The traditions of the elders. (1-13) What defiles the man. (14-23) The woman of Canaan's daughter cured. (24-30) Christ restores a man to hearing and speech. (31-37)
Verses 1-13 One great design of Christ's coming was, to set aside the ceremonial law; and to make way for this, he rejects the ceremonies men added to the law of God's making. Those clean hands and that pure heart which Christ bestows on his disciples, and requires of them, are very different from the outward and superstitious forms of Pharisees of every age. Jesus reproves them for rejecting the commandment of God. It is clear that it is the duty of children, if their parents are poor, to relieve them as far as they are able; and if children deserve to die that curse their parents, much more those that starve them. But if a man conformed to the traditions of the Pharisees, they found a device to free him from the claim of this duty.
Verses 14-23 Our wicked thoughts and affections, words and actions, defile us, and these only. As a corrupt fountain sends forth corrupt streams, so does a corrupt heart send forth corrupt reasonings, corrupt appetites and passions, and all the wicked words and actions that come from them. A spiritual understanding of the law of God, and a sense of the evil of sin, will cause a man to seek for the grace of the Holy Spirit, to keep down the evil thoughts and affections that work within.
Verses 24-30 Christ never put any from him that fell at his feet, which a poor trembling soul may do. As she was a good woman, so a good mother. This sent her to Christ. His saying, Let the children first be filled, shows that there was mercy for the Gentiles, and not far off. She spoke, not as making light of the mercy, but magnifying the abundance of miraculous cures among the Jews, in comparison with which a single cure was but as a crumb. Thus, while proud Pharisees are left by the blessed Saviour, he manifests his compassion to poor humbled sinners, who look to him for children's bread. He still goes about to seek and save the lost.
Verses 31-37 Here is a cure of one that was deaf and dumb. Those who brought this poor man to Christ, besought him to observe the case, and put forth his power. Our Lord used more outward actions in the doing of this cure than usual. These were only signs of Christ's power to cure the man, to encourage his faith, and theirs that brought him. Though we find great variety in the cases and manner of relief of those who applied to Christ, yet all obtained the relief they sought. Thus it still is in the great concerns of our souls.
Mark 7:1-23 . DISCOURSE ON CEREMONIAL POLLUTION. ( = Matthew 15:1-20 ).
Mark 7:24-37 . THE SYROPHOENICIAN WOMAN AND HER DAUGHTER--A DEAF AND DUMB MAN HEALED. ( = Matthew 15:21-31 ).
The Syrophoenician Woman and Her Daughter ( Mark 7:24-30 ).
The first words of this narrative show that the incident followed, in point of time, immediately on what precedes it.
24. And from thence he arose, and went into the borders--or "unto the borders."
of Tyre and Sidon--the two great Phoenician seaports, but here denoting the territory generally, to the frontiers of which Jesus now came. But did Jesus actually enter this heathen territory? The whole narrative, we think, proceeds upon the supposition that He did. His immediate object seems to have been to avoid the wrath of the Pharisees at the withering exposure He had just made of their traditional religion.
and entered into an house, and would have no man know it--because He had not come there to minister to heathens. But though not "sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" ( Matthew 15:24 ), He hindered not the lost sheep of the vast Gentile world from coming to Him, nor put them away when they did come--as this incident was designed to show.
but he could not be hid--Christ's fame had early spread from Galilee to this very region ( 3:8 , Luke 6:17 ).
25. For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit--or, as in Matthew ( Matthew 15:22 ), "was badly demonized."
heard of him--One wonders how; but distress is quick of hearing.
26. The woman was a Greek--that is, "a Gentile," as in the Margin.
a Syrophoenician by nation--so called as inhabiting the Phoenician tract of Syria. JUVENAL uses the same term, as was remarked by JUSTIN MARTYR and TERTULLIAN. Matthew ( Matthew 15:22 ) calls her "a woman of Canaan"--a more intelligible description to his Jewish readers (compare Judges 1:30 Judges 1:32 Judges 1:33 ).
and she besought him that he would east forth the devil out of her daughter--"She cried unto Him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David: my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil" ( Matthew 15:22 ). Thus, though no Israelite herself, she salutes Him as Israel's promised Messiah. Here we must go to Matthew 15:23-25 for some important links in the dialogue omitted by our Evangelist.
Matthew 15:23 :
But he answered her not a word--The design of this was first, perhaps, to show that He was not sent to such as she. He had said expressly to the Twelve, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles" ( Matthew 10:5 ); and being now among them Himself, He would, for consistency's sake, let it be seen that He had not gone thither for missionary purposes. Therefore He not only kept silence, but had actually left the house, and--as will presently appear--was proceeding on His way back, when this woman accosted Him. But another reason for keeping silence plainly was to try and whet her faith, patience, and perseverance. And it had the desired effect: "She cried after them," which shows that He was already on His way from the place.
And His disciples came and besought Him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us--They thought her troublesome with her importunate cries, just as they did the people who brought young children to be blessed of Him, and they ask their Lord to "send her away," that is, to grant her request and be rid of her; for we gather from His reply that they meant to solicit favor for her, though not for her sake so much as their own.
Matthew 15:24 :
But He answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel--a speech evidently intended for the disciples themselves, to satisfy them that, though the grace He was about to show to this Gentile believer was beyond His strict commission, He had not gone spontaneously to dispense it. Yet did even this speech open a gleam of hope, could she have discerned it. For thus might she have spoken: "I am not SENT, did He say? Truth, Lord, Thou comest not hither in quest of us, but I come in quest of Thee; and must I go empty away? So did not the woman of Samaria, whom when Thou foundest her on Thy way to Galilee, Thou sentest away to make many rich! But this our poor Syrophoenician could not attain to. What, then, can she answer to such a speech? Nothing. She has reached her lowest depth, her darkest moment: she will just utter her last cry:
Matthew 15:25 :
Then came she and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, help me!--This appeal, so artless, wrung from the depths of a believing heart, and reminding us of the publican's "God be merciful to me a sinner," moved the Redeemer at last to break silence--but in what style? Here we return to our own Evangelist.
27. But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled--"Is there hope for me here? . . . Filled FIRST?" "Then my turn, it seems, is coming! "--but then, "The CHILDREN first? . . . Ah! when, on that rule, shall my turn ever come!" But ere she has time for these ponderings of His word, another word comes to supplement it.
for it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs--Is this the death of her hopes? Nay, rather it is life from the dead. Out of the eater shall come forth meat ( Judges 14:14 ). "At evening-time, it shall be light" ( Zechariah 14:7 ). "Ah! I have it now. Had He kept silence, what could I have done but go unblest? but He hath spoken, and the victory is mine."
28. And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord--or, as the same word is rendered in Matthew 15:27 . "Truth, Lord."
yet the dogs eat of the children's crumbs--which fall from their master's table" ( Matthew 15:27 ). "I thank Thee, O blessed One, for that word! That's my whole case. Not of the children? True. A dog? True also: Yet the dogs under the table are allowed to eat of the children's crumbs--the droppings from their master's full table: Give me that, and I am content: One crumb of power and grace from Thy table shall cast the devil out of my daughter." Oh, what lightning quickness, what reach of instinctive ingenuity, do we behold in this heathen woman!
29. And he said unto her--"O woman, great is thy faith" ( Matthew 15:28 ). As BENGEL beautifully remarks, Jesus "marvelled" only at two things--faith and unbelief (see Luke 7:9 ).
For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter--That moment the deed was done.
30. And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed--But Matthew ( Matthew 15:28 ) is more specific; "And her daughter was made whole from that very hour." The wonderfulness of this case in all its features has been felt in every age of the Church, and the balm it has administered, and will yet administer, to millions will be known only in that day that shall reveal the secrets of all hearts.
Deaf and Dumb Man Healed ( Mark 7:31-37 ).
31. And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the Sea of Galilee--or, according to what has very strong claims to be regarded as the true text here, "And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre, He came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee." The manuscripts in favor of this reading, though not the most numerous, are weighty, while the versions agreeing with it are among the most ancient; and all the best critical editors and commentators adopt it. In this case we must understand that our Lord, having once gone out of the Holy Land the length of Tyre, proceeded as far north as Sidon, though without ministering, so far as appears, in those parts, and then bent His steps in a southeasterly direction. There is certainly a difficulty in the supposition of so long a detour without any missionary object: and some may think this sufficient to cast the balance in favor of the received reading. Be this as it may, on returning from these coasts of Tyre, He passed
through the midst of the coasts--frontiers.
of Decapolis--crossing the Jordan, therefore, and approaching the lake on its east side. Here Matthew, who omits the details of the cure of this deaf and dumb man, introduces some particulars, from which we learn that it was only one of a great number. "And Jesus," says that Evangelist ( Matthew 15:29-31 ), "departed from thence, and came nigh unto the Sea of Galilee, and went up into a mountain"--the mountain range bounding the lake on the northeast, in Decapolis: "And great multitudes came unto Him, having with them lame, blind, dumb, maimed"--not "mutilated," which is but a secondary sense of the word, but "deformed"--"and many others, and cast them down at Jesus' feet; and He healed them: insomuch that the multitude [multitudes] wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see; and they glorified the God of Israel"--who after so long and dreary an absence of visible manifestation, had returned to bless His people as of old (compare Luke 7:16 ). Beyond this it is not clear from the Evangelist's language that the people saw into the claims of Jesus. Well, of these cases Mark here singles out one, whose cure had something peculiar in it.
32. And they bring unto him one that was deaf . . . and they beseech him to put his hand upon him--In their eagerness they appear to have been somewhat too officious. Though usually doing as here suggested, He will deal with this case in His own way.
33. And he took him aside from the multitude--As in another case He "took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town" ( Mark 8:23 ), probably to fix his undistracted attention on Himself, and, by means of certain actions He was about to do, to awaken and direct his attention to the proper source of relief.
and put his fingers into his ears--As his indistinct articulation arose from his deafness, our Lord addresses Himself to this first. To the impotent man He said, "Wilt thou be made whole?" to the blind men, "What will ye that I shall do unto you?" and "Believe ye that I am able to do this?" ( John 5:6 , Matthew 20:32 , 9:28 ). But as this patient could hear nothing, our Lord substitutes symbolical actions upon each of the organs affected.
and he spit and touched his tongue--moistening the man's parched tongue with saliva from His own mouth, as if to lubricate the organ or facilitate its free motion; thus indicating the source of the healing virtue to be His own person. (For similar actions, see 8:23 , John 9:6 ).
34. And looking up to heaven--ever acknowledging His Father, even while the healing was seen to flow from Himself
he sighed--"over the wreck," says TRENCH, "which sin had brought about, and the malice of the devil in deforming the fair features of God's original creation." But, we take it, there was a yet more painful impression of that "evil thing and bitter" whence all our ills have sprung, and which, when "Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses" ( Matthew 8:17 ), became mysteriously His own.
and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened
| || "In thought of these his brows benign, |
Not even in healing, cloudless shine."
--Our Evangelist, as remarked on Mark 5:41
, loves to give such wonderful words just as they were spoken.
35. And straightway his ears were opened--This is mentioned first as the source of the other derangement.
and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain--The cure was thus alike instantaneous and perfect.
36. And he charged them that they should tell no man--Into this very region He had sent the man out of whom had been cast the legion of devils, to proclaim "what the Lord had done for him" ( Mark 5:19 ). Now He will have them "tell no man." But in the former case there was no danger of obstructing His ministry by "blazing the matter" ( Mark 1:45 ), as He Himself had left the region; whereas now He was sojourning in it.
but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it--They could not be restrained; nay, the prohibition seemed only to whet their determination to publish His fame.
37. And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well--reminding us, says TRENCH, Of the words of the first creation ( Genesis 1:31 , Septuagint), upon which we are thus not unsuitably thrown back, for Christ's work is in the truest sense "a new creation,"
he maketh both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak--"and they glorified the God of Israel" ( Matthew 15:31 ).