Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
The Syrophœnician Woman and Her Daughter
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
of Tyre and Sidon--the two great Phœnician 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
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"
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
25. For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean
spirit--or, as in Matthew
"was badly demonized."
heard of him--One wonders how; but distress is quick of hearing.
and fell at his feet:
26. The woman was a Greek--that is, "a Gentile," as in the Margin.
a Syrophœnician by nation--so called as inhabiting the
Phœnician tract of Syria. JUVENAL uses the
same term, as was remarked by
calls her "a woman
of Canaan"--a more intelligible description to his Jewish readers
Jud 1:30, 32, 33).
and she besought him that he would cast 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"
Thus, though no Israelite herself, she salutes Him as Israel's promised
Messiah. Here we must go to
for some important links in the dialogue omitted by our Evangelist.
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"
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.
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
Syrophœnician 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:
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
"At evening-time, it shall be light"
"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
yet the dogs eat of the children's crumbs--"which fall from their
"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"
As BENGEL beautifully remarks, Jesus "marvelled"
only at two things--faith and unbelief (see
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
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
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
"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
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"
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?"
Mt 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
34. And looking up to heaven--ever acknowledging His Father,
even while the healing was seen to flow from Himself (see on
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
became mysteriously His own.
|"In thought of these his brows benign,
Not even in healing, cloudless shine."
and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened--Our Evangelist, as
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"
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"
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
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"