Understanding the Parable of the Vinedressers

Understanding the Parable of the Vinedressers
By
James Scott Trimm

One of the most misunderstood of Yehsua’s parables is the parable of the vinedressers in the vineyard.  Yeshua gives this parable as follows:

33 Hear you another parable: There was a man that was a householder: which planted a vineyard, and surrounded it with a hedge, and dug a winepress in it, and built a tower, and delivered it to vinedressers to cultivate it, and went abroad.
34 And when the time of the fruit came near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, to receive the fruit.
35 But the vinedressers seized his servants: and beat one, and slew another, and another they stoned.
36 Again he sent other servants more than the first, and they did to them likewise.
37 But at last he sent to them his son, saying, Perhaps they will honor my son.
38 But the vinedressers, when they saw the son, said among themselves, This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and his inheritance will be ours!
39 And they seized him, and brought him outside the vineyard, and slew him.
40 Think for yourselves, when the master of the vineyard has come, what will he do to these vinedressers?
41 And they answered Him and said, He will destroy the wicked vinedressers in their wickedness: and will hire out his vineyard to another, which will render him the fruit in its seasons.
(Mt. 21:33-41)

Christians generally misinterpret this parable to mean that the vinedressers represent the wicked Jews who reject and kill the prophets and ultimately the Messiah thus the master of the vineyard then rejects the Jews and replaces Israel with the Church.

This is a completely false understanding of Yeshua’s parable.  Lets start by looking at Matt. 21:33-34

33 Hear you another parable: There was a man that was a householder: which planted a vineyard, and surrounded it with a hedge, and dug a winepress in it, and built a tower, and delivered it to vinedressers to cultivate it, and went abroad.
34 And when the time of the fruit came near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, to receive the fruit.
(Mt. 21:33-34)

Yeshua here is paraphrasing Isaiah 5:1-2:

…my well-beloved had a vineyard in a very fruitful hill; and he digged it, and cleared it of stones, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also hewed out a vat therein; and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth grapes.
(Isaiah 5:1-2)

What does the parable mean “built a tower in it”  This is the Temple, as the Targum to this section of Isaiah paraphrases “I built a sanctuary in their midst”.

Thus the parable of the vineyard in Matt. 21:33-46 is an expansion to the parable of the vineyard in Isaiah 5.  This is very helpful information in “decoding” the parable because Isaiah tells us flatly:

For the vineyard of YHWH Tzva’ot is the House of Yisrael,
and the men of Y’hudah the plant of his delight…
(Is. 5:7)

The context of Isaiah 5 is that the “vineyard” (House of Israel) and the “plant of his delight” (the men of Y’hudah) are made vulnerable when YHWH takes down the fence around the vineyard and allows it to be trodden down (Is. 5:5)  This represents the Babylonian captivity (Is. 5:13).  The “workers” sent into the vineyard are not the Jews, the Jews are the “plant of his delight” in the vineyard.  YHWH turned the “plant of his delight” over to the Gentiles.  These are the vinedresser of Matt. 21:33-46.  These gentiles rejected Moses and the prophets and kill the son so that the vineyard (“House of Israel”) would be their own (replacement theology).  YHWH comes and brings judgment upon the gentiles and gives the vineyard (“House of Israel”) to others (non-Gentiles, i.e. “Jews”)

“And therefore I tell you: the Kingdom of Elohim will be taken away from you, and given to people who will bring forth the fruits thereof.”
(Matt 21:43)

The Aramaic L’AM is ambiguous and can be translated either “to a nation” or “to a people”.  This verse tells us that the Kingdom would be taken from the vinedressers (Gentiles) and given “to a nation” bearing its fruits (the fruits being repentance, see Mt. 3:2, 8).

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