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Matthew 13:1-58
The Kingdom of God
Last Updated 9/10/00

CHAPTER 13:1-58 TEXT:

The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord. Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old. And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence. And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.


INTRODUCTION

The subject of the Kingdom of God is the essential lesson of the Bible, beginning with creation account in Genesis and its final realization in the book of Revelation.

The message of the Kingdom is the message of the Gospel:

Mark 1:14 - Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.

A study of the Kingdom is one of the more interesting and complex that a Bible student can undertake. Not only are there many aspects to the Kingdom, but there are also different "levels" at which one can investigate all of that Scripture presents and hints at.

A detailed description of these aspects and levels is found in our Revelation study. For now, we will simply say that a study of the Kingdom can be approached at these levels:

  1. A basic level where we are concerned mostly with the literal text
  2. A level where we seek to understand some of the deeper truths
  3. A mystical level

Such mystical teachings will mostly be left to our Revelation study. For now, we will provide two examples. One can be found in the book of Zechariah. The prophet, speaking of this time, says that this is when the "name" of the Lord will be made one:

Zechariah 14:9 - And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.

Another, found in the Talmud, says that the Temple represents the Kingdom of God:

The goal of Creation is that the Kingdom of God (represented by the Temple) shall be established on earth, as it is in heaven; and finally, the name of the Messiah, i.e., the assurance that God's purpose will ultimately be achieved.1

In this analysis of Matthew, we will remained focused on the more basic aspects of the Kingdom, looking to a degree at some of its deeper truths. We will first present an overview of the Kingdom, then examine some of Yeshua's parables from this chapter of Matthew as well as the other gospels.

THE KINGDOM OF GOD

The Kingdom of God is spoken of throughout Scripture and in Jewish writings as an everlasting Kingdom where God and those who are faithful to Him exist in harmony. The Kingdom of God is also called the Kingdom of Heaven (especially in the book of Matthew), as "heaven" is often substituted for "God" in Jewish texts.

Depending on context, the Kingdom can mean one or both of two "time periods."  It can be said to be the 1000-year Messianic Kingdom on earth, and/or eternity in Olam Haba, the world to come. The former, a time when there is still some degree of sin and death, leads directly into the latter, where sin and death will be no more:

1 Corinthians 15:24-26 - Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

Both the Tenakh and "New Testament" show us that the Kingdom is also the restored kingdom of Israel. King David was promised that the Kingdom of Israel, established through his offspring, would one day be this everlasting Kingdom of God:

2 Samuel 7:8-16 - "Now then, tell my servant David, `This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies. "`The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me ; your throne will be established forever.'"

Mark 11:9-10 - And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.

Acts 1:6 - Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"

THE "KINGDOM" OF SATAN

Counter to the Kingdom and God's plan to establish it, is Satan and his efforts to establish his own unholy Kingdom. The book of Revelation shows the final chapters of this story, including mention of the Kingdom coming at the time of Satan's defeat:

Revelation 12:10 - And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

Perhaps the earliest reference to the battle between these two kingdoms is the dialogue between God and the serpent in the Garden of Eden:

Genesis 3:15 - And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Those in opposition to God's truth can be said to be supporting Satan and his kingdom:

John 8:44 - Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

Revelation 2:9 - I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

It is important to note here, that the two verses above are often misused to say that the Pharisees were blind to who Yeshua was, because they "kept the Law." Nothing could be further from the truth, as Yeshua Himself said that the Tenakh (Old Testament) spoke of Him (Luke 24:44-45), and He Himself kept the Torah and said none of it was done away with (Matthew 5:17-21).

The correct understanding of these statements has to do with the fact that many of the Pharisees (who were the most powerful religious group of the time, but not the only one) had misused Torah and established their own righteousness, based on their ability to do the works of the Torah, and/or their simply being born Jews. Both Yeshua and Paul castigate such people and say that this is why they missed Messiah. A correct understanding of Torah, resulting in obeying the commandments of God in faith (i.e., Hebrews 4:2), will point a person to Yeshua, as He is the goal of the Torah (Romans 10:4)2

Our Revelation study shows that the "battles" between these kingdoms are waged both in the heavenly realms as well as on earth. In the earthly realm, Satan's kingdom is identified with Edom, the (non-believing) world, Babylon or Rome. God's Kingdom is associated with Israel, and specifically with David or Jacob:

Luke 1:33 - And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

THE KINGDOM PRIOR TO YESHUA

God's work to establish His Kingdom can be seen by tracing the "faithful remnant" that has existed in every generation. With Abraham, he set aside a specific people, Israel, to be His "Messiah," that would bring about the Kingdom. The promise continued through Jacob and his sons, the 12 tribes of Israel.

Finally, with Moses and the children of Israel who were taken out of Egypt, the opportunity came to usher in the Messianic age. Due to the unbelief of the people, (including the sins of the Golden Calf and the episode of the 12 spies), this chance was forfeited.

The earthly kingdom of Israel was established at David's time, with the building of the Temple by Solomon. As seen above, a promise was made that this would be an everlasting kingdom -- but there was still much to occur before that would happen.

THE KINGDOM AT YESHUA'S TIME

As we have discussed earlier in this study, another offer of the Kingdom came again, with the arrival of Yeshua:

Matthew 4:17 - From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 10:7 - And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 12:28 - But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.

Once more however, the sin of the people prevented this from happening, although the offer continued to be extended after Yeshua's death (Acts 3), probably until around the time the Temple was destroyed, at which point it was again withdrawn.

There will not be another offer of the Kingdom, dependent on the faithfulness of human beings. God will "forcibly" usher in His Kingdom at a future date, as seen in the book of Revelation (as well as Scriptures such as Matthew chapters 24 and 25).

THE KINGDOM TODAY

Although there is a literal earthly and heavenly Kingdom to come, there is also a degree to which we can "experience" the Kingdom in our lifetime. The "New Testament" states that those who are following God in faith are said to already belong to the Kingdom. This is similar to saying that although we are presently "saved," we are not yet experiencing the "totality" of that salvation until we are actually with God.

As the Kingdom is a time where we are "one with God," those things that would presently be considered "miraculous," would be the regular state of being in the Kingdom. Yeshua's twelve apostles could be said to have been "walking in the Kingdom," as they had superior God-given insight into the Scriptures, and were able to perform open miracles (those outside of the laws of nature).

This idea is not foreign to Jewish interpretation of Scripture, however it is definitely belongs in the area of mystical studies. As a for instance however, consider the following from a recent book on Nachmanides, one of the most famous teachers in Jewish history.

Teaching on Deuteronomy 11:22, he says:

Possibly this cleaving includes the remembering of God and continually loving Him, that is, don't separate your thoughts from Him while you walk on the road, when you lie down, and when you get up. Such an individual will relate to people, but his heart, his innermost thoughts and feelings are always facing God. Furthermore, possibly the souls of such elevated individuals are bound up with the mystical life source, even while alive, for they themselves are a dwelling place for the Shekhinah.3

Conversely, the kingdom of Satan, has its own "opportunity" for the miraculous. Some of the more common occurrences seen today, are the actions of popular "psychics," seen on television and in magazine advertisements. Although many of these people are charlatans, some do possess uncanny power to reveal hidden truths about people. Offering people a "shortcut" into the spiritual realm is one of Satan's oldest tricks.

It should be noted however, that not all things done in opposition to God, are blatantly "unbiblical." Yeshua warned (Matthew chapter 7), that there would even be those who did things in His name that He would turn away.

Scripture teaches us that we are to pray for the coming of God's Kingdom (i.e., the "Our Father" [Matthew 6] which, as we have seen, is a typical Jewish prayer.) Yeshua Himself prayed for this time in terms of our unification with God:

John 17:21-23 - That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

THE KINGDOM IN MATTHEW 13

Matthew 13 is the single chapter of the "New Testament" with the most references to the Kingdom of God. Here, Yeshua speaks of the Kingdom, using a series of parables. When asked by His disciples why He spoke in parables, He replied:

Matthew 13:11 - ... Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

Here, Yeshua is not saying that there was some elite group that could understand while others could not. Every person has the choice of responding to God in faith, and receiving greater understanding of all of the word of God. The key is humility (i.e., Moses was a great prophet due to his humble nature. Yeshua compare this characteristic to the faith of little children).

Matthew 18:4 - Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

On the other hand, the pitfalls are many, including any religious doctrine not based in God's revealed will as found in His Torah:

Matthew 7:21 - Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

There are several other direct and indirect references to the Kingdom of God, in the Gospel of Matthew, the other Gospels and the epistles. We will also examine these as part of this study section.

Yeshua offers eight parables in Matthew 13, which can be divided into several categories:

  1. Acceptance and rejection of the Kingdom (13:3-8)
  2. Growth of the Kingdom (13:31-32 & 33), with possible reference to evil within it
  3. Evil mixed in the Kingdom (13:24-30 & 47-48)
  4. The Kingdom being worth everything to be part of (13:44 & 45-46)
  5. The Kingdom with regard to teachers (13:52)

THE FIRST PARABLE (v. 3-8)

In two places, Yeshua explains the meaning of His parables to some degree. In verses 19-23 he explains this first parable, by showing four possible scenarios involving people who hear the gospel message of the Kingdom. The interpretation is as follows:

  1. Some won't understand the message when it is presented. Why they don't Yeshua doesn't exactly say. However, it could be that they had given little time to learning about the things of God, and when the "secrets" of the Kingdom (see verses 11 & 35) were presented, they were clueless as to the importance. This lesson is reflected in the opposite (positive) sense, in the two short parables in verses 44-46, where Yeshua shows that the Kingdom is worth more than anything this life has to offer, and the wise man would give up anything of this life for it.
  2. The second person is one who grasps the message, but is overcome by certain "negative" influences (i.e., incorrect doctrine from others) and pressured into letting go of it.
  3. The third type of person also has some understanding, but in this case is overcome by certain "positive" things (i.e., love for the cares of the world) and also loses hold.
  4. Lastly, are those who are prepared, understand, and take hold.

THE SECOND PARABLE (v. 24-30)

The second parable is also another that Yeshua gives some explanation to (in verses 37-43). These verses are really a synopsis of what is seen in the book of Revelation, which is in turn based on prophecies from the Tenakh (Old Testament) showing God's vengeance being carried out by His angels of judgment. Here, the concept of belonging to one of two Kingdoms is seen with the reference to Children of the Kingdom and Children of the wicked one. Note that the latter, though part of "Satan's kingdom" are also said to be in the Kingdom of God, until it is time for them to be cast out.

Interestingly, even those in Satan's kingdom are serving the will of God:

Revelation 17:17 - For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.

THE THIRD AND FOURTH PARABLES (v. 31-32 & 33)

These short parables are the most peculiar. The first, involving the mustard seed, would indicate that the Kingdom of God would grow enormously despite its humble beginnings. However, the reference to the birds coming to land in the branches may be an indication of evil in the Kingdom. The latter parable involves leaven, which is also normally a metaphor for sin or evil. In this case as well, it may seem that Yeshua is saying that evil spreads throughout the Kingdom.

THE FIFTH AND SIXTH PARABLES (v. 44 & 45-46)

These two short parables are less difficult to interpret. As mentioned above, Yeshua makes it clear that the most important thing in this life is to make certain you make it into the Kingdom of God - it is worth more than anything this world can offer:

Matthew 16:26 - For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Yeshua's reference to a "pearl" is based in Jewish mystical teachings:

Bahir 72 - Another explanation of "Bring to life Your works in the midst of Years": What is this like? A king had a beautiful pearl, and it was the treasure of his kingdom. When he is happy, he embraces it, kisses it, places it on his head, and loves it.4

THE SEVENTH PARABLE (v. 47-50)

This parable resembles the second, showing that both good and evil will co-exist in the Kingdom until the end of the age.

THE EIGHTH PARABLE (v. 52)

This last parable is a different type than the previous seven, in that it is directed to those who will understand enough of the Kingdom in order to teach its truths to others. The reference to, "things new and old," may have to do with having greater spiritual insight into the Scriptures that they already knew, based on the insights revealed to them through Yeshua.

Note that this parable comes on the heels of Yeshua asking His disciples if they understood everything to that point:

Matthew 13: 51-52 - Jesus saith to them, `Did ye understand all these?' They say to him, `Yes, sir.' And he said to them, `Because of this every scribe having been discipled in regard to the reign of the heavens, is like to a man, a householder, who doth bring forth out of his treasure things new and old.'

We will examine other parables and aspects of the Kingdom in the next section of this study.


1. Soncino Talmud - footnote to Mas. Pesachim 54a

2. Romans 10:4 is incorrectly translated as, "Christ is the end of the law," in almost all Bibles. The word "end" is telos in the Greek text, and is correctly translated as "goal." (see Vines Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Word. and also Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

3. Ramban: Philosopher and Kabbalist, Chayim J. Henoch, Jason Aronson, Inc., London, 1998, p.103

4. The Bahir: Illumination, Translation Introduction and Commentary by Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Weiser, Inc. York Beach, Maine, 1979, p. 26. The Bahir is one of the oldest texts in Hebrew mystical literature. Aryeh Kaplan's comments to this verse state that "the pearl" is a reference to the Kingdom. Kaplan's comments also indicate that "the field" is a reference to the spiritual world around us, within which one finds the Kingdom, a treasure. These concepts are discussed in our Revelation study.


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