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Matthew 15

John Lightfoot's Commentary on Matthew, Chapter 15

2. Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.

We produced before, at chapter 5:33, some forms of oaths, which were only Assertive: these under our hands are Votive also. In the place from Beracoth just now alleged, one saith, Let the wine be 'Konem,' which I shall taste, for wine is hard to the bowels: that is, Let the wine which I taste be as devoted wine: as though he had said, I vow that I will not taste wine. "To which others answered, Is not old wine good for the bowels? Then he held his peace."

III. But above all such like forms of vowing, the word Corban, was plainest of all; which openly speaks a thing devoted and dedicated to sacred use. And the reader of those tracts which we have mentioned shall observe these forms frequently to occur. Let it be 'Corban,' whereby I am profitable to thee; and, Let it be 'Konem,' whereby I am profitable to thee. Which words sound the very same thing, unless I am very much mistaken, with the words before us, "Let it be Corban, or a gift, by which whatsoever thou mayest be profited by me."

Which words that they may be more clearly understood, and that the plain and full sense of the place may be discovered, let these things be considered:

First, That the word a gift is rather to be rendered, Let it be a gift, than It is a gift. For Konem and Corban, as we have noted, signified not 'It is' as something devoted, but 'Let it be' as something devoted. and He, of whom we had mention before...meant not, The wine which I shall taste is as something devoted, but Let whatsoever wine I shall taste be as something devoted: that is, To me let all wine be devoted, and not to be tasted.

Secondly, This form of speech A gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me, does neither argue, that he who thus spake devoted his goods to sacred uses, nor obliged him (according to the doctrine of the scribes) to devote them; but only restrained him by an obligation from that thing, for the denying of which he used such a form; that is, from helping him by his goods, to whom he thus spake. He might help others with his wealth, but him he might not.

Thirdly, The words are brought in as though they were pronounced with indignation; as if, when the needy father required food from his son, he should answer in anger and with contempt, Let it be as a thing devoted, whatsoever of mine may profit thee. But now, things that were devoted were not to be laid out upon common uses.

Fourthly, Christ not only cites the law, 'Honour thy father and mother,' but adds this also, He that curseth father or mother. But now there was no cursing here at all; if the son spoke truly and modestly, and as the thing was, namely, that all his estate was devoted before.

Fifthly, Therefore, although these words should have been spoken by the son irreverently, wrathfully, and inhumanly, towards his father, yet such was the folly, together with the impiety, of the traditional doctrine in this case, which pronounced the son so obliged by these his words, that it was lawful by no means to succour his needy father. He was not at all bound by these words to dedicate his estate to sacred uses; but not to help his father he was inviolably bound. O excellent doctrine and charity!

Sixthly, The words of the verse, therefore, may thus be rendered, without any addition put between, which many interpreters do: Whosoever shall say to his father or mother, Let it be a [devoted] gift, in whatsoever thou mayest be helped by me: then let him not honour his father and mother at all.

11. Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

[Defileth the man.] Or, maketh him common;...because they esteemed defiled men for common and vulgar men: on the contrary, a religious man among them is a singular man...

20. These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

[With unwashen hands.] He saith not with unclean hands, but unwashen; because, as we said before, they were bound to wash, although they were not conscious that their hands were unclean. In Mark it is with common or defiled hands, Mark 7:2; which seem to be called by the Talmudists impure hands, merely because not washed. Judge from that which is said in the tract Challah: "A cake is owing out of that dough which they knead with the juice of fruits: and it is eaten with unclean hands."

22. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.

[A woman of Canaan.] In Mark it is, A Greek woman, a Syrophoenician by nation, chapter 7:26.

I. Of Canaan. It is worthy observing, that the Holy Bible, reckoning up the seven nations, which were to be destroyed by the Israelites, names the Perizzites, who were not at all recited among the sons of Canaan, Genesis 10; and the Canaanites as a particular nation, when all the seven, indeed, were Canaanites. See Deuteronomy 7:1, Joshua 9:1, 11:3, Judges 3:5, &c.

The reason of the latter (with which our business is) is to be fetched thence, that Canaan himself inhabited a peculiar part of that (northern) country, with his first-born sons, Sidon and Heth: and thence the name of Canaanites was put upon that particular progeny, distinguished from all his other sons; and that country was peculiarly called by the name of 'Canaan,' distinctly from all the rest of the land of Canaan. Hence Jabin, the king of Hazor, is called the 'king of Canaan,' Judges 4:2, and the kings of Tyre and Sidon, if I mistake not, are called 'the kings of the Hittites,' 1 Kings 10:29.

II. A Greek woman, a Syrophoenician Although Judea, and almost the whole world, had now a long while stooped under the yoke of the Romans, yet the memory of the Syro-Grecian kingdom, and the name of the nation, was not yet vanished. And that is worthy to be noted, In the captivity, they compute the years only from the kingdom of the Greeks. They said before, "That the Romans, for a hundred and fourscore years, ruled over the Jews before the destruction of the Temple"; and yet they do not compute the times to that destruction by the years of the Romans, but by the years of the Greeks. Let the Jews themselves well consider this, and the Christians with them, who reckon the Roman for the fourth monarchy in Daniel.

Therefore that woman that is here spoken of (to reduce all into a short conclusion) was a Syro-Grecian by nation, a Phoenician in respect of her habitation, and from thence called a woman of Canaan.

26. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and cast it to dogs.

[To the dogs.] By this title the Jews, out of spite and contempt, disgraced the Gentiles, whose first care it was to hate, to mock, and to curse, all beside themselves. The nations of the world [that is, the heathen] are likened to dogs. From the common speech of the nation, rather than from his own sense, our Saviour uses this expression, to whom 'the Gentiles' were not so hateful, and whose custom was to speak with the vulgar.

This ignominious name, like a stone cast at the heathen, at length fell upon their own heads; and that by the hand and justice of God directing it: for although they out of pride and contempt fixed that disgraceful name upon the Gentiles, according to their very just desert, the Holy Spirit recoiled it upon themselves. See Psalm 59:6; Philippians 3:2; Revelation 22:15, &c.

36. And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.

[He gave thanks and brake.] See here the tract Beracoth, where it is discoursed of the manner of giving thanks when many ate together: Three who eat together ought to give thanks together: that is, one gave thanks for the rest (as the Gloss writes) "in the plural number, saying, Let us give thanks." So when there were ten, or a hundred, or a thousand or more, one gave thanks for all, and they answered after him Amen, or some words which he had recited.

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