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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Mark 7

 

 


Verses 1-23

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

For the exposition, see the notes at Matthew 15:1-20.

The first words of this narrative show that the incident followed, in point of time, immediately on what precedes it.


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.

And, from thence he arose, and went into, (or 'unto') the borders of Tyre and Sidon - the two great Phoenician seaports, but here denoting the territory generally, to the frontiers of which Jesus now came. But did Jesus actually enter this pagan territory? The whole narrative, we think, proceeds upon the supposition that He did. His immediate object seems to have been to avoid the wrath of the Pharisees at the withering exposure He had just made of their traditional religion.

And entered into an house, and would have no man know it - because He had not come there to minister to pagans. But though not "sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 15:24), He hindered not the lost sheep of the vast Gentile world from coming to Him, nor put them away when they did come-as this incident was designed to show.

But he could not be hid. Christ's fame hid early spread from Galilee to this very region (Mark 3:8; Luke 6:17).


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 - or, as in Matthew, 'was badly demonized' [ kakoos (Greek #2560) daimonizetai (Greek #1139)], heard of him-one wonders how; but distress is quick of hearing; "and fell at his feet:"


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 , [ Helleenis (Greek #1674)] - that is, 'a Gentile,' as in the margin; a Syrophoenician by nation-so called as inhabiting the Phoenician tract of Syria. Juvenal uses the same term, as was remarked by Justin Martyr and Tertullian. Matthew calls her "a woman of Canaan" - a more intelligible description to his Jewish readers (cf. Judges 1:30; Judges 1:32-33).

And she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter - "She cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David: my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil" (Matthew 15:22). Thus, though no Israelite herself, she salutes Him as Israel's promised Messiah.

Here we must go to Matthew 15:23-25, for some important links in the dialogue omitted by our Evangelist. Matthew 15:23. "But He answered her not a word." The design of this was first, perhaps, to show that He was not sent to such as she. He had said expressly to the Twelve, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles" (Matthew 10:5); and being now among them Himself, He would for consistency's sake, let it be seen that He had not gone there for missionary purposes. Therefore He not only kept silence, but had actually left the house and-as will presently appear-was proceeding on His way back, when this woman accosted Him. But another reason for keeping silence plainly was to try and to whet her faith, patience, and perseverance. And it had the desired effect: "She cried after them," which shows that He was already on His way from the place. "And His disciples came and besought Him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us." They thought her troublesome with her importunate cries, just as they did the people who brought young children to be blessed of Him, and they ask their Lord to "send her away," that is, to grant her request and be rid of her; because we gather from His reply that they meant to solicit favour for her, though not for her sake so much as their own. Matthew 15:24. "But He answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" - a speech evidently intended for the disciples themselves, to satisfy them that, though the grace He was about to show to this Gentile believer was beyond His strict Commission, He had not gone spontaneously to dispense it.

Yet did even this speech open gleam of hope, could she have discerned it. For thus might she have spoken: 'I am not SENT, did He say? Truth Lord, Thou comest not hither in quest of us, but I come in quest of Thee; and must I go empty away? So did not the woman of Samaria, whom when Thou foundest her on Thy way to Galilee, Thou sentest away to make many rich!' But this our poor Syrophoenician could not attain to. What, then, can she answer to such a speech? Nothing. She has reached her lower depth, her darkest moment; she will just utter her last cry: Matthew 15:25. "Then came she and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, help me!" This appeal, so artless, wrung from the depths of a believing heart, and reminding us of the Publican's "God be merciful to me a sinner," moved the Redeemer at last to break silence-but in what style!

Here we return to our own Evangelist. Here we return to our own Evangelist.


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. 'Is there hope for me here?' 'Filled FIRST?' 'Then my turn, it seems, is coming!-but then, "The CHILDREN first?" Ah! when, on that rule, shall my turn ever come?' But before she has time for these ponderings of His word, another word comes to supplement it.

For it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs. Is this the death of her hopes? Nay, but it is life from the dead. Out of the eater shall come forth meat (Judges 14:14). At evening time it shall be light (Zechariah 14:7). 'Ha! I have it now. Had He kept silence, what could I have done but go unblest? but He hath spoken, and the victory is mine.'


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 - or, as the same word nai (Greek #3483)] is rendered in Matthew 15:27, "Truth, Lord"

Yet the dogs eat of the children's crumbs - "which fall from their master's table" (Matt.) 'I thank Thee, O blessed One, for that word! That's my whole case. Not of the children? True. A dog? True also: Yet the dogs under the table are allowed to eat of the children's crumbs-the droppings from their master's full table: Give me that, and I am content: One crumb of power and grace from Thy table shall cast the devil out of my daughter.' O what lightning quickness, what reach of instinctive ingenuity, do we behold in this pagan woman!


Verse 29

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

And he said unto her - "O woman, great is thy faith" (Matthew 15:28) As Bengel beautifully remarks, Jesus "marveled" only at two things-faith and unbelief (see the note at Luke 7:9). For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter. That moment the deed was done.


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, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed. But Matthew in more specific: "And her daughter was made whole from that very hour." The wonderfulness of this case in all its features has been felt in every age of the Church, and the balm it has administered, and will yet administer, to millions will be known only in that day that shall reveal the secrets of all hearts.


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.

And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee - or, according to what has very strong claims to be regarded as the true text here, 'And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre, He came through Sidon [ dia (Greek #1223) Sidoonos (Greek #4605)] to the see of Galilee' The manuscripts in favour of this reading, though not the most numerous, are weighty, while the versions agreeing with it are among the most ancient; and all the best critical editors and commentators adopt it. In this case we must understand that our Lord, having once gone out of the Holy Land the length of Tyre, proceeded as far north as Sidon, though without ministering, so far as appears, in those parts, and then bent His steps in a south easterly direction. There is certainly a difficulty in the supposition of so long a detour without any missionary object; and some may think this sufficient to cast the balance in favour of the received reading.

Through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis Be this as it may, on returning from these coasts of Tyre, He passed "through the midst of the coasts" - or frontiers - "of Decapolis" - crossing the Jordan, therefore, and approaching the lake on its east side. Here Matthew who omits the details of the cure of this deaf and dumb man, introduces some particulars, from which we learn that it was only one of a great number. "And Jesus," says that Evangelist (Matthew 15:29-31), "departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee, and went up into a mountain" - the mountain-range bounding the lake on the northeast, in Decapolis: "And great multitudes came unto Him, having with them lame, blind, dumb, maimed:" [ kullous (Greek #2948)] - not 'mutilated,' which is but a secondary sense of the word, but 'deformed' - "and many others and cast them down at Jesus' feet; and he healed them: insomuch that the multitude" - `the multitudes' [ tous (Greek #3588) ochlous (Greek #3793)] - "wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel" - who, after so long and dreary an absence of visible manifestation, had returned to bless His people as of old (compare Luke 7:16). Beyond this it is not clear from the Evangelist's language that the people saw into the claims of Jesus. Well, of these cases Mark clear from the Evangelist's language that the people saw into the claims of Jesus. Well, of these cases Mark here singles out one, whose cure had something special in it.


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 one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. In their eagerness they appear to have been somewhat too officious. Though usually doing as here suggested, He will deal with this case in His own way.


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 - as in another case He "took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town" (Mark 8:23), probably to fix his undistracted attention on Himself and, by means of certain actions He was about to do, to awaken and direct his attention to the proper source of relief.

And put his fingers into his ears. An his indistinct articulation arose from his deafness, our Lord addresses Himself to this first. To the impotent man He said, "Wilt thou be made whole?" to the blind men, "What will ye that I shall do unto you?" and "Believe ye that I am able to do this?" (John 5:6; Matthew 20:32; Matthew 9:28). But as this patient could hear nothing, our Lord substitutes symbolical actions upon each of the organs affected.

And he spit and touched his tongue - moistening the man's parched tongue with saliva from His own mouth, as if to lubricate the organ or facilitate its free motion; thus indicating the source of the healing virtue to be His own person. (For similar actions, see Mark 8:23; John 9:6.)


Verse 34

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

And looking up to heaven - ever acknowledging His Father, even while the Healing was seen to flow from Himself (see the note at John 5:19), "he sighed" - `over the Wreck,' says Trench, 'which sin had brought about, and the malice of the devil in deforming the fair features of God's original creation.' But, we take it, there was a yet more painful impression of that "evil thing and bitter" whence all our ills have sprung, and which, when Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses" (Matthew 8:17), became mysteriously His own.

`In thought of these His brows benign, Not even in healing, cloudless shine.'

(-KEELE)

And saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. Our Evangelist, as remarked at Mark 5:41, loves to give such wonderful words just as they were spoken.


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. This is mentioned first, as the source of the other derangement.

And the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. The cure was thus alike instantaneous and perfect.


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. Into this very region He had sent the man out of whom had been cast the legion of devils, to proclaim "what the Lord had done, for him" (Mark 5:19). Now He will have them "tell no man." But in the former case there was no danger of obstructing His ministry by "blazing the matter" (Mark 1:45), as He Himself had left the region; whereas now He was sojourning in it.

But the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it. They could not be restrained; nay, the prohibition seemed only to whet their determination to publish His fame.


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, saying, He hath done all things well - reminding us, says Trench, of the words of the first creation (Genesis 1:31, Septuagint), upon which we are thus not unsuitably thrown back, because Christ's work is in the truest sense "a new creation."

He maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak - "and they glorified the God of Israel" (Matthew 15:31). See the note at Mark 7:31 of this chapter.

Remarks:

(1) The Syrophoenician woman had never witnessed any of Christ's miracles, nor seen His face, but she had "heard of Him." Like the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:27), she had heard of His wondrous cures, particularly how He cast out devils; and she probably said within herself, O that He would but come here, or I could come to Him-which her circumstances did not permit. But now He is within reach, and though desiring concealment, she finds Him out, and implores a cure for her grievously demonized daughter. Instead of immediately meeting her faith, He keeps a mysterious silence; nay, leaves her, and suffers her to cry after Him without uttering a word. Does she now give it up, muttering to herself as she leaves Him, 'It's a false report-He can't do it?' Nay, His silence only redoubles her entreaties, and His withdrawal does but draw her after Him. The disciples-ever studying their Master's ease, rather than penetrating into His deep designs-suggest whether, as she was "troubling Him," it might not be better to throw a cure to her, so to speak, and get rid of her, lest, like the importunate widow, "by her continual coming she weary" Him. His reply seemed to extinguish all hope. "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Is not this very like breaking the bruised reed, and quenching the smoking flax? But the bruised reed shall not break, the smoking flax shall not go out. There is a tenacity in her faith which refuses to give up. It seems to hear a voice saying to her:

`Know the darkest part of night Is before the dawn of light; Press along, you're going, right,

Try, try again.'

At His feet she casts herself, with a despairing cry, "Lord, help me!" - as strong in the confidence of His power, as now, at the very weakest, of His willingness, to give relief. But even as to that willingness, while she clings to hope against hope, what a word does He at length utter - "Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs." Worse and worse. But her faith is too keen not to see her advantage. That faith of hers is ingenious. 'The children's bread! Ah, yes! that is too good for me. Thou art right, Lord. To take the children's bread, and cast it to a pagan dog like me, is what I dare not ask. It is the dogs' portion only that I ask-the crumbs that fall from the Master's table-from Thy fullness even a crumb is more than sufficient.' Who can wonder at the wonder even of Jesus at this, and His inability any longer to hold out against her? The woman with the issue of blood heard of Jesus, as did this Syrophenician woman, and from the mere report conceived a noble faith in His power to heal her. But that woman was a Jewess, nursed amid religious opportunities and fed on the oracles of God. This woman was born a pagan, and reared under all the disadvantages of a pagan creed. With that woman it was short work: with this one it was tough and trying. Like Jacob of old, she wept and made supplication unto Him; yea, she had power over the Angel, and prevailed. And this has been written for the generations following, that men may say, "I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me." (2) We have in this case an example of that cross procedure which Jesus was accustomed to observe when He only wished to train and draw forth and be gained over by persevering faith. And certainly, never was the invincible tenacity of living faith more touchingly and beautifully educed than here. But for His knowledge where it would all end, that tender, great Heart would never have stood such a melting importunity of true faith, nor have endured to speak to her as He did. And shall we not learn from such cases how to interpret His procedure, when our Joseph "speaks roughly" to His brethren, and seems to treat them so, and yet all the while it is if He would seek where to weep, and He only waits for the right moment for making Himself known unto them?

(3) When we read that Jesus sighed over the case of this deaf and dumb man, and groaned and wept over the grave of Lazarus, we have faint glimpses of feelings the depth of which we shall never fathom, and the whole meaning of which it is hard to take in, but of which we know enough to assure us that all the ills that flesh is heir to, and the one root of them-sin-He made His own. And now that He has put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and so provided for the rolling away of the complicated ills that have some in its train, He sits in heaven to reap the fruits of Redemption, with all His rich experience of human ill. Shall we not, then, "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need? For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched by the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Mark 7:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/mark-7.html. 1871-8.

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Saturday, October 24th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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