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The Parable of the Sower

13 On that day after Jesus went out of the house, he sat by the lake.[a] And such a large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat[b] to sit while[c] the whole crowd stood on the shore. He[d] told them many things in parables,[e] saying: “Listen![f] A sower went out to sow.[g] And as he sowed, some seeds[h] fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other[i] seeds fell on rocky ground[j] where they did not have much soil. They sprang up quickly because the soil was not deep.[k] But when the sun came up, they were scorched, and because they did not have sufficient root, they withered. Other seeds fell among the thorns,[l] and they grew up and choked them.[m] But other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundred times as much, some sixty, and some thirty. The one who has ears had better listen!”[n]

10 Then[o] the disciples came to him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 He replied,[p] “You have been given[q] the opportunity to know[r] the secrets[s] of the kingdom of heaven, but they have not. 12 For whoever has will be given more, and will have an abundance. But whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.[t] 13 For this reason I speak to them in parables: Although they see they do not see, and although they hear they do not hear nor do they understand. 14 And concerning them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

You will listen carefully[u] yet will never understand,
you will look closely[v] yet will never comprehend.
15 For the heart of this people has become dull;
they are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes,
so that they would not see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’[w]

16 “But your eyes are blessed[x] because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For I tell you the truth,[y] many prophets and righteous people longed to see[z] what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

18 “So listen to the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one[aa] comes and snatches what was sown in his heart;[ab] this is the seed sown along the path. 20 The[ac] seed sown on rocky ground[ad] is the person who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. 21 But he has no root in himself and does not endure;[ae] when[af] trouble or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 The[ag] seed sown among thorns is the person who hears the word, but worldly cares and the seductiveness of wealth[ah] choke the word,[ai] so it produces nothing. 23 But as for the seed sown on good soil, this is the person who hears the word and understands. He bears fruit, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.”[aj]

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  1. Matthew 13:1 sn Here lake refers to the Sea of Galilee.
  2. Matthew 13:2 sn See the note at Matt 4:21 for a description of the first-century fishing boat discovered in 1986 near Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.
  3. Matthew 13:2 tn Grk “and all the crowd.” The clause in this phrase, although coordinate in terms of grammar, is logically subordinate to the previous clause.
  4. Matthew 13:3 tn Here καί (kai) has not been translated.
  5. Matthew 13:3 sn Though parables can contain a variety of figures of speech (cf. the remainder of chapter 13), many times they are simply stories that attempt to teach spiritual truth (which is unknown to the hearers) by using a comparison with something known to the hearers. In general, parables usually advance a single idea, though there may be many parts and characters in a single parable and subordinate ideas may expand the main idea further. The beauty of using the parable as a teaching device is that it draws the listener into the story, elicits an evaluation, and demands a response.
  6. Matthew 13:3 tn Grk “Behold.”
  7. Matthew 13:3 sn A sower went out to sow. The background for this well-known parable, drawn from a typical scene in the Palestinian countryside, is a field through which a well-worn path runs. Sowing would occur in late fall or early winter (October to December) in the rainy season, looking for sprouting in April or May and a June harvest. The use of seed as a figure for God’s giving life has OT roots (Isa 55:10-11). The point of the parable of the sower is to illustrate the various responses to the message of the kingdom of God.
  8. Matthew 13:4 tn In Matthew’s version of this parable, plural pronouns are used to refer to the seed in v. 4 (αὐτά [haauta]), although the collective singular is used in v. 5 and following (indicated by the singular verbs like ἔπεσεν [epesen]). For the sake of consistency in English, plural pronouns referring to the seed are used in the translation throughout the Matthean account. In both Mark and Luke the collective singular is used consistently throughout (cf. Mark 4:1-9; Luke 8:4-8).
  9. Matthew 13:5 tn Here and in vv. 7 and 8 δέ (de) has not been translated.
  10. Matthew 13:5 sn The rocky ground in Palestine would be a limestone base lying right under the soil.
  11. Matthew 13:5 tn Grk “because it did not have depth of earth.”
  12. Matthew 13:7 sn Palestinian weeds like these thorns could grow up to 6 feet in height and have a major root system.
  13. Matthew 13:7 sn That is, crowded out the good plants.
  14. Matthew 13:9 tn The translation “had better listen!” captures the force of the third person imperative more effectively than the traditional “let him hear,” which sounds more like a permissive than an imperative to the modern English reader. This was Jesus’ common expression to listen and heed carefully (cf. Matt 11:15; 13:43; Mark 4:9, 23; Luke 8:8; 14:35).
  15. Matthew 13:10 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.
  16. Matthew 13:11 tn Grk “And answering, he said to them.” This construction is somewhat redundant in English and has been simplified in the translation. Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  17. Matthew 13:11 tn This is an example of a “divine passive,” with God understood to be the source of the revelation (see ExSyn 437-38).
  18. Matthew 13:11 tn Grk “to you it has been given to know.” The dative pronoun occurs first, in emphatic position in the Greek text, although this position is awkward in contemporary English.
  19. Matthew 13:11 tn Grk “the mysteries.”sn The key term secrets (μυστήριον, mustērion) can mean either (1) a new revelation or (2) a revealing interpretation of existing revelation as in Dan 2:17-23, 27-30. Jesus seems to be explaining how current events develop old promises, since the NT consistently links the events of Jesus’ ministry and message with old promises (Rom 1:1-4; Heb 1:1-2). The traditional translation of this word, “mystery,” is misleading to the modern English reader because it suggests a secret which people have tried to uncover but which they have failed to understand (L&N 28.77).
  20. Matthew 13:12 sn What he has will be taken from him. The meaning is that the one who accepts Jesus’ teaching concerning his person and the kingdom will receive a share in the kingdom now and even more in the future, but for the one who rejects Jesus’ words, the opportunity that that person presently possesses with respect to the kingdom will someday be taken away forever.
  21. Matthew 13:14 tn Grk “with hearing,” a cognate dative that intensifies the action of the main verb “you will listen” (ExSyn 168-69).
  22. Matthew 13:14 tn Grk “look by looking.” The participle is redundant, functioning to intensify the force of the main verb.
  23. Matthew 13:15 sn A quotation from Isa 6:9-10. Thus parables both conceal or reveal depending on whether one is open to hearing what they teach.
  24. Matthew 13:16 sn This beatitude highlights the great honor bestowed on the disciples to share in this salvation.
  25. Matthew 13:17 tn Grk “truly (ἀμήν, amēn) I say to you.”
  26. Matthew 13:17 sn This is what past prophets and righteous people had wanted very much to see, yet the fulfillment had come to the disciples. This remark is like 1 Pet 1:10-12 or Heb 1:1-2.
  27. Matthew 13:19 sn Interestingly, the synoptic parallels each use a different word for Satan here: Mark 4:15 has “Satan,” while Luke 8:12 has “the devil.” This illustrates the fluidity of the gospel tradition in often using synonyms at the same point of the parallel tradition.
  28. Matthew 13:19 sn The word of Jesus has the potential to save if it germinates in a person’s heart, something the devil is very much against.
  29. Matthew 13:20 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  30. Matthew 13:20 tn Grk “The one sown on rocky ground, this is the one.” The next two statements like this one have this same syntactical structure.
  31. Matthew 13:21 tn Grk “is temporary.”
  32. Matthew 13:21 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  33. Matthew 13:22 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  34. Matthew 13:22 tn Grk “the deceitfulness of riches.” Cf. BDAG 99 s.v. ἀπάτη 1, “the seduction which comes from wealth.”
  35. Matthew 13:22 sn That is, their concern for spiritual things is crowded out by material things.
  36. Matthew 13:23 tn The Greek is difficult to translate because it switches from a generic “he” to three people within this generic class (thus, something like: “Who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one instance a hundred times, in another, sixty times, in another, thirty times”).