Matthew 6:26 Behold the birds of the air:

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

Sermon on Mount, law and fulfillment, visible and hidden, temporary and permanent, worry and trust

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

Look up towards the winged ones of the sky! Because they really don't sow nor mow nor stow into storehouses, and the Father of yours, the sky one fattens them. No, you yourselves certainly are better than them.

KJV : 

Matthew 6:26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

A lot of surprises in the Greek in this verse, including a fun little rhyme that it is lost in translation. The three key words, "sow," "reap," "gather," all rhyme in Greek ending with the letters "ousin". Though the "sin" part is a common verb ending, these particular verbs seem chosen because they do rhyme.

In the Greek, "the bird of the air" is phrased so in such a way that it also means "those that fly in sky." This makes the verse mean two different things entirely, referring both to birds and transcendent beings. Jesus always uses this phrasing to refers to birds in general though he uses specific types of birds to make other points.

The last sentence is translated as a negative question because the translators did not know how else to deal with its negative. The negative only makes sense is we assume Jesus was responding to something said by the crowd. Its form is more likely the negative adverb used in response to questions than the normal negative particle used in sentences. When these particles negate a clause, they come before the verb. This negative begins the clause, coming before the pronoun "you." If it was a negative particle, this would mean only the "you" was negated, "not you." If this was a question, it would begin with the verb (or a negative before the verb) or an interrogatory pronoun, which doesn't appear here.

NIV : 

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Wordplay: 

 Phrasing "bird of the air" in such a way that it also means "those that fly in the sky." This makes the verse mean two different things entirely, referring both to bird and transcendent beings. 

The "sow", "reap", and "gather" here all rhyme. Christ uses many different words for all of these activities, but here, using them together, he chooses verb forms which are all rhyming. 

My Takeaway: 

The source of nature's bounty is hidden in the Divine but it can be trusted.

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

ἐμβλέψατε [unique](2nd pl aor imperat act) "Behold" is emblepo, which means "look in the face", "look at,"" look into", "consider," and "look."

εἰς (prep) Untranslated is from eis, which means "into (of place)," "up to (of time)", "until (of time)", "as much as (of measure or limit)", "as far as (of measure or limit)", "towards (to express relation)", "in regard to (to express relation)", "of an end or limit," and "for (of purpose or object)."

τὰ (article pl neut acc) "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

πετεινὰ (adj pl neut acc) "Birds" is from peteinon, which as an adjective means "able to fly", "full-fledged," and "winged," and, as a noun, "winged fowl," and "a bird."

τοῦ (article sg masc gen) "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

οὐρανοῦ (noun sg masc gen) "Of the air" is from ouranos, which means "heaven as in the vault of the sky", "heaven as the seat of the gods", "the sky", "the universe," and "the climate."

ὅτι (adv) "For" is from hoti, which introduces a statement of fact "with regard to the fact that", "seeing that," and acts as a causal adverb meaning "for what", "because", "since," and "wherefore."

οὐ (partic) "Not" is from ou which is the negative adverb for facts and statements, negating both single words and sentences. The other negative adverb, μή applies to will and thought; οὐ denies, μή rejects; οὐ is absolute, μή relative; οὐ objective, μή subjective.

σπείρουσιν (3rd pl pres ind act) "They sow" is from speiro, which means "to sow a seed", "to beget offspring", "to scatter like a seed," and "to sow a field."

οὐδὲ (partic) "Neither" is from oude , which means "but not", "neither", "nor,"and "not even."

θερίζουσιν (verb 3rd pl pres ind act) "Do they reap" is from therizo, which means "to do summer work", "to reap", "to mow", "to cut off," and, in some areas, "to plunder."

οὐδὲ (partic) "Nor" is from oude , which means "but not", "neither", "nor,"and "not even."

συνάγουσιν (verb 3rd pl pres ind act ) "Gather" is from synago, which means "bring together", "gather together," "pit [two warriors against each other]", "join in one", "unite", "make friends of", "lead with one", "receive", "reconcile", "draw together", "narrow", "contract", "conclude [from premises]", " infer," and "prove."

εἰς (prep) "Into" is from eis, which means "into (of place)," "up to (of time)", "until (of time)", "as much as (of measure or limit)", "as far as (of measure or limit)", "towards (to express relation)", "in regard to (to express relation)", "of an end or limit," and "for (of purpose or object)."

ἀποθήκας, [4 verses] (noun pl fem acc) "Barns" is from apotheke, which means "any place wherein to lay up a thing", "magazine", "storehouse", "burial-place", "refuge", "anything laid by", "store," and "store of favor."

καὶ (conj) "And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just."

(article) sg masc nom   Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). --

πατὴρ (noun sg masc nom ) "The Father" is from pater, which means "father", "grandfather", "author", "parent," and "forefathers."

ὑμῶν (pron 2nd pl gen) "Your" is from humon, which is a plural form of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

(article sg masc nom )  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

οὐράνιος (adj sg masc nom) "Heavenly" is from ouranos, which means "heaven as in the vault of the sky", "heaven as the seat of the gods", "the sky", "the universe," and "the climate."

τρέφει [4 verses](3rd sg pres ind act) "Feedeth" is from trepho, which means primarily, to "thicken or congeal [a liquid]", "cause to grow or increase", "bring up", "rear", "rear and keep [animals, slaves]", "tend", "cherish," "let grow (of parts of the body)", "cherish", "foster", "breed", "produce", "teem [of earth and sea]", "have within oneself", "contain", "maintain", "support," .Pass. "to be bred," and "reared."

αὐτά: (adj pl neut acc) "Them" is from autos, which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of one's own accord."

οὐχ (adv) "Not" is ouchi, an adverb which means "no", "no truly", "assuredly not", "not however", "nevertheless," "notwithstanding", "yet", "still", "never yet", "for not", "indeed", "for surely not", "no,—certainly not", "for I don't suppose," and "for in no manner."

ὑμεῖς (pron 2nd pl nom ) "You" is from humeis, which are the singular nominative form of the second person, "you."

μᾶλλον (adv) "Much" is from mallon, which is the comparative form of mala which means "very", "exceedingly", "more certainly", "especially," "more", "to a greater degree," and "rather."

διαφέρετε [5 verses](2nd pl pres ind act) "Are...better than" is from diaphero, which means to "carry over or across", "carry from one to another", but Jesus always uses it in the sense of "surpase" or "are different." However, it has a number of other meanings including "go through life [of Time]", "bear through", "bear to the end", "go through with", "carry different ways", "spread...fame abroad", "tear asunder", "defer or reserve for judgment", "differ", "make the difference", "to be of importance", "have an interest at stake," "prevail", "quarrel", "struggle", "come between", "intervene," and, Pass. "be at variance and maintain on the contrary." quarrel." When uses as a noun, "that which makes a difference", "the difference," and "the odds.

αὐτῶν; (adj pl neut gen) "Them" is from autos, which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of one's own accord."

KJV Analysis: 

Behold  -  (CW)"Behold" is from a Greek verb that means "look at" or "consider." It is not the common word Jesus uses which is usually translated as "behold". This verb has more of a sense of looking on or into something. We might use "examine."

untranslated "at"-- (MW) The untranslated word Greek preposition means "into" a place, "towards" as a direction, "in regards to" a subject, and "up to" limits in time and measure.

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") that the English "the." See this article for more. 

fowls  - The Greek word translated as "fowls" is normally an adjective means "able to fly" and "winged," but it is used as a noun here, so "those able to fly" or "the winged ones". Jesus always uses this word, not the normal Greek word that means "bird".

of  -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that required the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession, but it can also mean "belonging to," "part of", "which is", "than" (in comparisons), or  "for", "concerning" or "about" with transitive verbs. 

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") that the English "the." See this article for more. 

air: -- The Greek translated as "of the air" is the Greek word the NT almost always translated as "heaven", the same word translated as "heavenly" later in the verse. Its basic meaning is "the sky." It is singular. See this article for more on this word. Translation as "the flyers of the heavens" makes this verb about spiritual beings as well as of "fowls."

for  -  The word translated as 'for" acts here as an adverb introducing a clause of explanation. In English, we would normally say "because".

they -- This is from the third-person, plural form of the verb.

sow  - The Greek word translated as "sow" means specifically to "sow seeds" and "to scatter" as in sowing seeds. Christ uses it to mean working today for a later reward.

not,  - The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It makes a negative statement of fact.

neither -- The Greek word for "neither" is an adverb that means "not at all" or "no even". As a conjunction, it works as both parts of the "neither/nor" constructions. 

do -- This helping verb is used to create commands, negative statements, and smooth word flow in English, but the Greek could be either a question or a statement.

they -- This is from the third-person, plural form of the verb.

reap,  - The Greek word translated as "reap" means "to do summer work" and "to reap." It is one of the two words used for collecting a harvest. The other word is used below.

nor - The Greek word for "neither" is an adverb that means "not at all" or "no even". As a conjunction, it works as both parts of the "neither/nor" constructions. 

gather -- The Greek word translated as "gather" means "to bring together." It has many different uses, but it does not specifically mean gathering in the crops. That is why that idea is provided specifically by the phrase that follows. This is the normal opposite from the word used as "scatter".

into -- The word translated as "into" means "into" a place, "towards" as a direction, "in regards to" a subject, and "up to" limits in time and measure.

barns;  - The word translated as "barns" generally means any storage area, basically a storehouse as opposed to a storeroom, since Jesus uses another word for that idea.

yet -- (WW) The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also"). In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as".

your -- The word translated as "your" is a plural, second-person pronoun in the genitive case. This pronoun follows the noun so "of yours."

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, "the." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

heavenly -- (CW) "Heavenly" is from the adjective form of the word translated as "air" above, but which means "sky". The adjective "sky" is introduced by an article giving it the sense of "the sky one".

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, "the." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more.  

Father -- "Father" is the Greek noun that means "father" or any male ancestor so "forefathers". It is the word that Christ uses to address his own Father. 

feedeth  - (CW) The Greek word translated as "feedeth" has a number of uses in Greek, including many poetic ones, but it isn't a common word for "feed." It primarily means to "thicken" and "to congeal a liquid," but it has a number of uses regarding rearing children and animals. The sense is "to fatten "hem.

them. -- The word translated as "them" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.  

Are -- (WP) This helping verb "are" indicates that the verb is passive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English. However, the verb here does not begin the sentence like a question often does.

missing "you" -- (MW)  The subjective pronoun repeats the information in the verb so it should be repeated in English like "you yourself." However, here, the "not you" phrase seems separate from the rest of the clause.

ye  -- This is from the second-person, plural form of the verb.

not -- (CW) The word translated as "not" is a different form of the usual Greek negative of fact meaning "no truly", "assuredly not", "not however", "nevertheless," and "notwithstanding." It begins the phrase coming before the pronoun "you." Greek negative only negate the phrase when they come before the verb. This doesn't negate "you" alone, so the sense is an exclamation, not a question.

much  - The Greek word translated as "much" is the comparative form of the Greek adverb that means "very" and "exceedingly" so "more very" and "more exceedingly."

better  - The Greek verb translated as "better" with the "are" above is another of those words that has a lot of meanings in Greek, but not many of them have the sense of "better than." Of the more central meanings, the one that fits bests might be "differ" or "make a difference," especially since the noun forms of the word primarily mean "difference."

than -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that required the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession, but here the "than" (in comparisons) works better.

they? -- "They" is the Greek pronoun, but the form here is possessive, which in Greek is also used for comparisons.

KJV Translation Issues: 

8
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "behold" is not common word usually translated as "behold."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "at" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "yet" should be "and."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "heavenly" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "God" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "feedeth" is more like "fatten."
  • WP -- Wrongly Placed -- The verb "are better " doesn't begin the sentence like a question.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The pronoun "you" is used after the negative.

NIV Analysis: 

Look - "Look " is from a Greek verb that means "look at" or "consider." It is not the common word Christ uses which is usually translated as "behold". This verb has more of a sense of looking on or into something. We might use "examine."

at -- The word "at" is the Greek preposition that means "into" a place, "towards" as a direction, "in regards to" a subject, and "up to" limits in time and measure.

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") that the English "the." See this article for more. 

fowls  - The Greek word translated as "fowls" is normally an adjective means "able to fly" and "winged," but it is used as a noun here, so "those able to fly" or "the winged ones". Jesus always uses this word, not the normal Greek word that means "bird".

of  -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that required the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession, but it can also mean "belonging to," "part of", "which is", "than" (in comparisons), or  "for", "concerning" or "about" with transitive verbs. 

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") that the English "the." See this article for more. 

air: -- The Greek translated as "of the air" is the Greek word the NT almost always translated as "heaven", the same word translated as "heavenly" later in the verse. Its basic meaning is "the sky." It is singular. See this article for more on this word. Translation as "the flyers of the heavens" makes this verb about spiritual beings as well as of "fowls."

untranslated "for"-- (MW) The untranslated word 'for" acts here as an adverb introducing a clause of explanation. In English, we would normally say "because".

they -- This is from the third-person, plural form of the verb.

do -- This helping verb is used to create commands, negative statements, and smooth word flow in English, but the Greek could be either a question or a statement.

not,  - The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It makes a negative statement of fact.

sow  - The Greek word translated as "sow" means specifically to "sow seeds" and "to scatter" as in sowing seeds. Christ uses it to mean working today for a later reward.

or -- The Greek word for "or" is an adverb that means "not at all" or "no even". As a conjunction, it works as both parts of the "neither/nor" constructions.

reap,  - The Greek word translated as "reap" means "to do summer work" and "to reap." It is one of the two words used for collecting a harvest. The other word is used below.

or - The Greek word for "or" is an adverb that means "not at all" or "no even". As a conjunction, it works as both parts of the "neither/nor" constructions. 

store --  (WW) The Greek word translated as "gather" means "to bring together." It has many different uses, but it does not specifically mean gathering in the crops. That is why that idea is provided specifically by the phrase that follows. This is the normal opposite from the word used as "scatter".

away -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "away" in the Greek source.

in -- The word translated as "in" means "into" a place, "towards" as a direction, "in regards to" a subject, and "up to" limits in time and measure.

barns;  - The word translated as "barns" generally means any storage area, basically a storehouse as opposed to a storeroom, since Jesus uses another word for that idea.

yet -- (WW) The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also"). In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as".

your -- The word translated as "your" is a plural, second-person pronoun in the genitive case. This pronoun follows the noun so "of yours."

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, "the." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

heavenly -- (CW) "Heavenly" is from the adjective form of the word translated as "air" above, but which means "sky". The adjective "sky" is introduced by an article giving it the sense of "the sky one".

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, "the." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more.  

Father -- "Father" is the Greek noun that means "father" or any male ancestor so "forefathers". It is the word that Christ uses to address his own Father.

feeds - (CW) The Greek word translated as "feeds " has a number of uses in Greek, including many poetic ones, but it isn't a common word for "feed." It primarily means to "thicken" and "to congeal a liquid," but it has a number of uses regarding rearing children and animals. The sense is "to fatten "hem.

them. -- The word translated as "them" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.  

Are -- (WP) This helping verb "are" indicates that the verb is passive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English. However, the verb here does not begin the sentence like a question often does.

missing "you" -- (MW)  The subjective pronoun repeats the information in the verb so it should be repeated in English like "you yourself." However, here, the "not you" phrase seems separate from the rest of the clause.

you  -- This is from the second-person, plural form of the verb.

not -- (CW) The word translated as "not" is a different form of the usual Greek negative of fact meaning "no truly", "assuredly not", "not however", "nevertheless," and "notwithstanding." It begins the phrase coming before the pronoun "you." Greek negative only negate the phrase when they come before the verb. This doesn't negate "you" alone, so the sense is an exclamation, not a question.

much  - The Greek word translated as "much" is the comparative form of the Greek adverb that means "very" and "exceedingly" so "more very" and "more exceedingly."

more valuable - The Greek verb translated as "more valuable" with the "are" above is another of those words that has a lot of meanings in Greek, but not many of them have the sense of "better than." Of the more central meanings, the one that fits bests might be "differ" or "make a difference," especially since the noun forms of the word primarily mean "difference."

than -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that required the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession, but here the "than" (in comparisons) works better.

they? -- "They" is the Greek pronoun, but the form here is possessive, which in Greek is also used for comparisons.

NIV Translation Issues: 

9
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "for" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "store" should be "gather."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "away" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "yet" should be "and."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "heavenly" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "God" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "feeds" is more like "fatten."
  • WP -- Wrongly Placed -- The verb "are better " doesn't begin the sentence like a question.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The pronoun "you" is used after the negative.

Possible Symbolic Meaning: 

In the Greek, "the bird of the air" is phrased so in such a way that it also means "those that fly in sky." This makes the verse mean two different things entirely, referring both to birds and transcendent beings. Jesus always uses this phrasing to refers to birds in general though he uses specific types of birds to make other points.

The Spoken Version: 

“But the Divine doesn’t provide the food our bodies need,” Yellow Cloak protested amid our laughter. “Farmers do!”
This brought a cheer from the many farmers in the crowd.
Instead of answering, the Master glanced up at the sky.
“Look!” the Teacher exclaimed, indicating something above us.
We looked up. A flock of birds was flying overhead.
“Toward the winged ones of the sky!” the Teacher suggested.
As he paused, smiling and looking at us expectantly, we were confused.
“What do they have to do with it?” asked the plump trader.
“Because,” the Teacher explained easily.
“They don’t sow.
“Nor hoe.
“Nor stow...
“Into storehouses.”
The rhyme was surprising. We not only laughed, but many applauded it.
“And that Father of yours? That sky one?” the Teacher proceeded. “He fattens them!”
He gestured up toward the birds, but then swept his gesture down to the pudgy Yellow Cloak.
We laughed at the not-so-subtle implication.
 “Are you saying our lives are as easy a those of birds?” the horse traded retorted, indicating all of us in the crowd.
“Not you folks!” the Teacher exclaimed, turning toward all of us. “Certainly you all far surpass them!”
We applauded our agreement.

evidence: 

73.00

Front Page Date: 

Jun 18 2020