Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 5 February 2012; Revised 6 August 2017
Scripture: Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Messianic Jewish versions are CJB, DHE, GNC, HNV, MW, OJB, & TLV.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important Jewish sources include the following:
● DSS: Citations marked as "DSS" are from the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last two centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. Online. Click here for DSS abbreviations.
● LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C.
● Josephus: Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." Parsing information for Greek words is taken from Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament. Explanation of grammatical abbreviations and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here. The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ). I use the title "The Good News of Mark" because Mark describes his book as "good news" (1:1).
Please see the article Witnesses of the Good News for background information on Mark and his book.
The nature of the Kingdom of God is explained in a series of parables.
Parable of the Sower, 4:1-12
Explanation of the Parable, 4:13-20
Parable of the Lampstand, 4:20-23
Parable of Reciprocity, 4:24-25
Parable of the Growing Seed, 4:26-29
Parable of the Mustard Seed, 4:30-32
The Priority of Parables, 4:33-34
Miracle at Sea, 4:35-41
Date: Autumn A.D. 28
Parable of the Sower, 4:1-12
Parallel Passage: Matthew 13:1-15; Luke 8:4-10
1 [And] He began to teach again by the sea. And such a very large crowd gathered to Him that He got into a boat in the sea and sat down; and the whole crowd was by the sea on the land.
[The chapter actually begins with a conjunction not translated. And: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek.]
He began to teach: Grk. didaskō, pres. inf., to teach or instruct, often used in the Besekh of instructing disciples. In the LXX didaskō occurs about 100 times and is used to translate nine different verbs (DNTT 3:760). In contrast with Greek education Jewish teaching since the time of Moses has been more concerned with communicating God's ethical demands than imparting information (DNTT 3:766). again: Grk. palin, adv. that may focus (1) on a repetitive occurrence; once more, again; or (2) reversion; back. The second meaning applies here as applied to the location. by: Grk. para, prep., with the root meaning of beside (DM 108), conveys association between persons, things, or circumstances, which may denote (1) a point of origin, from; or (2) a close association or proximity, with, beside, in the presence of. The second usage applies here.
the sea: Grk. thalassa, which in the LXX translates the Heb. yam, "sea." In the English language "sea" normally refers to a body of salt water and "lake" to a body of fresh water, thus most Bible versions translate thalassa as "lake" here. Thalassa simply refers to a body of water deep enough and wide enough to require a boat to cross it. The mention of "the sea" is to the Sea of Galilee, also known as the lake of Gennesaret (Luke 5:1). The shoreline of the Sea of Galilee made for an excellent vantage point for addressing the crowds, since the topography formed a natural amphitheatre. large: Grk. polus, adj., great in magnitude or quantity. The superlative is further quantified by the narrative.
crowd: Grk. ochlos refers to an assembled company of people from a particular locality. Ochlos designates those that came to hear Yeshua from a particular locality. In many passages the people are contrasted with the ruling classes (Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees) who despised the ochlos as ignorant masses accursed for not keeping Torah (DNTT 2:800f). He got: Grk. embainō, aor. part., to go in, step in, get in. The verb occurs 17 times, all in the apostolic narratives and predominately of entry into a boat. into: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to a direction toward a goal or place and consequent arrival; into, to, towards. a boat: Grk. ploion in biblical times denoted any vessel that could go out on a body of water. In modern times "ships" are classified as vessels that can traverse oceans, whereas "boats" cannot, and it is this distinction that has probably guided translation of the word in modern Bible versions.
No mention is made of the boat's owner, but it could possibly have been owned by Peter who had invited Yeshua aboard on a previous occasion, or even the one owned by the sons of Zebedee who were partners with Peter (Luke 5:2-3). Considering its later use to traverse the sea the boat may well have been a commercial vessel that would accommodate passengers (so Lindsey 5). in the sea: Grk. thalassa. and sat down: Grk. kathēmai, pres. mid. inf., be at rest on the haunches, to sit down or to take a seat. Teaching while sitting was customary for rabbis of the time and teaching by the seashore made for a practical venue considering the size of the audience and the freedom to conduct his "service" as he saw fit. and the whole: Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. crowd: Grk. ochlos.
was: Grk. eimi, impf., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). by: Grk. pros, prep., lit "facing." the sea: Grk. thalassa. on the land: Grk. gē, can mean soil (as in receiving seed), the ground, land as contrasted with the sea, and the earth in contrast to heaven. The term should be taken in the sense of the beach where the crowd stood. The boat also provided a measure of safety, the water serving as a natural barrier. In the LXX gē renders erets, which most often designates either (a) the earth in a cosmological sense, or (b) "the land" in the sense of a specific territorial area, primarily the Land of Israel.
2 And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching,
And: Grk. kai, conj. He was teaching: Grk. didaskō, impf. See the previous verse. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun used to distinguish a person or thing from or contrast it with another, or to give him (it) emphatic prominence. The pronoun may mean (1) self, (2) he, she, it, or (3) the same. The second meaning applies here in His teaching in reference to the crowd. many things: pl. of Grk. polus, adj., adj., extensive in scope, here indicating quantity. in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position with the root meaning of "within" or "among," but here marks instrumentality. parables: pl. of Grk. parabolē, something serving through comparison or analogy to encourage a new perspective; parable, proverb, figure, illustration.
In the LXX parabolē renders Heb. mashal (SH-4912), first in Num 23:7. The Hebrew word mashal has a broader usage than parabolē. A mashal could be in story form or in proverb form or even a discourse. Many proverbs are similes (DNTT 2:744). The parable was a primary teaching method of Yeshua (Matt 13:3). While the parable is typically thought of as a pithy story there are three one-verse parables in the apostolic narratives (Matt 9:17; 13:44; Mark 4:21). Whatever its length or form a parable teaches truth by making a comparison or example drawn from everyday experiences.
Scholars generally contend that a story parable has only one main point and interpretation should avoid giving symbolic meaning to every part, even though Yeshua does that very thing with the parable that follows. Story parables were commonly used in rabbinic teaching of the time and many examples can be found in rabbinic literature, including teaching analogies that feature four types (Young, Parables 260). For example, the Mishnah lists four types of property owners, four kinds of dispositions, four types of students, four types of charity-givers, four types of visitors to the house of learning, and four kinds of disciples (Avot 5:10-15). In this respect Yeshua's teaching was not unique.
The Synoptic Narratives do not give an identical report of the parables taught from the boat. Matthew (chapter 13) records four parables, Luke (chapter 8) records two parables, and Mark records four parables. Combining these reports and not considering redundant material Yeshua must have given six parables from the boat. The parable of the Sower is one of eleven parables found in all three Synoptic Narratives. It is not found in John's narrative at all. Some commentators prefer the title Parable of the Soils. Young titles it the Parable of the Hearers (251). In the parable of the Wheat and Tares Yeshua defines the sower of the good seed as the Son of Man (Matt 13:37), and that meaning could easily be applied to this parable. The story would be quite familiar to the audience due to the agrarian economy. People could have witnessed this ordinary practice anywhere in the land of Israel. Even religious leaders actively engaged in farming activities (Young 260).
and: Grk. kai. was saying: Grk. legō, impf., to make a statement or utterance, whether mentally, orally or in writing, often used to introduce quoted material. The focus of the verb may be declarative, interrogative or imperative; answer, ask, declare, enjoin, order, say, speak, tell, told, refer to, talk about. In the LXX legō renders Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, shew, command or think. to them: pl. of Grk. autos.
in: Grk. en. His teaching: Grk. didachē, derived from the verb didaskō ("teach"), means the act of teaching with content implied. "Instruction" would be a better translation, since didachē is a noun, not a verb. The use of "doctrine" in the KJV clearly reflects a Christian point of view. In Jewish culture the term didachē does not refer simply to education in various areas of knowledge as might be obtained in a school. The term occurs 30 times in the Besekh and is often associated with a particular source, such as Yeshua (Matt 7:28; John 7:16f), the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt 16:12), the apostles (here; Rom 16:17) or heretical sects (Heb 13:9; Rev 2:14-15, 24). In the LXX didachē is found only in the superscription of Psalm 60:1 to render the Piel inf. of Heb. lamad, "to exercise in, to learn" (BDB 540), an action attributed to David (DNTT 3:767).
According to Klaus Wegenast the Hebrew equivalent of didachē would in fact be talmud ("study," which is derived from lamad), as found in Avot 6:2, "you find no free man but he that occupies himself with the study of Torah" (DNTT 3:769). The office of teacher (Heb. moreh; Grk. didaskalos) was central in Jewish society. Biblical instruction is grounded on the principle that God’s Word was given in order to teach man to walk in His ways (Ex 4:15; Deut 33:10; Ps 25:12). Scripture is the source of teaching (2Tim 3:16) and Spirit-inspired teaching deepens a believer's knowledge of God's truth. The way to know God's will is through interpreting and applying His words and commandments recorded in Scripture.
3 "Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow;
Listen to this: Grk. akouō, pres. imp., may mean (1) to hear, with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said; (2) hear with comprehension, understand; (3) receive information aurally, hear, hear about; or (4) a legal term of hearing a case. The first meaning dominates here. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). The command is lit. "Hear!" The present tense calls the audience to start and continue the activity. The injunctions on remembering the commandments are introduced with the formula "Hear [Heb. shema], O Israel" (Deut 6:4). And, when Yeshua was asked about the greatest commandment, he replied with "Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God is one" (Mark 12:29).
The use of akouō in the imperative mood occurs only in the apostolic narratives and in Revelation, always on the lips of Yeshua. In the narratives the command is always a present imperative (start and keep on doing) whereas in Revelation the command is an aorist imperative ("do it now"). Also, in the narratives the command is to "ears" (plural) whereas in Revelation the command is to "an ear" (singular). Behold: Grk. idou, aor. mid. imp., demonstrative interjection (derived from eidon, "to see"), that arouses the attention of hearers or readers. The Greek verb, like its corresponding Heb. word hinneh (SH-2009, e.g., Gen 1:29), serves to enliven divine monologues and narratives, particularly as a call to closer consideration and contemplation of something, to introduce something new or to emphasize the size or importance of something; (you) see, look, behold (BAG).
Yeshua couples a command for the eyes with the command for the ears to challenge his audience to really comprehend what he is about to say. the sower: Grk. speirō, pres. part., to broadcast seed on the ground, usually by hand, to begin the cultivation process. The participle has the definite article and means lit. "the one sowing." A participle is a verbal substantive (DM 220), and as such it has an adjectival quality. That is, the action represents a principal function of the person. went out: Grk. exerchomai, aor., to go out from one place to another. In other words he left his abode in order to accomplish the task. to sow: Grk. speirō, aor. inf. The infinitive is a verbal noun and the repetition emphasizes the object of the sower's intention.
Left out of the parable is the common knowledge of farming. Major crops of the land of Israel included barley, wheat, grapes, figs, pomegranates, and olives (Deut 8:8). Sowing and ploughing began in about the middle of October at the time of the early rains. This was followed by harrowing and weeding. The later rains were vital for ripening the crops, and the rainy season usually ended around early April. Harvesting began with the barley harvest, around the middle of April. The gathering of the grain harvest, the summer fruits, and the grapes lasted until August and September, although the last olives were finally picked in November.
Unsown land was ploughed three or four times, suggesting biennial fallow, but the Hebrew sabbatical (seventh) year fallow was also important in promoting soil fertility. About 30 lbs of seed was used to a half acre of land. This is about half the quantity of seed normally used today. Sowing took place after the first rains had softened the ground (cf. Deut 11:13-17). There were two methods of sowing seed: by broadcasting the seeds by hand or using a seed-drill. For the first method, which is depicted in this parable, the farmer walked along the furrows at a constant pace pulling handfuls of seed from a bag at his side and throwing them over the soil. The land was then ploughed again to cover it, branches being dragged behind the plough to smooth the ground over the seed (cf. Isa 28:24-5; Job 39:10). It might take weeks of laborious work for the Israelite to sow a small field. (See Agriculture in Biblical Times, ChristianAnswers.net).
4 [and it happened] as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up.
[untranslated— and: Grk. kai, conj. it happened: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., to transfer from one state or condition to another, which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) exist through application of will or effort by a person; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo a state of existence, change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, appear, come, arrive. The third meaning applies here. The verb could imply a coincidental result rather than a purposeful result.]
as he was sowing: Grk. speirō, pres. inf. See the previous verse." some: Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to specify or give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that. seed fell: Grk. piptō, aor., to drop from a relatively high position to a lower, fall, fell. The word "seed" does not occur in the Greek text; so, it is lit. "some fell." The sower acts in a manner that may seem strange to modern readers. Using the broadcast method some seed coincidentally fell in areas that normally would not be the object of the farmer's sowing. Yeshua did not say the sower purposely threw seed into areas that would not support a crop, but that his sowing was indiscriminate. He makes no effort to keep the seed to the best soil that will produce a harvest.
beside: Grk. para, prep. See verse 1 above. the road: Grk. hodos, with the focus on the concept of going the word typically has the sense of a route for traveling, hence a way, a road or a highway. It can also refer to the act of traveling; journey, way, trip. Then, hodos is used fig. of conduct or a manner of life (cf. 1Cor 12:31; Jas 1:8). In the LXX hodos occurs frequently and is used to render 18 Hebrew equivalents, but mostly Heb. derek (SH-1070), a way, road, or journey (Ps 1:6) (DNTT 3:937). Given that the location is a farmer's field this "road" is either a minor access road alongside of the field or even a path through the field.
and: Grk. kai. the birds: pl. of Grk. peteinon is a generic word for bird, whether clean or unclean. The parallel account in Luke identifies the birds as "of the air" (Grk. ouranos, lit. "heaven"), indicating that the birds are of the type capable of flight. came: Grk. erchomai, aor., to come, come back, return or appear and in a few instances, to go. The verb generally depicts physical movement, mostly with implication of a position from which action or movement takes place, but it also may focus on the goal for movement.
and: Grk. kai. ate it: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. See verse 2 above. up: Grk. katesthiō, aor., eat up, devour. BAG adds consume and swallow, which might be a better translation since birds don't have teeth to chew food. The described action further limits the type of bird as those that eat seeds. Birds may be identified by their diet. There are 530 species of birds common to Israel. Some prey on other birds, some eat flesh from carcasses, some eat insects, some forage for seeds or fruits and berries, and some are omnivorous, consuming both seeds and small insects.
5 "Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil.
[and: Grk. kai, conj.] Other: Grk. allos, adj., used to distinguish from one or more other entities; one, other (of two), another. seed fell: Grk. piptō, aor. See the previous verse. The word "seed" is not in the Greek text. on: Grk. epi, prep., used primarily as a marker of position or location; 'at, in, on, upon, over.' the rocky ground: Grk. petrōdēs, rocky ground with a thin layer of top soil, which is emphasized twice in the following phrase and the closing phrase of the verse. where: Grk. hopou, adv. of place; where, in what place. it did not: Grk. ou, a particle used in denial or negation, typically an unqualified strong denial of an alleged fact; no, not. have: Grk. echō, impf., to have, hold or possess, with a wide range of application. The verb describes an inherent quality.
much: Grk. polus, adj., extensive in scope, here indicating quantity. soil: Grk. gē. See verse 1 above. and: Grk. kai. immediately: Grk. eutheōs, adv. (derived from euthus, 'immediately'), immediately, forthwith, or right away. The adverb is a dramatic device used frequently by Mark to energize the narrative. it sprang up: Grk. exanatellō, aor., to come into being or existence with suddenness. The quick germination suggests barley, which can sprout in one to three days. Although barley and wheat were both planted in the autumn, barley matured faster and would be harvested first in the early Spring. Barley was the most common grain cereal grown in ancient Israel.
because: Grk. dia, prep., may mean (1) "through," whether in the sense of a location, duration or instrumentality; or (2) "because of," denoting causality or the reason for something occurring. The second meaning applies here. it had: Grk. echō, pres. inf. no: Grk. mē, adv., a particle of qualified negation, subjectively ruling out any implications or possibilities ("suggestions") that could be involved with what should (could, would) apply; not. The particle mē is used to clarify the preceding use of ou in referring to the physical characteristic of the soil. depth: Grk. bathos, depth as a reference to downward measurement, whether of water or soil. of soil: Grk. gē. The redundancy is used to clarify "not much soil."
6 "And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.
And: Grk. kai, conj. after: Grk. hote, temporal adv., when, at which time. the sun: Grk. hēlios (for Heb. shemesh), the sun, the star that is the central body of the solar system, created on the fourth day to "govern the day" (Gen 1:16-19). The core temperature of the sun produced by nuclear fusion has been estimated above 27 million degrees F and the temperature at its surface about 10,000 degrees F. In both the solar system and on the earth "there is nothing hidden from its heat" (Ps 19:6). Its mean distance from the earth is about 93 million miles from the earth, which assures the right balance of heat, light and photosynthesis to sustain all of earth's physical and biological processes. The sun moves in an orbit through the Milky Way Galaxy (Ps 19:5-6), at a speed that scientists estimate to be 600,000 mph (BBMS 165).
had risen: Grk. anatellō, aor., come into being, cause to rise. The verb indicates the apparent movement of the sun above the horizon. Given the effect the verb may imply a position in the sky overhead, most likely mid-day. it was scorched: Grk. kaumatizō, aor. pass., subject to intense heat, to scorch or to burn. because: Grk. dia, prep. it had: Grk. echō, pres. inf. See the previous verse. no: Grk. mē, adv. See the previous verse. root: Grk. rhiza, root of a plant so necessary to transport water and nutrients to the plant. The noun is normally used of a tree (Matt 3:10) and other plants (as here), but also in imagery of genealogical or family stock (Rom 15:12; Rev 5:5). The root is the source of nourishment and support for the entire plant. it withered away: Grk. xērainō, aor. pass. ind., to cause a dry non-functioning condition.
7 [and] "Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop.
[and: Grk. kai, conj.] Other: Grk. allos, adj. See verse 5 above. seed fell: Grk. piptō, aor. See verse 4 above. among: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." See verse 1 above. the thorns: pl. of Grk. akantha, a species of prickly thorn-plant. There are several species to choose from, and the narrative is not clear about the species. Danker and LSJ suggests thistle. BAG suggests Ononsis spinosa or cammock. In the LXX akantha translates four different Hebrew words: (1) Heb. qots (SH-6975), a thorn-bush, first in Genesis 3:18; Ex 22:6; Jdg 8:7, 16; 2Sam 23:6; Ps 118:12; Isa 32:13; Jer 4:3; 12:13; (2) Heb. atad (SH-329), a bramble, buckthorn (Ps 58:9); (3) Heb. chedeq (SH-2312), a briar (Prov 15:19); and (4) Heb. beushim (SH-891), stinking or worthless things, wild grapes (Isa 5:2, 4).
and: Grk. kai. the thorns: pl. of Grk. akantha. came up: Grk. anabainō, aor., to proceed in a direction that is up, go up. The verb implies that the plant was in the early stages of growth. and: Grk. kai. choked: Grk. sumpnigō, aor., to obstruct or constrict by pressure. it: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. and it yielded: Grk. didōmi, aor., generally to give something to someone, often with the focus on generosity, but may be used to mean bestow, hand over, impart, entrust, yield, put, or sacrifice (BAG). no: Grk. ou, adv. crop: Grk. karpos, agricultural produce, lit. "and fruit it gave not" (Marshall). The description does not provide a sense of time, but the implication is that the seed germinated, but having fallen into a thorn-plant whatever growth that began was stymied by its imprisonment.
8 [and] Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold."
[and: Grk. kai, conj.] Other: Grk. allos, adj. seeds fell: Grk. piptō, aor. See verse 4 above. into: Grk. eis, prep. the good: Grk. kalos, adj., meeting a high standard or an exceptionally high quality. soil: Grk. gē. See verse 1 above. and: Grk. kai. as they grew up: Grk. anabainō, pres. part. See the previous verse. and increased: Grk. auxanō, pres. pass. part., cause to become greater in extent or amount; grow, increase. Both verbs are present participles indicating steady growth and development into mature plants. they yielded: Grk. didōmi, impf. See the previous verse. a crop: Grk. karpos. See the previous verse. and: Grk. kai. produced: Grk. pherō, impf., may mean (1) to move an entity from one position to another by physical transport or guidance; (2) direct something that is of a cognitive nature; (3) support what is burdensome; or (4) bring about a yield. The fourth meaning applies here.
thirty: Grk. triakonta, thirty. sixty: Grk. hexōkonta, sixty. and: Grk. kai. a hundredfold: Grk. hekaton, one hundred. The Matthew version reverses the order, "some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty" (Matt 13:8). The Luke version only mentions the hundredfold (Luke 8:8). The productivity is calculated as a factor of the seed sown, as it says in the Talmud, "surely a man sows a se'ah in order to harvest many kor!" (Pesachim 87b) There are thirty seahs in a kor. If the farmer reaped three kors for one seah of seed sown in the field, he harvested nearly a hundredfold return (Young 259).
9 And He was saying, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
And: Grk. kai, conj. He was saying: Grk. legō, impf. See verse 2 above. The Greek verb "saying" functions as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. He who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 4 above. has: Grk. echō, pres. See verse 5 above. ears: pl. of Grk. ous, the anatomical body part of the ear. Yeshua's opening clause draws attention to the point of the parable, which is about hearing. In Hebrew writing parts of the human body were often used as allusions to behavior, both positive and negative (cf. Matt 5:29f; Rom 6:13; Heb 12:13). Here the Lord makes a reference to the ears in order to make a point. The human ear is a beautifully designed organ to receive sound. The ear, of course, does not pick and choose the sounds it will accept.
By turning the physical function of the ear into a metaphor, Yeshua could address the fundamental issue of obedience. The metaphor of "having ears" points to the willingness to learn or to be open to the truth. to hear: Grk. akouō, pres. inf. See verse 3 above. let him hear: Grk. akouō, pres. imp. Again the present tense verb emphasizes to start and continue the activity. The complete exhortation "he that has ears (or "an ear"), let him hear" (rather than "read") is a Hebrew idiom that reflects the typical manner of first century learning. Scrolls were found in synagogues, not in personal possession, and knowledge of God’s Word came from hearing the Scriptures read aloud and memorizing them (cf. Rom 2:13).
The words "let him hear" is actually a single word in the Greek, a stronger exhortation than it appears on the surface. It is not a permissive directive, but a strong exclamation as if the Lord is yelling to a deaf person, "Hear!!" Moses used a similar command to Israel in reiterating the Torah before their entry into Canaan, "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully" (Deut 5:1). Yeshua likewise used the exclamatory imperative "Hear!" on several occasions to introduce important teachings (Matt 13:18; 15:10; 21:33; Mark 4:3; 7:14; Luke 18:6), though the word is usually translated in modern versions with the softer request to "listen."
The call to hear may also be an allusion to a Hebrew practice. The Torah provided that if a man or woman was sold into service as a slave, the owner would set the slave free after six years. However, the slave had the option of remaining in the service of his employer rather than accepting freedom. In that event the owner was to take an awl and pierce the slave’s ear as a sign of permanent ownership (Ex 21:5f). Piercing the ear was a visible sign that the slave lived to hear and obey his master's voice. Thus, David said to God, "My ears You have opened. ... I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart" (Ps 40:6, 8). Likewise, true disciples delight to do God's will and are ready to respond to the Spirit's voice.
Yeshua does not assume that everyone in his audience or among his disciples will understand and appreciate his instruction. Some hearers are tares and some are wheat; some are sheep and some are goats. Yeshua summed up the reality succinctly in His dialog with the Pharisees – "He who is of God hears the words of God" (John 8:47) and "My sheep hear My voice" (John 10:3). Israel in the time of the Messiah was facing a spiritual crisis not unlike Ezekiel’s time – "Son of man, you live in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear; for they are a rebellious house" (Ezek 12:2). "Let him hear" is an urgent appeal to self-evaluation and action.
10 [And] As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables.
[And: Grk. kai, conj.] As soon as: Grk. hote, temporal adverb. He was: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 4 above. alone: Grk. monos, adj. signifying the exclusion of any other entity; alone, only. His followers: Grk. hoi peri auton, lit. "those around him." The expression implies persons distinguished from the general public and from the twelve. The expression does imply a close connection given the revelation that follows.
along with: Grk. sún, prep. used to denote association or connection, in this case the former. the twelve: Grk. dōdeka, the cardinal number twelve but used here of the original count of disciples Yeshua called to follow him and whom he named as apostles. The parallel passages only say the "disciples" and do not distinguish the twelve (Matt 13:10; Luke 8:9). began asking: Grk. erōtaō, impf., can mean (1) to ask with the focus on seeking information; ask, inquire; or (2) to ask in the sense of making a request for something or someone, sometimes in the form of an earnest plea; ask, request, beg, beseech. The first meaning applies here. Him about the parables: pl. of Grk. parabolē. See verse 2 above. The apostles were no more spiritually advanced than the public in determining Yeshua's real motive in telling the parable.
As good disciples of their rabbi, they asked questions to gain enlightenment. It should be noted that they asked him about "parables" (plural). On the one hand the statement may allude to the parables that follow in the second half of this chapter or parables Yeshua had told previous to this occasion. In reality the parable of the sower contains four parables. They were no doubt familiar with the rabbinic practice of teaching about four types and wanted an explanation of the meaning of the four kinds of locations where the seed fell. In Matthew's version, the question is more specific to understand why Yeshua speaks to the crowds in parables.
11 And He was saying to them, "To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables,
And: Grk. kai, conj. He was saying: Grk. legō, impf. See verse 2 above. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The pronoun alludes to those Yeshua considered his disciples. To you: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. has been given: Grk. didōmi, perf. pass. See verse 7 above. Yeshua's choice to make his disciples into confidants and then personal representatives is significant. In particular Yeshua appointed the apostles as the foundation of the body of Messiah (Eph 2:20). The names of the apostles are inscribed for all eternity on the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:14). Just as God's choice of Israel, Yeshua did not choose them because they were of greater stature than others (Deut 7:7). These apostles were certainly not from the religious elite but they would be given knowledge of the kingdom that the elite could not begin to appreciate.
the mystery: Grk. mustērion, that which awaits divine disclosure or interpretation. In Greek culture mustērion referred to a secret rite or secret teaching. The term occurs 28 times in the Besekh, 21 of which are in the writings of Paul. Yeshua first used the term "mystery" here in explaining why he taught in parables, but the concept of God’s secrecy was originally explained to Moses, "the secret things belong to the Lord" (Deut 29:29). In Scripture a mystery is a reality or plan that God kept concealed from His people but finally revealed to his apostles (cf. Eph 3:5). God had communicated several mysteries to his prophets, but the meaning remained obscure, in effect hidden in plain sight. God's secret counsels were necessary because man cannot really be trusted (John 2:24f) and Satan engages in unceasing warfare against God’s kingdom and would certainly use any intelligence to hinder God’s plan (John 10:10; cf. Eph 6:12; 1Th 2:18; 1Pet 5:8).
The word mustērion, is associated with several other
mysteries in the Besekh:
of the Kingdom: Grk. basileia, the act of ruling or the territory ruled by a king. In the LXX basileia renders Hebrew noun derivatives of the verb malak (SH-4427), become a king; reign (DNTT 2:373). It's important to note that the Hebrew word is used first and foremost for the reign of earthly rulers and only secondarily of God's kingship. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. In secular Greek writings a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos. In ancient polytheistic culture theos was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe as described in Scripture (Gen 1─3; John 1:1-3; Rom 1:25). In spite of its pagan usage translators of the LXX chose theos to render the name of the Creator God Elohim (2,568 times), but sometimes YHVH (over 300 times).
As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos (DNTT 2:67-70). Given the plural nature of Elohim the full triunity of God must be represented in theos. The only God in existence is the God who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing (Gen 1:1) and who chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth for a covenantal relationship (Ex 19:5; Isa 44:6; 45:5-6; 46:9). Thus, theos is not just a representative word for monotheism. God is a Person, not a philosophical construct. In the Besekh theos is used overwhelmingly for the God of Israel. The God of Israel is the only God there is. The deities of all other religions and cults are the product of Satan-inspired imagination. Other religions do not worship the same God as Christians and Jews, because if they did they would not hate Jews and Israel and they would bow down to the Jewish Messiah.
The hope that God would be King over all the earth, with all idolatry banished, pervades Jewish literature. BAG notes that the royal reign of God or kingdom of God is chiefly an eschatological concept, appearing in the Hebrew prophets and Jewish apocalyptic literature. The term appears widely in Jewish literature of Aristeas, Philo, Josephus, the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs and the LXX, especially the Apocrypha. The concept of God's kingly rule is only presented in connection with the Israelite monarchy. Even in the eschatological kingdom the ruler will be a Jewish descendant of David (Jer 23:5; 33:15; Ezek 34:23-24; 37:24-25; Hos 3:5; Zech 12:7-10). Yeshua's mention of the Kingdom of God in this context implies that his parables say something about the nature of his kingdom.
but: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also," sometimes with emphasis, "indeed," "moreover" (Thayer). The first meaning applies here. those: pl. of Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun typically used to refer to a noun (person or thing) immediately preceding in the Greek text; that, that one there. who are outside: Grk. exō, an adv. of place indicating a position that is beyond a limit or boundary. It can even denote movement from a position, i.e., out(side). In the LXX exō renders Heb. chuts, the outside, often in reference to the out of doors in relation to a structure. This is a cryptic comment.
Luke's version uses Grk. loipos, "the rest," to refer to the audience of the parables. "The rest" are those that are part of a group in addition to the ones mentioned. Given that the character of the story parables imply a background of opposition or unreceptive attitude (Edersheim 402), then those "outside" might refer to Yeshua's opponents among the scribes, Sadducees and Pharisees. get: Grk. ginomai, pres. pass. See the previous verse. everything: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 1 above. in parables: pl. of Grk. parabolē. See verse 2 above. The translation of "get everything in parables" sounds crude, implying the recipients are unworthy of anything better. The Greek text is lit. "everything comes in parables" (CSB, CEB, ISV, NAB, NRSV).
Most interpreters consider this clause to be a dramatic contrast that puts the apostles on one side and the common people on the other. The assumption is that Yeshua was intentionally attempting to either hide his identity and mission (as in the so-called Messianic Secret) or he was trying to deceive the common people and save the truth for those properly initiated. Christian interpreters have historically failed to consider the meaning of the parables in their Jewish context. In reality the apostles didn't understand the deeper meaning of the parable any better than the public. Also, the conjunction "but" could be taken in the sense of "moreover" or "furthermore," emphasizing the continuation of thought, perhaps with a slight contrast. Lastly, the purpose of a parable, after all, is to reveal, not to conceal.
Yeshua began his ministry declaring the advent of the kingdom openly and calling people to repent. Parables were a teaching device to shed light into darkened hearts as an act of prevenient grace. Parables by their nature provoke thought and in a subtle manner a person is drawn into the story to reflect on himself and his relationship with God. The parables provided general revelation only for the sake of those not his disciples. The call to repent is plain enough. Yeshua is not going to cast his pearls (kingdom teaching) before "swine" (those who refuse to repent). Spiritual things are appraised by those who are spiritual (1Cor 2:14). Only with the transformation borne of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost did the apostles finally understand the mystery of the kingdom. That being said, parables were not intended exclusively for "outsiders" since Yeshua spoke several parables only for the ears of his apostles. Yeshua explains his use of parables by quoting Isaiah.
12 so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN."
"Go! Tell this people: 'Hear without understanding, and see without perceiving.' 10 Make the heart of this people fat, their ears heavy, and their eyes blind. Else they would see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return, and be healed." (Isa 6:9-10 TLV)
LXX: "Go and say to this people: Hearing you shall hear, but in no way shall you perceive and seeing you shall see, but in no way shall you know. For the heart of this people was thickened and they heard heavily with their ears, and the eyes, closed eyelids, lest at any time they should behold with their eyes, and the ears should hear, and the heart should perceive, and they should turn, and I shall heal them." (Isa 6:10 ABP)
so that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed, in order that, so that, that. while seeing: Grk. blepō, pres. part., may mean (1) possess the physical ability to see; (2) use one's eyes to take note of an object; see, look at, observe; (3) to have inward or mental sight, perceive; or (4) be looking in a certain direction. The third meaning dominates here. The second meaning could be implied in reference to those taking note of Yeshua. We should remember that a participle is a verbal substantive (DM 220), and as such it has an adjectival quality. they may see: Grk. blepō, pres. subj. It is worth considering that the subjunctive mood is used to express mild contingency or probability; it looks toward what is conceivable or potential. and not: Grk. mē, adv. See verse 5 above.
perceive: Grk. horaō, aor. subj., to perceive physically with the eye, or in a fig. sense to experience extraordinary mental or inward perception. and while hearing: Grk. akouō, pres. part. See verse 3 above. they may hear: Grk. akouō, pres. subj. and not: Grk. mē. understand: Grk. suniēmi, pres. subj., to grasp the significance of a word or action, to understand or to comprehend. otherwise: Grk. mē pote, lit. "not ever." The expression supports the hypothetical nature of the future circumstance. they might return: Grk. epistrephō, aor. subj., may mean (1) go back to a physical point; (2) turn about within a space; or (3) to change a mode of thinking. The third meaning applies here. In the LXX epistrephō is used to translate shuv (SH-7725), turn back or return (DNTT 1:354). The verbs depicts movement (i.e., behavior, lifestyle) that has been away from God, but the direction is reversed to go back to God.
The Hebrew concept of repentance is not just thinking differently, feeling sorry over being caught or apologizing. Repentance is humbling oneself before God and taking active steps to turn away from evil in the sense of renouncing and disowning sin, and to turn toward the good or becoming obedient to God’s will as expressed in the commandments (1Kgs 8:33, 35, 48; 2Chr 7:14; Isa 30:15; 59:20; Ezek 18:21; Hos 6:1; Jon 3:8). Repentance is a personal responsibility, yet it requires God’s grace to do it, as Jeremiah says, "ADONAI, turn us to you, and we will come back" (Lam 5:21 CJB). Repentance is always urgent on the lips of the prophets (Cf. Deut 30:10; Isa 45:22; Jer 25:5; 35:15; Ezek 14:6; 18:30, 32; 33:11; Zech 1:3-6).
and be forgiven: Grk. aphiēmi, aor. pass. subj., to release or send away with a range of meaning: (1) release from one's presence; (2) release from an obligation, cancel, forgive; (3) let remain behind; (4) leave standing or lying; and (5) permissive sense of let, let go, allow or tolerate. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX when used of forgiveness aphiēmi renders three different Heb. words (DNTT 1:698): First, primarily Heb. nasa (SH-5375), to lift away in the sense of spare (Gen 18:26; 50:17; Ex 32:32) and secondly, Heb. salach (SH-5545), to forgive or pardon, first in Leviticus 4:20. Sometimes aphiēmi renders Heb. kipper, to cover or make atonement (Isa 22:14). In the Tanakh the one who forgives is God and through the act of forgiveness, the relationship between God and man is reconstituted.
To the modern mind Yeshua's quotation of Isaiah presents a theological conundrum. Some interpreters think that Yeshua deliberately set out to obscure the truth from his listeners. The action to "blind" the eyes and "harden" the heart sounds like taking away the possibility of choice. And, if that were true, how could God blame anyone for sinning (cf. Rom 9:18-20)? The Jewish point of view is reflected in the Talmudic epigram of Rabbi Chanina, "Everything is in the hands of Heaven except the fear of Heaven" (Berachot 33b), which implies that anyone can turn to God (Stern 48). Being created in the image of God (Gen 1:27) means having a will and with it comes accountability for choices (Gen 4:6-7; Deut 30:19). People too often forget that God is a "will-ing being" (a term from Otto Rank, a Jewish psychoanalyst) and is free to exercise His will in His own interests. Scripture affirms God's benevolent attitude:
"Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?" (Ezek 18:23 ESV)
"I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?" (Ezek 33:11 NASB)
"Indeed the Scripture says, 'Every one trusting in Him will not be put to shame.' 12 For there is no difference between Judean and Hellenist, for the same Lord of all is rich toward all the ones calling on Him. 13 For 'Everyone who should call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.'" (Rom 10:11-13 mine)
"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing any to perish but for all to come to repentance." (2Pet 3:9 NASB)
The words of Isaiah must be considered in its context. Isaiah's mission was called to be the voice of God to a rebellious people, not to utter dark sayings and deprive people of the truth. Otherwise, what would be the point in producing the book? As a prophet of God he confronted the sinful culture. Isaiah wanted people to be healed (which is the word used in the Heb. text at the end of verse 10). Generally not considered is the tendency in the Hebrew of the Tanakh to express a consequence as though it were a purpose (Bruce 100). The announcement to Isaiah was a reality check. He was to speak for God, but he needed to realize that the people would not respond as God wished. This instruction would keep Isaiah from judging the success of his ministry on how many souls "were saved."
Yeshua recognizes the irony and lament in Isaiah's message as suiting his own situation. He challenges his apostles to brace themselves for rejection. Yet, according to the parable of the soils there were good hearts that would hear and understand and as a result experience healing and forgiveness and produce the forecasted harvest. The message of Isaiah is an important reality check. Salvation can only be on God's terms and is contingent on readiness (cf. Matt 10:11). The real question is why should God offer mercy at all? Mankind rebelled against God from the beginning and invented nonexistent gods in order to justify a degenerate lifestyle and has been resisting God's will ever since (Rom 1:21-32). That's always been the real issue.
People don't want a holy God telling them how to live. In the minds of many people a God of love should arrange a pleasurable life without suffering and without adverse consequences to bad behavior. They want their "sin" cake and salvation, too. In reality God doesn't have to do anything to "harden" a person. Man's natural propensity toward selfishness and self-will promotes natural hardening (Rom 3:9-18). God simply permits a person to strengthen an attitude that already exists. As Solomon said, "A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy" (Prov 29:1 NASB).
A completely different interpretation might be gained from considering the subject of the verbs in this verse. The quoted passage does not use the name of God at all. Isaiah does not say, "God blinded and God hardened." In reality, Isaiah the prophet is the subject of the verbs in the Hebrew text "make the heart fat and the eyes blind." So, Yeshua could be saying, Isaiah did what God told him to do, to deliver an unacceptable message with a foregone outcome. Since the verbs are used of a spiritual condition, there is yet another possible subject. Consider these passages:
"Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved." (Luke 8:12 NASB)
"Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit" (Acts 5:3 NASB)
"the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, so they might not see the light of the Good News of the glory of Messiah, who is the image of God." (2Cor 4:4 TLV)
"But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness. He doesn’t know where he is going, because the darkness has made his eyes blind." (1Jn 2:11 TLV)
The prophet Isaiah did not blame God for the spiritual blindness of Israel, but rather confronts their unwillingness to see.
"Hear, you deaf, look you blind, so that you may see. … You have seen many things, but you do not pay attention. Though ears are open, no one hears" (Isa 42:18, 20 TLV).
Yeshua's use of Isaiah 6:9-10 especially implies application to his opponents. Yeshua rebuked the Pharisees for their spiritual blindness (Matt 23:16-17, 19, 24, 26) and causing other people to stumble in blindness (Matt 15:14). In contrast God (ADONAI) opens the eyes of the spiritually blind (Ps 146:8).
Explanation of the Parable, 4:13-20
Parallel Passage: Matthew 13:18-25; Luke 8:11-15
13 And He said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables?
And: Grk. kai, conj. He said: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 2 above. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Do you not: Grk. ou, adv. understand: Grk. oida, perf., to have seen or perceived, hence to know. The verb is used for experiential knowledge. In the LXX oida occurs frequently to render Heb. yada (SH-3045), to know, (e.g., Gen 3:5; 4:1), which in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, primarily by experience but also by learning (DNTT 2:395). The perfect tense depicts knowledge that was complete in the past with continuing results to the present. this parable: Grk. parabolē. See verse 2 above. How: Grk. pōs, interrogative adverb introducing a query concerning manner, way, or reason in respect to a matter; how? in what manner/way?
will you understand: Grk. ginōskō, fut. mid., to know, but has a variety of meanings, including (1) to be in receipt of information; (2) form a judgment or draw a conclusion; or (3) have a personal relationship involving recognition of another's identity or value. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX ginōskō renders Heb. yada (SH-3045, 'yaw-dah'), which has a similar wide range of meaning (e.g. Gen 3:5; 4:1, 9), but in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge (DNTT 2:395). all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. the parables: pl. of Grk. parabolē. Yeshua apparently considered the parable of the sower as foundational to all his parables and maybe the simplest to understand. If this parable can't be understood, how can any of them be interpreted?
14 "The sower sows the word.
The sower: Grk. speirō, pres. part., lit. "the one sowing." See verse 3 above. This short verse engages in a play on words. In an extended (midrashic) sense the sower could be any messenger of God. The statement may imply a fulfillment of the promise for Israel found in Ezekiel 36:9, "For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you will be cultivated and sown." But, in the Matthew parallel the sower is identified as the Son of Man, who is Yeshua (Matt 13:37). The Son of Man is also the Seed. The parable reflects the unifying theme of Scripture, what Kaiser calls the "Promise-Plan of God" (18). The doctrine of the Messiah began with a single promise spoken to the serpent on behalf of Chavah (Eve) in the Garden, "I will put animosity between you and the Woman— between your seed and her Seed. He will crush your head, and you will crush his heel. (Gen 3:15).
Thus, Paul proclaimed "From the seed of this man [David], according to promise, God brought to Israel a Savior, Yeshua" (Acts 13:23 mine). Paul goes on in Galatians to declare that the promise given to Abraham in Genesis 15:4-5 points to the Messiah. "Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. It doesn’t say, "and to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "and to your seed," who is the Messiah" (Gal 3:16 TLV).
sows: Grk. speirō, pres. the word: Grk. logos, vocalized expression, word, discourse, statement, message or speech. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar, which has a range of meaning "speech, word, report, command, advice, counsel, thing, matter" (Gen 29:13; BDB 182) (DNTT 3:1087). Logos is used here of a message proclaimed. In Scripture "word" is often combined with "of God" or "of the LORD" to indicate inspired prophetic speech. In the Matthew account of this parable the message is "of the kingdom" (Matt 13:19) and in Luke's version "the word" is "the word of God" (Luke 8:11; cf. 1Pet 1:23), which amounts to substantially the same thing. And, in the book of John Yeshua is the Word (John 1:1).
Christian expositors as Wessel typically see the great emphasis in the parable as being on the act of sowing the seed rather than on the soils into which it is sown. Lane concurs saying, "The Kingdom of God breaks into the world even as seed which is sown on the ground. In the details about the soils there is reflection on the diversity of response to the proclamation of the Word of God, but this is not the primary consideration" (154). This seems a strange conclusion when Yeshua's explanation dwells entirely on the nature of those who hear as symbolized by the soils and the circumstances that hinder a bountiful harvest. The Jewish context offers a simpler approach. Yeshua tells his apostles that there are four types of hearers in terms of their response to the good news of the kingdom.
The four types of soil represent the character of Israel at the time of Yeshua's ministry and may even allude to specific groups within Israel. The parable is clearly a reality check on the apostles' expectation of success. Many Christians labor under the naïve notion that "if each one would win one the whole world would be won." As Yeshua said, "the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. … the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matt 7:13-14). The lack of success is not the fault of God, but is due to the nature of the people hearing the message. The parable may be summarized by Yochanan's observation, "He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God," (John 1:11-12).
15 "These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them.
These: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes its use or follows it; this, these. are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. the ones who: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. are beside: Grk. para, prep. See verse 1 above. the road: Grk. hodos. See verse 4 above. where: Grk. hopou, adv. See verse 5 above. the word: Grk. logos. See the previous verse. is sown: Grk. speirō, pres. pass. See verse 3 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. when: Grk. hotan, conj., properly, "at the time when the condition is met," i.e. whenever that occurs. they hear: Grk. akouō, aor. subj., 3p-pl. See verse 3 above. immediately: Grk. euthus, adv. See verse 5 above. Satan: Grk. satanas, adversary, whether human or a supernatural being. The term occurs 36 times in the Besekh and all but two (Matt 16:23; Mark 8:33) refer to the chief enemy of God.
In the LXX satanas transliterates the Heb. satan (SH-7854, pronounced "sah-tahn"), which means accuser or adversary (BDB 966). The term occurs 27 times in the Tanakh and is used both as a description of a role, whether human or supernatural, and the name of a person. The first usage of Heb. satan is of the angel of ADONAI who confronted Balaam (Num 22:22, 32). The second usage is in reference to a human viewed as satan (1Sam 29:4; 2Sam 19:22; 1Kgs 5:4; 11:14, 25; Ps 109:6). The third usage is in reference to the supernatural figure Satan (1Chr 21:1; Job 1:6 +13t; Zech 3:1). In the Matthew account the enemy is identified as "the evil one" (Matt 13:19) and in Luke's account the enemy is the devil (Luke 8:12). The mention of Satan makes the parable a continuation of the age-old conflict between the Seed of the Woman and the Serpent.
Whether "Satan" is a name or a title cannot be determined with certainty, but he functions more as a heavenly prosecutor. Satan is a created being and not equal to God in power or knowledge. The taunt against the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14:11-15 and the lament for the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28:11-19 depict the original perfection and downfall of the leading cherub. Exactly when this evil character was created or became evil is not disclosed in Scripture. The heavenly beings were most likely created on the second day (cf. Job 38:4-7). In contrast to the common depiction of angels the cherubim (Heb. kerubim, Ex 25:20) and seraphim (Heb. saraphim, Isa 6:2) are the only heavenly beings described as having wings. All the other heavenly messengers, translated as "angels," appeared as ordinary men.
Of importance is that Satan is not an angel, and is sometimes contrasted with angels (here; Zech 3:1; 2Cor 11:14; Rev 12:9). Satan is most frequently mentioned in the story of Job in which the prince of cherubs is an adversary of man. There is no question that the serpent in Genesis 3 who tempts the first couple is this person (Rev 12:9). Why the good and loving God permits the existence of this liar and murderer (John 8:44) is also not explained. In the apostolic narratives Satan is depicted as an opponent of Yeshua and the good news (Mark 4:15), as a tempter (Mark 1:13) and as the head of a demonic empire (Mark 3:23-26). In contrast with the "God of peace" Satan’s character and life goals are summed up in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy."
comes: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. See verse 4 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. takes away: Grk. airō, pres., may mean (1) to cause to move upward; raise up, lift; or (2) move by lifting or taking from one position to another; take away, remove, carry off. The second meaning applies here. the word: Grk. logos. which: Grk. ho. has been sown: Grk. speirō, perf. pass. part. in: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Hearing group number one is represented by the packed earth of a walking path. In the farming situation the taking away of the seed would be done by birds who could easily spot the seeds from the air and swoop down for a meal. The action of the birds if a fait accompli given that the road would not be plowed in any event and the seed could not have sprouted in such soil without plowing.
There are two approaches that can be taken to interpreting Yeshua's explanation of the first situation. The hard soil could represent really hardened hearts. Too many of Israel's religious elite at the time were afflicted with this condition (cf. Mark 3:5; 10:5). Yeshua could have been warning his listeners not to be like the Sadducees who accepted only the written Torah (and none of the Prophets), and, of course, only their interpretation of it. It was of the Sadducees that Yeshua said, "You are of your father the devil" (John 8:44). Their hearts were exceedingly hard, and, not surprisingly, were instigators of Yeshua's arrest and crucifixion.
The second approach recognizes that in the case of all four soils the seed was received. For this group Matthew's account says that the seed was sown "in the heart" (Matt 13:19). So, if the seed was sown in the heart, how could Satan take it away? Satan's purpose is to prevent people from developing lasting trust. So, after the initial acceptance of the message, Satan, or a human with the voice of Satan, casts doubt in the minds of the shallow believer as the Serpent did in the Garden. Satan's method is to question ("Has God said…," Gen 3:1) and then lie. The opponents of Yeshua lied about him, calling him a sinner (John 9:24). Contradicting the message of the kingdom and lying about Yeshua may instill doubt in a new believer.
16 "In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy;
[and: Grk. kai, conj.] In a similar way: Grk. homoiōs, adv., in like manner, similarly, in the same way, equally. these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. are: Grk. eimi, pres. the ones: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. on whom seed was sown: Grk. speirō, pres. pass. part. See verse 3 above. on: Grk. epi, prep. the rocky places: pl. of Grk. petrōdēs, adj., rocky, used of rocky ground with a thin layer of topsoil. who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. when: Grk. hotan, temporal adv. they hear: Grk. akouō, aor. subj. See verse 3 above. the word: Grk. logos. See verse 14 above. "Message" would be a better translation.
immediately: Grk. euthus, adv. See verse 5 above. receive: Grk. lambanō, pres. The verb marks the transit of something from a position to another person who is the agent with the latter being also the receptor; to take (in the active sense) or receive (in the passive sense). it: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. with: Grk. meta, prep., may be used as (1) a marker of association or accompaniment; 'amid,' among,' 'with,' or 'in company with'; or (2) a sequential or positional marker; after, behind. The first usage applies here. joy: Grk. chara, joy as an emotional response that may be experienced in a variety of circumstances or of sharing in a celebration.
17 and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.
and: Grk. kai, conj. they have: Grk. echō, pres. See verse 5 above. no: Grk. ou, adv., particle of strong negation. firm root: Grk. rhiza, root. See verse 6 above. The term is given a figurative application here (cf. Matt 13:21; Luke 8:13). Rhiza is used in the LXX translate Heb. shoresh (SH-8328), a root, used of people in a genealogy, of plants, of a mountain, and of the sea, but especially to represent the root of the Messiah (Isa 11:10; 53:2; Sirach 47:22). in: Grk. en, prep. themselves: pl. of Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun of the third person to denote that the agent and the person acted on are the same. We could say they are only loosely attached to the Messiah, which explains the outcome described here. but: Grk. alla, conj. used adverbially to convey a different viewpoint for consideration; but, on the other hand.
are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. only temporary: Grk. proskairos, limited in duration, temporary. then: Grk. eita, adv. introducing what is next in a sequence, 'then,' or 'next.' when affliction: Grk. thlipsis (from thlibō, to press or crush), distress that is the result of outward circumstances; distress, affliction, suffering, trouble. In the LXX thlipsis renders several Hebrew words that denote need, distress, affliction, or trouble, from personal hostility to war and exile (e.g., Gen 35:3; Ex 4:31; Ps 4:1; 9:9; Isa 10:3) (DNTT 2:807). Yeshua will later warn his disciples of thlipsis in the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24:9; Mark 13:19). or: Grk. ē, conj. used to denote an alternative. persecution: Grk. diōgmos, a program of systematic harassment, especially because of differing belief or expression, persecution.
arises: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part. See verse 4 above. because of: Grk. dia, prep. the word: Grk. logos. See verse 14 above. immediately: Grk. euthus, adv. See verse 5 above. they fall away: Grk. skandalizō, pres. mid., a verb drawn from the imagery of trap-setting or the laying of obstacles in another’s way. The verb can mean (1) cause someone to be guilty of transgression, cause to sin; or (2) cause reaction over what appears to be publicly offensive, shock. The first meaning applies here with perhaps a hint of the second. In Luke's version of the parable the seed that fell on the rock sprouts but withers because of little moisture and no room for root expansion (Luke 8:6). Here the lack of root makes it vulnerable to the sun; hence it dries up and withers away.
Rocky soil represents unrealistic expectations. The rocky soil could be like the Zealots who may have initially welcomed Yeshua as the Messiah, as Simon the Zealot did (Mark 3:18). However, they couldn't reconcile Yeshua's kingdom with the reality of continued Roman oppression. Yeshua seemed to be saying that they should tolerate affliction and persecution. What kind of God tolerates evil or expects his people to live under a dictatorship without fighting for justice? When the Zealots realized that Yeshua was not going to lead them in terrorism or open warfare they turned away from him. Actually, almost all the apostles behaved as this group in both the betrayal of Judas and the abandonment by the rest in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:50).
Another manifestation of this hearer group is the assumption that accepting God's offer of salvation guarantees a good life. The message of the Four Spiritual Laws evangelistic tool is that "God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life." The famed psychologist Albert Ellis (1913-2007), who developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, opined that the normal human expectation of life consists of three basic dictates, or "The Irrational Trinity:"
"Because it would be highly preferable if I were outstandingly competent, I absolutely should and must be. It is awful when I am not and I am therefore a worthless individual.
"Because it is highly desirable that others treat me considerately and fairly, they absolutely should and must and they are rotten people who deserved to be utterly damned when they do not.
"And, because it is preferable that I experience pleasure rather than pain, the world absolutely should arrange this and life is horrible and I can’t bear it when the world doesn’t."
In the third dictate "the world" would include God because if He really is love as the Bible says, then He would arrange a pleasurable life without suffering and without adverse consequences to bad behavior. The analysis of Ellis is very accurate. People become unhappy generally because their expectations of God or life are totally unrealistic, if not selfish. Yeshua called his disciples to take up a cross (sacrifice expectations, Matt 16:24) and put God first. That is the path of contentment and joy.
18 "And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word,
And: Grk. kai, conj. others: pl. of Grk. allos, adj. See verse 5 above. are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. the ones on whom: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. seed was sown: Grk. speirō, pres. pass. part. See verse 3 above. among: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." the thorns: pl. of Grk. akantha. See verse 7 above. Ground in which thorn bushes are growing would not be a hospitable place for grain plants to get a start. these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. are: Grk. eimi, pres. the ones who: pl. of Grk. ho. have heard: Grk. akouō, aor. part. See verse 3 above. The hearing implies receptivity. the word: Grk. logos. see verse 14 above.
19 but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
but: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 1 above. the worries: pl. of Grk. merimna, uneasiness of mind or spirit; distraction, anxiety, concern, care. of the: Grk. ho, definite article, but it could be translated as a demonstrative pronoun, "this" (CEB, CEV, CSB, KJV, NCV, NIV, NKJV, NLT, TEV, WE, WEB, YLT). world: Grk. aiōn, an extended period of time, which may be (1) a general reference to a long period of time in the past ('ages ago') or in the future of a period with no apparent end; eternity; or (2) a segment of extended time determined by qualifiers as present or future; age.
In the LXX aiōn occurs over 450 times and renders Heb. olam, first in Genesis 3:22. Olam means "a long duration, antiquity or futurity" (BDB 761), which is also used as an adverb meaning "for ever, for all time," the first being in Genesis 9:12 (DNTT 3:827). In the Tanakh olam is used for ancient time (Gen 49:26), and indefinite futurity (Deut 15:17), but more often to the everlasting nature of God (Gen 21:33), His laws (Ps 119:89), His promises (Isa 40:8) and His covenant (Gen 9:16; 17:7; Ex 31:16; 2Sam 23:5). Lastly, olam encompasses existence after death and into eternity (Ps 90:2; Isa 45:17; Dan 12:2-3).
Most versions obscure the Jewish idiom with the translation of "world." AMP gives the reasoning for using "world" by explaining its meaning as "the distractions of this age with its worldly pleasures." However, "world" is normally the translation of kosmos, not aiōn (as in Matt 13:35, 38). A few versions have "age" (CSB, HCSB, LITV, MW, NTE, REV, WEB, WMB, YLT). Both Delitzsch and the OJB translate aiōn with the Hebrew olam. The translation of "life" by some versions comes close to the meaning of "age" (CEB, CEV, ERV, NCV, NIRV, NIV, NLT, NLV, TEV, VOICE). Of interest is that the parallel passage in Luke has Grk. bios, "life, livelihood" (Luke 8:14), but Matthew's parallel has aiōn (Matt 13:22).
In Hebrew thought historical time was divided into ages, perhaps coinciding with the great covenants that God made with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David (Eccl 1:10; Rom 16:25; 1Cor 2:7; 10:11; Eph 3:9; Col 1:26; Titus 1:2; Heb 9:26). Yeshua and the apostles speak of two specific ages – the present age (Matt 28:20; Mark 10:30; Titus 2:12) and the age to come (Matt 12:32; Mark 10:30; Heb 6:5). There are no worries in the age to come (Heb 6:5; Rev 22:3-5), but in the present age Adam's children suffer the ill effects of evil (Gal 1:4; Eph 2:2; Titus 2:12). and: Grk. kai. the deceitfulness: Grk. apatē, deception as a quality or instance; deception, trick, fraud, sham. of riches: Grk. ploutos may mean (1) wealth, in a material sense and generally in the apostolic narratives; or (2) fig. of abundant supply, often in the Pauline letters.
and: Grk. kai. the desires: pl. of Grk. epithumia may mean either (1) a strong feeling or interest, 'desire' or (2) an inordinate or improper desire, 'craving.' In the LXX epithumia occurs about 50 times and normally translates the Heb. avvah to express (a) a morally neutral desire (e.g. Deut 12:15, 20); (b) a praiseworthy desire (e.g. Gen 31:30; Prov 10:24; 13:12); or (c) an evil desire opposed to God's will (e.g. Num 11:4, 34, Deut 5:21; 9:22). A few versions translate epithumia with "lusts" (ASV, BRG, DRA, JUB, KJV, WEB), but its common association with sexual sin makes it a poor choice in this context.
for: Grk. peri, prep. with an orientational aspect relating to being near or having to do with something; about, concerning. other things: pl. of Grk. loipos, remaining of what's left; other, rest of. The noun is used to refer to things other than wealth. enter in: Grk. eisporeuomai, pres. mid. part., to go in, to come in, to enter, generally of a locality or a structure, but here of one's life. and: Grk. kai. choke: Grk. sumpnigō, pres., obstruct or constrict by pressure; choke. the word: Grk. logos. See verse 14 above. and: Grk. kai. it becomes: Grk. ginomai, pres. pass. See verse 4 above. unfruitful: Grk. akarpos, no fruit; fruitless, useless, unproductive. An unfruitful plant is one that has not fulfilled the purpose for which it was created. In the Tanakh God likened having uncircumcised hearts to sowing among thorns (Jer 4:3-4).
Thorny soil represents conflicting desires at least and covetous hearts at worst. This soil is like the Pharisees, whom Yeshua rebuked for their greed and desire for things other than what is pleasing to God (Matt 23). Their lives were full of thorns. The Pharisees choked the word by making it a heavy burden for people. At the other end of the spectrum is the rich young ruler who wanted to follow Yeshua, but his attachment to his wealth defeated his good intention (Matt 19:16-22). Many believers are defeated by their failure to set priorities and make daily time for God. Earning and providing for one's family are good things (1Tm 5:8), but God insists on being loved first (Matt 22:37-38).
20 "And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold."
And: Grk. kai, conj. those: pl. of Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun. are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. the ones on whom: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. seed was sown: Grk. speirō, aor. pass. part. See verse 3 above. on: Grk. epi, prep. the good: Grk. kalos, adj. See verse 8 above. soil: Grk. gē. See verse 1 above. Hearing group number four is represented by good soil. A corollary to this concept is found in Psalm 97:11, "Light is sown like seed for the righteous and gladness for the upright in heart." The good soil represents receptive hearts. These hearers are the "worthy ones" the apostles were instructed to identify on their special mission (Matt 10:11). In the context of farming "good soil" is not simply a reference to fertility but to preparation.
For sown seed to produce the ground had to be plowed. Often the plowing followed the broadcast, but sometimes the land was plowed first (NIBD 27). Good plows had a metal blade attached to a shaped branch (or specially made wooden frame) and were pulled by oxen or donkeys. In a sense parables functioned like plows to prepare the heart for the truth of God. and they hear: Grk. akouō, pres. See verse 3 above. In the Hebraic sense to hear is to obey. Also the present tense conveys an action that begins and continues. the word: Grk. logos. See verse 14 above. The "word" is the message of the kingdom. and accept it: Grk. paradexomai, pres. mid., to receive with a positive attitude, to receive, to welcome.
and: Grk. kai. bear fruit: Grk. karpophoreō, pres., to be active in producing the product of a growing process. The verb points to the productivity connected with the time of harvest. The promise of the good soil bearing fruit is similar to the Messianic promise of Isaiah:
"For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes things sown to spring up, so ADONAI Elohim will cause justice and praise to spring up before all the nations." (Isa 61:11 TLV)
thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold: See verse 8 above for these mathematical numbers. The different levels of harvest might suggest the variety in the souls responding to the kingdom message, but the numbers also inform the apostles that they would be more successful in some places than other places. In any event, beginning with Pentecost there would be a great harvest of thousands of Jewish disciples. Another way to view the results is what the disciples will receive as benefits of the kingdom:
"Amen, I tell you," Yeshua replied, "there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for My sake and for the sake of the Good News, 30 who will not receive a hundred times as much now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and property, along with persecutions; and in the olam ha-ba, eternal life." (Mark 10:29-30 TLV)
Parable of the Lampstand, 4:21-23
Parallel Passage: Matthew 5:15-16; Luke 8:16.
21 And He was saying to them, "A lamp is not brought to be put under a basket, is it, or under a bed? Is it not brought to be put on the lampstand?
And: Grk. kai, conj. He was saying: Grk. legō, impf. See verse 2 above. The Greek verb "saying" functions as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. A lamp: Grk. luchnos, lamp, a vessel used for providing light. In the first century the lamp was normally a small oil and wick lamp The translation of "candle" and "candlestick" in the KJV is misleading to modern readers, since the molded candle in use today was not invented until the Middle Ages. is not: Grk. mēti, an interrogative particle expecting a negative answer. brought: Grk. erchomai, pres. pass. See verse 4 above. The verb normally means "to come," but here has the sense of being brought. to be: Grk. hina, conj. See verse 12 above.
put: Grk. tithēmi, aor. pass. subj., may mean (1) to arrange for association with a site, place or put; or (2) arrange for creation of role or status, make or appoint. The first meaning applies here. under: Grk. hupo, prep. used to indicate a position that is relatively lower; below, under. a basket: Grk. modios, a dry measure of about 8.75 liters; a peck-measure or measuring basket. or: Grk. ē, conjunction used to indicate an alternative. under: Grk. hupo. a bed: Grk. klinē, a structure used for lying down, whether stretcher, bed, couch or pallet. Mark and Luke include this extra point of reference. Putting a burning lamp under either a basket or a bed would be not only inappropriate but unsafe.
Is it not: Grk. ou, particle of strong negation. The particle ou is used interrogatively when an affirmative answer is expected. brought to be: Grk. hina. put: Grk. tithēmi, aor. pass. subj. on: Grk. epi. the lampstand: Grk. luchnia refers to the stand upon which a luchnos, or lamp, was placed or hung. In the LXX luchnia translates menorah, which referred both to the seven-branched golden lampstand used in the tabernacle and temple (Ex 26:35; 2Chr 28:20) and a single-branched lampstand used in homes (2Kgs 4:10). The same Greek word is used in Hebrews 9:2 for the seven-branched menorah of the tabernacle. In regular Greek usage the word for lampstand refers mainly to the common single-branch stand found in ancient homes (Luke 8:16; 11:33).
The point of this parable is that the sowers or messengers of the Word should be faithful lights (cf. Matt 5:14), like Yeshua, and declare the truth. The issue is not whether all darkness will be banished, but that the lamp is used to its potential. To this end the messenger must not create barriers that will hinder his light.
22 "For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light.
For: Grk. gar, conj., a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that; for." The conjunction has four uses: (1) explanatory, (2) expressive of astonishment, (3) causal and, (4) inferential. The first use is intended here. nothing: Grk. ou, negative particle. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. hidden: Grk. kruptos, adj., not open to or recognizable by the public; hidden, secret, private. except: Grk. ean mē, lit. "if not." to be: Grk. hina, conj. See verse 12 above. revealed: Grk. phaneroō, aor. pass. subj. (from phōs, "light"), cause to be in a state or condition that makes observation possible; disclose, make clear, make known, manifest, reveal, show. The verb has a particular usage of making known what has been hidden or unknown.
The significance of the verb in this context of a kingdom parable is explained by Paul's comment that the mystery of Messiah hidden for ages and generations has now been revealed to His holy ones, i.e., his apostles (Col 1:26). The manifestation of Yeshua was not accomplished just by verbal explanation, but by a dramatic appearance and physical evidence. nor: Grk. oude, conj., negative particle that links a negative statement as complementary to a preceding negative; neither, not even, nor. has anything been: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 4 above. secret: Grk. apokruphos, adj., secret, hidden away or stored up. The term occurs only three times in the Besekh (also Luke 8:17; Col 2:3), referring to what is kept from nonbelievers. but: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 17 above. that: Grk. hina.
it would come: Grk. erchomai, aor. subj. See verse 4 above. to: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." light: Grk. phaneros, adj., state or condition that makes observation possible, something publicly known, out in the open, apparent. The proverb Yeshua quotes here is not about exposing secret sins (John 3:20), but the unveiling of God's secret plan for the redemption of Israel. The secret things belong to God, but the revealed things belong to the sons of Israel (cf. Deut 29:29; Isa 45:3; Amos 3:7). The statement has a certain irony because in the next year Yeshua's half-brothers will quote this proverb to him about declaring himself as Messiah (John 7:3-4). Nevertheless, the time for hiding the truth will soon be over.
23 "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."
Yeshua repeats the invitation found in verse 9 above.
Parable of Reciprocity, 4:24-25
Parallel Passage: Matthew 7:2; 13:12; 25:29; Luke 6:8; 8:16.
24 And He was saying to them, "Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides.
And: Grk. kai, conj. He was saying: Grk. legō, impf. See verse 2 above. The Greek verb "saying" functions as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Take care: Grk. blepō, pres. imp. See verse 12 above. what: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun, indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. However, here tís has a declarative function and as such acts as a substitute for the relative pronoun hos, which used to specify or give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information (Thayer). you listen to: Grk. akouō, pres., lit. "you hear." See verse 3 above. The saying may allude to the quotation in verse 12 above of Isaiah 6:9-10. Yeshua means, "Heed what you hear from me!"
Yeshua then quotes another proverb, one he used in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 7:2; Luke 6:8). By: Grk. en, prep. your standard: Grk. metron, a device used to meet a standard for determination of amount or dimension, used here fig. of a measured extent or amount. of measure: Grk. metreō, pres., determine the extent of meeting a standard and in the usual sense means to take the dimensions of something. The word is a verb, not a noun, so a better translation would be "of measuring." it will be measured: Grk. metreō, fut. pass. to you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. Yeshua changes from an agricultural setting to one of construction to assert the principle of reciprocity. In common usage a construction worker measures to prepare something to fit or to confirm that some aspect of work conforms to the plan.
and: Grk. kai. more will be given: Grk. prostithēmi, fut. pass., to add on with the Hebraic sense of the action being repeated. you: Grk. humeis. besides: This word is not in the Greek text, but is an interpretive addition. The implication is that for more to be given the standard used for measuring must be one approved by God.
25 "For whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him."
For: Grk. gar, conj. whoever: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. has: Grk. echō, pres. See verse 5 above. to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. more: This word is not in the Greek text. shall be given: Grk. didōmi, fut. pass. See verse 7 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. whoever: Grk. hos. does not: Grk. ou, negative particle. have: Grk. echō, pres. even: Grk. kai. what: Grk. hos. he has: Grk. echō, pres. shall be taken away: Grk. airō, fut. pass. See verse 15 above. from: Grk. apo, prep. with the root meaning of "off, away from" (DM 101), generally used to denote separation. him: Grk. autos.
The proverbial sayings here emphasize that act and consequence are firmly linked like cause and effect. In the Tanakh God is depicted as a personal judge who maintains order in his universe and allows or causes action to return upon the doer. He keeps watch over his servants, recognizing and rewarding right actions and inflicting punishment on the wicked.
In Matthew this saying concerning reciprocal measurement is connected with the introduction of the term "mysteries of the kingdom" and part of the answer given when the disciples ask Yeshua why he taught the crowd in parables (Matt 13:12). This same principle is given in the parable of talents (Matt 25:29).
Parable of the Growing Seed, 4:26-29
26 And He was saying, "The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil;
This parable only occurs in Mark's narrative. And: Grk. kai, conj. He was saying: Grk. legō, impf. See verse 2 and 21 above. The Kingdom of God: See verse 11 above. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. like: Grk. hōs, adv. that connects narrative components and used here for comparison purposes; as, like as, just as. a man: Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man, or mankind. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words: (1) adam, SH-444, used for a human male or generically for man and woman and as a contrast to animals (e.g., Gen 1:26, 27; 2:5); (2) ish, SH-376, adult male or husband (Gen 2:23, 24) and (3) enosh, SH-582, man or mankind, often signifying the aspect of weakness and mortality (Ps 8:4-5) (DNTT 2:564).
who casts: Grk. ballō, aor. subj., cause movement toward a position, which may be used of a vigorous action and be translated as "cast, throw or hurl," or of a more subdued action and be translated as "put, place, lay or bring" (BAG). The first usage applies here. seed: Grk. sporos, grain of a plant used for sowing; seed. upon: Grk. epi, prep. the soil: Grk. gē. See verse 5 above. Through this parable Yeshua offers a reality check that the kingdom will not happen in a quick climatic manner. Rather it will appear in a measured manner, in stages.
27 and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows--how, he himself does not know.
and: Grk. kai, conj. he goes to bed: Grk. katheudō, pres. subj., to be asleep in the natural repose of the body. at night: Grk. nux, night as a chronological period, sunset to sunrise. and: Grk. kai. gets up: Grk. egeirō, pres. mid. subj., to move from an inert state or position and is used with a variety of meanings: (1) to arouse from sleep, to awake; (2) to arouse from the sleep of death, to recall the dead to life; (3) to cause to rise or raise, from a seat or bed; or (4) to raise up, produce, cause to appear, such as appear before the public or a judge, erect a building, or incite opposition. The first meaning applies here.
by day: Grk. hēmera may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life or activity (BAG). The first meaning applies here as a contrast to nux. The Greek text lit. reads "and he sleeps and arises, night and day." The construction of the clause depicts the man's action day after day, not the action of one day. and: Grk. kai. the seed: Grk. sporos. See the previous verse. sprouts: Grk. blastanō, pres. subj., to cause to come out a growth, produce or, to come out as something growing, sprout.
and: Grk. kai. grows: Grk. mēkunō (from mēkos, "length"), pres. mid. subj., become long, grow. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. how: Grk. hōs, adv. that focuses on an aspect of activity. he himself: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. does not: Grk. ou, particle of strong negation. know: Grk. oida, perf. See verse 13 above. The perfect tense would emphasize that the farmer has never known. The manner in which plants grow was a mystery to the ancient farmer. Plant growth is dependent on a variety of factors: soil, sun, water, oxygen, temperature, space and time. Modern science has created labels like photosynthesis and chlorophyll to explain how plants grow, but in the final analysis we know little of that intricate process invented by the Creator.
28 "The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.
Yeshua outlines the process of plant growth that may be easily observed. The soil: Grk. gē. See verse 1 above. produces crops: Grk. karpophoreō, pres. See verse 20 above. by itself: Grk. automatos, adj., without external agency, of its own accord. The word occurs only twice in the Besekh (also Acts 12:10). The description does not attribute pantheistic power to dirt, but simply notes that the farmer cannot make the plant sprout. In fact, plants grow out of the ground without anyone planting them. first: Grk. prōton, adv., having to do with beforeness, with resultant meanings of (1) having a primary position in sequence and (2) standing out in significance or importance. The first meaning has application here.
the blade: Grk. chortos, green growth, as associated with a field or meadow. then: Grk. eita, adv. introducing what is next in a sequence, 'then,' or 'next.' the head: Grk. stachus, the head or spike of a cereal plant containing its seed. then: Grk. eita. the mature: Grk. plērēs, adj., may mean (1) in a state or condition of being supplied abundantly with something, filled up, full of; or (2) at the peak in maturation in reference to grain; full-grown. The second meaning is intended here. grain: Grk. sitos, grain of any kind, although in the Besekh wheat or barley may be inferred. in: Grk. en, prep. the head: Grk. stachus.
29 "But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come."
But: Grk. de, conj. when: Grk. hotan, temporal adv. the crop: Grk. karpos, lit. "fruit." See verse 7 above. permits: Grk. paradidōmi, aor. subj., to convey from one position to another, used here of a crop ripe to deliver its produce. he immediately: Grk. euthus, adv. See verse 5 above. puts in: Grk. apostellō, pres., to cause to move from one position to another, to send. In the LXX apostellō translated Heb. shalach ("to stretch out or to send," SH-7971), often in contexts of commissioning and empowering a messenger (DNTT 1:128). The translation of "put" in this context is odd, although it is also used in other versions (ESV, KJV, NIV, NKJV, OJB, RSV).
the sickle: Grk. drepanon, a sharp implement used for harvesting. The noun comes from the verb drepō, which means to pluck, and was used to refer to a sickle or pruning hook. A drepanon was used for reaping grain, for pruning the vine and cutting off clusters at vintage. For the farmer to "send the sickle" means that he sends workers into the field to cut the grain. because: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, whether (1) defining a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introducing a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introducing a direct quotation and functioning as quotation marks; or (4) indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. The fourth usage applies here.
the harvest: Grk. therismos, the gathering of crops when they reach the appropriate degree of ripeness; harvest. has come: Grk. paristēmi, perf., may mean (1) to place beside, as of positioning or presenting an object; or (2) be in a position beside, stand near/by. The second meaning applies here. The perfect tense of the verb signals the arrival of the harvest and therefore its presence. As in the parable of the wheat and tares (Matt 13:30, 39), the harvest has an eschatological meaning.
Parable of the Mustard Seed, 4:30-33
Parallel Passage: Matthew 13:31-32; Luke 13:18-19.
30 And He said, "How shall we picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it?
And: Grk. kai, conj. He said: Grk. legō, impf. See verses 2 and 9 above. How: Grk. pōs, interrogative adverb. See verse 13 above. shall we picture: Grk. omoioō, aor. subj., to make a comparison. the Kingdom of God: See verse 11 above. or: Grk. ē, conj. denoting an alternative. by: Grk. en, prep., lit. "in." what: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. parable: Grk. parabolē. See verse 2 above. shall we present it? Grk. tithēmi, aor. subj., to arrange for association. Yeshua asks a rhetorical question to set up telling the next parable. The question is such that a teacher would ask and then wait for a response. When the students shrug their shoulders the teacher would respond with the ready made answer.
31 "It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil,
It is like: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 26 above. a mustard: Grk. sinapi, the mustard plant, non-specific. seed: Grk. kokkos, a seed or a grain. which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. when: Grk. hotan, temporal adv. sown: Grk. speirō, aor. pass. subj. See verse 3 above. upon: Grk. epi, prep. the soil: Grk. gē. See verse 5 above. though it is: Grk. eimi, pres. part. See verse 1 above. smaller than: Grk. mikros means relatively limited in extent, in this context in reference to size. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. the seeds: pl. of Grk. sperma refers to a source of propagation, in this context plant seeds. that are: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. upon: Grk. epi, prep., lit. means "upon," and with a noun in the genitive case, as here, indicates contact (DM 106). the soil: Grk. gē. Some versions have "ground" (CSB, HCSB, ICB, LEB, NCV, NEB, NET, TEV).
Many versions render gē in the last clause as "earth," which implies a contradiction. Modern research has discovered that the mustard seed is not the smallest seed on the planet. According to an Internet search certain epiphytic orchids of the tropical rain forest produce the world's smallest seeds, up to 35 million per ounce. However, interpretation should consider that (1) this statement reflects first century knowledge and not current botanical science; (2) Yeshua spoke of seed that is sown for agricultural purposes and not seeds of plants that grow in the wild; (3) Yeshua was not comparing the mustard seed to all other seeds in the world, but to seeds that an Israeli farmer might have sown in his field; (4) the mustard seed of which Yeshua spoke was likely the smallest of those that would produce a tree of height and branches suitable for nesting birds; and (5) Rabbis used the mustard seed in figures of speech for smallness (cf. Matt 17:20; Ber. 31a).
32 yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR can NEST UNDER ITS SHADE."
yet: Grk. kai, conj., lit. "and." when: Grk. hotan, temporal adv. it is sown: Grk. speirō, aor. pass. subj. See verse 3 above. it grows up: Grk. anabainō, pres. See verse 7 above. and: Grk. kai. becomes: Grk. ginomai, pres. See verse 4 above. larger: Grk. megas, adj., exceeding a standard and therefore impressive; great, large. The adj. is used here in a comparative sense. than all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 1 above. the garden plants: Grk. lachanon (from lachainō, "to dig"), any plant used for food and may be translated as "garden herb" or "vegetable." and: Grk. kai. forms: Grk. poieō, pres., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; make, construct, produce, create; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition; do, act, perform, work. The second meaning applies here.
large: Grk. megas. branches: pl. of Grk. klados, may mean (1) a young, tender shoot, broken off for grafting; or (2) a branch, generally in reference to a tree (Thayer). The second meaning is intended here. so that: Grk. hōste, conj. used here to introduce a dependent clause of an actual result. the birds: pl. of Grk. peteinon. See verse 4 above. of the air: Grk. ouranos refers to the area above the earth that encompasses the atmosphere, interstellar space and the transcendent dwelling-place of God (Ps 148:1-4). In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. hashamayim (lit. "the heavens”) (DNTT 2:191). In Scripture ouranos is always "up" as a direction from the surface of the earth. The term as used here of the atmosphere.
can: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid. inf., to be capable for doing or achieving something as qualified in the context. nest: Grk. kataskēnoō, pres. inf., to take up quarters, here of roosting by birds. under: Grk. hupo, prep. See verse 21 above. its: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. shade: Grk. skia may mean (1) shade, as shelter from heat; (2) shadow, as a dark figure or image cast on the ground or some surface by a body intercepting light, such as the sun; or (3) foreshadowing of things to come. The first meaning applies here. The mustard seed in Israel will typically grow to heights of 3.7 meters, or 12 feet, plenty large enough for nesting birds.
Yeshua's parable features the nesting activities of birds in Israel to make a point. The last clause may allude to Ezekiel 17:23, Ezekiel 31:6 or Daniel 4:12, where the nesting represents the security afforded lesser nations by association with a great political power. Even though none of these passages feature the mustard plant, the imagery of birds nesting in Yeshua's parable is most likely drawn from Ezekiel 17:23, which depicts the nations of the world being sheltered by the Messianic Kingdom (Stern 49).
According to the web article "Birds of Israel" (tatzpit.com), there are over 200 species of birds that nest in Israel. Of these 175 species nest annually and the others are irregular nesters. There are 57 nesting species which are permanent residents. The rest are summer nesting birds. The nesting season begins in January. Some species migrate to Israel from Eurasia, but most come from Africa. One specie comes from India. What Yeshua and the apostles knew about the migration of birds into Israel cannot be known with certainty, but Yeshua was a keen observer of nature (cf. Matt 6:26; 8:20; Luke 12:24). Migration could be easily seen.
While unstated the mustard plant could be symbolic of Israel, the smallest of all nations when God brought them out of Egypt (Deut 7:7). God's sovereign plan was that other nations would find refuge and security in the commonwealth of Israel, the true Kingdom of God (cf. Gen 35: 11; Isa 2:2; 11:10; 42:6; 49:6; 60:3, 5; 62:2; 66:18; Micah 4:2; Eph 2:11-15). Then will be fulfilled the word of Isaiah,
"For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes things sown to spring up, so ADONAI Elohim will cause justice and praise to spring up before all the nations." (Isa 61:11 TLV)
The Priority of Parables, 4:33-34
33 [And] With many such parables He was speaking the word to them, so far as they were able to hear it;
[And: Grk. kai, conj., untranslated] With many: pl. of Grk. polus, adj. See verse 1 above. such: Grk. toioutos, demonstrative pronoun that draws attention to something that precedes or follows in the narrative and with a focus on quality or condition; such, such as this. parables: pl. of Grk. parabolē. See verse 2 above. He was speaking: Grk. laleō, impf., is used in the Besekh primarily to mean making an oral statement and to exercise the faculty of speech; assert, proclaim, report, say, speak, talk about, utter. the word: Grk. logos. See verse 14 above. Logos is used to refer to the kingdom message conveyed by the parables.
to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The pronoun "to them" seems to refer back to verse 11 where those "outside" are the ones for whom the parables are intended. so far as: Grk. kathōs, adv. emphasizing similarity, conformity, proportion or manner; as, just as. they were able: Grk. dunamai, impf. See the previous verse. to hear it: Grk. akouō, pres. inf. See verse 3 above. Mark alludes to the relative difference between people in their ability to discern the true import of the parables. Even if they didn't fully grasp the kingdom message, they could still deduce a moral lesson from the parables.
34 and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples.
and: Grk. de, conj. See verse 11 above. He did not: Grk. ou, adv., particle of strong negation. speak: Grk. laleō, impf. See the previous verse. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Again, the pronoun refers to the crowds in verse 11 above. without: Grk. chōris, adv., may mean (1) in a separated place or state; apart; or (2) a condition or circumstance not including; without, apart from. The second meaning applies here. a parable: Grk. parabolē. See verse 2 above. but: Grk. de. He was explaining: Grk. epiluō, impf., may mean (1) make known what something means; explain, interpret; or (2) dispose of a matter in a dispute; resolve, settle. The first meaning applies here. everything: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 1 above. privately: Grk. idios, adj., belonging to oneself, one's own; used here in a sense of privacy.
to His: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. own: pl. of Grk. idios, adj. This usage carries a possessive sense. disciples: pl. of Grk. mathētēs (from manthanō, to learn), one who learns through instruction from a teacher. In the Besekh the noun occurs only in the apostolic narratives and corresponds to the Heb. talmid (SH-8527, scholar or pupil), the student of a Torah scholar (Heb. rabbi). See the note on 2:15 for the expectations of a disciple. Mark makes it clear that pararables were a prominent part of Yeshua's teaching, both publicly and in private with his disciples. However, the point here is that the explanations were only given in private to his apostles.
The Miracle at Sea, 4:35-41
Parallel Passage: Matthew 8:18, 23-27; Luke 8:22, 25.
35 [And] On that day, when evening came, He said to them, "Let us go over to the other side."
The story is full of details that suggest the report of an eyewitness. No doubt Peter's recollection stands behind Mark's narrative. [And: Grk. kai, conj. untranslated] On: Grk. en, prep. that: Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun. day: Grk. hēmera, which normally refers to the daylight hours, but also to the timeframe within which something takes place, which applies here. The phrase is a reminder of one day in the lives of the disciples with their Master when something truly memorable occurred. when evening: Grk. opsia, a variant form of opsios, the period between daylight and darkness, evening. By itself "evening" is not a definite clock time, since the term generally referred to any time after the noon hour. More exact determination must be made from the context.
came: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part. See verse 4 above. In this case, Yeshua certainly would not have set out across the lake in the dark and it could take a few hours to cross, depending on the weather. Departure in the middle to late afternoon would be a like time. Let us go over: Grk. dierchomai, aor. subj., 1p-pl., to move within an area or from one area to another; go or come. The subjunctive mood is hortatory and could be translated "we should go." Yeshua may well have anticipated a divine appointment among the Gerasenes. to: Grk. eis, prep. the other side: Grk. peran, adv., on the other side. This phrase has been a favorite subject of many sermons.
It's easy to malign the disciples for not recognizing the significance of these words while in the midst of the storm, but modern disciples have difficulty with unexpected crises, too. The anticipated and actual landing point is not identified. See the note on 5:1. To the disciples the travel might seem to be aimless, but they were learning that Yeshua rarely revealed his itinerary or his purpose for visiting various places.
36 [And] Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him.
[And: Grk. kai, conj. untranslated] Leaving: Grk. aphiēmi, aor. part. See verse 12 above on "forgiven. the crowd: Grk. ochlos. See verse 1 above. they took Him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. along with them: Grk. paralambanō, pres., may mean (1) to receive to one's side; take, receive; or (2) to cause to go along; take. The second meaning applies here. in: Grk. en, prep. the boat: Grk. ploion. See verse 1 above. In 1986 a fishing boat was unearthed on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee where the water level had dropped due to a drought. The boat measured 27 feet in length and 7.5 feet in width (Lindsey 5). The boat was dated conservatively from 40 BC to 50 AD ("Sea of Galilee Boat," Wikipedia.com). Due to its proximate usage in the area where Yeshua ministered and frequently used boats, the vessel was dubbed by Christians as the "Jesus Boat," although there is no evidence Yeshua ever used the boat.
The boat was built in the known "shell first" fashion, with mortise-and-tenon joinery and constructed mainly of cedar planks and oak frames. Much of the wood was in secondary use, i.e., it had been removed from older, obsolete boats. Additional wood fragments were uncovered nearby, attesting that the boat was found in a place that had served as a shipyard. It was large enough to carry 15 people, including a crew of five. Though apparently used for fishing, it may also have transported passengers and goods ("The Roman Boat," JewishVirtualLibrary.org). While the so-called "Jesus Boat" cannot be directly linked to Yeshua, it does provide evidence of the sort of boat Yeshua and his disciples would have used to cross the lake. It was not a small dingy, but a strong vessel built for the demands of service on the Sea of Galilee.
just as: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 26 above. He was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. This clause is misplaced for translation purposes. The opening clause says lit. "And leaving the crowd they take [present tense] him just as he was in the boat" (Marshall). The present tense heightens the sense of realism. In other words, they departed the area without going ashore. and: Grk. kai, conj. other: pl. of Grk. allos, adj. See verse 5 above. boats: pl. of Grk. ploion. were: Grk. eimi, impf. with: Grk. meta, prep. See verse 16 above. Him: Grk. autos. This is a detail that only Mark provides. No mention is made of their origin or ownership, but the same thing happened after the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:23-24). Some of the spectators apparently intended to follow Yeshua. The "other boats" don't arrive with Yeshua at his destination, so either they gave up, were driven back by the storm or even became lost in the storm.
37 And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up.
And: Grk. kai, conj. there arose: Grk. ginomai, pres. mid. See verse 4 above. The verb could be translated "came to be" or "happened." a fierce: Grk. megas, adj., lit. "great." See verse 32 above. gale: Grk. lailaps, a sudden storm, squall, whirlwind, or hurricane. of wind: Grk. anemos, the wind in the sense of the air currents that influence weather. In general the air currents normally move out of the west, although wind locally can come from any direction. The wind is very important in the hydrologic cycle to transfer water vapor from the oceans to the land in the form of precipitation. Such storms result from differences in temperatures between the seacoast and the mountains beyond. The Sea of Galilee lies 680 feet below sea level. It is bounded by hills, especially on the east side where they reach 2000 feet high.
These heights are a source of cool, dry air. In contrast, directly around the sea, the climate is semi-tropical with warm, moist air. The large difference in height between surrounding land and the sea causes large temperature and pressure changes. This results in strong winds dropping to the sea, funneling through the hills. The Sea of Galilee is small, and these winds may descend directly to the center of the lake with violent results. When the contrasting air masses meet, a storm can arise quickly and without warning. Small boats caught out on the sea are in immediate danger. The Sea is relatively shallow, just 200 feet at its greatest depth. A shallow lake is "whipped up" by wind more rapidly than deep water, where energy is more readily absorbed. ("Sea of Galilee," ChristianAnswers.net)
and: Grk. kai. waves: pl. of Grk. kuma, a wave, surge, or billow of water. were breaking: Grk. epiballō, impf., may mean (1) to move something so as to put it over or on something; or (2) move forcefully against. The second meaning applies here. over: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." the boat: Grk. ploion. See verse 1 above. The verb describes the boat being buffeted by the waves and there would no doubt be a large amount of water spray flying over the sides. so much that: Grk. hōste, conj. See verse 32 above. the boat: Grk. ploion. was already: Grk. ēdē, adv. with focus on temporal culmination, now, already.
filling up: Grk. gemizō, pres. pass. inf., to load something; fill. Early Greek writers used the verb to describe loading a ship with commodities, but later writers use it in a more general sense of fill. The text does not say that the boat was full of water, because in that event the boat would have already sunk and Yeshua would have got up without an invitation. Nevertheless, enough water was being taken on that the men could not bail fast enough. Luke's version of the story says, "they began to be swamped and to be in danger" (Luke 8:23).
38 [And] Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?"
[And: Grk. kai, conj. untranslated.] Jesus Himself: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The name of Yeshua (Grk. Iēsous,) does not appear in this chapter at all. Yeshua is identified by how he is addressed. was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. in: Grk. en, prep. the stern: Grk. prumna, the rear or hindmost part of a ship or boat; stern. For a commercial boat the place for any distinguished stranger is on the little seat placed at the stern (Wessel). asleep: Grk. katheudō, pres. part. See verse 27 above. on: Grk. epi, prep. the cushion: Grk. proskephalaion, something on which to rest one's head, a pillow or cushion. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. The definite article with the noun may indicate that the cushion was associated with the stern as its customary location.
This is the only place in the apostolic narratives where Yeshua is said to have slept; but being human he would have needed sleep like any other man. He must have been very tired to have slept through such a violent storm. and: Grk. kai, conj. they woke: Grk. egeirō, pres. See verse 27 above. Him: Grk. autos. The description here is almost like comic relief, a scene that Peter could laugh about afterwards. The stern deck where Yeshua lay must have been higher than the bottom of the boat, because he was not lying in water. However, given the nature of the storm Yeshua would have been wet as the rest of the men. and: Grk. kai. said: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 2 and 21 above. to Him: Grk. autos.
Teacher: Grk. didaskalos, voc. case, teacher or instructor who regularly engaged in the imparting of knowledge or skills, a vocation of special status among the Israelites. In the LXX didaskalos occurs only twice: in Esther 6:1 for Heb. qara (SH-7121), "one who reads," and in 2Maccabees 1:10 to denote Aristobulus, the head of the Egyptian Jewish community, who having dedicated an exposition of the Pentateuch to King Ptolemy Philometor, is called a teacher clearly for this reason (DNTT 3:766). The LXX normally uses the participle of didaskō ("instruct, teach") to translate the participial form of Hebrew verbs for persons identified as teaching. Hebrew education is more concerned with ethical instruction and obedience. Elsewhere in the Besekh didaskalos is used interchangeably with Rabbi ("my teacher," Matt 23:8; John 1:38; 3:2; 20:16).
In the first century, as represented in the Qumran texts, the Hebrew participle moreh (SH-3384), "one who instructs," was the equivalent of didaskalos. Two other important Hebrew terms also occur: rab, "teacher of the Law," and rabbî ("my teacher") (DNTT 3:766f). A Jewish Rabbi in the first century had the task of expounding the Torah and giving rulings in matters of the law. He had pupils (Heb. talmidim) who studied his teachings and were duty bound to obey his edicts. Since the disciples and Yeshua conversed in Hebrew, we may speculate on which word the Peter used. When Rabbi is used in the vocative case (direct address) it is always on the lips of a disciple (e.g., John 1:49; 3:2; 4:31; 6:25; 9:2; 11:8). When the general public and adversaries addressed Yeshua as "Teacher" (e.g., Matt 8:19; 12:38; Mark 5:35; 9:17), they most likely said "Moreh."
do You: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. not: Grk. ou, adv. care: Grk. melō, pres., be an object of care or thought, be of concern to, be of interest to. that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 29 above. we are perishing: Grk. apollumi, pres. mid., may mean (1) cause severe damage; destroy, kill; or (2) experience disconnection or separation; lose, perish. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX apollumi represents 38 different Hebrew words. Most frequently it translates abad (SH-7), to be lost, perish or to destroy (DNTT 1:463). The verb depicts a situation that threatens the very existence of an individual or group.
Matthew and Luke do not include this rebuke, which silently underscores the independent authorship of the apostolic narratives. Some Christian scholars who believe Mark to the source for Matthew and Luke assume the omission of the question in the other narratives to be intentional to avoid embarrassment. Contrary to Wessel, Mark is not being rude. He reports what happened based on the memory of Peter, who may well have been the instigator of the question. In the situation the question may have seemed appropriate to the others on board if every man was engaged in trying to save the ship and Yeshua was doing nothing. At the same time the question dares to impugn Yeshua's character.
39 And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Hush, be still." And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.
And: Grk. kai, conj. He got up: Grk. diegeirō, aor. pass. part., to wake up, to rouse in the physical sense. The verb would be lit. translated "having been awakened." Contrary to the translation of the NASB and other versions, Mark does not say that Yeshua was standing, only that he woke up. Remaining prone, with his torso slightly raised, would illustrate his continued calm in spite of the storm. and rebuked: Grk. epitimaō, aor., to express urgently to elicit compliance, to reprimand, to warn, to reprove or to rebuke. the wind: Grk. anemos. See verse 37 above.
and: Grk. kai. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 2 and 21 above. to the sea: Grk. thalassa (corresponding to Heb. yam) used of both a sea, such as the Mediterranean, and inland bodies of water, i.e., lake. The English language "sea" normally refers to a body of salt water and "lake" to a body of fresh water, although local convention can override this rule. Thalassa (as its Hebrew counterpart) simply refers to a body of water deep enough and wide enough to require a boat to cross it. The seas (Heb. yammim) were formed on the third day of creation (Gen 1:10), but the present configuration of oceans, seas, lakes and rivers came about in the aftermath of the Noahic deluge (cf. Job 12:14-15; 14:11-12; 22:15-16; 26:10; 38:8-11; Ps 29:3-10; 65:5-9).
Hush: Grk. siōpaō, pres. imp., observe silence, be quiet. The command addresses the noise of the storm. The present tense indicates to start and continue the action. be still: Grk. phimoō, perf. pass. imp., may mean either (1) to shut a mouth with a tightening device, to muzzle, or (2) cause to cease making a sound, to silence, muzzle or gag. The second meaning applies here. The perfect tense means to go back to being silent or still as before the storm. The narrative appears to personify nature. This situation is not the same as creation where God brought the universe into existence by the spoken word (Gen 1:3, 6, 14; Ps 33:6, 9; 148:5). Generally in Scripture God issues commands to personalities. It is very likely that this storm was demonically instigated (cf. Job 1:16-19) and the command is directed at the Satanic forces responsible.
And: Grk. kai. the wind: Grk. anemos. died down: Grk. kopazō, aor., abate, used only of wind dying down or dropping (also in Matt 14:32 and Mark 6:31). and: Grk. kai. it became: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 4 above. perfectly: Grk. megas, adj., lit. "greatly." See verse 32 above. calm: Grk. galēnē, a relaxed condition, stillness on a body of water (also in Matt 8:26; Luke 8:24). Creation responded to the Creator. The sudden reversal of the storm recalls the these Psalms,
"You respond to us in righteousness with awe-inspiring works —O God of our salvation— hope of all ends of the earth and farthest seas, 7 who establishes mountains by His power, being girded with might, 8 who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the tumult of the peoples." (Ps 65:6-8 TLV)
"So they cried out to ADONAI in their distress, and He brought them out of their troubles. 29 He stilled the storm to a whisper—the waves were hushed. 30 They were glad when it became calm, and He led them to their desired haven." (Ps107:28-30 TLV)
Seeing that Yeshua's miracle reflects the psalms shows how the Besekh sets about establishing Yeshua's divinity (Stern 931).
40 And He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
And: Grk. kai, conj. He said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 2 and 21 above. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Why: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. See verse 24 above. are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. you afraid: Grk. deilos, to be cowardly, to be fearful or timid. On the surface this seems like an insensitive question. Any fisherman caught out in the middle of the Sea of Galilee in a raging storm would be afraid. Some of the apostles probably didn't know how to swim. However, the question was intended to provoke serious self-reflection because they should have taken confidence from Yeshua's own serenity. Do you still: Grk. oupō, a negative particle indicating than an activity, circumstance or condition is in abeyance or suspension, not yet.
have: Grk. echō, pres. See verse 5 above. no faith: Grk. pistis incorporates two primary facets of meaning, first that which causes trust and faith, i.e., faithfulness or reliability, and second, trust or confidence in an active sense (BAG). The noun could be translated either "trust" or "faithfulness. Stern translated pistis as "trust" in the CJB because it more clearly signifies to English-speakers confident reliance on God that generates holy deeds, as opposed to mere mental acknowledgement of facts and ideas. The only other version to mention "trust" is the AMPC, which clarifies the meaning of "faith" as "no firmly relying trust." In the LXX pistis generally renders Heb. emunah, firmness, steadfastness, or fidelity (SH-530; BDB 53), mainly of men's faithfulness (1Sam 26:23; 2Kgs 12:15; 22:7; Jer 5:1, 3; 7:28; 9:3; Hos 2:20), but also of God's faithfulness (Ps 33:4; Lam 3:23; Hab 2:4). The LXX usage emphasizes that the intended meaning of pistis is faithfulness.
Yeshua's statement could actually be declarative since there is no interrogative pronoun in the statement: i.e., "you have not yet trusting-faithfulness." If Yeshua is asking a question then it would be a continuation of the interrogative pronoun tís and would be "Why have you not yet trusting-faithfulness?" Yeshua implies that he had expected better of them by this point. With the two meanings of pistis, Yeshua's question could have two levels of meaning. His question could mean "why would you not trust me in these circumstances? The second level of meaning would be "why have you not yet absolute loyalty to me?" The second level of meaning is inferred from their question that impugned his character. In normal circumstances a talmid might question his rabbi about what some statement in Torah meant, but he would never question his character. The disciples' question "don't you care" was impertinent in the extreme. This is the first of several rebukes of the disciples by Yeshua for their lack of loyal trust (cf. 7:18; 8:17-18, 21, 32-33; 9:19).
41 [And] They became very much afraid and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"
[And: Grk. kai, conj. untranslated] They became very much afraid: The phrase in Greek is "they feared [Grk. phobeō, aor. pass] with great [Grk. megas, adj.] fear [Grk. phobos]." The verb phobeō has two basic meanings that are opposite: (1) to be in a state of apprehension, with emotions ranging from anxiety to terror; and (2) to have special respect or reverence for, i.e., deep respect. The first meaning applies here. The noun phobos may mean (1) the feeling of need to escape from or avoid a threat; fear; (2) feeling of respect; reverence, awe; or (3) the process of causing in someone a feeling of need to escape from a situation; intimidation. The first meaning applies here. and: Grk. kai, conj. said: Grk. legō, impf., 3p-pl. See verse 2 and 21 above.
to: Grk. pros, prep. one another: Grk. allēlōn, reciprocal pronoun, each other, one another. Of interest is that the disciples do not pose the following question to Yeshua. Who: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. See verse 24 above. then: Grk. ara, conj., marker of inference based on preceding matter; then, so. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 15 above. that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 29 above. even: Grk. kai. See verse 1 above. the wind: Grk. anemos. See verse 37 above. and: Grk. kai. the sea: Grk. thalassa. See verse 39 above. obey: Grk. hupakouō, pres., be in compliance, obey what is heard. Him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun.
The calming of the storm is an example of a providential miracle in nature. It is not a creation type miracle, because storms naturally occur on the Sea of Galilee and after a time subside. Yeshua merely speeded up the process to such a degree that the apostles recognized that it was contrary to nature. This was a startling experience, because it forced the apostles to reevaluate their understanding of Yeshua's identity. Healing miracles could be explained as a special anointing from God. Miracle healings occurred in the Tanakh, but no one thought Elijah or Elisha was supra-human. Calming the sea put Yeshua in an entirely separate category. In the Tanakh only angels or God himself performed miracles of nature. Who is this rabbi? The apostles were given a glimpse of the truth later declared by Paul,
"For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." (Col 1:16-17)
"in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power." (Heb 1:2-3)
Such a miracle could not have occurred by accident or coincidence nor did the apostles imagine it. If Yeshua was God in flesh, as the apostles declared, then a miracle of nature is entirely consistent with that claim.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
BBMS: Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online.
Bruce: F.F. Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus. InterVarsity Press, 1983.
Danker: Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Colin Brown, ed. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Edersheim: Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1883). New Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1993. Also online.
Kaiser: Walter C. Kaiser, The Promise-Plan of God: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. Zondervan, 2008.
Lane: William L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1974. (New International Commentary on the New Testament)
Lindsey: Robert L. Lindsey, Jesus Rabbi & Lord: The Hebrew Story of Jesus Behind Our Gospels. Cornerstone Publishing, 1990.
LSJ: Henry George Liddell (1811-1898) and Robert Scott (1811-1887), A Greek-English Lexicon. rev. ed. Sir Henry Stuart Jones. Clarendon Press, 1940. Online.
Stern: David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. 5th ed. Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1996.
Wessel: Walter W. Wessel, Mark. Vol. 8, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.
Young: Brad Young, The Parables: Jewish Tradition and Christian Interpretation. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1998.
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