What Do the Four Soils in the Parable of the Sower Represent?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

The Parable of the Sower shows that only 1 in 4 who heard the gospel, believed, so what do the 4 different soil types represent?

The Sower

The Parable of the Sower shows that only 1 in 4 who heard the gospel believed, so what do the 4 different soil types represent? When Jesus gave the Parable of the Sower, He said “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them” (Matt 13:3-4). What the birds missed, the rocky ground took care of as there was “not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil” (Matt 13:5), so “when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away” (Matt 13:6). Still yet, the other “seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them” (Matt 13:7). Sadly, only 1 in 4 of the seeds took root, that being the one sown which “produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matt 13:8). What do these non-productive soils represent? Do believers still face these types of soils in their lives? How can we multiply our grain (fruits) with what we’ve been given?

The Evil One

Satan has always wanted humans to doubt God’s Word and in this particular case, Satan snatched God’s Word from unbeliever’s hearts so that they might not believe. Jesus spoke about this in saying, “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” (Matt 13:19). How does Satan (the evil one) snatch the seed of God’s Word out of their hearts? The same way he did to Eve in the Garden, by planting doubts in Eve’s mind about what God really said. He wanted Eve to think that God was not really being honest with her. He tantalized her by making her think she was being deprived of being like a god herself (Gen 3), so she did not believe God’s Word and thus, she disobeyed. Many who hate the Word of God will try to snatch the seed of God’s Word away from believers by trying to plant doubts about the authenticity of the Bible, saying “It’s only a book written by men” (That’s false of course, i.e., 2 Tim 3:16-17). The “path” is not a great place to have a seed sown either. The path is easily susceptible to the birds snatching the seed of God’s Word away. The path may be the path that the world’s headed down and it’s a path toward destruction that Jesus spoke about earlier (Matt 7:13-14).

The Rocky Ground

Jesus explains to us the meaning of the soil where the seed of God’s Word was sown and it’s not a good place for long term growth. Jesus said, “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away” (Matt 13:20-21). The rocky paths are really taken by all humans, aren’t they? All of life has its moments…good and bad…so the lost and the saved will all face rocky paths in life once in a while, but the difference is, the seed in the good soil is just off the beaten path and takes root. Why does it take root in some but not in others? It’s because it “had no root in himself.” We must abide in the vine or we can produce nothing at all (John 15:5). When friends, family, and co-workers start to persecute them for their faith, they fall away, thinking it’s not worth it, but also proving, “They went out from us (the church) because they were not of us” (1 John 2:19). They receive it gladly at first, “with joy,” but it’s not genuine saving faith which is a faith that perseveres until the end.

The Thorns and Thistles

The cares of this world often choke out the seed of God’s Word as Jesus said, this seed that “was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Matt 13:22). The world and its pleasures…riches, pleasure, sexual immorality…all are more important to them than God. They reject God because they’d have to give up their sin and they won’t do it. If given a choice, they choose to “eat, drink and be merry,” and not worry about tomorrow, even though Scripture tells us, today is the day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2; Heb 13:5) and after death, judgment will come (Heb 9:27).

The Good Soil

Finally, if you’re a believer, this is where your seed landed; in very good soil. Jesus explains that “what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty” (Matt 13:23). The good soil has been watered by someone and fertilized by another, but only God could give the increase (1 Cor 3:6-8), and the only way the seed of God’s Word can take root is by His Spirit (Rom 7, 8). Dead men cannot choose Jesus Christ (Eph 2:1-5). The difference between the seed that didn’t take root and that which did is that they hear “the word and understand it,” and that Word bears fruit in the person by God’s Spirit. Some people, like plants, naturally produce more fruit (grain) than others, but they will all produce.


Do believers still face these 3 types of deadly soils in their daily lives? Yes! We will face toils and troubles. Jesus promised that the road to eternal life is narrow and difficult, which is why so few find it (Matt 7:13-14). Even in the Parable of the Seed, only 1 in 4 of the seeds took root, so thank God it took root in you…or you took root in Christ!

Here is some related reading for you: What is the Meaning of the Parable of the Sower?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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