The Parables in Matthew 13

There are eight parables in Matthew 13, four before Jesus goes into a house with his disciples, and four after Jesus goes into a house with his disciples (see 13:36).

  1. The Parable of the Sower and Four Soils (13:1-9)
  2. The Parable of Weeds Sown by an Enemy (13:24-30)
  3. The Parable of the Mustard Seed (13:31-32)
  4. The Parable of the Leaven Hidden in Flour (13:33)
  5. The Parable of the Hidden Treasure (13:44)
  6. The Parable of the Supreme Pearl (13:45-46)
  7. The Parable of the Net and the Fish (13:47-50)
  8. The Parable of the Master Who Brings out Treasure (13:52)

The question in Matthew 13:51, “Have you understood all these things?”, seems to separate the first seven parables from the eighth. The seven parables in 13:1-50 are about the presence, power, and word of the kingdom, and the eighth parable in 13:52 is about the disciples.

In 13:1-50, therefore, we see seven kingdom parables.

  1. The Parable of the Sower and Four Soils (13:1-9)
  2. The Parable of Weeds Sown by an Enemy (13:24-30)
  3. The Parable of the Mustard Seed (13:31-32)
  4. The Parable of the Leaven Hidden in Flour (13:33)
  5. The Parable of the Hidden Treasure (13:44)
  6. The Parable of the Supreme Pearl (13:45-46)
  7. The Parable of the Net and the Fish (13:47-50)

Consider similarities between them. Parables 1, 2, and 3 all concern the act of sowing into the ground. Parables 5, 6, and 7 all concern finding something you want to keep: a treasure, a most valuable pearl, and good fish. Parable 4 is not about sowing, nor is it about finding something worth keeping. In Parable 4 Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened” (13:33). Adding to the uniqueness of this parable is the fact that it is the shortest of the seven. And being Parable 4, it is the central parable of the seven. When you focus on the language of the verse, Parable 4 is also a perfect transition from the first three to the last three: Parable 3 tells of seed going into the ground and tremendous growth taking place, and Parable 4 tells of leaven going into dough and tremendous growth taking place; and Parable 4 speaks of leaven being hidden in flour, and Parable 5 speaks of a treasure hidden in a field.

For these reasons and perhaps more, has Matthew indicated by his arrangement that 13:33 should receive special emphasis? Am I overreading the structure? Thinking out loud here.

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