The title of the novel is an allusion to a story told by Jesus, related in Mark, 4:3-9. In this parable, Jesus describes a number of seeds scatted by a farmer. Some fall on the road and are eaten by birds; some fall on stony ground and cannot take root; some seeds fall on shallow ground, and though they sprout, they are quickly roasted when the strong sun hits them.
In the New International Version of the Bible, the story goes thus:
"Jesus taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
When questioned by his disciples about what on earth this story could mean, Jesus later goes on to explain that these seeds are like different believers who hear the word of God: many who hear the message do not sprout and bloom, though some do.
"“Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”
Like Jesus, Lauren starts a new religion and must gain followers. She first tries to explain some of her beliefs to her father and other members of her walled neighborhood, but they are extremely skeptical and dismiss her ideas due to age. They could be compared to the seed sown along a path, which never takes root.
Later on, during her journeys in the violent world outside the walls, Lauren draws people to her who take her message more seriously. Travis, Zahra, Harry, and others ask questions and meditate on the belief system of Earthseed, and eventually decide to accept it for themselves and live in a community based on its principles. They would be likened to the seed sown on good soil that produces a crop. The use of this parable in the novel also makes the name "Earthseed" more significant: Lauren, like Jesus, is literally sowing seed.