Matthew 13:14
And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
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(14) In them is fulfilled.—The Greek verb expresses complete fulfilment, but the tense is that of a work still in progress. The prominence given to these words of Isaiah’s in the New Testament is very noticeable. Our Lord quotes them here, St. John in John 12:40. St. Paul cites them in Acts 28:26. The quotation is from the LXX. version. It is as though the words which sounded at the very opening of Isaiah’s prophecy as the knell of the nation’s life, dwelt on the minds of the Master and His disciples, and prepared them for the seeming fruitlessness and hopelessness of their work.

13:1-23 Jesus entered into a boat that he might be the less pressed, and be the better heard by the people. By this he teaches us in the outward circumstances of worship not to covet that which is stately, but to make the best of the conveniences God in his providence allots to us. Christ taught in parables. Thereby the things of God were made more plain and easy to those willing to be taught, and at the same time more difficult and obscure to those who were willingly ignorant. The parable of the sower is plain. The seed sown is the word of God. The sower is our Lord Jesus Christ, by himself, or by his ministers. Preaching to a multitude is sowing the corn; we know not where it will light. Some sort of ground, though we take ever so much pains with it, brings forth no fruit to purpose, while the good soil brings forth plentifully. So it is with the hearts of men, whose different characters are here described by four sorts of ground. Careless, trifling hearers, are an easy prey to Satan; who, as he is the great murderer of souls, so he is the great thief of sermons, and will be sure to rob us of the word, if we take not care to keep it. Hypocrites, like the stony ground, often get the start of true Christians in the shows of profession. Many are glad to hear a good sermon, who do not profit by it. They are told of free salvation, of the believer's privileges, and the happiness of heaven; and, without any change of heart, without any abiding conviction of their own depravity, their need of a Saviour, or the excellence of holiness, they soon profess an unwarranted assurance. But when some heavy trial threatens them, or some sinful advantage may be had, they give up or disguise their profession, or turn to some easier system. Worldly cares are fitly compared to thorns, for they came in with sin, and are a fruit of the curse; they are good in their place to stop a gap, but a man must be well armed that has much to do with them; they are entangling, vexing, scratching, and their end is to be burned, Heb 6:8. Worldly cares are great hinderances to our profiting by the word of God. The deceitfulness of riches does the mischief; they cannot be said to deceive us unless we put our trust in them, then they choke the good seed. What distinguished the good ground was fruitfulness. By this true Christians are distinguished from hypocrites. Christ does not say that this good ground has no stones in it, or no thorns; but none that could hinder its fruitfulness. All are not alike; we should aim at the highest, to bring forth most fruit. The sense of hearing cannot be better employed than in hearing God's word; and let us look to ourselves that we may know what sort of hearers we are.And in them is fulfilled ... - This place is quoted substantially from Isaiah 6:9-10. It was literally fulfilled in the time of Isaiah. In the time of Christ the people had the same character. Like them, they closed their eyes upon the truth, and rejected the divine teaching. The words of Isaiah were therefore "as well fitted" to express the character of the people in the time of Christ as in that of the prophet. In this sense they were "fulfilled," or "filled up;" that is, "a case occurred that corresponded to their meaning." See the notes at Matthew 1:22. It is not by any means intended that Isaiah, when he spoke these words, had any reference to the time of Christ. The meaning in both places is, that the people were so gross, sensual, and prejudiced, that they "would" not see the truth, or understand anything that was contrary to their grovelling opinions and sensual desires; a case by no means uncommon in the world. See the passage more fully explained in my notes at Isaiah 6.

Waxed gross - Literally, "has become fat." This language is commonly applied to "the body," but is also used to denote one who is stupid and foolish in mind. Here it means that the people were so sensual and corrupt that they did not see or understand the pure spiritual principles of the gospel.

Lest they should see ... - Lest they should see their lost condition as sinners, and turn and live. The reason given here why they did not hear and understand the gospel is, that their "heart" was "wrong." They "would" not attend to the things that belonged to their peace.

I should heal them - Should pardon, sanctify, and save them. Sin is often represented as a disease, and the pardon and recovery of the soul from sin as "healing."

14. And in them is fulfilled—rather, "is fulfilling," or "is receiving its fulfilment."

the prophecy of Esaias, which saith—(Isa 6:9, 10—here quoted according to the Septuagint).

By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand, &c.—They were thus judicially sealed up under the darkness and obduracy which they deliberately preferred to the light and healing which Jesus brought nigh to them.

See Poole on "Matthew 13:15".

And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias,.... In Isaiah 6:9

which saith, which runs, or may be read thus,

by hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand, and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive. The words are a prophecy concerning the people of the Jews, which began to be accomplished in the times of Isaiah; and were again fulfilled in the times of some after prophets; and had been in part fulfilled under the more plain and easy ministry of Christ; and was to have a further accomplishment under this parabolical way of preaching; as it also was to have, and had, a yet further completion under the ministry of the apostles; see Acts 28:26 and the judicial blindness here predicted was to go on among them, until the land of Judea was utterly destroyed by the Romans, and the cities and houses thereof left without any inhabitants; all which accordingly came to pass: for that this prophecy refers to the times of the Messiah, and to the people of the Jews, is clear from this one observation made by Christ himself, that Esaias foretold those things when he saw the glory of the Messiah, and spake of him, John 12:40 and because it was to have, and had, its accomplishment over and over again in that people, therefore the word which may be rendered "is fulfilled again", is made use of. The sense of the prophecy is, with respect to the times of the Messiah, that the Jews, whilst hearing the sermons preached by him, whether with, or without parables, should hear his voice, and the sound of it, but not understand his words internally, spiritually, and experimentally; and whilst they saw, with the eyes of their bodies, the miracles he wrought, they should see the facts done, which could not be denied and gainsayed by them, but should not take in the clear evidence, full proof, and certain demonstration given thereby, of his Messiahship. In the prophecy of Isaiah, the words run in the imperative, "hear ye, see ye", &c. but are here rendered in the future, "shall hear, shall see", &c. which rendering of the words is supported and established by the version of the Septuagint, by the Chaldee paraphrase, and by many Jewish commentators (l); who allow, that the words in Isaiah may be so understood, which is sufficient to vindicate the citation of them, by the evangelist, in this form of them.

(l) In R. David Kimchi in Isa. vi. 9.

And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
Matthew 13:14-15. Καί] still depending on ὅτι; but, in a manner suited to the simplicity of the language, and the conspicuous reference to the fulfilling of the prophecy, it begins a new sentence: and—indeed so utterly incapable are they of comprehending the pure, literal statement of divine truth—is being fulfilled with regard to them, and so on. ἀναπληρ., as being more forcible than the simple verb (comp. on Galatians 6:2, and ἐκπληρ., Acts 13:33), is expressly chosen (occurring nowhere else in Matthew, and, as referring to the predictions and such like, not found again in the whole New Testament), and for sake of emphasis placed at the beginning of the sentence; αὐτοῖς is the dative of reference: the fulfilment of the prophet’s words is realized in them.

The passage in question is Isaiah 6:9-10, as found in the LXX. Comp. on John 12:40; Acts 28:25 ff.

ἐπαχύνθη] in a metaphorical sense, like pinguis. See Wetstein. The expression represents the indolent and inactive state into which the energies of the spiritual life have been allowed to sink.

βαρέως ἤκουσαν] they have become dull of hearing (βαρυήκοοι).

ἐκάμμυσαν] have they closed, Isaiah 6:10; Isaiah 29:10; Lamentations 3:44. The genuine Greek form is καταμύειν. See Lobeck, Phryn. p. 339 f.; Becker, Anecd. I. p. 103.

μήποτε] ne; they are not willing to be instructed by me, and morally healed. This shows that, in regard to the weakness of their capacity, it is their own will that is to blame.

By adopting the reading ἰάσομαι (see the critical remarks) we do not introduce the meaning, which is out of place in the present instance: and I will heal them (Fritzsche), but rather effect a change in the construction of μήποτε (Heindorf, ad Plat. Crat. p. 36; Hermann, ad Soph. El. 992; Winer, p. 468 [E. T. 630]), that is, in accordance with the sense (because expressing the result). Comp. note on Mark 14:2. Notice in ἰάσομαι the consciousness of being a personal revelation of God.


According to Matthew, then, the principle on which Jesus proceeds is this: He speaks to the multitude in parables, because this mode of instruction is suited to their intellectual poverty and obtuseness. Plain literal teaching would fail to attract them, and so lead to their conversion, which latter their very obtuseness stubbornly resists. But what is spoken in a parabolic form captivates and lays hold of the man of limited comprehension, so that it does not repel him from his instructor, but rather becomes in him, even though not yet apprehended in its abstract meaning, the starting-point of a further gradual development of fuller understanding and ultimate conversion. There is no reason why de Wette should be stumbled to find that the disciples themselves likewise failed to understand the parable, and were therefore on the same level as the multitudes; therefore, he argues, one is at a loss to see why Jesus did not favour the latter also with an explanation. But the difference between the two cases is, that the disciples, from having been already converted, and from their minds having been already stimulated and developed by intercourse with Jesus, were just in a position to understand the interpretation, which the people, on the other hand, were incapable of doing, so that it was necessary to present to them the mere illustration, the parable without the interpretation, in order to, first, interest and attract them. They had to be treated like children, for whose physical condition the only suitable food is milk, and not strong meat likewise, whereas the disciples had already shown themselves capable of receiving the strong meat as well. Consequently de Wette is wrong in conceiving of the matter differently from the representation of it given by the evangelists, and which is to this effect: that the object of Jesus in awakening a spirit of inquiry by means of the parables was, that those so awakened should come to Him to obtain instruction; that those who did so are to be regarded as the μαθηταί in the more comprehensive sense of the word; and that to them the explanation was given and the congratulation addressed; while, on the other hand, Jesus pities the unimpressionable multitude, and applies to them the words of Isaiah 6:9 f. (comp. already Münster). Lastly, Hilgenfeld professes to find in this passage indications of the view, censured by Strauss as “melancholy,” that the use of parables was not intended to aid weak powers of comprehension, but in the truly literal sense of the words to keep them slumbering. But as regards Matthew, above all, this is out of the question, seeing that in Matthew 13:13 he has ὅτι, and not ἵνα. Comp. Keim also, II. p. 441. It is otherwise in Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10.

Matthew 13:14-15. he prophetic citation, given as such by Matthew only, may be due to him, though put into the mouth of Jesus. It is conceivable, however, that Jesus might use Isaiah’s words in Isaiah’s spirit, i.e., ironically, expressing the bitter feeling of one conscious that his best efforts to teach his countrymen would often end in failure, and in his bitterness representing himself as sent to stop ears and blind eyes. Such utterances are not to be taken as deliberate dogmatic teaching. If, as some allege, the evangelists so took them, they failed to understand the mind of the Master. The quotation exactly follows the Sept[80] The verb καμμύω (Matthew 13:15, ἐκάμμυσαν) is condemned by Phryn. as barbarous, the right word being καταμύειν.

[80] Septuagint.

14. Isaiah 6:9-10. The words form part of the mission of Isaiah.

Matthew 13:14. Καὶ, and) therefore.—ἀναπληροῦται, is now being refulfilled[606]) This word differs from the simple verb πληροῦται (is now being fulfilled), which is employed elsewhere in citing prophecies. The saying of Isaiah (Matthew 6:9) was being fulfilled in his own days, and in the ages which followed, and also clearly and especially in the days of the Messiah.—ἀκοῇ, κ.τ.λ., by hearing, etc.) i.e. by however little you come short, yet you shall come short [of understanding what ye hear to the salvation of your souls].

[606] E. V. “is fulfilled.”—(I. B.)

“Is receiving its complete (full measure of) fulfilment.”—ED.

Verse 14. - And in them; and unto them (Revised Version); i.e. with reference to them (cf. Jude 1:14). Is fulfilled. Completely (ἀναπληροῦται; cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:16). The present, because the process is still going on. The prophecy of Esaias, which saith (Isaiah 6:9, 10). Not quoted in this form in the parallel passages; for Mark 4:12 and Luke 8:10 are really nearer our ver. 13. The quotation is taken verbally from the LXX., and so in Acts 28:26, 27. But John 12:40, on the contrary, is nearer the Hebrew. By hearing ye shall hear (ἀκοῇ ἀκούσετε). A too literal translation of the Greek attempt to reproduce the Hebrew idiom, which is rather "hear ye indeed" as a continued action (שמעו שמוע). And shall not understand (Matthew 11:25, note); and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive. You may gaze at the object, but you shall not really see it. So with the bodily eye, an image may be formed in the retina, yet no impression conveyed to the brain. Matthew 13:14Is fulfilled (ἀναπληροῦται)

Rather of something in progress: is being fulfilled or in process of fulfilment.

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