Matthew 15
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
1. scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem] Probably a deputation from the Sanhedrin, such as was commissioned to question John the Baptist. Cp. John 1:19.

Ch. Matthew 15:1-20. The True Religion and the False. A Discourse to the Pharisees, the People, and the Disciples

Mark 7:1-23These twenty verses sum up the great controversy of the N. T., that between the religion of the letter and external observances and the religion of the heart, between what St Paul calls “the righteousness which is of the law and the righteousness which is of God by (or grounded upon) faith,” Php 3:9.

Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
2. the tradition of the elders] The elders, or presbyters, were the Jewish teachers, or scribes, such as Hillel and Shammai. The traditions were the rules or observances of the unwritten law, which they enjoined on their disciples. Many of these were frivolous; some actually subversive of God’s law; and yet one Rabbinical saying was, “The words of the law are weighty and light, but all the words of the scribes are weighty.”

when] Rather, whenever.

But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
4. For God commanded] “For Moses said” (Mark).

But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
5. It is a gift] Rather, Let it be a gift, or “devoted to sacred uses,” which the Jews expressed by the word corban, found in Mark 7:11. The scribes held that these words, even when pronounced in spite and anger against parents who needed succour, excused the son from his natural duty; and, on the other hand, did not oblige him really to devote the sum to the service of God or of the temple.

And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
6. he shall be free] These words do not occur in the original, either here or in the parallel passage in Mark. It is as if the indignation of Jesus did not allow him to utter the words of acquittal. The silence is more eloquent than the utterance.

Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
7. well did Esaias prophesy] A common Jewish formula for quoting a saying of the prophets.

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
8, 9. Isaiah 29:13. The quotation does not follow precisely either the LXX. version or the Hebrew text.

But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
10. he called the multitude] The moment our Lord turns to the people, His teaching is by parables.

This appeal to the multitude as worthier than the Pharisees to receive the divine truths is significant of the popular character of the Kingdom of heaven.

Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
11. defileth] Literally, maketh common; cp. “common or unclean,” Acts 10:14. “The Pharisees esteemed ‘defiled’ men for ‘common and vulgar’ men; on the contrary, a religious man among men is ‘a singular man.’ ” Lightfoot ad loc.

Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
12. the Pharisees were offended] A proof of the influence of the Pharisees. The disciples believed that Christ would be concerned to have offended those who stood so high in popular favour.

But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
13. Every plant] Not a wild flower, but a cultivated plant or tree; the word occurs here only in N. T.; in LXX. version of O. T. it is used of the vine, the most carefully cultivated plant; 2 Kings 19:29; Ezekiel 17:7; Micah 1:6; and in one other passage, Genesis 21:33, of the tamarisk. Here the plant cultivated by human hands—the vine that is not the true vine of Israel—is the doctrine of the Pharisees.

Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
14. blind leaders of the blind] The proverb which follows is quoted in a different connection, Luke 6:39; cp. also ch. Matthew 23:16.

fall into the ditch] Palestine abounded in dangers of this kind, from unguarded wells, quarries, and pitfalls; it abounded also in persons afflicted with blindness. See note ch. Matthew 9:27.

Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.
And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
16. without understanding] Cp. the “spiritual understanding,” Colossians 1:9, and “knowledge in the mystery of Christ,” Ephesians 3:4.

Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
19. For out of the heart proceed] The enumeration follows the order of the Commandments. Evil thoughts—harmful reasonings—form a class under which the rest fall, indicating, too, that the transgression of the Commandments is often in thought, by Christ’s law, not in deed only. For “blasphemies,” which may be thought to sum up the first table, St Mark, whose order differs slightly, has “covetousness,” thus completing the decalogue, and adds to the list in the text “wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, pride, foolishness.”

The plurals “murders, adulteries,” &c., as Meyer points out, denote the different instances and kinds of murder and adultery. Murder includes far more than the act of bloodshed.

These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.
21. the coasts] The neighbourhood, district, not the sea-shore, as might be thought.

21–28. The Daughter of a Canaanite Woman is cured

Mark 7:24-30This narrative of faith without external observance or knowledge of the Law affords a suggestive contrast to the preceding discourse.

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.
22. a woman of Canaan] Called in Mark “a Greek, a Syrophœnician by nation.” The two expressions are identical, for the land of Canaan, literally, the low lands or netherlands, at first applicable to the whole of Palestine, was confined in later times to the maritime plain of Phœnicia. In Joshua 5:12 “the land of Canaan” appears in the LXX. version as the “land of the Phœnicians.” The important point is that this woman was a foreigner and a heathen—a descendant of the worshippers of Baal. She may have heard and seen Jesus in earlier days. Cp. Mark 3:8, “they about Tyre and Sidon … came unto him.”

out of the same coasts] Literally, those coasts. Jesus did not himself pass beyond the borders of Galilee, but this instance of mercy extended to a Gentile points to the wide diffusion of the Gospel beyond the Jewish race.

Have mercy on me] Identifying herself with her daughter. Cp. the prayer of the father of the lunatic child: “Have compassion on us and help us,” Mark 9:22.

Song of Solomon of David] A title that proves the expectation that the Messiah should spring from the house of David. It is the particular Messianic prophecy which would be most likely to reach foreign countries.

But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
23. answered her not a word] Jesus, by this refusal, tries the woman’s faith, that he may purify and deepen it. Her request must be won by earnest prayer, “lest the light winning should make light the prize.”

Observe that Christ first refuses by silence, then by express words.

Send her away] By granting what she asks, by yielding, like the unjust judge, to her importunity.

But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
24. I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel] Jesus came to save all, but His personal ministry was confined, with few exceptions, to the Jews.

The thought of Israel as a flock of sheep lost on the mountains is beautifully drawn out, Ezekiel 34; “My flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them,” (Matthew 15:6.) Read the whole chapter.

Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.
26. to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs] The “children” are the Jews; the “dogs” are the Gentiles. This was the name applied by the Jews to all outside the chosen race, the dog being in the East a symbol of impurity. St Paul, regarding the Christian Church as the true Israel, terms the Judaizing teachers “dogs,” Php 3:2. Christ’s words, as reported by St Mark (ch. Mark 7:27), contain a gleam of hope, “Let the children first be filled.”

And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.
27. yet the dogs eat of the crumbs] “Yet,” of the E. V., is misleading. Translate “for even;” the woman takes Jesus at his word, accepts the name of reproach, and claims the little share that falls even to the dogs. No need to cast the children’s bread to the dogs, for even the dogs have crumbs from the Master’s hands.

the crumbs] Probably as in E. V., not, as Trench suggests, the pieces of bread used by the guests to wipe their hands on and then thrown to the dogs.

their masters’ table] The “Masters” must be interpreted to mean God, not, as by some, the Jewish people.

Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there.
29. a mountain] Rather, the mountain country; the high land, as distinguished from the low land, which He had left.

29–31. Jesus returns to the high land of Galilee, and cures many Blind, Dumb, and Lame

Mark 7:31-37, where, not content with the general statement, the Evangelist describes one special case of healing.

And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus' feet; and he healed them:
Insomuch that the multitude 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.
Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.
32–38. Four thousand Men, besides women and children, are miraculously fed

Mark 8:1-936. gave to his disciples] St Matthew uses the aorist, St Mark the more vivid imperfect “kept giving.”

And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?
And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes.
And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.
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.
And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.
37. seven baskets] Spurides, see note ch. Matthew 14:20, and Acts 9:25, where St Paul is said to have been let down from the wall of Damascus in a spuris, probably a large basket made of rope-net, possibly a fisherman’s basket. Why the disciples brought different kinds of baskets on the two occasions we cannot determine.

the broken meat that was left] See ch. Matthew 14:20. One side of the lesson is the lavishness of Providence. God gives even more than we require or ask for. But the leading thought is a protest against waste.

39–16:4. Jesus at Magdala, or Magadan, is tempted to give a Sign. Mark 8:10-12; Luke 12:54-57took ship] Literally, went on board the ship.

the coasts of Magdala] The MSS. vary between Magdala and Magadan. The latter reading, however, has by far the highest authority in its favour. It is probable that the familiar Magdala supplanted in the text the more obscure Magadan. Magdala or Migdol (a watch tower) is identified with the modern Mejdel, a collection of ruins and squalid huts at the S.E. corner of the plain of Gennesaret, opposite to K’hersa or Gergesa. This is the point where the lake is broadest. Prof. Rawlinson thinks that this Magdala may be the Magdolus of Herodotus, ii. 159; unless indeed by a confusion curiously similar to that in the text, Herodotus has mistaken Migdol for Megiddo. Magdala was probably the home of Mary Magdalene.

And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children.
And he sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala.
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