In Matthew 13, Yeshua tells s story about a sower who sows seed in different soils. This text is a מָשָׁל (mashal) – “a parable”.  Although this is not easy to see in most English translations, Jesus intentionally “mixes his metaphors” in “the Parable of the Seeds” (Matt 13:3-9). As Jesus’ interpretation of the parable makes clear (Matt 13:18-23), the story illustrates individual’s various reactions to God’s Word. But this is where things get complicated! When Jesus tells the parable, he equates the sowing of seed with the Word of God. However, when Jesus interprets the parable, he equates the sowing of seed with people.

Verse 19 introduces us to this double-duty metaphor. Jesus explains that the first example refers to a person who “hears the Word but doesn’t understand it”. Jesus characterizes the word of the kingdom as, “that which has been sown in his (the person’s) heart.” In the final clause of the verse, however, he applies the seed metaphor directly to the individual – “this is one who was sown along the path”.

Why does Jesus employ seed imagery to describe both the “sowing of God’s word” as well as the “sowing of God’s people?” Israel was an agricultural society and the word זֶרַע (zerah) “seed” functioned as an important metaphor within the world of Second Temple Judaism. It was typically used to distinguish between “the elect” and “non-elect” within Israel.

We also see this “seed theology” in I Enoch 84:6 (a non-canonical work probably written between 100-300 BCE) were Enoch prays for God to preserve a righteous remnant: “… sustain the flesh of righteousness and uprightness as a plant of eternal seed …” We also find a “seed parable” in 4 Ezra 8:41: “For just as the farmer sows many seeds upon the ground … and yet not all that have been sown will come up in due season… so all those who have been sown in the world will not be saved”.

The Parable of the Seeds reveals that the considered metaphor was in fact widely known and, probably, an accepted Jewish way to speak about faith and faithfulness of the Covenant people of God.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Well it seems to me that just as a seed planted in the heart of the ground is not what gives fruit but rather, the plant that is born from it; so is the case when the seed (God’s Word) is sown in our hearts, the Spirit will cause a new creation to be born which as it grows it will give fruit. So in the second part people are not the seed. The seed keeps being His Word.
    • Because the document we now have titled the book of Enoch is proven to be a pseudopegraphic work. In other words, someone much later wrote it and ascribed the name Enoch instead of his own to give it legitimacy. However a lie can never be legitimate, especially in the Bible.
    • Jude was making a statement attributed to Enoch I have read the text from Jude and find no such claim that Jude was quoting from a book he however did say that Enoch did prophesy which have been passed down as many of the stories where.
  2. This is very tricky. Typically, we see the word election defined as unconditional election (not based on man’s response). You say the parable illustrates a reaction to God’s Word. I think I have been reading Romans 9:11 incorrectly. I thought “before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad” had to do with election, but I now see it highlights God’s purpose.
    • Hi Kat. It does indeed mean Election. In other words, the "fate" of the two groups of seeds has been predetermined.
  3. Something else that has never made sense to me is how the Bible (in my case Ten Commandments, Exodus 19:8) played a part in my salvation (and it did play a part). I think it has something to do with our doctrine. Our good soil was interpreted as our manure (our sin). That is not Hebrew humility, nor is it both darkness and light. I now believe the good soil to be God’s goodness that leads us to repentance (judgement and salvation).
  4. Your comment is awaiting moderation
    Oh,my! Awesome.
    I love this conversation. So edifying.
    I know It Is 'cause I Am Seed, Elect, Predestinated.
    Keep the fire burning.
    I appreciate you all.

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