24 Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 “But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 26 “But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27 “The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 “And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves *said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29 “But he *said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 ‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”
36 Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37 And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 “So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 “Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Mat 13:36-43)
I have put all of the parable and explanation up there for you in all three accounts. I have also added the segments which follow in all three synoptic gospels. Take time to look over them. As my Greek professor used to tell us, read it through a number of times until the point of the author begins to sink in.
There are those who think Matthew has primacy and therefore Mark has changed Matthew’s reading to make it more climactic. But that doesn’t follow the facts as we know them. Mark was the first gospel written following by Matthew and Luke. Luke has told us at the start of his gospel that he gathered all the witnesses, including Mark, and perhaps Matthew. Some say Matthew and Luke didn’t know what each were writing, rather they were working from another written document called Q. I don’t hold with that theory. If Luke didn’t not have Matthew’s document then I believe they were indeed working from shared material but it was oral tradition not necessarily a written document.
Whatever the case our challenge is to figure out why Matthew would reverse the acceptable order (and the logical order) of 30 60 100 to give us 100 60 30. Mark’s makes the most sense. Start from 30 and building to 100 is logical from the point of view of developing growth from lower to higher yields. It is also logical from the point of view of highlighting the 100 fold increase by building up to it and indeed finishing with it, leaving in the place of emphasis.
Don’t forget my offerings in recent Gems on the matter.
There is lots of wacky stuff out there. How do we avoid the wacky and stick to the truth? What is truth? We have to be careful to exegete and not eisegete the passage. Exegete (lead or to read out of) means to get from Scripture what the original author meant. Eisegete means to read into Scripture what we think it means to us. In short to read into Scripture what was not intended in the first place.
The first step is to realise we are talking about the yield on a planting of wheat. It is that simple. The following are some helpful comments from the commentators who are listed in E-Sword.
Thirty-fold is a good crop, even for such plains as Esdraelon, just below Nazareth. In the time of Christ is might be possible to realize in favorable seasons a hundred-fold.
Note that we are simply talking about the yield on the planting of a seed of wheat. As I said the other day it is all to do with how many wheat kernels you get back per seed planted. A 30-fold yield was considered good in some areas while a 100-fold yield was wonderful. Perfectly possible either one of them and all points in between.
Matthew reverses Mark’s order to give emphasis to the most abundant yield (“a hundred”). At the same time, there is no suggestion that the lesser yields occur because there has been insufficient effort on the part of certain (true) disciples. All of the soil is good, whether the yield is 100, 60, or 30. A parallel is provided in the parable of 25:14-30, where the talents are distributed in descending order (5, 2, 1).
The use of thirty, sixty and one hundred fold is limited in the Bible text. The parallel passages in Matthew [13:8 and 13:23] and Mark [4:8 and 4:20] are the only occurrences of 30-fold and 60 fold in the whole Bible. So we don’t have other passages to check the usage and the background. The usage of 100-fold is almost the same as it is for 30 and 60-fold – I.e. Mark 4:8, 20 and Matthew 13:8, 23. But there is also one other verse in each gospel where a hundred times or 100-fold is used. I.e. Matthew 19:29 and Mark 10:30. This is found in the passage related to leaving houses, brothers, sisters mothers fathers children of farms for the sake of the gospel. What is interesting here is that Luke doesn’t use the word “100-fold” (Luke 18:30) but like Matthew, uses “many times” instead of “100-fold”. In the Matthew passage the original documents of the New Testament are divided in their witness between “many times” and “100-fold”. It appears most likely that the documents which record the reading “100-fold” have been harmonized to find the readings in Matthew 13:8 and 13:23. Whereas the Lukan reading in 18:30 is original.
A survey of the use of the pure numbers 100, 60 and 30 yields the following:
Here is the scale of values to be used. A man between the ages of twenty and sixty is valued at fifty shekels of silver, as measured by the sanctuary shekel. Lev 27:3
60 was the upper limit of usefulness, 20 was the lower limit.
There is another interesting use of “30” is found in the fourth chapter of the book of Numbers.
List all the men between the ages of thirty and fifty who are eligible to serve in the Tabernacle. (Num 4:3)
This refrain is repeated in 4:23, 30, 35, 39, 43 and 47. This refers to the fact that men who were 30 were now eligible for service in the Tabernacle or later in the temple. Notice Jesus then starts his public ministry at age 30.
Another interesting usage to note about the numbers 30, 60 and 100 is the fact that Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born. (Gen 21:5) Isaac was 60 when Jacob was born. (Gen 25:26) but Jacob wasn’t 30 when any of his sons were born. We are not told how old Jacob was when each of his sons were born. But we are told that Joseph was 30 when he was given his role by Pharaoh in Egypt. (Gen 41:46) Of course that fits the age of entry into service mentioned above. There are many who make much of this and come up with grand theories of significance in the context of the sowing of the seed. But is it biblical or is it fanciful?
While I was checking other patterns in the Word of God for 30, 60 and 100 I came across the following passages which show a 30 / 60 / 100 pattern.
Then the whole community of Israel set out from Elim and journeyed into the wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there on the fifteenth day of the second month, one month after leaving the land of Egypt.Exodus 16:1
The LORD’s Passover begins at sundown on the fourteenth day of the first month.Leviticus 23:5
Putting these two verses together we conclude that there were 30 days between when the Israelites left Egypt after taking the Passover to when they arrived in the Wilderness of Sin.
Exactly two months after the Israelites left Egypt, they arrived in the wilderness of Sinai. After breaking camp at Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and set up camp there at the base of Mount Sinai.Exodus 19:1-2
Thus on the 60th day they arrived at the foot of Mt Sinai.
Look at the very next verse in the passage above.
Then Moses climbed the mountain to appear before God. The LORD called to him from the mountain and said, “Give these instructions to the family of Jacob; announce it to the descendants of Israel:Exodus 19:3
Then Moses disappeared into the cloud as he climbed higher up the mountain. He remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights.Exodus 24:18
Moses remained there on the mountain with the LORD forty days and forty nights. In all that time he ate no bread and drank no water. And the LORD wrote the terms of the covenant—the Ten Commandments—on the stone tablets.Exusod 34:28
This happened when I was on the mountain receiving the tablets of stone inscribed with the words of the covenant that the LORD had made with you. I was there for forty days and forty nights, and all that time I ate no food and drank no water. At the end of the forty days and nights, the LORD handed me the two stone tablets inscribed with the words of the covenant.Deut 9:9, 11
This is after Mose’s encounter with the glory of God described in Exodus 33 and 34. Moses was on the mountain on the 100th day while the people stayed at the foot of the mountain.
It was 30 days when they arrived in the Wilderness of Sin at a place called Kibroth Hataavah (Graves of Craving). After 60 days they arrived at the foot of Mount Sinai. After 100 days Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the 10 Commandments and his face shining from the afterglow glory of God. Is this a coincidence or does this have something to do with the 30 / 60 / 100 of the Parable of the Sower?
I don’t know at this point but it is worth musing and praying about.
You may wonder why I have repeated the elements above which I have clipped from past Gems. I figure you might like all the pieces on the same page. Furthermore close to 100 new people have joined us in the last week or so hence I thought it best to give them an outline of what we have covered before we attempt to solve the problem.
The ball is back in your court again. Time to ponder whether 30, 60 and 100 carry significance in the parable of the sower and why Matthew changes the order as he does. Why too does Luke omit the 30 60 100 usage for much simpler 100 fold?
Time for you to decide what you think. My suggestions in the next Gem.
People laugh because I am different. I laugh because they all are the same.Ian Vail
Sometimes I think I understand everything, and then I regain consciousness.Anon
Confidence is the feeling you have before you really understand the problem.Anon
It’s frustrating when you know all the answers, but nobody bothers to ask you the questions.Anon
Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.Benjamin Franklin