SEED/OFFSPRING/DESCENDANT: zera. Masculine noun. (Strong’s 2233).
Sounds like: zeh’rah
I’m a horrible gardener… like surprisingly bad, which is a bit embarrassing considering my heritage. My parents are expert gardeners… their home has even been on the official garden tour of St. Andrew’s, New Brunswick. My Dad, painstakingly prunes and cares for dozens of bonsai, gently guiding the path of each branch. And my Mum spends full time hours weeding, and mulching, and pinching grubs to keep the foliage in tip-top shape.
But I would much rather have my nose in a book than my hands in the dirt. Research makes my heart sing, weeding makes my head hurt. Don’t get me wrong, I do try to garden. I tend to a few flowers, a few fruit trees, and always tomatoes, but my flower beds shine on their own accord… dazzling colours dancing alongside the thorns. Thankfully God created seeds to pretty much look after themselves… and I let them!
Creation Seeds: Plants, Animals and Humans
Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed [zera], and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed [zar’ow] in them”; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed [zera] after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed [zar’ow] in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good.
But although seeds do look after themselves, God recognized that seeds could flourish even better with a gardener:
God blessed them [humans]; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed [zera] that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed [zera]; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.
In the Hebrew language the word seed (zera) doesn’t just describe a part of a plant. A seed is anything that produces new life, so zera (seeds) also refers to human offspring or descendants:
Adam had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him Seth, for, [she said], “God has appointed me another offspring [seed: zera] in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.” To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then [humans] began to call upon the name of YHWH.
Although in Hebrew there is only one word (zera) to describe seed and human offspring, in Greek the word gets split into two: sporas & sperma/spermati.
Yeshua (Jesus) consistently used seed imagery in his parables.
Luke 8:4-15 (See also Mark 4:1-20)
When a large crowd was coming together, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him, He spoke by way of a parable: “The sower went out to sow his seed [sporon]; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up. Other (seed) fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. Other (seed) fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. Other (seed) fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great.” As He said these things, He would call out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Luke used the plant version of the seed, sporon (rather than sperma), perhaps because he trusted that his readers would understand the human aspect to this parable. Also, Luke followed this with a recorded explanation of the parable that Jesus gave to his disciples. Matthew, however, helped the reader identify the meaning of the parable by using the human version of seed (sperma), rather than the plant version of seed (sporas). Matthew also recorded Yeshua’s explanation of the parable, but not immediately following the parable. Matthew gave the reader some time to ponder the text, and sperma acted as a clue to it’s meaning:
Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed [sperma] in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed [sperma] in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn…”’”
The fact that seed means offspring of both plant and human, makes it ripe (pardon the pun) for metaphor.
YHWH also used this metaphor. The prophet Haggai recorded YHWH alluding to the seed in the barn. The wheat in Yeshua’s parable was gathered into the barn as it should have been, but seeds should never wait idly in storage. They are for planting and bearing fruit, not for rotting in dark spaces:
YHWH: “Is the seed still in the barn? Even including the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree, it has not borne fruit. Yet from this day on I will bless you.”
Seeds that wait in storage cannot blossom and bear fruit. But God can take a fruitless tree and change the course of its path. Through blessings and covenants YHWH would rescues His people.
Seeds & Covenants
The word seed played a part of almost every Covenant that God made with His people.
When God realized that humanity had become utterly corrupt, He decided clear out wickedness and restart the garden. But he didn’t want to restart the seed of humanity all over again. Noah was chosen…
“…to keep his offspring [seed: zera] alive on the face of all the earth.” (Genesis 7:3).
Noah’s seed was the continuation to propagate humanity. After the flood God made a promise to creation:
YHWH: “While the earth remains, Seedtime [zera] and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”
He followed that promise with what He called “the sign of the covenant”.
Genesis 9:8-9, 12-13
Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, “Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants [seeds: zar’a’kem] after you…
…“I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” God said, “This is the sign of the covenant [owt ha-b’rit] which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.”
In the next covenant God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky:
And He [YHWH} took him [Abram] outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants [zar’eka] be.”…
YHWH further explained that Abraham wouldn’t just usher in a single nation of people, but that Abraham would be the father of a multitude of nations and that his descendants would take the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession:
“No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.
I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants [zar’aka] after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants [u-l-zar’aka]] after you. I will give to you and to your descendants [u-l-zar’aka]] after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”
As the father of a multitude of nations, the promise to Abraham would belong to all who have a relationship with their Creator. In his letter addressed to the Galatians, Paul spoke about the seed to come:
Galatians 3:19, 24-29
Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed [sperma] would come to whom the promise had been made…
…Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Messiah, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in the Messiah Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into the Messiah have clothed yourselves with the Messiah. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Messiah Jesus. And if you belong to the Messiah, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.
Paul was indicating that the Law was given to address transgression and sin, until the seed would come to deal with it once and for all. The Law, which ushered rituals for atonement, became a tutor to lead us to the Messiah. The purpose of the Torah was to point to the Messiah. Yeshua who fulfilled the Law, Paul argued, allowed anyone of any race, or sex, or economic standing, to become one in under the Messiah; and if we are one under the Messiah then we are all the seeds of Abraham.
The Seed of King David
If Yeshua (Jesus) was the promised seed then he had to come from the line of David. In Yeshua’s genealogy, there were only three women listed: Ruth, Rahab, and Tamar. Ruth was the great grandmother of David:
All the people who were in the court, and the elders, said [to Boaz], “We are witnesses. May YHWH make the woman [Ruth] who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel; and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem. Moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, through the offspring [ha-zera] which YHWH will give you by this young woman.”
So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife, and he went in to her. And YHWH enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed is YHWH who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age…”
Ruth was the mother of Obed, grandmother to Jesse and great grandmother to King David. The baby Obed was described as a redeemer and restorer of life because his little birth would lead us directly to the Messiah. YHWH had made a Covenant with David… a promise that the holy seed, a Messiah-Redeemer, would be his descendant. An eternal kingdom would sprout from David’s seed:
2 Samuel 7:12-14a
“When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant [zar’aka] after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me…”
David’s son Solomon certainly did build a house for YHWH’s name, the Temple, but the kingdom fell and split into two not many years after Solomon’s death. How would this line of David be forever, when it only lasted less than a century before it was torn apart? But still God was adamant that David’s seed would be established forever:
Psalm 89:3-4, 20-21, 26-29, 34-37
YHWH: “I have made a covenant with My chosen; I have sworn to David My servant, I will establish your seed [zar’eka] forever and build up your throne to all generations…”
…“I have found David My servant; with My holy oil I have anointed him, with whom My hand will be established; My arm also will strengthen him…
…“He will cry to Me, ‘You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.’ I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. My lovingkindness I will keep for him forever, and My covenant shall be confirmed to him. So I will establish his descendants [his seed: zar’ow] forever and his throne as the days of heaven…”
…“My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David. His descendants [zar’ow] shall endure forever and his throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established forever like the moon, and the witness in the sky is faithful.” Selah.
This was the covenant given to all of Abraham’s seed: God’s anointed, from the line of David, would establish a forever kingdom. It was much bigger than Solomon, this was an anointed Redeemer, who would take away the guilt of humanity all the way back to our first sin in the garden of Eden. The Anointed One was the Redemptive Seed propagated by YHWH to tend to His garden.
“A Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,” declares YHWH.
“As for Me, this is My covenant with them,” says YHWH: “My Spirit which is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring [zar’aka], nor from the mouth of your offspring’s offspring [zera zar’aka],” says YHWH, “from now and forever.”
A Redeemer would come to rescue those who turned from sin, and then God would put His Spirit upon them and they would utter the word of God, from one seed to the next, now and forever. Lovely!… but who was this Redeemer?
Messiah as the Holy Seed
The seeds of Abraham truly went through a roller coaster of ups and downs throughout the Old Testament. In times of trials they turned to their God, in times of ease they forgot YHWH and turned to idols. Eventually, YHWH had enough and He decided to send someone out on His behalf to accuse the people. Isaiah recorded the conversation:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
YHWH accepted Isaiah’s offer and told him that he was to announce God’s words but he wasn’t to encourage the people to seek out its meaning. It was a strange request and it must have been puzzling to Isaiah. After YHWH spoke, Isaiah asked:
“Lord, how long?” And He answered, “Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, houses are without people and the land is utterly desolate.”
“YHWH has removed men far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. Yet there will be a tenth portion in it, and it will again be subject to burning, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump.”
Judgement was upon the earth, and it was pretty terrible, but the last line gave hope. There was a living, holy, seed that would come out of dead stump… life out of death.
This concept of victory over death was the primary theme involving Messianic passages. The first hint of a Messiah came early on in the book of Genesis. The serpent had just deceived Eve and Adam, and God cursed him for it:
YHWH God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life; and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed [zar’aka uben zar’ah]; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”
The seed of the woman would strike a fatal blow to the Adversary but not without being bitten himself. This would not be an easy victory, but a painful one. The seed of the woman would suffer, but He would be lifted up and the Adversary would fall!
Yeshua (Jesus) became the anointed Messiah, the holy seed from the line of Ruth and David, who would atone for the guilt of humanity. He was the seed who would suffer a bite from evil, but overcome death to save all who sought God’s redemption:
But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but YHWH has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.
By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
But YHWH was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring [seed: zera], He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of YHWH will prosper in His hand.
As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.
YHWH’s seed would bear the iniquity of humanity and redeem them.
“Yet I planted you a choice vine, a completely faithful seed [zera]. How then have you turned yourself before Me into the degenerate shoots of a foreign vine?
Although you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your iniquity is before Me,” declares the Lord YHWH.
Potentially YHWH could have annihilated His creation, but really He could not. He made a promise never to wipe the seed of humanity off the face of the earth and God has always kept His Word. He promised to save us [hosanna], and to let His garden prosper:
‘But now I will not treat the remnant of this people as in the former days,’ declares YHWH of hosts. ‘For there will be peace for the seed [zera]: the vine will yield its fruit, the land will yield its produce and the heavens will give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit all these things. It will come about that just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you that you may become a blessing. Do not fear; let your hands be strong.’
YHWH’s Flourishing Garden
The Jewish concept of peace was completeness or wholeness. All was as it should be… the seed would yield its fruit, and the land its produce, and the people would inherit it all. This was how God’s garden was meant to flourish. The final Covenant was recorded by the prophet Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 31:27-28, 31
“Behold, days are coming,” declares YHWH, “when I will sow [w-zara’ti] the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man [zera adam] and with the seed of beast [w-zera b’hemah]. As I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to overthrow, to destroy and to bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares YHWH….
…“Behold, days are coming,” declares YHWH, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah….
The chapter continued to say that with the coming of this new covenant God would forgive and forget sins, God’s law would be written on the hearts of all the people, and every human seed, from the greatest to the least, would acknowledge YHWH as God of All. (Jeremiah 31:33-34)
We are all God’s seeds and we can pretty much look after ourselves, but we need to recognize that seeds flourish even better with a gardener. YHWH promised to watch over us, to cultivate and build us up, and to plant us where we need to be. Live freely, and let YHWH be your Gardener.
Next week: Darkness