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Barnes' Notes on the New Testament

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Verses 1,2. The sea side. This was the sea of Tiberias. The multitude stood on the shore near to him, so that he could be easily heard. He went into a ship--that is, a boat--and sat down to address them. Few spectacles could be more interesting than a vast crowd, on the banks of a smooth and tranquil sea--an emblem of his instructions-- and the Son of God addressing them on the great interests of eternity.

Verse 2. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 13:1"

{x} "into a ship" Luke 5:3

Verses 3-9. In parables. The word parable is derived from a Greek word signifying to compare together, and denotes a similitude taken from a natural object to illustrate a spiritual or moral subject. It is a narrative of some fictitious or real event, in order to illustrate more clearly some truth that the speaker wished to communicate. In early ages it was much used. Heathen writers, as AEsop, often employed it. In the time of Christ it was in common use. The prophets had used it, and Christ employed it often in teaching his disciples. It is not necessary to suppose that the narratives were strictly true. The main thing--the inculcation of spiritual truth--was gained equally, whether it was true, or was only a supposed case. Nor was there any dishonesty in this. It was well understood. No person was deceived. The speaker was not understood to affirm the thing literally narrated, but only to fix the attention more firmly on the moral truth that he presented. The design of speaking in parables was the following:

(1.) To convey truth in a more interesting manner to the mind; adding to the truth conveyed the beauty of a lovely image or narrative.

(2.) To teach spiritual truth so as to arrest the attention of ignorant people, making an appeal to them through the senses.

(3.) To convey some offensive truth, some pointed personal rebuke, in such a way as to bring it home to the conscience. Of this kind was the parable which Nathan delivered to David, 2 Samuel 12:1-7 and many of our Saviour's parables addressed to the Jews.

(4.) To conceal from one part of his audience truths which he intended others should understand. Thus Christ often, by this means, delivered truths to his disciples in the presence of the Jews, which he well knew the Jews would not understand; truths pertaining to them particularly, and which he was under no obligations to explain to the Jews. See Mark 4:33; Matthew 13:13-16.

Our Saviour's parables are distinguished above all others for clearness, purity, chasteness, intelligibility, importance of instruction, and simplicity. They are taken mostly from the affairs of common life, and intelligible, therefore, to all men. They contain much of himself his doctrine, life, design in coming, and claims; and are therefore of importance to all men; and they are told in a style of native simplicity intelligible to the child, yet instructive to men of every rank and age. In his parables, as in all his instructions, he excelled all men in the purity, importance, and sublimity of Iris doctrine.

Verse 3. A Sower went forth to sow. The image here is taken from an employment known to all men, and therefore intelligible to all. Nor can there be a more striking illustration of preaching the gospel, than placing the seed in the ground to spring up hereafter, and bear fruit.

Sower. One who sows or scatters seed. A farmer. It is not improbable that one was near the Saviour when he spoke this parable.

{y} "sower" Mark 4:2; Luke 8:5

Verse 4. Some seeds fell by the way side. That is, the hard path or headland, which the plough had not touched, and where there was no opportunity for it to sink into the earth.

Verse 5. Stony places. Where there was little earth, but where it was hard and rocky; so that the roots could not strike down into the earth for sufficient moisture to support the plant, When the sun became hot, they of course withered away. They sprang up the sooner because there was little earth to cover them.

Forthwith. Immediately. Not that they sprouted and grew any quicker or faster than the others, but they were not so long in reaching the surface. Having little root, they soon withered away.

Verse 6. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 7. Among thorns. That is, in a part of the field where the thorns and shrubs had been imperfectly cleared away, and not destroyed. They grew with the grain, crowded it, shaded it, exhausted the earth, and thus choked it.

Verse 8. Into good ground. The fertile and rich soil. In sowing, by far the largest proportion of seed will fall into the good soil; but Christ did not intend to teach that these proportions would be exactly the same among those who heard the gospel. Parables are designed to teach some general truth; and the circumstances should not be pressed too much in explaining them.

An hundredfold, etc. That is, a hundred, sixty, or thirty grains, for each one that was sowed--an increase by no means uncommon. Some grains of wheat will produce twelve or fifteen hundred grains. The usual proportion on a field sown, however, is not more than twenty, fifty, or sixty bushels for one.

Verse 9. Who hath ears, etc. This is a proverbial expression, implying that it was every man's duty to pay attention to what was spoken, Matthew 11:15.

{z} "Who hath ears" Matthew 11:15

Verses 10-17. Christ, in these verses, gives a reason why he used this manner of instruction. See also Mark 4:10-12; Luke 8:9,10.

Verse 11. The mysteries of the kingdom. The word mystery, in the Bible, properly means a thing that is concealed, or that has been concealed. It does not mean that the thing was incomprehensible, or even difficult to be understood. The thing might be plain enough if revealed, but it means simply that it had not been made known. Thus the mysteries of the kingdom do not mean any doctrines incomprehensible in themselves considered, but simply doctrines about the preaching of the gospel, and the establishment of the new kingdom of the Messiah which had not been understood, and which were as yet concealed from the great body of the Jews. See Romans 16:26; 11:25; Ephesians 3:3,4,9. Of this nature was the truth that the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles, that the Jewish polity was to cease, that the Messiah was to die, etc. To the disciples it was given to know these truths. It was important for them, as they were to carry the gospel around the globe. To the others it was not then given. They were too gross, too earthly; they had too grovelling conceptions of the Messiah's kingdom to understand these truths, even if presented. They were not to preach it, and hence our Saviour was at particular pains to instruct his apostles. The Pharisees, and Jews generally, were not prepared for it, and would not have believed it, and therefore he purposely employed a kind of teaching that they did not understand.

{a} "to know" Matthew 11:25; Mark 4:11; 1 Corinthians 2:10:14; Ephesians 1:9,18; 3:9
Colossians 1:26,27; 1 John 2:27

Verse 12. Whosoever hath, etc. This is a proverbial mode of speaking. It means that a man who improves what light, grace, and opportunities he has, shall have them increased. From him that improves them not, it is proper that they should be taken away. The Jews had many opportunities of learning the truth, and some light still lingered among them. But they were gross and sensual, and misimproved them, and it was a just judgment that they should be deprived of them. Superior knowledge was given to the disciples of Christ; they improved it, however slowly, and the promise was that it should be greatly increased.

{b} "For whosoever" Matthew 25:29; Luke 9:26

Verse 13. Because they seeing see not. Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10 say, "That seeing, they may not see," etc. But there is no difference. Matthew simply states the fact, that though they saw the natural meaning of the story--though they literally understood the parable--yet they did not understand its spiritual signification. Mark and Luke do not state the fact, but affirm that he spoke with this intention--implying that such was the result. Nor was there any dishonesty in this, or any unfair disguise, He had truths to state which he wished his disciples particularly to understand. They were of great importance to their ministry. Had he clearly and fully stated them to the Jews, they would have taken his life long before they did. He therefore chose to state the doctrines so that if their hearts had been right, and if they had not been malignant and blind, they might have understood them. His doctrines he stated in the best possible way; and it was not his fault if they did not understand him. By little and little, in this way, he prepared many, even of the Jews, to receive the truth when it was proposed by the only possible way of ever gaining access to their minds. It was, moreover, entirely proper and right to impart instruction to his disciples, which he did not intend for others.

Verses 14,15. And in them is fulfilled, etc. This place is quoted substantially from Isaiah 6:9,10. It was literally fulfilled in the time of Isaiah. In the time of Christ the people had the same character. Like them, they closed their eyes upon the truth, and rejected the Divine teaching. The words of Isaiah were, therefore, as well fitted to express the character of the people in the time of Christ, as in that of the prophet. In this sense they were fulfilled, or filled up, or a case occurred that corresponded to their meaning. See Barnes "Matthew 1:22". It is not by any means intended that Isaiah, when he spoke these words, had any reference to the time of Christ. The meaning in both places is, that the people were so gross, sensual, and prejudiced, that they would not see the truth, or understand anything that was contrary to their grovelling opinions and sensual desires; a case by no means uncommon in the world. See the passage more fully explained See Barnes "Isaiah 6:1" and following.

Waxed gross. Literally, has become fat. It is commonly applied to the body, but is also used to denote one who is stupid and foolish in mind. Here it means that the people were so sensual and corrupt that they did not see or understand the pure spiritual principles of the gospel.

Lest--they should see, etc. Lest they should see their lost condition as sinners, and turn and live. The reason given here why they did not hear and understand the gospel is, that their heart was wrong. They would not attend to the things that make for their peace.

I should heal them. Should pardon, sanctify, and save them. Sin is often represented as a disease, and the pardon and recovery of the soul from sin as healing.

{c} "of Esias" Isaiah 6:9
{d} "By hearing" Ezekiel 12:2; John 12:40; Acts 28:26,27; Romans 11:8; 2 Corinthians 3:14,15

Verse 15. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 13:14"

{e} "dull of hearing" Hebrews 5:11

Verse 16. Blessed are your eyes, etc. That is, you are happy that you are permitted to see truth which they will not see. You are permitted to understand the spiritual meaning of the parables, and in some degree the plan of salvation.

{f} "But blessed" Matthew 16:17; Luke 10:23,24; John 20:29; 2 Corinthians 4:6

Verse 17. Many prophets and righteous men, etc. They wished to see the times of the Messiah. They looked to it as a time when the hopes of the world would be fulfilled, and the just be happy. See John 8:5,6, "Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad." See also 1 Peter 1:10-12; Hebrews 11:13. So Isaiah and the prophets looked forward to the coming of the Messiah as the consummation of their wishes, and the end of the prophecies, Revelation 19:10. The object always dearest to the hearts of all righteous men is, to witness the coming and advancement of the kingdom of Christ.

{g} "that many" Ephesians 3:5,6; Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 1:10,11

Verses 18-23. See also Mark 4:13-20; Luke 8:11-15. Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. That is, hear the explanation, or spiritual meaning of the narrative given before. Mark adds, Mark 4:13, "Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?" By which it seems that he regarded this as one of the simplest and plainest of them, and gave an explanation of it that they might understand the general principles of interpreting them.

{h} "Hear ye" Mark 4:14; Luke 8:11

Verse 19. When any one heareth, etc. The seed represents the word of God communicated in any manner to the minds of men, by the Scriptures, by preaching, by acts of providence, or by the direct influence of the Holy Spirit.

Then cometh the wicked one. That is, Satan, Mark 4:15 or the devil Luke 8:12 the one eminently wicked, the accuser, the tempter. He is represented by the fowls that came and picked up the seed by the way-side. The gospel is preached to men hardened in sin. It makes no impression. It lies like seed in the hard path; it is easily taken away, and never suffered to take root.

{i} "word of the kingdom" Matthew 4:23
{k} "wicked one" 1 John 2:13,14; 3:12

Verses 20-22. Into stony places. Jesus explains this as denoting those who hear the gospel; who are caught with it as something new or pleasing; who profess themselves greatly delighted with it, and who are full of zeal for it. Yet they have no root in themselves. They are not true Christians. Their hearts are not changed. They have not seen their guilt and danger, and the true excellency of Christ. They are not really attached to the gospel; and when they are tried and persecution comes, they fall--as the rootless grain withers before the scorching rays of the noon-day sun.

Anon. Quickly, or readily. They do not look at it coolly and as matter of principle.

Is offended. That is, stumbles and falls. Persecution and trial are placed in his path, and he falls as he would over a stumbling-block, he has not strength of principle enough--not confidence in God to carry him through them.

The thorns. These represent cares, anxieties, and the deceitful lure of riches, or the way in which a desire to be rich deceives us. They take the time and attention. They do not leave opportunity to think and examine the state of the soul. Besides, riches allure, and promise what they do not yield. They promise to make us happy; but, when gained, they do not do it. The soul is not satisfied. There is the same desire to possess more wealth. And to this there is no end--but death. In doing it, there is every temptation to be dishonest, to cheat, to take advantage of others, to oppress others, and to wring their hard earnings from the poor. Every evil passion is therefore cherished by the love of gain; and it is no wonder that the word is choked, and every good feeling destroyed, by this "execrable love of gold." See 1 Timothy 6:7-11. How many, oh how many, thus foolishly drown themselves in destruction and perdition! How many more might reach heaven, if it were not for this deep-seated love of that which fills with care, deceives the soul, and finally leaves it naked, and guilty, and lost!

See Barnes "Matthew 13:18"

{l} "joy receiveth" Isaiah 58:2; Ezekiel 33:31,32; John 5:35; Galatians 4:15

Verse 21. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 13:20"; See Barnes "Matthew 13:18"

{m} "offended" Matthew 24:10; 26:31; 2 Timothy 4:16

Verse 22. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 13:18"; See Barnes "Matthew 13:20"

{n} "care of this world" Luke 14:16-24
{o} "choke the word" Mark 10:23; 1 Timothy 6:9; 2 Timothy 4:10

Verse 23. Into the good ground. Those whose hearts are prepared by grace to receive it honestly, and to give it full opportunity to grow. In a rich and mellow soil-- a heart that submits itself to the full influence of truth, unchecked by cares and anxieties; under the showers and summer suns of Divine grace; with the heart spread open, like a broad luxuriant field, to the rays of the morning, and to evening dews--the gospel takes deep root, and grows; it has full room, and then and there only shows what it is.

{p} "beareth fruit" John 15:5

Verses 24-30. The kingdom of heaven is likened, etc. That is, the gospel resembles. The kingdom of heaven, See Barnes "Matthew 3:2" means here the effect of the gospel by its being preached. The meaning of this parable is plain. The field represents the world in which the gospel is preached. The good seed, the truths preached by Christ and his apostles.

{q} "parable" Isaiah 28:10,13
{r} "good seed" 1 Peter 1:23

Verse 25. While men slept, his enemy came, etc. That is, in the night, when it could be done without being seen, an enemy came and scattered bad seed on the new-ploughed 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 of God, or Christ, and no real hatred of sin, and change of heart. An enemy may do it to deceive them, and to bring dishonour 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. Thus it 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 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.

Verse 26. Then appeared the tares also. That is, then was first discovered the tares. They had grown with the wheat, but so much like it as not to be noticed, till the wheat began to ripen. So, true piety and false hopes are not known by professions, by "blades," and leaves, and flowers, but by the fruit.

Verse 27. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 28. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 29. Ye root up also the wheat. They so much resembled the true wheat, that even then it would be difficult to separate them. By gathering them, they would tread down the wheat, loosen and disturb the earth, and greatly injure the crop. In the harvest it could be done without injury.

Verse 30. Let both grow together. They would not spoil the true wheat; and in time of harvest it would be easy to separate them. Our Saviour teaches us here,

(1.) that hypocrites and deceived persons must be expected in the church.

(2.) That this is the work of the enemy of man. They are not the work of Christianity, any more than traitors are of patriotism, or counterfeiters are of the proper effect of legislating about money. They belong to the world; and hypocrisy is only one form of sin. The Christian religion never made a hypocrite; nor is there a hypocrite on the face of the earth whose principles and practice it does not condemn.

(3.) That all hope of removing them entirely would be vain.

(4.) That an attempt to remove them altogether would injure real Christianity, by causing excitements, discord, and hard feelings even among Christians.

(5.) That he will himself separate them at the proper time. There is no doubt that it is the duty of the church to attempt to keep itself pure, and to cut off gross and manifest offends, 1 Corinthians 5:4,5. He refers to those who may be suspected of hypocrisy, but against whom it cannot be proved; to those who so successfully imitate Christians as to make it difficult or impossible for man to distinguish them.

{s} "time of harvest" 1 Timothy 5:24
{t} "to burn them" Malachi 4:1
{u} "wheat into my barn" Luke 3:17

Verses 31,32. See also Mark 4:30-32. The kingdom of heaven. See Barnes "Matthew 3:2". It means here either piety in a renewed heart, or the church. In either case the commencement is small. In the heart, it is at first feeble, easily injured, and much exposed. In the church, there were few at first, ignorant, unknown, and un- honoured; yet soon it was to spread through the world.

Grain of mustard seed. The plant here described was very different from that which is known among us. It was several years before it bore fruit, and became properly a tree. Mustard, with us, is an annual plant; it is always small, and is properly an herb. The Hebrew writers speak of the mustard-tree as one on which they could climb, as on a fig-tree. Its size was much owing to the climate. All plants of that nature grow much larger in a warm climate, like that of Palestine, than in colder regions. The seeds of this tree were remarkably small:; so that they, with the great size of the plant, were an apt illustration of the progress of the church, and of the nature of faith, Matthew 17:20.

Young converts often suppose they have much religion. It is not so. They are, indeed, in a new world. Their hearts glow with new affections. They have an elevation, an ecstasy of motion, which they may not have afterwards--like a blind man suddenly restored to sight, The sensation is new, and peculiarly vivid. Yet little is seen distinctly. His impressions are indeed more vivid and cheering than those of him who has long seen, and to whom objects are familiar. In a little time, too, the young convert will see more distinctly, will judge more intelligently, will love more strongly, though not with so much new emotion, and will be prepared to make more sacrifices for the cause of Christ.

{v} "grain of mustard seed" Mark 4:30

Verse 32. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 13:31"

{w} "becometh a tree" Ezekiel 17:23

Verse 33. The kingdom of heaven. This, here, means the same as in the last parable, perhaps, however, intending to denote more properly the secret and hidden nature of piety in the soul. The other parable declared the fact that the gospel would greatly spread, and that piety in the heart would greatly increase. This declares the way or mode in which it would be done. It is secret, silent, steady; pervading all the faculties of the soul, and all the kingdoms of the world, as leaven, or yeast, though hidden in the flour, and though deposited only in one place, works silently till all the mass is brought under its influence.

Three measures. These were small measures, (see the margin) but the particular amount is of no consequence to the story. Nor is anything to be drawn from the fact that three are mentioned. It is mentioned as a circumstance giving interest to the parable, but designed to convey no spiritual instruction. The measure mentioned here probably contained about a peck and a half.

{1} "three measures" "The Greek word signifies a measure, (about a
peck and a half, wanting a little more than a pint.)

Verses 34,35. That it might be fulfilled. This is taken from Psalms 78:2,3. The sense, and the very words of the Psalm, are given. Christ taught as did that prophet--Asaph--in parables. The words of Asaph described the manner in which Christ taught, and in this sense it could be said that they were fulfilled. See Barnes "Matthew 1:22,23".

{x} "in parables" Mark 4:33

Verse 35. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 13:34"

{y} "by the prophet" Psalms 78:2
{z} "kept secret" Luke 10:14; Romans 16:25,26; Colossians 1:26

Verses 36-43. Declare unto us. That is, explain the meaning of the parable. This was done in so plain a manner as to render comment unnecessary. The Son of man, the Lord Jesus, sows the good seed; that is, preaches the gospel. This he did personally, and does now by his ministers, his providence, and his Spirit, by all the means of conveying truth to the mind. This seed was, by various means, to be carried over all the world. It was to be confined to no particular nation or people. The good seed was the children of the kingdom; that is, of the kingdom of God, or Christians. For these the Saviour toiled and died. They are the fruit of his labours. Yet amidst them were wicked men; and all hypocrites and unbelievers in the church are the work of Satan. Yet they must remain together till the end; when they shall be separated, and the righteous saved, and the wicked lost. The one shall shine clear as the sun; the other be cast into a furnace of fire--a most expressive image of suffering. We have no idea of more acute suffering, than to be thrown into the fire, and to have our bodies made capable of bearing the burning heat, and living on in this burning heat for ever and for ever. It is not certain that our Saviour meant to teach here that hell is made up of material fire; but it is certain that he meant to teach that this would be a proper representation of those sufferings. We may be further assured that the Redeemer would not deceive, or use words to torment and tantalize us. He would not talk of hell-fire which had no existence; nor would the God of truth hold out frightful images merely to terrify mankind. If he has spoken of hell, then there is a hell. If he meant to say that the wicked shall suffer, then they will suffer. If he did not mean to deceive mankind, then there is a hell; and then the wicked will suffer. The impenitent, therefore, should be alarmed. And the righteous, however much wickedness they may see, and however many hypocrites there may be in the church, should be cheered with the prospect that soon the just shall be separated from the unjust, and that they shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

Verse 37. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 13:36"

Verse 38. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 13:36"

{a} "the world" Romans 10:18; Colossians 1:6
{b} "of the kingdom" 1 Peter 1:23
{c} "of the wicked" John 8:44; Acts 13:10; 1 John 3:8

Verse 39. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 13:36"

{d} "end of the world" Joel 3:13; Revelation 14:15
{e} "the angels" Revelation 14:15-19

Verse 40. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 13:36"

Verse 41. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 13:36"

{1} "all things" or, "scandals"
{g} "and them" Luke 13:27

Verse 42. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 13:36"

{h} "And shall" Matthew 3:12; Revelation 19:20; 20:10
{i} "there shall be wailing" Matthew 13:50; 8:12

Verse 43. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 13:36"

{k} "righteous shine" Daniel 12:3

Verse 44. The kingdom of heaven. The gospel. The new dispensation. The offer of eternal life. See Matthew 3:2. He compares it to treasure hid in a field. That is, to money concealed; or, more likely, to a mine of silver or gold, that was undiscovered by others, and unknown to the owner of the field.

He hideth. That is, he conceals the fact that he has found it; he does not tell of it. With a view of obtaining this, he says that a man would go and sell his property, and buy the field. The conduct of the man would be dishonest. It would be his duty to inform the owner of the field of the discovery. He would be really endeavouring to gain property belonging to another at far less than its real value; and the principle of real integrity would require him to inform him of the discovery. But Christ does not intend to vindicate his conduct, he merely states the way in which men do actually manage to obtain wealth. He states a case, where a man would actually sacrifice his property, and practise diligence and watchfulness, to obtain it. The point of the parable lies in his earnestness, his anxiety, his care, and his obtaining it. The gospel is valuable as such a treasure, Psalms 19:10; Proverbs 3:13-15. From most men it is hid. When a man sees it, and hears it, it is his duty to sacrifice all in the way to his obtaining it; and to seek it with the earnestness with which other men seek for gold. The truth often lies buried; it is like rich veins of ore in the sacred Scriptures; it must be searched out with diligence; and it will repay him for all his sacrifices, Luke 14:33; Philippians 3:8.

{l} "in a field" Proverbs 2:4,5
{m} "selleth all" Philippians 3:7,8
{n} "buyeth" Isaiah 45:1; Revelation 3:18

Verses 45,46. The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man. The meaning is, that the proper seeking for salvation, or the proper conduct in reference to religion, is like the conduct of a merchantman. In his searches he found one pearl of great value, and sold all his possessions to obtain it. So, says he, men seeking for happiness and finding the gospel--the pearl of great price--should be willing to lose all other things for this. Pearls are precious stones, found in the shells of oysters, chiefly in the East Indies, Matthew 7:6. They are valuable on account of their beauty, and because they are rare. The value of them is greatly increased by their size. The meaning of this parable is nearly the same as the other. It is designed to represent the gospel as of more value than all other things, and to impress on us the duty of sacrificing all that we possess in order to obtain it.

Verse 46. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 13:45"

{v} "one pearl" Proverbs 3:14,15; 8:11

Verses 47-50. The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, etc. This parable does not differ in meaning from that of the tares. The gospel is compared to a net, dragging along on the bottom of the lake, and collecting all--good and bad. The gospel may be expected to do the same. But in the end of the world, when the net is drawn in, the bad will be separated from the good: the one will be lost, and the other saved. Our Saviour never fails to keep before our minds the great truth that there is to be a day of judgment, and that there will be a separation of the good and evil. He came to preach salvation; and it is a remarkable fact, also, that all the most striking accounts of hell, and of the sufferings of the damned, are from his lips. How does this agree with the representation of those who say that all will be saved?

{p} "of every kind" Matthew 22:10

Verse 48. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 13:47"

Verse 49. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 13:47"

{q} "sever" Matthew 25:32

Verse 50. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 13:47"

{r} "And shall cast" Matthew 13:42

Verse 51. Jesus kindly asked them whether they understood these things. If not, he was still willing to teach them. He enjoined on them their duty to make a proper use of this knowledge, by speaking another parable.

Every Scribe--instructed unto the kingdom of heaven. That is, every man that is acquainted with the gospel, or with the truth. A scribe was a learned man. As the disciples had said that they had understood the truth, he says that it should not be unemployed. They should bring it forth in due time, like a householder bringing out of his treasury, or place of deposit, what had been laid up there at any time, as it was needed.

Bringeth forth. As occasion demands; as sickness, or calamity, or the wants of his family, or the poor require.

Treasure. The word treasure here means a place of deposit, not for money merely, but for anything necessary for the comfort of a family. It is the same as treasury, or a place of deposit.

New and old. Things lately acquired, or things that had been laid up for a long time. So, said Christ, be you. This truth, new or old, which you have gained, keep it not laid up and hid, but bring it forth, in due season, and on proper occasions, to benefit others. Every preacher should be properly instructed. Christ for three years gave instructions to the apostles; and they who preach should be able to understand the gospel; to defend it; and to communicate its truth to others. Human learning alone is indeed of no value to a minister; but all learning that will enable him better to understand the Bible, and to communicate its truths, is valuable, and should, if possible, be gained. A minister should be like the father of a family: distributing to the church as it needs; and out of his treasures bringing forth truth to confirm the feeble, enlighten the ignorant, and guide those in danger of straying away.

Verse 52. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 13:51"

{r} "out of his treasure" Proverbs 10:21; 15:7; 18:4
{s} "new and old" Song of Solomon 7:13

Verse 53. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 13:51"

Verse 54. Into his own country. That is, into Nazareth. Mark, who has also recorded this, Mark 6:1-6, says that it took place on the Sabbath. It was common for our Saviour to speak in the synagogues. Any Jew had a right to address the people, if called on by the minister; and our Saviour often availed himself of the right to instruct the people, and declare his doctrines. See Matthew 4:23.

{t} "And when" Mark 6:1; Luke 4:16

Verses 55,56. Is not this the carpenter's son? Mark says, "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?" Both these expressions would probably be used in the course of the conversation; and Matthew has recorded one, and Mark the other. The expression recorded by Mark is a strong, perhaps decisive, proof that he had worked at the business till he was thirty years of age. The people in the neighbourhood would understand well the nature of his early employments. It is, therefore, almost certain that this had been his manner of life. A useful employment is always honourable. Idleness is the parent of mischief. Our Saviour, therefore, spent the greatest part of his life in honest, useful industry. Till the age of thirty he did not choose to enter on his great work; and it was proper, before that time, that he should set an example to the world of honourable, thorough humble industry. Life is not wasted in such employments. They are appointed as the lot of man. And in fidelity in the relations of life, though obscure; in honest industry, however humble; in patient labour, if connected with a life of religion, we may be sure that God will approve our conduct. It was, moreover, the custom of the Jews to train all their children--even those of wealth and learning--to some trade, or manual occupation. Thus Paul was a tent-maker. Comp. Acts 18:3.

This was an example of great condescension and humility. It staggers the faith of man, that the Son of God should labour in an occupation so obscure and lowly. The infidel sneers at the idea that He that made the worlds should live thirty years in humble life, as a poor and unknown mechanic. Yet the same infidel will loudly praise Peter the Great of Russia, because he laid aside his imperial dignity, and endured the British service as a ship-carpenter, that he might learn the art of building a navy. Was the purpose of Peter of more importance than that of the Son of God? If Peter, the heir to the throne of the Czars, might leave his elevated rank, and descend to a humble employment, and secure by it the applause of the world, why might not the King of kings, for an infinitely higher object?

His brethren, James, etc. The fair interpretation of this passage is, that these were the sons and daughters of Joseph and Mary. The people in the neighbourhood thought so, and spoke of them as such.

Verse 56. No Barnes text on this verse. See Barnes "Matthew 13:55"

Verse 57. They were offended in him. That is, they took offence at his humble birth; and at the indigent circumstances of his family. They were too proud to be taught by one who, in family connexions, they took to be their equal or inferior. Men always look with envy on those of their own rank who advance pretensions to uncommon wisdom or superior power.

A prophet is not without honour, etc. This seems to be a proverbial expression. He advances it as a general truth. There might be some exceptions to it, but He was not an exception. Everywhere else he had been more honoured than at home. There they knew his family; they had seen his humble life; they had been his companions; they were envious of his wisdom, and too proud to be taught by him. A case remarkably similar to this occurs in the history of the discovery of America. Columbus, a native of Genoa, had, by patient study, conceived the idea that there was a vast continent which might be reached by sailing to the west. Of this his countrymen had no belief. Learned men had long studied the science of geography, and they had never imagined that such a continent could exist; and they were indignant that he, an obscure man, should suppose that he "possessed wisdom superior to all the rest of mankind united." It is accordingly a fact, that out of his own country he was obliged to seek for patrons of his undertaking; that there he received his first honours; and that to other kingdoms the discoveries of the obscure Genoese gave their chief wealth and highest splendour.

{u} "offended" Isaiah 49:7; 53:3; John 6:42

Verse 58. Did not many mighty works. Miracles. This implies that he performed some miracles. Mark tells us what they were. He laid his hands on a few sick folk, and healed them.

Because of their unbelief. That is, it would have been useless to the great purposes of his mission to have worked miracles there. We are not to suppose that his power was limited by the belief, or unbelief, of men. But they were so prejudiced, so set against him, that they were not in a condition to judge of evidence, and to be convinced. They would have charged it to derangement, or sorcery, or the agency of the devil. Comp. John 10:20. It would have been of no use, therefore, in proving to them that he was from God, to have worked miracles. He did, therefore, only those things which were the proper work of benevolence, and which could not easily be charged on the devil. He gave sufficient proof of his mission, and left them in their chosen unbelief, without excuse. It is also true, in spiritual things, that the unbelief of a people prevents the influences of the Holy Spirit from being sent down to bless them. God requires faith. He hears only the prayers of faith. And when there is little true belief, and prayer is cold and formal, there the people sleep in spiritual death, and are unblessed.

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Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 13". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". <>.  


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