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Matthew 13:31-32

Context
The Parable of the Mustard Seed

13:31 He gave 1  them another parable: 2  “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed 3  that a man took and sowed in his field. 13:32 It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest garden plant and becomes a tree, 4  so that the wild birds 5  come and nest in its branches.” 6 

1 tn Grk “put before.”

2 tn Grk “He set before them another parable, saying.” The participle λέγων (legwn) is redundant and has not been translated.

3 sn The mustard seed was noted for its tiny size.

4 sn This is rhetorical hyperbole, since technically a mustard plant is not a tree. This could refer to one of two types of mustard plant popular in Palestine and would be either ten or twenty-five ft (3 or 7.5 m) tall.

5 tn Grk “the birds of the sky” or “the birds of the heaven”; the Greek word οὐρανός (ouranos) may be translated either “sky” or “heaven,” depending on the context. The idiomatic expression “birds of the sky” refers to wild birds as opposed to domesticated fowl (cf. BDAG 809 s.v. πετεινόν).

6 sn The point of the parable seems to be that while the kingdom of God may appear to have insignificant and unnoticeable beginnings (i.e., in the ministry of Jesus), it will someday (i.e., at the second advent) be great and quite expansive. The kingdom, however, is not to be equated with the church, but rather the church is an expression of the kingdom. Also, there is important OT background in the image of the mustard seed that grew and became a tree: Ezek 17:22-24 pictures the reemergence of the Davidic house where people can find calm and shelter. Like the mustard seed, it would start out small but grow to significant size.



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