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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


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sēd (Old Testament always for זרע , zera‛ , Aramaic ( Daniel 2:43 ) זרע , zera‛ , except in Joel 1:17 for פּרדות , perudhōth (plural, the Revised Version (British and American) "seeds," the King James Version "seed"), and Leviticus 19:19 (the King James Version "mingled seed") and Deuteronomy 22:9 (the King James Version "divers seeds") for כּלאים , 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 σπέρμα , spérma , but Mark 4:26 , Mark 4:27; Luke 8:5 , Luke 8:11; 2 Corinthians 9:10 for σπόρος , spóros , and 1 Peter 1:23 for σπορά , sporá ): (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 (Leviticus 27:16 ). The prohibition against using two kinds of seed in the same field (Leviticus 19:19; Deuteronomy 22:9 ) undoubtedly rests on the fact that the practice had some connection with Canaanitish worship, making the whole crop "consecrated" (taboo ). Jeremiah 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 ( Leviticus 15:16 , etc.) see CLEAN; UNCLEAN . The conception of Christians as "born" or "begotten" of God (see REGENERATION ) gave rise to the figure in 1 Peter 1:23; 1 John 3:9 . If the imagery is to be stressed, the Holy Spirit is meant. In I John 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 John 1:8 ). (3) From the physiological use of "seed" the transition to the sense of "offspring" was easy, and the word may mean "children" (Leviticus 18:21 , etc.) or even a single child (Genesis 4:25; 1 Samuel 1:11 the Revised Version margin). Usually, however, it means the whole posterity ( Genesis 3:15 , etc.); compare "seed royal" (2 Kings 11:1 , etc.), and "Abraham's seed" (2 Chronicles 20:7 , etc.) or "the holy seed" (Ezra 9:2; Isaiah 6:13; 1 Esdras 8:70; compare Jeremiah 2:21 ) as designations of Israel. So "to show one's seed" (Ezra 2:59;, Nehemiah 7:61 ) is to display one's genealogy, and "one's seed" may be simply one's nation, conceived of as a single family (Esther 10:3 ). From this general sense there developed a still looser use of "seed" as meaning simply "men" (Malachi 2:15; Isaiah 1:4; Isaiah 57:4; The Wisdom of Solomon 10:15; 12:11, etc.).

In Galatians 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 1 Samuel 8:15; compare Romans 4:18; Romans 9:7 ). But in an argument against rabbinical adversaries Paul was obliged to use rabbinical methods (compare Galatians 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.

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Seed'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.

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