Matthew 13:19
When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
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(19) When any one heareth the word.—The explanation has become so familiar to us that it is hard to place ourselves in the position of those to whom it was the unveiling of new truths—the holding up a mirror in which they might see, it might be, their own likeness. Our interest in it may, perhaps, be quickened if we think of it as reflecting what had actually been our Lord’s experience. The classes of hearers who had gathered round Him were represented, roughly and generally, by the four issues of the seed scattered by the sower, and all preachers of the truth, from that day to this, have felt that their own experience has presented analogous phenomena.

The ethical sequence described runs thus: The man hears “the word of the kingdom,” a discourse, say, like the Sermon on the Mount, or that at Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21). He does not “understand” it (the fault being moral rather than intellectual), does not attend to it or “take it in.” The “wicked one” (note the connection with the clause in the Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver us from evil,” or the evil one) snatches it away even from his memory. At first it seems strange that “the birds of the air” in their multitude should represent the Tempter in his unity; and yet there is a terrible truth in the fact that everything which leads men to forget the truth is, in very deed, doing the work of the great enemy. On the other hand, the birds, in their rapid flight and their gathering flocks, may well represent the light and foolish thoughts that are as the Tempter’s instruments. The “way-side” thus answers to the character, which is hardened by the wear and tear of daily life, what we well call its routine, so that the words of Truth make hardly even the most transient impression on it.

This is he which received seed.—Our translators try, unsuccessfully, to combine the parable with its interpretation. Literally, and far better, here and in the following verses, this man it is that is (the seed) sown by the way side.

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.When any one heareth ... - The seed represents the word of God communicated in any manner to the minds of people - by the Scriptures, by preaching, by acts of Providence, or by the direct influences of the Holy Spirit.

Then cometh the wicked one - That is, Satan Mark 4:15, or the devil Luke 8:12 - the one eminently "wicked," the accuser, the tempter.

He is represented by the fowls that came and picked up the seed by the way-side. The gospel is preached to people hardened in sin. It makes no impression. It lies like seed on the "hard path;" it is easily taken away, and never suffered to take root.

17. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired—rather, "coveted."

to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them—Not only were the disciples blessed above the blinded just spoken of, but favored above the most honored and the best that lived under the old economy, who had but glimpses of the things of the new kingdom, just sufficient to kindle in them desires not to be fulfilled to any in their day. In Lu 10:23, 24, where the same saying is repeated on the return of the Seventy—the words, instead of "many prophets and righteous men," are "many prophets and kings"; for several of the Old Testament saints were kings.

Second and Seventh Parables or First Pair:

The Wheat and the Tares, and The Good and Bad Fish (Mt 13:24-30, 36-43, 47-50).

The subject of both these parables—which teach the same truth, with a slight diversity of aspect—is:

The MIXED CHARACTER OF THE Kingdom in Its Present State, and the FINAL ABSOLUTE SEPARATION OF THE Two Classes.

The Tares and the Wheat (Mt 13:24-30, 36-43).

Mark hath this thus, Mark 4:14,15, The sower soweth the word. And these are they by the way-side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. Luke hath it thus, Luke 8:11,12, The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. From Luke we learn that the seed is the word; from Mark, that the sower is the preacher, Christ in the first place, then all who derive from him as his ministers, and are exercised in preaching the gospel, which Matthew calleth

the word of the kingdom, because it is the instrument by which God raised up Christ’s kingdom on earth, both in the church, and in particular souls, and by which he prepareth men for the kingdom of glory. This is a mighty commendation of the word. The soil is the heart, the soul of man. Now there are some hearers to whom the word preached is like seed that a sower throws upon some footpath, or highway, the plough never turneth the earth upon it, or the harrow never goeth over it; so it lieth bare, and is trodden down by the feet of passengers, and the fowls of the air come and pick it up. So, saith our Saviour, there are some that hear the word, but never meditate upon it, never lay it to their hearts, never cover it with second thoughts; the wicked ones, the devils, who are afraid of the power of the word digested, (like the fowls of the air), by suggesting other thoughts, or by presenting other objects to them, catch away the word that was sown in their hearts. These are they whom I compared to the highway ground receiving the seed.

But some may say, how was it sown in their hearts, if the devil could thus catch it away?

Answer: By the heart here is meant the soul, which hath several powers and faculties. Every thing we hear goeth into our heart, in some sense. As the heart may signify the imaginative power of our soul, or that power by which we take the notion of a thing, the word doth enter into sinners’ hearts, so far as they spend some thoughts upon it, and gain some knowledge and notion of it, yea, they may entertain it with some sudden and temporary affection and passion: indeed it is never so in their hearts, as that they truly believe it, or that their wills are conquered into the obedience of it.

When anyone heareth the word of the kingdom,.... Hence it appears, that by the "seed" in the parable is meant the Gospel, called the "word of the kingdom": because it treats of the king Messiah, of his person, office, and grace; and of his kingdom, and the administration of it by him, under the present dispensation; of the kingdom of grace saints enjoy now, and of the kingdom of heaven they shall enter into hereafter, through the grace and righteousness of Christ. Now such a hearer of this word is here described, who hears it accidentally, and only externally; hears the sound of it with his ears,

and understandeth it not with his heart. He is one that is careless and inattentive, negligent and forgetful; has some slight notions of things as he hears, but these pass away as they come; his affections are not at all touched, nor his judgment informed by them, but remains as stupid, and as unconcerned as ever; his heart is not opened to attend to, and receive the word, but continues hard and obdurate; and is like the common and beaten road, that is trodden down by everyone, and is not susceptible of the seed, that falls upon it.

Then cometh the wicked one, Satan, the devil, Mark 4:15 who is, by way of eminency, so called, being the first creature that became wicked, and the worst that is so; who is entirely and immutably wicked; whose whole work and employment lies in wickedness; and who, was the original cause of the wickedness that is among men, and which he is continually instigating and promoting: so the Jews frequently call (q) Samael, by whom they mean the devil, Samael, "the wicked". This evil spirit, as soon as ever he observes one hearing the word, especially that has not been used to attend, comes immediately, and, as he is hearing,

catcheth away that which is sown in his heart: not the grace of God, which being once implanted in the heart, can never be taken away by Satan; but the word which was sown, not in his understanding, in a spiritual sense, nor even in his affections, so as to love it, delight, and take pleasure in it; much less in his heart, so as to become the engrafted word able to save, or so as to believe in it, and in Christ revealed by it; but in his memory, and that but very slightly neither; for the heart sometimes means the memory; see Luke 2:51. Besides, the word only fell "upon", not "into" his heart, as into the good ground, as the metaphor in the parable shows; and it made no impression, nor was it inwardly received, but as soon as ever dropped, was "catched" away by the enemy; not by frightening him out of it, by persecution, as the stony ground hearer; nor by filling the mind with worldly cares, as the thorny ground hearer; but by various suggestions and temptations, darting in thoughts, presenting objects, and so diverted his mind from the word, and fixed his attention elsewhere; which is done at once, at an unawares, secretly, and without any notice of the person himself; so that the word is entirely lost to him, and he does not so much as remember the least thing he has been hearing:

this is he which receiveth the seed by the way side; such an hearer is comparable to such ground, on whom the word has no more effect, than seed sown upon a common beaten path.

(q) Sepher Bahir apud Zohar in Gen. fol. 27. 2. Debarim Rabba, fol. 145. 3.

When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his {a} heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.

(a) Though there is mention made of the heart, yet this sowing is referred to as hearing without understanding. For whether the seed is received in the heart or not, yet he that sows, sows to the heart.

Matthew 13:19. παντὸς ἀκούοντος, in the case of any one who hears, “for the classical ἐάν τις ἀκούσῃ” (Camb. G. T.). It may be a case of interrupted construction, the sentence beginning with the intention to make the genitive dependent on an ἐκ τῆς καρδίας before ἁρπάζει (so Weiss).—τὸν λόγον τῆς βασιλείας: the Sower, unlike the other parables in this chapter, contains no hint that it concerns the kingdom. But in Christ’s discourses that almost went without saying.—μὴ συνιέντος: “not taking it in,” a phrase which happily combines the physical fact of the parable with the figurative sense.—ὁ πονηρός, the evil one, Satan, represented by the innocent birds of the parable. What a different use of the emblem from that in Matthew 6:26!—ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ: we should hardly say of truth not understood that it had been sown in the heart. But heart is used in Scripture in a wide sense, as the seat of intellect as well as of feeling. The word in the case supposed is in the mind, as the seed is in the ground: on it, if not in it; in it as words, if not as truth.—οὗτός ἐστιν, etc., this is he sown, etc., said of the man, not of the seed. Sign and thing signified identified, cf. “this is my body”. Properly, the seed sown, etc., represents the case of such a man. So throughout the interpretation.

Matthew 13:19. Μὴ συνίετος, understandeth it not) The verb συνίεναι signifies to understand.[612] The Evil One, or devil, who especially, rather than his angels, is meant by the fowls of the air, has less power over those things which have entered into the σύνεσις, or understanding.—ἁρπάζει, catcheth away) sc. with violence and quick cunning, like a bird of prey; see Matthew 13:4.—ἐν τῂ καρδίᾳ, in his heart.—ὁ σπαρεὶς, he that is sown) i.e. as a farm is sown.

[612] That such is Bengel’s meaning is clear from his own German Version, where he renders μὴ συνίεντος by “und nicht vernimmt”—(I. B.)

Verse 19. - When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not. Understandeth. The form of the explanation here is influenced by the language of vers. 14, 15. Then (not in the Greek) cometh the wicked one; the evil one (Revised Version); Matthew 6:13, note. And catcheth (snatcheth, Revised Version) away - seizeth for himself (ἁρπάζει, Matthew 11:12, note) - that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed. That was sown (Revised Version, ὁ σπαρείς). And so throughout. The masculine is not merely concise, but also expresses the fact that, as even with land, the man who receives the seed does not put forth in turn merely the seed as something alien, but rather himself so far as he is influenced by the seed; or (regarding the subject from another point of view) he puts forth the new life and energy of the seed as conditioned by that which makes up himself. Matthew 13:19When any one heareth

The rendering would be made even more graphic by preserving the continuous force of the present tense, as exhibiting action in progress, and the simultaneousness of Satan's work with that of the gospel instructor. "While any one is hearing, the evil one is coming and snatching away, just as the birds do not wait for the sower to be out of the way, but are at work while he is sowing.

He which received seed (ὁ σπαρείς)

Lit., and much better, Rev., He that was sown; identifying the seed of the figure with the man signified.

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