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Word Pictures in the New Testament
(Matthew: Chapter 13)

13:1 {On that day} (\en tēi hēmerai ekeinēi\). So this group of
parables is placed by Matthew on the same day as the blasphemous
accusation and the visit of the mother of Jesus. It is called
"the Busy Day," not because it was the only one, but simply that
so much is told of this day that it serves as a specimen of many
others filled to the full with stress and strain. {Sat by the
(\ekathēto para tēn thalassan\). The accusative case
need give no difficulty. Jesus came out of the stuffy house and
took his seat (\ekathēto\, imperfect) along the shore with the
crowds stretched up and down, a picturesque scene.

13:2 {And all the multitude stood on the beach} (\kai pas ho
ochlos epi ton aigialon histēkei\)
. Past perfect tense of
\histēmi\ with imperfect sense, had taken a stand and so stood.
Note accusative also with \epi\ upon the beach where the waves
break one after the other (\aigialos\ is from \hals\, sea, and
\agnumi\, to break, or from \aissō\, to rush)
. Jesus had to get
into a boat and sit down in that because of the crush of the

13:3 {Many things in parables} (\polla en parabolais\). It was
not the first time that Jesus had used parables, but the first
time that he had spoken so many and some of such length. He will
use a great many in the future as in Luke 12 to 18 and Matt. 24
and 25. The parables already mentioned in Matthew include the
salt and the light (5:13-16), the birds and the lilies
(6:26-30), the splinter and the beam in the eye (7:3-5), the
two gates (7:13f.), the wolves in sheep's clothing (7:15),
the good and bad trees (7:17-19), the wise and foolish builders
(7:24-27), the garment and the wineskins (9:16f.), the
children in the market places (11:16f.). It is not certain how
many he spoke on this occasion. Matthew mentions eight in this
chapter (the Sower, the Tares, the Mustard Seed, the Leaven, the
Hid Treasure, the Pearl of Great Price, the Net, the
. Mark adds the Parable of the Lamp (Mr 4:21; Lu
, the Parable of the Seed Growing of Itself (Mr 4:26-29),
making ten of which we know. But both Mark (Mr 4:33) and
Matthew (13:34) imply that there were many others. "Without a
parable spake he nothing unto them" (Mt 13:34), on this
occasion, we may suppose. The word parable (\parabolē\ from
\paraballō\, to place alongside for measurement or comparison
like a yardstick)
is an objective illustration for spiritual or
moral truth. The word is employed in a variety of ways (a) as for
sententious sayings or proverbs (Mt 15:15; Mr 3:23; Lu 4:23;
5:36-39; 6:39)
, for a figure or type (Heb. 9:9; 11:19); (b) a
comparison in the form of a narrative, the common use in the
Synoptic Gospels like the Sower; (c) "A narrative illustration
not involving a comparison" (Broadus), like the Rich Fool, the
Good Samaritan, etc. "The oriental genius for picturesque speech
found expression in a multitude of such utterances" (McNeile).
There are parables in the Old Testament, in the Talmud, in
sermons in all ages. But no one has spoken such parables as these
of Jesus. They hold the mirror up to nature and, as all
illustrations should do, throw light on the truth presented. The
fable puts things as they are not in nature, Aesop's Fables, for
instance. The parable may not be actual fact, but it could be so.
It is harmony with the nature of the case. The allegory
(\allēgoria\) is a speaking parable that is self-explanatory all
along like Bunyan's _Pilgrim's Progress_. All allegories are
parables, but not all parables are allegories. The Prodigal Son
is an allegory, as is the story of the Vine and Branches (Joh
. John does not use the word parable, but only \paroimia\, a
saying by the way (Joh 10:6; 16:25,29). As a rule the parables
of Jesus illustrate one main point and the details are more or
less incidental, though sometimes Jesus himself explains these.
When he does not do so, we should be slow to interpret the minor
details. Much heresy has come from fantastic interpretations of
the parables. In the case of the Parable of the Sower (13:3-8)
we have also the careful exposition of the story by Jesus
(18-23) as well as the reason for the use of parables on this
occasion by Jesus (9-17).

{Behold, the sower went forth} (\idou ēlthen ho speirōn\).
Matthew is very fond of this exclamation \idou\. It is "the
sower," not "a sower." Jesus expects one to see the man as he
stepped forth to begin scattering with his hand. The parables of
Jesus are vivid word pictures. To understand them one must see
them, with the eyes of Jesus if he can. Christ drew his parables
from familiar objects.

13:4 {As he sowed} (\en tōi speirein auton\). Literally, "in the
sowing as to him," a neat Greek idiom unlike our English temporal
conjunction. Locative case with the articular present infinitive.
{By the wayside} (\para tēn hodon\). People will make paths along
the edge of a ploughed field or even across it where the seed
lies upon the beaten track. {Devoured} (\katephagen\). "Ate
down." We say, "ate up." Second aorist active indicative of
\katesthiō\ (defective verb).

13:5 {The rocky places} (\ta petrōdē\). In that limestone country
ledges of rock often jut out with thin layers of soil upon the
layers of rock. {Straightway they sprang up} (\eutheōs
. "Shot up at once" (Moffatt). Double compound
(\ex\, out of the ground, \ana\, up). Ingressive aorist of

13:6 {The sun was risen} (\hēliou anateilantos\). Genitive
absolute. "The sun having sprung up" also, same verb except the
absence of \ex\ (\anatellō, exanatellō\).

13:7 {The thorns grew up} (\anebēsan hai akanthai\). Not "sprang
up" as in verse 5, for a different verb occurs meaning "came
up" out of the ground, the seeds of the thorns being already in
the soil, "upon the thorns" (\epi tas akanthas\) rather than
"among the thorns." But the thorns got a quick start as weeds
somehow do and "choked them" (\apepnixan auta\, effective aorist
of \apopnigō\)
, "choked them off" literally. Luke (Lu 8:33)
uses it of the hogs in the water. Who has not seen vegetables and
flowers and corn made yellow by thorns and weeds till they sicken
and die?

13:8 {Yielded fruit} (\edidou karpon\). Change to imperfect tense
of \didōmi\, to give, for it was continuous fruit-bearing. {Some
a hundredfold}
(\ho men hekaton\). Variety, but fruit. This is
the only kind that is worth while. The hundredfold is not an
exaggeration (cf. Ge 26:12). Such instances are given by
Wetstein for Greece, Italy, and Africa. Herodotus (i. 93) says
that in Babylonia grain yielded two hundredfold and even to three
hundredfold. This, of course, was due to irrigation as in the
Nile Valley.

13:9 {He that hath ears let him hear} (\ho echōn ōta akouetō\),
So also in 11:15 and 13:43. It is comforting to teachers and
preachers to observe that even Jesus had to exhort people to
listen and to understand his sayings, especially his parables.
They will bear the closest thought and are often enigmatical.

13:10 {Why speakest thou unto them in parables?} (\dia ti en
parabolais laleis autois\)
. Already the disciples are puzzled
over the meaning of this parable and the reason for giving them
to the people. So they "came up" closer to Jesus and asked him.
Jesus was used to questions and surpassed all teachers in his

13:11 {To know the mysteries} (\gnōnai ta mustēria\). Second
aorist active infinitive of \ginōskō\. The word \mustērion\ is
from \mustēs\, one initiated, and that from \mueō\ (\muō\), to
close or shut (Latin, _mutus_). The mystery-religions of the east
had all sorts of secrets and signs as secret societies do today.
But those initiated knew them. So the disciples have been
initiated into the secrets of the kingdom of heaven. Paul will
use it freely of the mystery once hidden, but now revealed, now
made known in Christ (Ro 16:25; 1Co 2:7, etc.). In Php 4:12
Paul says: "I have learned the secret or been initiated"
(\memuēmai\). So Jesus here explains that his parables are open
to the disciples, but shut to the Pharisees with their hostile
minds. In the Gospels \mustērion\ is used only here and in the
parallel passages (Mr 4:11; Lu 8:10).

13:13 {Because seeing} (\hoti blepontes\). In the parallel
passages in Mr 4:12 and Lu 8:10 we find \hina\ with the
subjunctive. This does not necessarily mean that in Mark and Luke
\hina=hoti\ with the causal sense, though a few rare instances of
such usage may be found in late Greek. For a discussion of the
problem see my chapter on "The Causal Use of _Hina_" in _Studies in Early Christianity_ (1928) edited by Prof. S.J. Case. Here in
Matthew we have first "an adaptation of Isa 6:9f. which is
quoted in full in v. 14f." (McNeile). Thus Matthew presents "a
striking paradox, 'though they see, they do not (really) see'"
(McNeile). Cf. Joh 9:41. The idiom here in Matthew gives no
trouble save in comparison with Mark and Luke which will be
discussed in due turn. The form \suniousin\ is an omega verb form
(\suniō\) rather than the \mi\ verb (\suniēmi\) as is common in
the _Koinē_.

13:14 {Is fulfilled} (\anaplēroutai\). Aoristic present passive
indicative. Here Jesus points out the fulfilment and not with
Matthew's usual formula (\hina\ or \hopōs plōrēthēi to rhēthen\)
(see 1:22). The verb \anaplēroō\ occurs nowhere else in the
Gospels, but occurs in the Pauline Epistles. It means to fill up
like a cup, to fill another's place (1Co 14:16), to fill up
what is lacking (Php 2:30). Here it means that the prophecy of
Isaiah is fully satisfied in the conduct of the Pharisees and
Jesus himself points it out. Note two ways of reproducing the
Hebrew idiom (infinitive absolute), one by \akoēi\ the other by
\blepontes\. Note also the strong negative \ou mē\ with aorist

13:15 {Is waxed gross} (\epachunthē\). Aorist passive tense. From
\pachus\, thick, fat, stout. Made callous or dull -- even fatty
degeneration of the heart. {Dull of hearing} (\tois ōsin bareōs
. Another aorist. Literally, "They heard (or hear)
heavily with their ears." The hard of hearing are usually
sensitive. {Their eyes they have closed} (\tous ophthalmous autōn
. The epic and vernacular verb \kammuō\ is from
\katamuō\ (to shut down). We say shut up of the mouth, but the
eyes really shut down. The Hebrew verb in Isa 6:10 means to
smear over. The eyes can be smeared with wax or cataract and thus
closed. "Sealing up the eyes was an oriental punishment"
(Vincent). See Isa 29:10; 44:18. {Lest} (\mēpote\). This
negative purpose as a judgment is left in the quotation from
Isaiah. It is a solemn thought for all who read or hear the word
of God. {And I should heal them} (\kai iasomai autous\). Here the
LXX changes to the future indicative rather than the aorist
subjunctive as before.

13:16 {Blessed are your eyes} (\humōn de makarioi hoi
. A beatitude for the disciples in contrast with the
Pharisees. Note position of "Happy" here also as in the
Beatitudes in Mt 5.

13:18 {Hear then ye the parable} (\humeis oun akousate tēn
. Jesus has given in 13:13 one reason for his use of
parables, the condemnation which the Pharisees have brought on
themselves by their spiritual dulness: "Therefore I speak to them
in parables" (\dia touto en parabōlais antois lalō\). He can go
on preaching the mysteries of the kingdom without their
comprehending what he is saying, but he is anxious that the
disciples really get personal knowledge (\gnōnai\, verse 11) of
these same mysteries. So he explains in detail what he means to
teach by the Parable of the Sower. He appeals to them (note
position of \h–meis\)
to listen as he explains.

13:19 {When anyone heareth} (\pantos akouontos\). Genitive
absolute and present participle, "while everyone is listening and
not comprehending" (\mē sunientos\), "not putting together" or
"not grasping." Perhaps at that very moment Jesus observed a
puzzled look on some faces.

{Cometh the evil one and snatcheth away} (\erchetai ho ponēros
kai harpazei\)
. The birds pick up the seeds while the sower sows.
The devil is busy with his job of snatching or seizing like a
bandit or rogue the word of the kingdom before it has time even
to sprout. How quickly after the sermon the impression is gone.
"This is he" (\houtos estin\). Matthew, like Mark, speaks of the
people who hear the words as the seed itself. That creates some
confusion in this condensed form of what Jesus actually said, but
the real point is clear. {The seed sown in his heart} (\to
esparmenon en tēi kardiāi autou\, perfect passive participle of
\speirō\, to sow)
and "the man sown by the wayside" (\ho para tēn
hodon spareis\, aorist passive participle, along the wayside)
identified. The seed in the heart is not of itself responsible,
but the man who lets the devil snatch it away.

13:21 {Yet hath he not root in himself} (\ouk echei de rhizan en
. Cf. Col 2:7 and Eph 3:18 \errizōmemoi\. Stability
like a tree. Here the man has a mushroom growth and "endureth for
a while" (\proskairos\), temporary, quick to sprout, quick to
stumble (\skandalizetai\). What a picture of some converts in our
modern revivals. They drop away overnight because they did not
have the root of the matter in them. This man does not last or
hold out.

{Tribulation} (\thlipseōs\). From \thlibō\, to press, to oppress,
to squeeze (cf. 7:14). The English word is from the Latin
_tribulum_, the roller used by the Romans for pressing wheat. Cf.
our "steam roller" Trench (_Synonyms of the N.T._, pp. 202-4):
"When, according to the ancient law of England, those who
wilfully refused to plead, had heavy weights placed on their
breasts, and were pressed and crushed to death, this was
literally \thlipsis\." The iron cage was \stenochōria\.

13:22 {Choke the word} (\sunpnigei ton logon\). We had
\apepnixan\ (choked off) in 13:7. Here it is \sunpnigei\ (choke
, historical present and singular with both subjects
lumped together. "Lust for money and care go together and between
them spoil many an earnest religious nature" (Bruce), "thorns"
indeed. The thorns flourish and the character sickens and dies,
choked to death for lack of spiritual food, air, sunshine.

13:23 {Verily beareth fruit} (\dē karpophorei\). Who in reality
(\dē\) does bear fruit (cf. Mt 7:16-20). The fruit reveals the
character of the tree and the value of the straw for wheat. Some
grain must come else it is only chaff, straw, worthless. The
first three classes have no fruit and so show that they are
unfruitful soil, unsaved souls and lives. There is variety in
those who do bear fruit, but they have some fruit. The lesson of
the parable as explained by Jesus is precisely this, the variety
in the results of the seed sown according to the soil on which it
falls. Every teacher and preacher knows how true this is. It is
the teacher's task as the sower to sow the right seed, the word
of the kingdom. The soil determines the outcome. There are
critics today who scout this interpretation of the parable by
Jesus as too allegorical with too much detail and probably not
that really given by Jesus since modern scholars are not agreed
on the main point of the parable. But the average Christian sees
the point all right. This parable was not meant to explain all
the problems of human life.

13:24 {Set he before them} (\parethēken\). So again in 13:31.
He placed another parable beside (\para\) the one already given
and explained. The same verb (\paratheinai\) occurs in Lu 9:16.
{Is likened} (\hōmoiōthē\). Timeless aorist passive and a common
way of introducing these parables of the kingdom where a
comparison is drawn (18:23; 22:2; 25:1). The case of
\anthrōpōi\ is associative instrumental.

13:25 {While men slept} (\en tōi katheudein tous anthrōpous\).
Same use of the articular present infinitive with \en\ and the
accusative as in 13:4. {Sowed tares also} (\epespeiren ta
. Literally "sowed upon," "resowed" (Moffatt). The enemy
deliberately sowed "the darnel" (\zizania\ is not "tares," but
"darnel," a bastard wheat)
over (\epi\) the wheat, "in the midst
of the wheat." This bearded darnel, _lolium temulentum_, is
common in Palestine and resembles wheat except that the grains
are black. In its earlier stages it is indistinguishable from the
wheat stalks so that it has to remain till near the harvest.
Modern farmers are gaining more skill in weeding it out.

13:26 {Then appeared also} (\tote ephanē kai\). The darnel became
plain (\ephanē\, second aorist passive, effective aorist of
\phainō\ to show)
by harvest.

13:29 {Ye root up the wheat with them} (\ekrizōsēte hama autois
ton siton\)
. Literally, "root out." Easy to do with the roots of
wheat and darnel intermingled in the field. So \sullegontes\ is
not "gather up," but "gather together," here and verses 28 and
30. Note other compound verbs here, "grow together"
(\sunauxanesthai\), "burn up" (\katakausai\, burn down or
, "bring together" (\sunagete\).

13:30 {My barn} (\tēn apothēkēn mou\). See already 3:12; 6:26.
Granary, storehouse, place for putting things away.

13:31 {Is like} (\homoia estin\). Adjective for comparison with
associative instrumental as in 13:13,44,45,47,52. {Grain of
mustard seed}
(\kokkōi sinapeōs\). Single grain in contrast with
the collective \sperma\ (17:20). {Took and sowed} (\labōn
. Vernacular phrasing like Hebrew and all
conversational style. In _Koinē_.

13:32 {A tree} (\dendron\). "Not in nature, but in size" (Bruce).
"An excusable exaggeration in popular discourse."

13:33 {Is like unto leaven} (\homoia estin zumēi\). In its
pervasive power. Curiously enough some people deny that Jesus
here likens the expanding power of the Kingdom of heaven to
leaven, because, they say, leaven is the symbol of corruption.
But the language of Jesus is not to be explained away by such
exegetical jugglery. The devil is called like a lion by Peter
(1Pe 5:8) and Jesus in Revelation is called the Lion of the
Tribe of Judah (Re 5:5). The leaven permeates all the "wheaten
meal" (\aleurou\) till the whole is leavened. There is nothing in
the "three measures," merely a common amount to bake. Dr. T.R.
Glover in his _Jesus of History_ suggests that Jesus used to
notice his mother using that amount of wheat flour in baking
bread. To find the Trinity here is, of course, quite beside the
mark. The word for leaven, \zumē\, is from \zeō\, to boil, to
seethe, and so pervasive fermentation.

13:35 {I will utter} (\ereuxomai\). To cast forth like a river,
to gurgle, to disgorge, the passion of a prophet. From Ps 19:2;
78:2. The Psalmist claims to be able to utter "things hidden
from the foundation of the world" and Matthew applies this
language to the words of Jesus. Certain it is that the life and
teaching of Jesus throw a flood of light on the purposes of God
long kept hidden (\kekrummena\).

13:36 {Explain unto us} (\diasaphēson hēmin\). Also in 18:31.
"Make thoroughly clear right now" (aorist tense of urgency). The
disciples waited till Jesus left the crowds and got into the
house to ask help on this parable. Jesus had opened up the
Parable of the Sower and now they pick out this one, passing by
the mustard seed and the leaven.

13:38 {The field is the world} (\ho de agros estin ho kosmos\).
The article with both "field" and "world" in Greek means that
subject and predicate are coextensive and so interchangeable. It
is extremely important to understand that both the good seed and
the darnel (tares) are sown in the world, not in the Kingdom, not
in the church. The separation comes at the consummation of the
age (\sunteleia aiōnos\, 39), the harvest time. They all grow
together in the field (the world).

13:41 {Out of his kingdom} (\ek tēs basileias autou\). Out from
the midst of the kingdom, because in every city the good and the
bad are scattered and mixed together. Cf. \ek mesou tōn dikaiōn\
in 13:49 "from the midst of the righteous." What this means is
that, just as the wheat and the darnel are mixed together in the
field till the separation at harvest, so the evil are mixed with
the good in the world (the field). Jesus does not mean to say
that these "stumbling-blocks" (\ta skandala\) are actually in the
Kingdom of heaven and really members of the Kingdom. They are
simply mixed in the field with the wheat and God leaves them in
the world till the separation comes. Their destiny is "the
furnace of fire" (\tēn kaminon tou puros\).

13:43 {Shine forth} (\eklampsousin\). Shine out as the sun comes
from behind a cloud (Vincent) and drive away the darkness after
the separation has come (cf. Da 12:3).

13:44 {And hid} (\kai ekrupsen\). Not necessarily bad morality.
"He may have hid it to prevent it being stolen, or to prevent
himself from being anticipated in buying a field" (Plummer). But
if it was a piece of sharp practice, that is not the point of the
parable. That is, the enormous wealth of the Kingdom for which
any sacrifice, all that one has, is not too great a price to pay.

13:46 {He went and sold} (\apelthōn pepraken\). Rather eagerly
and vividly told thus, "He has gone off and sold." The present
perfect indicative, the dramatic perfect of vivid picture. Then
he bought it. Present perfect, imperfect, aorist tenses together
for lively action. \Emporōi\ is a merchant, one who goes in and
out, travels like a drummer.

13:47 {A net} (\sagēnēi\). Drag-net. Latin, _sagena_, English,
seine. The ends were stretched out and drawn together. Only
example of the word in the N.T. Just as the field is the world,
so the drag-net catches all the fish that are in the sea. The
separation comes afterwards. Vincent pertinently quotes Homer's
_Odyssey_ (xxii. 384-389) where the slain suitors in the halls of
Ulysses are likened to fishes on the shore caught by nets with
myriad meshes.

13:48 {Vessels} (\aggē\). Here only in the N.T. In Mt 25:4 we
have \aggeia\.

13:52 {Made a disciple to the kingdom of heaven} (\matheteutheis
tēi basileiāi tōn ouranōn\)
. First aorist passive participle. The
verb is transitive in 28:19. Here a scribe is made a learner to
the kingdom. "The mere scribe, Rabbinical in spirit, produces
only the old and stale. The disciple of the kingdom like the
Master, is always fresh-minded, yet knows how to value all old
spiritual treasures of Holy Writ, or Christian tradition"
(Bruce). So he uses things fresh (\kaina\) and ancient
(\palaia\). "He hurls forth" (\ekballei\) both sorts.

13:54 {Is not this the carpenter's son?} (\ouch houtos estin ho
tou tektōnos huios?\)
. The well-known, the leading, or even for a
time the only carpenter in Nazareth till Jesus took the place of
Joseph as the carpenter. What the people of Nazareth could not
comprehend was how one with the origin and environment of Jesus
here in Nazareth could possess the wisdom which he appeared to
have in his teaching (\edidasken\). That has often puzzled people
how a boy whom they knew could become the man he apparently is
after leaving them. They knew Joseph, Mary, the brothers (four of
them named)
and sisters (names not given). Jesus passed here as
the son of Joseph and these were younger brothers and sisters
(half brothers and sisters technically).

13:57 {And they were offended in him} (\kai eskandalizonto en
. Graphic imperfect passive. Literally, "They stumbled at
him," "They were repelled by him" (Moffatt), "They turned against
him" (Weymouth). It was unpardonable for Jesus not to be
commonplace like themselves. {Not without honour} (\ouk estin
. This is a proverb found in Jewish, Greek, and Roman
writers. Seen also in the _Logia of Jesus_ (_Oxyr. Papyri_ i. 3).

13:58 {Mighty works} (\dunameis\). Powers. The "disbelief"
(\apistian\) of the townspeople blocked the will and the power of
Jesus to work cures.

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Word Pictures in the New Testament
(Matthew: Chapter 13)