Mark 4


The parable of the sower, 1-9.

Its interpretation, 10-20.

The use we should make of the instructions we receive, 21-26.

The parable of the progressively growing seed, 26-29.

Of the mustard seed, 30-34.

Christ and his disciples are overtaken by a storm, 35-38.

He rebukes the wind and the sea, and produces fair weather,



Verse 2. He taught them many things by parables] See every

part of this parable of the sower explained on Mt 13:1, &c.

Verse 4. The fowls] τουουρανου, of the air, is the common

reading; but it should be omitted, on the authority of nine uncial

MSS., upwards of one hundred others, and almost all the versions.

Bengel and Griesbach have left it out of the text. It seems to

have been inserted in Mark, from Lu 8:5.

Verse 9. And he said-He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.]

The Codex Bezae, later Syriac in the margin, and seven copies of

the Itala, add, καιοσυνιωνσυνιετω, and whoso understandeth, let

him understand.

Verse 10. They that were about him] None of the other

evangelists intimate that there were any besides the twelve with

him: but it appears there were several others present; and though

they were not styled disciples, yet they appear to have seriously

attended to his public and private instructions.

Verse 11. Unto you it is given to know] γνωναι, to know, is

omitted by ABKL, ten others, the Coptic, and one of the Itala.

The omission of this word makes a material alteration in the

sense; for without it the passage may be read thus:-To you the

mystery of the kingdom of God is given; but all these things are

transacted in parables to those without. Griesbach leaves it

doubtful. And Professor White says, probabiliter delendum.

I should be inclined to omit it, were it not found in the parallel

passages in Matthew and Luke, in neither of whom it is omitted by

any MS. or version. See the dissertation on parabolical writing

at the end of Mt 13:58.

Verse 13. Know ye not this parable?] The scope and design of

which is so very obvious.

How then will ye know all parables?] Of which mode of teaching

ye should be perfect masters, in order that ye may be able

successfully to teach others. This verse is not found in any of

the other evangelists.

Verse 15. THESE are they] Probably our Lord here refers to

the people to whom he had just now preached, and who, it is

likely, did not profit by the word spoken.

Where the word is sown] Instead of this clause, four copies of

the Itala read the place thus-They who are sown by the way side,

are they WHO RECEIVE THE WORD NEGLIGENTLY. There are thousands of

this stamp in the Christian world. Reader, art thou one of them?

Verse 19. The deceitfulness of riches] This is variously

expressed in different copies of the Itala: the errors-delights of

the world-completely alienated (abolienati) by the pleasures of

the world. The lusts of other things-which have not been included

in the anxious cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of

riches. All, all, choke the word!

Verse 21. Is a candle-put under a bushel!] The design of my

preaching is to enlighten men; my parables not being designed to

hide the truth, but to make it more manifest.

Verse 22. For there is nothing hid, &c.] Probably our Lord

means, that all that had hitherto been secret, relative to the

salvation of a lost world, or only obscurely pointed out by types

and sacrifices, shall now be uncovered and made plain by the

everlasting Gospel. See Clarke on Mt 5:15; "Mt 10:26".

Verse 24. And unto you that hear shall more be given.] This

clause is wanting in DG, Coptic, and four copies of the Itala; and

in others, where it is extant, it is variously written. Griesbach

has left it out of the text, and supposes it to be a gloss,

Whosoever hath, to him shall be given.

Verse 25. He that hath] See Clarke on Mt 13:12.

Verse 26. So is the kingdom of God] This parable is mentioned

only by Mark, a proof that Mark did not abridge Matthew. Whitby

supposes it to refer to the good ground spoken of before, and

paraphrases is thus:-"What I have said of the seed sown upon good

ground, may be illustrated by this parable. The doctrine of the

kingdom, received in a good and honest heart, is like seed sown by

a man in his ground, properly prepared to receive it; for when he

hath sown it, he sleeps and wakes day after day, and, looking on

it, he sees it spring and grow up through the virtue of the earth

in which it is sown, though he knows not how it doth so; and when

he finds it ripe, he reaps it, and so receives the benefit of the

sown seed. So is it here: the seed sown in the good and honest

heart brings forth fruit with patience; and this fruit daily

increaseth, though we know not how the Word and Spirit work that

increase; and then Christ the husbandman, at the time of the

harvest, gathers in this good seed into the kingdom of heaven."

I see no necessity of inquiring how Christ may be said to sleep

and rise night and day; Christ being like to this husbandman only

in sowing and reaping the seed.

Verse 27. And should sleep and rise night and day] That is,

he should sleep by night, and rise by day; for so the words

are obviously to be understood.

He knoweth not how.] How a plant grows is a mystery in nature,

which the wisest philosopher in the universe cannot fully explain.

Verse 28. Bringeth forth-of herself] αυτοματη. By its own

energy, without either the influence or industry of man. Similar

to this is the expression of the poet:-

Namque aliae, NULLIS HOMlNUM COGENTIBUS, ipsae

SPONTE SUA veniunt. VIRG. Geor. l. ii. v. 10.

"Some (trees) grow of their own accord, without the labour of

man." All the endlessly varied herbage of the field is produced

in this way.

The full corn] πληρησιτον, FULL wheat; the perfect,

full-grown, or ripe corn. Lucian uses κενοςκαρπος, EMPTY

fruit, for imperfect, or unripe fruit. See Kypke.

The kingdom of God, which is generated in the soul by the word

of life, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, is first very

small; there is only a blade, but this is full of promise, for a

good blade shows there is a good seed at bottom, and that the soil

in which it is sown is good also. Then the ear-the strong stalk

grows up, and the ear is formed at the top; the faith and love of

the believing soul increase abundantly; it is justified freely

through the redemption that is in Christ; it has the ear which is

shortly to be filled with the ripe grain, the outlines of the

whole image of God. Then the full corn. The soul is purified

from all unrighteousness; and, having escaped the corruption that

is in the world, it is made a partaker of the Divine nature, and

is filled with all the fulness of God.

Verse 29. He putteth in the sickle] αποστελλει, he sendeth

out the sickle, i.e. the reapers; the instrument, by a metonomy,

being put for the persons who use it. This is a common figure.

It has been supposed that our Lord intimates here that, as soon as

a soul is made completely holy, it is taken into the kingdom of

God. But certainly the parable does not say so. When the corn is

ripe, it is reaped for the benefit of him who sowed it; for it can

be of little or no use till it be ripe: so when a soul is saved

from all sin, it is capable of being fully employed in the work of

the Lord: it is then, and not till then, fully fitted for the

Master's use. God saves men to the uttermost, that they may here

perfectly love him, and worthily magnify his name. To take them

away the moment they are capable of doing this, would be, so far,

to deprive the world and the Church of the manifestation of the

glory of his grace. "But the text says, he immediately sendeth

out the sickle; and this means that the person dies, and is taken

into glory, as soon as he is fit for it." No, for there may be

millions of cases, where, though to die would be gain, yet to live

may be far better for the Church, and for an increase of the life

of Christ to the soul. See Php 1:21, 24. Besides, if we attempt

to make the parable speak here what seems to be implied in the

letter, then we may say, with equal propriety, that Christ sleeps

and wakes alternately; and that his own grace grows, he knows not

how, in the heart in which he has planted it.

Verse 27.

On these two parables we may remark:-

1. That a preacher is a person employed by God, and sent out to

sow the good seed of his kingdom in the souls of men.

2. That it is a sin against God to stay in the field and not


3. That it is a sin to pretend to sow, when a man is not

furnished by the keeper of the granary with any more seed.

4. That it is a high offence against God to change the Master's

seed, to mix it, or to sow bad seed in the place of it.

5. That he is not a seeds-man of God who desires to sow by the

way side, &c., and not on the proper ground, i.e. he who loves to

preach only to genteel congregations, to people of sense and

fashion, and feels it a pain and a cross to labour among the

poor and the ignorant.

6. That he who sows with a simple, upright heart, the seed of

his Master, shall (though some may be unfruitful) see the seed

take deep root; and, notwithstanding the unfaithfulness and sloth

of many of his hearers, he shall doubtless come with rejoicing,

bringing his sheaves with him. See Quesnel.

Verse 30. Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God?] How

amiable is this carefulness of Jesus! How instructive to the

preachers of his word! He is not solicitous to seek fine turns of

eloquence to charm the minds of his auditors, nor to draw such

descriptions and comparisons as may surprise them: but studies

only to make himself understood; to instruct to advantage; to give

true ideas of faith and holiness; and to find out such expressions

as may render necessary truths easy and intelligible to the

meanest capacities. The very wisdom of God seems to be at a loss

to find out expressions low enough for the slow apprehensions of

men. How dull and stupid is the creature! How wise and good

the Creator! And how foolish the preacher who uses fine and hard

words in his preaching, which, though admired by the shallow,

convey no instruction to the multitude.

Verse 31. A grain of mustard seed] See on Mt 13:31, 32.

Verse 33. With many such parables] πολλαις, many, is omitted

by L, sixteen others; the Syriac, both the Persic, one Arabic,

Coptic, Armenian, AEthiopic, and two of the Itala. Mill approves

of the omission, and Griesbach leaves it doubtful. It is probably

an interpolation: the text reads better without it.

As they were able to hear] ακουειν, or to understand always

suiting his teaching to the capacities of his hearers. I have

always found that preacher most useful, who could adapt his phrase

to that of the people to whom he preached. Studying different

dialects, and forms of speech, among the common people, is a more

difficult and a more useful work than the study of dead languages.

The one a man should do, and the other he need not leave undone.

Verse 34. He expounded all things to his disciples.] That

they might be capable of instructing others. Outside hearers,

those who do not come into close fellowship with the true

disciples of Christ, have seldom more than a superficial knowledge

of Divine things.

In the fellowship of the saints, where Jesus the teacher is

always to be found, every thing is made plain,-for the secret of

the Lord is with them who fear him.

Verse 35. Let us pass over unto the other side.] Our Lord was

now by the sea of Galilee.

Verse 36. THEY took him even as he was in the ship.] That is,

the disciples; he was now εντωπλοιω, in the boat, i.e. his

own boat which usually waited on him, and out of which it appears

he was then teaching the people. There were several others there

which he might have gone in, had this one not been in the place.

The construction of this verse is exceedingly difficult; the

meaning appears to be this:-The disciples sailed off with him just

as he was in the boat out of which he had been teaching the

people; and they did not wait to provide any accommodations for

the passage. This I believe to be the meaning of the inspired


Verse 37. A great storm of wind] See Clarke on Mt 8:24.

Verse 38. On a pillow] προσκεφαλαιον probably means a little

bed, or hammock, such as are common in small vessels. I have

seen several in small packets, or passage boats, not a great deal

larger than a bolster.

Verse 39. Peace, be still.] Be silent! Be still! There is

uncommon majesty and authority in these words. Who but God could

act thus? Perhaps this salvation of his disciples in the boat

might be designed to show forth that protection and deliverance

which Christ will give to his followers, however violently they

may be persecuted by earth or hell. At least, this is a

legitimate use which may be made of this transaction.

Verse 40. Why are ye so fearful?] Having me with you.

How is it that ye have no faith?] Having already had such

proofs of my unlimited power and goodness.

Verse 41. What manner of man is this?] They were astonished

at such power proceeding from a person who appeared to be only

like one of themselves. It is often profitable to entertain each

other with the succour and support which we receive from God in

times of temptation and distress; and to adore, with respectful

awe, that sovereign power and goodness by which we have been


HAVING spoken so largely of the spiritual and practical uses to

be made of these transactions, where the parallel places occur in

the preceding evangelist, I do not think it necessary to repeat

those things here, and must refer the reader to the places marked

in the margin.

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