BibleTools
verse

(e.g. john 8 32)
  or  

Matthew 13:4  (King James Version)
version

A.F.V
A.S.V.
Amplified®
Darby
I.S.V.
K.J.V.
N.A.S.B.
NASB E-Prime
Young's


Compare all


Book Notes
   Barnes' Book Notes
   Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Book Notes
   Robertson's Book Notes (NT)
Commentaries
   Adam Clarke
   Barnes' Notes
   Forerunner Commentary
   Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
   John Wesley's Notes
   Matthew Henry
   People's Commentary (NT)
   Robertson's Word Pictures (NT)
   Scofield
Definitions
Interlinear
Library
Topical Studies
X-References
Commentaries:
<< Matthew 13:3   Matthew 13:5 >>


Matthew 13:1-53

Matthew 13 contains Christ's explanation of His use of parables as a way of teaching. In analyzing these parables, we discover the King's personal view of His Kingdom through the past, present, and future of the history of His church. They seem not to reveal as much about the church's eternal characteristics as about its day-to-day efforts resulting from Christ's work in coming into the world. They act as a prophetic summary of the historical development of God's church. The recurring phrase "kingdom of heaven" denotes Christ's work through His church to make known "the word of the kingdom" (verse 19), that is, to announce the good news of the coming Kingdom of God.

The chapter contains eight parables. Jesus gave the first four to the mixed multitude, while He told the last four to the twelve disciples in private. After the first series of four parables, Matthew writes, "All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them" (verse 34). These four parables describe the outward characteristics of the church, the working of the mystery of sin against the church, and the extent to which the Evil One is allowed to go in his opposition. The remaining four parables illustrate the inner characteristics of His church. After the eighth parable, Matthew makes another concluding statement, ". . . when Jesus had finished these parables, . . . He departed from there" (verse 53).

The parables can also be grouped into related pairs that illustrate the church's different characteristics:

First Pair: The Sower (verse 3) represents the relationship of the church to the different groups of people with which it comes into contact while doing its work. The Tares (verse 24) represents the relationship of the church to the wicked one and his agents.

Second Pair: The Mustard Seed (verse 31) represents the dynamic growth of the church from small beginnings even while adversaries confront it. The Leaven (verse 33) represents the progress of the church against and despite the contagious outspread of sin.

Third Pair: The Treasure (verse 44) represents the preciousness of Christians to Christ, who can see their hidden value and sacrifices all to possess them. The Pearl (verse 45) represents the preciousness of the church to Christ, who sacrifices everything to acquire it.

Fourth Pair: The Dragnet (verse 47) teaches that the good and evil who intermingle on earth will be completely separated in the judgment. The Householder (verse 52) represents the work of the true minister and teacher who feeds the household of faith from a rich storehouse of essential spiritual treasures.

Taken together, the stories describe the characteristics and dynamism of the church, its formidable obstacles, and its ultimate victory. They show Christ working through His messengers to preach the gospel of the Kingdom between the time of His first and second comings.

The first parable, The Sower, and the eighth, The Householder, are key, the first introducing and anticipating all of the parables, and the last concluding and reflecting back on the whole, stating the church's purpose and duty under the authority of Jesus Christ.

When Jesus finished the first seven parables, He asked His disciples, "Have you understood all these things?" That they understood made it possible for Jesus to conclude with a final parable that reveals the responsibility of the disciples as "scribes" in the church, "instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven" (verse 52). The apostles, and the church Jesus would build, would bring forth a treasure of knowledge and understanding, "things new and old."

Jesus teaches us by the simplicity and shortness of His parables that directness and brevity are effective teaching tools. His method stands in sharp contrast to the involved and lengthy style of some Bible commentators. Jesus gave clear and precise illustrations to which His audience could relate. Farmers listened to pictures of agricultural life. Wives could grasp His word pictures from home life. Merchants could relate to illustrations from the business world that translated into spiritual principles. Jesus also spoke of common civic duties and social events. Portrayals of nature scenes provided Him with analogies with which to express spiritual truth. Jesus used pictures that fit the occasion in a way that preserved their naturalness.

Only Christ's disciples can really understand the true spiritual principles involved in the parables, "because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" (verse 11). They were inspired by His Father in heaven, "[for] all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15), therefore "blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears, for they hear" (Matthew 13:16).

Martin G. Collins
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part One): Introduction



Matthew 13:3-8

A farmer places seed in the ground so it will sprout and bear fruit. Some seeds fall on unplowed, unturned, hard ground. This type of soil does not allow the seed to sink in, and the birds easily find and devour the seed.

Stony ground, having little or no soil, has insufficient nourishment for seeds to root and grow into a healthy plant. Initially, they appear to grow quicker because, with less soil to establish a root system, they expend their energy in producing the stem and leaves. When the sun grows hot (representing the light of God's truth exposing them, or trials and persecution testing them), however, the sprouts wither away, the result of inadequate root systems.

Fertile and rich soil provides nutrients for the seeds to produce a crop that varies in its yield. It is common for crops to produce a hundred, sixty, or thirty grains for each one sown. For example, some strains of wheat will produce a crop twelve or fifteen hundred times the original amount of seed sown.

Martin G. Collins
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part Two): The Parable of the Sower



Matthew 13:3-9

The seed is the Word of God, and its hitting the ground is not the end of the story. A variety of things can happen that will affect the growth of that seed. Some might fall on stone, others might be buried too deep. Rain may come and wash away some of it. Birds may devour others. But because life is in the seed, something will happen.

In the last century, archeologists found wheat and cotton seeds in some of the burial chambers that they excavated. Those seeds—which were probably anywhere from 2,000-4,000 years old—grew when put into the right soil. The spirit of life was still in them, even though they had lain dormant for thousands of years.

This is dramatic confirmation that, if a seed is sown, it will do something when it lands in the right kind of soil. Jesus shows in this parable that the environment affects the seed's growth. When we make the proper application—people are the ground, and our environment and what we do after receiving the seed—the word of truth, containing the doctrines—is what affects its growth. In this analogy, growth represents sanctification, which is the formation of God's image in us by living His way of life empowered by His Spirit. What we do with the seed is "work[ing] out [our] salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). It is the equivalent of rain, sunshine, weeding, fertilizing, so that the potential for fruit is the greatest. Sanctification is worked out through application, by living the doctrines and the truths of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 5): Ephesians 4 (B)



Matthew 13:4

It does not sound good that the birds eat the seed—and it is not. The "birds of the air" are a negative symbol. In verse 19, instead of saying "birds of the air," Jesus interprets them as "the wicked one" devouring the seed. In his version, Mark uses the specific word "Satan," and similarly, Luke has "the Devil."

Notice Genesis 15:11, where Abraham is making a covenant with God: "And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away." What were the vultures doing? They were interfering between God and man, trying to defile Abraham's sacrifice.

Deuteronomy 28:26, a somewhat different context being within the Blessings and Curses chapter, has this as a curse: "Your carcasses shall be food for all the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and no one shall frighten them away." God promises that there would be no Abraham around, as it were, to fend off the birds. "Birds of the air" is a negative symbol.

Revelation 18:2 really nails it down:

And [an angel] cried mightily with a loud voice, saying Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a habitation of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!

What are the "birds of the air"? Demons! They try to get us when we are young in the church. Like the lion of I Peter 5, they go for the stragglers, the weak, and the newborn, because they are the easy pickings. What is step one of Satan's plan against the church? Attack God's people early in their calling. Distract them. Persecute them. Crush them—before they are strong enough to resist.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part 1): The Mustard Seed



Matthew 13:3-9

In the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-9, 19-23; also Mark 4:3-9, 14-20; Luke 8:4-8, 11-15), Jesus reveals why those who hear the gospel of the coming Kingdom of God are not always receptive in the same way. People who are called have their minds opened, the Holy Spirit enabling them to take it to heart, yet many see its surface value but do not internalize it. The parable illustrates the church's relationship to the different groups of people with which it comes in contact.

Jesus uses three components—the sower, the seed and the soils—to indicate the differences.His story shows the fate of the sown seed, the different types of soils on which it fell, and the resulting effects. Though Jesus names it "the parable of the sower" (Matthew 13:18), the subject matter sheds particular light on the diverse soils. Nevertheless, the sower does not play a minor role in the parable, since without Him no sowing would occur, without which there would be no possibility of fruit. However, the sower represents a group, as well as Jesus Himself (Matthew 13:37). The language suggests any typical sower, so God's ministers may be considered sowers of the gospel as well. The Parable of the Sower is essential because it introduces and anticipates the whole series of parables in Matthew 13.

Martin G. Collins
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part Two): The Parable of the Sower



Matthew 13:1-53

Matthew 13 contains eight parables of “the kingdom,” and commentators generally interpret them all with the church in view. However, Christ spoke the first four to the multitudes (Matthew 13:2, 34, 36), and the setting suggests that His public teaching better suited the degenerate state of the physical nation than the growth of the yet-to-be-established church. Luke 13:10-20 contains two of the four—the Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Parable of the Leaven—and in that account, Jesus plainly gave them in response to the nation's existing, degenerate belief system.

Whereas Jesus spoke the first four parables to the folk of Judea and Galilee—explaining two of them to the disciples—He told the last four parables solely to the disciples (Matthew 13:36). This suggests Jesus was turning His focus to a different aspect of the reign of God: the spiritual nation that would bear the fruits of the Kingdom—that is, the church.

However, despite the change in audience, the last four parables still connect to the first four, providing positive instruction to the disciples and now the church. We see the close connection in the parables' deliberate structure, which few take into consideration.

As with the rest of God's creation, His Word displays an order and beauty in its organization. The parables in Matthew 13 are arranged in a chiasm (also known as an introversion or epanados), a structure wherein similar ideas are repeated but in reverse sequence. In plain terms, the first and last parables form a pair because they teach about a common theme. Similarly, the second and seventh, the third and sixth, and the fourth and fifth parables form pairs because their respective lessons closely relate. In general, the first parable of each pair, spoken to the multitudes, presents a problem to which the second, spoken to the disciples, provides the spiritual solution.

The term chiasm comes from the Greek letter chi, which we know as the letter X. The pivotal point of the X, and the crux of the chiasm, lies at the intersection. Applying this to the parables of Matthew 13, the decisive truth of Christ's teaching is found in the middle of the chiasm, the Parable of the Leaven (fourth parable) and the Parable of the Hidden Treasure (fifth parable). The previous parables lead up to this pair, and the remaining parables build upon their pivotal understanding.

David C. Grabbe
God's Kingdom in the Parables (Part Three)



Matthew 13:3-9

Jesus' first parable to the multitudes concerns a sower and his limited success in receiving fruit from the earth. Recognizing the context and audience reveals that this parable was a rebuke of the nation. It testified of the citizens' inability to receive “the word of the kingdom” (verse 19)—the gospel of the Kingdom of God. It aptly describes what John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles experienced in the first century. They saw within the people some interest—and even some willingness—to repent (after a fashion) and to be baptized, but there was little depth because their hearts were so far from their King. In three out of four scenarios in the parable, the ground produced nothing of value.

Only the good soil—“he who hears the word and understands it” (verse 23; emphasis ours)—bears fruit. All the types of ground receive the Word, but God prepares the soil only of some. The masses lacked ears to hear, despite claiming Abraham as their father. They looked for a messiah who would improve their political condition while leaving their religious system and moral state unchallenged.

We see this even within the context of the Parable of the Sower. The critical factor is whether the “ground” heard and received the “word of the kingdom”—that is, whether God had given those hearing the Word the means to respond properly. In Jesus' explanation of the parable to His disciples, He refers to the multitude before Him when quoting Isaiah 6:9-10:

Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.

The people to whom He gave the parables were fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy. They were living proof of the truth in this first parable—they could not receive the truth. In contrast, He had prepared His disciples to hear and respond properly. They were the good soil that would yield an increase (Matthew 13:16-17; see John 15:1-17).

David C. Grabbe
God's Kingdom in the Parables (Part One)



Matthew 13:3-8

When the gospel of the coming Kingdom of God is preached in all the world as a witness (Matthew 24:14), the ears that hear it are not always receptive of this priceless knowledge. In the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-8, 19-23; Mark 4:3-9, 14-26; Luke 8:4-8, 11-15), Jesus reveals why, using three component elements: the sower, the seed, and the soils.

This parable describes what happens after the seed is sown, the different types of soils on which it falls, and the resultant effects. The parable's focus is not on the sower as much as on the various soils. Nevertheless, the sower—Jesus Christ (Matthew 13:37)—is not incidental, for without Him there could be no sowing and thus no possibility of fruit being produced.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Sower



Matthew 13:4-9

Jesus describes quite a number of variables here, and we could add such things as weather, insects, viruses, molds, parasites, soil quality, and seed quality.

What happens when we plant an apple seed? In due time, the seed grows into a mature tree, which produces far more than just one apple. In all likelihood, it will produce many bushels of apples for many years. The apples fall to the ground or are carried away from their point of origin—sometimes very far away in the stomach of a bird or a horse. New seeds are then deposited on the ground, and the "spreading" cycle begins anew to be repeated almost endlessly. Of course, there are some impediments to this process, but where the factors are right, both apple trees and their fruit can increase greatly.

Suppose someone plants a choice morsel of gossip into another's ear. If that sin falls on fertile "ground" (a person with all the "right" proclivities for carrying it to others without regard to consequences), who knows how much destruction can be caused! If that person tells ten others, and these in turn tell ten more, in three cycles one thousand people are involved in this sin! It is entirely possible that not even one person in that thousand would see himself as a cog in the process of spreading potential destruction!

Paul confirms this in II Timothy 2:16-17. "But shun profane and vain babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer." The New English Bible translates that last sentence as, "The infection of their teaching will spread like a gangrene." Conduct like this will bear bad fruit because human nature provides very few impediments to sin. Human nature can produce nothing else, as Paul writes in Romans 8:6, "For to be carnally minded is death." To add to the tragedy, human nature almost always drags others into its curse along the way to death.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Little Things Count!



Matthew 13:3-8

A farmer places seed in the ground so it will sprout and bear fruit. Some seeds fall on hard ground that the plow has not turned. Here, the seed cannot sink into the soil, and the birds easily find and devour it.

Some seeds fall on stony places, where there is little or no soil for the roots to take in sufficient nourishment for the plant. Initially, they appear to grow quicker because, with less soil to grow through, it does not take them as long to reach the surface. When the sun grows hot, however, the sprouts wither away, the result of insufficient root systems.

The seeds that fall among thorns—in a part of the field where the thorns and shrubs had been sloppily cleared but not removed—are crowded, shaded, and choked by debris.

The seeds that fall on fertile and rich soil produce a crop that varies in its yield. It is common to produce a hundred, sixty, or thirty grains for each one that is sown. Some strains of wheat will produce a crop twelve or fifteen hundred times the original amount of seed sown.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Sower



Matthew 13:4

The seed represents the Word of God communicated in various ways: in writing, preaching, and acts of divine intervention. Understanding the gospel comes only by the power of the Holy Spirit; without this spiritual power, the hearer is susceptible to having the knowledge of God stolen by Satan, the accuser and tempter.

God's Word sometimes falls on the ears of people whose heart is calloused by sin, on whom it makes no real impression. Like seed on a hard-packed road, it is consumed before it ever has a chance to develop. Such hardened people soon lose interest in Christ's good news and continue in the ways of the world.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Sower



Matthew 13:1-58

An overview of Matthew 13 is essential, because we need to understand the whole context to see what Jesus was trying to get across to us. A particular Bible translation may divide the chapter into only seven parables, but there are eight parables in Matthew 13. Usually the eighth is combined with the seventh parable. In a way, the eighth follows the seventh, but it is a parable in its own right. It should stand alone.

These eight parables can be divided into three sections. The first consists of the first four parables: the Parable of the Sower, the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, the Parable of the Mustard Seed, and the Parable of the Leaven. The second section consists of the next three parables: the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price, and the Parable of the Dragnet. The third section is the last parable, the Parable of the Householder, who takes out of his treasury both old and new.

The titles of these three sections give an idea of what Jesus emphasizes in Matthew 13. We can title the first section "Satan's Plan to Destroy the Church." The second section can be titled "God's Work on Behalf of the Church," what God does to make sure that Satan does not destroy the church. The third section can be titled "The Ministry's Duty to the Church."

Notice the comment Matthew makes following the first section. In Matthew 13:34 is an explanation why the first four parables can be titled "Satan's Plan to Destroy the Church":

All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: "I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world."

What was kept secret from the foundation of the world? Satan's plan to destroy God's plan of salvation, which He is fulfilling through the church.

Matthew 13:34 applies specifically to what Jesus had just said, but it also applies generally to all the parables. Through them, Jesus opens up matters that have been concealed from the foundation of the world. In Psalm 78:2, it does not say, "I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world." Instead, it says: "I will utter dark sayings of old," providing another clue that what Matthew 13:34 refers to in respect to the first four parables is dark. Jesus is speaking of dark mysteries, dark things happening. These can only be Satanic things, bad, negative things inspired by the Devil.

What Jesus spoke before verse 34 is primarily negative, not positive, and these negative things have been hidden from man since the foundation of the world. What happened at the foundation of the world? Adam and Eve sinned. That was the first step in Satan's plan—"Get them while they're young"—and he has been doing the same thing ever since. Jesus touches on this in the first parable.

So, in the first half of this chapter, Jesus is saying, "Look, My disciples, this is the plan that you must fight against. If you understand what is in these parables, you will have a pretty good idea of what is happening spiritually."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part 1): The Mustard Seed



Matthew 13:1-43

Matthew 13:1-3 show the context and setting for Christ's teaching:

On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. Then He spoke many things to them in parables. . . . (Emphasis ours throughout.)

While it is easy to read over these details, they are crucial for grasping Christ's meaning because they show that Jesus spoke the first four parables (the Sower, the Wheat and the Tares, the Mustard Seed, and the Leaven) to “great multitudes.” Verses 34-36 confirm that He preached to the people at large at this point rather than strictly to His disciples:

All these things [the first four parables] Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.” Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”

In the first four parables, Jesus is speaking primarily to the physical nation, the remnant citizenry of the earthly Kingdom of God. Even though they could not grasp the parables' full depth, He was still responding to the attitude and approach of the nation shown in the previous chapter, particularly of the leadership that continually rejected the dominion of heaven.

While Christ's teachings apply on multiple levels, it is paramount to grasp the primary meaning before looking for other applications. The complete fulfillment of the Kingdom was far beyond what the folk of Judea and Galilee could comprehend, yet He still spoke to them. The parables were not exclusively for His disciples, just as His prophecy, “The kingdom of God will be taken from you” (Matthew 21:43), was not spoken to His disciples. In short, the King had a message for the subjects of the physical Kingdom that He had established. He was giving them a testimony—a final chance—and when they rejected it, He focused on the budding spiritual nation that had Abraham's faith rather than merely his blood (Galatians 3:15-29).

David C. Grabbe
God's Kingdom in the Parables (Part One)




Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Matthew 13:4:

Matthew 13:3-9
Matthew 13:3-8
Matthew :
Matthew :
Matthew 13:31-32
Matthew 13:32
Mark :
Mark :
Mark :
Mark :
Mark :
Luke :
Luke :
Luke :
Luke :
Luke :
James 3:17-18

 

<< Matthew 13:3   Matthew 13:5 >>



The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment

The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment

Sign up for the Berean: Daily Verse and Comment, and have Biblical truth delivered to your inbox. This daily newsletter provides a starting point for personal study, and gives valuable insight into the verses that make up the Word of God. See what over 150,000 subscribers are already receiving each day.

Email Address:

   
Leave this field empty

We respect your privacy. Your email address will not be sold, distributed, rented, or in any way given out to a third party. We have nothing to sell. You may easily unsubscribe at any time.
©Copyright 1992-2021 Church of the Great God.   Contact C.G.G. if you have questions or comments.
Share this on FacebookEmailPrinter version
Close
E-mail This Page