martes, 18 de junio de 2024   inicia sesión o regístrate
Protestante Digital


Five yoke of oxen

Among the livestock and possessions that no Jew was permitted to covet was the ox.

ZOE AUTOR 102/Antonio_Cruz TRADUCTOR Roger Marshall 19 DE MAYO DE 2024 11:00 h
Photo: [link]Ana Cernivec[/link], Unsplash, CC0.

On a certain occasion, which happened to be Sabbath day, Jesus was seated at table in the home of one of the leaders of the Pharisees, warning them about the danger of striving to obtain the most important positions in life and about accepting others when one of the diners, turning to the Master, raised the subject of the messianic banquet.

The Jews had a series of images in mind about what would happen when God burst into human history to inaugurate the new age. The messianic banquet was precisely one of these images, which the prophet Isaiah had described centuries before: 

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine — the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces. (Is. 25:6-8).  

 The man addressing Jesus had this kind of banquet in mind and when he said: “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God” what he is exclaiming is: “What a privilege it will be to participate in the eschatological banquet of the kingdom of God because this will mean being present at the resurrection of the righteous!” (Luke 14:15).

This observation prompts Jesus to answer his interlocutor and all those present with a parable about the great banquet. So what the Lord is saying to them is: “Yes. You are right. But what if you are invited to this longed-for banquet, and you knowingly turn down the invitation?” 

In Palestine at the time of Jesus, when someone was invited to a banquet, the day of the feast was announced with great expectation. Invitations were sent out, but there was no mention of the time.

When the appointed day arrived, and everything was ready, the servants were sent out to bring in the guests. So accepting the invitation in the first place and then turning it down on the day of the feast was considered a very serious insult. 

According to Joachim Jeremias, Jesus might have been alluding to the case of a famous Jewish tax-collector called Bar Ma’yan recorded in the Talmud palestinense. [1]

This man apparently prepared a feast for the city authorities, but they turned down the invitation. Then, in order that all the food he had prepared would not go to waste, he invited the poor and the destitute and gave them the banquet.

However, not everyone agrees with Jeremias’s hypothesis. Another great exegete, Professor Joseph A. Fitzmyer, suggests that “most of these stories date back, at the earliest, to the 4th century AD; it would seem unlikely, therefore, that Jesus knew about stories like this one”. [2]

If this second hypothesis is correct it would have to be admitted that the parable of the great banquet was original to the Lord Jesus. Needless to say, this is our opinion. 

At first sight, what the text seems to be showing us is the superficiality of the excuses presented. The first guest had bought a field, but why had he not gone to examine it before buying it? Could he not have chosen any other time to visit his field? Is it possible to examine a recently acquired piece of land at night, in the dark?

The excuse of the second guest was that he had bought five yoke of oxen. Can you buy five yoke of oxen at the time of an evening banquet? Was there no better time? 

The ox (in Hebrew šō-wr o שׁ֖וֹר) was used in Bible times for farm work and as a draught animal (Dt. 22:10; 1 Kings 19:20; Dt 25:4; Hos. 12:11).

In the Bible references to it occur 145 times, given that it was so important for its economic value, for the work it could do in the fields, as a source of food (Dt. 14:4) and for sacrifice (Lev. 9:4; 22:23).

Among the livestock and possessions that no Jew was permitted to covet was the ox (Ex, 20:17). It was also forbidden to muzzle an ox during the harvest (Dt. 24:4), which demonstrates great respect for an animal’s well-being.

In Hebrew there are a number of words relating to different features of the ox: abbir, refers to its strength; éleph to its docility; tsémed indicates that it was a yoked animal; baqar that it was a herd animal and, finally, bûs can refer either to an ox or to a cow (Lk. 13:15; 14:5, 19; Jn. 2:14, 15; 1 Cor. 9:9; 1 Tim. 5:18). 

Undoubtedly, the best of the excuses is the third one. One of the good laws of the Old Testament made it clear that if a man has just got married, he does not go to war, and is free of every other obligation; he will be free to make his new wife happy (Dt. 24:5).

It’s evident that this man had this law in mind, but could he not have left her alone for just one evening? Some commentators have tried to explain this excuse as follows: “Taking her to the banquet would have made her very happy” And if he had informed the host of his recent wedding he would have said: “Of course, bring her along too!” (Hendriksen, G. Saint Luke’s Gospel, Michigan).

The problem with this interpretation is that only men were invited to this kind of banquet.  

It’s true that the excuses seem superficial, but there is no need to try to understand them or rationalise them. To ask questions like this is to miss the point of the parable.

Even if only one of them had accepted, the parable would have lost its meaning. The invitees did not sin by having bought something and having to go to see it as quickly as possible, or by having got married, but by placing their own personal interests above the host’s desire to have them sit at his table. The excuse was neither here nor there, what mattered was that they had no interest in attending the banquet. 

 After the refusal of these ungrateful friends the host invites some of the humblest people in that society: the poor, the lame, the crippled and the blind. But he invites them to come insistently: “Compel them to enter so that my house will be full”.

It’s perfectly understandable that people like this would be reluctant, at first, to accept such an invitation. It would be necessary to persuade them, little by little, before they would be willing to enter the hall and participate in the feast.

From the time of Saint Augustine, these verses have been interpreted to involve the use of physical force, if necessary, to convert people. Hence, some even consider Saint Augustine to be the spiritual inspiration behind the Inquisition. However, as we have said, that is a misinterpretation, as this text must be set alongside another text, 2 Corinthians 5:14: “Because the love of Christ constrains us …”.

In the kingdom of God, the only thing that constrains anyone is love. If the love of Christ is not experienced personally, force will have no effect. 

Jesus is not saying in these texts that the kingdom of God is any nearer, or that it about to be realised, but that there is already a possibility, in the present, of gaining access to the future banquet.

That is the true meaning of the Lord’s table. The Lord’s supper is also the invitation that the church extends to the world.

These verses are, likewise, the transition between the concept of the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Christ. The introduction to the parable refers to the banquet in the kingdom of God, while at the end of it, (v. 24), the Lord places the possessive adjective “my” before the supper.

The resurrection banquet of Jesus Christ begins already with participation in the Lord’s Supper. 

This parable presents no difficulty. Deciphering the true meaning is not complicated. It is addressed directly to Jesus’s compatriots, and is intended to prompt them to accept and not reject the invitation.

Being excluded from the banquet is the choice of the invitees. God does not force anyone to sit at his table against their will.

However, whoever refuses to accept the Word of God will be excluded from the eschatological banquet. The first to be invited were the religious Jews, the Pharisees, the lawyers who were Jesus’s contemporaries, some of whom were sitting with him around that table. 

But, in the second place, there is a double invitation. Two other groups appear. On the one hand there are those who frequent the squares and streets of the city, the marginalised Jews in all the Hebrew cities, those who had been disinherited by Judaism.

But there are also those who wander the highways and byways, those outside the city limits, that is to say, outside the frontiers of Judaism itself; the outsiders, the pagan gentiles.

This was precisely Luke’s teaching about salvation, as later becomes clear in the book of Acts, when he records the following words of Paul and Barnabas:  

Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. (Acts 13:46).  

Jesus tried desperately and by every means available to him to draw his compatriots into a true understanding of his identity as preacher of the kingdom and the Messiah, but God’s divine purpose could not fail because the Jews were not willing to embrace it.  

Some people lose their lives because they are so determined not to lose any time. Heidegger wrote in his book Being and time: “Getting lost in the busyness of everyday routines, modern man just wastes his time in them”.

This idea is reflected perfectly in the excuse we typically hear from our contemporaries: “I don’t have time! I have so many things to do and so little time to do them in! I can’t waste a minute more! My time is literally gold!  

The parable of the great banquet contains a very clear message for our contemporaries. Just like the invitees to this banquet, modern man is trapped in a terrible paradox.

He invests his time by distributing it meticulously, but fails to participate wisely in the present. He is tyrannised by the urgent, the routines of everyday life steals most of his precious time, and his hours disappear like water flowing through his fingers. The minutes that activism steals from him, and the frenetic busyness of daily life are minutes that he no longer has for what is truly important in life. 

However, Jesus’s message signals a fundamental difference between God’s banquet, that is the purposes that he has for every human being and our interests as human beings.

Our personal preoccupations are thus pitted against the joy of taking our place at God’s banqueting table; our current needs against the true freedom that Jesus Christ offers us; our everyday reality against what we could become in the hands of the Eternal host and, in sum, what for us might seem a waste of time turns out to be, from God’s perspective, a magnificent gaining of time.

The parable presents us with two models of human life, but the responsibility for choosing is the patrimony of each individual soul. 

What the systematic excuses of this parable show, at bottom, is not a problem of time management but of a fundamental failure to love appropriately. What these invitees really mean is that is that they love other things of this world more, they have more respect and admiration for other affairs than for the joy of the host.

When it is said that someone doesn’t have time for another person, what that means in reality, whatever the attempts to cover it up, is that they have no love for that other person. Anyone who really loves, always finds time. 

Likewise, God also requires that, if we love him, we be prepared to offer him the best of our time. He invites all of us to his banquet. He desires to rejoice with our joy, and on the table he has placed the choicest delicacies. After extending the invitation to us, he waits to hear our response from our lips. Will he detect the grimace of some excuse forming on them?


[1] Jeremias, J. 1992, Las parábolas de Jesús, Verbo Divino, Estella, Navarra, p. 218. 

[2] Fitzmyer, J. A., 1987, El evangelio según Lucas, Cristiandad, Madrid, V. 3, p. 616.




    Si quieres comentar o


ESTAS EN: - - - Five yoke of oxen
Síguenos en Ivoox
Síguenos en YouTube y en Vimeo

MIEMBRO DE: Evangelical European Alliance (EEA) y World Evangelical Alliance (WEA)

Las opiniones vertidas por nuestros colaboradores se realizan a nivel personal, pudiendo coincidir o no con la postura de la dirección de Protestante Digital.