Summary of the Parable Elements
Now that we have taken apart the Matthew 21 parable of the vineyard in part 1 of the article, let's summarize the elements:
- The landowner = G-d
- The vineyard = the people of Isra'el (both Jew and Gentile)
- Vine = Yeshua
- Branches = disciples
- The wall = royal rulers of Isra'el
- The winepress = a place of testing the fruit (deeds)
- The tower = the Temple
- The vine growers = chief priests and chief Pharisees
- The harvest time = the appointed time to gather and test the fruit
- The produce (grapes/wine) = deeds; our living example/teaching of who G-d is.
- The first group of slaves = pre-Assyrian-captivity prophets
- The second group of slaves = pre-Babylonian-captivity prophets
- The son = Yeshua
- The inheritence of the son = ownership of the vineyard and the authority that came with it.
- The consequences = "the wretched end" points to the removal of the vine-growers from their position of acting with authority on behalf of the land owner.
Here are a few additional observations regarding the parable elements:
- In the traditional Hebraic betrothal process the potential groom offers a cup of wine to the potential bride. If the bride accepts the cup and drinks of it then they are betrothed. If the bride accepts the cup and then passes it back to groom without drinking of it then that signals her rejection of his proposal of marriage.
- Vineyards need water in order to produce fruit. Water symbolizes both the Spirit of G-d as well as the Torah. The vineyard [Isra'el] requires both the Spirit of G-d and the Torah to produce any fruit.
Providing additional clarity
The examination of one particular part of 1 Timothy 5 offered such significant additional insight into the whole wine/vineyard imagery that I have separated it here for additional inspection.
1 Timothy 5:17-25
1 Timothy 5:17-25
The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING," and "The laborer is worthy of his wages." Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning. I solemnly charge you in the presence of G-d and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin. No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed.
Is Paul being scatter brained and just throwing in a off-handed comment to Timothy in verse 23 about drinking a little wine for his stomach? Knowing Paul to be the brilliant man that he was, likely not. The context of the verse speaks of how to deal with elders accused of sin. So how does the sentence about drinking wine fit into the greater context?
There are 4 elements to his sentence.
- Frequent ailments
Let's examine them to see how they fit into what Paul is saying:
In the mind of a Hebrew (such as Paul), water symbolic of Torah and, by extension, the whole of G-d's Word. This Hebraic concept is seen in numerous places throughout Hebraic literature of the period and the comparison is based upon Isaiah 55:1:
Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost.
Here are some parallels between water from Song of Songs Rabbah1:
Just as rain water comes down in drops and forms rivers, so with the Torah; a man learns two chalakahs today and two tomorrow, until he becomes like a flowing stream.
Just as water has no taste unless one is thirsty, so the Torah has no taste unless one labors at it.
Just as water leaves a high place and flows to a low one, so the Torah leaves one whose spirit is proud and cleaves to one whose spirit is lowly.
Just as water does not keep well in a vessel of silver or gold but in the commonest of vessels, so the Torah resides only in one who makes himself like a vessel of earthenware.
Just as with water a great man is not ashamed to say to a lowly man, 'Give me a drink of water,' so with the words of the Torah, a great scholar must not be ashamed to say to a lesser one, 'Teach me one chapter, or one statement, or one verse, or even one letter.'
Just as water restores the soul, as it says, "But G-d cleaved the hollow place which was in Lehi and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk... he revived" (Judges 15:19), so does the Torah, as it says, "The law [Torah] of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul" (Psalms 19:8).
Just as water cleanses the body, as it says, "He shall bathe himself in water" (Leviticus 17:15), so the Torah cleanses the body, as it says, "Thy word is purifying to the uttermost" (Psalms 119:140).
Thus we can equate water and the Torah.
In our examination of of the Parable of the Vineyard we found that wine represented the pressed (tested) fruit (deeds).
Although in Western cultures the heart is the source of our emotions to the Hebrew mind the stomach is the seat of our emotions. Consider emotions like anger, fear, bitterness and jealousy and how they can tie our stomachs "in knots". Intense emotion can literally make one sick to his stomach.
This element of Paul's instruction is not even vaguely clear from the plain meaning of the text. With some measure of conjecture we might consider Timothy's "frequent ailments" (since they are related to his "stomach") to be matters in which he is in emotional turmoil. This could well be the case where Timothy is being called upon to deal with matters of sin among the elders of the community.
In the context of dealing with sin among the elders:
- No longer drink water exclusively = No longer make use of the Torah only (perhaps "the letter of the Law"?)
- But use a little wine = But use the tested deeds [of the elders]
- For the sake of your stomach = For the sake of your emotions
- And your frequent ailments = And your frequent emotional turmoil
Examination of other Scripture
[Note: everything that follows is conjecture on the part of the author. Applying the fixed meaning of one parable to other passages of Scripture may or may not be entirely accurate. In some verses the fit between the meaning of the parable and the text of the verse is good. In other verses there is an incomplete fit. The intention of the author is to lead others in considering these following verses in light of the elements of the parable. -Ed]
"Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved."
- New wine = new living examples (teaching)
- Old wineskins = individuals previously filled with old wine (teachings)
- New wineskins = individuals not previously filled with old wine
The parallel passage in Luke 5 includes an additional reference in verse 39: "And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, 'The old is good enough.'"
- Once accustomed to the "old teaching" does not desire to try the new.
It seems this is precisely the reason Yeshua chose "uneducated and untrained men" (Acts 4:13) as his disciples. They would not have been indoctrinated beyond what He wanted them to learn.
"But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom."
The "fruit of the vine" is wine that is created from putting the produce of the vineyard through the winepress and allowing it to ferment. To "drink of it" is to enjoy the results of that produce. We might see this as a picture of Yeshua not enjoying the blessings of bearing fruit in this world until He returns.
And when they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull, they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink.
- Wine = our living examples; teaching
- Gall = literally, something bitter; figuratively, something that causes one to become inured to pain (i.e. discipline or correction)
There is nothing bitter about good wine (teachings). The two should not be mixed.
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus *said to Him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it." Now there were six stone water pots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. Jesus said to them, "Fill the water pots with water." So they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, "Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter." So they took it to him. When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now."
- Wedding = "wedding feast of the Lamb"?
This happens after the Judgment where the deeds of all are judged (i.e. the grapes are "tested" and pressed).
- Old wine running out = no more of the old deeds (performed with a spirit of guilt or burden?)
- Miryam turns to Yeshua for more wine = Isra'el returning to the Word for further mitzvot?
- Yeshua turning water into wine = turning water (G-d's Word) into wine (living examples of G-d's character)
- Good wine saved until the end = deeds done with joy and the Spirit
It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.
- Eat meat = study the weightier matters of the law (see Hebrews 5:12-14)
- Drink wine = partake of a specific teaching (chalakah)?
- Brother stumbles = not walking (chalak-ing) well... struggling in his walk
This observation does not in any way intend to negate the plain meaning of the text but to additionally illuminate a spiritual meaning.
So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to G-d, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
- Getting drunk = partaking too much of chalakah?
- Dissipation = being filled too much with the wrong thing (the goal is not to be filled with chalakah but with G-d's Word)
- Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns = using the right sources (i.e. Torah instead of chalakah)
- Making melody with your heart to the Lord = melody of living our lives; (remember that the "heart" to a Hebrew is the mind)
Again... this is an observation in addition to the plain meaning of the text: don't get drunk.
1 Timothy 3:2-3 (also Titus 1:7)
1 Timothy 3:2-3
An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.
- Not addicted to wine or pugnacious [belligerent or eager to fight] (notice the two are grouped together) = Not so "addicted to "on a specific chalakah that he is combative about it?"
The same imagery might apply to deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of G-d will not be dishonored.
- Not enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good = not enslaved to chalakah but teaching what is good (Torah)
And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality."
- Wine of the passion of her immorality = the teaching of the strong desire for immoral deeds.
Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, "Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe." So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of G-d. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses' bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.
- Clusters of the vine = groups of individuals
- Wine press of the wrath of G-d = a place where the wrath of G-d was used to test their deeds?
This is just a sample of wine/vine/vineyard related passages in Scripture. Consider other passages cautiously considering that the singular meaning of one parable is likely not applicable in every other passage of Scripture.