Matthew 21:33 Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted...

KJV Verse: 

Mat 21:33 Hear another parable: 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:

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Listen to a different analogy. A man was an estate owner, who set up a vineyard and put a fence around it. Not only did he bury a wine vat in it, but he also built up defense tower. And it was itself eaten for vine-dressers and he went abroad.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This is an interesting verse for a number of reasons. For one, it offers an example of where the KJV Greek source makes more sense than the sources we used today. Also, the language uses a number of words with double meanings. This is unusual for Christ's parables. Many of these meanings revolved around military defense and death. Readers may want to play with possible double meanings with this one to get at what Christ is saying.

But the oddest thing about this verse is the word translated "let." in the KJV translators Greek source, it is a version of the verb meaning "give out," (see below), which makes perfect sense. However, in today's source, it would be a misspelling of that word, one that appears in all three Gospel versions with this parable. Thw word in today's source is the correct spelling of another verb, one that means "to eat," but that word is the wrong tense and passive ("he was devoured") when the sentence clearly has an object. It is possibly a play on both words, mashing them together but in a form that listeners of the time could understand. This would equate "giving out" this vineyard with the owner being devoured by the renters.

KJV Analysis: 

The word translated as "hear" means "hear tell of", "what one actually hears", "know by hearsay", "listen to", "give ear to", "hear and understand," and "understand."

The word translated as "another" also means "one besides", "of another sort", "different," and "other than what is true."

"Parable" is Greek for "analogy", "comparison," and "illustration." It doesn't mean simply "educational story" as it has come to mean in English. The fact that Christ speaks in analogies and illustrations is critical in understanding His words.

"There was" is from the verb "to be" and when it appears early in the sentence before the subject, the sense is more like "it is" or, in the plural, "there was," but here the word "man" comes first, so "a man was."

The Greek word for "man" in the singular means "person" and "humanity" and "people" and "peoples" in the plural.

"A householder" is from a word that means the master, steward or owner of the house but Christ uses it to refer to those who own an estate rather than just a house.

The word translated as "which" is the masculine subject of the sentence, so "who."

"Planted" is from a verb which means "to plant", "to produce", "to set-up," and specifically, "to plant with trees."

The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and" but in a series, is often best translated as "not only...but also."

"Hedged" is a noun that means "fencing in", "blocking up", "fence", "paling," nickname of a man "with a bristly beard," and metaph., "partition."

"It round about" is a verb that means to "place", "put round", "put on", "put round oneself," and metaph., "bestow," and "confer upon."

The word translated as "digged" means to dig, specifically a canal or a moat, but also means to "bury" but it has a number of other meanings as well.

The word translated as "winepress" means generally "anything shaped like a tub," but among it specific meanings is "wine vat." However, one of its other meanings is "coffin" which fits well the with "bury" translation above.

The word translated as "built" means specifically to build a house but it is used generally to mean "build" or "establish" but it also means to "build up" or "edify."

Watchtower" is from a noun that means "tower," and "tower of defense."

The plain meaning of this Greek verb is "he was devoured," but it could be a variation of which another verb that means to "give up," "surrender," " give out of one's house," " farm out," "let for hire," "give in charge to another," and many other specific meanings. Both of these words are very common in ancient Greek. The word for "let" is different in the KJV source and today's source. The word in the KJV source makes more sense, a legitimate variation on a Greek verb meaning "give up" and "surrender" but has a number of other meanings including renting a house. The sources today show a word with one letter different (like the difference we saw in the previous verse Mat 21:32) . The current source shows a word that means "to eat" and "to devour." It is in a form which would mean "he devoured himself." At first, this seems to make no sense, but perhaps it works as a play on words. The form of the word translated as "rented" is a simple active verb, but the "ate" is in a form which is either passive or where the subject is acting on himself.

The word translated as "to husbandmen" means to those "tilling the ground," and from that, "vine dresser", "gardener," and "peasant."

The verb translated as "went to a far country" the means "to be far from home" and "to go abroad." It was used only in Mat 25:14 and ​Luke 15:13 to capture a similar idea. However, in the Luke version the Greek words for "into a far country" are used explicitly in the Greek, which maybe what this translation was inspired by,

Greek Vocabulary: 

Ἄλλην (adj sg fem acc) "Another" is from allos, which means "another", "one besides", "of another sort", "different", "other than what is true", "as well", "besides," (with numerals: "yet", "still", "further"), "of other sort", "other than what is", "untrue", "unreal", "other than right", "wrong", "bad", "unworthy," [with an article] "the rest", "all besides," and [in series] "one...another."

παραβολὴν (noun sg fem acc) "Parable" is from parabolê (parabole), which means "comparison", "illustration," and "analogy." It is most often translated in the NT as "parable" but occasionally as "comparison."

ἀκούσατε (verb 2nd pl aor imperat act) "Hear" is from akouo, which means "hear of", "hear tell of", "what one actually hears", "know by hearsay", "listen to", "give ear to", "hear and understand," and "understand."

Ἄνθρωπος (noun sg masc nom) "A man" is from anthropos, which is "man," and, in plural, "mankind." It also means "humanity" and that which is human and opposed to that which is animal or inanimate. -

ἦν (verb 3rd sg imperf ind act) "There was" is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." (The future form is esomai. The 3rd person present indicative is "esti.")

οἰκοδεσπότης (verb 2nd sg pres ind act) "The householder" is from oikodespotes , which means "master or steward of a house", "owner of a domicile," and "native ruler (as opp. foreign emperor)."

ὅστις (pron sg masc nom) "Which" is from hostis, which means "that", "anyone who", "anything which", "whosoever," "whichsoever" and "anybody whatsoever."

ἐφύτευσεν (3rd sg aor ind act) "Planted" is from phyteuo, which means "beget", "engender," generally, "produce", "bring about", "cause (mostly of evils), "implant in," "to plant (especially trees)", "to set-up," and specifically, "to plant with trees." When used as a noun, means "father" or, in plural, "parents."

ἀμπελῶνα (noun sg masc acc) "Vineyard" is from ampelon which means simply "vineyard."

καὶ "And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just." -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also") and, in a series, is best translated as "not only...but also."

φραγμὸν [uncommon](noun sg masc acc) "Hedged" is from phragmos, which is a noun that means "fencing in", "blocking up", "fence", "paling," nickname of a man "with a bristly beard," and metaph., "partition."

αὐτῷ (adj sg masc dat) "It" is from autos, which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of one's own accord."

περιέθηκεν (verb 3rd sg aor ind act) "It round about" is from peritithemi, which means to "place", "put round", "put on", "put round oneself," and metaph., "bestow," and "confer upon."

καὶ And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just."

ὤρυξεν (verb 3rd sg aor ind act) "Digged" is from orysso, which means to "dig," "dig up", "dig through", "make a canal through," and of moles, "burrow," "bury," "dig into," and "gouge out."

ἐν "In" is from en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with".

αὐτῷ (adj sg masc dat) "It" is from autos, which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of one's own accord."

ληνὸν (noun sg masc acc) "Winepress" is from lenos, which means "anything shaped like a tub", "winevat", "trough," for watering cattle, "kneading-trough", "coffin," and "hollow of a chariot."

καὶ And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just."

ᾠκοδόμησεν (verb 3rd sg aor ind act) "Built" is from oikodomeo,which means to "build a house," generally, "build", "fashion," "found upon," and, metaphorically, "build up," and "edify."

πύργον,” (noun sg masc acc) "Watchtower" is from pyrgos, which means "tower", "tower of defense", "movable tower (for storming towns," and "a dice cup."

καὶ And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just."

ἐξέδετο [unique] (verb 3rd sg imperf ind mp) "Let" is edo, which means "to eat," and, metaphorically, to "eat up," and "devour" as we might say, "he devoured the book" or he was "eating himself up." OR a variation of ἐξέδωκε [ἐξέδοτο, which appears in the KJV source, seems to be a legitimate variation of this word, but no other occurrences of it can be found in Greek literature outside the Gospels] (verb 3rd sg aor ind act ) "Let" is ekididomi, which means to "give up," "surrender," " give out of one's house," " farm out," "let for hire," " give in charge to another," and many other specific meanings.

(KJV Source: ἐξέδοτο (verb 3rd sg aor ind) "Let" is from ekdidomi, which means literally, "to give out," generally, "give up," "surrender", "give out of one's house", "give one's daughter in marriage", "farm out", "let for hire,give in charge to another", "lend out money on security," "hand over, and "deliver a document.")

αὐτὸν (adj sg masc acc) "It" is from autos, which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of one's own accord."

γεωργοῖς, (adj pl masc dat) "Husbandmen" is from georgos, which means "tilling the ground," and from that, "husbandman", "vine dresser", "gardener," and "peasant."

καὶ And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just." -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also") and, in a series, is best translated as "not only...but also."

ἀπεδήμησεν. (verb 3rd sg aor ind act) "Went to a far country" is from apodemeo, which means "to be far from home", "to be abroad", "to be on one's travels," and "to go abroad."

Wordplay: 

Many of the key terms used here have secondary meanings in warfare relating to creating defensive structures. Even the word used for digging the place to receive the wine has an inference of digging a defensive trench.

Related Verses: 

Possible Symbolic Meaning: 

Here we have another analogy where God is cast as a landowner dealing with workers. Notice that the landowner improves his property, making it productive. Here, God is like an entrepreneur, creating a new business from nothing. He eventually turns that business over to others, letting them run it.