Lexham Discourse Greek N.T. Matt. 20:7-12 w/translation & Commentary

Matthew 20:7–12 (LDGNT)
7λέγουσιν αὐτῷ Ὅτι οὐδεὶς ἡμᾶς ἐμισθώσατο λέγει αὐτοῖς Ὑπάγετε καὶ ὑμεῖς εἰς τὸν ἀμπελῶνα
8ὀψίας δὲ γενομένης λέγει ὁ κύριος τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος τῷ ἐπιτρόπῳ αὐτοῦ Κάλεσον τοὺς ἐργάτας καὶ ἀπόδος αὐτοῖς τὸν μισθὸν ἀρξάμενος ἀπὸ τῶν ἐσχάτων ἕως τῶν πρώτων
9καὶ ἐλθόντες οἱ περὶ τὴν ἑνδεκάτην ὥραν ἔλαβον ἀνὰ δηνάριον
10καὶ ἐλθόντες οἱ πρῶτοι ἐνόμισαν ὅτι πλεῖον λήμψονται καὶ ἔλαβον τὸ ἀνὰ δηνάριον καὶ αὐτοί
11λαβόντες δὲ ἐγόγγυζον κατὰ τοῦ οἰκοδεσπότου
12λέγοντες Οὗτοι οἱ ἔσχατοι μίαν ὥραν ἐποίησαν καὶ ἴσους ἡμῖν αὐτοὺς ἐποίησας τοῖς βαστάσασι τὸ βάρος τῆς ἡμέρας καὶ τὸν καύσωνα

Matthew 20:7–13 (LEB) Lexham English Bible
7They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go also into the vineyard.’
8And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning from the last up to the first.’
9And when the ones hired about the eleventh hour came, they received a denarius apiece.
10And when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, and they also received a denarius apiece.
11And when they received it, they began to complain against the master of the house,
12saying, ‘These last people worked one hour and you made them equal to us who have endured the burden of the day and the burning heat!’


Lexham Context Commentary

20:6–7 With only an hour left in the workday, the master goes out again and finds people standing about. He asks why they have stood there all day without being employed, and they indicate that no one has hired them. He sends them also to his vineyard to work for what is left of the day.

20:8 The end of the workday comes, and the master of the house tells his manager to pay the wages out to the workers. He instructs him to pay those who were hired in the eleventh hour first. This odd specification follows on what has already been odd hiring practice. The phrase “from the last up to the first” deliberately echoes 19:30 and will be repeated in 20:16.

The Wages Are Paid Out (20:9–16)

The evening comes, and all of the hired workers come to get paid. The group that was hired last gets paid first. Their wage is a denarius, even though they worked comparatively little. The first hired group expect to receive more, but receive the agreed-on denarius. They complain, but the master explains that he has met the agreement and has the right to do what he wants with his money.

20:9 The manager follows his master’s orders and pays those who were hired at the eleventh hour first. They each receive a denarius. To ensure that hearers understand that each individual worker receives a denarius, “apiece” is used. This is because it would be understandable if the whole lot of eleventh-hour workers received a denarius to split among themselves.

20:10 Now the workers hired at the beginning of the day receive their payment. They have seen the payment received by the eleventh hour workers and naturally assume that the generosity shown to the eleventh-hour workers will mean an increase to their wages. They receive the agreed-on denarius (20:2). No mention is made of the third-, sixth-, and ninth-hour workers, but it is obvious that they are treated the same way as everyone else.

20:11–12 The workers who have labored all day complain about the master of the house. Their words indicate that the equal treatment of those who worked only a single hour is unfair given that they have borne the bulk of the work and the heat of the day.

Mangum, D. (Ed.). (2020). Lexham Context Commentary: New Testament (Mt 20:1–16). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

UBS Handbook Matthew 20:7-12

Matthew 20:7

For stylistic reasons They said to him is translated “they answered” by TEV and placed after the quotation. Languages will vary regarding what arrangement is more effective. Also for stylistic reasons TEV and FRCL introduce “Well, then” into the speaker’s remarks as a transitional.

Hired us may need to be expanded to “hired us to work.”

Go is translated “go and work” by TEV (also GeCL and FRCL). Many languages may even require an explicit indication of the nature of the work that the men were sent to do in the vineyard. But see comments at verse 2.

Too here is used as in verse 4. TEV has not translated it explicitly here in verse 7.

Matthew 20:8

The owner of the vineyard is shortened to “the owner” by TEV, since this information is clearly implicit.

Steward (TEV, Phps, Brc, NAB “foreman”) is used elsewhere in the New Testament only in Luke 8:3 and Galatians 4:2, where the meaning differs considerably. Here the person is someone whom the owner of the vineyard has appointed to be in charge of the workmen. It may be translated as “supervisor of the workers” or as “the man in charge of the workers.”

Call the laborers and pay them their wages: according to Leviticus 19:13 and Deuteronomy 24:15, day laborers were to be paid each day before sunset for that day’s work, so the scene described is obviously very typical.

Beginning with the last, up to the first is somewhat expanded by TEV for the sake of clarity: “starting with those who were hired last and ending with those who were hired first.” Although beginning with may have the meaning “including,” the interpretation of the text represented by RSV and TEV is the meaning preferred by most other modern translations as well. This may need to be a separate sentence; for example, “First pay the people we hired last and then others, so the ones we hired first are the last ones you pay.”

Matthew 20:9

Eleventh hour should be translated the same as it was in verse 6, although if translators used “about” in the translation, as in “about five o’clock,” then that word will probably be inappropriate in this verse.

Many translators will follow TEV and expand came to “came to be paid” or “came to receive their wages.”

For denarius see comment at verse 2. Brc has “a normal full day’s wage.”

Received is formulated as a passive in TEV: “were paid.” Some languages will require a complete restructuring of the sentence. For example, “So the foreman paid a silver coin to each of the men who had begun to work at five o’clock in the afternoon” or “… paid the full day’s wages to each of the men …”

Matthew 20:10

The first are further identified by TEV as “the men who were the first to be hired.” In other languages an adequate translation of the first may be quite different. GeCL has “the men who had begun work the earliest,” and NEB has “the men who had come first.”

They thought they would receive more may be translated as direct discourse: “they thought, ‘He will pay us more money.’ ”

Matthew 20:11

And on receiving is more naturally “When they received” or “When the owner gave them their money.” In Greek receiving has no expressed object, but most English translations supply it (so NJB, NEB); TEV has “took their money.”

Grumbled may legitimately be translated “started grumbling” (TEV) or “began to grumble” (Brc). “Complained” or “criticized” are other words for grumbled.

Householder refers to the owner of the vineyard who has hired the men to work for him (see verse 1); TEV, NEB, and AT have “employer,” NAB prefers “owner,” and in NJB and NIV “landowner” is used.

Matthew 20:12

The text has saying. Whether translators have “grumbled by saying,” or start a new sentence with “They said,” or retain saying will depend on the receptor language.

These last worked only one hour: commentators note that the laborers are so indignant that they omit any form of polite address when making accusations against their employer. This is in contrast to the polite form of address used by their employer in verse 13. These last is translated “These men who were hired last” by TEV; NJB and Brc have “The men who came last”; GeCL “The others who came last”; and NEB “These latecomers.”

Only one hour (so also TEV) is literally “one hour,” but English requires the use of only or of some equivalent form in order to make the comparison.

And you have made them equal to us: the equalization is that of wages: “yet you paid them the same as you paid us!” (TEV) and “and you have treated them the same as us” (NJB, Brc).

Who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat is placed prior to the previous clause by TEV in order to make the contrast more effective, though most translations retain the sentence order of the Greek. NEB, maintaining the original clause order, translates “who have sweated the whole day long in the blazing sun.” Some translators start a new sentence here, as in “And yet we are the ones who worked all day in the heat of the sun.”

Newman, B. M., & Stine, P. C. (1992). A handbook on the Gospel of Matthew (pp. 616–619). New York: United Bible Societies.

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