Explanation of the good seeds (Mk 4:20-4:20)

“These are the seeds

Sown on the good soil.

They hear the word.

They accept it.

They bear fruit,

Thirty,

Sixty,

And a hundredfold.”

 

καὶ ἐκεῖνοί εἰσιν οἱ ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν τὴν καλὴν σπαρέντες, οἵτινες ἀκούουσιν τὸν λόγον καὶ παραδέχονται καὶ καρποφοροῦσιν ἓν τριάκοντα καὶ ἓν ἑξήκοντα καὶ ἓν ἑκατόν

 

This explanation of the good seeds can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels.  Mark indicated that Jesus said that the seeds sown on good soil (καὶ ἐκεῖνοί εἰσιν οἱ ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν τὴν καλὴν σπαρέντες) are the people who hear the word (οἵτινες ἀκούουσιν τὸν λόγον).  They accept it (καὶ παραδέχονται).  They then bear good fruit (καὶ καρποφοροῦσιν).  They yield either thirtyfold (ἓν τριάκοντα), sixtyfold (καὶ ἓν ἑξήκοντα), or a hundredfold (καὶ ἓν ἑκατόν).  Mathew, chapter 13:23, has the reverse order of 100, 60, and 30, while Luke, chapter 8:15, has no number on the fruits of the harvest.  Only about 25% of the seeds sown were effective.  Thus, only about 25% of the people hearing the word of the kingdom will follow it.  There had to be good circumstances or pre-depositions to hearing and understanding for the word or the seed to be effective.  The seeds or the word that fell on the path, on the rocky ground, or the thorns were ineffective.  However, even among the effective seeds that were on good soil, the word would have different results.  Some would yield 30 times, some 60, and some 100.  There was no magic formula.  The circumstances among the good hearers would also bring about a variety of responses and effectiveness.

The coming peace (Zech 8:11-8:13)

“Says Yahweh of hosts.

‘But now I will not deal

With the remnant

Of this people

As in the former days.

Now there shall be

A sowing of peace.

The vine

Shall yield its fruit.

The ground

Shall give its produce.

The skies

Shall give their dew.

I will cause

The remnant of this people

To possess all these things.

Just as you have been a curse

Among the nations,

O house of Judah!

O house of Israel!

Thus,

I will save you.

You shall be a blessing.

Do not be afraid!

But let your hands be strong!’”

Yahweh of hosts was going to deal with his people, but not like in the former days.  Now Yahweh was going to sow peace.  Their vines would yield much fruit.  Their ground would produce rich harvests.  Their skies would send down gentle rain and dew.  The remnant of the people would possess all these things.  Just as many countries had cursed them in the past, now Judah and Israel would be a blessing to many countries.  They should not be afraid, but continue with their strong hands.

The future good harvests (Hag 2:18-2:19)

“Consider from this day on,

From the twenty-fourth day

Of the ninth month!

Consider since the day

That the foundation

Of Yahweh’s temple

Was laid!

Is there any seed

Left in the barn?

Does the vine

Still yield nothing?

Does the fig tree

Still yield nothing?

Does the pomegranate tree

Still yield nothing?

Does the olive tree

Still yield nothing?

From this day on,

I will bless you.”

As opposed to the bad harvests of the past, the harvests of the future would be good from this day forward, because this 24th day of the 9th month was the day of the foundation laying for the Second Temple of Yahweh.  Then in a series of questions, Yahweh indicated that there would be no seeds left in the barn.  The vines, the fig trees, the pomegranate trees, and the olive trees would yield great harvests rather than nothing.  From this day on, they were going to be blessed.

The wonderful blessed land (Ezek 34:26-34:27)

“I will make them

A blessing.

I will make the regions

Around my hill

A blessing.

I will send down

The showers

In their season.

They shall be showers

Of blessing.

The trees

Of the field

Shall yield

Their fruit.

The earth

Shall yield

Its increase.

They shall be

Secure

On their soil.

They shall know

That I am Yahweh,

When I break

The bars

Of their yoke.

I will save them

From the hands

Of those who enslaved them.”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, was going to bless the holy hill of Israel and the surrounding areas. He was going to send down blessing showers in their appropriate seasons. He was also going to bless the trees of the field, so that they would yield their fruit. The good earth would yield a steady increase in its crops. Thus, they could be secure on their own soil. They would know that he was Yahweh, because he was going to break the bars on their slavery yoke. Finally, they would be saved from the hands of those who had enslaved them. Good times were ahead.

A reproach against large estates (Isa 5:8-5:10)

“Woe to you

Who join house to house!

Woe to you

Who add field to field!

Finally there is room

For no one but you.

You are left

To live alone

In the midst of the land.

Yahweh of hosts has sworn

In my hearing.

‘Surely many houses

Shall be desolate.

Large houses

Will be without inhabitants.

Beautiful houses

Will be without inhabitants.

Ten acres of vineyard

Shall yield but one bath.

A homer of seed

Shall yield a mere ephah.’”

Next Isaiah issues a series of curses or reproaches to the people of Judah. First of all, he rants about the idea of people wanting too much land. If you add house to house, or field to field, you make it difficult for others. Your huge estate will leave you to live alone on your land. Yahweh had spoken to Isaiah to say that many houses will lay desolate. Large and beautiful houses will be empty. The land will not yield much. 10 acres will only produce about 6 gallons (a bath) of a crop. 6 bushels of seed (a homer) will produce less than a bushel of grapes (an ephah). The more you try to expand your living area and your fields, the more it will come to very little.

King Hezekiah (Sir 48:17-48:22)

“King Hezekiah fortified his city.

He brought water into its midst.

He tunneled the sheer rock

With iron tools.

He built cisterns for the water.

In his days,

Sennacherib invaded the country.

He sent his commander from Lachish.

He departed.

He shook his fist against Zion.

He made great boasts in his arrogance.

Then their hearts were shaken.

Their hands trembled.

They were in anguish,

Like women in labor.

But they called upon the Lord

Who is merciful.

They spread out their hands

Toward him.

The Holy One quickly heard them

From heaven.

He delivered them

Through Isaiah.

The Lord struck down

The camp of the Assyrians.

His angel wiped them out.

King Hezekiah did

What was pleasing to the Lord.

He kept firmly to the ways

Of his ancestor King David.”

Of all the kings from King Solomon to the captivity, Sirach singled out King Hezekiah (716-687 BCE) of Judah, based on the stories in 2 Kings, chapters 18-20, and 2 Chronicles, chapters 29-32. He was the king who followed Yahweh’s commandments, during the time of the prophet Isaiah. Just before his reign, the northern kingdom of Israel at Samaria fell to the Assyrians. During his reign the population grew from 5,000 at the time of King Solomon to about 25,000 people because of the many migrant Israelites from the north. Thus King Hezekiah fortified Jerusalem by building walls around it with tunnels to get water that has been verified by archeological discoveries. Ten years later, King Sennacherib decided to invade Judah. He sent his general Rabshakeh from Lachish to negotiate a deal, but King Hezekiah went to the prophet Isaiah for advice. Despite the fears of the folks in Jerusalem, Isaiah said not to yield. King Hezekiah prayed to Yahweh. King Sennacherib of Assyria decided not to invade the city, but 185,000 of his troops were wiped out by an angel of the Lord. Thus King Hezekiah was pleasing to the Lord like King David.

Some proverbs (Sir 40:12-40:17)

“All bribery

Will be blotted out.

All injustice

Will be blotted out.

But good faith

Will last forever.

The wealth of the unjust

Will dry up like a river.

The wealth of the unjust

Will crash like a loud clap

Of thunder in a storm.

A generous person

Has cause to rejoice.

Lawbreakers

Will utterly fail.

The children of the ungodly

Put out few branches.

They are unhealthy roots

On sheer rock.

The reeds by any water

Or river bank

Are plucked up

Before any grass.

Kindness is

Like a garden of blessings.

Almsgiving endures forever.”

Sirach utters some proverbs or sayings about injustice and life. Bribery and injustice will be blotted out, but good faith will last forever. The wealth of the unjust will disappear like a dried up river or thunder in a storm, here today, but gone tomorrow. Generous people should rejoice, while the lawbreakers will fail. The children of the ungodly will have few branches because their unhealthy roots are on solid rocks so they will have no yield. They are like reeds near water that is plucked before the grass. Kindness, on the other hand, grows into a garden of blessings. Then too almsgiving endures forever.