Matthew 15
Vincent's Word Studies
Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
Transgress (παραβαίνουσιν)

Lit., to step on one side.

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

Washing before meals was alone regarded as a commandment; washing after meals only as a duty. By and by the more rigorous actually washed between the courses, although this was declared to be purely voluntary. The distinctive designation for washing after meals was the lifting of the hands; while for washing before meat a term was used which meant, literally, to rub. If "holy," i.e., sacrificial food was to be partaken of, a complete immersion of the hands, and not a mere "uplifting" was prescribed. As the purifications were so frequent, and care had to be taken that the water had not been used for other purposes, or something fallen into it that might discolor or defile it, large vessels or jars were generally kept for the purpose (see John 2:6). It was the practice to draw water out of these with a kind of ladle or bucket - very often of glass - which must hold at least one and a half egg-shells (compare draw out now, John 2:8). The water was poured on both hands, which must be free of anything covering them, such as gravel, mortar, etc. The hands were lifted up so as to make the water run to the wrist, in order to insure that the whole hand was washed, and that the water polluted by the hand did not again run down the fingers. Similarly, each hand was rubbed with the other (the fist), provided the hand that rubbed had been affused; otherwise, the rubbing might be done against the head, or even against a wall. But there was one point on which special stress was laid. In the "first affusion," which was all that originally was required when the hands were not levitically "defiled," the water had to run down to the wrist. If the water remained short of the wrist, the hands were not clean. See Mark 7:3 (Edersheim, "Life and Times of Jesus").

But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
Also (καὶ)

The significance of this little word must not be overlooked. Christ admits that the disciples had transgressed a human injunction, but adds, "Ye also transgress, and in a much greater way." "Whether the disciples transgress or not, you are the greatest transgressors" (Bengel). The one question is met with the other in the same style. Luther says, "He places one wedge against the other, and therewith drives the first back."

For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
Die the death (θανάτῳ τελευτάτω)

The Hebrew idiom is, he shall certainly be executed. The Greek is, lit., let him come to his end by death.

But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
It is a gift (δῶρον)

Rev., given to God. The picture is that of a churlish son evading the duty of assisting his needy parents by uttering the formula, Corban, it is a gift to God. "Whatever that may be by which you might be helped by me, is not mine to give. It is vowed to God." The man, however, was not bound in that case to give his gift to the temple-treasury, while he was bound not to help his parent; because the phrase did not necessarily dedicate the gift to the temple. By a quibble it was regarded as something like Corban, as if it were laid on the altar and put entirely out of reach. It was expressly stated that such a vow was binding, even if what was vowed involved a breach of the law.

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.
Have made of none effect (ἠκυρώσατε)

Rev., made void; ἀ, not, κῦρος, authority. Ye have deprived it of its authority.

Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
Well (καλῶς)


This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
Is far (ἀπέχει)

Lit., holds off from me.

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:
Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.
And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
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:
Out of the heart

Compare Plato. "For all good and evil, whether in the body or in human nature, originates, as he declared, in the soul, and overflows from thence, as from the head into the eyes; and therefore, if the head and body are to be well, you must begin by curing the soul. That is the first thing" ("Charmides," 157).

Thoughts (διαλογισμοὶ)

Lit., reasonings (compare Mark 9:33, Rev.), or disputings (Philippians 2:14), like the captious questioning of the Pharisees about washing hands.

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.
Coasts (μέρη)

Lit., and better, as Rev., parts.

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.
Out of the same coasts (ἀπὸ τῶν δρίων ἐκείνων)

Lit., as Rev., from those borders; i.e., she crossed from Phoenicia into Galilee.

Cried (ἐκραύγασεν)

With a loud, importunate cry: from behind. Compare after, Matthew 15:23.


Making her daughter's misery her own.

Grievously vexed with a devil (κακῶς δαιμονίζεται)

Lit., is badly demonized. Sir J. Cheke, very evil devilled.

But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
Send her away

With her request granted; for, as Bengel exquisitely remarks, "Thus Christ was accustomed to send away."

But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
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.
Children's (τῶν τέκνων)

Bengel observes that while Christ spoke severely to the Jews, he spoke honorably of them to those without. Compare John 4:22.

Dogs (κυναρίοις)

Diminutive: little dogs. In Matthew 15:27, Wyc. renders the little whelps, and Tynd., in both verses, whelPsalms The picture is of a family meal, with the pet house-dogs running round the table.

Their masters

The children are the masters of the little dogs. Compare Mark 7:28, "the children's crumbs."

And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.
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.
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:
Cast them down (ἔῤῥιψαν)

Very graphic. Lit., flung them down; not carelessly, but in haste, because so many were coming on the same errand.

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.
I will not (οὐ θέλω)

The A. V. might easily be mistaken for the simple future of the verb send. But two verbs are used: the verb I will expressing Jesus' feeling or disposition. The Greek order is, and to send them away fasting I am not willing. Therefore Rev. is better: I would not.

Faint (ἐκλυθῶσιν)

Lit., be unstrung or relaxed.

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.
Little fishes (ἰχθύδια)

Diminutive. The disciples make their provision seem as small as possible. In Matthew 15:36 the diminutive is not used.

And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.
On the ground (ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν)

Compare Mark 8:6. On the occasion of feeding the five thousand, the multitude sat down on the grass (ἐπὶ τοὺς χότρους), Matthew 14:19. It was then the month of flowers. Compare Mark 6:39, the green grass, and John 6:10, much grass. On the present occasion, several weeks later, the grass would be burnt up, so that they would sit on the ground.

Gave thanks

According to the Jewish ordinance, the head of the house was to speak the blessing only if he himself shared in the meal; yet if they who sat down to it were not merely guests, but his children or his household, then he might speak it, even if he himself did not partake.

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.
Baskets (σπυρίδας)

See on Matthew 14:20.

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.
Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent [1886].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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