In order to fully understand the parable in relation to  the stony places in which the seed fell, I will refer to the growth of trees.  This is because the parable is not only about the spiritual condition of the spirit into which the word of God is sown, but it is also about sowing and reaping and the conditions for healthy growth of a tree.  Let us therefore examine the parallels:


  • Most tree roots are located in the top 6 to 24 inches of the soil and occupy an area two to four times the diameter of the tree crown.
  • Roots usually do not grow deeper than 3 to 7 feet
  • Roots obtain water, oxygen and minerals from soil
  • In winter, it is a store-house for essential food reserves needed by the tree to produce spring foliage.
  • Roots also anchor the portion of the tree above ground. It is important to keep the portion above ground healthy to ensure an adequate food supply for the roots to continue their important functions.
  • Tree root systems consist of large perennial roots and smaller, short-lived feeder roots
  • Feeder roots, although averaging only 1/16 inch in diameter, constitute the major portion of the root system’s surface area
  • These smaller roots grow outward and predominantly upward from the large roots near the soil surface, where minerals, water and oxygen are relatively abundant.

    • Most active tree roots are in the top 3 feet of soil; the majority are in the top 12 inches
    • Tree roots develop and survive where there is adequate oxygen and moisture
    • Roots will not grow in dry soil
    • Soil compaction affects tree growth. Soil compaction is the reduction in air pockets resulting from soil particles being packed together.
    • In general, soil compaction increases as the depth increases and there is a corresponding decrease in the availability of water, minerals, oxygen and soil temperature. As a result, soil compaction restricts water and oxygen uptake by roots.
    • However, there are instances in which compacted soil (hardpans) can occur near the surface with corresponding restriction in growth.
    • Soil compaction , and is associated with roads, parking lots, foot traffic, construction machinery, livestock, poor soil preparation, and a host of other factors.
    • More importantly, roots are closer to the soil surface  when the soil is more compacted or poorly drained.  This is the condition of the spirit in the parable
    • Other causes of root problems include over- and underwatering, improper fertilization, and competition between roots. Underwatering means that insufficient water is available for proper root development, while underfertilization results in a lack of the minerals essential to maintain a healthy tree.


    • Since the root is the life of the tree, the gardener should provide a  healthy root environment. This  consists of adequate growing space for the root system, well-conditioned soil 16 inches to 24 inches deep, and sufficient water and oxygen.
    • Injurious factors such as soil compaction, soil depth changes, mechanical injury, and improper watering and fertilization techniques should be avoided.
    • A tree with a structurally weakened root system can become a dangerous liability, particularly during severe wind storms.


    I hope that you are already beginning to see the relationship between root and soil function and Jesus’ teaching. Let us review:

    Some  fell upon stonyplaces, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth

    But he that received the seed into stony   places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it (Mt 13: 5, 20)

    And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:

    And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness

    And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended (Mk 4: 5, 16, 17) .

    And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture.

    They on the rock [are they], which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away  (Lk 8: 6,13).

    The stony ground that Jesus spoke of in the parable is an area of  compacted soil.  He told us that the compacted area was near to the surface, shallow and lacked moisture, so that the tree or spirit did not even become rooted in God. 

    The moisture refers to the word of God.  This individual does not dwell in an environment that is optimal for growth and remains spiritually inept. This person withers spiritually when the environment becomes adverse, lacking the stamina of spirit to endure.

    Read more in the upcoming post