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Bible Commentaries
Mark 7

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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Chapter seven brings to an end the great Galilean ministry of Jesus. Mark begins the narrative of the Galilean ministry in chapter one, verse 14. It is during this time that Jesus delivers His discourse on the Bread of Life (John 6:22-71), and the multitudes begin to turn away from Him. The crucifixion is in sight and will occur about a year from this point, according to Mark’s narrative. The events in chapter seven include Jesus’ clash with the scribes and Pharisees about defilement (1-23), the healing of the daughter of the Syro-Phoenician woman (24-30), and the healing of the deaf-mute of Decapolis (31-37).

Verse 1

Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.

This verse begins with the Greek word kai, which means "and" (Marshall 166). The verse, literally translated, is: "And there gathered together to Him..." Bruce explains:

kai connects what follows very loosely with what goes before: not temporal sequence but contrast between phenomenal popularity and hostility on the religious leaders of the people, in view of the evangelist (Expositor’s Greek New Testament 386).

Matthew’s parallel account (15:1) indicates that both the scribes and Pharisees come from Jerusalem. There has been no mention of the Pharisees since Mark 3:6. But now that Jesus is back on the western shore of Galilee, they resume their old policy of insidious questioning. They are looking for every opportunity to discredit Him and thwart His mission. Most scribes and Pharisees hate Jesus for many reasons. They are convinced He is guilty of blasphemy because He claims divine prerogatives such as the ability to forgive sins. They are also offended because He does not honor their traditions with respect to the sabbath, fasts, washings, etc.; and He openly associates with publicans and sinners. The main cause of their hatred, however, is jealousy. The scribes and Pharisees view Jesus as a rival teacher, and He is simply too popular with the people. Hendriksen adds:

In their heart of hearts Christ’s enemies must have realized that Jesus was infinitely better than they were. His humility (Luke 22:27) contrasted sharply with their pomposity (Matthew 23:5-7); his sincerity (John 8:46), with their hypocrisy (Mark 7:6); his sympathy (Mark 6:34), with their cruelty (Matthew 23:14). To a considerable extent their "relightion" was activity in the interest of self (Matthew 6:2; Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:16); his ministry was a sacrifice in the interest of others (Mark 10:45) and to the glory of the Father (John 17:1; John 17:4). Did some of these enemies sense that he knew their real character, that he "had their number?" (271).

Verse 2

And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.

And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread: "Bread" is plural in the Greek and is preceded by the definite article "the" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 166). Wuest says the article points to some particular bread known by the Pharisees and by the Lord, and the plural number speaks of "loaves of bread" (141). It is probable the disciples are eating some of the bread left over from the miraculous feeding of the five thousand.

with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen hands: "Defiled" is from the Greek word koinos and means "that which is common to everybody" (Wuest 141). Eventually, the word came to refer to the profane as contrasted with the sacred. The scribes and Pharisees insist hands should be washed before eating bread, not for the purpose of cleanliness but for religious reasons.

Mark probably adds the clarification "that is to say, with unwashen hands" as an explanation for the Gentile readers for whom his account is initially intended.

they found fault: The word emempsianto is translated "to find fault with, blame, censure; to intimate dissatisfaction with" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 263). This word does not appear in the best texts, however.

Verse 3

For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.

Verses 3 and 4 are no doubt added by Mark to explain further the Jewish customs to a Gentile audience.

For the Pharisees and all the Jews: The expression "the Jews" refers not to Jews in general, but to the strict and orthodox minority who support the scribes. Yet the ceremonial purifica­tion of washing hands before a meal is common in religious households, and Jesus Himself probably conforms to it at Nazareth. The Lord does refuse to bind the act on others, however, as a part of the law.

except they wash their hands oft: Literally translated this phrase reads, "Unless with the fist carefully, they wash the hands" (Marshall 166). The actual meaning of this phrase has been a difficult one for expositors. Vincent says "the word ’oft’ is from the Greek word pugme and means ’with the fist,’ that is, rubbing the uncleansed hand with the other doubled" (108). There is no consensus among historians, however, that such is the custom in washing. Edersheim says the "custom is not in accordance with Jewish law" (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol. II 10). But, on the other hand, Edersheim says in his work The Temple:

For when water was poured upon the hands they had to be lifted, yet so that the water should neither run up above the wrist, nor back again upon the hand; best, therefore, by doubling the fingers into a fist (206).

Thus, it is probable the washing is done with the clenched fist. Wuest agrees:

The individual rubs one hand and the arm up to the elbow with the other hand clenched. He rubs the palm of one hand with the other closed, so as to make sure that the part that touched the food would be clean (142).

eat not, holding the tradition: "Tradition" is from paradosis and means "to give into the hands of another, to deliver something to keep, use, take care of" (Wuest 142). Thayer says of "tradition":

The body of precepts, especially ritual, which in the opinion of the later Jews were orally delivered by Moses and orally transmitted in unbroken succession to subsequent generations, which precepts, both illustrating and expanding the written law, as they did, were to be obeyed with equal reverence (481-482).

The traditions are seldom wrong in themselves, but they are treated as if they are of such importance that moral duties are neglected.

Originally, for the Jews, the law (Torah) meant two things: it meant, first and foremost, the Ten Commandments, and, second, the Books of Moses (the first five books of the Old Testament collectively called "the Pentateuch"). Although the Pentateuch contains a certain number of detailed regulations and instructions, the bulk of its teaching on moral issues is laid down in a series of great moral principles that a person must interpret and apply for himself. For many years the Jews were content with that. But when the scribes appear upon the scene in the fourth and fifth centuries before Christ, these legal experts are not satisfied with living life by general principles; they have what can only be called "a passion for definition" (Barclay 164). The scribes meticulously break the general principles down into thousands of punctilious rules and regulations covering every possible situation in life. These rules become known as the "Oral Law" and are what is meant by the expression "the traditions of the elders." These oral rules and regulations are written down in the Mishnah a few centuries after the time of Jesus.

of the elders: The word "elders" does not mean, in this phrase, the officials of the synagogue; rather, it means the great legal experts of the old days who originated the oral tradition, like Hillel and Shammai.

Rituals such as the meticulous washing of hands before eating is the essence of religion to the scribes and Pharisees. Barclay gives some examples of the fanatical extremes to which they carried these traditions:

Bread eaten with unclean hands was no better than excrement. A Rabbi who once omitted the ceremony was buried in excommunication. Another Rabbi, imprisoned by the Romans, used the water given to him for handwashing rather than for drinking and in the end nearly perished of thirst, because he was determined to observe the rules of cleanliness rather than satisfy his thirst (165).

With such fanatical devotion to ritual, ceremony, and regulations, the scribes and Pharisees soon lost sight of true heartfelt service to God (Matthew 15:8).

Verse 4

And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables.

And when they come from the market: The word "market" is agora and refers to the public forum in every town where people gather, like the courthouse square in American towns (Wuest 142).

except they wash, they eat not: The word "wash" in the Nestle text is rantizo, which means "to sprinkle" (167). Textual critics have long argued as to whether the original text had rantizo or baptizo, which means "to immerse." Regardless of the original word, it is easily seen that the word "unwashen" of verse 2 and "wash" of verse 3 are the translation of nipto ("to wash") (Marshall 166) and that these verses refer to the same act as the "washing" of verse 4.

And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables: John 2:6 mentions the six waterpots at the wedding in Cana, which apparently form part of the standard equipment in every Jewish home and are used for the numerous washings here mentioned.

Verse 5

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?

At last we come to the point of the complaint of the scribes and Pharisees. This verse connects with verse 2, where the Pharisees see some of Jesus’ disciples eating bread with ceremonially unclean hands. The question is hostile in tone and intended to be severely critical of the disciples.

Verse 6

He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you: The word "well" is from the Greek word kalos and means "Beautifully, finely, excellently, well" (Thayer 323). It means, "With beautiful appropriateness Isaiah prophesied of you;" or, "Isaiah’s denunciation of Israel in his own day is excellently adapted to you." The scribes have called attention to the very heart of the controversy between themselves and the Lord, and the time has come for some very plain language by Jesus. He gives them a twofold answer. The first answer is in verses 6-8, and the second answer is in verses 9-13. Matthew records both answers in his parallel account but inverts the order (15:1-20).

hypocrites: The original language has "You, the hypocrites." The use of the definite article emphasizes the fact that the scribes and Pharisees are the hypocrites. Wuest says:

The word "hypocrites" is from hupocrites and referred originally to one who judged from under the cover of a mask, thus, assuming an identity and a character which he was not. This person was the actor on the Greek stage, one who took the part of another. The Pharisees were religious actors, so to speak, in that they pretended to be on the outside, what they were not on the inside (144).

This is the first time Jesus directly charges the scribes with hypocrisy, and they may well have been startled by such a blunt criticism hurled back into their face.

as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me: This quote is from Isaiah 29:13. They pretend a piety and a love they do not have in fact.

Verse 7

Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Howbeit in vain do they worship me: The word "vain" means "fruitlessly, without profit" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 259).

teaching for doctrines the commandments of men: The second charge Jesus levels against these legalists is that they have substituted man’s traditions for the word of God. This charge is even more serious than the first. Even if the Pharisees have been sincere in their hearts, their whole position is vain because what they teach depends entirely on human authority.

Once again, note how the Lord answers on two levels those who criticize them: first, He answers on their level, using their premises: then, having thus demolished their position, He takes the argument to a far deeper level (Cole 119).

Verse 8

For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.

For laying aside the commandment of God: "Laying aside" is from aphiemi and means "to abandon, to leave as behind and done with in order to go on to another thing" (Thayer 89).

ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do: "Hold" is from krateo, and it suggests a "powerful grip on something" (Wuest 145). The Pharisees are zealots when it comes to observing their own traditions. Hendriksen says the rabbis divide the law or Torah into 613 separate decrees, 365 of these being considered prohibitions and 248 positive directives (275).

The mistakes of the scribes and Pharisees are not unique. The practice of substituting the traditions of men for the Divine word of God is repeated in every age. There have been numerous innovations introduced into God’s worship; substitutions for the baptism that Christ commanded; patterns of church government that cannot be found in God’s word; and many, many other traditions that have been used to supplant the plain teaching of the Lord. Religious men today need to heed the warning of this verse carefully.

Verse 9

And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

This is in essence a repetition of verse 8, but with more bite and sarcasm that must have cut the scribes and Pharisees to the bone. Jesus is saying, "You have done a beautiful job of setting aside the commands of God in order to confirm your own weak and miserable traditions."

Verse 10

For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:

Jesus now gives a specific example of how the scribes and Pharisees make void the law by their own traditions.

For Moses said: Matthew 15:4 says, "For God said." There is no contradiction here as Jesus regards what Moses said as being the word of God.

Honor thy father and thy mother: This positive command is the fifth of the original Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12). The word "Honor" is from timao and means "honor, revere, venerate" (Wuest 146). The word means more than to "obey." Sometimes obedience is rendered selfishly, reluctantly, or out of fear. But to "honor" involves the inner attitudes of a child toward his parents; and it implies love, respect, and consideration. This honor is to be shown to both of the parents.

And Whoso curseth father or mother: The word "curseth" is from kakologeo, meaning "to speak evil of" (Marshall 167). In this particular case, there is no cursing; but the parents are dishonored.

let him die the death: In Exodus 21:17 and Leviticus 20:9, the death penalty is imposed on those who curse father and mother. Jesus reminds the scribes and Pharisees of this by quoting the full command. Then He proceeds to show them how the traditions they have allowed to grow up resulted in blatant disregard of the fifth commandment.

Verse 11

But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.

The word "Corban" is a Hebrew word, meaning "that which is brought near," "a gift, offering, oblation, anything consecrated to God" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 237). Mark is the only one who uses the word, then translates it as a "gift." Anything that is declared to be Corban is viewed as if it has already been laid upon the altar in dedication to God. In other words, it is completely set apart from all ordinary purposes and usages and has become the property of God. If a man wishes to dedicate some of his money or his property to God, he declares it Corban, and thereafter it may never again be used for any ordinary or secular purpose. The scribes and Pharisees use this tradition to get around the heavy burden of having to honor their parents by supporting them. If a father or mother comes to a son in dire need of financial help, the son can just declare his property Corban and say to the parents, "I am sorry but I cannot give you any help because nothing that I have is available to you because it is dedicated to God." Once the word is uttered, the son is freed from any obligation to help his parents; but he does not have to make the offering or use the item in question for any religious purposes. He just continues to use it for himself.

Verse 12

And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;

The scribes teach that a vow, however unrighteous, must stand. Even if the man who makes it desires to remedy the wrong and even if the wrong is to his own parents, he cannot be allowed to remedy it. Such ruling totally nullifies the fifth commandment.

Verse 13

Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

Making the word of God of none effect: "None effect" is from akurountes and means "to deprive of authority, annul, abrogate" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 14). Not only are these hypocrites ignoring the word of God, they are actually invalidating it. They are depriving the fifth commandment of its binding authority.

through your tradition, which ye have delivered: This passage refers to the act of one person’s passing something over to another. Hence, it refers to the oral laws of the Pharisees, handed down from generation to generation. The Pharisees themselves, to whom our Lord is speaking, are adding weight to these laws by passing them on to their descendants.

and many such like things do ye: Jesus uses this one example to illustrate what is constantly going on. Many other examples could have been given to prove their man-made traditions have supplanted the word of God in preeminence.

Verse 14

And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:

And when he had called all the people unto him: It is probable that just before the arrival of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus has been teaching the people. Bruce suggests, "The people must have retired a little into the background, out of respect for the Jerusalem magnates" (Expositor’s Greek New Testament 388). But now the Lord brings the people into the discussion again.

harken unto me every one of you, and understand: This is a very pointed appeal to the people. Jesus wants them not only to hear Him but to understand in view of the special importance of what He is about to say.

Verse 15

There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.

There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: This may have been the most baffling statement the disciples hear Jesus make, up to this point. The scribes and Pharisees have argued that unwashed hands defile the food, and the food defiles the person. In other words, the defilement works its way from the outside to the inside of the person. Jesus shows that the very opposite is true. He declares that nothing that goes into a man can possibly defile him.

No Jew ever believed that statement, and no orthodox Jew believes it today. God, indeed, forbids ancient Israel to eat certain meats. There is a long list of animals in Leviticus 11 said to be unclean and forbidden to be used for food. Barclay offers some examples from the Maccabean period illustrating just how serious the Jews are about abstaining from food they consider unclean:

At that time the Syrian king, Antiochus Epiphanes, was determined to root out the Jewish faith. One of the things he demanded was that the Jews should eat pork, swine’s flesh but they died in their hundreds rather than do so.

Howbeit many in Israel were fully resolved and confirmed in themselves not to eat any unclean thing. Wherefore they chose rather to die, that they might not be defiled with meats, and that they might not profane the holy covenant; so then they die (1 Maccabees 1:62-63). Fourth Maccabees (chapter 7) tells the story of a widow and her seven sons. It was demanded that they should eat swine’s flesh. They refused. The first had his tongue cut out, the ends of his limbs cut off; and he was then roasted alive in a pan; the second had his hair and the skin of his skull torn off; one by one they were tortured to death while their aged mother looked on and cheered them on; they died rather than eat meat which to them was unclean (172).

It is in the face of this prevailing historical attitude that Jesus makes His revolutionary statement that nothing that goes into a man can defile him and make him unclean.

but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man: As mentioned, the scribes and Pharisees have argued that defilement works its way from the outside inward. Jesus says just the opposite is true. The source of defilement is not external, but it is within man himself. Real defilement originates and issues from the heart.

In view of the Maccabean heroes who give their lives rather than be defiled by unclean meats, this Galilean crowd may have strongly resented what Jesus says, if they fully understand it. It is probable, however, that even the disciples do not fully understand Jesus’ words until long afterward at the conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10, 11).

Jesus is not telling this crowd that the law of Moses is erroneous and without validity because He has just equated the words of Moses with the word of God in verse 13. In reality, Jesus is demonstrating His prerogative as Deity to maintain the status quo, modify, or terminate God’s ancient law. The Sermon on the Mount is another example of Jesus’ exercising His divine prerogative.

Verse 16

If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.

This entire verse is not included in the Nestle text. The Revisers of 1881 placed it in the margin. This statement is probably introduced as a sequel to the plea in verse 14 to "Hearken...and understand."

Verse 17

And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.

And when he was entered into the house from the people: This expression means Jesus is "at home." It could have been the home of Peter in Capernaum or the home of some other disciple of the Gennesaret villages.

his disciples asked him concerning the parable: Jesus has taught this revolutionary concept to the crowd in the form of a parable; now the disciples want Him to explain it to them. This is a common procedure with the disciples. When they are alone with the Lord, they often ask Him what He means concerning some teaching. Matthew 15:15 states that Peter is the disciple who asks Jesus to explain the meaning of this parable.

Verse 18

And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;

And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also: Jesus expresses surprise at their lack of understanding. The meaning here is, "I can understand the multitude’s lack of perception, but I am surprised that those of you who have been with me so long are just as dense." Jesus already has taught them in the Sermon on the Mount that purity and impurity originate within the heart. It is with good reason then that Jesus is disappointed in the disciples’ lack of discernment.

Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him: Nothing from without can pollute man in any religious sense; he is not worse off morally or spiritually.

Verse 19

Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

Because it entereth not into his heart: This verse explains why outward things cannot defile the spirit of man. They do not enter the inner man, the heart (kardia). The scribes and Pharisee are not arguing with Jesus about physical cleanliness or physically healthful eating. They are contemplating the pollution they are convinced affects the moral nature of man. Their criticism of Christ and His disciples rests entirely on religious grounds. Consequently, Jesus speaks only of spiritual pollution.

but into his belly: The word "belly" is koilia and refers to the "lower belly" or "bowels" (Thayer 351; Marshall 168).

and goeth out into the draught: "Draught" is aphedron and means a "privy, a place where the intestinal discharges are deposited. The word does not refer to a part of the physical body" (Wuest 149).

purging all meats: This phrase means "Declaring, making, pronouncing all foods clean." Most expositors believe this phrase is not a part of Jesus’ statement but is a conclusion drawn and added by Mark. Gould uses quotation marks to clarify:

He says to them, "Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive that nothing which enters into the man from without can defile him; because it does not enter into the heart, but into the belly, and goes out into the privy," so making all foods clean (132).

The question arises, "Who or what is it that makes or pronounces the foods clean?" R.C.H. Lenski says it is the latrine or privy that does it.

It is the privy that does this, for all foods have their course through the body only, never touch the heart, and thus end in the privy. By being received there the privy shows and proves that the foods never touched the heart at all, never had anything to do with moral defilement, and are thus pronounced clean (298).

Swete comments that such a view as expressed by Lenski "scarcely calls for consideration" (152). Most commentators believe Mark is referring to the principle laid down by Jesus in verse 15 that makes all foods clean. This interpretation is in significant agreement with Peter’s vision of the great sheet in Acts 10 and the words "what God hath cleansed, that call not thou common" (verse 15). It is only then that Peter realizes for the first time the importance of the Lord’s words on this occasion. Hendriksen adds this note:

Interpreters may differ on the question exactly when, according to God’s will, the abolition of the ceremonial laws regarding clean and unclean went into effect. Did it take place right now, at the very moment when Jesus spoke these words? Did it occur when Jesus was crucified? See Colossians 2:14. On the day of Pentecost? Whatever be the answer, it remains true that in principle all foods were pronounced clean here and now (282).

Verse 20

And he said, that which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.

Jesus’ words are now resumed after Mark’s interpolation of "purging all meats." Having made clear what does not defile a man, Jesus proceeds to reveal what actually defiles a person.

Verse 21

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

For from within, out of the heart of men: It is from within the seat of the moral nature of man, the heart, that moral defilement begins.

proceed evil thoughts: It carries the idea of discussion or debate, with an under-thought of suspicion or doubt, either in one’s own mind, as Luke 5:22; Luke 6:8; or with another, Luke 9:46; Philippians 2:14; Romans 14:1 (Vincent 110).

Mark lists twelve species of evils that issue forth from evil thoughts. Six are in the plural, and six are in the singular. The first six describe evil actions while the second six describe evil drives. Matthew 15:19 omits seven of the evils listed by Mark but adds "false witness." Matthew’s list then follows the order of the second part of the Ten Commandments, sixth to ninth. Both Mark and Matthew point out that all sin begins with the thoughts of the heart.

adulteries: The Greek word is moichaiai. This is the violation of the marriage bond: a married person’s having voluntary sexual intercourse with someone other than his or her spouse.

fornications: The original word is porneiai. Thayer defines the word as "Illicit sexual intercourse in general" (532).

In its widest sense the term here used indicates sexual sin in general, illicit sexual behavior of any description, whether within or outside of the marriage bond, often but not always the latter. In Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9 the reference is to marital infidelity. In John 8:41 unlawful sexual intercourse is indicated. In Acts 15:20; Acts 15:29; Acts 21:25 there may be a special reference to marriage within the forbidden degrees of affinity or consanguinity. See Leviticus 18:6 f. Paul uses the word frequently. It covers a wide range of sinful sexual actions (Hendriksen 286).

murders: As with the sexual sins Jesus mentions, "murders" also begin in the heart. "Evil thoughts" stimulate extreme emotional feelings against another before the act of murder is committed. Thus, His teaching is for control of the heart as well as control of actions.

Verse 22

Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:

Thefts: Stealing was a habit among slaves, and something that had to stop upon their conversion.

covetousness: The word is pleonexia and includes every form of avarice, greed, or lust.

wickedness: Translated from poneriai, the word means "an evil heart" (Thayer 530).

deceit: "Deceit" (dolos) is fraud or concealed dishonesty. It comes from the word "bait" and means any trick, and abstractly it means trickery, cunning, or craft.

lasciviousness: Aselgeia is the Greek word, and Robertson defines it as "unrestrained sex instinct" (325).

an evil eye: This expression is translated from ophthalmos poneros, which means "a malicious, mischief-working eye, with the meaning of positive, injurious activity" (Wuest 150). Hendriksen says the expression "an evil eye" is a Hebrew expression for envy. "Our English word ’envy’ comes from the Latin in-video, meaning ’to look against,’ that is, to look with ill-will at another person because of what he is or has" (288).

blasphemy: "Blasphemy" (blasphemia) is abusive speech against God or man.

pride: The Greek word is huperephania and means "holding oneself above others, stuck up" (Robertson 325).

foolishness: "Foolishness" is from aphrosune and means "lack of sense, folly, senselessness" (Wuest 150). Barclay says:

This does not mean the foolishness that is due to weakness of intellect and lack of brains; it means moral folly. It describes, not the man who is a brainless fool, but the man who chooses to play the fool (175).

He does not know the moral value of things. He thinks sin is a joke and mocks those who treat sin seriously.

It is rare to find a catalog of sins such as these in the teachings of Jesus. Such lists did exist before and after the life of Christ. This particular list definitely has an Old Testament flavor to it and is reminiscent of the lists in Paul’s epistles.

Verse 23

All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

In view of the biblical concept of the heart, it is easy to see that if the sins listed above proceed from man’s heart, they will indeed pollute his entire intellectual, emotional, and spiritual life. What sinful man needs is a transformed heart, the "washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). At conversion, sinners are regenerated, born again (John 3:5), and become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Nothing short of true conversion to Jesus Christ can solve the problem of the evil heart.

The confrontation between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees that Mark has just narrated is the sixth one described by Mark. It begins when Jesus forgives the palsied man in Mark 2:7. The Jewish leaders accuse Jesus of assuming a prerogative that belongs only to God. Next, they accuse Christ of associating with "sinners" (2:16), allowing His disciples to violate the sabbath (2:24), breaking the sabbath Himself (3:2, 6), and casting out demons by the power of the devil (3:22).

Verse 24

And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid.

The incident recorded in verses 24-30 is especially significant because it follows so closely the Lord’s teaching regarding meats. Jesus, in the previous incident, has wiped out the difference between clean and unclean foods. Now He lays the foundation for wiping out the distinction between clean and unclean people. Just as the Jews would not defile themselves by eating unclean foods, they would not defile themselves by making contact with unclean people (Gentiles). The whole of chapter seven seems to be connected to the interests of the Gentiles. The Lord is teaching that even though the Gentiles are "unclean" they, too, will have a place in the kingdom. Dorris points out this is the only time that Jesus goes beyond the bounds of Palestine during His ministry (178).

And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon: Tyre and Sidon are cities of Phoenicia, which is a part of Syria. Tyre was founded in the fifteenth century B.C. and lies 40 miles northwest of Capernaum. Sidon is 26 miles northeast of Tyre and about 60 miles north of Capernaum. The name "Tyre" means "The Rock." Barclay says:

It was so called because off the shore lay two great rocks joined by a three-thousand-feet-long ridge. This formed a natural breakwater and Tyre was one of the natural harbours of the world from the earliest times. Not only did the rocks form a breakwater, they also formed a defence; and Tyre was not only a famous harbor, she was also a famous fortress (176).

Coffman adds:

The infamous Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, King of Tyre; and God’s prophets prophesied the doom of this wicked city, their predictions coming true when Alexander the Great, forced to pause in his mad conquest of the world for a whole seven months by the stubborn resistance of Tyre, at last overcame it in 322 B.C., slaughtering 10,000 of its citizens and selling another 30,000 into slavery. Paul spent a week there while his ship unloaded cargo on his journey from Ephesus to Jerusalem. It still exists as the modern Lebanon (148).

Sidon, like Tyre, had a natural breakwater and was a great harbor of the Mediterranean Sea. Sidon, older than Tyre, was such an ancient city that no one knew with certainty who founded it. Sidon, however, did not possess a fortress position as Tyre and eventually lost her greatness and trade position to Tyre and sank into gross, immoral degeneracy.

In spite of their wickedness, the Phoenicians will always be remembered for several achievements. They developed the science of navigation by the stars and are also believed to have been the inventors of the alphabet. They were skilled manufacturers; and Hiram, the King of Tyre, furnished timber and skilled artisans to build Solomon’s Temple in exchange for grain needed by the people of Tyre (1 Kings 5; Acts 12:20).

and entered into a house: Bruce says that "considering Christ’s desire for privacy, the house was more likely that of a heathen stranger than that of a friend" (Expositor’s Greek New Testament 390).

and would have no man know it: Jesus’ departure from Capernaum is an effort to withdraw or retreat from the increasing distractions and dangers in Galilee. The Pharisees are increasingly bitter and vengeful toward Jesus because He has denounced their traditions. Jesus’ discourse on the "Bread of Life" in the synagogue of Capernaum, which comes during the same time frame, has also alienated many of His friends. Add to the above circumstances the fact Herod Antipas has become suspicious of Jesus, and it is obvious Galilee has become a hostile and perhaps unsafe place. Jesus needs rest and relaxation, and He also needs an opportunity to prepare His disciples for what is to come: His death by crucifixion and His resurrection. Thus, He wants to be alone with His disciples and enjoy a little privacy.

but he could not be hid: Earlier, some had come from Tyre and Sidon to Galilee to seek Jesus (3:8), and now He is recognized by them.

Verse 25

For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet:

For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit: Mark uses a tender touch when he refers to the girl as "young (little) daughter." The child is demon possessed (for a discussion of demon possession see chapters one and three).

heard of him: This phrase is literally "Immediately, having heard." Just as soon as Jesus arrives, she hears about Him.

and came and fell at his feet: By prostrating herself at Jesus’ feet, she manifests her humility, reverence, and earnest entreaty.

Verse 26

The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.

The woman was a Greek: Mark describes the woman’s religion, language, and race. She is Greek in religion. The word "Greek" is Hellenis and means she was born a Gentile and is a woman with a pagan background. Her language is Syrian, and she is Phoenician in race.

a Syrophenician by nation: She is a native of Phoenicia of Syria as distinguished from the Libyan Phoenicia on the coast of North Africa.

and she besought him: The verb "besought" is erotao and means she is making a request of Jesus, not just asking a question (Wuest 152). The verb is in the imperfect tense, indicating the woman keeps at it; she keeps right on requesting. Matthew’s account (chapter fifteen) has the woman making three appeals. Mark omits one of those as well as the appeal of the disciples to grant her request and send her away.

that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter: She pleads with Jesus, again and again, to free her little daughter from the demon, the unclean spirit. Matthew 15:22 adds that she addresses Jesus as "O Lord, thou son of David." Swete points out that at this point in the narrative it is remarkable she would address Jesus as such; "so far as we know, the title had been applied to Christ only once even in Galilee" (157). It could be the woman has done her homework and knows the prophecies concerning the Christ, that He will be the son of David.

Verse 27

But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.

But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: "The children" refers to the Jews. The Jews have first claim. In the third tour of Galilee, Jesus commands His disciples to avoid the Gentiles and Samaritans (Matthew 10:5). The word "first" implies, however, that the others would have their turn later. The rule is "the Jews first, then the Gentiles" (Matthew 22:1-10; Acts 13:44-48; Acts 18:6; Romans 1:16). Paul is to be the apostle to the Gentiles, but he would give the Jews first opportunity (Romans 2:9).

for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs: The word "meet" is kalon and means "good, right, or proper" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 211). Although they go uncared for, dogs abound in Palestine and the surrounding districts. They roam about in packs, with no particular home, and are viewed as scavengers. The Jews contemptuously look upon all Gentiles as "dogs" but that expression sounds strange coming from the mouth of the Lord.

The word Jesus actually uses is the diminuative of "dog." It is kunarion, which means "a little dog" (Wuest 152). He is not calling the Gentiles "outside scavenger dogs" but, rather, "little dogs, or household companions." He is saying that even pet dogs, household companions, cannot expect to be treated like children.

The Lord’s response to the woman has given commentators a lot of trouble. Barclay says Jesus is speaking with "a smile." He concludes Jesus enjoys the woman’s clever wit, and the entire exchange is done with sort of a wink and a grin. That explanation hardly fits the picture of the woman who runs to Jesus, falls at His feet, and, with deep concern and sorrow for her little daughter, begs Jesus again and again to cast out the demon. Gould offers this possibility:

I am inclined to believe that Jesus did not use the term seriously, but with a kind of ironical conformity to this common sneer, having felt in his own experience how small occasion the Jews of his time had to treat any other people with contempt. He had good reasons for confining his work to the Jews, but they did not arise from any acceptance of their estimate of themselves or of others. It is as if he had put in a "you know," to indicate a common opinion (136).

If Jesus’ words are taken at face value, they would be offensive to the woman. The term "dog" is always a term of contempt, especially in the East. It seems more probable, therefore, that Jesus sees in her a faith that will stand the test. He knows she will emerge victorious from this severe trial with a faith even stronger than if she receives Jesus’ blessing immediately after merely asking.

Verse 28

And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs.

And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: This woman fully accepts the Lord’s designation of her as a "little dog" and then carries it to her own conclusion. The way she uses Jesus’ own words to neutralize the force of His seeming rebuff is a unique combination of faith and wit (Gould 136). It is as though she is saying, "I indeed belong to the people that the Jews call ’dogs.’"

yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs: This is a delightful picture of household dogs, pets, loved by little children and fed by little scraps of food the children would drop, sometimes purposely, from the table. She is saying, "I accept the comparison of being called a house dog because little house dogs eat some of the children’s scraps." She, by placing herself at the children’s table, implies there is a place for dogs (Gentiles), lowly as it is, in the household of God.

Verse 29

And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.

For this saying: It is not just for her quick wit and clever response that Jesus praises the woman, but as Matthew 15:28 shows it is for her faith, "great faith."

go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter: The healing takes place at a distance. The centurion (Matthew 8:5-13) also believes Christ can heal at a distance and, like the Syrophoenician woman, wins Christ’s admiring approval. It is interesting that two of the brightest examples of faith during the ministry of Christ are demonstrated by these two Gentiles.

Verse 30

And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.

And when she was come to her house: The woman demonstrates her faith in Jesus again by going home. If she had not really believed the Lord could heal her little daughter from a distance, she might not have hurried home.

she found the devil had gone out: The perfect tense is used, showing the cure is permanent. The demon is gone and will never return.

and her daughter laid upon the bed: The word "laid" is from beblemenon and means "thrown" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 65). It could be the little girl experiences some sort of convulsion when the demon leaves her, and she is "thrown upon the bed." This would harmonize with the example in Mark 9:22 of the demon-possessed boy who is "cast" or "thrown" into the fire and water.

But now the little girl is resting peacefully, indicating a complete cure.

Verse 31

And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis.

The last incident takes place in the vicinity of Tyre. How long Jesus stays there is not indicated. Now Jesus makes a long, circuitous journey to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. He travels northward through Sidon, then eastward and southward, until He reaches the region of the Greek cities of Decapolis. Jesus has been in this region before when He healed the Gadarene demoniac (Mark 5) and was asked to leave. We are not told how long this journey takes. It may have taken weeks, if not months.

The object of this long detour is to gain the privacy necessary for the training of the Twelve. Jesus has already failed twice in His efforts to find some privacy (6:31-34; 7:24). Matthew points out that Jesus remains for a time in the mountainous district above the plain. This position affords Him the quiet and retirement He seeks. He can wait there for the multitude com­ing to Him for instruction and healing.

Verse 32

And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him.

And they bring unto him: It is obvious from the next few verses, and from Matthew 15:29-31, that Jesus is surrounded by a crowd of people seeking relief from various disorders. Matthew lists many miracles that Jesus performs but does not describe any of them in detail. Mark selects just one miracle, and he, alone, gives a detailed description.

one that was deaf: The word kophos can relate to speech or hearing. It can mean "deaf" or "dumb." Since Mark uses another word to describe the man’s speech, this word is rightly translated "deaf."

and had an impediment in his speech: Deaf people, unable to hear the sounds they make, often speak imperfectly and sometimes make no attempt to speak at all. It is extremely difficult for this man to speak. At best, he probably stammers.

and they beseech him: This man cannot speak adequately for himself, so his friends take action for him. This assistance by friends is reminiscent of the case of the palsied man in Mark 2:3-5.

to put his hand upon him: It is probable they have either seen Jesus heal the afflicted by the laying on of hands (5:23; 6:5) or they have heard of it. But for some reason, Jesus uses a different procedure this time. Hendriksen observes:

In dealing with people the Lord chooses his own methods. Naaman had to learn this lesson (2 Kings 5:10-14). So did Paul (2 Corinthians12:7-10). We should never try to tell God what methods he should use in answering our petitions...just where he should place his hand! His own way is always best (303).

Verse 33

And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue;

And He took him aside from the multitude: The expression "took him aside" is from apolabomenos auton and refers to drawing a person aside privately. There are several possible reasons why Jesus seeks privacy to perform this miracle. He may have been showing compassion to the deaf-mute. Deaf people know they cannot hear and are sometimes embarrassed when someone publicly tries to communicate with them. Jesus may have also thought privacy is necessary in order to gain the complete attention of the deaf-mute. The man will need to be free from the distraction of the crowd to understand clearly what is about to happen. It is possible further that Jesus does not want to be drawn into a new massive healing ministry. In the past Jesus has become so engrossed in His healing ministry that He has no time to eat or sleep or to give intimate instruction to His disciples. But now His priority is to teach and train His disciples for the monumental task that lies before them. If this miracle is performed in view of the entire multitude, it might excite the people so that Jesus will be inundated by further demands for healing, thus hindering His desire for solitude with His disciples.

and put his fingers into his ears: Deafness is the man’s primary problem so Jesus deals with that one first. Jesus uses sign language that is simple and plain so the deaf-mute cannot help but understand. He puts one finger on His right hand into one of the deaf-mute’s ears and one finger on His left hand into the other ear. It is as though Jesus is signaling to the man, "I am going to open a passage through your ears that will allow you to hear."

and he spit, and touched his tongue: Some commentators believe Jesus spits directly on the tongue of the deaf-mute as on the eyes of the blind (8:23). Mark does not specify, but Jesus probably spits on His own finger and with that moist finger touches the man’s tongue. Saliva is regarded by some as being remedial and is used by exorcists in their incantations. Possibly, Jesus is accommodating Himself to the man’s understanding and is using spittle as a sign of healing. (See also John 9:6; Mark 8:23.) He is demonstrating to the deaf-mute that something good is going to be done for his tongue and that Jesus is going to be the source of that help.

Verse 34

And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.

And looking up to heaven: Jesus looks up to heaven to show the deaf-mute the source of His help is from above.

he sighed: The word "sighed" is stenazo and means "to sigh or groan" (Marshall 170). Jesus sighs or groans in sympathy. He is showing by sign language that He is taking the man’s sorrow to heart.

and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened: "Ephphatha" is an Aramaic word. Mark repeats the actual word that Jesus speaks to the deaf-mute and then translates the word for his non-Jewish readers into the Greek word dianoichtheti, which means "Be opened." Plummer observes, "Deaf people understand what is spoken by watching the lips of the speaker, and a word like Ephphatha could easily be read from the lips" (191).

Verse 35

And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.

And straightway his ears were opened: The word "ears" is akoai and means "hearing, sense of hearing" (Wuest 155).

and the string of his tongue was loosed: This phrase is more literally translated "the bond of his tongue was loosed" (Marshall 170). Whatever it is that hinders his tongue from functioning properly comes loose, all at once.

and he spake plain: Up to this point the deaf-mute speaks inarticulately. He is a mumbler or stammerer. But now he begins to speak "plain." The word "plain" is orthos and means "rightly; correctly" (Wuest 155).

Verse 36

And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it;

And he charged them that they should tell no man: The word "charged" is from diastello and means to "command or straitly charge" (Wuest 155). It is a strong word. It means Jesus gives them "clear and positive orders" to tell no one. This charge to secrecy is given several times by Jesus (Mark 1:44; Mark 3:12; Mark 5:43; Mark 8:26; Mark 9:9; Luke 8:56; Luke 9:21; Matthew 9:30; Matthew 12:16; Matthew 16:20; Matthew 17:9).

Why does Jesus insist on these people keeping the miracle they have seen a secret? He is not in Judea where His enemies are determined to kill Him and where the multitudes are so large and unwieldy that He is hindered. On the contrary, Jesus is now in the same vicinity of Decapolis where He has healed the demoniac (5:1-20), and Jesus has ordered that man to proclaim throughout Decapolis what great things the Lord has done for him.

Still, it has been quite some time since the healing of the demoniac. Jesus does not have much time left. He needs to spend more time in intensive instruction with His disciples, and He does not need the distraction and hindrance of an excited multitude clamoring for His attention. As the time of the crucifixion draws near, Jesus is going to spend more time on the spiritual, the redemptive part of His mission. His primary purpose in coming into the world is to be the Savior, not just the miraculous healer. That purpose now, more than ever, becomes the focus of Jesus’ ministry.

but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it: The expression "so much the more a great deal" (mallon perissoteron) is a double comparative, which is used for emphasis (see Philippians 1:23, "far better") (Thayer 505). The word mallon means "more, to a greater degree"; the word perissoteron means "more abundantly" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 317). The more Jesus tells the people not to tell what they have seen, the more they tell. How typical of human nature! As Hendriksen observes:

It reminds one of the mother who knew that the only way she could get Johnnie to run an errand was to say to him, "Don’t you dare go to the store to get me five pounds of sugar!" (305).

Some commentators believe there is a contradiction between what is stated in verse 33 about Jesus’ taking the deaf-mute aside privately and what is stated here about the crowd’s continuous proclamation of what happened. But Mark does not say Christ takes the man away to a place of total privacy. No doubt some of the crowd follow Jesus and witness this stunning miracle.

Verse 37

And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.

And were beyond measure astonished: The word "astonished" is from ekplesso and means "to strike one out of self-possession," in the passive, "to be struck with astonishment" (Wuest 155). The people are so astonished at the miracle they almost lose control of themselves or take leave of their senses.

saying, He hath done all things well: This statement shows the settled convictions of these people about Jesus. It further shows Mark is aware of the fact that the miracle just described is only one of many that Jesus performs. Matthew in his parallel account (15:30-31) corroborates that fact.

he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak: This passage has reference to the miracle that just took place. The astonished multitude disregards Jesus’ injunction against reporting the miracles. They continue to exclaim, "He has done all things excellently! He causes the deaf to hear and the speechless to speak!" This incident is significant in establishing Jesus as the promised Messiah. It fulfills the messianic prophecy given in Isaiah 35:5-6.

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Mark 7". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/mark-7.html. 1993-2022.
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