Bernard Brandon Scott, in Hear Then the Parables: A Commentary on the Parables of Jesus (Augsburg Fortress, 1989, p. 384), references Dodd and notes three Old Testament passages which “bear a strong resemblance to the vocabulary of the parable’s ending”:
First, “In one of the dreams that Daniel interprets, King Nebuchadnezzar sees a great tree that reaches all the way to heaven. ‘Its leaves were fair and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the air dwelt in its branches, and all flesh fed from it” (Dan. 4:12).”
A second text is Ezek. 31:6, “where the great tree is Pharoah and Ezekiel in his interpretation identifies the tree with the king and prophesies his downfall. In Ezek. 31:5-6, the prophet speaks a word to Pharaoh in which he likens him to a cedar in Lebanon ‘of great height, its top among the clouds.’ And as it ‘grew large and its branches long, . . . [a]ll the birds of the air made their nests in its boughs; under its branches all the beasts of the field brought forth their young; and under its shadow dwelt all the nations.’ ”
Third, Ezek. 17:23, “The Lord himself says that he will take a sprig from a giant cedar and plant it himself ‘on the mountain height of Israel . . . and it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a noble cedar and the birds of every wing will nest in it; in the shade of its branches they will find shelter.’ “
Reading the Scripture
Here are some ways you might read the scripture or tell the story:
o The Bible Experience: The Complete Bible (“presented by a stellar ensemble of today’s top-name actors, musicians, clergy, directors, and award-winning producers.” Available from Keith).
o Faith Comes by Hearing: You’ve Got the Time (Dramatized New Testament we used a few years ago during Lent. Available in the church office.)
• The parables of the kingdom, we study in this unit, deal with agricultural themes. Invite a farmer each week to speak to the parables from a farmer’s perspective.
• Mustard Seed: See pictures of mustard seed and the mustard plant on this web page.
• I have some mustard seed that I will place in your Sunday School box, if you’d like to show it to your class.
• I like the way Lester Lawless talks about the amazing acorn: “I like being out on the farm,” he begins. “It makes me more aware of the wonder of God’s creation. Think about the acorn,” he says, showing you the imaginary acorn he holds between his fingers. “It is small, but when it lays on the ground, eventually a tiny sprout will crack the shell, then it digs into the earth taking root. A twig will come up from the ground while the roots go deep. And one day a mighty oak tree will grow. All from a tiny acorn. I don’t know how that happens. Only God can do that.” This lesson is about those amazing things that only God can do.
• Invite class members to reflect on the Parable of the Seed in worship today: “Today in worship we will pray, ‘Our father who art in heaven, Hallowed be your name.’ As you do, reflect on the wonder of God, who grows mighty trees from small seeds all while we sleep and performs many more wonders that we do not understand.”
• Mustard seed and plant pictures on this web page.
• For a better understanding of farming in New Testament times see Harper’s Encyclopedia of Bible Life (Harper & Row, 1978, pp. 172-185).
• These dictionaries in the library have articles on “Parables” and “the Kingdom of God”:
o Mercer Dictionary of the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1990)
o Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised and Updated (Harper & Row, 2011)
o The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, Five Volume Set (Abingdon, 1976)
• For additional commentary on the text, see these commentaries in our library:
o Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1995)
o Harper’s Bible Commentary (Harper & Row, 1988)