Bible Study, Biblical Interpretation, Gospel of Matthew, Holy Spirit, Indwelling Spirit, Parables of Jesus, Tares, Wheat
Hello and welcome-or welcome back-to Renaissance Woman where, this week, I am taking a look at the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares found in Matthew 13:24-30:
“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went on his way. But when the grain had spouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, “Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?” He said to them, “An enemy has done this.” The servants said to him, “Do you want us then to go and gather them up?” But he said, “No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest and at the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ‘ “
There are two major interpretations of this parable but, before I get to them, a brief lesson on tares. The consensus is that this passage of scripture is referring to the darnel or Lolium temulentum. It is a weed that grows among grain, especially wheat. The grains resemble those of wheat and, since they are difficult to separate by sifting, are often sown with wheat and grow with it in the same field. Since the darnel is poisonous, no one deliberately sows tares in a field but tares are difficult to distinguish from wheat as the two look similar until they come to full fruition. Then it becomes easy to separate wheat from tares, to discard what isn’t fit for consumption, and to preserve the desired harvest.
The sower in this parable made no such mistake. The parable states he sowed “good seed”. The poisonous seed was sown by an enemy but presence of the tares wasn’t discovered until the grain had sprouted and produced a crop. I read that tares will often share the same root system as wheat and they are impossible to remove from a field without damaging the wheat. It is best to let them both continue to grow together until the time of harvest so none of the wheat is lost.
What does this parable mean? There is an explanation given later on in the same chapter of Matthew. In verse 36, Jesus’s disciples come to him and ask him to explain the parable of the tares of the field and he answers, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.”
Now onto the two interpretations of this parable. The first says this parable speaks of believers and unbelievers within the church, sitting side by side in the seats with each other, indistinguishable from each other until Jesus returns and His angels separate the tares from the wheat. The second interpretation disagrees with the first and says no, the field is clearly the world as stated by Jesus Himself in Matthew 13:38, therefore; this parable is speaking of the righteous and unrighteous living together in the world until the end of the age when Jesus returns and His angels separate the tares from the wheat.
There is a third interpretation of this parable which was new to me when I first read it so I feel safe in assuming none of you have heard it either. It is found in J. Preston Eby’s Candlestick to the Throne study series # 173 entitled The Firstfruits, The Harvest, and the Vintage. In this study, Mr. Eby quotes a woman named Dora Van Assen who wrote not only on the tares and the wheat but the wheat and the chaff. I couldn’t remember exactly what was said so I got the teaching out and refreshed my memory.
One of the first lines that caught my eye was, “The wheat and the tares did not convert one another! Wheat was wheat, the tares were tares, both growing up together just like the wheat and the chaff, until the time of harvest.” This caught my attention because, in an article on Tares, which I found on the Jewish Virtual Library site and is also linked below, I had read the same thing. Despite the similarities in the grains and immature stalks, wheat does not ever become a tare and a tare does not ever become wheat. I read on.
“…I saw this was not a parable on soul-saving, nor was it an exhortation to scare the heathen or sinning Christians in the church into a conversion, but it was a parable dealing with the inner thought life of the believer himself. In the context around the parable we find that Jesus was uttering, ‘things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world’ (Mat. 13:35). In other words, by this parable, He was explaining in parabolic form something which had taken place from the beginning! I believe He was referring to what had happened in the Garden of Eden when sin entered into the plan of God. There we find God fellowshipping with Adam in the cool of the day. Certainly God was not standing there in bodily form any more than He comes in bodily form when we commune with Him and hear His voice. By the Spirit God was planting His good thoughts and spiritual understanding in the mind of Adam. But, while Adam was not aware of it, the adversary also came into the garden and whispered and planted evil thoughts and carnal understanding, causing a duality within, which led him to fall into a carnal mind. This dual mind of both good and evil was a split personality within man, each capable of bringing forth a harvest of a certain kind of man (Romans 8:6). The battlefield is in the mind!”
I found this interpretation absolutely fascinating and, the more I looked at the other parables, it isn’t as farfetched as it might at first seem. There’s another Parable of Sowing at the beginning of Matthew Chapter 13 where the seed fell by the wayside and were devoured by birds, some fell on stony places and had no root so withered away, some fell among thorns and were choked, and some fell on good ground. I don’t know of any interpretation that doesn’t acknowledge the “ground” mentioned here is a picture of the human heart. I can thus consider the idea that the “field” mentioned in the Parable of the Wheat and Tares is the human mind (and heart-the Hebrew people did not separate the two “as a man thinks in his heart” [Proverbs 23:7]).
But, doesn’t Matthew 13:38 clearly say the field is the world and both the good and bad seeds are children? Yes, it does but I just read something interesting about this passage. The Abingdon Bible Commentary states, “All scholars reject the genuineness of the explanation in vv. 36-43 on the ground of its stilted style, and because the interpretations of successive details are mechanical; moreover, the presence of popular and conventional apocalyptic expressions, and the title Son of man, used of the earthly life of Jesus in v. 37 and then of his Messianic glory in v. 41 stamp it as secondary in character” (Abingdon, p. 977).
The moment I read “all scholars” I was skeptical. There wasn’t one scholar publishing around 1929 who attested to the validity of this passage? ALL scholars reject their genuineness? Even so, I couldn’t help rereading the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares thinking, “what if the explanation isn’t correct?” As I did so, I realized Dora Van Assen’s interpretation made sense. Still, I cannot accept any interpretation that relies on other parts of scripture being declared invalid. Does Dora Van Assen’s interpretation of this parable rely in discarding Matthew 13 verses 36-43? It does not! Which I will demonstrate in next week’s post.
Until next week, I pray for each of us-including myself-that the Holy Spirit continues to open the eyes of our hearts and grant us the gift of discernment as we face each new day.
Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures are quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982
What Does Tares Mean? Bible Definition and References (biblestudytools.com)
Tares – WebBible Encyclopedia – ChristianAnswers.Net
KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES: THE FIRSTFRUITS, THE HARVEST, AND THE VINTAGE by J. Preston Eby (godfire.net)
Eiselen, Frederick Carl, The Abingdon Bible Commentary, Abingdon Press, Nashville •New York, 1929
Strong, James, LL.D., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville Tennessee, 1990
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