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Verse 25

But while men slept - When the professors were lukewarm, and the pastors indolent, his enemy came and sowed tares, ζιζανια degenerate, or bastard wheat. The righteous and the wicked are often mingled in the visible Church. Every Christian society, how pure soever its principles may be, has its bastard wheat - those who bear a resemblance to the good, but whose hearts are not right with God. He who sows this bastard wheat among God's people is here styled God's enemy; and he may be considered also as a sower of them who permits them to be sown and to spring up through his negligence. Wo to the indolent pastors, who permit the souls under their care to be corrupted by error and sin! This word does not, I believe, occur in any of the Greek classics, nor in Dioscorides; but it may be seen in the Geoponica, or Greek writers De Re Rustica: see the edition by Niclas, vol. i. lib. ii. c. 43, where το ζιζανιον is said to be the same which the Greeks call αιρα ; and Florentinus, the author, says, Το ζιζανιον, το λεγομενον Αιρα, φθειρει νον σιτον, αρτοις δε μιγνυμενη, σκοτοι τους εσθιοντας . " Zizanion , which is called αιρα , darnel, injures the wheat; and, mixed in the bread, causes dimness of the eyes to those who eat of it." And the author might have added vertigo also. But this does not seem to be the grain to which our Lord alludes.

The word ζιζανια , zizania , which is here translated tares, and which should rather be translated bastard or degenerate wheat, is a Chaldee word; and its meaning must be sought in the rabbinical writers. In a treatise in the Mishna called Kelayim, which treats expressly on different kinds of seeds, the word זונים zunim , or זונין zunin , is used for bastard or degenerated wheat; that which was wholly a right seed in the beginning, but afterwards became degenerate - the ear not being so large, nor the grains in such quantity, as formerly, nor the corn so good in quality. In Psalm 144:13 , the words זן אל מזן mizzan al zen , are translated all manner of store; but they properly signify, from species to species: might not the Chaldee word זונין zunin , and the Greek word ζιζανια , zizania , come from the psalmist's זנזן zanzan , which might have signified a mixture of grain of any kind, and be here used to point out the mixing bastard or degenerate wheat among good seed wheat? The Persic translator renders it telkh daneh , bitter grain; but it seems to signify merely degenerate wheat. This interpretation throws much light on the scope and design of the whole passage. Christ seems to refer, first, to the origin of evil. God sowed good seed in his field; made man in his own image and likeness: but the enemy, the devil, ( Matthew 13:39 ;), corrupted this good seed, and caused it to degenerate. Secondly, he seems to refer to the state of the Jewish people: God had sowed them, at first, wholly a right seed, but now they were become utterly degenerate, and about to be plucked up and destroyed by the Roman armies, which were the angels or messengers of God's justice, whom he had commissioned to sweep these rebellious people from the face of the land. Thirdly, he seems to refer also to the state in which the world shall be found, when he comes to judge it. The righteous and the wicked shall be permitted to grow together, till God comes to make a full and final separation.

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