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Seven Parables of the Kingdom
Summary —Parable of the Sower. Why He Spoke in Parables. The Parable of the Sower Explained. The Parable of the Tares. The Mustard Seed. The Leaven. The Parable of the Tares Explained. The Hidden Treasure. The Pearl of Great Price. The Fish Net.
1. The same day. For parable of the Sower compare Mark 4:1–9 and Luke 8:4–8. By the sea-side. The sea-shore is that of the Sea of Galilee, probably near Capernaum, at the northwest corner of the lake. 76
2. And there were gathered unto him great multitudes. Literally, “greatest.” There is every reason to believe that this was one of the greatest. It was the turning-point in his public teaching, since the parabolic instruction now begins.
3. And he spake many things to them in parables. Of which only samples are preserved, even by Matthew, and still fewer in the other Gospels. Parables. Narratives designed to convey spiritual instruction. The parable differs from the proverb in being a narrative, from the fable in being true to nature, from the myth in being undeceptive, from the allegory in that it veils the spiritual truth. Behold, a sower went forth to sow. It is the sower in the original. There was grain land on every side, and the figure was familiar to every hearer. There are no farm houses in Palestine. All live in towns or villages. Hence, the farmers “go forth” to sow.
4. And when he sowed. The seed-time in Palestine is usually in October, about the time when this parable was spoken. Sowing is always done by hand. Fell by the wayside. Where the field and the road join, or, rather, along the narrow, trodden foot-path through the fields, so common in Palestine. Fowls devoured them. The birds, because the grains were not covered.
7. And some fell among thorns. More literally, into the thorns. The traveler, to-day, finds Palestine literally a land of thorns, of thistles, brambles, and thorny bushes. Thorns grew up … choked them. Or, as Wycliffe renders it, The thorns sprang up and strangled it. The thorns suffocated the growing plant.
8. But others fell in good ground. The goodness of this last soil consists in its qualities being precisely the reverse of the other three soils. It was not hard, stony, or weedy. Some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred. Thirty-fold is now really a first-rate crop, even for such plains as Esdraelon, just below Nazareth. But in the time of Christ there might be realized, in favorable circumstances, a hundred-fold. Intelligent gentlemen (in the plain of Esdraelon) maintain that they have themselves reaped more than a hundred-fold.—Land and Book.
10, 11. Given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom. Truths that the uninstructed 77multitude are not yet prepared for. Every one knows that the lessons given must be adapted to the state of the pupil. Spiritual preparation is needful to understand the deeper spiritual truths (1 Cor. 2:6, 11).
12. Whosoever hath. Those who have been made some spiritual progress will go on, and have greater knowledge. Whosoever hath not. No desire for spiritual knowledge. Such shall become spiritually dwarfed, and lose even their capacity for spiritual things; a truth constantly illustrated. Whoever uses his opportunities will grow; whoever abuses them will lose them.
14, 15, 16. The prophecy of Esaias. Isaiah 6:9, 10. Isaiah describes a spiritual state that existed in the time of Christ, and is often met still, when, on account of hardness of heart and love of the world, men cannot understand the gospel and be converted. It is caused by their own fault. If they would fall out with sin, and come to Christ with a broken and contrite spirit, they would be healed.
18–23. Hear then the parable of the sower. In order to understand the parable we must listen to the explanation given in verses 18–23. Christ is the great Sower, and all whom he sends forth to preach are sowers under him. The seed sown is his Word, the Gospel of the Kingdom. The soil is human hearts. Four kinds of human hearts are described: 1. The wayside hearer; the light, flippant, indifferent hearer upon whom no impression is produced. 2. The stony hearer; the heart that exhibits an evanescent feeling at the appeal of the gospel; but upon whom no permanent impression is made. 3. The thorny soil; 78the heart that takes in the Word, but is so full of worldly cares that these presently gain the mastery. This describes the world-serving hearer. 4. The good soil; the good and honest heart; the heart that receives and retains the truth. In such a heart the seed will grow and the new life will be manifest. Three things, then, are needful: 1. A Sower. 2. Good Seed, the pure word of God. 3. A good and honest heart. A dishonest man cannot be converted until he casts out his dishonesty. He who cavils at and deceitfully entreats the word of God will not be profited.
24. The kingdom of heaven is likened. The object of all parables in this connection is to explain various features and principles of the kingdom of heaven. Unto a man which sowed good seed in his field. It is important to note what the kingdom of heaven is likened to. It is not to the field in which the tares and wheat were both sown, nor to the enemy who sowed the tares, but to the man who sowed the good seed. The kingdom does what the Sower is represented as doing. It sows the good seed. Good seed. It is declared in verse 19 that the seed is the “word of the kingdom,” and in verse 38 that the “good seed” are “the children of the kingdom.” These are those in whose hearts the good seed has fallen, and their new lives, as children of the kingdom, are the fruit of the good seed. In his field. The controversy has turned upon what the Savior represents by the field. 1. It is not the kingdom, or church, for this is represented by “the man that sowed good seed in his field.” 2. It is the place where the good seed is sown by the Son of man, or through his agency; in other words, the place where the gospel is preached to men. 3. Verse 38 states emphatically that the field is the world.
25. But while men slept. During sleep is the time of the tare-sowing. His enemy came and sowed. It is by no means uncommon for the malice in the East to show itself in this way. A wicked person may do great injury with little chance of detection. Tares. The tare or darnel is, like our chess or cheat, a kind of bastard wheat, looking like wheat.
28. An enemy hath done this. The great enemy, the prince of the world, who sows evil seed in 79human hearts. Wilt thou that we go and gather them up? It has been assumed by one class of interpreters that this a question whether discipline shall be administered upon recreant church members. If the field in which the tares are growing with the wheat is “the world,” then it refers to something quite different.
30. Let both grow together until the harvest. The time of separation will come at last. The righteous shall not always be vexed by the presence and deeds of evil doers. Harvest time will come, and that is the time of separation. The tares, ripened and manifest, can easily be sifted out from the wheat. For the application of the parable see note on verses 36–43 below.
31. Like a grain of mustard seed. Compare Luke 13:18–21. The Jews grew mustard in their gardens. Its round seed was previously spoken of as the smallest thing, as it was the smallest seed planted.
32. Which, indeed, is the least of all seeds. The least of all the field or garden seeds sown in Palestine. But when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs. All herbs cultivated in the fields or garden of Palestine. Dr. Hooker measured a mustard-plant in the Jordan Valley ten feet high. Thus, the kingdom, from an insignificant beginning, grows to a mighty magnitude.
33. The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven. In those days a piece of the leavened dough from an unbaked loaf was put among the new dough to cause fermentation. Three measures of meal. The usual amount for one baking, an ephah (see Gen. 18:6; Judges 6:19; 1 Sam. 1:24). The leaven is taken from without and “hid” in the meal, or flour. The hidden leaven, though only a small quantity, imparts its qualities to the large mass, till all was leavened. The Parable teaches that the Gospel is the leavening influence of the world.
34, 35. Without a parable spake he not. On that occasion. His whole discourse to the multitude was made up of parables. Which was spoken by the prophet. Psalm 78:2. 80
36–43. Declare unto us the tares of the field. The parable in verses 24–30 above. By a comparison we may learn: 1. The kingdom is likened to a man sowing good seed in his field. 2. The Sower is the Son of man, who sows by means of his kingdom. 3. The good seed is the word of God as seen in its fruits, Christ's followers. 4. The field is the world. It is Christ's field. All power is given to him in heaven and in earth. His kingdom is rightfully the whole earth, but much of it is held still by the enemy, who has to be conquered. He will prevail finally, and the kingdoms of the earth shall become the kingdom of the Lord and his Christ. 5. The wheat raised from the good seed is the “children of the kingdom,” the disciples of Christ converted by his word. 6. The tares are not bad church members, but bad men; those who have been under the influence of the wicked one. 7. The righteous and wicked are to remain in the earth together. The righteous are not to exterminate the wicked. The evil and the good will be mixed until judgment day. 8. Then all shall be gathered at the throne of judgment. The righteous shall “inherit the kingdom.” All that are wicked shall be cast out of the kingdom. An eternal separation shall take place.
44. The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hidden in the field. Valuables which, with us, are entrusted to banks, are in the East buried in fields and gardens to save them from robbers and accidents. This parable teaches the immense value, priceless, of the gospel; and that one who finds out that value will give up everything else in order to possess himself of the privileges and hopes of the kingdom.
45. A merchantman seeking goodly pearls. Pearls were then esteemed as the most valuable ornaments, and were sought by merchants on distant shores, the most valuable being brought from the Indian Ocean. 81
47. The kingdom of heaven is like a net. The Savior's illustrations all come home to his audience. Many were husbandmen; many were women familiar with the culinary art; some were merchants; many were fishermen. A drag net or seine is meant. Gathered every kind. Here again, as in the parable of the Tares, it is taught that, at the end of the world, the angels shall sever the wicked from the just.
50. Shall cast them into the furnace of fire. Here is repeated, word for word, the language of verse 42. The tares, the chaff, the corrupt trees, the barren tree, are all represented as burned, and here also the wicked are cast into a furnace. While I suppose that the language is a figure, it can only be understood as indicating that the sufferings of Gehenna, the abode of the wicked, are intense. See Matt. 8:12.
53, 54. When he was come to his own country. To Nazareth, where he was brought up. Compare Mark 6:1–6 and Luke 4:14–29. He taught them in the synagogue. On the Sabbath day (Mark 6:2). Whence hath this man this wisdom? While admitting it, they were offended at it (verse 58).
55. Is not this the carpenter's son? Joseph. Jesus was a carpenter also (Mark 6:3). His 82mother called Mary? She is named, Joseph is indicated by his trade. His brethren, James and Joses, Simon and Judas? Sons of Joseph and Mary. For a full discussion of their relationship, see note on John 2:12.
57. And they were offended in him. Made to stumble. Led into error. They could not see how one so humble, and of so humble a family, could be so great a teacher. Jesus said, A prophet, etc. A proverb that is quoted and applied.
58. Wrought not many mighty works, etc. Faith was the usual condition of his miracles. Where there is persistent, obstinate unbelief, Christ works no mighty moral works now. 82
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