The ancient method of sowing seed, or scattering it on the earth for growth, was generally by “broadcasting.” The sower carried grain seed in a fold of his garment or in a container. He dispersed the seed before him with his hand in a long sweeping motion that extended from the seed supply to the opposite side. In Israel the sowing season extended from about October until the first part of March, depending on the kind of grain sown.
Jehovah’s Blessing. Jehovah is the One providing the seed and the growing process, as well as the sunshine and rain, by which the field produces many times the quantity that is planted. (2Sa 23:3, 4; Isa 55:10) All mankind, whether righteous or wicked, thus receive benefits from the Creator.—Mt 5:45; Ac 14:15-17.
However, Jehovah God does not generally exercise specific control over the factors that make growth possible. Thus wicked persons at times may enjoy a bountiful harvest, whereas righteous ones, because of experiencing unfavorable conditions, may have a crop failure.—Compare Job 21:7-24.
On the other hand, when it suits his purpose, Jehovah can bless the sower and bring him abundant crops, or he can cause a scarcity of fruitage, depending upon the sower’s faithfulness and obedience to Him. For example, Jehovah purposed to make Israel a great and numerous nation in the Promised Land, so he blessed his obedient servants bountifully. When Isaac was sojourning in Canaan, even though he was harassed by the natives of the land, Jehovah blessed him so that his sowing resulted in a harvest of up to a hundred measures from one measure sown.—Ge 26:12.
The spiritual condition of Israel determined the kind of harvest they received. Jehovah said to them before they entered the Promised Land: “If you continue walking in my statutes and keeping my commandments and you do carry them out, . . . your threshing will certainly reach to your grape gathering, and the grape gathering will reach to the sowing of seed.” The crops would be so bountiful that the harvest would not be finished before the time to sow the next crop. (Compare Am 9:13.) On the other hand, God warned: “If you will not listen to me nor do all these commandments, . . . you will simply sow your seed for nothing, as your enemies will certainly eat it up.” And he added, “your earth will not give its yield.” (Le 26:3-5, 14-16, 20; compare Hag 1:6.) Later, in the prophet Jeremiah’s day, Jehovah’s warning proved true. Describing their bad condition, Jehovah then said: “They have sown wheat, but thorns are what they have reaped.”—Jer 12:13.
Israel’s Law Governing Sowing. In the Law given through Moses, God commanded that the land was to be sown for six years, but no sowing or harvesting was to be done during the seventh year (Sabbath year) nor on the Jubilee year. (Ex 23:10, 11; Le 25:3, 4, 11) This served to test their faith and it gave them more time for pursuit of spiritual things; it also was good for the soil.
Since the land was Jehovah’s, it was, in a sense, holy, and his people were holy. Therefore care had to be taken to prevent any kind of defilement. If the dead body of an unclean animal, for example, a rat or a lizard, fell upon seed that was wet, it was unclean for use, whereas if the seed was dry, it was clean. This was no doubt because the wetness would tend to spread the uncleanness throughout the seed.—Le 11:31, 37, 38.
Also, the mixing of different seeds in sowing was not permitted, though seeds of different kinds could be sown, each kind in separate places in the same field. (Le 19:19; Isa 28:25) This may have been to keep the Israelites mindful of their separateness and distinctness as God’s people, under his Kingship. If an Israelite violated this law, mixing two sorts of seeds, the entire produce of his field or vineyard became as something “devoted.” It was therefore forfeited to the sanctuary.—De 22:9; compare Le 27:28; Nu 18:14.
Illustrative Use. Illustrating Jehovah’s care for and blessing on the remnant that returned from Babylon, the psalmist wrote: “Those sowing seed with tears will reap even with a joyful cry. The one that without fail goes forth, even weeping, carrying along a bagful of seed, will without fail come in with a joyful cry, carrying along his sheaves.” (Ps 126:1, 5, 6) Those returning from Babylon were very happy at their release, but they may have wept when sowing seed in the desolate ground that had been unworked for 70 years. Nevertheless, Jehovah had gathered them back for his name’s sake, and those who went ahead with the sowing and reconstruction work enjoyed fruitage from their labor. For a while, when the temple construction was stopped, Jehovah withheld the land’s fruitage, but through the prophets Haggai and Zechariah the people again were stirred to activity and again received God’s favor.—Hag 1:6, 9-11; 2:15-19.
Jehovah uses the sowing and growing process to illustrate the sure effectiveness of his word.—Isa 55:10, 11.
Diligence and generosity. Solomon set forth a principle in connection with generosity and doing one’s work industriously when he wrote: “He that is watching the wind will not sow seed; and he that is looking at the clouds will not reap.” A person who holds back, waiting for a time to come when everything seems to him fully and exactly favorable for the work God has set before him, or who is looking for an excuse to avoid the work, will not receive anything from God. Rather, Solomon recommends diligence, for, he says in verse 5, it is God who “does all things” and man does not understand all of God’s ways of working. Accordingly, he advises: “In the morning sow your seed and until the evening do not let your hand rest; for you are not knowing where this will have success, either here or there, or whether both of them will alike be good.”—Ec 11:4-6.
The apostle Paul seems to be thinking similarly when he encourages the Christians at Corinth in their generosity in connection with the relief ministration for the brothers at Jerusalem, who had suffered hardships and had lost many of their possessions through persecution leveled against them by the Jews. Paul said: “He that sows sparingly will also reap sparingly; and he that sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. . . . God, moreover, is able to make all his undeserved kindness abound toward you, that, while you always have full self-sufficiency in everything, you may have plenty for every good work. . . . Now he that abundantly supplies seed to the sower and bread for eating will supply and multiply the seed for you to sow and will increase the products of your righteousness.” Then Paul points out the good that results in addition to God’s favor and bounty in a material way, namely, that such generosity results in thanks to God and glorification of God, along with the love and prayers of those being helped, in behalf of those extending help. There is also an increase of love in the congregation.—2Co 9:6-14.
Preaching the good news. Jesus Christ likened the sowing of seed to preaching the word, the good news of the Kingdom. He was the Sower of the Kingdom truths, and John the Baptizer had also worked as a sower. Jesus’ disciples were sent out to reap in the fields that had been sown and were white for harvesting. Therefore he said to them: “Already the reaper is receiving wages and gathering fruit for everlasting life, so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together. . . . One is the sower and another the reaper. I dispatched you to reap what you have spent no labor on. Others have labored [in sowing], and you have entered into the benefit of their labor [by reaping].”—Joh 4:35-38.
Again, Jesus likened the preaching work to sowing, in the illustration of the sower. In this parable the seed sown is “the word of the kingdom.” Jesus pointed out that the conditions under which the seed is sown can affect the sprouting and growing of the seed in the hearts of men.—Mt 13:1-9, 18-23; Lu 8:5-15.
The wheat and the weeds. In another illustration Jesus likened himself to a sower of fine seed, and the seed to “sons of the kingdom.” Another sower, an enemy who sows weeds in the field, is the Devil. Here Jesus was evidently foretelling an apostasy to come, when, in and among the Christian congregation, there would be men falsely claiming to be servants of God and attempting to defile the congregation and to draw away the disciples.—Mt 13:24-30, 36-43; compare Ac 20:29; 2Co 11:12-15; 2Th 2:3-9; 1Ti 4:1; 2Ti 4:3, 4; 2Pe 2:1-3.
‘Sowing with a view to the flesh.’ The apostle Paul, after enumerating the fruits of the spirit and the works of the flesh, and admonishing each one to prove his own work, said: “Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.”—Ga 5:19-23; 6:4, 7, 8.
An example of sowing to the flesh, with its results, was cited by Paul at Romans 1:24-27. Other examples were the incestuous person in the Corinthian congregation, practicing unclean fleshly things; also Hymenaeus and Alexander, who were promoting unclean teaching and blasphemy, and who were handed over to Satan “for the destruction of the flesh,” that is, to clear such fleshly element out of the congregation.—1Co 5:1, 5; 1Ti 1:20; 2Ti 2:17, 18.
Instructing, caring for, the congregation. When writing to the congregation at Corinth, Paul compared his instructing and helping the congregation to sowing, and he explained to them that, doing so, he had authority to receive material things from them to assist him in carrying on his ministry. But he did not do this, so as not to offer any hindrance to the good news.—1Co 9:11, 12.
Just as a farmer sows seed in peace, so the good news is sown in peace, not with wrangling, strife, tumult, and the use of force. And the men doing the sowing are men of peace, not quarrelsome, belligerent, or riotous. Therefore peaceful conditions must exist in the Christian congregation for their sowing to produce fruitage of righteousness.—Jas 3:18.
The resurrection. When discussing the spiritual resurrection, Paul likened the burial of the physical body to the sowing of a seed, stating: “Nevertheless, someone will say: ‘How are the dead to be raised up? Yes, with what sort of body are they coming?’ You unreasonable person! What you sow is not made alive unless first it dies; and as for what you sow, you sow, not the body that will develop, but a bare grain, it may be, of wheat or any one of the rest; but God gives it a body just as it has pleased him, and to each of the seeds its own body. . . . And there are heavenly bodies, and earthly bodies . . . So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised up in incorruption. . . . It is sown a physical body, it is raised up a spiritual body. . . . For this which is corruptible must put on incorruption, and this which is mortal must put on immortality.”—1Co 15:35-53.
Those who are chosen by God to be joint heirs with his Son, and to receive incorruption and immortality, must die and give up the body of flesh in order to obtain a heavenly body by resurrection. This is similar to the way a seed that has been planted “dies,” disintegrates, and is of an entirely different form and appearance from the plant that results.
For a discussion of the sowing mentioned at Isaiah 28:24, with its illustrative significance, see PLOWING.