Vol. 9 No. 12 – August 2012

The Wicked Husbandmen

Mike Johnson

The Bible indicates that Jesus taught a great deal by parables.  He would take something that the people were familiar with and compare it to a spiritual truth in order to educate them.  In His parables, Jesus discussed such things as planting seeds, baking bread, finding a hidden treasure, going fishing, and losing sheep.  Everyday things were discussed in order to instruct the people about the kingdom.  The “Parable of the Wicked Husbandman” is a parable taught by Jesus in which He tries to get the people to see themselves.  This parable is actually found in three places in the Bible.  It is recorded in Matthew 21:33-43, Mark 12:1-12, and Luke 20:9-18.  We will be looking primarily at Matthew’s account.

The Parable

Matthew 21:33 says, ” . . . There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.”  The verse shows that the householder (landowner NIV) prepared the vineyard.  He first planted it, and then he put a hedge (wall- NASB) around it. Walls around vineyards were commonly made of thick growing thorns, or they could be constructed out of wood or stone.  The householder then put in a wine press and a tower.  Towers were very common in the vineyards of that time.  Albert Barnes, in his commentary on Matthew says,  “In some Eastern countries at present, these towers are  often  80  feet high and 30 feet square.”   Finally, verse 33 points out that the land owner rented out his vineyard.  The people who rented the vineyard (the husbandmen) would make their rent payment by giving the owner a portion of the fruit.

In verses 34-39, we read of the problems which developed.  The renters of the vineyard refused to pay the rent.  One servant was sent to collect and he was beaten; another was sent and he was killed; a third person sent was stoned.  Others were sent, and they were treated in the same way.  Finally, the owner decided to send his own son.  (Mark’s account says it was his only son.)  The owner thought that he would be treated with more respect, but, instead, he was killed.  The renters thought that they could gain his inheritance.


The symbols of this parable seem to be very clear.  The householder represents God; the vineyard can be paralleled to the privileges of the Jewish nation; while the husbandman symbolizes the Jews.  The Jews were God’s chosen people, but they were frequently rebellious against God.  God sent the prophets to warn them, but they were often treated with contempt.  For example, Jeremiah was stoned, Amos was murdered, and Isaiah was sawn asunder.  Later, John was beheaded.  In the parable, the mistreatment of the servants represents the abuse that had been directed toward the prophets of God throughout the years. Most importantly, the son sent to collect the rent symbolizes Christ.  God lovingly sent His Son to die for mankind.  Christ, who was without sin and innocent, shed his blood for us.  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  Romans 5:8  says, “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Cross Examination

After presenting the parable, Jesus asked the chief priests and elders a question.  The question was, “When the Lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?”  They replied that the wicked husbandmen should be destroyed, and the vineyard should be rented out to other husbandmen.  Again, as in the Parable of the Two Sons, these people condemned themselves by their answer (vs. 42-44).  Verses 45-46 point out that they realized that Jesus was condemning them, but instead of repenting, sadly, they wanted to kill Him.