And he spake many things unto them
in parables, saying,
Behold, a sower went forth to sow
New International Version
Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed.
New Living Translation
He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds.
English Standard Version
And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.
Berean Study Bible
And He told them many things in parables, saying, “A farmer went out to sow his seed.
Berean Literal Bible
And He spoke to them many things in parables, saying, “Behold, the one sowing went out to sow.
New King James Version
Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow.
New American Standard Bible
And He told them many things in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow;
He told them many things in parables, saying, “Listen carefully: a sower went out to sow [seed in his field]
□ ■ □
And he spake many things
And he spake many things, of which but a few are here recorded (cf. Matthew 13:34, 51).
Unto them in parables.
Taking the expression in the widest sense, “speaking in parables” began in the very earliest ages, when natural or spiritual truths were described under figures taken from everyday life, and continues until the present time, more especially among Eastern nations.
Interesting examples of such a method of instruction are to be seen in the Haggadoth (which are frequently parabolic narratives) of the Talmuds and other Jewish works. But both myth (cf. Alford) and parabolic Haggada share the common danger of being misunderstood as narratives which are intended to be taken literally, while in the parable, in the narrower sense of the word, such a confusion is hardly possible.
For the narrative then suggests, either by its introduction or its structure, that it is only the mirror by which a truth can be seen, and is not the truth itself.
Such parables also, though seldom even approaching in beauty to our Lord’s, are very frequent in Jewish writings, though they come but seldom in the Old Testament (Isaiah 28:23-29; 2 Samuel 12:1-6; 14:6-11; 1 Kings 20:35-40; comp. also Isaiah 5:1-7 and Ezekiel 17:1-10, which are rather allegories; and Judges 9:7-15 and 2 Kings 14:9, which are fables).
Weiss thinks that the most profound reason of all which the Lord had for employing parables was that he wished to show that the same regulations which hold good for the world round us and ourselves in relation to the world and each other, hold good also in the higher ethical and religious life.
But at the most this can have been a very subsidiary motive with him.
The word Parable (Greek: παραβολαῖς – parabolais) comes from the Greek words: παρά (para) – beside, and βάλλω (balloo) – to throw.
A parable is a form of teaching in which one thing is thrown beside another.
Hence its radical idea is comparison.
Sir John Cheke renders biword, and the same idea is conveyed by the German Beispiel, a pattern or example ; bei, beside, and the old high German spel, discourse or narration.
The word is used with a wide range in scripture, but always involves the idea of comparison:
- Of brief sayings, having an oracular or proverbial character. Thus Peter (Matthew 15:15), referring to the words “If the blind lead the blind,” etc., says, “declare unto us this parable.” Compare Luke 6:39. So of the patched garment (Luke 5:36), and the guest who assumes the highest place at the feast (Luke 14:7, 14:11; Compare, also, Matthew 24:39; Mark 13:28).
- Of a proverb. The word for proverb (παροιμία) has the same idea at the root as parable. It is παρά, beside, οἶμος, a way or road. Either a trite, wayside saying (Trench), or a path by the side of the high road (Godet). See Luke 4:23; 1 Samuel 24:13.
- Of a song or poem, in which an example is set up by way of comparison (See Micah 2:4; Habakkuk 2:6).
- Of a word or discourse which is enigmatical or obscure until the meaning is developed by application or comparison.
It occurs along with the words αἴνιγμα, enigma, and πρόβλημα, a problem, something put forth or proposed (πρό, in front, βάλλω, to throw). See Psalms 49:4; 78:2; Proverbs 1:6, where we have παραβολὴν, parable; σκοτεινὸν λόγον, dark saying; and αἰνίγματα, enigmas. Used also of the sayings of Balaam (Numbers 23:7, 23:18; 4:3, 24:15).
In this sense Christ uses parables symbolically to expound the mysteries of the kingdom of God; as utterances which conceal from one class what they reveal to another (Matthew 13:11-17), and in which familiar facts of the earthly life are used figuratively to expound truths of the higher life.
The un-spiritual do not link these facts of the natural life with those of the supernatural, which are not discerned by them (1 Corinthians 2:14), and therefore they need an interpreter of the relation between the two.
Such symbols assume the existence of a law common to the natural and spiritual worlds under which the symbol and the thing symbolized alike work; so that the one does not merely resemble the other superficially, but stands in actual coherence and harmony with it.
Christ formulates such a law in connection with the parables of the Talents and the Sower. “To him that hath shall be given. From him that hath not shall be taken away.”
That is a law of morals and religion, as of business and agriculture.
- One must have in order to make.
- Interest requires capital.
- Fruit requires not only seed but soil.
- Spiritual fruitfulness requires an honest and good heart.
Similarly, the law of growth as set forth in the parable of the Mustard Seed, is a law common to nature and to the kingdom of God.
The great forces in both kingdoms are germinal, enwrapped in small seeds which unfold from within by an inherent power of growth.
A parable is also an example or type; furnishing a model or a warning; as are
- the Good Samaritan,
- the Rich Fool,
- the Pharisee and the Publican.
The element of comparison enters here as between the particular incident imagined or recounted, and all cases of a similar kind.
The term parable, however, as employed in ordinary Christian phraseology, is limited to those utterances of Christ which are marked by a complete figurative history or narrative.
It is thus defined by Goebel (“Parables of Jesus”). “A narrative moving within the sphere of physical or human life, not professing to describe an event which actually took place, but expressly imagined for the purpose of representing, in pictorial figure, a truth belonging to the sphere of religion, and therefore referring to the relation of man or mankind to God.”
In form the New Testament parables resemble the fable.
The distinction between them does not turn on the respective use of rational and irrational beings speaking and acting.
There are fables where the actors are human. Nor does the fable always deal with the impossible, since there are fables in which an animal, for instance, does nothing contrary to its nature.
The distinction lies in the religious character of the New Testament parable as contrasted with the secular character of the fable.
▪︎ While the parable exhibits the relations of man to God,
▪︎ the fable teaches lessons of worldly policy or natural morality and utility.
▪︎ The parable is predominantly symbolic;
▪︎ the fable, for the most part, typical, and therefore presents its teaching only in the form of example, for which reason it chooses animals by preference, not as symbolic, but as typical figures; never symbolic in the sense in which the parable mostly is, because the higher invisible world, of which the parable sees and exhibits the symbol in the visible world of nature and man, lies far from it.
Hence the parable can never work with fantastic figures like speaking animals, trees,” etc. (Goebel, condensed).
The parable differs from the allegory in that there is in the latter “an interpenetration of the thing signified and the thing signifying; the qualities and properties of the first being attributed to the last,” and the two being thus blended instead of being kept distinct and parallel.
See, for example, the allegory of the Vine and the Branches (John 15:1-8) where Christ at once identifies himself with the figure’ “I am the true vine.” Thus the allegory, unlike the parable, carries its own interpretation with it.
Parable and proverb are often used interchangeably in the New Testament; the fundamental conception being, as we have seen, the same in both, the same Hebrew word representing both, and both being enigmatical.
They differ rather in extent than in essence; the parable being a proverb expanded and carried into detail, and being necessarily figurative, which the proverb is not; though the range of the proverb is wider, since the parable expands only one particular case of a proverb. (See Trench, “Notes on the Parables,” Introd.)
- The term parable in Scripture often signifies dark sayings, or proverbial speeches, Ezekiel 17:2; 20:49.
- But in the Gospels it generally has another sense, and signifies similitudes or comparisons of things.
This being the first time we have met with the term, and the first formed and perfect parable we have met with, because we shall meet with the term often hereafter, with many formed parables, I shall here give some notes which may be not only of use to understand this parable, but also the following parables we shall meet in this Gospel.
- A parable, in the gospel sense of the term, signifieth a similitude, taken from the ordinary actions of men, and made use of to inform us in one or more points of spiritual doctrines.
- That it is not necessary to a parable that the matter contained in it should be true in matter of fact; for it is not brought to inform us in a matter of fact, but in some spiritual truth, to which it bears some proportion. This we see in Jotham’s parable of the trees going to choose themselves a king, etc.
- That it is not necessary that all the actions of men mentioned in a parable should be morally just and honest. The actions of the unjust steward, Luke 16:1, etc., were not so.
- That, for the right understanding of a parable, our great care must be to consider the main scope of it, whither the story tends, and what our Saviour designed principally by the parable to instruct and teach the people by that discourse.
- That the main scope of the parable is to be learned, either from our Saviour’s general or more particular explication of it, either from the proparabola, or preface to it, or from the epiparabola, or the conclusion of it.
- It is not to be expected that all particular actions represented in a parable should be answered by something in the explication of it.
- Lastly, though the scope of the parable be the main thing we are to attend unto, and in which it doth instruct us, yet it may collaterally inform us in several things besides that point which is in it chiefly attended.
It is said that our Saviour spoke many things to the multitude in parables, covering truths under similitudes fetched from such ordinary actions as men did or might do.
This was a very ancient way of instruction, by fables or parables, as we may learn by Jotham’s parable, Judges 9:7,8, etc.
It is now much out of use with us, but amongst the Jews was very ordinary; so as our Saviour spake to them in their own dialect. It had a double advantage upon their hearers:
- Upon their memory, we being very apt to remember stories.
- Upon their minds, to put them upon studying the meaning of what they heard so delivered; and also upon their affections, similitudes contributing much to excite affection.
But withal it had this disadvantage, that he who so taught was not understood of a great part of his auditory.
For the parables
▪︎ of the sower, and the different sorts of ground the seed fell in,
▪︎ of the wheat and tares,
▪︎ of the grain of mustard seed,
▪︎ of the leaven in three measures of meal,
▪︎ of the treasure hid in a field,
▪︎ of the pearl of great price,
▪︎ of the net cast into the sea,
▪︎ and of the householder,
were all delivered at this time.
This way of speaking by parables was much in use among the eastern nations, and particularly the Jews.
▪︎ R. Meir was very famous among them for this way of teaching: they say “that when R. Meir died, “they that were skilled in, and used parables, ceased”.”
▪︎ The commentators on this passage say, “that he preached a third part tradition, and a third part mystical discourse, and a third part parables”, which method of discoursing was judged both pleasant and profitable, and what served to raise the attention of the hearer, and to fix what was delivered the more firmly in their minds: what the reason of our Lord for using them was, may be seen in Matthew 13:13.
He begins with the parable of the sower.
The design of which is to set forth
- the nature of the word of God,
- the work and business of the ministers of it,
- the different success of the preaching of it,
- the fruitfulness of it;
- to show when it is truly received,
- the various degrees of fruit it produces;
- that the efficacy of it depends on the grace of God, which makes the heart good, and fit to receive it;
- how few they be which hear the word to any spiritual advantage and benefit;
- how far persons may go in hearing, and yet fall short of the grace of God; and therefore no dependence is to be had on the external hearing of the word.
Saying, Behold, a sower.
Observe that our Lord enters upon his parable at once (contrast Matthew 13:24).
He will attract attention. Mark’s “Hear ye” would have forwarded this.
A sower went forth
Behold, a sower went forth to sow; Luke adds, “his seed”; as does also Munster’s Hebrew Gospel; and Mark introduces the parable thus, “hearken, behold!” it being a matter of great importance and concern, which is expressed by this parable, it deserves the most diligent attention.
This sower “went forth” from his own house to his field; which, as applied to Christ, may intend
▪︎ His incarnation,
▪︎ His coming into this world by the assumption of human nature,
▪︎ His appearance in the public ministry, in the land of Judea,
▪︎ and His going forth still in His ministers.
- and by his Spirit, in the preaching of the Gospel;
- and, as applied to the preachers of the word, may be explained of their commission, of their being sent, and of their going forth into the field of the world, preaching the Gospel every where.
Literally, the sower, as in the Revised Version; i.e. the sower of whom I am about to speak (cf. 1 Samuel 19:13; also Matthew 1:23; 12:43).
By “the sower” is meant “the son of man”, as may be learnt from the explanation of another parable, Matthew 13:37 which is Jesus Christ himself, who is often so called on account of His human nature; and may the rather be thought to be intended here, since the seed he sowed is called “His seed”; meaning the Gospel, of which He is the author, publisher, sum and substance; and since He is, by way of eminency, called , “the sower”; which must be understood of Him as a prophet, or preacher of the word, who was eminently sent of God, and richly qualified for such an office, and was most diligent in it, and yet his success was but small.
Indeed, every minister of the Gospel may be called a sower, who bears precious seed, sows spiritual things, and though in tears, he shall not return empty, but shall reap in joy, and bring his sheaves with him.
In the Greek this verb comes first, as though our Lord wished to call attention, not so much to the sower himself as to his action.
The purpose of the sower’s going forth is to “sow his seed”:
▪︎ By “his seed” is meant the word, the word of God (see Mark 4:14) so called, because of the choiceness and excellency of it in itself, that grain which is reserved for seed being usually the best of the kind;
▪︎ And because of its smallness, it being mean and contemptible in the eyes of those, who know not the nature of it; and because of the generative virtue it has, though not without a divine influence.
Nor does it bring forth fruit, unless it is sown in the heart, as seed in the earth; where its operation is secret, its growth and increase gradual, and its fruitfulness different.
By “sowing”, is meant preaching; which, as sowing, requires knowledge and skill, and an open and liberal hand; keeping back nothing that is profitable, a declaring the same doctrine in one place as another; and designs a constant ministration of it, notwithstanding all discouragements, and a patient waiting for success.
And ☆ Καὶ (Kai) ☆ Conjunction ☆ And, even, also, namely.
He told ☆ ἐλάλησεν (elalēsen) ☆ Verb – Aorist Indicative Active – 3rd Person Singular ☆ A prolonged form of an otherwise obsolete verb; to talk, i.e. Utter words.
Them ☆ αὐτοῖς (autois) ☆ Personal / Possessive Pronoun – Dative Masculine 3rd Person Plural ☆ He, she, it, they, them, same. From the particle au; the reflexive pronoun self, used of the third person, and of the other persons.
Many things ☆ πολλὰ (polla) ☆ Adjective – Accusative Neuter Plural ☆ Much, many; often.
In ☆ ἐν (en) ☆ Preposition ☆ In, on, among. A primary preposition denoting position, and instrumentality, i.e. A relation of rest; ‘in, ‘ at, on, by, etc.
Parables ☆ παραβολαῖς (parabolais) ☆ Noun – Dative Feminine Plural ☆ From paraballo; a similitude, i.e. fictitious narrative, apothegm or adage.
Saying ☆ λέγων (legōn) ☆ Verb – Present Participle Active – Nominative Masculine Singular ☆ (a) I say, speak; I mean, mention, tell, (b) I call, name, especially in the pass., (c) I tell, command.
A farmer ☆ σπείρων (speirōn) ☆ Verb – Present Participle Active – Nominative Masculine Singular ☆ To sow, spread, scatter. Probably strengthened from spao; to scatter, i.e. Sow.
Went out ☆ ἐξῆλθεν (exēlthen) ☆ Verb – Aorist Indicative Active – 3rd Person Singular ☆ To go out, come out. From ek and erchomai; to issue.
To sow his seed ☆ σπείρειν (speirein) ☆ Verb – Present Infinitive Active ☆ To sow, spread, scatter. Probably strengthened from spao; to scatter, i.e. Sow
□ ■ □
Read more of these messages at: https://devotionals.harryschoemaker.nl
Download your Bible pictures from: http://bijbelplaatjes.nl
Follow me on Twitter: @schoemakerharry