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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 15

The Fourfold GospelFourfold Gospel

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Verses 1-20

P A R T S I X T H.

(Time: One Year Less One Week.)

(Galilee, probably Capernaum, Spring A. D. 29.)
aMATT. XV. 1-20; bMARK VII. 1-23; dJOHN VII. 1.

d1 And after these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Judæa, because the Jews sought to kill him. [John told us in his last chapter that the passover was near at hand. He here makes a general statement which shows that Jesus did not attend this passover. The reason for his absence is given at John 5:18.] a1 Then there come to Jesus from Jerusalem b1 And there are gathered together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem, 2 and had seen that some of his disciples ate their bread with defiled, that is, with unwashen, hands. [Evidently several days intervened between the address of John 6:22-40. and the events recorded here, for the Pharisees and scribes would not be likely to leave Jerusalem until after the passover. Isaiah 29:13], asaying, bas it is written, This people [394] honoreth me with their lips, But their heart is far from me. 7 But in vain do they worship me, Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men. 8 Ye leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men. 9 And he said unto them, Full well do ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your tradition. [These Pharisees coming from Jerusalem could find nothing wherein Jesus or his disciples transgressed the law, so they eagerly grasped this transgression of the tradition as affording ground for an accusation. Jesus does not deny their charge, but justifies his disciples by attacking the whole traditional system, basing his attack upon a pointed prophecy which condemns it. It is hard for us to learn and apply the distinction between serving God as God wishes to be served, and serving him according to our own wishes and notions.] a4 For God {bMoses} said [that is, God said it through Moses], Honor thy father and thy mother; and, He that speaketh evil of father or mother, let him die the death [see Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16, Exodus 21:17, Leviticus 20:9]: 11 but ye say, If a man {aWhosoever} shall say to his father or his mother, That wherewith thou mightest have been profited by me bis Corban, that is to say, Given to God; a6 he shall not honor his father. b12 ye no longer suffer him to do ought for his father or his mother; aAnd ye have made {b13 making} void the word of God by {abecause of} your tradition. bwhich ye have delivered: and many such like things ye do. [Leaving for a moment the main question concerning uncleanness and washing, Jesus makes good his indictment against their tradition by giving an example of the mischievous way in which it set aside God’s commandments. The law required the honoring of parents, and for any one to cast off his parents in their old age, thus subjecting them to beggary or starvation, was to do more than to speak evil of them. Such conduct was practically to curse them, and to incur the death penalty for so doing. But at this point the Pharisees interfered with their tradition, which taught that [395] a son could say of that part of his estate by which his parents might be profited, It is a gift; that is, a gift to God, and by thus dedicating that part to God, he would free himself from his obligation to his parents. Thus tradition undid the law. God’s law leads to pure and acceptable worship, while human additions and amendments make worship vain, if not abominable. There is probably not one such addition or amendment which does not to a greater or less degree make some commandment void.] 14 And he called to him the multitude again, and said unto them [Having been accused by the scribes and Pharisees of a breach of their tradition, Jesus points out to them generally the iniquity of tradition, for it lay within their power as leaders to remedy the whole system of things. Having done this, he turns to the multitude and answers before them as to the offense with which he is specifically charged. Thus he gives to the leaders general principles, and to the common people the single instance], Hear me all of you, and understand: a11 Not that which entereth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which proceedeth out of the mouth, this defileth a man. b15 there is nothing from without a man, that going into him can defile him: but the things which proceed out of the man are those that defile the man. 17 And when he was entered into the house from the multitude, a12 Then came the disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, when they heard this saying? [The entire speech offended them. He charged them with hypocrisy. He showed that their tradition, which they reverenced as a revelation from God, led them into sin, and he disturbed their self-complacency by showing that the ceremonial cleanness, which was founded on tradition, and in which they prided themselves, was worthless in comparison with the moral cleanness required by God’s law, which they had ignored. It grieved the disciples to see Jesus offend these reverend gentlemen from Jerusalem. Like many modern disciples their respect for men counteracted their zeal for truth.] 13 But he answered and said, Every [396] plant which my heavenly Father hath planted not, shall be up rooted up. [God had planted the law with its doctrine: he had planted the Hebrew religion as given by Moses. He had not planted the tradition of the elders; so it, and the religion founded upon it, was doomed to be rooted up.] 14 Let them alone: they are blind guides. And if the blind guide the blind, both shall fall into a pit. [This proverbial expression is found in the Sermon on the Mount. See Psalms 37:1, Psalms 37:2). The words of Jesus are full of encouragement to those who adhere to the simple teachings of God; for they show that God guarantees that every error shall be uprooted, and that every teacher of error or false religion shall participate in the judgment which uproots, and shall fall into the pit of ruin; and his disciples, no matter how numerous, shall share his fate. In this particular instance, the destruction of Jerusalem was the pit. The Jewish leaders led their disciples into it, and God uprooted their system of tradition, that the pure gospel might be sowed in the room which they occupied.] 15 And Peter answered and said unto him, Declare unto us the parable. [The word "parable" is used here in its looser sense to indicate an obscure saying.] bhis disciples asked of him the parable. [They asked what he meant by the words contained in the Matthew 15:11. 18 And he saith {asaid,} bunto them, aAre ye even yet bso without understanding also? [It was to be expected that the multitude, swayed by the teaching of the Pharisees, would be slow to grasp what Jesus said about uncleanness; but the disciples, having been so long taught of him, and having felt free to eat with unwashed hands, should have been more quick of understanding.] Perceive ye not, that whatsoever from without goeth into the man, it cannot defile him; 19 because it goeth not into his heart, but apasseth into the {bhis} belly, and goeth out into {aand is cast out into} the [397] draught? bThis he said, making all meats clean. 20 And he said, a18 But the things which proceed out of the mouth come forth out of the heart; and they defile the man. bThat which proceedeth out of the man, that defileth the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, acome forth {bproceed,} aevil thoughts, bfornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22; covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye [an envious eye] afalse witness, railings: {brailing,} pride, foolishness: 23 all these evil things proceed from within, and a20 these are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashen hands, defileth not the man. [Thus Jesus sets forth the simple doctrine that a man’s moral and spiritual state is not dependent upon the symbolic cleanness of his physical diet, much less is it dependent on ceremonial observances in regard to things eaten, or the dishes from which they are eaten. Of course, Jesus did not mean at this time to abrogate the Mosaic law of legal uncleanness. These uncleannesses worked no spiritual defilement, but were merely typical of such; for the food in no way touched or affected the mind or soul, the fountains of spiritual life, but only the corporeal organs, which have no moral susceptibility. The Pharisees had erred in confusing legal and spiritual defilement, and had added error to error by multiplying the causes of defilement in their tradition. By thus showing that legal defilement was merely symbolic, Jesus classed it with all the other symbolism which was to be done away with when the gospel reality was fully ushered in ( Colossians 2:16, Colossians 2:17). In saying, therefore, that Jesus made all meats clean, Mark does not mean that Jesus then and there repealed the law. The declaration of such repeal came later ( Acts 10:14, Acts 10:15). He means that he there drew those distinctions and laid down those principles which supplanted the Mosaic law when the kingdom of God was ushered in on the day of Pentecost. Here was the fountain whence Paul drew all his teaching concerning things clean and unclean.] [398]

* It was a whole year.--J. W. McG.

[FFG 393-398]

Verse 21

aMATT. XV. 21; bMARK VII. 24.

b24 And from thence aJesus barose, and went aout baway aand withdrew into the parts {bborders} of Tyre and Sidon. [The journey here is indicated in marked terms because it differs from any previously recorded, for it was the first time that Jesus ever entered a foreign or heathen country. Some commentators contend from the use of the word "borders" by Mark that Jesus did not cross over the boundary, but the point is not well taken, for Mark 7:31 shows that the journey led through Sidon. For the location of Tyre and Sidon, see page 286. Jesus withdrew to escape the opposition of his enemies and the mistaken movements of his friends. As he was not on a missionary tour, it was perfectly proper for him to enter heathen territory.]

[FFG 399]

Verses 22-28

(Region of Tyre and Sidon.)
aMATT. XV. 22-28; bMARK VII. 24-30.

bAnd he entered into a house, and would have no man know it [Jesus sought concealment for the purposes noted in the last section. He also, no doubt, desired an opportunity to impact private instruction to the twelve]; and he could not be hid. [The fame of Jesus had spread far and wide, and he and his disciples were too well known to escape the notice of any who had seen them or heard them described.] 25 But {a22 And} behold, bstraightway aa Canaanitish woman bwhose little daughter [the word for daughter is a diminutive, such as often used to indicate affection] had [399] an unclean spirit, having heard of him [having formerly heard of his power and having recently heard of his arrival in her neighborhood], acame out from those borders [this does not mean, as some construe it, that she crossed over into Galilee from Phoenicia; it means that she came out of the very region where Jesus then was], and cried, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David [Sympathy so identified her with her daughter that she asked mercy for herself. The title "son of David" shows that the Jewish hopes had spread to surrounding nations and that some, like this woman and the one at Jacob’s well, expected to share in the Messianic blessing]; my daughter is grievously vexed with a demon. 23 But he answered her not a word. [God’s unanswering silence is a severe test of our faith.] b26 Now the woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by race. [The Macedonian conquest had diffused Greek civilization throughout western Asia till the word Greek among the Jews had become synonymous with Gentile. The term Canaanite was narrower and indicated an inhabitant of Canaan--that is, a non-Jewish inhabitant of Palestine. The term Syrophoenician was narrower still. It meant a Syrian in Phoenicia, and distinguished the Phoenicians from the other Syrians. Phoenicia was a narrow strip near the northeast corner of the Mediterranean Sea. It was some twenty-eight miles long with an average width of about one mile. Canaan means lowland; Phoenicia means palmland. The Canaanites founded Sidon ( Genesis 10:19), and the Phoenicians were their descendants.] And she besought him that he would cast forth the demon out of her daughter. aAnd his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. [The woman by her loud entreaties was drawing to Jesus the very attention which he sought to avoid. The disciples therefore counseled him to grant her request for his own sake--not for mercy or compassion, but merely to be rid of her.] 24 But he answered [answered the disciples, not the woman] and said, I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [Jesus had not forborne [400] answering her prayers through lack of feeling, but from principle. It was part of the divine plan that his personal ministry should be confined to the Jewish people. Divine wisdom approved of this course as best, not only for the Jews, but for the Gentiles as well. Variations from this plan were to be few and were to be granted only as rewards to those of exceptional faith.] 25 But she came band fell down at his feet. aand worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. [The narrative indicates that Jesus had left the house and was moving on, and that the woman obtruded herself upon his notice by falling in front of him and obstructing his way.] 26 And he answered and said, bunto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet [suitable, becoming] to take the children’s bread and to cast it to the dogs. [By the use of the word "first" Jesus suggested that there would come a time of mercy for the Gentiles. He uses the diminutive for the word dog, thus indicating a tame pet, and suggesting rather the dependence and subordinate position than the uncleanness of the dog. By so doing he gave the woman an argumentative handle which she was not slow to grasp.] 28 But she answered and saith {asaid,} bunto him, Yea, Lord; afor even the dogs bunder the table eat of the children’s crumbs. awhich fall from their masters’ table. [Jesus had suggested that domestic order by which dogs are required to wait until the meal is over before they receive their portion; but with a wit made keen by her necessity, she replies by alluding to the well-known fact that dogs under the table are permitted to eat the crumbs even while the meal is in progress; intimating thereby her hope to receive and before all the needs of Israel had first been satisfied. By using the word dogs Jesus did not mean to convey the impression that he shared the Jewish prejudices against Gentiles; a construction which would be contrary to Luke 4:25, Luke 4:26, Matthew 8:10-12.] 28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: bFor this saying go thy way; abe it done unto thee even as thou wilt. bthe demon is [401] gone out of thy daughter. [Thus by its ending this little incident illustrates the doctrine that men should pray and not faint ( Luke 18:1-8). The woman’s experience has been often repeated by other parents who have prayed for children which, if not demon-possessed, was certainly swayed by diabolical influences. The woman’s faith is shown in many ways: 1. She persisted when he was silent. 2. She reasoned when he spoke. 3. She regarded this miracle, though a priceless gift to her, as a mere crumb from the table of his abundant powers. It is noteworthy that the two most notable for faith--this woman and the centurion--were both Gentiles.] aAnd her daughter was healed from that hour. b30 And she went away unto her house, and found the child laid upon the bed, and the demon gone out. [The posture of the daughter indicated the physical exhaustion which would naturally succeed the intense nervous strain of demoniacal possession--especially the last paroxysms produced by the departing demon.]

[FFG 399-402]

Verse 29

aMATT. XV. 29; bMARK VII. 31.

b31 And aJesus bagain went out. aAnd departed thence, bfrom the borders of Tyre, and came through Sidon, aand came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; bthrough the midst of the borders of Decapolis. aand he went up into a mountain, and sat down there. [From Tyre Jesus proceeded northward to Sidon and thence eastward across the mountains and the headwaters of the Jordan to the neighborhood of Damascus. Here he turned southward and approached the Sea of Galilee on its eastern side. Somewhere amid the mountains on the eastern side he sat down; i. e., he ceased his journeying for some days.] [402]

[FFG 402]

Verses 30-39

aMATT. XV. 30-39; bMARK VII. 32-VIII. 9.

b32 And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech [The man had evidently learned to speak before he lost his hearing. Some think that defective hearing had caused the impediment in his speech, but Mark 7:35 suggests that he was tongue-tied]; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. 33 And he took him aside from the multitude privately, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat, and touched his tongue [He separated him from the crowd to avoid publicity (see Genesis 1:31]; he maketh even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak. [These were the people who had asked Jesus to depart from their coast on account of the loss of their swine. A complete change in their feelings had taken place since that day.] a30 And there came unto him great multitudes, having with them the lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and they cast them down at his feet; and he healed them [We have here an instance of the common difference between the narratives of Matthew and Mark. Where Matthew is wont to mention the healing of multitudes, Mark picks out one of the most remarkable cases and describes it minutely. The hasty action of those who brought in the sick and returned to bring in others is indicated by the way in which they cast down their burdens at Jesus’ feet]: 31; insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing: and they glorified the God of Israel [The people whom Jesus healed were Jews, but daily intercourse with the heathen of Decapolis had tended to cool their religious ardor. The works of Jesus revived this ardor and caused them to praise the God whose prophet they esteemed Jesus to be.] a32 And b1 In those days [i. e., while Christ was in Decapolis], when there was again a great multitude, and they had nothing to eat, aJesus called his disciples unto him, and said, {bsaith,} unto [404] them, 2 I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: aAnd I would not send them away fasting, lest haply they faint on the way. b3 and if I send them away fasting to their home, they will faint on the way: for some of them are come from far. [When the five thousand had been caught in similar circumstances, the apostles had come with suggestions to Jesus, but now, being taught by experience, they keep silence and let Jesus manage as he will. The multitude had not been three days without food, but it had been with Jesus three days and was now without food.] 4 And his {athe} disciples say unto {banswered} him, Whence shall one be able to fill these men with bread here in a desert place? aWhence should we have so many loaves in a desert place as to fill so great a multitude? [It seems strange that the apostles should ask such a question after having assisted in feeding the five thousand. But the failure to expect a miracle, despite previous experience, was a common occurrence in the history of Israel and of the twelve ( Numbers 11:21-23, Psalms 78:19, Psalms 78:20). In this case the failure of the apostles to expect miraculous relief suggests that they had probably often been hungry and had long since ceased to look for supernatural relief in such cases. Their disbelief here is so similar to their disbelief in the first instance that it, with a few other minor details, has led rationalistic commentators to confound the miracle with the feeding of the five thousand. But the words of Jesus forbid this-- Matthew 16:9, Matthew 16:10, Mark 8:19, Mark 8:20.] 34 And Jesus said unto them, b5 And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. aand a few small fishes. 35 And he commanded {bcommandeth} the multitude to sit down on the ground [they were on the bleak mountain, and not in the grassy plain of Butaiha]: and he took the seven loaves aand the fishes; and he gave thanks, band having given thanks, he brake, and gave to his {athe} disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. [405] {bto set before them; and they set them before the multitude.} 7 And they had a few small fishes: and having blessed them, he commanded to set these also before them. a37 And they all ate, and were filled: and they took up that which remained over of the broken pieces, seven baskets full. 38 And they that did eat were babout afour thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And he sent away the multitudes.

[FFG 403-406]

Verses 36-200

Subdivision A.
(Magadan and Bethsaida. Probably Summer, A. D. 29.)
aMATT. XV. 39-XVI. 12; bMARK VIII. 10-26.

b10 And straightway he entered into the boat with his disciples, aand came into the borders of Magadan. binto the parts of Dalmanutha. [It appears from the context that he crossed the lake to the west shore. Commentators, therefore, pretty generally think that Magadan is another form of the name Magdala, and that Dalmanutha was either another name for Magdala, or else a village near it.] a1 And the Pharisees and Sadducees bcame forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign aand trying him [testing the strength of his miraculous power] asked him to show them a sign from heaven. [They rejected his miracles as signs of his Messiahship, the Pharisees holding that such signs could be wrought by Beelzebub. They therefore asked a sign from heaven such as only God could give, and such as he had accorded to Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and Elijah, or such as Joel foretold ( Joel 2:31). It is generally thought that the [406] Herodians were Sadducees of Galilee. If so, we note the beginning of their hostility recorded at Mark iii. 6, 1 Corinthians 1:22.] 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and bverily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation. [i. e., none such as was demanded] bbut the sign of Jonah. [For comment on similar language, see pages 305-306. The resurrection or Jonah sign was a sign from heaven in the sense in which they used the words; that is, it was wrought directly by God, and not through man.] 13 And he left them, bAnd again entering into the boat departed to the other side. [I. e., from Magdala back again to the east shore, or rather, toward Bethsaida Julias, on the northeast shore.] a5 And the disciples came to the other side and forgot to take bread. band they had not in the boat with them more than one loaf. [This loaf was probably left over from the previous supply.] a6 Then Jesus said unto them, b15 And he charged them, saying, aTake heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. band the leaven of Herod. [Leaven, which answered to our modern yeast, was a symbol of a secret, penetrating, pervasive influence, usually of a corrupting nature. The [407] influence of the Pharisees was that of formalism, hypocritical ostentation, and traditionalism; that of the Sadducees was sneering rationalistic unbelief, free thought and cunning worldliness, manifesting itself among the Herodians in political corruption. 16 And they reasoned one with another, aamong themselves, saying, We took {bhave} no bread. They thought that Jesus reproved them for their carelessness in forgetting to take bread, since that carelessness might lead them to be without bread on their journey. So his rebuke below indicates.] a8 And Jesus perceiving it said, {bsaith,} unto them, aO ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? 9 Do ye not yet perceive, bneither understand? aneither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets [cophini, probably traveling baskets] ye took up? 10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets [spurides, probably grain baskets or hampers] ye took up? 11 How is it that ye do not perceive that I spake not to you concerning bread? bhave ye your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? 19 When I brake the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets [cophini] full of broken pieces took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. 20 And when the seven among the four thousand, how many basketfuls [spurides] of broken pieces took ye up? And they say unto him, Seven. 21 And he said unto them, Do ye not yet understand? aBut beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees? 12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. [Jesus had resorted to metaphor because the word leaven better expressed his idea than did the word teaching. The formulated dogmas of the Pharisees were not so bad, but the subtle influence of their spirit and example corrupted [408] without warning, like a concealed grave. There are those to-day who are too skillful to be openly convicted of heterodox statements, but whose teaching, nevertheless, in its very essence and spirit, tends to infidelity.] b22 And they cometh unto Bethsaida. [Not the suburb of Capernaum, but Bethsaida Julias, a town on the east side of the Jordan, near where it flows into the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was proceeding northward toward Cæsarea Philippi.] And they bring to him a blind man, and beseech him to touch him. 23 And he took hold of the blind man by the hand, and brought him out of the village [Jesus increased the sympathy between himself and the man by separating him from the crowd. Our greatest blessing can only come to us after we have been alone with God]; and when he had spit on his eyes, and laid his hands upon him, he asked him, Seest thou aught? 24 And he looked up, and said, I see men; for I behold them as trees, walking. 25 Then again he laid his hands again upon his eyes; and he looked steadfastly, and was restored, and saw all things clearly. [The man’s eyes were probably sore, and Jesus made use of saliva to soften and soothe them. But it was our Lord’s custom to give variety to the manifestation of his power, sometimes using one apparent auxiliary means, and sometimes another; and also healing instantly or progressively, as he chose, that the people might see that the healing was altogether a matter of his will. The man had evidently not been born blind, else he would not have been able to recognize men or trees by sight, for those not used to employ sight can not by it tell a circle from a square.] 26 And he sent him away to his home, saying, Do not even enter into the village. [The man, of course, lived in the village, and to send him home was to send him thither, but he was to go directly home and not spread the news through the town, for if he did the population would be at once drawn to Jesus, thus breaking up the privacy which he sought to maintain.] [409]

[FFG 406-409]

Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Matthew 15". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tfg/matthew-15.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.
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