The Parable of the Tares in the Field

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Contents

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Synopsis of Parable:

A man sows good seed in his field. While sleeping, an enemy sows bad seed with the good. The slaves ask him what to do. He says, "Let them grow together, then separate them. Burn the tares."

Parable Given in Response to:

A parable given by the sea side.(Matthew 13:1.) This parable came after the Parable of the Sower(Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23; Luke 8:9-15.)

Symbolism Chart

Symbol Meaning Verse Found Verse Interpreted Notes
↓Man Jesus Matthew 13:24 Matthew 13:37
↓Field World Matthew 13:24 Matthew 13:38
↓Good Seed Children of the Kingdom Matthew 13:24 Matthew 13:38 a.k.a. Followers of God
↓Tares Children of the Wicked One Matthew 13:25 Matthew 13:38 a.k.a. Non-Followers of God
↓Enemy Devil Matthew 13:25 Matthew 13:39
↓Harvest End of the World Matthew 13:30 Matthew 13:39
↓Reapers Angels Matthew 13:28 Matthew 13:39

The Parable of the Tares in the Field

As presented in the King James Version of Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.

Matthew 13:24Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. 
30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. 

Matthew 13:36Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.
37He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; 
38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Explanation of the Interpretation of Symbols

The Man is Jesus Back to Top ↑

This parable is one of a few where Jesus lays out every symbol for us. He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man. Matthew 13:37 There is no debating who Jesus meant, he identified himself as the Son of Man. Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? Matthew 16:13 Some may argue that Ezekiel is the Son of Man, since God directly calls him that several times.(In 97 seperate verses. See for example the first few: Ezekiel 2:1, 3, 6, 8; 3:1, 3, 4, 10, 17, 25; 4:1...)

However, Ezekiel makes little sense as an interpretation for this symbol. Though as a prophet, Ezekiel surely tried to sow good seed, he was well dead by the time Jesus came around. Furthermore, no one relies only on Ezekiel for the gospel, and no one ever has. Unlike Jesus,(John 14:6.) Ezekiel never made the claim that he was the only way to God.

And so it is as Jesus says, the man sows good seed. This is a well-known fact in Christianity, even if the other two major Abrahamic religions deny it with their dying breath.

The Field is the World Back to Top ↑

Another easy interpretation for us, but Jesus declares it for us. The field is the world. Matthew 13:38 There are no other logical interpretations of this symbol.

Jesus is known to refer to the world as a place to harvest.(Matthew 9:37, Luke 10:2, John 4:35.) That he continues this trend in his parables is not at all surprising.

The Good Seed are the Children of the Kingdom Back to Top ↑

Another easy interpretation that Jesus makes for us. The good seed are the children of the kingdom. Matthew 13:38

This is logical. Jesus talks about people in terms of plant life often, even telling people to inspect fruits of others' labors.(Matthew 7:15-20; 12:33; Luke 6:43-45) Jesus even says, he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. John 4:36

We should mention quickly who are the children of the Kingdom. It is understood that these are people are in the Kingdom of God. And given that even John the Baptist never entered the Kingdom, these must be followers of Jesus. Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Matthew 11:11 cf. Luke 7:28. How could someone as great as John the Baptist be in the kingdom, but then someone lesser than him also be greater than him? It is not logically possible. Thus, those in the Kingdom of God are followers of Jesus.What exactly this entails is out of scope of this article. We direct the interested reader to read the canonical gospels.

However, there is one other time that Jesus uses the phrase 'children of the kingdom.' After hearing how the centurion did not believe that Jesus needed to visit his home to heal his son,(Matthew 8:8, 9) Jesus said: Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.  But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 8:10-12 Here, Jesus directly compares "many that shall come from the east and west" to "the children of the kingdom," who weep. (In case it is not obvious, here the children of the kingdom are the people of Israel. Israel being the kingdom.) Here, the children of the kingdom is used negatively, they shall be cast out into outer darkness. Thus, it is easy to believe that the good seed in the parable are not these children, but those who are in the Kingdom of God.

The Tares are the Children of the Wicked One Back to Top ↑

Here, Jesus tells us The tares are the children of the wicked one. Matthew 13:38 This makes sense as Jesus wants good seeds at all costs. Not useless seeds, as showed when he said Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. Matthew 13:29, 30

It is interesting to think that the tares here did nothing wrong. They were minding their own business being seeds, until the enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. Matthew 13:25 If that enemy never came along, then the good seed would have grown as wheat, and been perfect for the harvest. But since the tares also grew among the wheat, problems arose. Ultimately, he decided to grow both together.(Matthew 13:29, 30. Note also Jesus's saying The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. Matthew 13:41-43. In Jesus's kingdom, there are troublemakers, who prevent the righteous to shine.) The issue comes from the good seed and tares being grown together, not in the existence of the bad tares, separate from the good seed.

The Enemy is the Devil Back to Top ↑

Jesus says it best: The enemy that sowed them is the devil. Matthew 13:39 It is good that Jesus interpreted this for us, as people in his contemporary times might have thought it meant the pharisees, whereas people in modern times might think he meant a variety of distinct groups, such as atheists, catholics, or protestants. However, Jesus told us who the enemy of this parable was, so we need not worry about incorrect interpretations.

There are plenty of people that think the devil torment or tempt them constantly, but that is not necessarily true. A man who gets addicted to a dangerous drug may at first have fallen into temptation by the devil, but then the devil goes his own way. Eventually, the victim is left to decide whether to pursue the drug on his own will or not. That is why God said: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?Jeremiah 17:9 It is man's own heart that is evil, often it needs merely a small tug just once to do evil. Afterwards, the tugger can move on to the next target while the victim struggles.

And often, when the victim struggles, he can find relief in his struggle through world-loving people. In our hypothetical case, the man addicted to a dangerous drug could find another tare to buy that drug from. That does not make that tare a devil, he is simply living his life. It is not his fault he was sowed in a field meant for good seed.

The Harvest is the End of the World Back to Top ↑

The harvest is the end of the world. Matthew 13:39

There is not much we can say on this subject that would not take up a full book's worth of information. Nevertheless, we will say some things, and direct the interested reader to the canonical gospels and nothing else.

This world, and even heaven, will one day be gone. If you believe in Jesus, there is no debating that.(Matthew 5:18; 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33 cf. Luke 16:17.) However, some people believe that the passing of earth is unconnected to the harvest of the earth, and come up with complete eschatologies regarding that. Some think the harvest is a rapture, wherein people will one moment be on earth, and the next be in heaven. Thus, the end of the world would be a long time after that, perhaps a thousand years later.

When the disciples asked Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?(Matthew 24:3; cf. Mark 13:4) Jesus replied by saying plenty of things. One of them was this: Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. Matthew 24:9. cf. Mark 13-15 When wheat is harvested, the reapers reap it. This action kills the wheat, but produces the goods.And Jesus told us what the fruit would be on earth: And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. Matthew 10:18 We will die and go to Jesus, but by martyrdom, convincing others of the wonders of God. So it seems the harvest will be the planned death of the sheep of Jesus. We should keep in mind that sheep are not only cleaned, sheared, pastured, and milked, but also led to the slaughter.

Jesus also says in the next two verses: And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. Matthew 24:10, 11 It is logical to think that if a rapture does not occur, that many shall be offended, and therefore betray the ones that told them they would be raptured. The false prophets would say, "Well, it just was not a pre-tribulation rapture! Just hold on." That would deceive many. For these reasons, we direct readers to study the canonical gospels, and not what others write or say, to discern the truth themselves.

The Reapers are Angels Back to Top ↑

Lastly, The reapers are the angels. Matthew 13:39

There is not much to say on the subject of angels reaping. Angels do God's will on earth.(Exodus 23:23; Psalm 103:20; 104:4.) This even includes killing people.(2 Samuel 24:15, 16; 1 Chronicals 21:15; 2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36.) It is easy to believe that the angels will harvest the good seed when it is time to do so.

A little confusion over the reapers could have appeared had Jesus not interpreted the symbol for us. He says that humans can be reapers too: I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours. John 4:38 cf. the three preceding verses Humans can reap on earth while alive by leading others to follow Jesus, whereas angels will reap at the end of the world, by causing the death of those followers of Jesus.

In Conclusion Back to Top ↑

This is a wonderful parable that shares with us the purpose of the earth, and how evil people came by. It also reassures us that God will gather us, that he has not forgotten us, and that we will shine bright with him.

There is another thing of interest in this parable. Jesus said, As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 13:40-42 He is taking people out of his kingdom, thus directly saying that yes, bad people can be in the kingdom of God. We should not worry about it, God and his angels will take care of it when the time comes.

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