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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Matthew 15

Verse 1

15:1 See the comments on chapter 13:52 for a description of the scribes. The Pharisees were a leading sect of the Jews who made great pre-tentions of righteousness. They, with the scribes, were enemies of Jesus and frequently tried to get him into trouble with either the Sanhedrin or the Romans.

Verse 2

15:2 The Pharisees and others who stood with them doctrinally placed great stress on the traditions of those who were the elders or forefathers in the Mosaic system. In most cases they held these traditions to be of more importance than the written law of Moses, and where there was a disagreement between them they perverted the written law in favor of the tradition. One of such rules had to do with washing the hands at certain specified times. This was not done as a necessary act of sanitation but was one of the self-imposed rituals of the elders among the Jews. The disciples were busy with the important affairs of their work with Jesus and did not observe such ceremonies. But the critics thought they had a cause for accusation against them and came to Jesus with their complaint.

Verse 3

15:3 It was a much worse fault to set the traditions of the elders against the positive requirements of the Mosaic law than it was to ignore the customs of the fathers, and that was the accusation that Jesus made against these critics.

Verse 4

15:4 The law of Moses plainly required a man to honor his parents (Exo 20:12). The word honor in the commandment to which .Jesus referred comes from the Hebrew word KABED which Strong defines, "In a good sense (numerous, rich, honorable): causatively [as a cause], to make wealthy." The definition of the word which Moses wrote, as well as the reasoning of Jesus on the subject, shows that honoring one's parents included the financial support of them also.

Verse 5

15:5 A man's parents are in need of the good things of life and look to their son for help. But he puts them off with the excuse that the money that he would otherwise have spent on them so that they would have profited by it, had been "earmarked" for the Lord's treasury. This was hypocrisy on their part for they never carried out their claim of devoting the money to the cause of the Lord. Besides, the law never intended that money should be put into the public treasury that was needed for dependents.

Verse 6

15:6 The Pharisees taught that if a man withheld his support of his parents on the pretense of giving it to the Lord, he would be exempt from the commandment in Exo 20:12, thus putting their tradition above the law.

Verse 7

15:7 A hypocrite is one who professes to be what he knows he is not. See the comments at chapter 6:2 for the lexicon definition and other accounts of the word. Well did Esaias prophecy means the prophet did well in predicting these characters.

Verse 8

15:8 Generally speaking, the lips and mouth pertain to the fleshly or cuter man, and the heart refers to the inner man. The Biblical heart is the occasion of so much confusion among religious teachers that I shall give the reader a description of it as will be taken from the lexicon definition of original Greek. With one exception (PSUCHE in Eph 6:6) the word in the New Testament is from KARDIA and I shall quote Thayers definitions (the part in italics) for it in its various applications: "1. a. the vigor and sense of physical life. b. the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors. Specifically of the understanding, the faculty and seat of intelligence. Of the soul so far forth as it is affected and stirred in a bad way or good, or of the soul as the seat of the sensibilities, affections, emotions, desires, appetites, passions. 3. used of the middle or central or inmost part of any thing, even though inanimate." This Greek word occurs 158 times in the New Testament and is not rendered by any term but "heart" in the Authorized Version. From the extended definition as well as by the various connections in which it is used, it is plain that when "heart" is not used figuratively it means the mind or intelligence of man. This ex plains how a person's mouth or lips can say one thing while the heart does not really mean it, and thus he is acting hypocritically.

Verse 9

15:9 Worship is from SEBOMAI which Thayer defines, "to revere, to worship." The people of whom Jesus was speaking professed to have great respect for him and that is the sense in which he said they worshiped him. In vain is defined "fruitlessly" and means that the pretended reverence they had for Jesus would not bring them any favor from him as long as they taught the doctrine of human authority instead of that of the man they claimed to honor but whose teaching they were rejecting.

Verse 10

5:10 He called the multitude. This was not for the purpose of explaining a parable of the church, but to show them why he had accused them of inconsistency in their undue emphasis on washing the hands.

Verse 11

5:11 Jesus was not ignoring the need for cleanliness, but was teaching the lesson of putting moral and spiritual matters above the physical. If a man permits a particle of dirt to enter his mouth and into the stomach it cannot do him any harm for the system will take care of it. Jesus will explain this subject to his disciples a few verses farther on in the chapter.

Verse 12

5:12 Were offended denotes that they stumbled at the saying of Jesus, and because of it they were unwilling to recognize him as having the wisdom or authority to make a declaration upon the conduct of others.

Verse 13

5:13 Jesus was willing to stake his right to speak and the correctness of what he said on the outcome. Every plant not planted by his Father was to be rooted up. If the work of Jesus was not authorized of God, then it would not stand and he would be exposed as an impostor. On the other hand, if his work holds fast it will prove him to have been a true teacher and one over whom the Pharisees had no reason to stumble. This statement had special reference to the church or kingdom that he was about to set up, for in Eze 34:29 a "plant" is predicted and the context there (verses 20-31) plainly shows that it has reference to the church.

Verse 14

5:14 Let them alone is defined by Thayer, "c. to let go, let alone, let be; to disregard." It means for the disciples not to lose any time or spend any efforts on them as it would be useless. A further reason for ignoring them was the danger involved in following or associating with them. They were blind leaders and those who would follow them are as blind as they. That would mean that all of them would share the same fate and fall into the ditch or go astray.

Verse 15

5:15 Peter called the teaching of Jesus about washing and eating a parable. However, it was not a parable of the kingdom (chapter 13:11), hence Jesus had called the multitudes to him to give that lesson. But it was somewhat indirect or figurative and the apostles did not understand it.

Verse 16

5:16 The expression of Jesus sounds as if he were surprised at the lack of understanding shown by his disciples, when he was supposed to know all about man and not to be surprised at anything. That is not the point, but he said this to them as a mild rebuke for their slowness in thinking out the matter.

Verse 17

5:17 Mere filth that is not in the nature of disease germs goes through the stomach and other digestive organs and is separated from food particles the same as the other waste matter, and it is then discharged from the body without having done it any harm. A draught corresponds with our modern sanitary stool.

Verse 18

5:18 The things that come out of the mouth orginate in the heart, and if they are evil it indicates an impure and a defiled heart. (See chapter 12:34.)

Verse 19

5:19 See again the definition of the heart at Mat 15:8 and it will be observed why the things mentioned in this verse are said to come from it.

Verse 20

5:20 Certainly no man can entertain an interest in murder and the other things named in Mat 15:19 and not be defiled. They affect his character while the soil passing from the hands into the mouth has no relation to that.

Verse 21

5:21 Coasts means region and Jesus went to that surrounding these cities.

Verse 22

5:22 Woman of Canaan is indefinite because all the land west of the Jordan was generally known as Canaan, and there were both Jews and Gentiles living there. However, the term was used to designate this woman as outside the class recognized as Jews. This woman not only recognized Jesus as Lord hut also as a son of David. The latter term was specific and meant that she believed him to be the descendant of David according to the prophets, for many of the Gentiles were acquainted with the Old Testament. This woman's daughter was possessed with a devil which is explained at chapter 8:28.

Verse 23

5:23 Jesus had his own way of trying out the faith of those who sought favors of him, and he used it here by appearing to ignore the woman. But she was not to be discouraged by this seeming indifference, for she continued crying after him until the disciples became impatient and asked Jesus to send her away.

Verse 24

5:24 Instead of directly doing as the disciples requested, Jesus merely gave the woman to understand that she was not in the class to which he was sent. See the comments at chapter 10:6 for the meaning of lost sheep.

Verse 25

5:25 This did not entirely discourage the woman for she repeated her plea accompanied with an attitude of worship towards Jesus.

Verse 26

5:26 Jesus made his answer much more in the nature of an argument in figurative form. Dog is from KUNARION which Thayer defines, "a little dog." No special disrespect was intended to her personally by this term, for it was commonly known that the Jews were regarded as God's children, and the Gentiles would logically be in a lower class. Besides, Jesus knew the heart of the woman whose faith he was drawing out, and purposely furnished her the illustration by which she could make one of the most touching appeals I have ever known. With all this in view, he compared the Jews to God's children, the favors he was bestowing on them to the bread provided by the Father, and the Gentiles to the little dogs that might be playing at the feet of their master.

Verse 27

5:27 The woman was not discouraged nor even hurt at the Lord's comparison. Instead, she accepted the classification as a good basis for her persistence. After the children have been abundantly fed, the scraps are generally gathered up and given to the dogs. She would be satisfied with a temporal favor from Jesus in the healing of her (laughter ,even though it would be like the crumbs compared with the loaves of spiritual blessings that he was daily bestowing on his disciples.

Verse 28

5:28 Great is thy faith. This was indicated by her patience or endurance. She had full confidence at the start in the ability of Jesus to perform her request, but her persistence showed her faith in his willingness to do so if she did not give up too soon. In this she has set an example for those of us who profess to believe in the goodness and power of God. We are often too apt to "lose heart" and cease looking to the Lord for his grace. This is the subject of one of the parables of Jesus recorded in Luk 18:1-8. The faith of the Canaanite woman was rewarded with the immediate recovery of her daughter.

Verse 29

5:29 The region of Tyre and Sidon where Jesus was teaching and working bordered on the Sea of Galilee but was an area a mile wide and several miles long. He now came nearer to the sea and went up into a mountain where he received the multitudes.

Verse 30

5:30 As usual Jesus had a great following because his fame had gone all over the country. Afflicted people who were unable to travel alone were brought to Jesus and cast down at his feet. This word might give us an unfavorable impression as it seems to indicate an act of impatience if not indifference. It is from the Greek word RHIPTO and Thayer's definition at this place is the simple phrase, "to set down." He then explains his definition to mean, "(with the suggestion of haste and want of care), of those who laid their sick at the feet of Jesus, leaving them at his disposal without a doubt that he could heal them." They were not disappointed for the text says and he healed them. Mat 15:31 Again Jesus proved his ability to work all kinds of miracles and did not have to select his cases as do the pretenders of miracle-working today. A remarkable thing about the event is that they glorified the God of Israel. Everyone knew that an ordinary man could not accomplish such wonderful works, hence they attributed it to the God of Israel (not any of the gods of the Gentiles). That was the main purpose Jesus had in performing his great deeds according to Joh 20:30-31.

Verse 32

5:32 Once more the compassion of Jesus asserted itself in behalf of the multitude whose interest had kept them in his presence for three days. Of course there would be no oppor- nity for procuring food out there in that mountainous area. Fasting is from NESTIS and Thayer's definition is, "fasting, not having eaten." The mere fact of being without food during the time necessary to reach a market would not cause them to faint in the way, but they would already be weak, having not eaten for three days.

Verse 33

5:33 It is strange the disciples seem to have forgotten the event of chapter 14:15-21; probably they had not forgotten it but took that way of asking Jesus to take care of the case in hand as he did the other time.

Verse 34

5:34 The supply of food in the possession of the disciples was nothing compared with the needs of the multitude, but Jesus was still inclined to require his disciples to have a part in the good work.

Verse 35

5:35 For the sake of orderliness the multitudes were told to sit down.

Verse 36

5:36 In this case Jesus gave thanks, in the instance of chapter 14:19 he "blessed" which was virtually the same meaning as was explained at that place.

Verse 37

5:37 And were filled. See the comments on this phrase at chapter 14:20, also Joh 6:12 as to why the scraps were taken up.

Verse 38

5:38 No disrespect was intended by the writer in giving the number of men and only an indefinite reference to the women and children. In old times it was the custom to list families and other groups of human beings according to the men only.

Verse 39

5:39 The multitudes were given sufficient nourishment to overcome the effects of their three-day fast and were dismissed. Magdala was a city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee and it is sometimes mentioned by other names.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Matthew 15". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/matthew-15.html. 1952.