The Greek word translated parable is a combination of two words that mean alongside and throw. In a parable, two things are thrown alongside each other for comparison or contrast (Matt. 13:18; 24; 31; 33; 36; 53).

The comparison or contrast presents a singular truth. Therefore, parables have a singular meaning. When interpreting a parable, look for the singular meaning rather than find meaning in every aspect of the parable. Follow the old saying, “Don’t make a parable walk on all fours.” Each of the seven parables in Matthew 13 reveals one facet of the “interim period” between the first and second coming of Christ.

The Parable of the Sower (3-23)

Jesus’ narration of the parable is straightforward. It employs a familiar scene from everyday life during this time in Israel. A farmer went out to sow grain in a field. This was a common sight in Israel. The kind of seed that was sown was not stated. It was probably grain such as wheat as it is in the next parable. Scattering the seed or broadcasting it was the normal method of planting. The farmer would have a bag of seed over his shoulder and as he walked down a furrow, he tossed the seed from side to side. The broadcast seed fell on four types of soil with a different result in each case. Jesus explained this parable to his disciples in 13:18-23. The four soils are the key to understanding the parable.

The Hardened Ground (3-4; 18-19)

Fields in Jesus’ day had no fences and were separated by footpaths used to get to and around the fields. These paths (the road) were hardened by the constant traffic. When seeds fell on these paths they stayed on top of the hardened soil and birds quickly ate the seeds. The seeds represent the word of the kingdom, the birds represent Satan, and the soil represents the heart of the listener who does not understand the word or respond to it in any way.

The Shallow Ground (5-6; 20-21)

The rocky places were not fields of rocks. Farmers would have removed the rocks before planting. In Israel, some fields have beds of limestone running through them that are close to the surface. The shallow soil is heated quicker by the sun causing seeds to germinate sooner and grow quicker, but the roots have nowhere to go. Plants that spring up in the shallow ground with little moisture are soon scorched and die. The shallow soil represents the heart of someone who seems to accept the word, but his lack of faith is obvious as soon as affliction or persecution arises and draws him away.

The Infested Ground (7; 22)

This soil looked good in its cultivated state, but it was infested with thorn seed. The grain and the thorns germinated together and competed for water and nutrients. The thorns being native to the soil choked out the wheat seeds. The infested soil represents the listener who outwardly seems to accept the word, but his lack of faith is apparent when he is drawn away by worldly concerns.

The Receptive Ground (8-9; 23)

The good soil was well cultivated, deep, and free of weeds. The seeds that fell on this soil produced a bumper crop. The receptive soil represents the heart of the true believer who understands the word, places their faith in Christ, and bears fruit in varying degrees. Those represented by the good soil are the only ones whom Jesus said understood the word.

The Interpretation of the Parable

Since a parable is a comparison or contrast that presents a singular truth, what is that truth in the Parable of the Sower?

Although most people will reject Christ during the interim period between His first and second coming, many will become true believers.

Applications of the Parable

1. The majority of those who hear the word will reject it (Matt. 7:13; 13:3-23). We should not
    be deterred from sowing seeds by a lack of response.

2. Many who profess Christ will walk away from Him (Matt. 7:23; 1 John 2:19). We should not
    Be surprised or become discouraged by defections.

3. True believers will not all bear the same amount of fruit. We must not allow this reality to 
    frustrate us or cause us to be judgmental toward fellow believers.

4. Based on the Parable of the Sower, the Millennial Kingdom cannot now be in existence.