Matthew 13:25

ESV but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.
NIV But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.
NASB But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and left.
CSB But while people were sleeping, his enemy came, sowed weeds among the wheat, and left.
NLT But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away.
KJV But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.

What does Matthew 13:25 mean?

Agricultural parables would have been especially easy for the original audience to visualize. Many people worked on fields and would have recognized the scenarios Jesus described. This parable starts with a sower who has finished the work of planting a field. The sower used only good wheat seeds (Matthew 13:24).

Now, though, an enemy comes to the farmer's fields at night while his workers are sleeping. This does not necessarily mean that the workers are to blame. The story doesn't suggest that they should have been awake and guarding the field, only that the enemy is sneaky and up to no good. This is an important point in interpreting parables: that not every tiny detail is meant to have some literal application. The point of any parable is to explain a larger idea, not to create a detailed explanation.

The enemy's attack takes the form of sabotage. He sows a second round of plants, weeds, mixed right in with the wheat. It's possible that this was a known form of vandalism, and that the people listening to Jesus had seen or heard of this very thing happening before. Scholars suggest the audience likely would have imagined the weeds to be an inedible type of ryegrass called "darnel" or "tares." Prior to modern sorting techniques, this was a difficult weed to manage. It looks almost exactly like wheat, at first. By the time it can be clearly distinguished, it's already fully rooted in the ground.

The following verses will show the great lengths the farmer would need to take to get rid of the weed and save the crop of grain. Especially during this time in Israel's history, this attack would have been malicious, both to the farmer and to those who depended on him for food. Jesus will later explain to the disciples exactly what each element in this parable represents (Matthew 13:36–43).
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