Mark 4:26
And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;
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(26) As if a man should cast seed into the ground.—What follows has the special interest of being the only parable peculiar to St. Mark, one therefore which had escaped the manifest eagerness of St. Matthew and St. Luke to gather up all that they could find of this form of our Lord’s teaching. It runs to some extent parallel with the parable of the Sower, as though it had been given as another and easier lesson in the art of understanding parables; and if we assume a connection between St. Mark and St. Peter, it may be regarded as having in this way made a special impression on the mind of the Apostle. Like many other parables, it finds an interpretation in the analogous phenomena of the growth of the Kingdom (1) in the world at large, (2) in the heart of each individual. Speaking roughly, the Sower is, as before, either the Son of Man or the preacher of His word, and the ground falls under one or other of the heads just defined in the previous parable, with, perhaps, a special reference to the good ground.

Mark 4:26. So is the kingdom of God — The gospel dispensation, whereby God overthrows the kingdom of Satan, collects subjects to himself, and erects and establishes his own kingdom. The grace of God in the soul is also included, erecting that kingdom which is within men, and is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, Romans 14:17. As if a man should cast seed into the ground — The seed of God’s word a preacher of the gospel casts into the field of the world, and into the hearts of the penitent and believing. And sleeps and rises night and day — That is, he has it continually in his thoughts. Meantime, it springs and grows up, he knows not how — Even he that sowed it cannot explain how it grows. Here we are taught, “that as the husbandman does not by any efficacy of his own, cause the seed to grow, but leaves it to be nourished by the soil and the sun; so Jesus and his apostles, having taught men the doctrines of true religion, were not by any miraculous force to constrain their wills; far less were they, by the terrors of fire and sword, to interpose visibly for the furthering thereof, but would suffer it to spread by the secret influences of the Spirit, till at length it should obtain its full effect. Moreover, as the husbandman cannot, by the most diligent observation, perceive the corn in his field extending its dimensions as it grows, so the ministers of Christ cannot see the operation of the gospel, [and of divine grace,] upon the minds of men; the effects, however, of its operation, when these are produced, they can discern, just as the husbandman can discern when his corn is fully grown and fit for reaping. In the mean time, the design of the parable is not to lead the ministers of Christ to imagine that religion will flourish without due pains taken about it. It was formed to teach the Jews in particular, that neither the Messiah nor his servants would subdue men by the force of arms, as they supposed he would have done; and also, to prevent the apostles from being dispirited when they did not see immediate success following their labours.” — Macknight. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself — Greek, αυτοματη, spontaneously. For, as the earth, by a certain curious kind of mechanism which the greatest philosophers cannot fully comprehend, does, as it were, spontaneously, without any assistance from men, carry the seed through the whole progress of vegetation, and produce first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear; so will the gospel gradually spread in the world; and so the penitent, believing soul, in an inexplicable manner, brings forth first weak graces, then stronger, then full holiness: and all this of itself, as a machine whose spring of motion is within itself. Yet, observe the amazing exactness of the comparison: the earth brings forth no corn, (as the soul no holiness,) without both the care and toil of man, and the benign influence of Heaven. When the fruit is brought forth — That is, when the corn is full and ripe; he putteth in the sickle — God cutteth down and gathereth the fruit into his garner.

4:21-34 These declarations were intended to call the attention of the disciples to the word of Christ. By his thus instructing them, they were made able to instruct others; as candles are lighted, not to be covered, but to be placed on a candlestick, that they may give light to a room. This parable of the good seed, shows the manner in which the kingdom of God makes progress in the world. Let but the word of Christ have the place it ought to have in a soul, and it will show itself in a good conversation. It grows gradually: first the blade; then the ear; after that the full corn in the ear. When it is sprung up, it will go forward. The work of grace in the soul is, at first, but the day of small things; yet it has mighty products even now, while it is in its growth; but what will there be when it is perfected in heaven!So is the kingdom of God - The gospel, or religion in the soul, may be compared to this. See the notes at Matthew 3:2. This parable is recorded only by Mark. 26, 27. So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day—go about his other ordinary occupations, leaving it to the well-known laws of vegetation under the genial influences of heaven. This is the sense of "the earth bringing forth fruit of herself," in Mr 4:27.Ver. 26-29. Our evangelist alone taketh notice of this parable, nor hath it any particular explication annexed. If we expound it with relation to what went before, the scope of it seemeth to be, to let us know that God will have an account of men for their hearing of his word, and therefore men had need to take heed what they hear, as Mark saith, and how they hear, as Luke phrases it: thus Mark 4:29 expounds the former, with the help of our Saviour’s exposition of the parable of the tares, on which he had told us, Matthew 13:39, The harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. There is another notion of God’s harvest, Matthew 9:37 John 4:35, where God’s harvest signifies a people inclined and prepared to hear and to receive the gospel. But withal this parable of our Saviour’s may be of further use to us.

So is the kingdom of God, &c.; that is, Such is the providential dispensation of God, in gathering his church by the ministry of the word, as men’s casting of seed into the ground: when the husbandman hath cast his seed into the ground, he is no more solicitous about it, nor doth he expect to discern the motion of it; but having done what is his part, he sleepeth, and riseth again, leaving the issue to God’s providence.

The earth bringeth forth fruit of herself, yet not without the influence of heaven, both in the shining of the sun and the falling of the dew and of the rain; neither doth its fruit appear presently in its full ripeness and perfection, but gradually is made perfect; first there appears the blade, the herb, then the ear, then the grain, which by degrees groweth to its full magnitude, and then hardeneth, and then the husbandman putteth in his sickle: so the ministers of the gospel ought faithfully to do their parts in sowing the seed of the gospel, then not to be too solicitous, but to leave the issue unto God. Where the seed falls upon good ground, the word will not be unfruitful: the minister of the gospel doth not presently discern the fruit of his labour, he at first, it may be, seeth nothing of it, but is ready to cry out, I have laboured in vain; but though the seed lie under the clods, and seems choked with the corruption of man’s heart, yet if the soul be one to whom it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, it shall spring out, the word will be found not to be lost; but first will spring the blade, then will appear the ear: the fruit of the word preached appears by degrees, sometimes at first only by creating good inclinations in the soul, and desires to learn the way of the Lord more perfectly, then in acts further tending to perfection, at last in confirmed habits of grace. It is not thus with all, in some the word brings forth nothing but the blade, a little outward profession, which dwindles away and dies; in some the profession holds longer, but they never come to confirmed habits of virtue and holiness. But there will come a harvest, when God will come with his sickle to reap the fruit of his seed sown; therefore men had need take heed what and how they hear. This I take to be the sense of this parable.

And he said,.... He went on saying the following parable, which was delivered at the same time that the parable of the sower was, though omitted by Matthew; and is here placed between that, and the other concerning the grain of mustard seed; which shows the time when it was spoken. The design of it is to set forth the nature of the word, and the ministration of it; the conduct of the ministers of the Gospel, when they have dispensed it; the imperceptibleness of its springing and growth; the fruitfulness of it, when it has taken root, without the help of man; the gradual increase of grace under the instrumentality of the word; and the gathering of gracious souls, when grace is brought to maturity:

so is the kingdom of God; such is the nature of the Gospel dispensation; and such are the things that are done in it, as may fitly be represented by the following;

as if a man should cast seed into the ground: by "the man", is not meant Christ, for he sleeps not; and besides, he knows how the seed springs and grows; but any Gospel minister, who is sent forth by Christ, bearing precious seed: and by seed is intended, not gracious persons, the children of the kingdom, as in the parable of the tares; nor the grace of God in them, though that is an incorruptible and an abiding seed; but the word of God, or Gospel of Christ, so called for its smallness, the diminutive character it bears, and contempt it is had in by some; and for its choiceness and excellency in itself, and in the account of others; and for its generative virtue under a divine influence: for the Gospel is like the manna, which was a small round thing, as a coriander seed; and as that was contemptible in the eyes of the Israelites, so the preaching of the Gospel is, to them that perish, foolishness; and yet it is choice and precious seed in itself, and to those who know the value of it, by whom it is preferred to thousands of gold and silver; and, as worthless and unpromising as it may seem to be, it has a divine virtue put into it; and, under the influence of powerful and efficacious grace, it is the means of regenerating souls, and produces fruit in them, which will remain unto everlasting life: though, as the seed is of no use this way, unless it is sown in the earth, and covered there; so is the Gospel of no use for regeneration, unless it is by the power of God let into the heart, and received there, where, through that power, it works effectually. By "casting" it into the earth, the preaching of the word is designed; which, like casting seed into the earth, is done with the same sort of seed only, and not with different sorts, with plenty of it, and at the proper time, whatever discouragements there may be, and with great skill and judgment, committing it to God to raise it up again: for the faithful dispensers of the word do not spread divers and strange doctrines; their ministry is all of apiece; they always sow the same like precious seed, without any mixture of the tares of error and heresy; and they do not deal it out in a narrow and stubborn way; they do not restrain and conceal any part of truth, but plentifully distribute it, and declare the whole counsel of God; and though there may be many discouragements attend them, many temptations arise to put off from sowing the word; the weather bad, storms and tempests arise, reproaches and persecutions come thick and fast, still they go on; using all that heavenly skill, prudence, and discretion God has given them, preaching the word in season, and out of season; and when they have done, they leave their work with the Lord, knowing that Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but it is God only that gives the increase: and by the "ground", into which it is cast, As meant the hearers of the word, who are of different sorts; some like the way side, others like the stony ground, and others like the thorny earth, and some like good ground, as here; whose hearts are broke up by the Spirit of God, the stoniness of them taken away, and they made susceptive of the good word.

{4} And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;

(4) The Lord sows and reaps in a manner unknown to men.

Mark 4:26-29. Jesus now continues, as is proved by Mark 4:33 f. (in opposition to Baur, Markusevang. p. 28), His parabolic discourses to the people; hence ἔλεγεν is here used without αὐτοῖς (Mark 4:21; Mark 4:24), and Mark 4:10-25 are to be regarded as an inserted episode (in opposition to de Wette, Einl. § 94b, who holds ὅτε δὲ ἐγένετο καταμόνας as absurd).

Mark alone has the following parable, but in a form so thoughtful and so characteristically different from Matthew 13:24 f., that it is without sufficient ground regarded (by Ewald, Hilgenfeld, Köstlin) as founded on, or remodelled[85] from, Matt. l.c., and therefore as not originally belonging to this place,—a view with which Weiss agrees, but traces the parable of Mark to the primitive form in the collection of Logia, and holds the enemy that sowed the tares, Matthew 13, to have been brought into it by the first evangelist; while Strauss (in Hilgenfeld’s Zeitschr. 1863, p. 209) has recourse to the neutral character of Mark, in accordance with which he is held to have removed the ἐχθρὸς ἄνθρωπος (by which Paul is meant!). See, on the other hand, Klöpper in the Jahrb. f. D. Theol. 1864, p. 141 ff., who, with Weizsäcker, discovers the point aimed at in the parable to be that of antagonism to the vehement expectations of a speedy commencement of the kingdom,—which, however, must have been directly indicated, and is not even implied in Matthew 13 (see Mark 4:37 ff.). Without foundation, Weizsäcker (p. 118) finds in the parable a proof that our Gospel of Mark was not written till after the destruction of Jerusalem, when the delaying of the Parousia had become evident. Here the establishment of the kingdom is not at all depicted under the specific form of the Parousia, and there is nothing said of a delaying of it.

ἡ βασιλεία τ. Θεοῦ] The Messianic kingdom, conceived of as preparing for its proximate appearance, and then (Mark 4:29) appearing at its time.

τὸν σπόρον] the seed concerned.

Observe the aorist βάλῃ, and then the presents which follow: has cast, and then sleeps and arises, etc.

νύκτα κ. ἡμέραν] With another form of conception the genitives might also be used here. See on the distinction, Kühner, II. p. 219. The prefixing of ΝΎΚΤΑ is here occasioned by the order of ΚΑΘΕΎΔῌ ΚΑῚ ἘΓΕΊΡ. See, further, on Luke 2:37. Erasmus erroneously refers ἘΓΕΊΡ. to the seed, which is only introduced as subject with βλαστ.

μηκύνηται] is extended, in so far, namely, as the shoot of the seed comes forth and mounts upwards (increscat, Vulgate). Comp. LXX. Isaiah 44:14. In the shoot the seed extends itself.

ὡς οὐκ οἶδεν αὐτός] in a way unknown to himself (the sower); he himself knows not how it comes about. See the sequel.

αὐτομάτη] of itself, without man’s assistance.[86] Comp. Hesiod, ἜΡΓ. 118; Herod ii. 94, viii. 138; and Wetstein in loc.

εἶτα πλήρης σῖτος ἐν τ. στ.] the nominative (see the critical remarks) with startling vividness brings before us the result as standing by itself: then full (developed to full size) grain in the ear! See on this nominative standing forth in rhetorical relief from the current construction, Bernhardy, p. 68 f.

Mark 4:29. παραδῷ] is usually explained intransitively, in the sense: shall have delivered itself over, namely, by its ripeness to the harvesting. Many transitive verbs are confessedly thus used in an intransitive signification, in which case, however, it is inappropriate to supply ἑαυτόν (Kühner, II. p. 9 f.). So, in particular, compounds of ΔΙΔΌΝΑΙ (see Viger., ed. Herm. p. 132; Valckenaer, Diatr. p. 233; Jacobs, ad Philostr. p. 363; Krüger, § 52. 2. 9); and see in general, Bernhardy, p. 339 f.; Winer, p. 225 [E. T. 315]. But of this use of παραδιδόναι there is found no quite certain instance[87] (not even in 1 Peter 2:23, see Huther); moreover, the expression itself, “the fruit has offered itself,” would be foreign to the simplicity of the style, and has a modern sound. Hence (comp. Kaeuffer, de ζωῆς αἰων. not. p. 49) παραδιδ. is rather to be explained as to allow, in accordance with well-known usage (Herod v. 67, vii. 18; Xen. Anab. vi. 6. 34; Polyb. iii. 12. 4): but when the fruit shall have allowed, i.e. when it is sufficiently ripe. Quite similar is the expression: τῆς ὥρας παραδιδούσης, Polyb. xxii. 24. 9 : when the season permitted. Bleek assents to this view.

ἀποστέλλει τὸ δρέπανον] Comp. Joel 4:13; Revelation 14:15.

The teaching of the parable is: Just as a man, after performing the sowing, leaves the germination and growth, etc., without further intervention, to the earth’s own power, but at the time of ripening reaps the harvest, so the Messiah leaves the ethical results and the new developments of life, which His word is fitted to produce in the minds of men, to the moral self-activity of the human heart, through which these results are worked out in accordance with their destination (to δικαιοσύνηthis is the parabolic reference of the πλήρης σῖτος), but will, when the time for the establishment of His kingdom comes, cause the δικαίους to be gathered into it (by the angels, Matthew 24:31; these are the reapers, Matthew 13:39). The self-activity on which stress is here laid does not exclude the operations of divine grace, but the aim of the parable is just to render prominent the former, not the latter. It is the one of the two factors, and its separate treatment, keeping out of view for the present the other, leaves the latter unaffected. Comp. Mark 4:24. Bengel aptly observes on αὐτομάτη, Mark 4:28 : “non excluditur agricultura et coelestis pluvia solesque.” Moreover, Jesus must still for the present leave the mode of bringing about the δικαιοσύνη (by means of His ἱλαστήριον and faith thereon) to the later development of His doctrine. But the letting the matter take its course and folding the hands (Strauss) are directly excluded by αὐτομάτη, although the parable is opposed also to the conception of a so-called plan of Jesus.[88]

[85] A “tame weakening,” in the opinion of Hilgenfeld, comp. Strauss; “of a secondary nature,” in that of Weizsäcker.

[86] Hence there is no inconsistency with ver. 27 (Weiss). The germinative power of the seed is conditioned by the immanent power of the earth, which acts upon it.

[87] In Joshua 11:19 the reading varies much and is doubtful; in Plat. Phaedr. p. 250 E, παραδούς is not necessarily reflexive.

[88] Comp. Schleiermacher, L. J. p. 348 ff.

Mark 4:26-29. Parable of the Blade, the Ear, and the Full Corn.—Peculiar to Mark and beyond doubt a genuine utterance of Jesus, the doctrine taught being over the head of the reporter and the Apostolic Church generally.

26–29. The Seed growing secretly

26. as if a man should cast seed into the ground] This is the only parable which is peculiar to St Mark, and seems to take the place of “the Leaven” recorded by St Matthew (Matthew 13:33).

Mark 4:26. Ἄνθρωπος, a man) With this man God and Christ are compared, with a view to describe the several ages and grades [stages of progress] of the whole Christian Church; comp. Mark 4:29.

Verses 26-28. - This parable is recorded by St. Mark alone. It differs greatly from the parable of the sower, although both of them are founded upon the imagery of the seed cast into the ground. In both cases the seed represents the doctrine of the gospel; the field represents the hearers; the harvest the end of the world, or perhaps the death of each individual hearer. So is the kingdom of God, in its progress from its establishment to its completion. The sower casts seed upon the earth, not without careful preparation of the soil, but without further sowing. And then he pursues his ordinary business. He sleeps by night; he rises by day; he has leisure for other employment; his work as a sower is finished. Meanwhile the seed germinates and grows by its own hidden virtues, assisted by the earth, the sun, and the air, the sower knowing nothing of the mysterious process. First comes the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. Such is the preaching of the gospel. Here, therefore, the sower represents human responsibility in the work. The vitality of the seed is independent of his labour. The earth develops the plant from the seed by those natural but mysterious processes through which the Creator is ever working. So in spiritual things, the sower commences the work, and the grace of God perfects it in the heart which receives these influences. The earth beareth fruit of herself. In like manner, by degrees, the faith of Christ increases through the preaching of the gospel; and the Church grows and expands. And what is true of the Church collectively is true also of each individual member of the Church. For the heart of each faithful Christian produces first the blade, when it conceives good desires and begins to put them into action; then the ear, when it brings them to good effect; and lastly the full corn in the ear, when it brings them to their full maturity and perfection. Hence our Lord in this parable intimates that they who labour for the conversion of souls ought, with much patience, to wait for the fruit of 'their labour, as the husbandman waits with much patience for the precious fruits of the earth. Mark 4:26Should cast (βάλῃ)

Lit., should have cast, the aorist tense, followed by the presents sleep and rise (καθεύδῃ and ἐγείρηται). The whole, literally, "As if a man should have cast seed into the ground, and should be sleeping and rising night and day." The aorist tense indicates the single act of casting; the presents the repeated, continued sleeping and rising while the seed is growing.

Seed (τὸν σπόρον)

The seed; that particular seed which he had to sow. Such is the force of the article.

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