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Mark 12:2

ESV When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard.
NIV At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard.
NASB And at the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order to receive his share of the produce of the vineyard from the vine-growers.
CSB At harvest time he sent a servant to the farmers to collect some of the fruit of the vineyard from them.
NLT At the time of the grape harvest, he sent one of his servants to collect his share of the crop.
KJV And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard.

What does Mark 12:2 mean?

The setting of this parable is easy for the original audience to relate to. Large estates, owned by absentee landlords tended to by tenant farmers, were common in that era. Galilee, full of vineyards, was configured in this way. The landowner would send a servant to collect a portion of the produce as payment for leasing the land.

"Servant" is from the Greek root word doulos, meaning "a slave, bondman, or servant." "Fruit" is from the Greek root word karpos. It can mean the edible products of a plant, but it also means the result or effect of something, as in the "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22–23). Since intact grapes don't travel well, the story is probably referring to wine made from the grapes.

In the allegory, "servant" stands for prophet, as it does in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 7:25; Daniel 9:6, 10). The "fruit" is the devotion of the people, represented by their sacrifices, worship, and obedience to God. To gather that fruit and direct it toward God is exactly what God sent the prophets to do.

"When the season came" is an interesting phrase given the events in Mark 11. Jesus approaches a fig tree on His way to Jerusalem one morning, hoping for some breakfast. The fig tree is filled with leaves but no fruit because it is not the right season. So Jesus curses it, and by the next morning, it is withered to the roots (Mark 11:12–14, 20–25).

After the curse, but before the tree fully dies, Jesus entered the temple courtyard. Merchants and money-changers had set up booths in the Court of the Gentiles, space originally set aside for Gentiles to worship and pray to God. With the crucifixion looming, the season of God being exclusively for the Jews is coming to an end. The time of the Gentiles is coming. And so, like the fig tree that does not provide fruit when it is needed, the temple and the old covenant Judaic system must be destroyed. As a preview, Jesus tears down the vendors' tables. In another forty years or so, the Roman army will destroy Jerusalem.
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