Matthew 13:23
But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
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(23) He that heareth the word, and under-standeth it.—The process is not merely an intellectual one. He takes it in, discerns its meaning. The phrases in the other Gospels express the same thing, “hear the word and receive it (Mark), “in an honest and good heart” hear and retain it (Luke). Even here, however, there are different degrees of the holiness which is symbolised by “bearing fruit”—“some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty”—varying according to men’s capacities and opportunities.

It is allowable to fill up the outline-sketch of interpretation which thus formed the first lesson in this method in the great Master’s school. (1.) It may seem strange at first that the disciples were not told who in the work of the kingdom answered to “the Sower” of the parable. The interpretation is given in the parable of the Tares (“the Sower of the good seed is the Son of Man”), and, in part, it may be said that this was the one point on which the disciples were not likely to misunderstand Him; but in part also, we may believe, this explanation was not given, because, though the parable was true in the first instance of Him and of His work, He meant them to learn wisdom from it for their own work. True, they were reaping what they had not sown (John 4:38), yet they too were in their turn to be sowers as well as reapers. (2.) It is obviously one important lesson of the parable that it teaches us to recognise the possible existence of “an honest and good heart” (the first word meaning “noble,” “generous,” rather than “honest” in our modern sense) prior to the preaching of the word. Such characters were to be found in those living under the Law, or without the Law (Romans 2:14), and it was the work of the preacher to look out for them, and win them to something yet higher. What made the ground good, is a question which the parable was perhaps meant to suggest, but does not answer. Theologians may speak of “prevenient grace.” The language of John 4:37-38 leads us to think of the work of “the Light that lighteth every man.” Here also the law holds good that “to him that hath shall more be given.” (3.) It lies in the nature of such a parable that it represents the phenomena of the spiritual life only partially. It brings before us four classes of hearers, and seems to assume that their characters are fixed, incapable of change, issuing in results which might have been foreseen. But if so, then the work of the “word” thus preached would seem to be limited to order and progress, and the idea of “conversion”—the change of character—would almost be excluded. We must therefore supplement the parable in its practical application. The soil may be improved; the way-side and the stony places and that which contained the thorns may become as the good ground. It is the work of every preacher and teacher to prepare the soil as well as to sow the seed. In the words of an old prophet, which might almost seem to have suggested the parable itself, they are to “break up the fallow ground and sow not among thorns” (Jeremiah 4:3).

Matthew 13:23. He that received seed into the good ground — Described in note on verse eight, is he that heareth the word and understandeth, or, considereth it — Herein he differs from the first class of hearers: he understands what he hears, and makes it the matter of his serious and frequent meditation. And he differs from those of the second class; for, according to Luke, he keeps, or, retains it, as κατεχει signifies. Notwithstanding the opposition or persecution he meets with, he holds fast what he has received, namely, both the word of truth itself, and the change it was instrumental in producing in him. So that he not only endureth for a while, but to the end. He is also distinguished from those of the third class: for he receives and retains the truth in an honest and good heart, Luke 8:15; a heart, not honest and good by nature, but made such by grace; a new heart given him by God, and a new spirit put within him. Ezekiel 36:26. Therefore he is not like the ground overrun with thorns, and other weeds, which was dishonest, so to speak; eluding the tiller’s toil, and deceiving the husbandman’s expectations. Which also beareth fruit — Namely, the fruits of the Spirit, internal and external, holy tempers, words, and works, repentance toward God, and fruits meet for repentance, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and the proper fruits of faith, godliness and righteousness, piety and virtue, in all their branches: some a hundred-fold, some sixty, some thirty — That is, in various proportions, some abundantly more than others, the situations and circumstances in which some are placed by the providence of God affording them far greater opportunities for receiving and doing good than fall to the lot of others, and the abilities and capacities for usefulness in some far exceeding those of others.

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.Into good ground - Those whose hearts are prepared by grace to receive it honestly, and to give it full opportunity to grow.

In a rich and mellow soil - in a heart that submits itself to the full influence of truth, unchecked by cares and anxieties; under the showers and summer suns of divine grace; with the heart spread open, like a broad, luxuriant field, to the rays of the morning and to evening dews, the gospel takes deep root and grows; it has full room, and then and there only shows "what it is."

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 saith much the same, Mark 4:20. Luke saith, Luke 8:15, But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. To make a good Christian all these things must concur:

1. A hearing of the word.

2. An understanding or believing it.

3. A keeping of it.

4. A bringing forth of fruit.

5. A bringing forth fruit with patience.

He that receiveth the seed into good ground, is he (saith Luke) who in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it.

The good ground, (in this parable), is the good and honest heart, that is, a heart renewed and sanctified by the Spirit of God.

He heareth the word: he (saith the apostle) who is born of God, heareth us: faith cometh by hearing. And understandeth it. Mark saith, receiveth it, that is, not in the mere notion, but by faith, and a mind willing to learn and be instructed. Luke adds, and keepeth it, retains the savour and impression of it upon his soul.

Which also beareth fruit, the fruit of holiness in his life, in an obedience to the will of God; for all seed bringeth forth fruit according to his kind. Luke adds, with patience, by which is to be understood certainty, constancy, and perseverance, and that notwithstanding all trials and oppositions he meets with from the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty; not all alike. A soul may be an honest and good soul, and that (as we see here) in Christ’s opinion and judgment, though it doth not bring forth fruit in the same proportion with others.

But he that received seed into the good ground,.... The hearer compared to good ground into which the seed fell, is he that heareth the word and understandeth it; has a new and spiritual understanding given him, feels the power of it on his heart, enlightening and quickening him; has an application of it made to him by the Spirit of God, and can discern the worth and excellency of it, and distinguish it from all others; and, as Mark says, "receives it"; as the word of God in faith, and with the love of it, and with all readiness and meekness; and, as Luke observes, "keeps it"; holds it fast against all opposition with great struggling; will not part with it at any rate, nor depart from it in the least, nor entertain any doubt about it; but abides by it, stands fast in it, and is valiant for it: and this he does in and with "an honest and good heart"; which no man naturally has; nor can any man make his heart so: this is the work of God, and is owing to his efficacious grace. This is an heart of flesh, a new and right heart, and spirit; an heart to fear God, to love him, and to trust in him; in which Christ dwells by faith; in which the Spirit of God has his temple; and in which every grace is implanted: and such an one, as he hears with a strict, and an honest intention, and in the exercise of grace; so he holds fast the word he hears, understands and receives, with all faithfulness and honesty:

which also beareth fruit and bringeth forth, some an hundred fold, some sixty, and some thirty: the fruit bore, and brought forth by such an hearer, is the true fruit of grace and righteousness, and is all from Christ, under the influences of the Spirit, through the word and ordinances, as means, and issues in the glory of God; and though not brought forth in the same quantity in all, yet is of the same quality; and is brought forth, as Luke says, "with patience": constantly, and continually, in all seasons, in old age, and even unto death; and is at last brought "to perfection", holds, and remains unto the end.

But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
Matthew 13:23. Ὅς] refers to ἀκ. κ. συν.

For the more correct accentuation, συνίων, see note on Romans 3:11.

δή] gives significance and prominence to the ὅς: and now this is he who; “ut intelligas, ceteros omnes infrugiferos, hunc demum reddere fructum,” Erasmus. See Hartung, Partikell. I. p. 274 f.; Klotz, ad Devar. p. 404; Baeumlein, Partik. p. 106.

Whether we ought to read ὁ μὲνὁ δὲὁ δέ (Beza, Grotius), or ὃ μὲνὃ δὲὃ δέ (Bengel, Lachmann, Tischendorf, following the Vulgate), is certainly not to be determined by Mark 4:20, though I should say the latter is to be preferred, on account of the solemn emphasis with which, according to this reading, the concluding words of the parable itself are repeated at the close of the exposition, without their requiring any particular explanation: the one (seed, i.e., according to the blending which takes place of the figure and the person: one of those who hear and understand) brings forth a hundred, the other sixty, and so on.

Matthew 13:23. ἀκούων καὶ συνιείς. The specific feature of the fourth and alone satisfactory type is not brought out either in Mt. or in Mk. but only in Lk. by his happy phrase: ἐν καρδίᾳ καλῇ καὶ ἀγαθῇ. The third type understands (Mt.) and receives into the heart (Mk.), but the fourth in addition receives into a clean, i.e., a “good and honest,” heart.—ὃς δὴ: δὴ occurs here for the first time in Mt., and only a few times altogether in the N. T., but always with marked expressiveness. According to Passow and Baümlein (Grammatik, § 669, and Untersuchungen über G. Partikeln, p. 98), connected with δῆλος in origin and meaning, and signifying that the thing stated is clear, specially important, natural in the given circumstances.—ὃς δὴ here = who, observe, or of course. Given such conditions, fruitfulness certainly results.—καρποφορεῖ, bringeth forth fruit such as is desired: ripe, useful.— in last clause may be pointed either ὁ μὲν, ὁ δὲ (T. R.) or ὃ μὲν, ὃ δὲ (W. H[81]). In the former case the meaning is: this man brings forth 100 fold, that man, etc.; in the latter, is accusative neuter after ποιεῖ, and refers to the fruit. Opinion very much divided, sense the same.

[81] Westcott and Hort.

This interpretation of the Sower raises two questions: Was it needed? Does it really explain the parable? which is in effect to ask: Does it proceed from Jesus? As to the former: could not even the general hearer, not to speak of the Twelve, understand the parable well enough? True, no hint that it related to the kingdom was given, but, as already remarked, that might go without saying. Jesus had all along been using similitudes explaining His meaning rather than needing explanation. Then parabolic speech was common even in Rabbinical circles, a source at once of entertainment and of light to hearers. In Mt.’s report the disciples do not even ask an explanation, so that that given comes on us as a surprise (Holtz. in H. C.). Christ’s audience might at least carry away the general impression that He was dissatisfied with the result of His ministry, in many cases in which His teaching seemed to Him like seed cast on unproductive places. It might require further reflection, more than the majority were capable of, to comprehend the reasons of failure. Self-knowledge and observation of character were needed for this. As to the interpretation given, it has been objected (Weiss, Jülicher, etc.) that it is allegorical in method, and that, while going into details as to the various persons and things mentioned in the parable and their import, it fails to give the one main lesson which it, like every parable, is designed to teach; in short, that we cannot see the wood for the trees. As to this it may be remarked: (1) There is a tangible difference between allegory and parable. Allegory and interpretation answer to each other part by part; parable and interpretation answer to each other as wholes. (2) Christ’s parables are for the most part not allegories. (3) It does not follow that none of them can be. Why should the use of allegory be interdicted to Him? May the Sower not be an exception? That it is has been ably argued by Feine in Jahrbücher für Prot. Theologie, 1888, q. v. (4) The exclusion of so-called allegorising interpretation may be carried to a pedantic extreme in connection with all the parables, as it is, indeed, in my opinion, especially by Weiss. Thus we are told that in the saying “the whole need not a physician,” Jesus did not mean to suggest that He was a physician but only to hint the special claims of a class on His attention. But the question may be asked in every case: What was the genesis of the parable? How did it grow in Christ’s mind? The Sower, e.g.? Was it not built up of likenesses spontaneously suggesting themselves now and then; of Himself to a sower, and of various classes of hearers to different kinds of soil? In that case the “allegorical” interpretation is simply an analysis of the parable into its genetic elements, which, on that view, have more than the merely descriptive value assigned to them by Weiss. (5) As to missing the main lesson amid details: is it not rather given, Eastern fashion, through the details: the preaching of the kingdom not always successful, failure due to the spiritual condition of hearers? That is how we Westerns, in our abstract generalising way, put it. The Orientals conveyed the general through concrete particulars. Jesus did not give an abstract definition of the Fatherhood of God. He defined it by the connections in which He used the title Father. That Jesus talked to His disciples about the various sorts of hearers, their spiritual state, and what they resembled, I think intrinsically likely. It is another question whether His interpretation has been exactly reproduced by any of the Synoptists.

Matthew 13:23. Ὃς, who) sc. the hearer; cf. Mark 4:20 : otherwise ὃς might also be referred to τὸν λόγον, the word.—καρποφορεῖ, beareth fruit) sc. perfect fruit.—ὅ μὲνὃ δὲὃ δὲ, some—some—some) The pronoun is clearly here in the accusative neuter; for the subject[619] ὃς, which occurs here in the singular number, cannot possibly be divided into three classes of good hearers of the word by Ὁ ΜῈΝὉ ΔῈὉ ΔῈ (one—another—a third), which is the common reading.[620] Moreover the protasis has in Matthew 13:8, and the parallel passage in Mark 4:8; Mark 4:20, has ἛΝ also twice over.[621] A single hearer’s plentiful, moderate, and less plentiful progress from three several grains, so to speak, is signified by a hundred, sixty, and thirty.[622] As there are three degrees of hearing without fruit, so there are also three degrees of fruitfulness; which is not, however, restricted precisely to the proportions an hundred, sixty, and thirty fold: for another grain might also produce forty, fifty, seventy, eighty, ninety fold, etc.: since there is a greater distance between the numbers one hundred and sixty, than there is between sixty and thirty. To him that hath shall be given.

[619] The word “Subject” is used here in its logical sense, viz. the Subject of the Proposition, i.e. the person or thing concerning which something else is predicated or asserted.—(I. B.)

[620] Such is the reading of E. M. In his App. Crit. Bengel writes: “ ter) codd. nonulli vetusti apud Stapulensem, vel etiam alii apud Rus T. i., Harm. Evang. p. 1047; Ephrem Syrus f. σ. κ. δ. in vitâ Abrahamii; Isidorus Pelus. l. 2, ep. 144. Lat. Neogrœc. vel plures nee non Syr. ( ter) edd. Aug. 1, Byz., etc., perinde ut versu 8, pro , et Marc. Matthew 4:8, ἑν pro ἕν, non nulli habent codices.”—(I. B.)

[621] i.e. the ἓν, which occurs three times in Mark 4:8, is repeated as many times in Matthew 13:20.—(I. B.)

[622] When such a hearer turns the one and the same doctrine, on the opportunity of hearing it being given him even a hundred times, to his own profit and that of others.—V. g.

Beng. does not seem to me to speak of a different reading, but of the common interpretation, that there are here three classes of good hearers. He plainly understands there to be the one and the same good hearer, who bears fruit from the same seed in different degrees at different times. Hence Luke 8:8 gives the one degree only, viz. the hundredfold, as the normal state of the believer’s fruitfulness. However, in opposition to Beng., the transition from ὃς to ὃ μὲν, ὃ δὲ, neut. nominative, would not be unnatural (whether taken of one and the same good hearer, or of different classes of good hearers), as the individual becomes in a manner identified with the seed in process of time, just as the nutritive elements of the soil become identified with, and taken up into, the young germ: hence σπαρείς, he who is sown (applicable to the seed, but here also to the person), occurs in Matthew 13:19, and ἄλλα, Matthew 13:8, is nominative neuter, and plural, followed by ὃ μὲν, ὃ δὲ. There is no notable variety of readings in the case.—ED.

Verse 23. - Which also; who verily (Revised Version, ο{ς δή), the particle giving exactness, to the relative (see Dr. Moulton's note at the end of Winer, § 53). Some; ο{ μεν (Westcott and Hort). Neuter, and so the Vulgate. Nominative, the thought refers to the seed as such (cf. ver. 8). An hundred fold, some sixty, some thirty. "100 longius absunt a 60, quam 60 a 30. Habenti dabitur" (Bengel). The reason of the difference in the produce of the good ground is not stated, but, according to the tenor of the whole passage since ver. 3. this lay in a difference already existing within this good ground. Into the question of the ultimate cause of some men being in a better state of preparedness to receive Divine truths than others, our Lord does not enter. Prevenient grace is not always to be insisted upon in practical exhortation. Matthew 13:23Understandeth (συνιείς)

See on Matthew 11:25, prudent. The three evangelists give three characteristics of the good hearer. Matthew, he understandeth the word; Mark, he receiveth it; Luke, he keepeth it

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