Matthew 13:19

"When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path." ESV. My emphasis.

What has not been understood, so that the evil one is able to snatch away what was sown in the heart? By way of contrast, "no one will snatch them out of my hand." John 10:28.

Some appreciation of the word of the kingdom must be present here in that the seed has been sown [albeit in the heart and not the mind].

Mind understanding -Luke 24:45

"Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures".

Heart understanding-Matthew 13:15

"and hear with their ears and understand with their heart."

In Matthew 13:19-

A. What is it that has not been understood?

B. Is it the heart or the mind that has not understood?

C. Some other explanation?

4 Answers 4


Jesus had given a parable about sowing the seed ('of the word of the kingdom' vs. 19). His disciples asked him why he spoke to the people in parables. His answer is the answer to this question, and he quotes from the prophet Isaiah. Here is how Jesus explained the matter of hearing, and understanding:

"Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given... Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith,

'By hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.'

But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear." Matthew 13:11-16 K.J.V.

This speaks of spiritual hearing, spiritual seeing, and spiritual understanding. It is the spiritual state of a person's heart that determines whether they will hear with understanding, or not. That is stated elsewhere:

"Having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart." Ephesians 4:18 K.J.V.

Christ reads the hearts of people. God reads the hearts of people. To those with sincere hearts, the understanding is given, and then they can 'see' and so the good seed of the kingdom takes root and produces good fruit.

To summarise the answers to your question[s]: In Matthew 13:19-

A. What is it that has not been understood? - the spiritual significance of the message of God's kingdom.

B. Is it the heart or the mind that has not understood? - because of the state of the heart, the mind cannot understand the spiritual significance.

C. Some other explanation? - Jesus gives the explanation in the preceding verses, as copied in this answer.


The word of the kingdom reveals truths about God and his kingdom, mysteries that we cannot arrive at on our own but that must be given to us.

Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. - Mt 13:11

When we first hear the word, the meaning is likely to elude us. The parable tells us that understanding takes time. It is a process similar to the life cycle of a plant from seed to fruit. It begins with God who sows the seed in our hearts. Seeds are sown where they are meant to grow, but the fate of the seed also depends on the condition of the soil. As the parable illustrates, that the seed is sown into the heart does not necessarily mean that it will grow.

When the heart is hardened, like the soil along a path, it cannot or will not receive the seed, and the seed is vulnerable to being snatched away. Where there is a shallowness of heart, the roots cannot grow deep, leaving the seedling weak and unable to withstand adversity. Even where the plant can grow, the heart may harbor competing interests, weeds and thorns that threaten to choke what God has sown.

We can view these as separate and alternative scenarios, but I like to think of them as different stages in a cycle. We know that God sows the seed, but I believe that he also has a hand in cultivating the soil. What starts out as hard and unreceptive may yet yield with time (cf Ez 36:26). Plants have the ability to nourish and change the soil in which they grow, and that may be the true purpose of the seed after all.

The OP asks whether it is the heart or the mind that understands. According to the parable, it is in the heart that the seed is meant to grow. I believe the mind and heart must work together, but what can the mind understand if the heart is unable or unwilling?


The operative Greek verb, "to understand" in the parable of Matt 13 is συνίημι (suniemi) meaning (BDAG)

to have an intellectual grasp of something that challenges one's thinking or practice, understand, comprehend

The verb occurs 26 times in the NT and always refers to understanding or comprehending the Gospel of grace in its various forms, eg, Matt 13:13, 14, 15, 19, 23, 51, 15:10, 16:12, 17:13, Mark 4:12, 6:52, 7:14, 8:17, 21, Luke 2:50, 8:10, 18:34, 24:45, Acts 7:25, 28:26, 27, Rom 3:11, 15:21, 2 Cor 10:12, Eph 5:17.

Thus, when Jesus correctly observed that men do not understand, he is effectively say that their lack of grasp of the gospel means that they cannot allow the gospel to change their thinking and practice.

Thus, what people do not understand about the gospel is a lack of understanding by both the "heart" (Acts 28:26, 27) and "mind". Both are miracles (if the recipient permits) by the Holy Spirit. See John 16:1-14.


We can look at other passages that give the same parable to get an understanding.

Luke 8:9-15 is one.

Luke 8:11 'The seed is the word of God'. Verse 12 'Those on the wayside are they that hear; then comes the devil, and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.'

Putting the two passages together, Matthew 13 and Luke 8, we can gather that what they don't understand is the message they hear. Perhaps the message is given in a confusing way, or for some other reason they don't understand what they hear, and therefore the devil can snatch away whatever they did hear of the message.

I would say the message, since it is heard with the ears, would first have to be understood by the mind in order to penetrate into the heart.

And I would add that if any preacher is preaching a confusing message on purpose, that preacher must be an agent of the devil. In that manner they can preach from scripture, even say much truth, as long as it is in a confusing way, their boss can snatch away any truth heard.

  • 1
    You say "would first have to be understood by the mind" I think this is a good point. When you say "Perhaps the message is given in a confused way" then one might question in this instance whether the Gospel had actually been delivered.
    – C. Stroud
    May 3, 2023 at 12:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.