Mark 4 – The Parable of the Sower & Herod the Great

Talk about an evil and perverted family.  God prohibits fornication:

Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbors, great of flesh; and hast increased thy whoredoms, to provoke me to anger (Eze 16:26).

But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood (Acts 15:20).

But also incest:

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife (1 Cor 5:1).  

None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the Lord (Lev 18:6).

But what do you expect, they were heathens/pagans.

Tomorrow we’ll look at…

Mark 4
The Parable of the Sower

1 And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.

2 And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine,

“Parables” – usually stories out of ordinary life used to illustrate spiritual or moral truth, sometimes in the form of brief similes, comparisons, analogies or proverbial sayings.  Ordinarily they had a single main point, and not every detail was meant to have significance.

3 Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:

4 And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.

5 And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:

6 But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.

7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.

8 And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty and some sixty and some a hundred.

“Did yield…an hundred” – a hundredfold yield was an unusually productive harvest.  Harvest was a common figure for the consummation of God’s kingdom.

This hundredfold is what we are to strive for, this is what Paul is talking about when he says that we are to run the race (1 Cor 9:23-25).

And Joel and John, in regards to the harvest, are talking about the rapture (Joel 3:13: Rev 14:14-20).

9 And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

10 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.

11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:

“Mystery of the kingdom of God” – in the New Testament “mystery” refers to something God has revealed to His people, i.e., believers.  The mystery is proclaimed to all, but only those who have faith understand.  In this context the mystery seems to be that the kingdom of God had dawn near in the coming of Jesus Christ.

Yet, Jesus tells us in Acts 1:7 that there are some things that no one is to know.

12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.

13 And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?

14 The sower soweth the word.

“Word” – the interpretation calls attention to the response to the word of God that Jesus has been preaching.  In spite of many obstacles, even with the many obstacles then or difficulties that Christians have today, God’s word will accomplish His purpose (Is 55:11).

15 And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.

Jesus stated, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matt 13:45-46).

16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;

17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.

18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,

19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

“Deceitfulness of riches” – prosperity tends to give a false sense of self-sufficiency, security and well-being.  Here Jesus is talking about the greedy wealthy people, those that give a little but hoard most.

20 And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.

21 And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?

22 For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was anything kept secret, but that it should come abroad.

23 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.

The wealth of rich people is like a city that makes them feel safe. They think of it as a city with walls that can’t be climbed (Prov 18:11 NIV).

24 And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.

25 For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

“He that hath, to him shall be given” – the more we appropriate truth now, the more we will receive in the future; and if we don’t respond to what little truth we may know already, we’ll not profit even from that.

Jesus surely isn’t talking about material things, but neither is He talking about knowledge of God’s existence or even His power.  But about the knowledge obtained due to the personal relationship that person has with Him. 

This is what the Solomon was talking about when he said:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom… (Prov 9:10).

26 And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;

4:26-29 – only Mark records this parable.  Whereas the parable of the sower stresses the importance of proper soil for the growth of seed and the success of the harvest, here the mysterious power of the seed itself is emphasized. 

27 And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.

28 For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

29 But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

“Immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come” – see v. 8.  Jesus mentions this a lot because there will be few people that go to heaven, most will burn in hell for eternity (Matt 7:13-14).

30 And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?

4:30-34 – the main point of this parable is that the kingdom of God seemingly had insignificant beginnings.  It was introduced by the despised and rejected Jesus and His 12 unimpressive disciples. 

But a day will come when its true greatness and power will be seen by all the world, Jesus Christ.

Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.  Even so, Amen (Rev 1:7).

31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth:

32 But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.

33 And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it.

34 But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.

35 And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.

4:35-41 – although miracles are hard for modern man to accept, the New Testament makes it clear that Jesus is Lord not only over His church but also over all creation (see Jn 1:3-4; Eph 1:20-23; Col 1:15-17).

36 And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.

37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.

38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

40 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

41 And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

Herod the Great

Herod the Great began his career as military governor of Galilee in 47 B.C.  The Roman Senate then appointed him king over Judea in 40 B.C. 

Herod, also known as Herod the Great and Herod I, was a Roman client king of Judea. He has been described as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis”, “the evil genius of the Judean nation.

After violently suppressing a significant opposition from the aristocracy in Jerusalem, he formally began his reign in 37 B.C. and ruled until his death in 4 B.C.

Herod’s father, Antipater, was an Idumenan covert to Judaism, and his mother, Cypros, was a Nabatean.  Herod curried favor with the Jews but was staunchly allied to Rome and embraced Greco-Roman culture and religion.

He is known for his extensive building programs; evidence of some of this activity can still be seen today.  In this arena, Herod’s accomplishments were impressive and included the following:

– Temples to Roma, Augustus and Baal Shamim; the Pythian temple at Rhodes; and, of course, the Jerusalem temple.

–  Palaces at Masada, Jericho, Ascalon and elsewhere.

– Gymnasia, baths, fountains, colonnades, markets and other public buildings throughout the eastern Roman Empire.

– Entire cities, such as Caesarea Maritima and Sebaste.

Herod’s rise to power came about during a tumultuous period in Roman history—the civil wars of the First and Second Triumvirates.

Herod often backed the losing side; for example, he was on the side of Antony and Cleopatra when they were at war with and finally defeated by Octavian (later known as Caesar Augustus).

Nevertheless, Herod had remarkable political instincts and was able to save his lift and power by quickly submitting and swearing allegiance to Octavian.

Indeed, every move he made was designed in some way to ensure that he eliminated his enemies and held on to the support of the people who mattered.

For example, Herod divorced his first wife, Doris, and became engaged to Mariamne, granddaughter of the high priest Hyrcanus II (Herod ultimately executed both of them).

His tenuous hold on power—a single misstep and he could have lost everything— may have contributed to the paranoia that led him to execute so many, including his own children.


Jesus was born during the reign of Herod (Matt 2:1), who, near the end of his life, gained eternal infamy by having the baby boys of Bethlehem put to death (Matt 2:16).

Caesar Augustus is reported to have once made the pun that he would rather be Herod’s pig (in Greek, hus) than his son (huios), a reference to the fact that as a nominal Jew Herod at least had scruples about killing pigs—if none about executing his own family members.

The holy family fled to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath. While they were there Herod died of disease in his palace at Jericho, which has been excavated. 

His body was carried in an elaborate procession to Herodium, near Bethlehem, where he was interred with splendor.  In spite of extensive excavations as Herodium, Herod’s tomb has never been located.

Herod’s kingdom was divided among three of his four surviving sons: Archelaus, ruler of Judea and Samaria; Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea; and Philip II Tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis.

Classical Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are fine—if lofty thinking is what you want. But philosophy means love of wisdom, not love of thinking.

Other members of Herod’s extensive family (he had ten wives) are mentioned in the New Testament: a fourth son, Philip I; a granddaughter Herodias, who married two of his sons (her uncles), Philip I and Herod Antipas; a grandson Herod Agrippa I; a great-grandson Agrippa II; great-granddaughters Bernice, Drusilla and Salome.

…Herod’s successors and relations between Rome and the Jews.