corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.19.09.21
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew
Matthew 13

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-23

Matthew 13:1-23.
First Great Group Of Parables.

The Parable of the Sower, and apparently all those in Matthew 13, were delivered on the same day (Matthew 13:1) with the discourse occasioned by the blasphemy against the Spirit. (See on "Matthew 12:22; Mat_12:38.") Jesus went forth from the house in which the blasphemous accusation had occurred, and sat beside the Lake of Galilee, and there spoke the parables of Matthew 13:1-35, viz., the Sower, the Tares, the Mustard-seed, and the Leaven. Then leaving the crowds and entering the house (Matthew 13:36), he added the parables of the Hid Treasure, the Precious Pearl, and the Net. (Matthew 13:36-53.) On the evening of that same day (Mark 4:35) he went across the lake to the district of Gadara, stilling the tempest on the way, and there healed the two demoniacs-incidents which Matthew's mode of grouping topically has led him to introduce in an earlier part of his treatise. (Matthew 8:18 to Matthew 9:1) What a busy day was this! beginning and ending with miracles, and filled with remarkable discourses. And our Lord felt to the full, in his human nature, all that bodily and mental fatigue and prostration which such labours must produce. Seizing upon every opportunity of doing men good, excited by a consuming zeal, yearning in unutterable pity over the perishing, oppressed by responsibilities such as no other was ever called to feel, and harassed by the most unjust and insulting accusations, he toiled on through the day, and at evening was so tired that he slept soundly on the cushion amid all the tossing of the waves and roar of the storm. Another example of a very busy day is pointed out in Matthew 14:33; a third was the day of the Passion; and doubtless there were many others, it being only occasionally that the brief narratives of the Evangelists give us any complete view of his occupation throughout the day. With this section compare Mark 4:1-25, Luke 8:4-18.

Matthew 13:1 f. The house, see Matthew 12:46, and compare Mark 8:20. Sat, the usual posture of a Jewish teacher when giving instruction. (Compare Matthew 5:1) By the sea side, the Lake of Galilee. (See on "Matthew 4:18".) Great multitudes, or 'many crowds,' the same expression as in Matthew 4:25, Matthew 12:15, and often. These crowds so thronged around him that he could not be seen as he sat, and could not himself have any commanding view of those he addressed. When he entered the boat, probably swinging by its cable or its anchor some feet from the shore, and all the crowds stood upon the sloping and sandy beach, the situation was a beautiful one for agreeable and impressive speaking. Much less probable is Plumptre's view, that he entered a boat to prevent a "hostile attack." The precise point on the lake shore cannot be determined, but it was probably in the Plain of Gennesaret. Ship, or boat,(1) as in Latin versions, Wyc., and Rheims, rather than 'ship,' as in Tyn. and followers. (Compare on Matthew 4:21) Stood on the shore, beach, the exact word for the Greek, which denotes a pebbly or sandy shore, such as the plain of Gennesaret exhibits.

Matthew 13:3. He spake many things unto them in parables. The nature, design, and proper interpretation of our Lord's parables is a subject of great importance.

1. The Greek word which we borrow in the form parable signifies a comparison, conveying literally the notion of putting things side by side, whereby their resemblance will be perceived. A corresponding Hebrew word (mashal) is employed in the Old Testament to denote (1) an illustrative comparison; (Ezekiel 17:2, Ezekiel 24:3); (2) a sententious saying or apophthegm, such as frequently involves a comparison; (Proverbs 1:1, Proverbs 1:6, Proverbs 26:7, Proverbs 26:9, Ecclesiastes 12:9) (3) a current, often repeated saying of this kind, a proverb (1 Samuel 10:12; 1 Samuel 24:13; Ezekiel 12:22; Ezekiel 18:2, Ezekiel 18:3. etc.); (4) any high wrought expression, done into parallel clauses like a comparison, as was common in Hebrew poetry; (Numbers 23:7, Numbers 23:18, Job 27:1, Job 29:1; Isaiah 14:4; Micah 2:4; Hebrews 2:6) (5) an obscure and deep saying, (Psalms 49:4, Psalms 78:2) since pithy comparisons frequently require much reflection in order to get their full meaning. It was natural that the New Testament writers should employ the Greek word with a somewhat similar latitude of application. Accordingly we find it denoting (a) an illustrative comparison without the form of narrative (Matthew 15:15; Matthew 24:32; Mark 8:23; Luke 5:36; Luke 6:39); (b) an illustrative comparison in the form of narrative, which is the common use in the first three Gospels, and has occasioned the popular restriction of the term to our Lord's narrative illustrations; (c) a narrative illustration not involving a comparison, as the Rich Fool, the Pharisee and Publican, the Good Samaritan, the Rich Man and Lazarus; (d) a proverb, (Luke 4:23) corresponding to which we find that in John 10:6 another word, which strictly denotes a proverb, is applied to an illustrative comparison; (e) a profound or otherwise obscure saying (see on "Matthew 13:35"), and compare (Ecclus. Sirach 38:33; Sirach 39:2 f.); (f) a symbol or image not expressed in language at all. (Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 11:19.) Commonly, then, in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, (John does not employ it), the word we borrow as parable denotes an illustration, most frequently in the form of narrative, and usually, in accordance with the origin of the term, involving a comparison, though sometimes, as in (c), it is only an example of the matter in hand, a case in point.

The popular restriction of the term to narrative illustrations, is unfortunate, for there is no essential difference between these and other illustrative comparisons. (See Drummond,"Parabolic Teaching of our Lord.") Some of the narrative parables are very brief, as in Matthew 13:44 f. We are sometimes unable to decide whether the narrative is real or fictitious. But in the latter case the story is always possible, while fables are often impossible, representing beasts and trees as speaking, etc. The distinction some propose between parables and allegories is precarious. Is not the parable of the Prodigal Son an allegory?

2. Our Lord's design in employing these characteristic illustrations must be considered as manifold. (1) Like all other teachers, he illustrates moral and spiritual truth by comparison of things physical and social, the material for this abounding in actual analogies between the two spheres of existence. Such teaching by illustrative stories and other comparisons has from the earliest times been particularly common in the East; a few examples are found in the Old Testament, 2 Samuel 12:1-14, Isaiah 5:1-7, and the fables of Jotham, Judges 9:8, and of Joab, 2 Samuel 14:5-7; and it appears from the Talmud that a like method was common among the Jewish teachers in the time of Christ, as for example (Gill) one-third of Rabbi Meir's discourses consisted of parables. In this as in other respects (compare on Matthew 7:5), Jesus adopted such methods of instruction as were natural to men in general, and familiar to the Jews in particular. From the rhetorical point of view our Lord's illustrations are marked by exquisite simplicity and elegance, as well as the profoundest wisdom. Yet while of unequalled excellence, they do not differ in kind, but only in degree, from uninspired illustrations, and must be interpreted on the same general principles. (2) The parables also served to put truths, at first but imperfectly understood, into a compact and portable form, in which they could be easily remembered, till they should afterwards come to be understood more thoroughly. (3) They enabled the Great Teacher to state truths likely to give offence, in such a form that the inquiring and spiritually disposed could understand, while cavilers would not see their point so as to be prematurely excited to violent hostility, and thus, while instructing some in his miscellaneous audience, he was not, in respect to others, casting pearls before swine. Sometimes, too, a man's assent might thus be gained to a principle before his prejudices were aroused, as: Nathan dealt with David. (2 Samuel 12:1 ff.) (4) In so far as parables were obscure to persons lacking in lively interest and spiritual sympathy, our Lord employed them as a judgment upon the wilfully blind. This, though not to be reckoned his only reason for using them so frequently from this time forward, is the one which he states when questioned about the matter on the present occasion. (See on Matthew 13:10-17.) Henry: "A parable, like the pillar of cloud and fire, turns a dark side towards Egyptians, which confounds them, but a bright side towards Israelites, which comforts them..... A parable is a shell that keeps good fruit for the diligent, but keeps it from the slothful." Calderwood: "There is a complete contrast between the view taken in modern times of our Lord's parables, and that taken by the audiences to which they were first delivered. Even those who are averse to accept Bible teaching have an admiration of these gospel parables; yet to those who heard them, they were the most perplexing parts of Christ's discourses." This is partly because the meaning of the parables has become comparatively plain, and partly because many sceptics now admire the Gospels regarded only as literature.

Matthew 13:3. In the interpretation of parables, we have the guidance of our Lord himself, who has fully interpreted the parables of the Sower and the Tares, and, to some extent, that of the Net. Remember that our methods must apply to all of his illustrations, and not merely to the narratives, to which in popular usage the term parable is restricted. There are four things to be done. (1) We must make sure of understanding the language of the parable itself, and its various allusions to physical phenomena or social usages. Thus many fail to understand the wayside and the rocky ground; the treasure hid in a field; the patch of unfilled cloth upon an old garment, and the wineskins (Matthew 9:16 f.); the double invitation to a supper, (Luke 14:16 f.) etc. (2) We must ascertain what subject our Lord here designed to illustrate. Sometimes he himself states it, either before or after the parable, or else the Evangelist mentions it in recording the parable; in other cases, the connection, if carefully observed, will sufficiently indicate it, there being few instances, if any, in which we are left to infer the subject simply from the tenor of the parable itself. (3) We must consider in what light the parable presents this subject. Here it is important to regard the parable as a whole, just as we do any other illustration, and not begin by attempting to assign the meaning of particular items, without having considered the general drift. Let it be taken for granted that the Great Teacher used illustrations on common-sense principles. (4) Then it remains to determine how far the details may be understood as separately significant. In this we can have no general rule to guide us, but must study the guidance our Lord has given in his interpretations, exercise sound judgment, and endeavour to avoid both extremes. The tendency has usually been towards the extreme of giving a separate spiritual meaning to every detail. Yet Augustine already rebuked this by the remark that it is only the ploughshare that cuts the earth, while the other parts of the plough are also necessary, and, indeed, indispensable. That which is the mere filling out of the story, the mere drapery of the image, must be let alone. On the other hand, it should be remembered that our Lord has carried out his three interpretations in much detail, and we must not reduce the parable to a bare trunk, stripped of all its foliage. In some cases the resemblance or analogy is more complete than in others, and the points of contact more numerous. There may even be points in the illustration quite the reverse of the thing illustrated, as when our Lord's coming is compared to that of a thief in the night, where there is, of course, no resemblance except as to the unexpectedness of the coming; and so as to the unjust steward (Luke 16), whose conduct, while manifestly dishonest, is employed to illustrate the importance of prudent foresight and preparation for the future. Alexander: "As the same illustration may legitimately mean more to one man than to another, in proportion to the strength of their imaginative faculties, it is highly important that, in attempting to determine the essential meaning of our Saviour's parables, we should not confound what they may possibly be made to mean, with what they must mean to attain their purpose." We may lawfully employ some detail of a parable, or even the whole (compare on Matthew 12:45), to illustrate some other truth than that to which he applied it; but it must be done avowedly upon our own authority. In general, the details of a parable must never be pressed into teaching what is contrary to the plain, unfigurative teaching of the Scriptures at large. (See on "Matthew 13:20"f.) An illustration, however admirable, can only present its subject in certain aspects.

4. There are three leading groups of our Lord's parables. A good many isolated parables have already occurred, with or without the form of narrative, as (a) the wise and foolish builders, Matthew 7:24-27; (b) wedding usages, patching garments, wineskins, Matthew 9:15-17; (c) children at play, Matthew 11:16-19; (d) the blind guiding the blind, etc., Luke 6:39 ff.; (e) the two debtors, Luke 7:41 ff.; (f) the evil spirit returning, Matthew 12:43-45; and it may be observed that most of these sporadic parables refer to the reception given to Christ's teachings. Besides these, Matthew gives two leading groups: (1) The Messianic reign, its beginnings and growth, Matthew 13; given about the middle of our Lord's ministry. (2) The Messianic reign, its progress and consummation; given just at the close of the ministry. (3) Between these two groups in order of time, we find a third group, given by Luke 13-19, some of which relate to the Messianic reign, but most of them to individual experiences.

The seven parables of Matthew 13 are probably but a selection from the 'many things' of Matthew 12:3. Mark 4:26-29 gives another, not mentioned by Matthew, and the language of Mark 4:33 implies that there were many others. Like all our Lord's illustrations, the parables of this first group were drawn from familiar sources—from agriculture, fishing, and merchandise, from the preparation of bread, and the finding of hid treasure, this last also being in the East a familiar idea.

I. Matthew 13:3-9. The Parable Of The Sower

Found also in Mark 4:3-9, Luke 8:5-8. This and the wicked husbandmen (Matthew 21:23-45) are the only parables recorded by all three, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. We may confine ourselves here to explanation of the story itself, the interpretation belonging to Matthew 13:19-23. (See Notes there.) Behold, calling attention to something important. Mark (Mark 4:3) prefixes 'Hearken.' A (the) sower went forth to sow, the definite article being employed to designate an ideal individual, who represents a class (compare on Matthew 12:43), as if in a fable we should say, "the farmer went out to look at his crops." The expression shows that this is not given as the narrative of a particular, actual occurrence. Tyndale and Cranmer gave 'the sower;' King James followed Geneva. Some (seeds) fell by the wayside. The roads passed right through the cultivated lands (see on "Matthew 12:1"), and as he sowed the wheat or barley, some of the grains would fall on the beaten ground of the road or path, and rebounding would lie exposed on the hard surface, where the birds could readily see and devour them. (Luke 8:5 prefixes 'trodden under foot.') It is still common in the East to see large flocks of birds following the husbandman as he sows his wheat, and eagerly picking up every grain that has not sunk out of sight. Fowls, rather birds, see on "Matthew 7:26". Some (others) fell upon stony, or the rocky (places). Palestine is a limestone country (compare on Matthew 7:24), and one will find places where a broad, flat, limestone rock lies just beneath the surface, with a thin layer of earth upon it. (Compare Luke 8:6, Luke 8:13, 'the rock.') All the early English versions except Rheims gave 'stony' (ground or places), thus suggesting a soil abounding in loose stones, which really often produces good wheat; yet the Greek word was plain and unmistakable, from the same root as in Matthew 16:18. In such places the seeds could not sink deep, and the film of earth being readily heated because of the underlying rock, they would come up sooner than elsewhere, and at first would look uncommonly flourishing; but not being able to send roots deep into moist earth, (compare Luke 8:6) when the hot, dry weather came, the stalks would soon wither, and show that the fair promise of a crop there had all been deceptive. Compare the "grass upon the housetops," Psalms 129:6 f. Among—or upon the — thorns, there being in his field some place or places specially infested with these. Persons accustomed to observe wheat-fields will remember to have seen spots where a few scattered and spindling stalks were struggling for life among the rank briers. Into—or upon the—good ground, free from underlying rock, and from thorns, and plowed deep. Even this would produce more in some spots than in others, according to the richness of the soil and its preparation. A crop of even thirty measures to one of seed is quite a good yield. The richer countries of the East produce very heavy crops (e. g. Genesis 26:12), and some portions of Galilee have always been singularly fruitful. (Compare on Matthew 4:12) Various classical writers speak of crops as large as a hundred to one, and even two hundred or more, in very rich soil. The point of the whole story is that the same seed produced no wheat, little wheat, or much wheat, all according to the character and preparation of the soil. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear (see on "Matthew 11:15"), would suggest to any attentive hearer that the story was meant to convey spiritual instruction, and that not all were likely to understand it.

II. Matthew 13:10-17. Reasons For Speaking In Parables

Compare Mark 4:10-12, Luke 8:9 f. And the disciples came and said unto him. They had probably been scattered among the crowds on the shore, and they now approached the boat, (Matthew 13:2) and perhaps entered it, or else Jesus drew off from the crowd for a time, during which occurred this conversation with the disciples, and afterwards resumed his discourse to the same or similar crowds. Certain it is that the reasons were given apart from the people, for Mark (Mark 4:10) explicitly says, 'And when he was alone,' etc. It is also plain that several of the succeeding parables were addressed to 'the crowds.' (See on "Matthew 13:36".) These facts can be accounted for on either of the above suppositions. The 'disciples' here are not merely the Twelve, for Mark (Mark 4:10) says, 'They that were about him, with the twelve.' Others, therefore, of his constant companions shared the privilege of this conversation. The disciples did not see just what was meant by this story of the sower, (Luke 8:9, Mark 4:13) though they saw that it was intended as a comparison or parable to illustrate some religious truth. And as parables in general were apt to be obscure unless the application was given, they wondered why the Teacher was employing them. Remember (Goebel) that he introduced the story of the sower without preface, and closed it without application, simply intimating that it required attention. In parables, is plural, while, as far as we know, only one parable had been spoken on this occasion. But the plural might be used as designating the method of instruction in general. (Compare Mark 4:11) We remember also, that he had previously given scattered parables, though not without indicating the application.

It need not be supposed that our Lord meant to give what follows as his sole reason for employing parables in general. (Compare on Matthew 13:3) We can see a special fitness in his dwelling on this reason upon the present occasion, for it was the day on which the Scribes blasphemously accused him of league with Beelzebul (see on "Matthew 12:24"and see on "Matthew 13:1"); and he was now surrounded by great and excited crowds, whose enthusiasm he knew was largely superficial and short-lived—rocky ground hearers. Not very long after this, (Matthew 14:34-36) he had to dispel illusions among fanatical followers by the searching discourse of John 6:26-66; and he appears (Bruce) to be in the parable of the sower commencing this work of warning and discrimination; so also on a third and much later occasion. (Luke 14:25-35) Godet: "The design of Jesus is first of all to show that he is not deceived by the sight of this crowd, which is apparently so attentive; then to put his disciples on their guard against the expectations which such a large concourse might create in their minds; lastly, and more than all, to warn his hearers of the perils which threatened the holy impressions they were then experiencing." There is also in not a few of these parables, particularly in the sower, the mustard seed, and the leaven, consolation for Jesus himself in reference to the comparatively small number of true converts he was thus far making. (Compare John 6:37) Because it is given unto you, literally, 'has been given,' and so stands as your established privilege. To know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, i.e., of the Messianic reign, see on "Matthew 9:2". The word 'mystery' does not occur elsewhere in the Gospels (except in Mark 4:11 and Luke 8:10, parallel to this passage), nor in the Acts, but is common in the Epistles of Paul and the Revelation. The Greek word musterion signifies something into which one is initiated, something hidden or secret, and known only to the initiated. It might be a very simple thing in itself, but it was a secret. Yet some of the doctrines belonging to the "Eleusinian mysteries" and other secret associations of Greek, Egypt, etc., were really profound, and difficult of comprehension, and so the word has gradually come to suggest the idea of something incomprehensible, though we still sometimes apply it to things which are merely hard to find out. But in the New Testament use, it uniformly denotes that which we could not know unless revealed, whether it be in its own nature simple or profound. Paul's favourite application of it is to the great fact that the Gentiles were to share in the salvation of the gospel on equal terms with the Jews, a fact always before kept in silence and secrecy, but now manifested by God, and to be everywhere proclaimed. (Romans 16:25 f; Ephesians 3:4-6; Colossians 1:25 f.; 1 Timothy 3:16) Our Lord is in this series of parables setting forth views as to the true nature of the Messianic kingdom—such as its partial acceptance among men, its small beginnings and gradual spread, its allowing the wicked to live on in the world mingled with its subjects until the end—which the mass of the Jews were not spiritual-minded enough to comprehend, nor humble enough to receive. So he presents these views in the form of parables, which would, with the help of his explanations, make them clear to his disciples, but would leave them mysteries (secrets) to the unspiritual and unbelieving multitude. 'Secrets' is here the translation of Tyndale, Cran., and Gem Observe that these parables carry-on the work of instruction begun in the Sermon on the Mount, as to the nature of the Messianic reign. Here, as well as there, we must frequently recall the popular Jewish errors in regard to the character of that reign—errors from which the disciples themselves were not entirely free—in order to see the precise aim and point of the discourse. This is especially true in the parables of the Tares and the Net, and in those of the Mustard-seed and the Leaven. The phrase 'mysteries of the kingdom,' recorded by all three Evangelists, (Mark 4:11, Luke 8:10) should remind us (Alexander) that this group of parables relate especially to the Messianic reign; while in so doing, they of course involve individual character and destiny.

We must not suppose that Jesus meant, like some of the Greek philosophers, to have certain (exoteric) doctrines for the masses, and certain others (esoteric) which were confined to a select few. The reverse is clearly shown by what he adds in Mark and Luke after explaining the parable of the sower, 'for there is nothing hid save that it should be manifested,' etc., Rev. Ver.,; (Mark 4:21-25, Luke 8:16-18) comp above on Matthew 10:27, and below on Matthew 13:52. In Matthew 13:12 f. he declares that he withholds some truths from the outside crowd (Mark 4:11) because of their wilful blindness. Some previous knowledge of his teachings concerning the Messianic reign was necessary in order to understand the hidden truths he was now revealing; not (as Meyer and Bleek strangely interpret Matthew 13:11) previous knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom, but of his other teachings as to the kingdom. Such knowledge the unbelieving and careless had failed to obtain or refused to receive. They saw and yet did not see, (Matthew 13:13) i.e., did not see the real and full meaning of his teachings. They were already becoming "gospel-hardened." Therefore (Matthew 13:13) or more strongly, on this account, refers to the general principle just stated, that he who has not shall lose even what he has; and the reason is then further presented in another form by what follows, because they seeing see not, etc. On this account he taught in the form of comparisons, which would be intelligible and impressive to those prepared to understand, but unintelligible to those who by their wilful ignorance, neglect, and opposition, were unprepared. In Mark (Mark 4:12) and Luke (Luke 8:10) it is stated as the divine purpose, 'that seeing they may not see,' etc. This statement and Matthew's do not conflict with each other. That which was a natural result of their character was also a divine judgment upon them. It was not only foreseen that they would not understand these things, but designed that they should not, as a punishment deserved by their character and conduct. These people were not ignorant through lack of opportunity for gaining knowledge, but were wilfully negligent, and even malignantly hostile to the truth and the Teacher. (Matthew 12:24) If we shrink sensitively from the idea that the "Lord of heaven and earth" reveals to some and hides from others, we are strangely out of sympathy with the feelings of Jesus and of Paul, who found in this idea not only occasion of resignation, but of adoration and joy. (Matthew 11:25 f.; Romans 9:18 ff.; Romans 11:30-36) Nor need we suppose that our Lord's object in using parables was only to withhold truth from the hardened as a judgment, for the shortest way to do this would have been (Chrys.) to say nothing to them at all. His parables gave them still the opportunity to understand, if not too much hardened to do so, and were even calculated to excite their curiosity, awaken their attention, and lodge something in their mind, the spiritual meaning of which they might afterwards comprehend, if any of them should come to have a better disposition.: "For the stubborn and the frivolous, this is still the only language which in a happy moment can soften and awaken them. After they have once heard it as a parable, the figure sticks to them, the mirror is ever turned towards them, and they cannot but look into it at some time or other."

The saying of Matthew 13:12 is repeated in Matthew 25:29; the word more, which in Com. Ver. here uselessly precedes abundance, is there not introduced. In Luke 8:18 (Mark 4:25) we find this same general principle given as a reason for taking heed how they hear. Perhaps our Lord stated it both at the point given by Matthew and also in his further remarks after the explanation of the parable. If this seems improbable, we must conclude that the saying was transposed either by Matthew, or by Mark and Luke, to a different connection from that in which it was spoken. As no writer could tell everything, and some relation of topics must be observed in the grouping, it would be inevitable that such transpositions of particular remarks should sometimes occur.

Matthew 13:14 f. And in them, or unto them (according to the correct Greek text), so as to affect them, as applying to them. Is fulfilled, present tense, is being fulfilled. As in so many other cases, it is Matthew only who reports the citation of this prophecy. Mark (Mark 4:12) and Luke (Luke 8:10) simply represent our Lord as using expressions derived from the prophecy. Esaias, or Isaiah, see on "Matthew 1:2". The citation is from Isaiah 6:9 f., and exactly follows the Septuagint, which departs from the Hebrew in only one important particular. The prophet is directed to rebuke the people for their insensibility to God's cause; and though that criminal insensibility would be increased by him message, he is yet to proclaim the. message. Accordingly he is told (in the Hebrew),"Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears dull and their eyes dim, lest," etc. This bids him produce the effect by his message; not that such an effect was in itself desired by him or by Jehovah, but because his message was going to be rejected and to have the effect described, and still he must proclaim it. The Sept. translators understood the Hebrew differently, and rendered, "For this people's heart has been made fat, and with their ears they have heard heavily, and their eyes they have closed," etc. This, as sufficiently expressing the general idea of the passage (compare on Matthew 3:3), is retained by Matt. here, and also by Luke in Acts 28:26 f. John (John 12:40) refers to the same passage, and puts it, 'He hath blinded their eyes and he hardened their heart,' etc., i.e., God has done so—a rendering which gives the same idea as the Hebrew So likewise the expressions in Mark 4:12 and Luke 8:10 correspond not to the Sept., but to the Hebrew The insensibility of the people may be variously conceived of, as the result of their own wilful opposition, or as a judgment already actually inflicted on them by God, or as a judgment which would follow their rejection of the prophet's message. God is continually punishing men by that which is the natural result of their own misconduct in violating the natural laws which he has established. The prophet's expression 'make the heart fat' involves the image of a heart enveloped in fat, and thus less sensitive to impressions, and less lively in its movement, with a resulting dullness of the senses, so that it strikingly represents a dull, stupid, and insensible mind. We have seen on Matthew 6:21 that the heart is constantly used in Scripture as the seat of both intelligence, sensibility, and will. "Fat as to intellect," "fat as to understanding," are phrases of classic Greek (Grimm). Lest at any time, Lest haply, or 'lest perhaps,' is a more probable rendering. The phrase expresses, not the design of the people, as some have sought to explain it, but the divine purpose. While God might wish them to hear and believe and repent, even as he "wishes all to be saved", (1 Timothy 2:4) he did not design to bring them all to this, in spite of themselves, but it was his purpose to allow them to pursue a course which would prevent them from ever turning and being healed. Heal here involves the idea of forgiving their sin, and restoring them to spiritual health and the favour of God. The multiplication of similar and equivalent clauses in the passage is but the common parallelism of Hebrew poetry (see on "Matthew 4:16"). Turn again. So Tyndale 'turn,' and Geneva 'return.' The Greek word is the same as in Matthew 12:44, 'I will return into my house.' This is much better than the passive rendering be converted of Com. Ver. (compare on Matthew 18:8). As to the relation between 'turn' and 'repent,' see on "Matthew 3:2". A like insensibility to that which the prophet would encounter was found in the mass of our Lord's hearers, (compare John 12:40) and in the Jews who assembled to hear Paul at Rome. (Acts 28:25 ff.; compare also Romans 11:8) And since Matthew uses the word 'fulfil' (see on "Matthew 1:22"), we understand that the language in Isaiah was designed by the Spirit of inspiration as a prediction, not merely of the reception which the prophet's message would meet with, but also of the like reception which awaited, the teaching of Messiah and his servants. (Compare on Matthew 1:23)

Matthew 13:16 f. With this criminal insensibility of many among his hearers, Jesus now again contrasts the better condition and course of his disciples, as above in Matthew 13:11 f. The terms employed are suggested by the prophecy just cited. Your, in Matthew 13:16, is very emphatic, as shown by the position in Greek. But in the verbs, they see and they hear of Matthew 13:16, and ye see and ye hear of Matthew 13:17, the pronoun is not expressed in the Greek, and therefore is not emphatic. The disciples were blessed, or happy (which is more exact; see on "Matthew 5:3") in the fact that they saw and heard; for the things they witnessed were those to which many prophets and righteous men (see on "Matthew 10:41") had looked forward with longing, but in vain. Here again (croup. on Matthew 12:28) Jesus distinctly intimates that he is the Messiah. Seeing and hearing are here to be understood both of the senses and of the spirit; they saw the miracles and heard the teachings of Jesus, and they understood and appreciated their spiritual meaning. In Luke 10:23 f., we find similar language used on a different occasion. It belongs to a class of sayings likely to be repeated. (Compare at the beginning of Matthew 5.) This congratulation was not confined to the Twelve, for others also were present. (See on "Matthew 13:10".) Olshausen: "All the longing demises of the pious throughout the Old Testament centred in the Messiah. To behold him was the loftiest object of Old Testament hope. This blessing was granted to the disciples, and all their happiness, all their glory, consisted in this, that they were illumined by the radiance of the Sun of righteousness. The special grace thus vouchsafed is brought to their remembrance by Christ, not to exalt them above the Old Testament saints, but to lay them low before the Lord."

III. Matthew 13:18-23. Interpretation Of The Parable Of The Sower

Compare Mark 4:14-24, Luke 8:11-18. Our Lord's authoritative explanation of this parable and that of the Tares, furnishes us a model for the interpretation of his parables in general (compare on Matthew 13:8),—a beautiful medium between excessive meagreness and excessive minuteness. Hear ye therefore, better, then ye, with strong emphasis or. 'ye,' as distinguished from the heedless and hardened Jews to whom he gave Be explanation. 'Then' presents this as a consequence of the principles just before laid down.

The idea of this parable as a whole is, that as the same grain yielded variously, according to the character and preparation of the soil which received it, so the same word of truth produces various effects according to the way in which it is received. No analogy between physical and spiritual things can ever be perfect. The soil was not responsible if it was trampled, or rocky, or thorny; but men are accountable for hearing the word improperly. This point the parable does not mean to touch, confining itself to the general idea above stated, and opening a way for the exhortation, 'take heed therefore how ye hear? (Luke 8:18, compare Mark 4:24) The word of the kingdom, is the word which tells of the nature and-requirements of the Messianic reign. (See on "Matthew 3:2".) Luke (Luke 8:11) has 'word of God,' and Mark (Mark 4:15) simply 'word.' Compare 'gospel of the kingdom' in Matthew 4:23, Matthew 9:35, Matthew 24:14. This 'word of the kingdom' means especially our Lord's own teachings; and so in 'understandeth it not' the reference is immediately to his own hearers. Yet it will not do to say that 'the sower' distinctively represents Christ; it is any one who makes known the word of the kingdom, as our Lord intimates in Mark 4:14, 'the sower sows the word,' characterizing him not as a certain person, but as the one who does a certain work. Understandeth it not. Arnot suggests that in English as in Greek, we may express both the material and the moral failure by one term, 'does not take it in.' Truth that is not understood, at least in some measure, can do men no good. There is here reference to the state of those described in Matthew 13:11-13; see the same word 'understand' in Matthew 13:13. The people were hardened into indifference, and some of them even into malignant opposition to the word, and hence they did not understand it. Christianity is so eminently practical a thing that one will not truly understand it unless he is willing to receive it. Pascal: "In other things, a man must know in order to love; in religion he must love in order to know."Whenever through inattention, lack of spiritual sympathy, unwillingness to receive, or opposition, men fail to 'understand' the word, it cannot benefit them. It lies for a moment on the surface of the mind, till by some one of the thousand evil influences which Satan and his subordinates employ, it is caught away. Often the whole impression made on some mind by a solemn sermon seems to be destroyed the instant the service is over, by an idle jest of a trifling comrade. The wicked, or evil one; see on "Matthew 6:13"; see on "Matthew 12:45", and compare Matthew 13:38 f. Mark (Mark 4:15) has 'Satan,' and Luke (Luke 8:12) 'the devil.' It is idle to profess faith in the teaching of Jesus, and question the existence and personality of Satan. Snatcheth away better renders the Greek than catcheth away; the idea is of suddenly and violently seizing and carrying off. Sown in his heart, the seat of intelligence and will, as well as of feeling; see on "Matthew 6:23". This is he which received seed, or was sown—by the wayside, compare on Matthew 13:4. It might seem to us more natural that the different classes of hearers should be represented by different kinds of soil; but our Lord makes the seed that fell in the different places represent them, which amounts to the same thing. The comparison is a general one. The case of the seed sown beside the road, and snatched away by the birds, corresponds to the case of the hearer who does not understand the word, etc.; and our Lord avoids circumlocution by simply comparing the hearer to the seed. (So in Matthew 13:20, Matthew 13:22-23) The rendering of Com. Ver., the that received seed,' is quite unwarranted; it was derived from Cranmer, while Tyn. had translated correctly; and in Mark 4:16, Mark 4:18, the same words are correctly rendered in Com. Ver., 'they which are sown.' Some have proposed to render here 'this is that sown,' viz., the seed sown; but that seems to be forbidden by the expressions of Mark 4:15 and Luke 8:12. Whatever view of the phraseology be adopted, the general meaning remains the same, and is obvious to all.

Matthew 13:20 f. Into stony, upon the rocky (places); see on "Matthew 13:5". Like the wheat sown on a thin layer of earth spread over a rock, the gospel will produce some impression on such persons sooner than elsewhere, and the effect will look extremely promising for a time, so that people think this person will soon be a Christian, or even that he is so already. But when persecution or any severe test of principle occurs, it is at once seen that the thing was not deeply rooted, for it perishes without having produced any real results. Anon. Better straightway, which was formerly the meaning of 'anon.' With joy. It is often the case that superficial and transient religious impressions produce a speedier and more boisterous joy than those which are deep and genuine. Such joy may result from general views of the beauty of piety and the blessedness of possessing it, with a self-deceived appropriation of its consolations and hopes; or from the excitement of natural feeling by touching allusions and fervid appeals; or from mere sympathy with kindred and friends; or even from utterly erroneous notions of religion, with the elation of self-righteousness and spiritual pride. See an example on a large scale in John 6:15, John 6:22, John 6:66. But the deepest religious experiences may also produce, and ought to produce, a true and abiding joy. But dureth for a while, literally is temporary, the same Greek word as in 2 Corinthians 4:18, 'the things which are seen are temporal,' or 'temporary,' and in Hebrews 11:25, literally 'to have temporary enjoyment of sin.' Such "temporary Christians" abound in times of extraordinary revival. For, literally, and, when tribulation or persecution. The Com. Ver. most unwarrantably translated 'for when' following Tyndale, Cran., and Gen. Such loose handling of particles was one of the gravest defects in the learning of that age. 'Tribulation' is a more general term, 'persecution' a more particular one. See the former also in Matthew 24:9, Matthew 24:21, Matthew 24:29. The remote association of this Latin word with the process of threshing is often referred to by preachers, but the Greek word has no such association. It means simply pressure, affliction, etc. It is best translated in the New Testament sometimes by tribulation, and sometimes by affliction. The Rev. Ver. has made some good changes in both directions, e. g., 1 Corinthians 7:28, 1 Corinthians 1:4, 1 Corinthians 1:8. By and by, properly straightway, the same Greek word as in Matthew 13:20 and Matthew 13:5. The person described immediately receives the word with joy, and when trouble comes, immediately he stumbles. This is a prominent feature in the characterization; but Com. Ver. has, as so often, obscured the verbal connection by employing three different terms, 'forthwith,' 'anon,' 'by and by.' He is offended, or stumbleth, or 'is made to stumble.' Tyndale and Cram give 'falleth;' it was Gen, that here introduced the unlucky rendering 'is offended.' The word has been explained on Matthew 5:29, and has here the second sense there given; the man finds an obstacle to progress, and abandons the gospel he had apparently received. (Compare Matthew 24:10) Luke (Luke 8:13) has an equivalent expression, 'fall away.' Only when grain is produced does a crop of wheat amount to anything; only permanent piety is real piety.

Matthew 13:22. Among the thorns, compare on Matthew 13:7. That heareth the word. No further expression is here appended, such as 'understands', (Matthew 13:19, Matthew 13:23) or 'with joy receives it', (Matthew 13:20) but it is simply said 'hears,' the connection showing that the impression at first made is afterwards destroyed. The care of this world. The correct Greek text omits 'this,' as also in Matthew 13:40. For 'care' we could hardly use 'anxiety' in this place, as in 1 Corinthians 11:28, 'anxiety for all the churches,' and as the verb is translated 'be anxious' in Matthew 6:25 (see Notes); but "worldly anxieties" will exactly express the idea conveyed. 'The world' as in Matthew 13:39 f. and Matthew 12:32, means the present age or world-period, with all its affairs; compare 2 Timothy 4:10, 'having loved this present world,' and see on "Matthew 25:46". The deceitfulness of riches is a stronger expression than simply deceitful riches; it presents deceitfulness not merely as a quality of riches, but as here the prominent thought; compare 'the uncertainty of riches', (1 Timothy 6:9, Rev. Ver.) 'newness of life'; (Romans 6:14) also, Hebrews 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:10. Riches deceive men in many ways: as to the means of acquiring them, making things look honest that are not so; as to the reasons why we desire them, and the objects for which we intend to use them, etc. Some professed Christians imagine that they are so absorbed in the pursuit of gain, and so reluctant to give much at present, simply from a desire to be able to do great things hereafter; when the true reason is that they love wealth. And we must remember that riches often as grievously deceive and distract those who vainly seek, as those who obtain them. "They that desire to be rich", (1 Timothy 6:9, Rev. Ver.) may get the evil consequences without getting the wealth. Luke (Luke 8:14) adds a third point, "and pleasures of this life." Unfruitful. As fruit-bearing is the test, they are thus shown to have no real piety. Alas! how often men seem deeply stirred, by the word of the gospel, and perhaps resolve that they will give heed to the message, perhaps for a while seem diligently to do so, but worldly anxieties, especially about wealth, and worldly desires, (Mark 4:19) and worldly pleasures, (Luke 8:14) soon get complete possession of the mind, and all the seeming good effect is gone, leaving the soul every thicket of thorns. Bruce: "It may be asked who has a chance of bringing forth fruit unto perfection, for what character is free from thorns? But the question is not, who is free from evil desires, or from temptation to inordinate affection, but what attitude you assume towards these."

Matthew 13:23. Into—upon—the good ground, compare on Matthew 13:8. Good ground here stands in contrast with the three other kinds of ground, and so (Goebel) is conceived of as a soil soft, deep, and clean. Understandeth, see on "Matthew 13:19". Also—better verily, not the word commonly rendered verily, but another, which is hard to render, but calls attention to this person, marks him out as distinctively the one who performs the action; all the others fail, this is the one that bears fruit. (Compare Meyer, and Moulton it Winer, p. 578.) Some a hundred-fold, etc. Even of those who truly understand and receive the word, some exhibit better results than others. Gill: "The fruits of grace in believers are of the same quality, yet not of the same quantity." That which yields a less abundant harvest is still called good ground, seeing that it does produce a real crop. So the servant who made a good use of but two talents was a good and faithful servant. (Matthew 25:23) Yet we should all desire and strive to be not merely of those who bring forth, but of those who bring forth a hundredfold. Ambition is a worthy and noble thing, when it aims at eminent usefulness, rises above envy and jealousy, and subordinates everything to the glory of God. It has been remarked that this last class is distinctly contrasted with each of the others: they 'understand/ in opposition to the first class; they 'hold it fast in a good heart', (Luke 8:15) in opposition to the second class; they 'bring forth fruit with patience' (Luke 8:15) in opposition to the third class. Yet in this last ease the comparison is scarcely just; for the third class did not bring forth fruit at all, as is shown by the 'unfruitful' of Matthew and Mark, and by Luke's expression (Luke 8:14) 'bring no fruit to perfection.'

The illustration cannot touch at all points. It takes no account of the fact that the condition of the spiritual soil may be altered by divine grace—that the trampled ground can become soft, the rocky ground deep, and the thorns be rooted out. The inspired teachers in general go straight forward with the subject in hand, and towards the point in view, without pausing at every step to guard against misapprehension, or to introduce related truths; otherwise their discourse would gain no momentum, and exert no force. Other passages of Scripture will always furnish the means of preventing misapprehension or of completing the view. But, taken within the limits of its design, this parable is strikingly comprehensive. All those who hear the word to no real profit may without straining be referred to one of the three classes first given; and the fourth class comprehends various grades of actual fruitfulness.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 13:2. The most spiritual preaching must not neglect to seek helpful outward conditions. Our houses of worship should he so constructed that the people may clearly see and easily hear the preacher. Many costly and handsome buildings are in these respects so extremely defective as to be an abomination. If the Master took pains in this regard, shall not we? Jerome: "A crowd is of many minds, and so he speaks to them in many parables, that each might receive appropriate instruction. He did not speak everything in parables, but many things—mingling the perspicuous with the obscure, that by what they understand they may be aroused to seek knowledge of what they do not understand."

Matthew 13:9. He that hath ears. (1) Many will not hear spiritual truths even with the outward ear. (2) None can hear spiritual truth understandingly, unless they have some desire for spiritual profit. (3) Whoever sees some meaning in spiritual teaching should earnestly seek to know more thoroughly. (4) The religious teacher must not he discouraged by the failure of some, so long as others can and do really hear. Chrys.: "Even though the lost be more than such as receive the word, yet they were not to despond. For this was the case even with their Lord, and he who fully foreknew that these things should be, did not desist from sowing."

Matthew 13:11 of gaining a deep knowledge of Christianity. (1) A real desire to know thoroughly, compare Hebrews 6:1. (2) Some existing knowledge as a preparation for learning more, Matthew 13:11-12, Matthew 13:16. (3) Earnest effort to understand what is seen and heard, Matthew 13:13. (4) Practical conformity to the knowledge already gained, compare John 7:17. Christianity is intensely practical—knowing and doing must advance hand in hand.

John 7:11-13. Truth is not withheld from any by arbitrary divine allotment, but as the penalty of previous neglect and hostility; (Matthew 12:24) compare Romans 1:28. Chrys.: "It was a voluntary and self-chosen blindness; therefore he said not, simply, they see not, but seeing they see not; for they saw even demons cast out, and ascribed it to the prince of the demons." Theophyl.: "To give them plain teaching would have been to cast pearls before swine."

Romans 1:14 f. A picture of many who reject God's word. (1) Slight attention, and no real understanding, Romans 1:14. (2) Cause of this in dull torpor of thought and feeling, Romans 1:15 a. (3) Effect in preventing them from turning and being saved, Romans 1:15 b.

Romans 1:17. Theophyl.: "In two respects the apostles excelled the prophets, in seeing bodily, and in better understanding spiritually."

Romans 1:18-23. Even if preaching were in itself perfect, it would have a very different effect upon different classes of hearers. Our work cannot be fairly tested by its actual results, but rather by its tendencies, aims, and adaptations. Yet a religious teacher should earnestly seek for tangible results, both in winning and in building up.—Chrys.: "Mark this, I pray thee, that the way of destruction is not one only, but there are differing ones, and wide apart from one another. Let us not soothe ourselves upon our not perishing in all these ways, but let it be our grief in whichever way we are perishing."

Romans 1:19. The gospel not understood.

I. Causes. (1) Indifference and inattention to it. (2) Prejudices which exclude it. (3) Desire to do things it forbids. (4) Insensibility through previous neglect.

II. Consequences. (1) It does not reach the deeper affections. (2) It gives no impulse to the will. (3) It never touches the life. (4) It soon passes away from the memory.

Romans 1:20 f. The temporary Christian. (1) How he receives the gospel; (a) promptly, (b) joyfully, (c) with rich apparent effects upon life. (2) How he abandons the gospel; (a) certainly before long, (b) as soon as ever serious trial comes, (c) without any permanent benefit to character or life.

Romans 1:22. Chrys.: "There is a way, if thou wilt, to check this evil growth, and to make the right use of our wealth. Therefore he said not 'the world,' but 'the care of the world'; nor 'riches,' but 'the deceitfulness of riches.' Let us not, then, blame the things, but the corrupt mind. For it is possible to he rich and not to be deceived; and to be in the world, and not to be choked with its cares." Origen: "The apostle's 'anxiety for all the churches' is not 'anxiety about the world.'"

Romans 1:23. How to treat the gospel. (1) Hear it, (2) understand and receive it, (3) act it out.


Verses 24-43

Matthew 13:24-43.
The Tares, The Mustard-Seed, The Leaven

After explaining the parable of the Sower, our Lord proceeds to utter several other parables. The first three of these were clearly spoken on the same occasion as that of the Sower; for the 'multitudes' of Matthew 13:34 and Matthew 13:36 seem to be plainly the same as those of Matthew 13:2; and the 'house' of Matthew 13:36 the same as that of Matthew 13:1; the language of Matthew 13:51 and Matthew 13:54 makes it probable that the other three also were spoken on the same occasion. Mark (Mark 4:26-29) has at this point another parable drawn from sowing seed, which forms a sort of pair with that of the Sower. Here then are eight parables, in four pairs, since that of the Net closely resembles that of the Tares. Keim urges that the parables of the Mustard-seed and the Leaven, asserting the victorious extension of the kingdom of heaven throughout the world, could not have been delivered in the same breath with the Sower and the Tares, which are "resigned and melancholy." But why may not the Great Teacher have naturally introduced more hopeful views for needed relief to his own mind and to his hearers? Such quick reactions of strong feeling easily occur. There is thus here no occasion for rejecting Matthew's order.

I. Matthew 13:24-30. The Parable Of The Tares Given

Put he forth unto, or set before, them, an image derived from setting food before persons, as the word is used in Mark 8:6, Acts 16:34, 1 Corinthians 10:27. (Compare Matthew 13:51) Jerome carries out the image, comparing the different parables to different articles of food, suited to one guest or another. 'Them' here means not the disciples only, (Matthew 13:10) but the people in general again. (Matthew 13:34, Matthew 13:36) As to the parable of the Tares (which is given by Matthew only), we must notice here the illustration itself, reserving its interpretation for the Notes on Matthew 13:37-43.

The kingdom of heaven is likened, literally, was likened. This kingdom or reign has been already begun, and so the resemblance may be spoken of as existing in the past. Or, we may understand it in the sense that the kingdom of heaven was likened, became like, and so is now like. Nicholson understands it to mean that some such parable as this already existed; and so in Matthew 18:23 and Matthew 22:2. But the phrase does not at all require such a supposition, and while Jesus used some current ideas and expressions, there is no reason elsewhere to suppose that he borrowed an entire illustration; and this parable and that of Matthew 22:2, are in themselves particularly unlikely to have been given by any previous teacher, being so utterly at variance with current Jewish thought and feeling. The future tense is used, shall be like (likened), in Matthew 7:24, Matthew 7:26, Matthew 11:16, Matthew 25:1; and the present tense in Matthew 11:16, Matthew 13:31-52, Matthew 20:1. Unto a man. The Messianic reign (Matthew 3:2) resembles not simply the man who sowed, but the parable as a whole; the comparison is simply affirmed, here and elsewhere, with reference to the leading personage of the story, or the object it is natural to mention first. Compare Matthew 13:44-45, Matthew 13:47, Matthew 18:23, Matthew 20:1, Matthew 25:1. But while men slept, (compare Job 33:15) viz., at night, when there was none to observe. There is no reference to any particular men as negligently sleeping; it is simply meant that the enemy selected an opportunity for secretly doing an injury. The word rendered tares has been the subject of much discussion, but it is pretty generally agreed that it denotes darnel, a plant of the same family as wheat, and not readily distinguished from it in the early stages. Jerome, who lived in Palestine AD. 385-420, states that it was quite difficult to distinguish them until the head of the wheat appeared. Robinson, journeying in Galilee in April, 1852, says, "Our path now lay through fields of wheat of the most luxuriant growth; finer than which I had not before seen in this or any other country. Among these splendid fields of grain are still found the tares spoken of in the New Testament. As described to me, they are not to be distinguished from the wheat until the ear appears. The seed resembles wheat in form; but is smaller and black. In Beirut poultry are fed upon this seed; and it is kept for sale for that purpose. When this is not separated from the wheat, bread made from the flour often causes dizziness to those who eat of it. All this corresponds with the lolium temulentum, or bearded darnel." So the seeds of the tares were not merely useless for human food, but noxious, which tact (Plumptre) adds to the point of the parable. Thomson, ii., p. 395, says that often "the roots of the two plants are so intertwined that it is impossible to separate them without plucking up both." The notion that the tares were a degenerate wheat, and by cultivation could be made to become wheat again, has been very pleasing to some minds, because it corresponds to the fact that wicked men are fallen and may be restored. Such a notion as to darnel appears in the Talmud, and is entertained by some persons in Palestine now; and also by some American wheat growers as to what they call "cheat." But (Thomson) it is not supported by adequate evidence, and the fancy may be abandoned without regret, for it would introduce an idea quite apart from the design of the parable. Among the wheat, in the Greek a strong expression, all through the midst of the wheat—making the separation particularly difficult. And went his way, away, so that no one knew what he had done. This practice of sowing noxious seeds in an enemy's wheat field is said to be still found in the East, though Thomson has never been able to hear of an instance,—and is not unknown in other countries. The blade, the word rendered grass in Matthew 6:30, Matthew 14:19. And brought forth fruit, not here the ripe grain, but the heads containing the grain, which would show the character of the plant. Servants, slaves, see on "Matthew 8:6". Householder, see on "Matthew 10:25", where it is rendered 'master of the house.' Sir, see on "Matthew 8:2". An enemy, literally as in margin Rev. Ver., a man hat is an enemy. The harvest, more exactly, the season of harvest, see on "Matthew 11:25". Gather together and gather in Matthew 13:30 represent different words, but amounting to the same thing; the first might be translated 'collect.' Into my barn, rendered 'garner' in Matthew 3:12.

We might suppose that so many different parables spoken on the same occasion would confuse the minds of the hearers, and thus fail to be understood or remembered. But only a part of them were spoken to the people at large, (Matthew 13:36) and these not in immediate succession. (Matthew 13:10, Mark 4:10)

II. Matthew 13:31-33. Parables Of The Mustard Seed And The Leaven

The former is found also in Mark 4:30-32; and both in Luke 13:18-21, as spoken on a later occasion. Some critics wonder why other parables were introduced between the parable of the Tares and the interpretation of it. Do not these, in correcting a common Jewish error, help to prepare the mind for understanding the important correction and instruction given by the parable of the Tares? Lutteroth suggests that the disciples, after the rebuke of Mark 4:13, delayed asking the interpretation to see if they could think it out; a notion which may not be wholly fanciful. Probably they did see the meaning of the parables of the Mustard-seed and the Leaven, which is comparatively obvious, and so did not ask an interpretation of them. (Matthew 13:36) It will be found interesting to compare the four successive parables derived from the growth of seeds, viz., the Sower, the Tares, the Seed growing of itself, (Mark 4:26-29) the Mustard-seed.

Put forth, etc. Set before them, see on "Matthew 13:24". The kingdom of heaven, the Messianic reign, see on "Matthew 3:2". A grain of mustard-seed. This is most likely the common mustard, which in the hot countries of the East is sometimes found eight or ten feet high. Thomson : "I have seen it on the rich plains of Akkar as tall as the horse and his rider." Hackett ("Illustrations of Scripture") saw stalks seven and nine feet high, and before his eyes a bird came and perched on a branch and sung. (Compare Clark.) Theme son, ii., p. 163, mentions one that was more than twelve feet high. Some expressions in the Talmud go beyond this, but Edersheim accounts for them as exaggerations. Maldonatus (sixteenth century) speaks of seeing great mustard-plants in Spain, with numerous birds sitting on the branches and eagerly devouring the seeds. Meyer and others think that a tree is meant, now called Salvadora Persica, which abounds on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It grows twenty-five feet high, but has a small seed of pungent taste, used for the same purposes as mustard. But if a real tree were meant, it would be useless to say that it "is greater than the herbs, and becomes a tree." So we must understand the real mustard-plant. Field, the Greek denoting a piece of cultivated ground, whether large or small. Less than all seeds is equivalent to a superlative (as in Matthew 11:11). Greatest among—literally greater than the—herbs must be taken strictly as a comparative; it rises above its own class of plants, and becomes a tree. The birds of the air, or heaven, see on "Matthew 6:26". Lodge, or 'make their habitations,' see on "Matthew 8:20", and compare Daniel 4:12, Psalms 104:12. The branches thereof, rather its branches, see on "Matthew 6:34". The mustard-seed seems to have been proverbially used to represent anything very small, (compare Matthew 17:20, Luke 17:6) as we find it so used (Lightfoot, Edersheim) in the Rabbinical writers. A Buddhist writing says (Luketteroth): "Meru, the greatest of mountains, never bows before a mustard-plant." Our Lord is of course not asserting it as a scientific fact, that this is smaller than all other seeds in the world, but is speaking popularly, this being the smallest that his hearers were accustomed to sow, or the smallest that produced a large plant.

No interpretation of this parable is given, but its application is plain from the nature of the case. It represents the growth of Christianity in the world, from small beginnings, to vast dimensions at last. Some understand it as representing also the gradual progress of piety in the individual; but the use of the phrase 'kingdom of heaven' throughout this series of parables, and in the Gospels at large, appears to confine the view to the former thought. The disciples and other Jews, clinging to the notion of a vast and splendid earthly kingdom, would think it very strange that Messiah's reign should begin so quietly, and on so small a scale; and in this parable, and that of the Leaven, our Lord wishes to impress it upon them that though small in its beginnings, the Messianic kingdom was destined to attain a vast extent. If the disciples were discouraged by the blasphemous accusation of that morning, and by the parables of the Sower and the Tares, which indicated that but few would become subjects of Christ's reign, these other two would re-assure them. And did not Jesus need to comfort himself, amid such small beginnings and slow progress? We see the original circumstances under which the parable was spoken well reproduced now, at the first introduction of Christianity into some great heathen nations. Not only the heathen themselves, but irreligious sailors, merchants, and travellers from our own country, often sneer at the idea that a few insignificant men, by means of so feeble a thing as preaching, should expect to change a mighty people. Yet it is from similar small beginnings that there has gradually grown up the Christianity and the civilization of Europe and America at the present time.—Some expositors, following certain Fathers, find great significance in the sharp, pungent qualities of the mustard-seed as illustrating the fact that Christianity, though small, would prove very efficacious and impressive; but this is quite beside the point of the parable; and even if any one should regard the idea as in itself worth notice, he must accept it as merely a fancy, and not as a part of the Saviour's teaching. Nor are we to find any distinct spiritual meaning in the birds lodging in the branches, which simply shows in a vivid way how large and strong the plant becomes. Several passages of the Old Testament represent an extensive kingdom by a great tree, with the birds dwelling among its branches. Ezekiel 17:22-24, Ezekiel 31:8-14, Daniel 4:10 ff.

Matthew 13:33. The parable of the Leaven is given here by Matt. only; Luke (Luke 13:20 f.) records it at also spoken on a later occasion. Leaven, see on "Matthew 16:6". Meal, rather what we now call 'flour,' compare on Matthew 12:1. Measures. The Greek word corresponds to a common Hebrew measure of things dry, called seah, holding (Josephus,"Ant." 9, 4, 5,) nearly a peck and a half (margin); so that 'three measures' would be rather more than our bushel; but the size varied in different parts of Palestine. (Edersheim) It contributes to the vividness of the parabolic narrative, that it does not merely say "a large quantity," but names some particular quantity; and we may infer from Genesis 18:6, Judges 6:19, 1 Samuel 1:24, that three seahs (equal to one ephah) was a quantity often taken to make up, the custom being to bake at once enough for several days. To find a special spiritual meaning in the number three, would seem to us ridiculous; yet some great men among the Fathers, and some fanciful modern expositors, have actually made it signify Jews, Greeks, and Samaritans; or Asia, Europe, and Africa (how about America, now?); or the three sons of Noah; or body, soul, and spirit, etc. So with the attempts to give separate significance to the woman, when it was a matter of course to speak of a woman, and not of a man, making up bread. If the woman here denotes "the church," what is denoted by the man in, Matthew 13:31 ?—The general meaning of this parable is the same as that of the preceding. A small bit of leaven, completely hidden from view in the great mass of dough, would finally leaven the whole; and so Christianity, with its small and obscure beginnings, would pervade the whole race of mankind. There is a like gradual progress of piety in the individual, but that does not seem to be the point here in view. A slight but just distinction has been pointed out between this parable and that of the Grain of Mustard. That represents the expansion of the Christian community into vast dimensions; this the assimilating diffusion of Christianity through the vast mass of humanity; the one is extensive, the other intensive.—Because leaven is frequently used in Scripture as the symbol of things corrupting and pernicious, (Matthew 16:6; Luke 12:1, Galatians 5:9; 1 Corinthians 5:6; and often Old Testament) and nowhere but here used in a good sense, some have strangely tried to interpret it here as denoting the corruptions which should arise in connection with Christianity. But can there be only one possible figurative use of an object? The lion represents Satan, and also the Saviour; but no one would fancy in the same sense. (Compare on Matthew 3:11)

III. Matthew 13:34 f. A Prediction Of Speaking In Parables

All these things, with no special emphasis on 'all.' Unto the multitudes, or crowds, (see Matthew 13:2) and not merely to the disciples (compare on Matthew 13:36). Spake he nothing is the correct Greek text, instead of spake he not, which is taken from the parallel passage of Mark. (Mark 4:34) It must be meant simply that on this occasion he said nothing to them except in parables; we know that on other occasions, afterwards as well as before, he frequently spoke to the people in unparabolic language. 'Spake' is in Greek an imperfect, describing his practice on that occasion.—Here again, as in so many other instances, Matt. pauses to point out the fulfilment in Jesus of an Old Testament prediction. That it might be fulfilled, see on "Matthew 1:22" This expression requires us to understand a real fulfilment of a real prediction—unless that idea could be shown to be in the given case impossible—and a fulfilment designedly brought about in the course of providence. It is difficult, in the present instance, to discern the prophetic relation, but it is not impossible. By the prophet,(1) more exactly through, compare on Matthew 2:5. The quotation is from Psalms 78:2. Many of the Psalms are prophetic, and the Psalmist David is expressly called a prophet. (Acts 2:30) The writer of this Psalm is given by the heading as Asaph, and he in 2 Chronicles 29:30 is called the seer, equivalent to prophet. (1 Samuel 9:9) The Psalm relates the history of Israel, and points out its lessons; but Israel was typical of the Messiah (see above on "Matthew 2:15"), and so the passage might contain a prophetic reference to him, which the inspired Evangelist informs us it did contain. He states it as a part of the divine purpose, in our Lord's adoption of the parabolic method of instruction, that there should be a fulfilment of that prophetic saying. Unless we can show that there was no such prophetic relation, we must certainly accept the Evangelist's statement. I will utter. The Greek word means to belch, to vomit, to pour out copious speech, and this last corresponds to the Hebrew. From the foundation of the world.(2) The Hebrew has a phrase usually signifying 'from antiquity,' and thus naturally applying in the Psalmist's use to the early history of the nation (so Sept. 'from the beginning'); but the phrase also signifies 'from eternity as in Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalms 55:19, and in the prophetic application might perhaps be understood in that sense, to which the Evangelist's expression is equivalent. (Compare on Matthew 1:23)

IV. Matthew 13:36-43. Interpretation Of The Parable Of The Tares

Sent away. Rev. Ver. renders, he left. The multitude, the crowds, as in Matthew 5:1. These or similar crowds had heard the parables of the Sower, the Tares, the Mustard-seed and the Leaven, though not the explanation of the first (see on "Matthew 13:10"); also the other parable given by Mark (Mark 4:26 ff.) Now the disciples alone are to hear the explanation of the parable of the Tares, and also to hear the three other parables that follow. His disciples were probably not merely the Twelve, but others also. (See on "Matthew 13:10".) The name Jesus at the beginning of Matthew 13:36, does not appear in many of the best authorities, and was doubtless added by some early readers, because this was the beginning of a church "lesson," and so the name was apparently needed. The same thing has happened in various other passages, at the beginning of lessons. Into the house, probably the house mentioned in Matthew 13:1, which may have been (Mark 3:20) the house at Capernaum which he usually occupied, viz., that of Simon Peter. (Compare on Matthew 4:13 and Matthew 8:14) Declare, explain is doubtless the correct reading (first hand, B, Origen,) having been changed to make it agree with Matthew 15:15. The parable of the tares of the field. This designation shows that the disciples had seized the most characteristic feature of the illustration. Answered and said, without unto them, an unnecessary addition of many documents. For explanation of the terms and allusions of the parable itself, compare on Matthew 13:24-30.

The Jews, including our Lord's disciples, would naturally think, with their rooted notions of Messiah's reign, that he would promptly destroy all those who did not submit to his authority, as was common with Oriental conquerors, as David himself was known to have done. Their views and feelings are illustrated by the wish of James and John to call down fire from heaven and consume the Samaritan village, for refusing to receive Jesus. They might strengthen themselves (Weiss) in this view by supposing that the Messianic discrimination predicted by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:10-12) would be the first part of the Messianic work, and would be performed in a wholesale fashion. The contrary has already been intimated by the parable of the Sower, and by those of the Mustard-seed and the Leaven, all showing that the Messianic operation would be gradual, and upon individuals. And it is distinctly set forth by the present parable, which declares that while the refuse him allegiance, but suffers righteous, and wicked to live on together in the world, and intertwined in the relations of life, (Matthew 13:23) yet he will hereafter effectually separate them, and deal with each class according to their deserts. The Messianic discrimination is to take place not at the beginning, but at the end of the present dispensation, when the unmixed wheat will be gathered into the garner, (Matthew 13:30 having the same phrase as Matthew 3:12) We have seen (on Matthew 3:2) that the word rendered 'kingdom' is inadequately expressed by that one term, but includes also what we mean by 'kingship' and 'reign,' one idea or another being especially prominent in different cases. Here the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:24) denotes especially the Messianic reign, and the parable sets forth some things that will occur in the world in connection with that reign. But overlooking these facts, and thinking always of the kingdom as implying an organization of subjects, the Christian world has largely fallen into the habit of confounding the kingdom of heaven, here and often elsewhere, with what is popularly called "the visible church," i.e., the totality of professed believers. Hence most expositors from an early period, have understood the parable as teaching that in "the church" we must have righteous and wicked together. The tendency to understand it in this Way was strengthened by Constantine's adoption of Christianity as a plank in his political platform, leading to what in modern times we call a Church Establishment, in which all are held as church-members, and exclusion from a church, such as the New Testament sometimes enjoins (1 Corinthians 5:4 f.; 1 Corinthians 2:5-8; Matthew 18:17 ff.), becomes impossible. Still a third cause affected the interpretation. When the Donatists undertook to excommunicate all persons known to be evil, and in the case of traditores, who had given up copies of Scripture to be burned during the persecutions, were unwilling ever to restore them to the church connection, Augustine wrote against their views a great number of treatises, in which he constantly appealed to this parable, as showing that good and evil persons must dwell together in the church. He says the Donatist bishops would reply, "It does not refer to the church; the Lord said, the field is the world, not, the field is the church." But Augustine would say that the world here means the church. They contended that the world is always used in a bad sense, quoting many testimonies from Scripture, as "If any man love the world," etc.

(1 John 2:15) But he replied with, 2 Corinthians 5:19,"God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself "; "and assuredly" (says Aug.), "God reconciles to himself nothing but the church." On one occasion Aug. actually states it as a sign of the church that it contains evil and good mixed together. The influence of the great Latin theologian thus made it a commonplace of Christian controversy and exposition that the parable of the Tares describes the church as containing good and bad, and teaches that church discipline must not attempt-to have it otherwise.(1) All the commentators at the time of the Reformation, and almost all since that time, have been connected with some State Church, and would readily adopt the current interpretation, because it accorded with their education and surroundings. But this cannot be a correct view of the parable, for our Lord's interpretation, as the Donatists urged, expressly declares, "The field is the world." It is very true that in any church there are likely to be members who are not true Christians, and whom it is often difficult for us to detect; but Augustine's interpretation would make the parable teach that when detected, and clearly known, we must not exclude them. Now the point of the parable is not that obviously wicked men are to live on as recognized subjects of Christ's kingdom, regarded as a definite organization—i.e., as members of his churches—but that he suffers them, under or during his reign, to live on in the world, instead of being at once destroyed, as the Jews expected. This would explain to the disciples, for example, why he who could work miracles had that morning allowed himself to be insulted and blasphemed, and had only given a solemn warning instead of blasting with instant destruction. It would also give another reason why the Messianic work was moving slowly. One reason already given was that many receive the 'word of the kingdom' improperly (parable of the Sower); now another reason is that while the Son of man sows wheat in the world, the devil, in the same field (the world), sows tares, all in among the wheat.

The mistaken view of this parable above condemned finds apparent support in the phrase 'shall gather out of his kingdom' (see on "Matthew 13:41"), and in the parable of the Net. (Matthew 13:47 ff.)

Our Lord's interpretation comprises (Goebel) two distinct parts. In Matthew 13:37-39 a meaning is separately and briefly assigned to each leading object and person in the story. In Matthew 13:40-43, the final stage of the spiritual situation meant to be illustrated is vividly described by a series of events.

Matthew 13:37-39. The Son of man, i.e. he Messiah, see on "Matthew 8:20". The field is the world, here the common Greek term kosmos, having as broad and general a sense as our English term world. Our Lord's personal ministry was restricted to Palestine, though including some Gentiles; but his work was to be afterwards extended into 'all the world', (Mark 16:15) among 'all nations,'. (Matthew 28:19) The good seed, i.e., of course, the plants springing from the iced. The children (sons) of the kingdom (compare on Matthew 8:12), those who have a right to the privileges of the Messianic reign, as if they were its very offspring. But in Matthew 8:12 the phrase represents those who were entitled, as it were, by birth, to the Messianic privileges (viz., the Jews), but many of whom would be cast out; while here it is those who are truly the subjects of Messiah by the new birth. (compare Matthew 21:43) And so the children (sons) of the wicked one, see on "Matthew 13:19" and see on "Matthew 6:13", are those who as closely resemble Satan, and are as completely under his control, as is the case of children towards their father. (Compare John 8:44, 1 John 5:19) The devil, see on "Matthew 4:1". Evil in the human race owes its origin to Satan. As to the reasons why God permitted its original appearance in the universe, speculation has scarcely proven satisfactory, and Scripture is silent. Some argue that the parable must refer to "the church," because the person who sowed the good seed is the Messiah, and the enemy sowed afterwards; while in the world there had been sons of the evil one long before the Saviour's appearing. But no illustration can throw light in all directions. This parable must of course describe tares as sown after wheat, for otherwise the story would have been unnatural. Therefore this illustration could depict only the present and future relations of good and evil in the world, and could not bring within its horizon the past history of the human race. The end of the world. The Greek for 'world' is not the same as in Matthew 13:38, but the same as in Matthew 13:22 and Matthew 12:32, which, according to Jewish usage, frequently denotes the present period, the existing condition of things, as opposed to some past or future condition of things. The word translated 'end' denotes completion or consummation (as in margin of Rev. Ver.); see the same phrase in Matthew 24:3, Matthew 28:20, and 'children of this world' in Luke 16:8, Luke 20:34. The end or consummation of the present period or state of things will be at our Lord's second coming, which will open the new and eternal period. And the reapers are the angels, see on "Matthew 18:10". The Greek has here no article with 'angels'; the Com. Ver. inserted or omitted the article with great license.—Observe that our Lord's interpretation takes no account of the men who slept (really meaning people in general, and not implying blame, see on "Matthew 13:25"), nor of the servants who reported what had happened; many commentators are not content with this, and propose various interpretations, which cannot be expected to reward attention. (Compare as to the interpretation of parables on Matthew 13:3)

Matthew 13:40-43. Burned with fire is a more probable translation than in the fire (Tyndale and followers), the form being oftener instrumental than locative. (Compare Matthew 3:12) In the end of this (properly the) world, the word 'this' being an unwarranted addition, as in Matthew 13:22. The Son of man.... his angels.... his kingdom, suggesting the exalted dignity to which he shall attain who was once despised and rejected.

(Compare on Matthew 7:21, Matthew 10:32, Matthew 12:8, Matthew 25:31 ff.) The angels, who now desire to look into the things of salvation, (1 Peter 1:12) who rejoice over one sinner that repenteth, (Luke 15:7) who are all ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation, (Hebrews 1:14) will then have assigned them the solemn task of separating the wicked from among the just, and consigning them to destruction. (Compare Matthew 25:31) And they shall gather out of his kingdom. Observe that this points forward to the time of the final judgment. The Messianic dominion wilt then be regarded as virtually extending over the whole world, like God's universal kingship or reign; (Psalms 22:27 f.) the kingship of the world will be our Lord's and his Christ's; (Revelation 11:15) the kingdom predicted by Daniel will be about to complete its destiny, and fill the whole earth. (Daniel 2:35) All that will then be necessary to render this Messianic reign actually universal will be to gather the wicked out of the world, and as the world will then by anticipation be his kingdom, it is said that the angels 'will gather cut of his kingdom,' etc. (Compare a somewhat similar view in Meyer.) It does not follow from this anticipative expression that the wicked are now within his kingdom regarded as an organization apart from the world. Observe that the problem of interpretation here is to reconcile the phrase 'they shall gather out of his kingdom' with the clear statement of Matthew 13:38, 'the field is the world.' If we understand 'his kingdom' in this case to mean what is called "the visible church" throughout its history, then we must either understand 'the world' in some strained, unnatural sense,(1) or we must utterly confound the visible church with the world; and upon any such interpretation the inevitable result will be that the passage prohibits exclusion from a church, which as we have seen, is elsewhere distinctly enjoined. In some way, then, the phrase 'gather out of his kingdom (reign, dominion, etc.)' must be interpreted as not meaning "the visible church," or else we bring Scripture into apparently hopeless conflict with itself. It might be enough to say that in one sense all the world is under the Messiah's dominion, but not in the sense that all men are really his subjects. With 'gather out of his kingdom' compare in the kindred parable, (Matthew 13:49) 'the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the righteous.' In the present 'age,' or state of things, the subjects of Christ's kingdom or reign are mingled in all social and other relations with the wicked. To separate them now, and destroy the wicked—as the Jews might naturally expect of Messiah—to make now the Messianic discrimination, (Matthew 3:10-12) would be to break up the whole framework of society. But let no one imagine that this mingling will always continue; the time is approaching when the wicked will be gathered out from among Messiah's subjects. They were never one-were always, in fact, as distinct as wheat and tares; but they were closely united in the world, their roots intertwined, and they are to be completely separated only when human society as a whole is broken up. This is all meant not as a reason why we should refrain from putting a wicked man out of a church, but as a reason why God refrains from putting him out of the world. We repeat that if the parable did refer to the presence of unrenewed persons in a church, then it would clearly forbid any exclusion from a church-a difficulty, upon that view, which has never been satisfactorily explained. It is idle to say that the parable only forbids very rigid discipline. By confining our view to the natural and obvious meaning of the parable, we free ourselves from all those confused and conflicting notions on the supposed relation of its teachings to church discipline, which have almost buried, beneath a mass of unprofitable discussion, this beautiful and affecting parable of our Lord. All things that offend, that cause stumbling, see on "Matthew 5:29". The idea here may be, all those who cause men to sin in general, or specifically, all those who cause men to doubt and question the reality of Christ's reign, from his allowing such persons to live on in the world. And them which do iniquity, (compare Matthew 7:23) this plainer and more general expression being added to the figurative and more explicit one preceding—all the stumbling blocks, and in general, those that do iniquity. The phraseology was perhaps suggested by Zephaniah 1:3. Into a (the) furnace of fire, compare Matthew 3:11, Revelation 20:15; Jeremiah 29:22; Daniel 3:6; and see on "Matthew 5:22". A modern traveller speaks of furnaces for punishment in Persia. 'The furnace,' the definite place of future punishment. There shall be the weeping and gnashing of teeth (compare on Matthew 8:12), departs from the image of consuming the tares, to introduce another thought of horror, and heighten the terrible picture. The use of various images for future punishment should prevent a crude literalism, and falls in with the important teaching that there will be degrees of punishment. (Luke 12:47.) But the images must be understood as representing something real. Reuss, with his rationalistic freedom, justly remarks that the furnace and the gnashing of teeth stand in the same position as the shining glory of the righteous (Matthew 13:43)—both must be accepted as facts as representing realities, or else both alike referred to the mere popular beliefs of the time; one cannot accept the Bible descriptions of heaven as representing realities, and reject those of hell.—No spiritual meaning is to be derived from 'gather up first' in Matthew 13:30, as if showing that the righteous are to witness the destruction of the wicked. Our Lord does not introduce the word 'first' into Matthew 13:41, and in the similar allusion of Matthew 13:48 the order is reversed, simply following, in each case, the obvious propriety of the figure. In like manner some expositors gravely discuss the spiritual meaning of binding in bundles, when the author of the parable has entirely omitted it from his exposition. Shine forth as the sun, in purity and glory; compare Daniel 12:3, "shall shine as the brightness of the firmament... as the stars for ever and ever." The righteous are opposed to 'those that do iniquity,' in Matthew 13:41. At present, they are often obscure and unnoticed amid the great mass of mankind, imperfectly appreciated and little honoured by the world at large; but then, completely distinct and forever separate from the wicked, they shall shine forth as the sun. In the kingdom of their Father, the consummate and eternal state of the Messianic kingdom or reign (see on "Matthew 3:2"), when Christ "shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father... that God maybe all in all." (1 Corinthians 15:24, 1 Corinthians 15:28, R. V.) He that hath ears to hear, let him hear, calling solemn attention, see on "Matthew 11:15".—We learn here that good and bad will both be found intermingled in the world until the consummation of the present age, at the second coming of Christ; which seems quite contrary to the notion of a previous millennium during which all men without exception will be faultless Christians. Compare Luke 18:8.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 13:31 f. The slow progress of Christianity (1) Slow because not a case of manufacture, but of growth. (2) Slow because in an unfriendly soil and clime, an exotic. (3) Slow through the fault of those who ought to tend it more carefully. (4) Slow, but sure.

Matthew 13:33. The gradual diffusion of Christianity. (1) Through different spheres of life, spiritual, moral, social, political. (2) Through successive ages of history. (3) Through various quarters of the earth. (4) Destined at last to be universal, in every sense.

Matthew 13:34. Jerome: "Even to-day, the multitudes hear in parables; the disciples ask the Saviour at home."

Matthew 13:37-43. The righteous and the wicked. (1) Dwelling in the same world. (2) Rooted together in political, social, and family life. (Matthew 13:29.) (3) Blessed with the same outward mercies. (Matthew 13:35.) (4) Sometimes confounded by superficial observers, but easily distinguished through their fruit. (Matthew 13:26.) (5) Sure to be separated in the great coming day, (a) without chance of error, (b) without possibility of reunion, (c) so that the one class shall burn in unquenchable fire, and the other shall shine in unsullied purity and undimmed glory forever.

Matthew 13:38. The sons of the kingdom. Arnot: "For their sakes the world is preserved now, and for their sakes it will be destroyed when the set time is come. The darnel is permitted to grow in its season, and in harvest is cast into the fire—both for the sake of the wheat. Because Christ loves his own, he permits the wicked to run their course in time; but because Christ loves his own, he will separate the wicked from the good at last."

Matthew 13:39. The enemy. Arnot: "Evil does not belong originally to the constitution of man, nor has God his Maker introduced it. Our case is sad, indeed; for we learn that an enemy whom we cannot overcome is ever lying in wait, seeking how he may devour us. But what would our case have been, if evil, instead of being injected by an enemy from without, had been of the essence of the creature or the act of the Creator?"

Thomas: "The mixture of the good and bad in this world is of service. (1) It is of service to the bad; it keeps them in a position of improvement (2) It is of service to the good; holy character is strengthened and perfected by contact with palpable evil." Parker: "Let us remit our case to the harvest. Do not he answering the fool and the enemy now, and thus wasting opportunities which ought to be usefully employed in endeavouring to do good, but wait till the harvest. Then shall all qualities be tested, then shall every man have his proper place and standing before God."


Verses 44-53

Matthew 13:44-53.
The Hid Treasure, The Pearl, The Net

These three remaining parables of the group are found in Matthew only.

I. Matthew 13:44. The Parable Of The Hid Treasure

The word again with which Com. Ver. begins is wanting here in many of the earliest documents, and was doubtless added from Matthew 13:45, Matthew 13:47, where the reading does not vary. This leaves it uncertain whether the three following parables were spoken on the same occasion as the Sower and the Tares. They may have been given at some other time and place, and recorded here by way of topical grouping, as is done with the miracles in Matthew 8-9. But the presumption in favour of the Evangelist's order is strengthened by the language of Matthew 13:51 and Matthew 13:53, and by the fact that the Tares and the Net form a pair like the other pairs of this chapter.

The kingdom of heaven, the Messianic reign, see on "Matthew 3:2". Is like, so in Matthew 13:45 and Matthew 13:47. Some, beginning with Origen, have insisted on the fact that in these three cases the word parable is not used, as it is in Matthew 13:3, Matthew 13:24, Matthew 13:31, Matthew 13:33, and that these are similitudes but not parables. But certainly a parable is one kind of similitude; and the phrase 'is like' is employed in stating the parable in Matthew 13:24, Matthew 13:31, Matthew 13:33. See also Matthew 18:23, Matthew 20:1, where unquestionable parables are not called by that name, and are introduced by this same phrase. And the point seems to be settled by Matthew 13:53, 'had finished these parables.' Treasure hid in a (the) field, i.e., the cultivated land, the open country as opposed to the city. Palestine had passed through many revolutions, and had always been exposed to raids from wandering tribes around, and in many districts to plunder from robbers at home. Accordingly it was common, as is the case in all unsettled countries, for one who apprehended robbery or thievery, (Matthew 25:25) or who was setting off to a distant country, to bury his money, jewelry, plate, and the like, in the earth. If the owner was killed in battle, or died in the far country, no one might know where his treasures were hid; and it became the usage that hidden valuables for which no owner appeared should belong to the owner of the land. The search for such treasures is alluded to in Job 3:21; Proverbs 2:4, and often in Greek and Roman writers, and is common now in Palestine. Thomson, ii., p. 640: "There are many persons digging for hid treasure all over the country, and not a few spend their last farthing in those efforts." We are told that in the East men of wealth have been known to divide their estate into three parts, one invested in trade, a second part ill jewels easily kept about the person, and the remainder buried in the earth—a sad condition of affairs for the prosperity of a nation. An instance of hiding treasure occurred during the War of Secession in a South Carolina village, where the writer lived. A shoemaker, upon the approach of hostile troops, hid five hundred dollars in gold, and told his wife and a friend that he had done so, but without revealing the place, supposed to have been in some adjoining forest. In a few days he died after a brief illness, and his widow was quite unable to recover the money, which years hence some man may find "hidden in the field" where he is at work. Found, hideth, or and hid, i.e., hid it again. For joy, literally from his joy, or less probably 'from joy thereof,' (margin R.V.). Goeth, the word explained on Matthew 4:10, which perhaps here implies eager and hasty going. Notice the vivid change to the historical present 'found and hid.... goes off and sells.... buys.' It is sometimes said that this man's course was dishonest, as he ought to have revealed his discovery to the owner; if the case be so understood, we must remember that an illustration may hold good as to the thing illustrated even when the literal act is immoral, as in the case of the unrighteous steward. (Luke 16.) Weiss: "Jesus is not teaching how men ought to act in such a case, but is narrating a case out of ordinary life," as an illustration. But is there really any propriety in calling the man dishonest? If he paid what the land was worth on other accounts, had he not a perfect right to get the benefit himself of his good fortune, or his skill, in discovering the treasure? The transaction of the parable was entirely in accordance with Jewish law, though the apparently similar case quoted by Wet., Meyer, and many others from the Talmud, proves a failure when the connection is known. (Edersheim.)

The general idea which the parable illustrates seems to be this. If a man fully discovers and appreciates the advantages of Christ's service, he will be so anxious to make those blessings his own as to sacrifice any and everything that may be necessary for that purpose. (Compare on Matthew 13:45 f.) It seems idle to seek any special spiritual meaning in the re-hiding, or in the field, as that it means "the church," or the Scriptures (Origen), or Christ, because of Colossians 2:3. To run through the Bible with a concordance, and wherever there is mention of a treasure or a field connect it with this illustration, is a process fatal to sound interpretation and unworthy of sober sense.

II. Matthew 13:45 f. Parable Of The Pearl Of Great Price

The general meaning of thin parable is evidently the same with that of the preceding. It is very natural for any teacher to give two illustrations of the same truth, and was especially so for a Jewish teacher, since the more elevated Hebrew style tends always to parallelisms. A merchantman. The Greek word denotes not a mere shopkeeper, but one who travels to procure what he sells. Goodly pearls, or 'fine,' 'beautiful.' He does not want ordinary pearls, but such as are fine; so when he finds an extremely fine one, he will appreciate and desire it. One framing such an illustration now would doubtless speak of diamonds, but in ancient times these were very rare, and no merchant would have made it his business to deal m them. One pearl of great price. Pliny tells us (Bruce), that Cleopatra's two famous pearls were valued each at about four hundred thousand dollars of our money, and the purchasing power of money was then ten or fifteen times as great as now. It was like finding a diamond worth millions. Sold all that he had, not simply all his pearls, but all his possessions, as the Greek shows, and even the English in Matthew 13:44. Of course he regarded the pearl as worth much more than he gave; it was making a good investment. 'Sold' is literally 'has sold,' which given vividness—you see the thing going on, as in 'taketh.' (Revelation 5:7 Rev. Ver.) So this answers in some measure to the historical present of Matthew 13:44. The Mishna has a story of a man who gave his whole fortune for a pearl.

In like manner, to be a subject of Messiah's reign is so precious a privilege, that a man might willingly sacrifice everything else to obtain it; whatever pleasures, honours, possessions, or attainments it is necessary to give up he might willingly abandon—whatever efforts are requisite he might make—in order to secure that which is worth so much. The Jews thought the Messianic blessings would come as a mere gift of God, without sacrifice or seeking; and Jesus corrects their error. Yet he does not mean, any more than in what he said to the rich young man, (Matthew 19:21) that all his followers must actually abandon every earthly possession or pursuit; nay, piety may even contribute to the attainment of whatever else is best worth having in life. (Matthew 6:33; 1 Timothy 4:8) But he means that they should be willing to do so; and that his true followers actually will, whenever in his Providence it is marked out as their duty to him. Compare Moses, (Hebrews 11:24 ff.) and Paul. (Philippians 3:7 f.)

There is a certain difference between this parable and the preceding, in that this implies a previous seeking. The gospel presents itself to one man while otherwise occupied (so with several of the disciples, we know), and attracts his attention by its manifest value; another, while seeking spiritual wisdom, or the highest good of life, (Psalms 4:6 f.) perceives the gospel to be the true wisdom, the supreme good. (Philippians 3:8) The man who finds a treasure he had not sought has the joy of surprise; be who has searched and striven, the joy of success. Observe also (Bruce) that the treasure represents piety as practically useful, the pearl as beautiful and beautifying.—Alas! how many fail to appreciate the value of this pearl, even when it is held up before their eyes; they cannot think it so valuable; they will not carefully examine, or they apply false tests. And how many, even when avowedly searching for religious truth and comfort, will buy, even at great cost, some imitation-pearl, that is really worthless.

III. Matthew 13:47-50. Parable Of The Net

This is to the same general effect as that of the Tares. (Matthew 13:24, Matthew 13:37) Why it was separated from its companion, while the other pairs stand together, we cannot tell, unless it was for the purpose of bringing in again, at the close of the series, the solemn allusion to the final judgment. Weiss thinks the again shows it to be the second of a pair, as in Matthew 13:45; but the comparison of 'another parable' in Matthew 13:24, Matthew 13:31, Matthew 13:38, will refute this notion, leaving us to understand that we have in Matthew 13:45 and Matthew 13:47 the second and third of a group. A net, sagene, a drag-net or seine (modern English form of the Greek word), drawn up on the beach. In Matthew 4:18 if.; Luke 5:4 ff., the words do not determine the kind of net, but the circumstances show that if was there a dip-net, let down into deep water, and drawn up into the boat. Gathered of every kind, not probably species and thus symbolizing the different races of mankind (Theophyl., Meyer), but every kind as to value, both the useful and the useless. The bad, literally the putrid or spoilt, strictly denoting those which were dead before they were caught, and thus unfit for use; but probably designed also to include those which were worthless on any account. See the same word in Matthew 7:17, Matthew 12:33.

The application here is in almost exactly the same words (Matthew 13:19 f.) as in, Matthew 13:40-42. It is confined to the one point that at 'the end of the world' or 'consummation of the age,' a separation will be made between good and bad, with the terrible destruction (punishment) of the bad; and it is implied that such a separation will not be made until then. This is clearly the lesson of the parable, and our Lord's interpretation suggests no other. If we attempt, on our own authority, not on his, to make religious application of preceding points of the parable, we must be cautious, and must assuredly avoid deriving from its supposed analogies any idea in conflict with the plain and unfigurative teaching of other passages of Scripture. (Compare on Matthew 13:3) Now if we say, as many do, that the net represents "the visible church," then it is implied that good and bad must remain together in the church, without possibility of separating or distinguishing them in any single case, till the Second Coming of Christ. The parable of the Tares, upon a similar interpretation, would make church discipline wrong, because injurious; that of the Net would make it entirely impossible. But church discipline is enjoined in Scripture, as all Christians recognize; shall we accept an interpretation of merely human origin, upon which the parable squarely contradicts these injunctions? And see what incongruities the interpretation will involve (Arnot). (1) The angels must be entirely distinct from those who manage "the church"; but the persons separating the good and bad fishes are not distinct from those who draw the net. (2) Augustine, and numerous modern advocates of an Established Church, urge upon Nonconformists that it is wrong to quit the church because of there being some bad fish in the net; while the fishes, good or bad, remain in the net only because they cannot break out. And so as to other points.

"But is it not expressly said," one might insist, "that the kingdom of heaven is like a net; and as the net gathers of every kind, must not this mean that the kingdom of heaven will contain within its limits, at least its apparent and recognized limits, both good and bad?" Answer. (a) The word rendered 'kingdom' means also what we express by 'reign' (see on "Matthew 13:37 ff."); in this sense the idea would here be not of a definite organization of persons, but of a general state of things, of what happens under the reign of Messiah; and this sense ought to be here preferred because it relieves us of the hopeless difficulties involved in the other view. (b) The opening verbal comparison of the several parables is not uniform and essential to the meaning, but incidental and varying. In Matthew 13:45 the kingdom of heaven is like a man seeking pearls, but in Matthew 13:44 it is compared, not to the finder, but to the thing found. In Matthew 13:24 it is like the owner of the field, i.e., the Messiah; (Matthew 13:37) but in Matthew 13:47 it is compared not to the owner of the net, but to the net. So in Matthew 22:2, the kingdom of heaven is likened to the king who gave a marriage feast for his son but in Matthew 25:1 it is likened, not to the bridegroom, but to the virgins who desired to attend the feast. These and other examples show that our Lord does not in each case carefully assert a special relation between the Messianic reign and this or that particular object in the parable, but means to say that something is true of the Messianic reign which resembles the case of the parable; and instead of speaking in vague terms of general comparison (as in Matthew 25:14), he often sets out by saying that "the kingdom of heaven is like" some leading person or object of the story, or some feature that readily presents itself at the beginning. (Compare on Matthew 11:16) In this parable, then, we are not at liberty to lay any stress upon the comparison of the kingdom of heaven to the net itself. The comparison is to the whole story; and its particular point is given by our Lord himself in Matthew 13:49 f.

One might incline to suppose a reference here to the unspiritual crowds who were following Jesus, many reckoning themselves his disciples, though they were not; and then an application might be proposed to similar hangers on at the present day. But fatal to this is the fact that Jesus did take pains, not long after the parable was spoken, to make such persons see the spirituality of true discipleship, so that they ceased following him. (John 6:66)

Nay, the meaning is simply that Messiah will not at once separate and destroy those persons who refuse to become his subjects, but will suffer them to live on in the world during the gradual development of his reign, until his Second Coming, and then the separation and punishment will take place. The phrases of Matthew 13:49 f. have been explained in the kindred passage, Matthew 13:40-42. The 'furnace of fire' is an image not suggested by this parable, but by burning the tares.

Some have found a mystical signification in the fact that this group contains seven parables (the mystical number), which they compare with the seven letters of Revelation 2-3, and suppose to represent seven epochs in the history of Christianity. Apart from other grounds of objection to this fancy (compare Goebel), it should be enough here to remember that Mark (Mark 4:26 ff.) gives an eighth parable spoken on the same occasion, and that these eight fall into four pairs.

IV. Matthew 13:51-53. Conclusion Of The Discourse

Found in Matthew only. Jesus saith unto them is a spurious addition, and so is Lord, after yea. The simple yea or yes without addition was not impolite. (Matthew 17:25, Acts 22:27) Have ye understood—or did you understand—all these things? The emphasis is not so much on 'all' as on 'these things' (so in Matthew 13:34). They had not understood the parables of the Sower and the Tares without explanation; but guided by his interpretation of those two, they saw the meaning of the subsequent parables, though it is probable they often saw but dimly at first. Morison: "Not that we are to suppose they understood the things to their summits and their depths. Who even yet has thus exhausted or comprehended them? But they saw light streaming through them. It was light from heaven; it would increase." Therefore, on this account, a strong expression. (Alford wrong, following Euthym.) Since you have understood these new views of the Messianic reign, it follows that you, and every Scribe who like you has become a disciple to that reign, will have good store of truths to teach, of new things as well as old. If the disciples had not understood, it could not have been at that time said that such a store of varied instruction would be possessed by them and other teachers under the New Dispensation. Scribe, see on "Matthew 2:4". That is instructed, or, has been discipled, see on "Matthew 28:19". We greatly need a verb to disciple for both passages, and for Matthew 27:57, Acts 14:21, as we need a verb to shepherd in Matthew 2:6, John 21:16, etc. Discipled unto the kingdom of heaven, would be according to the correct Greek text. The Scribes held themselves as the disciples of Moses; (Matthew 23:2; John 9:28) the Christian Scribe (Matthew 23:34) has become a disciple to the Messianic Dispensation, which takes him as a pupil, and teaches him its lessons. If the Messianic reign had turned out only what the Jews expected, its Scribes would not have been able to produce any new truths about it. The Greek might mean, though less naturally, 'discipled for the kingdom of heaven,' for its benefit or service; the expression seemed obscure, and so was altered in some documents to 'in the kingdom,' and in many to 'unto the kingdom,' meaning in order to, or in respect to (as in Com. Ver.). Householder, as in Matthew 13:27, Matthew 10:25. Treasure, 'treasury,' or here rather store-house, the term not being confined to a place of deposit for valuables (compare on Matthew 12:35). Bringeth forth is literally throws out, 'flings out,' as explained in Matthew 9:38, the word appearing always to imply vigorous if not violent action. A man with ample stores flings out garments or articles of food in profusion, some recently acquired, others long on hand, each class having its peculiar value. A good housekeeper would make frequent additions to his stores, while carefully preserving the old. The Jewish Scribes gloried in teaching only old things, but the Christian Scribe learned such new lessons as these parables have just been giving, and so could fling out things new and old. He would now have (Meyer) the fulfilment of many old prophecies, the explanation and new extension (Matthew 5:17) of many precepts, the more correct understanding of the old Messianic hope. The expression naturally suggests to us the Old and the New Testaments, but that can hardly be regarded as here meant by our Lord. Perhaps he did also mean that the Christian Scribe must imitate his example in employing new methods of teaching (as parables, etc.) He here plainly shows that he did not design for the disciples to keep to themselves what had for the present been taught to them alone. (Compare Matthew 13:10-13)

Matthew 13:53. This closes the account of this series of parables.(Compare Matthew 11:1) The chapter ought to have ended here, thus possessing a beautiful unity. The remaining verses have nothing to do with the group of parables, either in time, place, or topic. The other group of parables given by Matthew will be found near the close of our Lord's public ministry in Matthew 18, 20, 21, 22, 25.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 13:44. The hid treasure. (1) Piety is a treasure. (2) One should determine to make it truly and thoroughly his own. (3) He should he ready to pay the cost of procuring it, however great. (4) Well may he rejoice at the first view of it, and still more in its secured possession.

Matthew 13:45 f. The pearl of great price. (1) Piety is the most precious of all possessions, the summum bonum, or supreme good of life. (2) To obtain piety, we ought willingly to make all necessary sacrifices and exertions. (3) Piety is worth far more than it costs. Chrys.: "And much as he that has the pearl knows indeed himself that he is rich, but others often know not that he is holding it in his hand (for there is no corporeal bulk); just so also with the gospel: they that have hold of it know that they are rich, but the unbelievers, not knowing of this treasure, are in ignorance also of our wealth."

Matthew 13:51 f. Henry: "It is good for us, when we have read or heard the word, to examine ourselves, or to be examined, whether we have understood it or not."—The Gospel Scribe. (1) He is a disciple to the Messianic reign, (a) learning its lessons, (b) obeying its laws. (2) He brings forth things new and old. (a) From Old Testament and New Testament (b) From former teachers and from his own thinking. (c) In old methods and in new methods. Origen: "The converse must hold, whoever does not bring forth from his treasury new things and old, is not ascribe discipled to the kingdom of heaven. Therefore we must diligently study not only the Gospels, Epistles, and Apocalypse, but also the law and the prophets." Chrys. "Let us then hear, as many of us as neglect the reading of the Scriptures, to what harm We are subjecting ourselves, to what poverty. For where are we to apply ourselves to the real practice of virtue, who do not so much as know the very laws according to which our practice should be guided?"


Verses 54-58

Matthew 13:54-58.
Jesus Visits His Own Country

This visit of our Lord to his own country is also given in Mark 6:1-6. It must have been different, though, in some respects, similar visit to Nazareth that is recorded in Luke 4:16-31, and occurred at the very beginning of is ministry in Galilee (Luke 4:31 coinciding in time with Matthew 4:13). The visit described by Matt. and Luke appears to have been about a year later. Many recent commentators argue, or take for granted, that the two events were really one, and then dispute as to which occupies the more correct chronological position. But the strong probability that both Mark and Luke have followed the chronological order, as they so commonly do (at least in the early part of Luke), is here further strengthened by the great difference of circumstances in the two cases. In Luke, the synagogue address so angers the congregation that they rise up and attempt to kill him; for this there seems to be no room in Matthew and Mark. In Luke, Jesus is expected to work miracles, and openly declares that he will not; in the other case he works a few miracles, and wonders at the unbelief which prevents his doing more. It was natural that Jesus should give the acquaintances of his early life a second chance to hear, and when they did not believe, he might very naturally repeat the saying which was so readily suggested, and so strikingly appropriate. (Matthew 13:57, Luke 4:24) It is thus easier to account for the similarity of the two narratives, if distinct, than for their differences, if referring to the same event. But some critics always take for granted that two similar events or discourses must have been really the same. A little experience as missionary preachers in city and country, especially if as field-preachers or street-preachers, or in general, as "evangelists," would have taught them how natural it is to give many similar points or instruction at different times and places. (Compare at the beginning of Matthew 5, and on Matthew 13:15-38.) It is impossible to say with certainty whether we have here two events or one; but the probability seems strongly in favour of the former view. It is supported by Meyer, Ewald, Wieseler, and many others.

Matthew does not here mention, though his expressions do not exclude, various occurrences which Mark's order shows to have come between the series of parables and this visit viz., the passage of the lake and healing of two demoniacs, the feast given by Matthew. the raising of Jairus' daughter, etc. These Matt., according to his topical method of grouping (in Matthew 5-13), has introduced earlier.; (Matthew 8:18 to Matthew 9:34) see on "Matthew 8:18"and see on "Matthew 13:1"., Some sceptical expositors insist that his expressions do exclude any intervening events. They read it as one sentence: "He departed thence, and coming into his own country, taught," etc. The Greek might mean this, but even so, must we necessarily understand that he went off the same day, stopped nowhere on the route, and neither said nor did anything from the close of the parables beside the lake till he reached the synagogue at Nazareth? It will surely be agreed that one day may have intervened, if no more; and it so happens that one day with the preceding night would suffice for all the events mentioned by Mark as occurring in the meantime. It is wearisome to follow out such elaborate attempts to make much of discrepancies.

In Matthew this rejection at Nazareth completes the account of opposition encountered by Jesus (Matthew 12 and Matthew 13); and the parabolic teaching which was occasioned by this opposition is preceded by the interference of his kindred (Matthew 12:46 ff.), and followed by the rejection at his early home.

Matthew 13:54. His own country must here mean the district of Nazareth, and not Galilee in general. (John 4:43-45) He was already in Galilee when he gave the parables. He is here in a particular city or village, having one definite synagogue. The people know his brothers by name, and declare that his sisters are all living among them. As to Nazareth, see on "Matthew 2:23"; as to the synagogues, see on "Matthew 4:23". Mark (Mark 6:2) says that this teaching was on the Sabbath, which would not be certain from Matthew's account, since they met in the synagogue also on Monday and Thursday. And these mighty works, or 'miracles,' the word being, see on "Matthew 12:38". Few or none of these were wrought at Nazareth, (Matthew 13:58) but they had heard of them, and doubtless some Nazarenes had witnessed them at other points. Notice that with all their unbelief and hostility they did not question the reality of his miracles. (Compare on Matthew 12:24)

Matthew 13:55 f. Is not this the carpenter's son? Jesus was of course considered among the Nazarenes to he the son of Joseph,"and that impression was wisely permitted, because the idea of the heavenly origin of Jesus could be of use only to believers." (Olshausen.) Tile word rendered 'carpenter' means in general artificer, but usually denotes a worker in wood. Mark (Mark 6:3) has it, 'Is not this the carpenter?' showing that Jesus had himself wrought at his reputed father's trade. Justin Martyr, who was reared in Samaria, affirms in his dialogue with Trypho the Jew (ch. 88), written about A. D. 150, that Jesus was a maker of plows and yokes—a tradition which may well enough be true. In labouring as a mechanic we must not fail to see that he set us an example. Belonging to a poor family, he ate not the bread of idleness, but with all the great work that lay before him, and already must have begun to press upon head and heart, he devoted himself to honest toil. It was the wise custom of the Jews that even when wealthy their sons must be taught some trade; as Paul learned tent-making, and lived to find it extremely useful. No doubt the Saviour worked diligently, a model to mechanics of never slighting work, and of always meeting engagements. And no doubt he cherished all the day long so devout a spirit as to make these homely toils a part of the life of piety.

And his brethren.... and his sisters. It seems impossible to determine with certainty whether we are to understand brothers in the strict sense, or half-brothers, or more loosely, near kinsmen. Each of these views has been earnestly supported from an early time. (See particularly good discussions of the whole subject in Bishop Lightfoot on Galatians, Smith's "Dict. Bible," Aroer. Ed., Art. "Brothers of the Lord," Schaff in Lukenge on Matt., and in "Church History" 2d ed., Andrew's "Life of Christ.") The three theories are well described by Schaff as the brother-theory, held by many Protestants, the half-brother-theory prevailing in the Greek Church, and the cousin-theory, prevailing in the Church of Rome.

1. The most obvious view is that the 'brothers' were such in the ordinary sense sons of Joseph and Mary. In favour of this we have the natural though not necessary meaning of three independent expressions. (a) The word 'brother' naturally means this, and ought to be so taken in any case unless the contrary can be there shown. It is used not once, but many times. And observe that here we have also 'sisters.' Moreover, it is not here Jesus' followers who speak of his brothers and his sisters, but the unbelieving and hostile Nazarenes, who are not likely to have employed the term in any non-natural or unusual sense. In their mouths 'his brothers' and 'all his sisters' cannot have meant less than children of Joseph, if not of Joseph and Mary. They could easily be mistaken in calling Joseph his father, because here had been a supernatural fact of which they were not informed; but how could they be mistaken as to his brothers and sisters? (b) The phrase 'knew her not until', (Matthew 1:25) while not necessarily meaning that after the birth of her son they lived together in the ordinary relations of husband and wife, naturally means that, and it is highly unnatural to understand it otherwise. (c) So with 'her first-born son.' (Luke 2:7) The special laws as to a first-born son might possibly lead to the use of this expression, though no other children followed. But this would have been less natural for one who wrote long afterwards, as Luke did. Here then are three independent statements, each of which affords a clear and strong probability, and the combination of the three affords a very high, in fact an overwhelming probability. And how strange it would look for each of the four Evangelists, and Paul (John 1:3 ff.; Galatians 1:19), to use language so naturally and inevitably suggesting that Mary bore other children, if this was untrue, and a very objectionable idea.

The objections to this view are (1) sentiment. This pervades the Romanist and Greek Christian world, and extends to many Protestants. But it is a sentiment without Scriptural support, and out of harmony with the general tone of Scripture in regard to marriage. That Jesus should be born of a virgin had an obvious propriety in showing that his birth was supernatural, and helping to put him outside the line of transmitted depravity and guilt; but nothing in regard to him or his work would be affected by his mother's afterwards bearing children to her husband. (2) This view would make James his brother art 'apostle' without being one of the Twelve, see Galatians 1:19, and compare Acts 9:27. But the phrase in Galatians 1:19 does not certainly mean that James was an apostle (see margin, Rev. Ver.), nor does the plural in Acts. And supposing that to be meant, we must observe that 'apostle' in the New Testament is applied to others than the Twelve; clearly so in Acts 14:14, "the apostles, Barnabas and Paul," perhaps also in 1 Corinthians 9:5 f.; Romans 16:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:6; and the "false apostles" of 1 Corinthians 11:13, Revelation 2:2, would have been simply ridiculed if only the Twelve had ever been called by that name. (Compare Lightfoot on Galatians) (3) It would seem strange that Jesus on the cross should commit his mother to a friend, when she had sons. But this would hold against the other theories also, and even more strongly against the cousin-theory, for then two of her nephews were among the Twelve.

2. The half-brother-theory supposes them to be sons and daughters of Joseph by a former marriage. This leaves room for the sentiment as to Mary's perpetual virginity, and the last objection to the former view affects this in a less degree. It might also help to account for the fact that 'the brothers' were inclined to assume authority over Jesus; (Matthew 12:45, John 7:3-10) though even younger brothers are ready enough for this in the case of one whom they regard as a religious enthusiast.—The (Mark 3:21) objections to this theory are (1) It is a mere supposition. (2) In this case, not Jesus, but the eldest son of Joseph, would have been legal heir to the throne of David. (8) The brothers and sisters were, on this view, really no kin to Jesus. Still even Mary could say to him,"thy father and I", (Luke 2:45) and Luke could speak of his parents. (Luke 2:41) (4) We must thus understand 'first-born son' in an improbable sense (see above).

3. The cousin-theory makes them the sons and daughters of Mary's sister Mary. That the term brother was sometimes used in this loose sense may be seen from Genesis 13:8, Genesis 14:16, Genesis 29:12, Genesis 31:28; Job 19:13, and especially Job 42:11, where sisters as well as brothers are mentioned and apparently meaning relatives in general. And such a use of the terms is still found among Oriental nations. This theory supposes that Clopas (John 19:25) was the same as Alpheus; it makes James the Lord's brother the same as James the son of Alpheus, and thus one of the Twelve, and 'Judas of James' (whether brother or son), another of the Twelve. This also leaves room for the sentiment involved, and accounts for Galatians 1:19 (see above). Objections. (1) Six months before the crucifixion "his brothers did not believe on him", (John 7:5) when according to this theory two of the four brothers had long been among the Twelve. (2) Any natural etymology of Clopas would be very different from Chalphai, Alpheus. (3) There would thus be two sisters of the same name. The notion of some that one was called Mariam, and the other Maria, is quite set aside by the actual readings of the ancient documents. (4) It would be strange that these young men, even those who were not believers in Jesus, should be mentioned so often-with his mother when their own mother was alive. (5) And why should he entrust his mother to John, when among his twelve disciples were two of her nephews and familiar associates? Upon the "brother-theory" we may readily suppose that his brothers were still at the time of the crucifixion not believers, as had been the case six months before; (John 7:5) and when in Acts 1:14 "the brothers" appear with Mary among the disciples, we may suppose that the risen Lord' s appearance to James, (1 Corinthians 15:7) ended all doubts with him and the other brothers. These suppositions seem not unnatural, and they account for our Lord's committing his mother to John, when her sons were not yet in sympathy with him.

The question can never be settled; but the probabilities are very decidedly in favour of the first view, that these were sons and daughters of Joseph and Mary. Thus the great and unspeakably important institution of marriage is duly honoured, and Jesus, the firstborn son of Mary, is in no sense dishonoured.

Whence then hath this man all these things? The astonishment of the Nazarenes was well-founded. (Compare also John 7:15) And if Jesus is thought of as a mere man, their question remains to this day unanswered and unanswerable. In the little country of Palestine, in its least refined district, in a petty and secluded town, whose inhabitants were violent and in bad repute among their neighbours (see on "Matthew 2:23"), arose a young mechanic, whose teachings, though ended by an early death, surpassed all the wisdom of India and the Chaldeans, of Egypt and Greece; and who, in the few years of his career as a teacher, founded "an empire of love," which has spread wider than any empire of earth, and seems destined to last and to grow in all coming time. Whence then had this man all these things? There is but one answer. He was a teacher sent from God; he was, then, according to his own express declaration, God's Only-begotten Son; yea, he was all that Thomas called him—for he himself commended the saying—"my Lord and my God." See Young's "Christ of History" and Schaff's "Person of Christ."

Matthew 13:57. Offended in him, or, caused to stumble, as in Matthew 11:6, and see on "Matthew 5:29". They found in him obstacles to believing. They stumbled at his humble origin, and lack of training in the Rabbinical schools, and in their blind unbelief they would not listen to his wisdom nor heed his miracles, but rejected him without further inquiry or reflection. As he had had no chance to become so wise, they concluded that his wisdom was not real. They ought to have seen that it was real, and thence concluded that it was divine. A prophet is not without honour, etc. It was natural that the same objection should be made by the people as on his former visit, and that he should quote the same proverb in reply. (Luke 4:22, Luke 4:24) The Gospel of John (John 4:44) applies this saying of our Lord to a different occasion, probably as explaining why he went back to his own country of Galilee, where his labours would not be likely to produce so much undesirable excitement as they had begun to do in Judea and Samaria. In any ordinary matters, a man will be more kindly received among his kindred and early friends than elsewhere; but not when he appears as greatly their superior, and professes, or is popularly reported, to possess extraordinary powers. They think of him as he used to be, and are slow to believe that he has become so superior to themselves. Somewhat similar is the difficulty parents often have in believing that their children are grown and' can do mature work—they keep remembering them as children. Observe that our Lord does not here formally state a universal proposition, having no exception; he merely adopts a popular saying, which generally holds true. In his own house. Mark adds (Mark 6:4) 'among his own kin.' Compare above on Matthew 12:46. We know from John 7:5, that 'his brethren' did not yet believe on him.

Matthew 13:58. The people did not attempt any violence, as on his former visit, (Luke 4:28 f.) but still persisted in their unbelief, so that Jesus 'wondered because of their unbelief', (Mark 6:6) as he had formerly wondered at the centurion's faith (see on "Matthew 8:10"). Mighty works, or miracles, as in Matthew 13:54, see on "Matthew 12:38". Not many. The few miracles which be did work there consisted (Mark 6:5) in healing a few sick persons. Because of their unbelief. As a general thing, he did not work miracles in behalf of those who put no faith in him. Religious benefit to the people, which was always his ultimate object, was impossible where they did not believe. When Mark says, 'he could there do no miracle,' we understand, not that his power to work miracles was dependent on men's faith (for he sometimes healed without their faith or knowledge, Matthew 15:28, Luke 22:51), but that he could not do it in consistency with his design, without violating the plan of his labours. (Compare on Matthew 9:28) As to miracles of healing, we need not at all suppose that he refused to heal any who came to him; the unbelief which prevented him from working the miracles prevented the people from seeking them.

Homiletical And Practical

Matthew 13:54-58. A prophet in his own country. (1) Jesus strives to benefit the obscure and unpromising community among whom he had grown up. (a) A second visit, compare Luke 4:16-30. (b) Wise teaching. (c) Some miracles of healing, (compare Mark 6:5) notwithstanding the general unbelief. (2) They admire his wise teaching, and rightly think it unaccountable in an obscure mechanic. (3) They do not ask whether God has given this wisdom, whether it is Messianic teaching, (compare Luke 4:18-21) but stumble at his known lack of Rabbinical training and worldly position, and reject him. (4) Jesus wonders at their unbelief, can do little for them by word or deed (compare Mark), and turns sadly away—never again, so far as we know, to revisit the companions of his youth.

Matthew 13:54."Whence hath this man this wisdom?" (1) Not from Nazareth, or Galilee. (2) Not from the Rabbis at Jerusalem. (3) Not from the adjoining countries of Asia, Africa, or Europe. (4) Not from unaided human reflection. (5) But from God.—"His sisters, are they not all with us?" (1) How little we know of many persons and things closely related to Jesus. (2) Shall we suppose that his sisters shared the unbelief of his brothers? (John 7:5) (3) How may we become dearer to Jesus than his sisters? (Matthew 12:50)

Matthew 13:58."Because of their unbelief." (1) Unbelief caused the fall of man. (2) Unbelief restricted the benevolent work of the Son of God. (3) Unbelief led most of the Jews to reject him (John 1:11, John 3:18 f.) (4) Unbelief caused him almost intolerable grief. (Matthew 17:17) (5) Oh, that instead of wonderful unbelief, (Mark 6:6) we may all have wonderful faith. (Matthew 8:10)

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Broadus, John. "Commentary on Matthew 13:4". "John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jbm/matthew-13.html. 1886.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, September 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology