Matthew Chapter 15  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Matthew 15
 
Mat 15:1

Then Pharisees and experts in the law.” This teaching about clean and unclean is more detailed in Mark 7:1-23.

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Mat 15:2(top)
Mat 15:3

“even you yourselves.” The kai (#2532 καί) before the emphatic humeis (#5210 ὑμεῖς) is not ‘also’ and does not place the Pharisees alongside of Jesus’ disciples [as if they too had sinned]; it signifies ‘even you yourselves,’ the very ones who are truly guilty of transgression, while they pretend to find transgression in others.”a


a)
Lenski, Matthew, 583.
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Mat 15:4(top)
Mat 15:5(top)
Mat 15:6(top)
Mat 15:7(top)
Mat 15:8(top)
Mat 15:9

“Moreover.” This comes from the quote in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament.a

“doctrines.” The Greek word is didaskalia (#1319 διδασκαλία), a noun, and it has two primary meanings: It is used of the act of teaching or instruction (as if it was a verb), and it is also used for what is taught, i.e., the doctrine or material that was presented. In this verse, “doctrine” fits better than “teaching.”

[For more on didaskalia see commentary on 1 Tim. 4:13.]


a)
Lenski, Matthew, 587.
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Mat 15:10(top)
Mat 15:11(top)
Mat 15:12(top)
Mat 15:13

“Every plant.” Jesus is using the figure of speech hypocatastasis, comparing the Pharisees to “plants.” In the Bible, people are compared to plants (especially trees, see commentary on Luke 3:9), animals, and all kinds of things.

[For more on the figures of speech of comparison, see commentary on Rev. 20:2.]

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Mat 15:14(top)
Mat 15:15(top)
Mat 15:16(top)
Mat 15:17

“sewer.” The Greek word is aphedrōn (#856 ἀφεδρών), and it refers to a place where human waste goes: toilet, latrine, privy, sewer. By the time of Christ, many of the larger cities even in Israel had some kind of public toilets and sewer systems. Often there were seats over a kind of sluice that was periodically flushed by water. Also, some cities had very developed sewer systems. Caesarea Maritima and Scythopolis are two prime examples. For example, Caesarea, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, had a sewer system that was flushed by the tide.

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Mat 15:18

“come from the heart.” The “heart” is the source of life. Mark 7:20-23 has a list of things that come out of the heart that is more inclusive that this list in Matthew. The Bible says in many different places that what comes out of the mouth generally originates in the heart (cp. Matt. 12:34; Luke 6:45). Although the biblical use of “heart” refers to the center of a person’s life and may include the interworking of the heart, brain, and other organs as well, modern medicine is now showing more and more each year that the actual physical heart not only has a leading role in directing the physical/chemical/emotional activities of the body but has been shown to even have stored memories. Proverbs 4:23 tells us that above all else, we are to guard our heart because from it come the issues of life.

[For more on the heart, see commentary on Prov. 4:23.]

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Mat 15:19

“insults.” The Greek noun is blasphēmia (#988 βλασφημία; pronounced blas-fay-'me-ah), and was used of someone speaking against another. The primary meaning as it was used in the Greek culture was showing disrespect to a person or deity, and/or harming his, her, or its reputation.

[For more on blasphēmia, see commentary on Matt. 9:3.]

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Mat 15:20

“does not defile a person.” The Mosaic Law stated that eating certain foods made a person “unclean” in the eyes of God (Lev. 11:4-24), but Jesus changed the Levitical law on food and made it all “clean” (cp. Mark. 7:19).

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Mat 15:21(top)
Mat 15:22

“And Look!” This record of the Canaanite woman is also in Mark 7:24-30. The Greek word translated “look” is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20.

“Son of David.” “Son of David” is a messianic title. It is unknown how this Canaanite woman came to know that Jesus was the Messiah, but she did. God reveals the truth to people who are humble and hungry (see commentary on Matthew 1:1).

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Mat 15:23

“as she follows us.” The Greek reads, “from behind us,” which most versions translate “after us.” However, to cry out “after” someone can mean that you are chasing after, or “chasing,” the person (like “He is after me,” means “He is chasing me”), but that is not its meaning here. She was not chasing them. She knew they heard her and that she was being ignored. So she was walking behind them trying to get them to change their minds and help her; give her mercy. We tried to better capture the sense of the scene with “as she follows us.” Jesus was coming into the region of Tyre and Sidon, on the Phoenician coast, and was apparently walking down the road with the apostles following him. This woman followed the group, crying out as she went, “Have mercy on me!”

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Mat 15:24

“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” At first glance, Jesus’ statement concerning the healing of the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter seems hard, cold, and difficult to understand, but we must understand it in the context of his earthly mission and what God sent him to do.

The Greek word translated “sent” is the common Greek word apostellō (#649 ἀποστέλλω), from which we get the English word “apostle,” meaning, “one who is sent.” Apostellō often simply means “to send away, dismiss, allow one to depart.” However, it often has the meaning “to dispatch someone for the achievement of some objective,” and that is the meaning it has here in Matthew 15:24.a That is why R. C. H. Lenski translated the word as “commissioned,” that Jesus was only commissioned to go to the lost sheep of Israel.b Jesus was commissioned by God to go to the lost sheep of Israel; that was the specific mission God sent him on, and although that mission involved being the sin-offering for the sins of the world (cp. 2 Cor. 5:21), in his earthly ministry he was specifically to go to Israel and call it back to God.

We see evidence of Jesus’ specific mission to Israel in the fact that, earlier, when he sent his disciples out to evangelize, he told them to go only to Israelite towns. He said, “Do not go on any road of the Gentiles, and do not enter into any city of the Samaritans, but go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5-6). It is not that Jesus did not care about the Gentiles, but rather that at that time in history his specific ministry was to the Jews. That had to do with the Jews being God’s chosen people and the covenant that God made with Israel (Exod. 24:3-8). God loves the world (John 3:16) but He redeemed the world through Jesus Christ, who was a Jew and was specifically sent to the Jews first. Later he would command his disciples to evangelize the whole world (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8).

Although Jesus’ specific mission while he was on earth was to Israel and set the stage for the fulfillment of prophecies such as Isaiah 61:3, he also fulfilled the prophecies such as the ones in Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6 that he was to be a light to the Gentiles. We see that in the fact that Jesus did occasionally minister to Gentiles or in Gentile areas. For example, he healed people from Syria, which was a Gentile area (Matt. 4:24), a Roman soldier’s servant (Matt. 8:5-13), men afflicted by demons (Matt. 8:28-34); and a Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42). Also, after going to the region of Tyre and Sidon where he healed the woman’s demon-possessed daughter, he went into the Decapolis, a Gentile area, and healed a man who was deaf and dumb (Mark 7:31-37) and many others as well (Matt. 15:30), and he also fed the 4,000 in the same area (Matt. 15:29-39, Mark 8:1-9). But although Jesus did heal Gentiles as we see here in Matthew 15:21-28, he said what is recorded here in Matthew 15:24 to teach and remind his followers that his earthly ministry was to Israel.

However, Jesus certainly knew that his ministry would one day lead to his conquest of the whole earth and reigning over the whole earth as king, so, for example, in John 10:16 he spoke of the future when all believers would be one flock with one “shepherd” (king: the word “shepherd” was often used idiomatically for “king,” see commentary on Jer. 2:8). That is why he told his followers that he had other sheep (Gentiles) that were not of “this fold” (Israel) and that he must bring them to himself also (John 10:16), and why, after his resurrection, he told his disciples to tell the whole world about him.


a)
BDAG, s.v. “ἀποστέλλω,” def. 1.
b)
Lenski, Matthew.
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Mat 15:25

“bow down before.” See commentary on Matthew 2:2.

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Mat 15:26

Matthew 15:26, 27. (Cp. Mark 7:27-28)

“good.” Read below.

“pet dogs.” The Greek uses kunarion (#2952 κυνάριον), which is the diminutive of “dog.” The NET text note reads, “The diminutive form originally referred to puppies or little dogs, then to house pets.” There are some contexts in which the word simply means “dogs,” but not likely here. This verse is a wonderful example of how one reading the Bible must pay attention to the cultural background involved. Although Jesus was Jewish and most of the time in the Gospels the standards of Jewish culture apply, in this verse the standards of Greek culture apply. It sometimes happened in the Greek and Roman world (although not in the Jewish world except among those who had given up being Kosher and were more apt to follow Roman customs) that “little dogs,” or “house dogs” were kept, and like our house dogs today, sometimes ate under (or beside) the table (Cp. Xenophon, Plato, Theophrastus, Plutarch, others. See Thayer’s lexicon and Liddell and Scott). The word can also refer to “puppies,” (Cp. Liddell and Scott; Vine) but that would probably not be the case here, since the woman was a Syrophoenician and would have been familiar with the Greek custom of having a little house dog that would eat by the table. The reference to the “little dog” is made only in the account of the Syrophoenician woman. There is no other use of kunarion in the Septuagint (Greek OT) or the Greek NT.

That Jesus would say “pet dogs” is amazing grace. He did not, even by implication, call her a “dog,” which in Greek culture had overtones of shamelessness or audacity in women (cp. Liddell and Scott). Instead, by using the word “little dog,” or “housedog,” he only made a glancing reference that she did not deserve any help (but really, who does?). He opened a door of grace for her, and she walked through it. Also, he said it was not “good,” kalos (#2570 καλός), for the children’s bread to be thrown to the pet dogs. He did not use the word “lawful,” exestin (ἔξεστιν #1832). Rather, it was not “good” or “proper,” or “a fine thing to do.”

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Mat 15:27

“yet even...” The woman is not opposing Jesus in any way. She is merely pointing out that the little dogs do get crumbs when the family eats. Also see commentary on Matt 15:26.

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Mat 15:28(top)
Mat 15:29

“And Jesus departed from there.” The record of the feeding of the 4,000 is in Matthew 15:29-39 and Mark 8:1-9. Mark 7:31 tells us that when Jesus left the area of Tyre and Sidon he traveled to the area of the Decapolis, which was mostly northeast, east, and southeast of the Sea of Galilee and a Gentile area. So Jesus healed and blessed the Gentiles as he fulfilled the prophecy of being a light to the Gentiles (Isa. 42:6; 49:6).

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Mat 15:30(top)
Mat 15:31

“glorified the God of Israel.” This is a very good indication that many in the crowd were Gentiles, not Israelites. Jesus had been ministering in the region of Tyre and Sidon, Gentile areas, and had done a miraculous healing there of a demonized girl. Right after leaving there, the text says that “great multitudes” came to him, and it makes sense that many of those multitudes were Gentiles, and that was why they “glorified the God of Israel.” Matthew 15:31 is one of only two places in the New Testament where that phrase is used. “The God of Israel” was a common phrase in the Old Testament, and spoken by Zechariah at the birth of his son, John the Baptist (Luke 1:68), but it is not used anywhere else in the New Testament but those two places. When the crowds were Jews, they “glorified God” (cp. Matt. 9:8; Mark 2:12; Luke 2:28; 7:16; 13:13; 18:43; etc.).

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Mat 15:32(top)
Mat 15:33(top)
Mat 15:34(top)
Mat 15:35(top)
Mat 15:36(top)
Mat 15:37

“seven.” Many theologians have tried to figure out what is the significance of mentioning in the record that there were “seven” baskets of leftover bread—why mention the number seven? The number seven is included in the record for a reason, and while there actually may be several different things it relates to, one of them certainly seems to be a reference to the fact that Jesus would be a blessing to the Gentiles.

To understand the feeding of the 4,000, we must read it in connection with the feeding of the 5,000. The two records both show that the Messiah will provide for God’s people (for all intents and purposes, the audience was God’s people—people who believed in Jesus or were seeking his teaching and help. Surely there were some people who were there just due to curiosity, but even they were “seekers” at some level. Non-believers stayed home and did not take the trouble to follow Jesus from place to place). So the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000 have a similar and inter-related message about the Messiah being the source of blessing for both the Jews and Gentiles, and as such the two records need to be considered together as one interconnected teaching.

The feeding of the 5,000 and the twelve baskets of leftovers point to God’s blessing on the twelve tribes of Israel. Although there were other lessons built into the “twelve baskets” of leftovers, such as that if we will feed God’s people we will be blessed ourselves—the twelve apostles fed the multitude and each got a full basket back—it seems the primary meaning is that all Israel will be blessed by the Messiah. There are many pieces of evidence that point to that. For one thing, the feeding of the 5,000 is one of the few events in Jesus’ ministry that is recorded in all four Gospels (Matt. 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13). That makes sense because God wanted to magnify the fact that His Messiah would provide for Israel.

In the feeding of the 5,000, the audience was certainly almost all Jews. They came from the surrounding towns and were familiar with where Jesus was going with his apostles to get some time alone. Then, after he fed them, they were about to come and make him king (John 6:15). Furthermore, there are things in the vocabulary of the feeding of the 5,000 that point back to the Pentateuch, and the covenant promises and blessings there. For example, Jesus made the people sit in groups of hundreds and fifties (Mark 6:40; Luke 9:14). This number goes back to the way Israel was governed under the Law, when they had rulers over fifties and hundreds (Ex. 18:25). And under the Law, Israel was promised covenant blessings if they obeyed the Law, which included plenty of food (Deut. 28:4, 5, 8, 11, 12). So the evidence in the accounts, especially when contrasted with the feeding of the 4,000, shows that one of the lessons of the twelve baskets of leftovers from the feeding of the 5,000 is that the tribes of Israel would be blessed by the Messiah.

The feeding of the 4,000 has many things that point to the Messianic blessing on the Gentiles. In contrast to the feeding of the 5,000 which occurs in all four Gospels, the feeding of the 4,000 only occurs in Matthew and Mark, as if saying that although the Messiah came for Israel, the Gentiles would be blessed in him too. Furthermore, the feeding of the 4,000 occurs after Jesus goes to “the region of Tyre and Sidon” (Matt. 15:21). That was Gentile territory, although there would have been some Jews that lived there, which is why he was able to stay in a house there (Mark 7:24). But if Jesus went into the Gentile territory to minister to Jews, there is no record of it. Quite the opposite. The only healing miracle that Jesus did in that Gentile territory was to cast the demon out of a Canaanite woman’s daughter. The fact that the woman is specifically identified as a “Canaanite” (Matt. 15:22) who lived in Syrian Phoenicia (Mark 7:26) is important in tying the feeding of the 4,000 to the Messianic blessing of the Gentiles. We have seen how the feeding of the 5,000 has connections to the Law, now we will see that the feeding of the 4,000 does too. In the Law, the Israelites were told that God would “drive out” the seven nations that were in the Promised Land so God could give the land to Israel (Deut. 7:1) and if any Canaanites remained in the land, the Israelites were to destroy them totally (Deut. 7:2). That the only miracle Jesus is recorded as doing in the region of Tyre and Sidon is healing the daughter of a Canaanite is a clear sign that the Messianic blessing is now extended to them through the Messiah, and it is a fulfillment of the prophecy that the Messiah was to be a “light to the Gentiles” (Isa. 42:6; 49:6). When Jesus left the area of Tyre and Sidon, no doubt a group of Gentiles followed him for the same reason crowds of Jews followed him—to hear him and see the miracles he did. But when Jesus left the area, he did not go back to Jewish territory. Mark tells us that he went to the Sea of Galilee and then to its east coast, “the region of the Decapolis,” which was also territory populated by Gentiles (Mark 7:31). There he healed a deaf-mute, and the people there spread the word about him (Mark 7:31-37).

By now there would have been a large number of Gentiles following Jesus from the region of Tyre and Sidon and from the Decapolis. He went up onto a mountain and did many healings (Matt. 15:29-31), and they “praised the God of Israel.” That the crowd would “praise the God of Israel” points to the fact that this crowd was not primarily Jews. When Jesus did miracles among the Jews, they “praised God” (cp. Matt. 9:8; Mark 2:12; Luke 13:13; 18:43; etc.). Then, after the healings, Jesus fed the 4,000 and took up seven large baskets full of leftovers. In thinking about the feeding of the 5,000 and feeding of the 4,000 we see that the record of the feeding of the 5,000 has distinctive Jewish elements throughout it, and it makes sense that twelve baskets of leftover bread would point to covenant blessings on the twelve tribes of Israel. Then, the feeding of the 4,000 has distinctive Gentile elements, and the seven baskets of leftover bread harken back to the seven Gentile nations in Canaan that God drove out before Israel that, along with the other Gentiles, will receive a blessing through God’s Messiah.

“large baskets.” In the feeding of the 5,000 (Matt. 14:13-21), the Greek word for “baskets” is kophinos (#2894 κόφινος), a wicker or reed basket. However, in the feeding of the 4,000 (Matthew 15:29-39), the Greek word for basket is spuris (#4711 σπυρίς), which refers to a much larger reed or wicker basket, or a woven hamper. It was one of these larger woven baskets that the disciples put Paul into when they let him down from the wall of Damascus (Acts 9:25). Given the size of the different types of baskets, it is possible that there could have been as much food left over from the feeding of the 4,000 as there was from the feeding of the 5,000.

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Mat 15:38(top)
Mat 15:39

“Magadan.” Some manuscripts read “Magdala.” It seems that Magadan was contiguous with “Dalmanutha” (Mark 8:10). Magadan also was either Magdala or was included in Magdala. The name “Magdala” is most likely derived from migdal, the Hebrew word for “tower,” and Magdala is located at an important road juncture and so it makes sense that at one time there was a well-fortified tower there. Magdala was the hometown of Mary Magdalene; Mary of Magdala.

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