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Bible Plants. 7 – Darnel

In the last of these reflections on nature and Biblical plants, we are looking at two aspects that some people find disturbing. The first of these is actually one of my favourites, and that is the thunder storm. There is nothing that we can experience here at home that demonstrates the power of nature like a storm. Lightning fills the skies (even more dramatic at night!) flashing in sheets or arcing forks that are so fast you have to be looking straight at them to see them, and the whole atmosphere prickles with electricity. Thunder rolls on and on, or cracks suddenly right overhead, just when you are not expecting it. Even the storm does God’s will (Psalm 148:8), but He seems to specialise in calming the storm, both in nature (Luke 8:24) and in life (Proverbs 10:25).

Our final Bible plant is the only one that is not useful for anything. The plant is called Lolium temulentum; its common name is darnel, or, as we know it from the Bible, tares (KJV) or just weeds (NIV).

Wikipedia says, ‘Darnel usually grows in the same production zones as wheat and was a serious weed of cultivation until modern sorting machinery enabled darnel seeds to be separated efficiently from seed wheat. The similarity between these two plants is so great that in some regions, darnel is referred to as “false wheat”. It bears a close resemblance to wheat until the ear appears. Wheat will appear brown when ripe, whereas darnel is black.’

You can see from today’s picture how similar it looks to wheat.

Jesus’ parable of the tares/weeds found in Matthew 13:24-30 (and explained in v36-43) is therefore set in a very well known and worrying context for His first century listeners. Having darnel mixed in with wheat seed would have been bad enough, but for an enemy to have purposefully sown them amongst the wheat would have been a very malicious thing to do indeed. As Jesus points out, to attempt to pull them out would risk losing a large amount of the wheat crop as well. They are allowed to grow until the harvest, when their ripened colours make them easier to distinguish.

With this in mind, perhaps the meaning of the parable can be explored more fully. It is not just about care for the genuine people of God, or the destruction of the wicked. There is the added dimension that many of those who will fall into the ‘tares’ category don’t look much different to those in the wheat group. Perhaps some may even have attended church all their lives! Jesus is asking us all to consider how important it is to come to know Him as our own personal Saviour and Lord, and warning us that there is no other way. Genuine repentance from sin and living relationship with the One who declared Himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life is more important than any other consideration.


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