In Matt 19.3-12, we have a question from a Pharisee from Beit Shammai to Yeshua concerning divorce. Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel differed very differently about this. In this case, Yeshua will agree with Beit Shammai. Beit Hillel taught that a man could divorce his wife for any reason. Beit Shammai ruled that it had to be for the “indecency” found in Deut 24.1, and for several other reasons mentioned in Scripture like in Exo 21.10. This is not about the right to remarry after a divorce, everyone agreed you could do that, but the debate is over the legal grounds allowed in the Torah for a divorce. There such a thing as “spiritual adultery” when it comes to marriage. Ezra 9.1-2 we read about how Israelites had married non-Jews. Now, can a Jew marry a non-Jew? Yes, but the non-Jew needed to convert, but that wasn’t happening, they remained in pagan faith. In Ezra 10.1-3 we see a spiritual adultery in these verses and that was a ground for divorce. Yeshua in Matt 19 would have been alluding to spiritual adultery also.
In Matt 21.23-27, we read about the “elders of the people” and these were some members of Sanhedrin. We know Beit Hillel’s position about Yeshua and his followers by what is said in Acts 5.34-39, so we know these elders were from Beit Shammai. They ask Yeshua about where his authority came from to do “these things.” What they are referring to is Yeshua “cleansing the Temple in v 12. So, Yeshua asks them about John’s baptism, was it from God or not. They don’t want to answer, so Yeshua doesn’t answer their question on authority.
Now we are going to talk about the “aggadah” (parable) about the two sons and the wicked vine-dressers in Matt 21.33-46. Why are we going to deal with this specific aggadah? Because they are going to deal with his conflict with the Pharisee’s from Beit Shammai and the chief priests. In Matt 21.28-32 we learn that the harlots and tax-gatherer’s did “teshuvah.” It doesn’t matter who you are, everyone must “return” to God in repentance. Matt 7.21-23 talks about those who “practice lawlessness” or are “without Torah.” So, you can go through the motions of being “on fire” for God but if your heart is not turned towards God and the Torah (righteousness) then you are not in the Kingdom of God. It is not like he “knew” you and forgot you in Matt 7, he “never” knew you and you “never” knew him, and you never had a place in the Kingdom of God. Let’s look at the word “knew” for a second. In Gen 4.1 it says that Adam “knew” Eve, or had sexual relations. The word there in Hebrew is “yada.” Hos 2.20 it says “then you will all “know” the Lord. That word for know is “yada’at.” So, you have the word “yada” which is to know intimately, and “da’at” which means “knowledge” combined. Then in Hos 4.6 it says, “My people are destroyed for the lack of “the” knowledge.” The word there is “ha’da’at.” Most people who quote that verse do not realize it says “the knowledge.” So, this brings us right back to Matt 7.23 and “I never knew (yada’at) you.” With that in mind, let’s go back to Matt 21.33-40. The “landowner” is God and the vine-yard is Israel (Isa 5.1-30). He put in a “wall” to protect them and a “tower” which is the Temple, and a “wine-press” which is teaching. The “vine-growers” are the kings, priests, rulers and Sanhedrin, etc. The “slaves” are the prophets sent to them for fruits of justice, mercy and judgment (Jer 7.25; Luke 11.49). One thing to keep in mind. Many parables (aggadot) of Yeshua can be found in Jewish texts, such as the Prodigal Son and the Ten Virgins. There is a concept out in Christianity that everything Yeshua said was “brand new”, but it isn’t. We are not saying he never said new things, but most of his teachings were right out of the classical Jewish teachings, the midrashim and the aggadot. This aggadah about the “vine-growers” is based on Isa 5.1-7 and Gen 49.10-12. Shir Ha Shirim (Song of Songs) also talks about the “beloved” and his vineyard.
Now, there is a concept called “Pardes” which means “paradise.” It alludes to the four levels of interpretation. The first level is “Peshat” meaning the “literal”, the second level is “Remez” which means “alluding to” and the third is “Drash” which means to “interpret” and the fourth level is “Sowd” meaning “secret, mystical, hidden.” When you take the first letters of Peshat, Remez, Drash, Sowd. The first letters spell “PRDS” or “Pardes” (paradise). Remez means something is being alluded to in other Scriptures with the same words, themes and concepts. This is called “pearl-stringing.” When a person tells an “aggadah” (parable) they will use phrases that will cause his listeners to have different passages come to their minds. The passages will be part of the story he is telling. When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his aggadah, they knew he was talking about them (v 45).
In Matt 21.41-46, the season is Passover and Yeshua quotes Psa 118 which is read during Passover. It is part of the Hallel. In Mark 11.20-24, he says if you have faith you can speak to “this” mountain”, and the mountain is Mount Moriah. The teachings that were coming off that mountain through Beit Shammai and the chief priests were false and can be overcome by faith, and then you can enter the Kingdom of God. Now, at Sinai, there was a concept in the midrashim that Israel was literally “under” the mountain (Tachat) and Mount Sinai was like a marriage “chuppah” over the people, with the Torah as the contract. So, if you had faith, the Mountain of Sinai would be over you like a wedding canopy. But, the builders rejected the chief cornerstone (Yeshua) and Shammai (by the way, Shammai was a house builder) led the way. So, if the people rejected the truth, the Mountain of Sinai would come down and crush them (v 44). This stone was also the Kingdom of God, as seen in Dan 2.31-35. This “stone” becomes a mountain (The Kingdom of God) and it fills the whole earth, like the leaven in Matt 13.33. Those with faith enter in and the mountain becomes a chuppah, based on what the midrash teaches about the people being “under” (tachat) the mountain at Sinai. If the people do not have faith, they will not enter into the Kingdom of God and the mountain will come down on their heads. This is what Yeshua is alluding to here. Mount Sinai is associated with the chief cornerstone, and Mount Sinai and Mount Moriah are linked and are both called “the mountain of God.” In biblical understanding, the two become one because the commandments, written by God, were there. The “kedusha” of holy ground was there, but when the kedusha left Sinai, it was with the Mishkan and it moved with them in the wilderness. Then Solomon built the Temple, then the kedusha moved to the Temple. So, the kedusha went from Mount Sinai to the Mishkan to the Temple on Mount Moriah, thus linking them all together. The Pharisee’s from Beit Shammai and the chief priests knew that Yeshua was talking about them in his aggadot (v 45). In Part 10, we will pick up in Matt 22.1-4 with an aggadah about the wedding supper.