Matthew 13:25
But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
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(25, 26) His enemy came and sowed tares.—The act described was then—and still is—a common form of Eastern malice or revenge. It easily escaped detection. It inflicted both loss and trouble. The “enemy” had the satisfaction of brooding for weeks or months over the prospect of the injury he had inflicted, and the vexation it would cause when discovered. The tares, known to botanists as the Lolium temulentum, or darnel, grew up at first with stalk and blade like the wheat; and it was not till fructification began that the difference was easily detected. It adds to the point of the parable to remember that the seeds of the tares were not merely useless as food, but were positively noxious.

13:24-30, 36-43 This parable represents the present and future state of the gospel church; Christ's care of it, the devil's enmity against it, the mixture there is in it of good and bad in this world, and the separation between them in the other world. So prone is fallen man to sin, that if the enemy sow the tares, he may go his way, they will spring up, and do hurt; whereas, when good seed is sown, it must be tended, watered, and fenced. The servants complained to their master; Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? No doubt he did; whatever is amiss in the church, we are sure it is not from Christ. Though gross transgressors, and such as openly oppose the gospel, ought to be separated from the society of the faithful, yet no human skill can make an exact separation. Those who oppose must not be cut off, but instructed, and that with meekness. And though good and bad are together in this world, yet at the great day they shall be parted; then the righteous and the wicked shall be plainly known; here sometimes it is hard to distinguish between them. Let us, knowing the terrors of the Lord, not do iniquity. At death, believers shall shine forth to themselves; at the great day they shall shine forth before all the world. They shall shine by reflection, with light borrowed from the Fountain of light. Their sanctification will be made perfect, and their justification published. May we be found of that happy number.While men slept, his enemy came ... - That is, "in the night," when it could be done without being seen, an enemy came and scattered bad seed on the new-plowed field, perhaps before the good seed had been harrowed in.

Satan thus sows false doctrine in darkness. In the very place where the truth is preached, and while the hearts of people are open to receive it, by false but plausible teachers he takes care to inculcate false sentiments. Often it is one of his arts, in a revival of religion, to spread secretly dangerous notions of piety. Multitudes are persuaded that they are Christians who are deceived. They are awakened, convicted, and alarmed. They take this for conversion. Or they find their burden gone; they fancy that they hear a voice; or a text of Scripture is "brought" to them, saying that their sins are forgiven; or they see Christ hanging on the cross in a vision; or they dream that their sins are pardoned, and they suppose they are Christians. But they are deceived. None of these things are any conclusive evidence of piety. All these may exist, and still there be no true love to God or Christ, and no real hatred of sin and change of heart. An enemy may do it to deceive them, and to bring dishonor on religion.

Sowed tares - By "tares" is probably meant a degenerate kind of wheat, or the darnel-grass growing in Palestine. In its growth and form it has a strong resemblance to genuine wheat; but it either produces no grain, or that of a very inferior and hurtful kind. Probably it comes near to what we mean by "chess." It was extremely difficult to separate it from the genuine wheat, on account of its similarity while growing.

"The tare abounds all over the East, and is a great nuisance to the farmer. It resembles the American "cheat (chess)," but the "head" does not droop like cheat, nor does it branch out like oats. The grain, also, is smaller, and is arranged along the upper part of the stalk, which stands perfectly erect. The "taste" is bitter, and when eaten separately, or even when diffused in ordinary bread, it causes dizziness, and often acts as a violent emetic. Barn-door fowls also become dizzy from eating it. In short, it is a strong soporific poison, and must be carefully winnowed, and picked out of the wheat grain by grain, before grinding, or the flour is not healthy. Even the farmers, who in this country generally "weed" their fields, do not attempt to separate the one from the other. They would not only mistake good grain for them, but very commonly the roots of the two are so intertwined that it is impossible to separate them without plucking up both. Both, therefore, must be left to "grow together" until the time of harvest." - (Thomson) "The Land and the Book," vol. ii. pp. 111, 112. Thus, "tares" aptly represented hypocrites in the church. Strongly resembling Christians in their experience, and, in some respects, their lives it is impossible to distinguish them from genuine Christians, nor can they be separated until it is done by the Great Searcher of hearts at the day of judgment. An enemy the devil hath done it. And nowhere has he shown profounder cunning, or done more to adulterate the purity of the gospel.

And went his way - There is something very expressive in this. He knew the soil; he knew how the seed would take root and grow. He had only to sow the seed and let it alone. So Satan knows the soil in which he sows his doctrine. He knows that in the human heart it will take deep and rapid root. It needs but little culture. Grace needs constant attendance and care. Error, and sin, and hypocrisy are the native products of the human heart, and, when left alone, start up with deadly luxuriancy.

25, 38, 39. But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way—(See on [1291]Mt 13:38, 39). See Poole on "Matthew 13:33". But while men slept,.... Good men, ministers, and churches; whose case this sometimes is to be asleep in a spiritual sense: and which sleepiness lies in a non-exercise of grace; in a sluggishness to and in duty; in a contentment in external exercises of religion; in lukewarmness about the cause of Christ; in an unconcernedness about sins of omission and commission; and in a willingness to continue in such a state; and which arises from a body of sin and death; from worldly cares; weariness in spiritual duties; a cessation from spiritual exercises; an absenting from spiritual company; oftentimes from outward ease, peace, and plenty, sometimes from a long expectation of the bridegroom's coming, and the delay of it; and from its being a night season, a time of darkness and security: such a case with the church, and good men, is very dangerous, as it exposes to every sin and snare; renders them liable to lose the presence of Christ, their liveliness and comfort; and tends to poverty and leanness of soul: such are in danger of being surprised with the midnight cry; and the churches are likely to be filled with hypocrites and heretics:

his enemy came; by whom is meant the devil, Matthew 13:39 who is an enemy to Christ personally, and showed himself to be so in his infancy, by stirring up Herod to seek his life: and, when grown up, by instigating the Jews to contrive his death; which they attempted by various methods, and which, at last, he compassed by Judas, and the Scribes and Pharisees; and also to Christ mystical, to the church, and all true believers; whose adversary he is, going about, like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour: the same came into the field, the world, and church in it;

and sowed tares among the wheat; by "the wheat", is meant the same with the "good seed", the children of God, true believers in Christ; who are comparable to wheat, for the choiceness of it, that being the choicest grain, so they are the chosen of God, and precious, and the excellent in the earth: and because it dies before it rises and springs up; so the saints do, and will do, both in a spiritual and corporal sense; and because of the purity and whiteness of it, so they are pure and white, being sanctioned by the Spirit, washed in the blood of Christ, and justified by his righteousness; and because of its substance, fulness, weight, and permanence, so they are filled from Christ's fulness, and with the fulness of God, and fruits of righteousness, and remain, and cannot be driven as the chaff is, but continue to live, because Christ their head lives; and because of its gradual increase, so they increase in spiritual light, grace, and experience; and because of the chaff that adheres to it, so sin and corruption cleave to the saints in this life; and lastly, because it needs both the flail and the fan, so believers need chastisements, afflictions, and corrections: by "the tares" sown among them, are meant "the children of the wicked one"; Satan, the enemy and adversary, as in Matthew 13:38 who are to be understood, not of profane sinners; though these are the children of the devil; but of professors of religion, men either of bad principles, or of bad lives and conversations; whom Satan, by some means or another, gets into churches, and they become members thereof: at first they look like wheat, like true believers, have a show of religion, a form of godliness, an appearance of grace, but are destitute of it; and prove tares, unfruitful, unprofitable, and of no account, yea hurtful, and whose end is to be burned.

And went his way; somewhere else, to do more mischief; and having done all he could at present here, undiscovered, not taken notice of by ministers and churches; they being all asleep, and having lost, in a great measure, the spirit of discerning. The word we render "tares", and the Ethiopic version "thistles", probably means the same the Jewish doctors call Zunin (s); and which, they say, is a sort of wheat, and not of a different kind from it; that when it is sown it looks like wheat, and is sown for it, but is changed in the earth, both as to its nature and form, and brings forth this kind. In the generation in which the flood was, they say (t), they sowed wheat, and the earth brought forth what we render "tares", and bids fair to be what is here meant; and fitly expresses false professors, nominal Christians, men of degenerate principles and practices: for not what we call tares, or vetches, can be meant, which may be removed from the wheat without danger, but rather this degenerate wheat; or that wheat which is blasted, and which may be observed sometimes to grow upon the same root, and therefore cannot be taken away, without rooting up the wheat also.

(s) Misn. Kilaim, c. 1. sect. 1. & Trumot, c. 2. sect, 6. & Maimon. in ib. T. Hieros. Kilaim, fol. 26. 4. Maimon. Hilch. Kilaim, c. 3. sect. 3.((t) Bereshit Rabba, sect. 28. fol. 23. 4.

But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
Matthew 13:25. Ζιζάνιον] Darnel, lolium temulentum, a grain resembling wheat, acting injuriously upon the brain and stomach, and likewise known by the name of αἶρα; see Suidas. In Talmudic language it is called זונין; Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. p. 680.

The people who slept are men generally (pragmatic way of hinting that it was during the night, when no one else would be present), not merely the agri custodes (Bengel), or the labourers (Michaelis, Paulus), whom it would have been necessary to indicate more particularly by means of δοῦλοι or some similar expression. This little detail forms part of the drapery of the parable (comp. Matthew 25:5), and is not meant to be interpreted (as referring, say to the sleep of sin, Calovius; or to the negligence of instructors, Chrysostom, Jerome; or to the slowness of man’s spiritual development, Lange), as is further evident from the fact that Jesus Himself has not so explained it.

αὐτοῦ ὁ ἐχθρ.] his enemy; comp. note on Matthew 8:3ἐπισπείρειν: to sow over what was previously sown, Pind. Nem. viii. 67; Theophr. c. pl. iii. 15. 4; Poll. i. 223.Matthew 13:25. ἐν τῳ καθεύδειν = during the night.—α. ὁ ἐχθρὸς, his enemy. Weiss (Matt.-Evang., 347) thinks this feature no part of the original parable, but introduced to correspond with the interpretation (Matthew 13:39), no enemy being needed to account for the appearance of the “tares,” which might grow then as now from seed lying dormant in the ground. Christ’s parables usually comply with the requirements of natural probability, but sometimes they have to depart from them to make the parable answer to the spiritual fact; e.g., when all the invited are represented as refusing to come to the feast (Luke 14:16-24). The appearance of the “tares” might be made a preternatural phenomenon out of regard to the perfect purity of the seed, and the great abundance of bad men in a holy society. A few scattered stalks might spring up in a natural way, but whence so many?—ἐπέσπειρεν, deliberately sowed over the wheat seed as thickly as if no other seed were there.—ζιζάνια = bastard wheat, darnel, lolium temulentum, common in Palestine (Furrer, Wanderungen, p. 293), perhaps a Semitic word. Another name for the plant in Greek is αἷρα (Suidas, Lex.).Matthew 13:25. Τοὺς ἀνθρώπους, the men) sc. those whose business it was to watch the field. The Lord Himself does not sleep.—Αὐτοῦ, His) it is not said their enemy.—ζιζάνια, zizans[625]) This word does not occur in the LXX. nor in the more ancient Greek writers; it is therefore evidently formed from the Hebrew ציץ, a flower. Many flowers which are noxious to the husbandman grow among the corn.—ἀνὰ, κ.τ.λ., throughout, etc.) everywhere among the wheat.—ἈΠῆΛΘΕΝ, departed[626]) on which account the zizans[627] remained for some time unnoticed.

[625] E. V. “Tares.”—“Apparently the darnel or bastard wheat (lolium album), so often seen in our fields and by our hedgerows; if so, what follows will be explained, that the ‘tares’ appeared when the wheat came into ear, having been previously not noticeable. It appears to be an Eastern word, expressed in the Talmud by זו̇נִים. Our Lord was speaking of an act of malice practised in the East; persons of revengeful disposition watch the ground of a neighbour being ploughed, and in the night following sow destructive weeds.” (Roberts’ Oriental Illustrations, p. 541, cited by Trench on the Parables, p. 68.) (The practice is not unknown even in England at present. Since the publication of the first edition of this Commentary, a field at Gaddesby, in Leicestershire, was maliciously sown with charlock [sinapis arvensis] over the wheat. An action at law was brought, and heavy damages obtained against the offender.) “Jerome in loc. says:—‘Inter triticum et zizania quod nos appellamus lolium, quamdiu herba est, et nondum culmus venit ad spicam, grandis similitudo est, et in discernendo nulla aut perdifficilis distantia.’ Jerome, it must be remembered, resided in Palestine.“—ALFORD in loc. Wordsworth says, that it was a degenerate wheat, and which may also be reclaimed into wheat. See also footnote 5.—(I. B.)

[626] He went his way, in order that he might not be observed.—V. g.

[627] DR KITTO, in his Illustrated Commentary, says, “The Darnel, called Zuwan by the Arabs and Turks, and Zizanion by the Spaniards, is described by Dr Russell and Forskal as well known to the people of Aleppo, as often growing abundantly in their corn-fields. If its seeds remain mixed with the meal, it is found to occasion dizziness and other injurious effects upon those who eat of the bread: the reapers in that neighbourhood, however, do not separate the plant, but, after the threshing, reject the seeds by means of a van or sieve. We are also informed that, in other parts of Syria, the plant is drawn up by hand, in time of harvest, along with the wheat, and is then gathered out, and bound up in separate bundles.”—(I. B.)Verse 25. - But while men slept. Not in the explanation. If more than merely a part of the necessary framework of the story, it points to the secrecy with which the devil works. His enemy came. This form of malice is still well known in the East (cf. Exell's 'Biblical Illustrator,' in loc.). And sowed. Sowed over or in (ἐπέσπειρεν). Tares; i.e. bearded darnel, Lolium temulentum, "a kind of rye grass, and the only species of the grass family the seeds of which are poisonous. The derivation of zauan [ζιζάνια] is from zan, 'vomiting,' the effect of eating darnel being to produce violent nausea, convulsions, and diarrhoea, which frequently ends in death" (Tristram, 'Nat. Hist. of Bible,' p. 487, edit. 1889). Among the wheat, and went his way; went away (Revised Version, ἀπῆλθεν). Sowed (ἐπέσπειρεν)

The preposition ἐπί, upon, indicates sowing over what was previously sown. Rev., "sowed also."

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