Pay the day laborers (Mt 20:8-20:8)

“When evening came,

The owner of the vineyard

Said to his manager.

‘Call the laborers!

Give them their pay!

Begin with the last.

Then go to the first.’”

 

ὀψίας δὲ γενομένης λέγει ὁ κύριος τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος τῷ ἐπιτρόπῳ αὐτοῦ Κάλεσον τοὺς ἐργάτας καὶ ἀπόδος τὸν μισθόν, ἀρξάμενος ἀπὸ τῶν ἐσχάτων ἕως τῶν πρώτων.

 

This parable is unique to Matthew.  When evening came (ὀψίας δὲ γενομένης), the owner or the lord of the vineyard told his manager, steward, or foreman (λέγει ὁ κύριος τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος αὐτοῦ) to call the laborers in (Κάλεσον τοὺς ἐργάτας) from the vineyard.  He was to pay them their day’s pay that day (καὶ ἀπόδος τὸν μισθόν).  Based on the Jewish Mosaic law in Leviticus, chapter 19:13, they were not to keep for themselves the wages of a laborer until the next morning.  The same can be found in Deuteronomy, chapter 24:14-15, but with a little more elaboration.  Poor laborers were to get their pay immediately every day before sunset.  Otherwise guilt would come upon the land owner.  There was a sense of justice that people who lived day to day should get their daily pay.  Thus, the manager was to pay the day laborers beginning with the last ones hired and work his way up to the first ones hired (ἀρξάμενος ἀπὸ τῶν ἐσχάτων ἕως τῶν πρώτων).

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The taunt against Babylon (Jer 50:11-50:13)

“‘Though you rejoice,

Though you exult,

O plunderers of my heritage,

Though you frisk about

Like a heifer

On the grass,

Though you neigh

Like stallions,

Your mother

Shall be utterly shamed.

She who bore you

Shall be disgraced.

O!

She shall be

The last of the nations,

A wilderness,

A dry land,

A desert.

Because of the wrath

Of Yahweh,

She shall not be inhabited.

But she shall be

An utter desolation.

Everyone who passes

By Babylon

Shall be appalled.

They will hiss

Because of all her wounds.”

Then Yahweh via Jeremiah taunted Babylon, by indicating how they thought that they were superior with their plundering and rejoicing. They were like young heifers and stallions doing whatever they wanted to do. Now their mothers will be shamed and disgraced. They will become the last of the countries, as their land will become a wilderness, a dry land, like a desert. The wrath of Yahweh will not be held back. Babylon will be deserted and become an utter desolation. Everyone who passes by her will be appalled. They will hiss at all the wounds that they would see.

Absolute monotheism (Isa 44:6-44:8)

“Thus says Yahweh!

The King of Israel!

His Redeemer!

Yahweh of hosts!

‘I am the first!

I am the last!

Besides me,

There is no god.

Who is like me?

Let them proclaim it!

Let him declare it before me!

Let them set it forth before me!

Who has announced from of old

The things to come?

Let them tell us what is yet to be!

Do not fear!

Do not be afraid!

Have I not told you from of old?

Have I not declared it?

You are my witnesses!

Is there any god besides me?

There is no other Rock.

I know not one.’”

Just like in the last chapter, this is a strong statement of absolute monotheism, but an even more forceful self defense of Yahweh. He proclaims his uniqueness as God in the first person singular, using the same arguments and adding more. First, he has a series of titles, Yahweh, King of Israel, Redeemer, and Yahweh of hosts. He proclaimed that he was the first and the last. Thus there was no other god. No one was and is like him. Has anyone been able to foretell the future? Let them come forward! Israel should not fear or be afraid. They would be the witnesses that there is no other god except Yahweh. He was the rock, but there was no other rock like him anywhere.

Yahweh calls the victor from the east (Isa 41:2 -41:4)

“Who has roused a victor from the east?

Who summoned him to service?

He delivers up nations to him.

He tramples kings under foot.

He makes them

Like dust with his sword.

He makes them

Like driven stubble with his bow.

He pursues them.

He passes on safely,

Scarcely toughing the path

With his feet.

Who has performed this?

Who has done this?

He is calling the generations

From the beginning.

I!

Yahweh!

I am the first!

I will be with the last.”

Second Isaiah wants to know who has summoned the victor conquer from the east for service. This victor from the east was Cyrus, the King of Persia from 559-530 BCE, more than two centuries after the time of Isaiah. Cyrus the Great created the largest empire in the world with present day Iran the last vestige of that realm. Cyrus took over many countries, trampling kings. He made them like dust or stubble with his sword as well as his bow and arrows. He pursued many people, but he was always safe with his fast feet that barely touched the ground. Second Isaiah points out that Yahweh was behind Cyrus. Who allowed him to do all these things? Why it was Yahweh, who interjected himself in the first person singular, saying that he was eternally the first and the last.