What does Matthew 13:25 mean?
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.
NKJV: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.
Verse Commentary:
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).
Verse Context:
Matthew 13:24–30 contains the parable of the wheat and the weeds, also known as the parable of the wheat and the "tares." Christ will later explain this as a metaphor for God separating believers from non-believers in the final judgment (Matthew 13:36–43). He tells the crowd of a farmer who sowed good wheat seeds into a field. His enemy, though, sabotaged the field with weeds. This probably meant planting a worthless plant that looks deceptively like wheat. The farmer sensibly waits, allowing the wheat and weeds to grow together rather than risking damage to the wheat by uprooting the other plants. At the harvest, the farmer will tell his workers to gather up the weeds and bundle them to be burned.
Chapter Summary:
Matthew 13 focuses mainly on a series of parables. Jesus first describes these to a large crowd along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Later, in a house, He explains to the disciples the meanings of the parables of the sower, the weeds, and the fish caught in the net. Jesus then travels to Nazareth, teaches in the synagogue, and is rejected by the people of His original hometown.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 13 follows Jesus from the overcrowded house at the end of the previous chapter to a crowded beach on the Sea of Galilee. He teaches a large crowd in a series of parables, which He doesn't fully explain. However, He reveals their meaning to His disciples inside a nearby house. Jesus pictures the kingdom of heaven as a sower, a sabotaged field of wheat, a mustard seed, and a pearl dealer, among other things. He then travels to His original hometown of Nazareth where He is rejected by the people He grew up with. This leads Matthew back to depictions of Jesus' miracles, after sadly recording John the Baptist's death.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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