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The Parable of the Weeds

24 He presented them with another parable:[a] “The kingdom of heaven is like a person who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, an enemy came and sowed darnel[b] among the wheat and went away. 26 When[c] the plants sprouted and produced grain, then the darnel also appeared. 27 So the slaves[d] of the landowner[e] came and said to him, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where did the darnel come from?’ 28 He said, ‘An enemy has done this!’ So[f] the slaves replied, ‘Do you want us to go and gather it?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, since in gathering the darnel you may uproot the wheat along with it. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At[g] harvest time I will tell the reapers, “First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burned, but then gather[h] the wheat into my barn.”’”

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

31 He gave[i] them another parable:[j] “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed[k] that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest garden plant and becomes a tree,[l] so that the wild birds[m] come and nest in its branches.”[n]

The Parable of the Yeast

33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with[o] three measures[p] of flour until all the dough had risen.”[q]

The Purpose of Parables

34 Jesus spoke all these things in parables to the crowds; he did not speak to them without a parable. 35 This fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet:[r]

I will open my mouth in parables,
I will announce what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.”[s]

Explanation for the Disciples

36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him saying, “Explain to us the parable of the darnel[t] in the field.” 37 He[u] answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world and the good seed are the people[v] of the kingdom. The poisonous weeds[w] are the people[x] of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 As[y] the poisonous weeds[z] are collected and burned with fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather from his kingdom everything that causes sin as well as all lawbreakers.[aa] 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace,[ab] where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.[ac] The one who has ears had better listen![ad]

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  1. Matthew 13:24 tn Grk “He set before them another parable, saying.” The participle λέγων (legōn) is redundant and has not been translated.
  2. Matthew 13:25 tn Or “sowed poisonous weeds”; KJV “tares.” The Greek term ζιζάνιον (zizanion) is generally understood to refer to darnel (Lolium temulentum), an especially undesirable weed that bears an uncanny resemblance to wheat until the ears of grain appear (L&N 3.30; BDAG 429 s.v.). So close is the resemblance to genuine wheat that darnel is sometimes called “false wheat.” Darnel is considered poisonous; ingesting the weed causes feelings of drunkenness and can prove fatal. Under Roman law the sowing of such poisonous plants in someone else’s field was specifically prohibited (C. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary [Eerdmans, 2009], 387). A number of recent English translations use “weeds,” but this does not convey the poisonous nature of darnel or the similarity in appearance to wheat.
  3. Matthew 13:26 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  4. Matthew 13:27 tn See the note on the word “slave” in 8:9.
  5. Matthew 13:27 sn The term landowner here refers to the owner and manager of a household.
  6. Matthew 13:28 tn Here δέ (de) has been translated as “so” to indicate the implied result of the owner’s statement.
  7. Matthew 13:30 tn Here καί (kai) has not been translated.
  8. Matthew 13:30 tn Grk “burned, but gather”; “then” has been added to the English translation to complete the sequence begun by “First collect.”
  9. Matthew 13:31 tn Grk “put before.”
  10. Matthew 13:31 tn Grk “He set before them another parable, saying.” The participle λέγων (legōn) is redundant and has not been translated.
  11. Matthew 13:31 sn The mustard seed was noted for its tiny size.
  12. Matthew 13:32 sn This is rhetorical hyperbole, since technically a mustard plant is not a tree. This could refer to one of two types of mustard plant popular in Palestine and would be either ten or twenty-five ft (3 or 7.5 m) tall.
  13. Matthew 13:32 tn Grk “the birds of the sky” or “the birds of the heaven”; the Greek word οὐρανός (ouranos) may be translated either “sky” or “heaven,” depending on the context. The idiomatic expression “birds of the sky” refers to wild birds as opposed to domesticated fowl (cf. BDAG 809 s.v. πετεινόν).
  14. Matthew 13:32 sn The point of the parable seems to be that while the kingdom of God may appear to have insignificant and unnoticeable beginnings (i.e., in the ministry of Jesus), it will someday (i.e., at the second advent) be great and quite expansive. The kingdom, however, is not to be equated with the church, but rather the church is an expression of the kingdom. Also, there is important OT background in the image of a small plant that grew and became a tree: Ezek 17:22-24 pictures the reemergence of the Davidic house where people can find calm and shelter. Like the mustard seed, it would start out small but grow to significant size.
  15. Matthew 13:33 tn Grk “hid in.”
  16. Matthew 13:33 sn This measure was a saton, the Greek name for the Hebrew term “seah.” Three of these was a very large quantity of flour, since a saton is a little over 16 pounds (7 kg) of dry measure (or 13.13 liters). So this was over 47 lbs (21 kg) of flour total, enough to feed over a hundred people.
  17. Matthew 13:33 tn Grk “it was all leavened.”sn The parable of the yeast and the dough teaches that the kingdom of God will start small but eventually grow to permeate everything. Jesus’ point was not to be deceived by its seemingly small start, the same point made in the parable of the mustard seed, which preceded this one.
  18. Matthew 13:35 tc A few significant mss (א* Θ ƒ1, 13 33) identify the prophet as Isaiah, a reading that is significantly harder than the generic “prophet” because the source of this prophecy is not Isaiah but Asaph in Ps 78. Jerome mentioned some mss that had “Asaph” here, though none are known to exist today. This problem is difficult because of the temptation for scribes to delete the reference to Isaiah in order to clear up a discrepancy. Indeed, the vast majority of witnesses have only “the prophet” here (א1 B C D L W Γ Δ 0233 0242 565 579 700 1241 1424 M lat sy co). However, as B. M. Metzger points out, “if no prophet were originally named, more than one scribe might have been prompted to insert the name of the best known prophet—something which has, in fact, happened elsewhere more than once” (TCGNT 27). In light of the paucity of evidence for the reading ᾿Ησαΐου, as well as the proclivity of scribes to add his name, it is probably best to consider the shorter reading as Grk “was spoken by the prophet, saying.” The participle λέγοντος (legontos) is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.
  19. Matthew 13:35 sn A quotation from Ps 78:2.
  20. Matthew 13:36 tn Or “poisonous weeds.” See the note on the word “darnel” in 13:25.
  21. Matthew 13:37 tn Grk “And answering, he said.” This construction is somewhat redundant in English and has been simplified in the translation. Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  22. Matthew 13:38 tn Grk “the sons of the kingdom.” This idiom refers to people who should properly be, or were traditionally regarded as, a part of God’s kingdom. L&N 11.13 translates the phrase: “people of God’s kingdom, God’s people.”
  23. Matthew 13:38 tn Or “The darnels.” Here “poisonous weeds” contrasts with “the good seed” mentioned previously in the verse.
  24. Matthew 13:38 tn Grk “the sons of the evil one.” See the preceding note on the phrase “people of the kingdom” earlier in this verse, which is the opposite of this phrase. See also L&N 9.4; 11.13; 11.14.
  25. Matthew 13:40 tn Grk “Therefore as.” Here οὖν (oun) has not been translated.
  26. Matthew 13:40 tn Or “the darnels.”
  27. Matthew 13:41 tn Grk “the ones who practice lawlessness.”
  28. Matthew 13:42 sn A quotation from Dan 3:6.
  29. Matthew 13:43 sn An allusion to Dan 12:3.
  30. Matthew 13:43 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; 13:9; Mark 4:9, 23; Luke 8:8; 14:35).