According to Matthew 13:1-58

13  On that day Jesus left the house and was sitting by the sea.  And such large crowds gathered to him that he went aboard a boat and sat down, and all the crowd was standing on the beach.+  Then he told them many things by illustrations,+ saying: “Look! A sower went out to sow.+  As he was sowing, some seeds fell alongside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.+  Others fell on rocky ground where there was not much soil, and they immediately sprang up because the soil was not deep.+  But when the sun rose, they were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them.+  Still others fell on the fine soil, and they began to yield fruit, this one 100 times more, that one 60, the other 30.+  Let the one who has ears listen.”+ 10  So the disciples came and said to him: “Why do you speak to them by the use of illustrations?”+ 11  In reply he said: “To you it is granted* to understand the sacred secrets+ of the Kingdom of the heavens, but to them it is not granted. 12  For whoever has, more will be given him, and he will be made to abound; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.+ 13  That is why I speak to them by the use of illustrations; for looking, they look in vain, and hearing, they hear in vain, nor do they get the sense of it.+ 14  And the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled in their case. It says: ‘You will indeed hear but by no means get the sense of it, and you will indeed look but by no means see.+ 15  For the heart of this people has grown unreceptive,* and with their ears they have heard without response,* and they have shut their eyes, so that they might never see with their eyes and hear with their ears and get the sense of it with their hearts and turn back and I heal them.’+ 16  “However, happy are your eyes because they see and your ears because they hear.+ 17  For truly I say to you, many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things you are observing but did not see them,+ and to hear the things you are hearing but did not hear them. 18  “Now listen to the illustration of the man who sowed.+ 19  Where anyone hears the word of the Kingdom but does not get the sense of it, the wicked one+ comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart; this is the one sown alongside the road.+ 20  As for the one sown on rocky ground, this is the one hearing the word and at once accepting it with joy.+ 21  Yet, he has no root in himself but continues for a time, and after tribulation or persecution has arisen on account of the word, he is at once stumbled. 22  As for the one sown among the thorns, this is the one hearing the word, but the anxiety of this system of things+ and the deceptive power of riches* choke the word, and it* becomes unfruitful.+ 23  As for the one sown upon the fine soil, this is the one hearing the word and getting the sense of it, who really does bear fruit and produces, this one 100 times more, that one 60, the other 30.”+ 24  He presented another illustration to them, saying: “The Kingdom of the heavens may be likened to a man who sowed fine seed in his field.+ 25  While men were sleeping, his enemy came and oversowed weeds in among the wheat and left. 26  When the stalk sprouted and produced fruit, then the weeds also appeared. 27  So the slaves of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow fine seed in your field? How, then, does it have weeds?’ 28  He said to them, ‘An enemy, a man, did this.’+ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go out and collect them?’ 29  He said, ‘No, for fear that while collecting the weeds, you uproot the wheat with them. 30  Let both grow together until the harvest, and in the harvest season, I will tell the reapers: First collect the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up; then gather the wheat into my storehouse.’”+ 31  He presented another illustration to them, saying: “The Kingdom of the heavens is like a mustard grain that a man took and planted in his field.+ 32  It is, in fact, the tiniest of all the seeds, but when it has grown, it is the largest of the vegetable plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of heaven come and find lodging among its branches.” 33  He told them another illustration: “The Kingdom of the heavens is like leaven that a woman took and mixed with three large measures of flour until the whole mass was fermented.”+ 34  All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds by illustrations. Indeed, without an illustration he would not speak to them,+ 35  in order to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet who said: “I will open my mouth with illustrations; I will proclaim things hidden since the founding.”+ 36  Then after dismissing the crowds, he went into the house. His disciples came to him and said: “Explain to us the illustration of the weeds in the field.” 37  In response he said: “The sower of the fine seed is the Son of man; 38  the field is the world.+ As for the fine seed, these are the sons of the Kingdom, but the weeds are the sons of the wicked one,+ 39  and the enemy who sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is a conclusion of a system of things, and the reapers are angels. 40  Therefore, just as the weeds are collected and burned with fire, so it will be in the conclusion of the system of things.+ 41  The Son of man will send his angels, and they will collect out from his Kingdom all things that cause stumbling and people who practice lawlessness, 42  and they will pitch them into the fiery furnace.+ There is where their weeping and the gnashing of their teeth will be. 43  At that time the righteous ones will shine as brightly as the sun+ in the Kingdom of their Father. Let the one who has ears listen. 44  “The Kingdom of the heavens is like a treasure, hidden in the field, that a man found and hid; and because of his joy, he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field.+ 45  “Again the Kingdom of the heavens is like a traveling merchant seeking fine pearls. 46  Upon finding one pearl of high value, he went away and promptly sold all the things he had and bought it.+ 47  “Again the Kingdom of the heavens is like a dragnet let down into the sea and gathering fish of every kind. 48  When it was full, they hauled it up onto the beach, and sitting down, they collected the fine ones+ into containers, but the unsuitable+ they threw away. 49  That is how it will be in the conclusion of the system of things.+ The angels will go out and separate the wicked from among the righteous 50  and will cast them into the fiery furnace. There is where their weeping and the gnashing of their teeth will be. 51  “Did you get the sense of all these things?” They said to him: “Yes.” 52  Then he said to them: “That being the case, every public instructor who is taught about the Kingdom of the heavens is like a man, the master of the house, who brings out of his treasure store things both new and old.” 53  When Jesus had finished these illustrations, he departed from there. 54  After coming into his home territory,+ he began to teach them in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said: “Where did this man get this wisdom and these powerful works?+ 55  Is this not the carpenter’s son?+ Is not his mother called Mary, and his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?+ 56  And his sisters, are they not all with us? Where, then, did he get all of this?”+ 57  So they began to stumble because of him.+ But Jesus said to them: “A prophet is not without honor except in his home territory and in his own house.”+ 58  And he did not perform many powerful works there on account of their lack of faith.


Or “You have been allowed (permitted).”
Lit., “was made thick (fat).”
Or “heard unwillingly.”
Or “the seductiveness (deceptive pleasure) of being wealthy.”
Or possibly, “he,” that is, “the one hearing the word.”

Study Notes

sat down: The custom among Jewish teachers.​—Mt 5:1, 2.

on the beach: Along the shore of the Sea of Galilee near Capernaum, there is a spot that forms a natural amphitheater. The good acoustic properties of this location would have allowed a large crowd to hear Jesus speak to them from a boat.

illustrations: Or “parables.” The Greek word pa·ra·bo·leʹ, which literally means “a placing beside (together),” may be in the form of a parable, a proverb, or an illustration. Jesus often explains a thing by ‘placing it beside,’ or comparing it with, another similar thing. (Mr 4:30) His illustrations were short and usually fictitious narratives from which a moral or spiritual truth could be drawn.

Look!: See study note on Mt 1:20.

rocky ground: Not referring to spots where rocks were scattered in the soil but to bedrock or a shelf of rock where there was little soil. The parallel account at Lu 8:6 says that some seed fell “on the rock.” Such terrain would prevent seeds from sinking their roots deep enough to find needed moisture.

among the thorns: Jesus is evidently referring, not to full-grown thornbushes, but to weeds that had not been cleaned out of the plowed soil. These would grow and choke out the newly planted seeds.

sacred secrets: The Greek word my·steʹri·on is rendered “sacred secret” 25 times in the New World Translation. Here used in the plural, this expression refers to aspects of God’s purpose that are withheld until God chooses to make them known. Then they are fully revealed but only to those to whom he chooses to give understanding. (Col 1:25, 26) Once revealed, the sacred secrets of God are given the widest possible proclamation. This is evident by the Bible’s use of such terms as “declaring,” “making known,” “preach,” “revealed,” and “revelation” in connection with the expression “the sacred secret.” (1Co 2:1; Eph 1:9; 3:3; Col 1:25, 26; 4:3) The primary “sacred secret of God” centers on the identification of Jesus Christ as the promised “offspring,” or Messiah. (Col 2:2; Ge 3:15) However, this sacred secret has many facets, including the role Jesus is assigned to play in God’s purpose. (Col 4:3) As Jesus showed on this occasion, “the sacred secrets” are connected with the Kingdom of the heavens, or “the Kingdom of God,” the heavenly government in which Jesus rules as King. (Mr 4:11; Lu 8:10; see study note on Mt 3:2.) The Christian Greek Scriptures use the term my·steʹri·on in a way different from that of the ancient mystery religions. Those religions, often based on fertility cults that flourished in the first century C.E., promised that devotees would receive immortality, direct revelation, and approach to the gods through mystic rites. The content of those secrets was obviously not based on truth. Those initiated into mystery religions vowed to keep the secrets to themselves and therefore shrouded in mystery, which was unlike the open proclamation of the sacred secrets of Christianity. When the Scriptures use this term in connection with false worship, it is rendered “mystery” in the New World Translation.​—For the three occurrences where my·steʹri·on is rendered “mystery,” see study notes on 2Th 2:7; Re 17:5, 7.

system of things: The Greek word ai·onʹ, having the basic meaning “age,” can refer to a state of affairs or to features that distinguish a certain period of time, epoch, or age. Here the term is connected with the anxieties and problems that characterize life in the present system of things.​—See Glossary.

oversowed: This hostile act was not unknown in the ancient Near East.

weeds: Generally believed to be bearded darnel (Lolium temulentum), a species of the grass family. This poisonous plant closely resembles wheat when the wheat is in its early stages of development, before it reaches maturity.

The slaves said: Although a few manuscripts read “They said,” the current reading has stronger manuscript support.

uproot the wheat with them: The roots of the weeds and wheat would have become intertwined. So even if the weeds were identified, uprooting them would result in loss of the wheat.

collect the weeds: When bearded darnel (see study note on Mt 13:25) reaches maturity, it can readily be distinguished from wheat.

mustard grain: Several kinds of mustard plants are found growing wild in Israel. Black mustard (Brassica nigra) is the variety commonly cultivated. The relatively small seed, 1-1.6 mm (0.039 to 0.063 in.) in diameter and weighing 1 mg (0.000035 oz) produces a treelike plant. Some varieties of the mustard plant attain a height of up to 4.5 m (15 ft).

the tiniest of all the seeds: The mustard seed was used in ancient Jewish writings as a figure of speech for the very smallest measure of size. Although there are smaller seeds known today, it was evidently the tiniest of seeds gathered and sown by Galilean farmers in Jesus’ day.

leaven: That is, a small piece of fermented dough held over from a previous kneading and mixed into a new batch of dough to make it rise. Jesus here refers to the normal process of baking bread. Although the Bible often uses leaven to represent sin and corruption (see study note on Mt 16:6), it does not always have a negative connotation (Le 7:11-15). Here the fermenting process evidently pictures the spread of something good.

large measures: The Greek word used here, saʹton, corresponds to the Hebrew for seah measure. A seah measure equaled 7.33 L (6.66 dry qt).​—See Ge 18:6, ftn.; Glossary, “Seah,” and App. B14.

to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: This is a quote from Ps 78:2, where the psalmist (here referred to as “the prophet”) used illustrative language to recount much of the history of God’s dealings with the nation of Israel. Similarly, Jesus freely used figurative language in the many illustrations he used to teach his disciples and the crowds that followed him.​—See study note on Mt 1:22.

since the founding: Or possibly, “since the founding of the world.” This longer reading is found in some ancient manuscripts that add the Greek word for “world.” (Compare study note on Mt 25:34.) Other ancient manuscripts have the shorter wording used here in the main text.

Son of man: See study note on Mt 8:20.

world: Refers to the world of mankind.

a conclusion: The Greek word syn·teʹlei·a, rendered “conclusion,” also occurs at Mt 13:40, 49; 24:3; 28:20; Heb 9:26.​—See study note on Mt 24:3 and Glossary, “Conclusion of the system of things.”

a system of things: Or “an age.”​—See study notes on Mt 13:22; 24:3 and Glossary, “Conclusion of the system of things”; “System(s) of things.”

lawlessness: See study note on Mt 24:12.

gnashing of their teeth: See study note on Mt 8:12.

everything: Although one early manuscript omits the Greek word panʹta (all; everything) here, the current reading has stronger support in both early and later manuscripts.

pearl: In Bible times, fine pearls were harvested from the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean. This doubtless explains why Jesus spoke of the merchant who had to travel and expend effort to seek such a pearl.

unsuitable: May refer to fish without fins and scales, which were unclean according to the Mosaic Law and could not be eaten, or may possibly refer to any other inedible fish that were caught.​—Le 11:9-12; De 14:9, 10.

conclusion of the system of things: See study notes on Mt 13:39; 24:3 and Glossary, “Conclusion of the system of things”; “System(s) of things.”

public instructor: Or “learned person.” The Greek word gram·ma·teusʹ is rendered “scribe” when referring to a group of Jewish teachers who were versed in the Law, but here the expression is used with regard to Jesus’ disciples who were trained to teach others.

his home territory: Lit., “his father’s place,” that is, his hometown, Nazareth, the area from which his immediate family came.

carpenter’s son: The Greek word teʹkton, rendered “carpenter,” is a general term that can refer to any artisan or builder. When it refers to a woodworker, it can mean one who works in the building trade, in the construction of furniture, or in the making of other types of wooden objects. Justin Martyr, of the second century C.E., wrote that Jesus worked “as a carpenter when among men, making ploughs and yokes.” Early Bible translations in ancient languages also support the idea of a woodworker. Jesus was known both as “the carpenter’s son” and as “the carpenter.” (Mr 6:3) Evidently, Jesus learned carpentry from his adoptive father, Joseph. Such an apprenticeship would typically have begun when a boy was about 12 to 15 years of age and would stretch over many years.

brothers: The Greek word a·del·phosʹ can refer to a spiritual relationship in the Bible, but here it is used of Jesus’ half brothers, the younger sons of Joseph and Mary. Some who believe that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus claim that here a·del·phosʹ refers to cousins. However, the Christian Greek Scriptures use a distinct term for “cousin” (Greek, a·ne·psi·osʹ at Col 4:10) and a different term for “the son of Paul’s sister” (Ac 23:16). Also, Lu 21:16 uses the plural forms of the Greek words a·del·phosʹ and syg·ge·nesʹ (rendered “brothers and relatives”). These examples show that the terms denoting familial relationships are not used loosely or indiscriminately in the Christian Greek Scriptures.

James: This half brother of Jesus is evidently the James who is mentioned at Ac 12:17 (see study note) and Ga 1:19 and who wrote the Bible book by that name.​—Jas 1:1.

Judas: This half brother of Jesus is evidently the Jude (Greek, I·ouʹdas) who wrote the Bible book by that name.​—Jude 1.

they began to stumble because of him: Or “they took offense at him.” In this context, the Greek word skan·da·liʹzo refers to stumbling in a figurative sense, meaning “to take offense.” It could also be rendered “they refused to believe in him.” In other contexts, the Greek word includes the idea of falling into sin or causing someone to fall into sin.​—See study note on Mt 5:29.

he did not perform many powerful works there: Jesus did not perform many miracles in Nazareth, not because of a lack of power, but because the circumstances did not warrant it. The people of Nazareth lacked faith. (See study note on Mr 6:5.) Divine power was not to be wasted on unreceptive skeptics.​—Compare Mt 10:14; Lu 16:29-31.


The Sea of Galilee Near Capernaum
The Sea of Galilee Near Capernaum

The water level and topography of the Sea of Galilee have changed over the centuries since Jesus’ day. But it may have been in this area that Jesus spoke from a boat to the crowds. Jesus’ voice would have been amplified as it bounced off the surface of the water.

Sowing Seed
Sowing Seed

In Bible times, various means of sowing seed were used. Sowers might carry a bag of seed tied across the shoulder and around the waist; others would form a pouch for the seed in a part of their outer garment. They would then disperse the seed by hand, using long sweeping motions. Because the fields were cut through with hard-packed footpaths, the sower had to make sure that the seed landed on good soil. Seed was covered as soon as possible so that the birds did not eat it.

Remains of Ancient Storehouses at Masada
Remains of Ancient Storehouses at Masada

Storehouses could be found throughout Israel and were used to hold threshed grain. Some facilities might also be used to hold oil and wine or even precious metals or stones.


In Bible times, reapers sometimes simply pulled the stalks of grain from the ground. Typically, however, they would harvest the grain by cutting the stalks with a sickle. (De 16:9; Mr 4:29) Harvesting was usually a communal work, with groups of reapers collecting ripe grain from a field. (Ru 2:3; 2Ki 4:18) A number of Bible writers, such as King Solomon, the prophet Hosea, and the apostle Paul, used the work of reaping to illustrate important truths. (Pr 22:8; Ho 8:7; Ga 6:7-9) Jesus also used this familiar occupation to illustrate the role that the angels and his disciples would play in the disciple-making work.—Mt 13:24-30, 39; Joh 4:35-38.

Mustard Grain
Mustard Grain

Of the various types of seeds that were gathered and sown by Galilean farmers, the mustard seed was evidently the tiniest. This seed was used in ancient Jewish writings as a figure of speech for the very smallest measure of size.

Fishermen Hauling in a Dragnet
Fishermen Hauling in a Dragnet

Dragnets in Jesus’ day were likely made from the fibers of the flax plant. According to some sources, a dragnet might have been up to 300 m (about 1,000 ft) long with weights attached to the bottom edge and floats attached to the top. Fishermen used a boat to drop the dragnet into the water. Sometimes they would take the long ropes attached to the ends of the net ashore, where several men on each rope gradually pulled the net onto the beach. The net gathered everything in its path.