The same day; on that day (Revised Version). Although day is sometimes used in a metaphorical sense, so as to include what is, in fact, a long period of time, yet we are not justified in assigning this sense to it unless the context clearly requires us to do so. This is not the case here, so that we must assume that a literal day is intended. But which day? Naturally, the day that has just before been mentioned, either in the original source from which our narrative is taken or in the narrative as it now stands. Since, however, Mat_12:46-50 and our Mat_12:1-23 appear to have been already connected in the framework, these supposed alternatives really represent the same thing, the phrase probably referring to the day on which our Lord’s mother and brethren sought to speak to him (Mat_12:46).
Went Jesus out of the house. Where he had been when his mother came (Mat_12:46, note), and presumably the one to which he returned in Mat_12:36. Possibly it was St. Peter’s house at Capernaum (Mat_8:14).
And sat (Mat_5:1, note). By the seaside. Until the crowds compelled him to enter the boat.
1. sat] The usual position of a Jewish teacher.
by the sea side] At the N. end of the Lake of Gennesaret there are small creeks or inlets “where the ship could ride in safety only a few feet from the shore, and where the multitudes seated on both sides and before the boat could listen without distraction or fatigue. As if on purpose to furnish seats, the shore on both sides of these narrow inlets is piled up with smooth boulders of basalt.” Thomson, Land and Book, p. 356.
Many things in parables (polla en parabolais). It was not the first time that Jesus had used parables, but the first time that he had spoken so many and some of such length. He will use a great many in the future as in Luke 12 to 18 and Matt. 24 and 25. The parables already mentioned in Matthew include the salt and the light (Mat_5:13-16), the birds and the lilies (Mat_6:26-30), the splinter and the beam in the eye (Mat_7:3-5), the two gates (Mat_7:13.), the wolves in sheep’s clothing (Mat_7:15), the good and bad trees (Mat_7:17-19), the wise and foolish builders (Mat_7:24-27), the garment and the wineskins (Mat_9:16.), the children in the market places (Mat_11:16.). It is not certain how many he spoke on this occasion. Matthew mentions eight in this chapter (the Sower, the Tares, the Mustard Seed, the Leaven, the Hid Treasure, the Pearl of Great Price, the Net, the Householder). Mark adds the Parable of the Lamp (Mar_4:21; Luk_8:16), the Parable of the Seed Growing of Itself (Mar_4:26-29), making ten of which we know. But both Mark (Mar_4:33) and Matthew (Mat_13:34) imply that there were many others. “Without a parable spake he nothing unto them” (Mat_13:34), on this occasion, we may suppose. The word parable (parabolē from paraballō, to place alongside for measurement or comparison like a yardstick) is an objective illustration for spiritual or moral truth. The word is employed in a variety of ways (a) as for sententious sayings or proverbs (Mat_15:15; Mar_3:23; Luk_4:23; Luk_5:36-39; Luk_6:39), for a figure or type (Heb_9:9; Heb_11:19); (b) a comparison in the form of a narrative, the common use in the Synoptic Gospels like the Sower; (c) “A narrative illustration not involving a comparison” (Broadus), like the Rich Fool, the Good Samaritan, etc. “The oriental genius for picturesque speech found expression in a multitude of such utterances” (McNeile). There are parables in the Old Testament, in the Talmud, in sermons in all ages. But no one has spoken such parables as these of Jesus. They hold the mirror up to nature and, as all illustrations should do, throw light on the truth presented. The fable puts things as they are not in nature, Aesop’s Fables, for instance. The parable may not be actual fact, but it could be so. It is harmony with the nature of the case. The allegory (allēgoria) is a speaking parable that is self-explanatory all along like Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. All allegories are parables, but not all parables are allegories. The Prodigal Son is an allegory, as is the story of the Vine and Branches (John 15). John does not use the word parable, but only paroimia, a saying by the way (Joh_10:6; Joh_16:25, Joh_16:29). As a rule the parables of Jesus illustrate one main point and the details are more or less incidental, though sometimes Jesus himself explains these. When he does not do so, we should be slow to interpret the minor details. Much heresy has come from fantastic interpretations of the parables. In the case of the Parable of the Sower (Mat_13:3-8) we have also the careful exposition of the story by Jesus (Mat_13:18-23) as well as the reason for the use of parables on this occasion by Jesus (Mat_13:9-17).
Behold, the sower went forth (idou ēlthen ho speirōn). Matthew is very fond of this exclamation idou. It is “the sower,” not “a sower.” Jesus expects one to see the man as he stepped forth to begin scattering with his hand. The parables of Jesus are vivid word pictures. To understand them one must see them, with the eyes of Jesus if he can. Christ drew his parables from familiar objects.
By the wayside
Dean Stanley, approaching the plain of Gennesareth, says: “A slight recess in the hillside, close upon the plain, disclosed at once, in detail and with a conjunction which I remember nowhere else in Palestine, every feature of the great parable. There was the undulating cornfield descending to the water’s edge. There was the trodden pathway running through the midst of it, with no fence or hedge to prevent the seed from falling here and there on either side of it or upon it; itself hard with the constant tramp of horse and mule and human feet. There was the ‘good’ rich soil which distinguishes the whole of that plain and its neighborhood from the bare hills elsewhere descending into the lake, and which, where there is no interruption, produces one vast mass of corn. There was the rocky ground of the hillside protruding here and there through the cornfields, as elsewhere through the grassy slopes. There were the large bushes of thorn – the nabk, that kind of which tradition says that the crown of thorns was woven – springing up, like the fruit-trees of the more inland parts, in the very midst of the waving wheat” (“Sinai and Palestine”).
stony places] Places where the underlying rock was barely covered with earth. The hot sun striking on the thin soil and warming the rock beneath would cause the corn to spring up rapidly and then as swiftly to wither.
Mat_13:6. Scorched, or ‘burnt.’ The heat of the sun, so necessary to vegetable life, did this; but the effect must be connected with the cause: they had no root. Plants need both sunshine and moisture; they get the first from their growth above ground, the second from their growth below ground; the root however being the principal channel of nourishment (comp. Luke: ‘moisture’). Hence these withered away.
Among thorns – That is, in a part of the field where the thorns and shrubs had been imperfectly cleared away and not destroyed.
They grew with the grain, crowded it, shaded it, exhausted the earth, and thus choked it.
Yielded fruit (edidou karpon). Change to imperfect tense of didōmi, to give, for it was continuous fruit-bearing.
Some a hundredfold (ho men hekaton). Variety, but fruit. This is the only kind that is worth while. The hundredfold is not an exaggeration (cf. Gen_26:12). Such instances are given by Wetstein for Greece, Italy, and Africa. Herodotus (i. 93) says that in Babylonia grain yielded two hundredfold and even to three hundredfold. This, of course, was due to irrigation as in the Nile Valley.
He that hath ears let him hear (ho echōn ōta akouetō), So also in Mat_11:15 and Mat_13:43. It is comforting to teachers and preachers to observe that even Jesus had to exhort people to listen and to understand his sayings, especially his parables. They will bear the closest thought and are often enigmatical.
10. parables] The parable is suited
(1) to the uninstructed, as being attractive in form and as revealing spiritual truth exactly in proportion to the capacity of the hearer; and
(2) to the divinely wise as wrapping up a secret which he can penetrate by his spiritual insight. In this it resembles the Platonic myth; it was the form in which many philosophers clothed their deepest thoughts.
(3) It fulfils the condition of all true knowledge. He alone who seeks finds. In relation to Nature, Art, God Himself, it may be said the dull “seeing see not.” The commonest and most obvious things hide the greatest truths.
(4) The divine Wisdom has been justified in respect to this mode of teaching. The parables have struck deep into the thought and language of men (not of Christians only), as no other teaching could have done; in proof of which it is sufficient to name such words and expressions as “talents,” “dispensation,” “leaven,” “prodigal son,” “light under a bushel,” “building on sand.”
He answered and said unto them, Because. Omit because, with the Revised Version. The ὅτι is merely recitative. In this verse our Lord does not directly reply to their question, but only states God’s ways of dealing with the two different classes of people (cf. Mat_11:25, note).
It is given unto you (unto you it is given, Revised Version); which better represents the sharpness of the antithesis in the Greek. It is given; already (δέδοται), i.e. in the counsel of God, though now given in possession, so far as regards this parable, by the explanation that I will add.
To know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. The secrets about the establishment and development of God’s realm, which cannot be discovered by human reason, but which are made known to the initiated. Under the term “mystery,” St. Paul refers to such revealed secrets as the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles (Eph_3:3, Eph_3:4, Eph_3:9; Col_1:26), the conversion of the Jews (Rom_11:25), the relation of Christ to the Church being like that of husband and wife (Eph_5:32), and the general resurrection (1Co_15:51). (Cf. Mat_11:25, note, “revealed;” and infra, verse 35, note, and especially Bishop Lightfoot on the passage in Colossians.)
But to them it is not given. Professor Marshall suggests that the variation “the rest” (Luke), points to a slight difference in one word of the original Aramaic text, the phrase in Mark (“them that are without”) combining both readings (see Expositor IV. 4.446). The suggestion is ingenious, but seems hardly necessary.
Whosoever hath … – This is a proverbial method of speaking.
It means that a man who improves what light, grace, and opportunities he has, shall have them increased. From him that improves them not, it is proper that they should be taken away. The Jews had many opportunities of learning the truth, and some light still lingered among them; but they were gross and sensual, and misimproved them, and it was a just judgment that they should be deprived of them. Superior knowledge was given to the disciples of Christ: they improved it, however slowly, and the promise was that it should be greatly increased.
Therefore (διὰ τοῦτο). To carry out the principle of the whole preceding verse, but with special reference to the second half of it. Because, in this case, they “have not,” therefore I speak to them thus. Speak I to them in parables because. In the parallel passages Christ says that he speaks in parables “in order that seeing,” etc.; but here, “because seeing,” etc. The difference of the thought, which is more formal than real, is that
(1) in the parallel passages their moral blindness and deafness are represented as the effect of what he says, parables being used to bring about the punishment for what was presumably earlier sloth.
(2) In Matthew their present moral blindness and deafness are represented as the reason for the use of parables. Parables are themselves the punishment; the people are fit for nothing else (thus laying stress on the “has not” of verse 12); therefore Christ speaks to them in parables.
They seeing see not (seeing they see not, Revised Version, keeping the order of the Greek, as even the Authorized Version in the next clause); and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. The participles “seeing,” “hearing,” in Matthew and Luke, probably do not represent the Hebrew infinitive in its common usage of giving intensity or continuance to the idea of the finite verb to which it is joined, but are to be taken separately, i.e.” Though they have powers of seeing and of hearing, they nevertheless do not so use these powers as to see and hear” (for the thought, cf. Jer_5:21; Eze_12:2). Thus in meaning, though not in form, as compared with the next verse, seeing is equivalent to “seeing ye shall see;” they see not, to “and shall in no wise perceive;” hearing, to “hearing ye shall hear;” they hear not, to “and shall in no wise understand.”