My many years of teaching Bible too often lead me to put aside the spiritual message in the readings, having me instead looking at the story behind the story in the readings.
Like, for the first reading today, the spiritual message would be a warning against sibling jealousy. But those years of teaching turn me aside to asking how come Reuben was Joseph's protecter in the first part of the story, while it was Judah who later saved him.
Well, by reading the whole of that Chapter 37 of Genesis you will see that the final editors who fit that chapter together, were faced with opposing accounts of what happened that day. According to the descendants of Reuben, their ancestor Reuben hid Joseph in a dry cistern, intending to return for him after he had lunched with his brothers. But, while he was away, Ishmaelite traders, hearing Joseph calling, pulled him out, then sold him in Egypt, without Reuben knowing what had happened to him.
But, the way the descendants of Judah told the story, it was their ancestor Judah who had hid Joseph in the dry cistern, later selling him to Midianites.
Then, the Gospel should leave you wondering about two points in in the story. First, you should wonder why the landowner would have leased his vineyard to such unreliable tenants. Secondly, you might wonder how those tenants, without a leg to stand on, thought they could get away with claiming the vintage. The answer to that is complicated, but stay with me.
For one thing, our English reading badly translated a key word that Matthew wrote. While our reading says, "When vintage time drew near," Matthew, using the Greek word karpon, had actually written, "When the time for the produce came." There is a world of difference there.
The Law of Moses governing farming, forbade growing two different crops on the same land. It was seen as vegetable adultery. However, since grapes do not ripen for pickling the first four years after a vineyard is planted, some rabbis allowed workmen to raiser other produce between the vines those four years, while other rabbis held that the owner could claim such produce. Both sides had a legal claim on the produce from between the vines.
Like those people, we should see the big picture.
Thank you Father for explaining that. I had often wondered why the tenants thought they had a claim. God bless.TCL
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