Christ and the Pharisees. The Woman of Canaan.
SUMMARY.--Eating with Unwashen Hands.
Keeping the Traditions of Men.
What Defileth a Man.
The Blind Leaders of the Blind.
In the Bounds of Tyre and Sidon.
The Appeal of the Woman of Canaan.
Great Faith and Its Results.
Feeding the Four Thousand.
1. Scribes and Pharisees . . . of Jerusalem. Representatives of
these bodies, sent, no doubt to counteract the influence of Christ.
These were always bitter opposers of Jesus.
2. Why do thy disciples transgress? Not the law of Moses, but
the tradition of the elders, which had as much authority with the
Pharisees as the written law.
The tradition of the elders. Purported to be precepts never
written in the Scriptures, but handed down from the times of Moses and
the elders by oral means. These precepts were spoken of the "law upon
the lip," and have been embodied in the Talmud. They were additions to
the written word. See
For they wash not their hands. The orthodox Jews insisted on
washing the hands before eating, not to remove the filth, but lest they
might have touched something ceremonially unclean. This commandment was
purely traditional, but so rigidly did they insist upon observing it
that the Rabbi Akiba, imprisoned by the Romans and with scarcely water
to sustain life, preferred to use all provided for his ceremonial
ablutions, and to die of thirst.
3. Why do ye also transgress? The Lord does not deny their
charge, but strikes at the evil by showing that their human traditions
led them to break God's written law.
4. For God said.
He that speaketh evil, etc. The Ten Commandments promised long
life to those who honored father and mother.
Here the Lord quotes the punishment of dishonoring them.
On nothing did Moses insist more than respect for parents.
5. Ye say. Following tradition, you say one thing while God says
in the law just the opposite. The scribes taught that a Jew by calling
his possessions "Corban" (a gift to God,
was absolved from the duty of caring for his parents, even though he
did not afterward devote his property to sacred uses. Thus by an
artifice the law with respect to parents could be set aside. The Talmud
furnishes a curious illustration of this perversion of the command. The
Mishna says: "He that curses his father or his mother is not guilty,
unless he curses them with an express mention of the name of
6. Ye have void the word of God by your tradition. Modern
Pharisaism does the same. Church tradition leads to dogmas that set
aside God's commands. The corruption of the simplicity of early
Christianity is due to following human tradition.
7. Ye hypocrites. The word so rendered might mean one
self-deceived as well as a deceiver, but was always a rebuke.
Well did Isaiah prophesy of you. See
8. This people. The Jews.
Verses 8 and 9
are the quotation from
Their heart is far from me. The essential of true worship is
that the heart be wholly given to God. Even the forms commanded by God
are worthless unless they are obeyed from the heart.
9. In vain do they worship me. This worship is all idle, empty,
and without profit, because they
teach as doctrines the commandments of men. This rebuke to the
Pharisees, who had added to the law of Moses many traditional human
precepts, applies equally to all modern religionists who have modified
or added to the Christianity of Christ and the apostles. Whatever one
cannot find in the New Testament is of such a character; observance of
saints' days, of Christmas, of Lent, the removal of the cup in the
Lord's Supper from the laity, infant sprinkling, party creeds and party
shibboleths, are all of men and not of God. The devout worshiper should
go right to the New Testament for his religion, and reject every
ordinance or precept that is not to be found there.
10, 11. He called the multitude. In order to show them that the
Pharisaical expounders of the law did not understand its real
Not that which goeth into a man defileth. The Mosaic law
forbade Jews to eat what was ceremonially unclean, in order to teach
the need of moral purity. The Rabbins added stringent precepts to
prevent the slightest contact with ceremonial uncleanness, but were
careless about moral purity. Christ shows that a pure heart is far more
important than clean food, in the ceremonial sense, in the
stomach. Pharisees in all ages have paid more attention to the letter
than to the spirit, to the symbol than to that which is signified.
That which cometh out of a man. The impure words that indicate
an impure heart. What one eats does not render him defiled before God,
but what he says. See
12. The Pharisees were offended. Found fault. They would insist
that he set aside the law, whereas it was tradition that he rejected.
13. Every plant. A general truth, but here refers to the
doctrines not of God, like "the tradition of the elders."
14. Let them alone. The Pharisees. His disciples were troubled
by their opposition.
They be blind leaders of the blind. They pretend to be spiritual
guides of the people, while spiritually blind themselves. The blind are
unsafe guides of the blind.
15. Declare unto us the parable. The figure was used in
16, 17. Is cast out. What is eaten passes through the body and
passes away. It does not defile the soul.
18, 19. Out of the heart. The emotional nature; the mind. Evil
deeds are begotten of evil thoughts; evil words are the expression of
these evil thoughts. These indicate a sinful heart and make a man
sinful, or defiled.
21. Jesus . . . departed into the coasts. Compare
Tyre and Sidon. Tyre and Sidon were the two principal cities of
Phoenicia, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Tyre was about twenty
miles south of Sidon, and about one hundred miles in a straight line
northwest of Jerusalem. In the days of David and Solomon, Tyre was the
leading seaport of the world. It was afterwards taken by the
Babylonians, the Persians, and Alexander, but up to the time of Christ
it remained a great commercial city. Since then its harbor has been
filled with sand, and there remains only a wretched shadow of its
former greatness. Both were Gentile cities in a Gentile country. This
is the only instance in the Lord's ministry when he went beyond the
bounds of Palestine.
22. Behold, a woman of Canaan. The name Canaan was the
oldest bestowed upon the country, and all the heathen inhabitants were
often called Canaanites, whether of the same stock or not. Mark says
that the woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician;
i. e., a Gentile, and a Syro-Phoenician, because she lived in the
district of Syria called Phoenicia.
Have mercy on me. She has a boon to ask for her daughter, or
rather indeed for herself, for so entirely had she made her daughter's
misery her own.
My daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. More correctly, "a
demon." See note on
O Lord, thou son of David. It is remarkable that two of the
brightest examples of faith seen in the ministry of Christ were
exhibited by Gentiles, that of the centurion
(Matt. 8:8, 9),
and of this woman. The fact that the latter addresses Jesus as "the son
of David," shows that she knew of the prophecies concerning the Christ
and that he would be the son of David.
23. He answered her not a word. He neither repelled her, nor
made a favorable answer. There were reasons for hesitation, given in
on which see
, but there is no doubt
that it was his purpose to have mercy. He delayed in order to bring
out a great lesson.
24. I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of
Israel. The Lord's personal mission was to the Jews. Under
the first commission his apostles were directed to go only to the Jews
It would be impossible to evangelize the Gentiles without setting aside
the Jewish customs, the law of Moses, and arousing the bitterest
prejudice of the Jews. Hence it was the divine plan that the Son should
"keep the law blameless" during his ministry. It was only when the Jews
crucified him "that the handwriting of ordinances was nailed to the
the "wall of partition"
between Jews and Gentiles broken down, and all prepared for the Great
Commission which bade his disciples "go into all the world and preach
the gospel to every creature."
25. Then came she and worshipped him. Instead of being
discouraged by the words of Christ, she only became the more
26. It is not meet to take the children's bread. She knew that,
in comparing the Jews to the children of God's family, and the heathen
to the dogs without, he simply used the customary language of a Jew. He
would bring out fully the greatness of her faith. The gospel was
offered first to the Jews and then to all.
27. Truth, Lord. Observe that she acquiesces heartily in
Christ's declaration: it is not fit that the dogs be fed before
Yet the dogs eat of the crumbs. The
word for crumbs
is a diminutive, and means little crumbs.
28. Woman, great is thy faith. We can see how greatness of faith
is manifested: (1) She came to Christ under difficulties. (2) She
persevered when her prayer seemed to be denied. (3) She still pleaded
when obstacles were presented. (4) She waited at the feet of the Lord
until he had mercy. Such faith always prevails.
Her daughter was made whole.
who adds some features omitted by Matthew, follows the woman home,
where she found her daughter no longer raving, or in convulsions, but
lying quiet on the bed, healed in consequence of her mother's faith and
29. And Jesus departed from thence. How long Jesus staid in
these parts is unknown.
30. There came to him great multitudes. Where he had retired for
rest and solitude to a mountain
31. Glorified the God of Israel. They were Jews, but living on
the border, somewhat under heathen ideas. The miracles of Christ led
them to praise and reverence Jehovah.
32. I have compassion on the multitude. Because while seeking
him in his mountain solitude many of them had been for three days
without regular food.
33. Whence should we have so many loaves? This was not said in
ignorance of the Lord's creative power, but probably to suggest the
need of its exercise. They could not have forgotten the events narrated
35. He commanded . . . to sit down on the ground. Not on the
grass, as in
for they were in a bare, desolate, grassless region, such as the
greater part of Judea is to-day.
38. Four thousand. Instead of 5,000, as in the former
39. Came into the coasts of Magdala. He took the boat to escape
the multitude. Magdala was on the western shore of the lake, three
miles north of Tiberias. The Revision says Magadan, supposed to
have been a village near Magdala.
says Dalmanutha. The meaning is that he came into the vicinity
of all three of these places, which were near each other.