The Parable of the Sower
1 On that day after Jesus went out of the house, he sat by the lake. 2 And such a large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat to sit while#tn Grk “and all the crowd.” The clause in this phrase, although coordinate in terms of grammar, is logically subordinate to the previous clause. the whole crowd stood on the shore. 3 He#tn Here καί (kai) has not been translated. told them many things in parables,#sn Though parables can contain a variety of figures of speech (cf. the remainder of chapter 13), many times they are simply stories that attempt to teach spiritual truth (which is unknown to the hearers) by using a comparison with something known to the hearers. In general, parables usually advance a single idea, though there may be many parts and characters in a single parable and subordinate ideas may expand the main idea further. The beauty of using the parable as a teaching device is that it draws the listener into the story, elicits an evaluation, and demands a response. saying: “Listen!#tn Grk “Behold.” A sower went out to sow.#sn A sower went out to sow. The background for this well-known parable, drawn from a typical scene in the Palestinian countryside, is a field through which a well-worn path runs. Sowing would occur in late fall or early winter (October to December) in the rainy season, looking for sprouting in April or May and a June harvest. The use of seed as a figure for God’s giving life has OT roots (Isa 55:10-11). The point of the parable of the sower is to illustrate the various responses to the message of the kingdom of God. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds#tn In Matthew’s version of this parable, plural pronouns are used to refer to the seed in v. 4 (ἅ…αὐτά [Ja…auta]), although the collective singular is used in v. 5 and following (indicated by the singular verbs like ἔπεσεν [epesen]). For the sake of consistency in English, plural pronouns referring to the seed are used in the translation throughout the Matthean account. In both Mark and Luke the collective singular is used consistently throughout (cf. Mark 4:1-9; Luke 8:4-8). fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other#tn Here and in vv. 7 and 8 δέ (de) has not been translated. seeds fell on rocky ground#sn The rocky ground in Palestine would be a limestone base lying right under the soil. where they did not have much soil. They sprang up quickly because the soil was not deep.#tn Grk “it did not have enough depth of earth.” 6 But when the sun came up, they were scorched, and because they did not have sufficient root, they withered. 7 Other seeds fell among the thorns,#sn Palestinian weeds like these thorns could grow up to six feet in height and have a major root system. and they grew up and choked them.#sn That is, crowded out the good plants. 8 But other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundred times as much, some sixty, and some thirty. 9 The one who has ears had better listen!”#tn The translation “had better listen!” captures the force of the third person imperative more effectively than the traditional “let him hear,” which sounds more like a permissive than an imperative to the modern English reader. This was Jesus’ common expression to listen and heed carefully (cf. Matt 11:15, 13:43; Mark 4:9, 23; Luke 8:8, 14:35).
10 Then#tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative. the disciples came to him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 He replied,#tn Grk “And answering, he said to them.” This construction is somewhat redundant in English and has been simplified in the translation. Here δέ (de) has not been translated. “You have been given#tn This is an example of a “divine passive,” with God understood to be the source of the revelation (see ExSyn 437-38). the opportunity to know#tn Grk “to you it has been given to know.” The dative pronoun occurs first, in emphatic position in the Greek text, although this position is awkward in contemporary English. the secrets#tn Grk “the mysteries.”sn The key term secrets (μυστήριον, musthrion) can mean either (1) a new revelation or (2) a revealing interpretation of existing revelation as in Dan 2:17-23, 27-30. Jesus seems to be explaining how current events develop old promises, since the NT consistently links the events of Jesus’ ministry and message with old promises (Rom 1:1-4; Heb 1:1-2). The traditional translation of this word, “mystery,” is misleading to the modern English reader because it suggests a secret which people have tried to uncover but which they have failed to understand (L&N 28.77). of the kingdom of heaven, but they have not. 12 For whoever has will be given more, and will have an abundance. But whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.#sn What he has will be taken from him. The meaning is that the one who accepts Jesus’ teaching concerning his person and the kingdom will receive a share in the kingdom now and even more in the future, but for the one who rejects Jesus’ words, the opportunity that that person presently possesses with respect to the kingdom will someday be taken away forever. 13 For this reason I speak to them in parables: Although they see they do not see, and although they hear they do not hear nor do they understand. 14 And concerning them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
‘You will listen carefully#tn Grk “with hearing,” a cognate dative that intensifies the action of the main verb “you will listen” (ExSyn 168-69). yet will never understand,
you will look closely#tn Grk “look by looking.” The participle is redundant, functioning to intensify the force of the main verb. yet will never comprehend.
15 For the heart of this people has become dull;
they are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes,
so that they would not see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’#sn A quotation from Isa 6:9-10. Thus parables both conceal or reveal depending on whether one is open to hearing what they teach.
16 “But your eyes are blessed#sn This beatitude highlights the great honor bestowed on the disciples to share in this salvation. because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For I tell you the truth,#tn Grk “truly (ἀμήν, amhn) I say to you.” many prophets and righteous people longed to see#sn This is what past prophets and righteous people had wanted very much to see, yet the fulfillment had come to the disciples. This remark is like 1 Pet 1:10-12 or Heb 1:1-2. what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
18 “So listen to the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one#sn Interestingly, the synoptic parallels each use a different word for Satan here: Mark 4:15 has “Satan,” while Luke 8:12 has “the devil.” This illustrates the fluidity of the gospel tradition in often using synonyms at the same point of the parallel tradition. comes and snatches what was sown in his heart;#sn The word of Jesus has the potential to save if it germinates in a person’s heart, something the devil is very much against. this is the seed sown along the path. 20 The#tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated. seed sown on rocky ground#tn Grk “The one sown on rocky ground, this is the one.” The next two statements like this one have this same syntactical structure. is the person who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. 21 But he has no root in himself and does not endure;#tn Grk “is temporary.” when#tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated. trouble or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 The#tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated. seed sown among thorns is the person who hears the word, but worldly cares and the seductiveness of wealth#tn Grk “the deceitfulness of riches.” Cf. BDAG 99 s.v. ἀπάτη 1, “the seduction which comes from wealth.” choke the word,#sn That is, their concern for spiritual things is crowded out by material things. so it produces nothing. 23 But as for the seed sown on good soil, this is the person who hears the word and understands. He bears fruit, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.”#tn The Greek is difficult to translate because it switches from a generic “he” to three people within this generic class (thus, something like: “Who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one instance a hundred times, in another, sixty times, in another, thirty times”).
The Parable of the Weeds
24 He presented them with another parable:#tn Grk “He set before them another parable, saying.” The participle λέγων (legwn) is redundant and has not been translated. “The kingdom of heaven is like a person who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, an enemy came and sowed weeds#tn Grk “sowed darnel.” The Greek term ζιζάνιον (zizanion) refers to an especially undesirable weed that looks like wheat but has poisonous seeds (L&N 3.30). among the wheat and went away. 26 When#tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated. the plants sprouted and bore grain, then the weeds also appeared. 27 So the slaves#tn See the note on the word “slave” in 8:9. of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where did the weeds come from?’ 28 He said, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So#tn Here δέ (de) has been translated as “so” to indicate the implied result of the owner’s statement. the slaves replied, ‘Do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, since in gathering the weeds you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At#tn Here καί (kai) has not been translated. harvest time I will tell the reapers, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned, but then#tn Grk “but.” gather#tn Grk “burned, but gather.” the wheat into my barn.”’”
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
31 He gave#tn Grk “put before.” them another parable:#tn Grk “He set before them another parable, saying.” The participle λέγων (legwn) is redundant and has not been translated. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed#sn The mustard seed was noted for its tiny size. that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest garden plant and becomes a tree,#sn This is rhetorical hyperbole, since technically a mustard plant is not a tree. This could refer to one of two types of mustard plant popular in Palestine and would be either ten or twenty-five ft (3 or 7.5 m) tall. so that the wild birds#tn Grk “the birds of the sky” or “the birds of the heaven”; the Greek word οὐρανός (ouranos) may be translated either “sky” or “heaven,” depending on the context. The idiomatic expression “birds of the sky” refers to wild birds as opposed to domesticated fowl (cf. BDAG 809 s.v. πετεινόν). come and nest in its branches.”#sn The point of the parable seems to be that while the kingdom of God may appear to have insignificant and unnoticeable beginnings (i.e., in the ministry of Jesus), it will someday (i.e., at the second advent) be great and quite expansive. The kingdom, however, is not to be equated with the church, but rather the church is an expression of the kingdom. Also, there is important OT background in the image of the mustard seed that grew and became a tree: Ezek 17:22-24 pictures the reemergence of the Davidic house where people can find calm and shelter. Like the mustard seed, it would start out small but grow to significant size.
The Parable of the Yeast
33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with#tn Grk “hid in.” three measures#sn This measure was a saton, the Greek name for the Hebrew term “seah.” Three of these was a very large quantity of flour, since a saton is a little over 16 pounds (7 kg) of dry measure (or 13.13 liters). So this was over 47 lbs (21 kg) of flour total, enough to feed over a hundred people. of flour until all the dough had risen.”#tn Grk “it was all leavened.”sn The parable of the yeast and the dough teaches that the kingdom of God will start small but eventually grow to permeate everything. Jesus’ point was not to be deceived by its seemingly small start, the same point made in the parable of the mustard seed, which preceded this one.
The Purpose of Parables
34 Jesus spoke all these things in parables to the crowds; he did not speak to them without a parable. 35 This fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet:#tc A few important mss (א* Θ Ë1,13 33) identify the prophet as Isaiah, a reading that is significantly harder than the generic “prophet” because the source of this prophecy is not Isaiah but Asaph in Ps 78. Jerome mentioned some mss that had “Asaph” here, though none are known to exist today. This problem is difficult because of the temptation for scribes to delete the reference to Isaiah in order to clear up a discrepancy. Indeed, the vast majority of witnesses have only “the prophet” here (א1 B C D L W 0233 0242 Ï lat sy co). However, as B. M. Metzger points out, “if no prophet were originally named, more than one scribe might have been prompted to insert the name of the best known prophet – something which has, in fact, happened elsewhere more than once” (TCGNT 27). In light of the paucity of evidence for the reading ᾿Ησαΐου, as well as the proclivity of scribes to add his name, it is probably best to consider the shorter reading as authentic.tn Grk “was spoken by the prophet, saying.” The participle λέγοντος (legontos) is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.
“I will open my mouth in parables,
I will announce what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.”#sn A quotation from Ps 78:2.
Explanation for the Disciples
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” 37 He#tn Grk “And answering, he said.” This construction is somewhat redundant in English and has been simplified in the translation. Here δέ (de) has not been translated. answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world and the good seed are the people#tn Grk “the sons of the kingdom.” This idiom refers to people who should properly be, or were traditionally regarded as, a part of God’s kingdom. L&N 11.13 translates the phrase: “people of God’s kingdom, God’s people.” of the kingdom. The weeds are the people#tn Grk “the sons of the evil one.” See the preceding note on the phrase “people of the kingdom” earlier in this verse, which is the opposite of this phrase. See also L&N 9.4; 11.13; 11.14. of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 As#tn Grk “Therefore as.” Here οὖν (oun) has not been translated. the weeds are collected and burned with fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather from his kingdom everything that causes sin as well as all lawbreakers.#tn Grk “the ones who practice lawlessness.” 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace,#sn A quotation from Dan 3:6. where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.#sn An allusion to Dan 12:3. The one who has ears had better listen!#tn The translation “had better listen!” captures the force of the third person imperative more effectively than the traditional “let him hear,” which sounds more like a permissive than an imperative to the modern English reader. This was Jesus’ common expression to listen and heed carefully (cf. Matt 11:15, 13:9; Mark 4:9, 23; Luke 8:8, 14:35).
Parables on the Kingdom of Heaven
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field, that a person found and hid. Then because of joy he went and sold all that he had and bought that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. 46 When he found a pearl of great value, he went out and sold everything he had and bought it.
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was cast into the sea that caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, they pulled it ashore, sat down, and put the good fish into containers and threw the bad away. 49 It will be this way at the end of the age. Angels will come and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace,#sn An allusion to Dan 3:6. where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51 “Have you understood all these things?” They replied, “Yes.” 52 Then he said to them, “Therefore every expert in the law#tn Or “every scribe.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 2:4. It is possible that the term translated “expert in the law” (traditionally, “scribe”) here is a self-description used by the author, Matthew, to represent his role in conveying the traditions about Jesus to his intended audience. See David E. Orton, The Understanding Scribe [JSNTSup]. who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his treasure what is new and old.”
Rejection at Nazareth
53 Now when#tn Grk “Now it happened that when.” The introductory phrase καὶ ἐγένετο (kai egeneto, “it happened that”) is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated. Jesus finished these parables, he moved on from there. 54 Then#tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “Then.” he came to his hometown#sn Jesus’ hometown (where he spent his childhood years) was Nazareth, about 20 miles (30 km) southwest of Capernaum. and began to teach the people#tn Grk “them”; the referent (the people) has been specified in the translation for clarity. in their synagogue.#sn See the note on synagogues in 4:23. Jesus undoubtedly took the opportunity on this occasion to speak about his person and mission, and the relation of both to OT fulfillment. They#tn Grk “synagogue, so that they.” Here ὥστε (Jwste) has not been translated. Instead a new sentence was started in the translation. were astonished and said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and miraculous powers? 55 Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother named Mary?#sn The reference to Jesus as the carpenter’s son is probably derogatory, indicating that they knew Jesus only as a common laborer like themselves. The reference to his mother…Mary (even though Jesus’ father was probably dead by this point) appears to be somewhat derogatory, for a man was not regarded as his mother’s son in Jewish usage unless an insult was intended (cf. Judg 11:1-2; John 4:41; 8:41; 9:29). And aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? 56 And aren’t all his sisters here with us? Where did he get all this?”#tn Grk “Where did he get these things?” 57 And so they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own house.” 58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.