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Dictionaries :: Seed

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International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia


sed (Old Testament always for zera‘, Aramaic (Da 2:43) zera‘, except in Joe 1:17 for perudhoth (plural, the Revised Version (British and American) "seeds," the King James Version "seed"), and Le 19:19 (the King James Version "mingled seed") and De 22:9 (the King James Version "divers seeds") for kil'ayim, literally, "two kinds," the Revised Version (British and American) "two kinds of seed." Invariably in Greek Apocrypha and usually in the New Testament for sperma, but Mr 4:26,27; Lu 8:5,11; 2Co 9:10 for sporos, and 1Pe 1:23 for spora):

(1) For "seed" in its literal sense see AGRICULTURE. Of interest is the method of measuring land by means of the amount of seed that could be sown on it (Le 27:16). The prohibition against using two kinds of seed in the same field (Le 19:19; De 22:9) undoubtedly rests on the fact that the practice had some connection with Canaanitish worship, making the whole crop "consecrated" (taboo). Jer 31:27 uses "seed of man" and "seed of beast" as a figure for the means by which God will increase the prosperity of Israel (i.e. "seed yielding men").

(2) For the transferred physiological application of the word to human beings (Le 15:16, etc.) see CLEAN; UNCLEANNESS. The conception of Christians as "born" or "begotten" of God (see REGENERATION) gave rise to the figure in 1Pe 1:23; 1 Joh 3:9. If the imagery is to be stressed, the Holy Spirit is meant. In I Joh 3:9 a doctrine of certain Gnostics is opposed. They taught that by learning certain formulas and by submitting to certain rites, union with God and salvation could be attained without holiness of life. John's reply is that union with a righteous God is meaningless without righteousness as an ideal, even though shortcomings exist in practice (1 Joh 1:8).

(3) From the physiological use of "seed" the transition to the sense of "offspring" was easy, and the word may mean "children" (Le 18:21, etc.) or even a single child (Ge 4:25; 1Sa 1:11 the Revised Version margin). Usually, however, it means the whole posterity (Ge 3:15, etc.); compare "seed royal" (2Ki 11:1, etc.), and "Abraham's seed" (2Ch 20:7, etc.) or "the holy seed" (Ezr 9:2; Isa 6:13; #/RAPC 1Es 8:70; compare Jer 2:21) as designations of Israel. So "to show one's seed" (Ezr 2:59;, Ne 7:61) is to display one's genealogy, and "one's seed" may be simply one's nation, conceived of as a single family (Es 10:3). From this general sense there developed a still looser use of "seed" as meaning simply "men" (Mal 2:15; Isa 1:4; 57:4; #/RAPC Wis 10:15; 12:11, etc.).

In Ga 3:16 Paul draws a distinction between "seeds" and "seed" that has for its purpose a proof that the promises to Abraham were realized in Christ and not in Israel. The distinction, however, overstresses the language of the Old Testament, which never pluralizes zera‘ when meaning "descendants" (plural only in 1Sa 8:15; compare Ro 4:18; 9:7). But in an argument against rabbinical adversaries Paul was obliged to use rabbinical methods (compare Ga 4:25). For modern purposes it is probably best to treat such an exegetical method as belonging simply to the (now superseded) science of the times.

Written by Burton Scott Easton

Torrey's New Topical Textbook

Seed: Every Herb, Tree and Grass Yields Its Own

Gen 1:11,12,29

Seed: Each Kind Of, Has Its Own Body

1Cr 15:38

Seed: Sowing Of

Time for, called seed time

Gen 8:22

Necessary to its productiveness

Jhn 12:24; 1Cr 15:36

Required constant diligence

Ecc 11:4,6

Often attended with great waste

Mat 13:4,5,7

Often attended with danger

Psa 126:5,6

Seed: Yearly return of time of sowing, secured by covenant

Gen 8:21,22

Seed: The Ground Carefully Ploughed, and Prepared For

Isa 28:24,25

Seed: Often Sown beside Rivers

Ecc 11:1; Isa 32:20

Seed: Often trodden into the ground, by the feet of oxen

Isa 32:20

Seed: Required to Be Watered by the Rain

Isa 55:10

Seed: In Egypt Required to Be Artificially Watered

Deu 11:10

Seed: Yielded an Abundant Increase in Canaan

Gen 26:12; Mat 13:23

Seed: Mosaic Laws Respecting

Different kinds of, not to be sown in the same field

Lev 19:19; Deu 22:9

If dry, exempted from uncleanness though touched by an unclean thing

Lev 11:37

If wet, rendered unclean by contact with an unclean thing

Lev 11:38

The tithe of, to be given to God

Lev 27:30

Not to be sown during the sabbatical year

Lev 25:4,20

Not to be sown in year of jubilee

Lev 25:11

Seed: Difference between, and the plant which grows from it,

1Cr 15:37,38

Seed: The Jews Punished By

Its rotting in the ground

Joe 1:17; Mal 2:3

Its yielding but little increase

Isa 5:10; Hag 1:6

Its increase being consumed by locusts

Deu 28:38; Joe 1:4

Its increase being consume by enemies

Lev 26:16; Deu 28:33,51

Its being choked by thorns

Jer 12:13; Mat 13:7

Seed: Illustrative Of

The word of God

Luk 8:11; 1Pe 1:23

Spiritual life

1Jo 3:9

Seed: Sowing, Illustrative Of

Preaching the gospel

Mat 13:3,32; 1Cr 9:11

Scattering or dispersing a people

Zec 10:9

Christian liberality

Ecc 11:6; 2Cr 9:6

Men's works producing a corresponding recompence

Job 4:8; Hsa 10:12; Gal 6:7,8

The death of Christ and its effects

Jhn 12:24

The burial of the body

1Cr 15:36-38

Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
1 Strong's Number: g4690 Greek: sperma


akin to speiro, "to sow" (Eng., "sperm," "spermatic," etc.), has the following usages,

(a) agricultural and botanical, e.g., Mat 13:24, 27, 32 (for the AV of vv. 19-23, see SOW, as in the RV); 1Cr 15:38; 2Cr 9:10;

(b) physiological, Hbr 11:11;

(c) metaphorical and by metonymy and for "offspring, posterity,"

(1) of natural offspring e.g., Mat 22:24, 25, RV, "seed" (AV, "issue"); Jhn 7:42; 8:33, 37; Act 3:25; Rom 1:3; 4:13, 16, 18; 9:7 (twice), 8, 29; 11:1; 2Cr 11:22; Hbr 2:16; 11:18; Rev 12:17; Gal 3:16, 19, 29; in the 16th ver., "He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ," quoted from the Sept. of Gen 13:15; 17:7, 8, there is especial stress on the word "seed," as referring to an individual (here, Christ) in fulfillment of the promises to Abraham, a unique use of the singular. While the plural form "seeds," neither in Hebrew nor in Greek, would have been natural any more than in English (it is not so used in Scripture of human offspring; its plural occurrence is in 1Sa 8:15, of crops), yet if the Divine intention had been to refer to Abraham's natural descendants, another word could have been chosen in the plural, such as "children;" all such words were, however, set aside, "seed" being selected as one that could be used in the singular, with the purpose of showing that the "seed" was Messiah. Some of the rabbis had even regarded "seed," e.g., in Gen 4:25; Isa 53:10, as referring to the Coming One. Descendants were given to Abraham by other than natural means, so that through him Messiah might come, and the point of the Apostle's argument is that since the fulfillment of the promises of God is secured alone by Christ, they only who are "in Christ" can receive them;

(2) of spiritual offspring, Rom 4:16, 18; 9:8; here "the children of the promise are reckoned for a seed" points, firstly, to Isaac's birth as being not according to the ordinary course of nature but by Divine promise, and, secondly, by analogy, to the fact that all believers are children of God by spiritual birth; Gal 3:29.

As to 1Jo 3:9, "his seed abideth in him," it is possible to understand this as meaning that children of God (His "seed") abide in Him, and do not go on doing (practicing) sin (the verb "to commit" does not represent the original in this passage). Alternatively, the "seed" signifies the principle of spiritual life as imparted to the believer, which abides in him without possibility of removal or extinction; the child of God remains eternally related to Christ, he who lives in sin has never become so related, he has not the principle of life in him. This meaning suits the context and the general tenor of the Epistle.

2 Strong's Number: g4703 Greek: sporos


akin to No. 1, properly "a sowing," denotes "seed sown,"

(a) natural, Mar 4:26, 27; Luk 8:5, 11 (the natural being figuratively applied to the Word of God); 2Cr 9:10 (1st part);

(b) metaphorically of material help to the needy, 2Cr 9:10 (2nd part), RV, "(your) seed for sowing" (AV, "seed sown").

3 Strong's Number: g4701 Greek: spora


akin to No. 1, and like No. 2, "a sowing, seedtime," denotes "seed sown," 1Pe 1:23, of human offspring. In the Sept., 2Ki 19:29.


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