the apostles. The feeling of the discontented labourers concerning the whole day, resembles that of Peter, when he alluded, without sufficient discretion, to the difference between himself and that rich man. And every one is tempted by such a feeling towards those whom he most knows, and who are his equals. He who has a wider range of thought is liable to the same temptation with regard to those who are more remote. μετὰ τῶν ἐργατῶν , with the labourers ) The Householder makes an agreement with the labourers, and they (see Mat 20:13 ) with him. The one ensures the payment of the wages; the other shows what the labourer should be contented with. ἐκ δηναρίου , for a denarius ) This was a day’s wages, as it is commonly at present. The ἐκ ( for ) is not repeated in Matthew 20:13 .

[878] “Quâlibet horâ est quælibet hora.” In every hour whatever, there is the hour of some one or other [some hour or other, whatsoever that hour be]. Any hour of labour whatsoever is counted to the labourer as such, whensoever it be, whether at an earlier or later date. This seems to me Bengel’s meaning, though the words are rather ambiguous. ED.

[879] Here again there is some obscurity. “Ideo medium, paritas. sumitur.” It seems to me to refer to His fixing on the denarius as a mean , merging the various diversities of reward answering to the diversities of labour, not now apparent, in the one common sum alike and equal to all . ED.

Verse 3

Matthew 20:3 . Ἄλλους , others ) who had not been there at the first hour.

Verse 6

Matthew 20:6 . Τὴν ἑνδεκάτην , the eleventh ) The article is emphatic, as it does not occur in the case of the ninth, sixth, or even third hour. ὃλην τὴν ἡμέραν , all the day ) They could not offer themselves for hire elsewhere.

Verse 7

Matthew 20:7 . Ἡμᾶς , us ) This suits the Gentiles.

Verse 8

Matthew 20:8 . Ὀψίας δὲ γενομένης , but when even was come ) A prophetic allusion is made to the Last Judgment. The evening of each individual’s life resembles the evening of the world. ἀπὸ τῶν ἐσχάτων ἕως τῶν πρώτων , from the last unto the first ) They were all divided into these two classes; for all are reckoned amongst the first, who came before the eleventh hour; see Matthew 20:9-40.20.10 .

Verse 9

Matthew 20:9 . Ἀνὰ , apiece ) See John 2:6 .

Verse 10

Matthew 20:10 . Οἱ πρῶτοι , the first ) The intermediate labourers did not murmur; for they saw themselves also made equal to the first. He who is liable to be envied himself, is less likely to envy others. πλείονα , more ) sc. denarii, i.e. twelve denarii for twelve hours.

Verse 11

Matthew 20:11 . Ἐγόγγυζον , murmured ) Cf. Luke 15:28-42.15.30 .

Verse 12

Matthew 20:12 . Οὗτοι , κ . τ . λ ., these , etc.) Envy is frequently more anxious to take from another than to obtain for itself. They envy, not those of the ninth, sixth, and third, but only those of the eleventh hour. οἱ ἔσχατοι , the last ) The labourers use this expression from envy. ἐποίησαν , have spent ) See Acts 15:33 . [880] ἡμῖν , to us ) They speak also for those who had come at the intermediate hours, and who, though they had borne a less burthen than that of the whole day, had yet endured the midday heat. βάρος , burthen ) internally, of labour. τῆς ἡμέρας , of the day ) sc. the whole. καὑσωνα , heat ) externally, of the sun.

[880] Ποιήσαντες χρόνον , Having tarried a space : as ποιέω is here taken by Beng. and the margin of our Engl. Bible of continuance of time , “These last have continued one hour only.” ED.

Verse 13

Matthew 20:13 . Ἑνὶ , to one ) who was a sample of the rest of the murmurers. Cf. concerning one , the Gnomon on ch. Matthew 22:11 . ἑταῖρε , friend ) An expression used also to those with whom we are not on friendly or intimate terms. [881]

[881] “ ἑταῖρε , at first sight a friendly word merely, assumes a more solemn aspect when we recollect that it is used in ch. Matthew 22:12 , to the guest who had not the wedding garment; and in ch. Matthew 26:50 , by our Lord to Judas” Alford in loc. (I. B.)

Οὐκ ἀδικῶ σε , I do thee no wrong ) To do wrong to GOD is bad; but it is even worse to suppose one’s self wronged by GOD: and this happens more often than is generally supposed. V. g.

Verse 14

Matthew 20:14 . Τὸ σὸν , that which is THINE) There is an evident contrast intended between these words and ἐν τοῖς ἐμοῖς , with MY OWN, in the following verse. ὕπαγε , Depart ) This expression is not addressed to those who came at the eleventh hour. θέλω , I will ) The force of this word is very great. [882] See Matthew 20:15 , and cf. Gnomon on Mark 12:38 . ΤΟΎΤῼ Τῷ ἘΣΧΆΤῼ , to this last ) The expression is repeated from the speech of the murmurer, but used in the singular number, and applied to the last of the last . Every one who is envious, envies some one individually. σοὶ , to thee ) The addition, “who hast borne the burden and heat of the day,” is not repeated.

[882] i.e. denoting the absolute freedom of GOD’S Grace, and the entire sovereignty of His Will. (I. B.)

Verse 15

Matthew 20:15 . Ὀφθαλμὸς , eye ) The mind shines forth from the eyes. ἀγαθὸς , good ) He is good , who grants more than justice (see. Matthew 20:4 , sc. whatsoever is right ) requires. See Romans 5:7 .

Verse 16

Matthew 20:16 . Οὕτως , in such a manner ) The conclusion enunciated in ch. Mat 19:30 is inferred again from the parable, though somewhat inverted, and at the same time limited by the οὕτως , as in Revelation 3:16 . Not all who are first shall fail, yet all require to be on the watch, lest they should fail; and all do fail who conduct themselves as the ἑταῖρος , (‘ friend, ’ or comrade ) mentioned in the parable. Many, also, from the intermediate ranks, may take up a higher or a lower position. ἔσονται , shall be ) With respect to the apostles, it is not a prediction, but a warning. οἱ , the ) The article is here the sign of the subject (as it is everywhere, except when that is still more definitely determined by a proper name or a pronoun, demonstrative or personal), and at the same time has reference to ch. Matthew 19:30 ; thus showing that the proposition is not to be taken as of universal application. πρῶτοι , first ) See the end of Matthew 20:8 . πολλοὶ , many ) sc. of the first, who themselves are many (see ch. Mat 19:30 ); and moreover of οἱ ἔσχατοι , the last . κλητοὶ , called ) The term κεκλημένος is applied to a labourer who has been invited, even though he should not enter the vineyard: the term κλητὸς , signifies one who has embraced the calling. [883] ἐκλεκτοὶ , chosen) i.e. selected in preference to others. In this passage, the first where it occurs, the word seems to denote, not all who shall be saved, but, the most excellent of human beings. See Franck’s Sermons for Sundays and Holidays, pp. 431, 432, and W. Wall’s Critical Notes, p. 27.

[883] Ὀλίγοι , few ) who, as clinging to mere [unmixed] faith, give [cause] more honour to God, than the most zealous workmen. V. g.

Verse 17

Matthew 20:17 . Ἀναβαίνων , as He was going up ) A very memorable journey, in which great and various emotions were manifested. παρέλαβε , κ . τ . λ ., He took , etc.) He propounded the subject, not as in His daily conversation, but more solemnly. [884]

[884] Viz. in this His third announcement of His coming death, etc. V. g. Of the preceding declarations as to His approaching Passion, the one had been made after the confession of the disciples, the other after the Transfiguration on the Mount (which was attended with an universal admiration of His works, Luke 9:43-42.9.44 ; Luke 9:35 ; Mar 9:15 ): a third is now added of His own accord, more solemn than the rest. Harm. , p. 432.

Verse 18

Matthew 20:18 . Ἀρχιερεῦσι , to the chief priests ) This appellation seems to have been very common at that time. γραμματεῦσι , to the scribes ) whose duty it was to examine, as of the priests to decide. [885]

[885] Bengel’s very sentences have a rhythm, which brings out happily the antithesis intended: “ Scribis ) quorum erat scientia; uti pontificum sententia.” The province of the former was knowledge of the written law; of the latter, to decide or give sentence in accordance with it. ED.

Verses 18-19

Matthew 20:18-40.20.19 . Παραδοθήσεται παραδώσουσι , shall he delivered up, shall deliver up ) A momentous verb. See Luke 23:25 .

Verse 19

Matthew 20:19 . Τοῖς ἔθνεσι , to the Gentiles ) i.e. to the Roman nation, which was the chief of them all. ἐμπαῖξαι , to be mocked ) What ignominy! He had, on two previous occasions, foretold His passion less definitely: He now expressly mentions the stripes , the cross , etc., as in ch. Matthew 26:2 , He does the consummation, namely, His crucifixion.

Verse 20

Matthew 20:20 . Τότε , then ) at a most inappropriate time. [886] προσκυνοῦσα , worshipping ) Him. From the adoration and discourse of this woman, it is evident that she entertained a high idea of our Lord’s majesty, but possessed very little knowledge. τὶ , something ) She asked for something , indefinitely, as they do who knew that a refusal would not be unjust; see 1 Kings 2:20 .

[886] Ἡ μήτηρ ) This thought seems to have entered the mind of the anxious mother altogether sooner than it did that of her sons: and even in her very supplication she acted the part of an intermediate agent or intercessor. Harm. , p. 433.

Verse 21

Matthew 20:21 . [887] Ἵνα καθίσωσιν , that they may sit ) She seems to refer to the promise of the twelve thrones mentioned in ch. Matthew 19:28 , and to have taken occasion to apply the promise more especially to her own sons from the appellation, sons of thunder , which our Lord had bestowed upon them; see Gnomon on Mark 3:17 . [888] ΥἹΟΊ ΜΟΥ , my sons ) Natural relationship had nothing to do with this. ἐκ δεξιῶν σου , on Thy right hand ) The words τὰ δεξιὰ signify, passim the right hand, foot, and side. Before then, Jesus would have others on His right and left; see ch. Matthew 27:38 . [889] ΕἿς , one ) It may be supposed that the order of the disciples in their glory will correspond to the order in their office.

[887] Τἱ θέλεις , what wilt thou ) The Saviour does not act hastily in promising. V. g.

[888] Οἱ δύο ) She seemed to herself at the time to be speaking altogether seasonably. V. g.

[889] Sc. The two thieves who were crucified with Him. (I. B.)

Verse 22

Matthew 20:22 . Εἶπεν , said ) gravely, and with pity. οὐκ οἴδατε , ye do not know ) Ye do not know what My glory is, what it is to sit on My right hand and on My left, to whom it is given, and what is required beforehand. τί αἰτεῖσθε , what ye ask ) sc. what it is that ye ask. [890] ΔΎΝΑΣΘΕ ; can ye? ) He replies to the sons, instead of the mother, Are you equal to this? τὸ ποτήριον , the cup ) In St Mark He speaks also of “ the baptism ;” see the Gnomon on Mark 10:38-41.10.39 . Some copies of Matthew have the clause concerning baptism, others are without it. [891] ὁ ἐγὼ , which I ) Jesus already as it were then dwelt on His passion, and draws His discourse from it; and the speech of those two, whom He thus directs to follow Him, was, as it were, outstripping not only their ten fellow-disciples, but also the Lord Himself. [892] δυνάμεθα , we are able ) They did not even know sufficiently what they were answering; the Lord, however, bears with them, and accepts their confession; [893] cf. ch. Matthew 24:39 ; Matthew 24:37 .

[890] One ought to know this, who wishes to ask. V. g.

[891] In his Apparatus Criticus, Bengel says on this passage

[892] What Beng. seems to mean is, The request of the two sons of Zebedee, as it were, went before even Himself, not to say the ten disciples, in proceeding to the Kingdom at once, whereas He was dwelling on the intermediate Passion : He therefore urges them to follow after Him, not to take the lead of Him, and to bear the Cross of His followers before receiving the Crown . ED.

[893] Intending subsequently to perfect in them those things, which at that time were above their own comprehension. V. g.

22 ἢ ) Comp. Aug . 1, 2; Colb . 5 et Colb . n. 4112; Cypr. Laud . 2, 4; M . 1, 2; Wo . 1, 2, et e Classe ii. undecim alii, pluresve, Pers. Rus. Syr. καὶ Er . et al. E. Marco. ¶ ἢ τὸ usq. βαπτισθῆναι ) edd . MSS. Arab. Hebr. Pers. Bus. Syr. Chrys., Opus imperf. Basilius Sel. Theophyl . () Origenes, Epiphanius, Æth. Copt. Lat . et inde Cant. Colbert . n. 2467, Steph . η . Sax. Ambr. Hilar. Hieron. , Tr. de Bapt. inter opera Cypriani . (I. B.)

Rec. Text with C adds after πίνειν , ἢ ( καὶ ) τὸ βαπτισμαἐγὼ βαπτίζομαι βαπτισθῆναι . But BDLZ bc Vulg. Memph. Theb. Orig. 3,717 c , 719 b (ascribing the words to Mark), Hil. 709, omit the words. ED.

However the margin of Exodus 2:0 reckons that clause concerning the baptism among the readings better established in the following verse than in this verse. E. B.

Rec. Text adds in Matthew 20:23 , with C, καὶ τὸ βάπτισμαἐγὼ βαπτίζομαι βαπτισθησεσθε . But BDLZ abc , and the others quoted in note, Matthew 20:22 , reject the words. ED.

Verse 23

Matthew 20:23 . Τὸ μὲν ποτήριόν , κ . τ . λ ., the cup indeed , etc.) This, together with the parallel passages, has been treated with singular industry by Thomas Gataker in his Adversaria Miscellanea , B. 1 Chronicles 3:0 , of which we shall take the chief points. καθίσαι , κ . τ . λ ., to sit , etc.) There will, therefore, clearly be some who will sit on the right and left hand of Christ. ἀλλʼ οἷς , κ . τ . λ ., except to those for whom ) By this opposition or exception (for it comes to the same thing) Jesus does not deny that it is His to give (see Rev 3:21 ), but limits and declares to whom He will give it, as well as the time and the order, referring, as is His wont, all things to the Father. Jesus did not give it until, His passion having been suffered and concluded, [894] He had sat down Himself on the right hand of the Father. It is neither an earthly kingdom in which He gives it, nor does He give it to those who have not yet suffered. Under, therefore, the very appearance of a repulse, He gives a promise to James and John.

[894] ‘Exantlatâ,’ ‘having been drained to the dregs.’ (I. B.)

Verse 24

Matthew 20:24 . Οἱ δέκα , the ten ) Amongst these was the candid Evangelist himself. ἠγανάκτησαν , were indignant ) They feared lest they should lose something [895] [ i.e. lest James and John should gain something at their expense].

[895] Luke records a similar dispute as having arisen at the Last Supper, ch. Matthew 22:24 . Harm. , p. 433.

Verse 25

Matthew 20:25 . Προσκαλεσάμενος αὐτοὺς , having called them to Him ) They had been moved, therefore, with indignation when their Master was not present. He avowedly corrects them. οἴδατε , κ . τ . λ ., ye know , etc.) Therefore ye think that it will be the same in the kingdom of the Messiah. κατακυριεύουσιν [E. V. exercise dominion over ] κατεξουσιάζουσιν [E. V. exercise authority upon ] In both these compound verbs the κατὰ intensifies the signification (see S. V. of Genesis 1:28 , and Psa 72:8 ), and in this passage distinguishes between the legitimate use and frequent abuse of authority. οἱ μεγἁλοι , they that are great ) sc. ministers of state, who are often more imperious than their lords.

Verse 26

Matthew 20:26 . Οὐχ οὕτως δὲ ἔσται ἐν ὑμῖν , but it shall not be so among you ) “It appears to me not at all natural to suppose that all use and exercise of civil authority is in this passage utterly forbidden to those to whom these words apply, and much less so that our Lord meant to forbid, by these words, all precedence and inequality amongst His followers, since He Himself both expressly recognises degrees amongst them, by which some are preferred to others, as greater to less (see Luk 22:26 ), and also proposes Himself to them as an example ( ὑπόδειγμα ); see ibid. 27; Matthew 20:28 . Christ therefore, by this prohibition, did not derogate more from the authority of His followers over each other, than He did from His own over them.” GATAKER: hierarchically enough. ἐν ὑμῖν , amongst you ) These words “seem to apply to all Christians, whether princes or plebeians.” Ibid. “Christ teaches that His kingdom is carried on upon different principles from those of this world; for that in those there were external dignities, princedoms, and satrapies, which the respective kings were in the habit of conferring, according to their caprice, upon those whom they wished to honour; but that in His kingdom nothing of this sort was to be found; not because those things were not to be met with, or might not be lawfully exercised in the Church of Christ or amongst the professors of the Christian name, but because they do not pertain to, or arise from, the spiritual kingdom of Christ, to which He invites His followers. Moreover, that there was no reason why any one, in following Him, should promise himself the possession of such dignities, since He neither promised such things to any one, nor took or exercised them Himself: that He professed Himself, by practice as well as precept, to be, not the dispenser of secular dignities, but the author and teacher of humility and spiritual modesty. He exhorts all His followers, therefore, that (utterly laying aside all ambition) they should conform themselves to these virtues, of which they have an example in Himself.” Ibid. μέγας , great ) the minister of a great king is him self great.

Verse 27

Matthew 20:27 . Πρῶτος , chief .

Verse 28

Matthew 20:28 . Ὤσπερ , κ . τ . λ ., even as , etc.) The greatest example which could be adduced or imagined. διακονῆσαι , to minister, to serve ) See Romans 15:8 . καὶ , κ . τ . λ ., and , etc.) An ascending climax. τὴν ψιχὴν Αὐτοῦ , His soul ) i.e. Himself ; see Galatians 1:4 ; Galatians 2:20 . λύτρον , a ransom . ἀντὶ πολλῶν , for many ) A great ministry , and one of vast condescension. That for which a price is given, is in some sort more an object of desire to him who gives the price than the price itself. And the Redeemer spends Himself for many, not only taken as a whole, but also as individuals.

Verse 29

Matthew 20:29 . Ὄχλος πολύς , a great multitude ) which had been in that city. [896]

[896] And were subsequently present at His royal entry. V. g.

Verse 30

Matthew 20:30 . Δύο , two ) St Mark ( Mar 10:46 ) mentions only one, Bartimaeus, the most distinguished” [897] as St Matthew in the next chapter mentions both the ass and the colt, St Mark only the colt which was actually employed by our Lord; as St Luke ( Luk 24:4 ) the two angels who appeared, St Matthew and St Mark, the one who spoke.

[897] The same one is meant also in Luke 18:35 , that Evangelist having had occasion to transpose the order of the narration, owing to the fact that one of the two blind men made acquaintance with the Divine Physician on the way, when Jesus was entering Jericho. In the meantime, whilst the Saviour was dining or rather passing the night with Zaccheus, the other of the two blind men, whom Matthew adds to the former one, joined Bartimaeus. Harm. , pp. 434, 435.

Verse 31

Matthew 20:31 . Οἱ δε , κ . τ . λ ., but they , etc.) We must not listen to those who inculcate perverted shame or noxious decorum.

Verse 32

Matthew 20:32 . Τί θέλετε ; κ . τ . λ ., what will ye? etc.) We ought sometimes in our prayers to make special petitions.

Verse 34

Matthew 20:34 . Σπλαγχνισθεὶς , being moved with compassion ) The compassion of Jesus was aroused by every human misery. ἠκολούθησαν Αὐτῷ , they followed Him ) with the multitudes mentioned in ch. Matthew 21:8 , and without any one to lead them. [898]

[898] Sc. as formerly, when they were blind. ED.

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Bibliographical Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Matthew 20". Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.