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Chapter VII

Making Void the Law of God

SummaryThe Scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem. Eating with Unwashen Hands. Making Void the Law of God by Tradition. What Defileth a Man. In the Borders of Tyre and Sidon. The Syrophoenician Woman. Healing in Decapolis.

1. Then came together unto him the Pharisees. This sharp controversy, which contains the 185sharpest rebuke that Christ had thus far paid to the Pharisaical system, is recorded also by Matt. 15:1–20, where see notes. Mark, for the benefit of Gentile readers, adds a few words concerning Jewish customs. Come from Jerusalem. Probably formally sent by the Sanhedrim to investigate the work and teaching of Jesus.

2. Eat bread with defiled hands. Not dirty, but “unwashen.” The “tradition of the elders” required them to always wash before eating lest they might have touched something ceremonially unclean.

3. For the Pharisees … except they wash diligently, eat not. The duty of washing before meat is not inculcated in the law, but only in the tradition of the scribes. So rigidly did the Jews observe it, that Rabbi Akiba, being imprisoned, and having water scarcely sufficient to sustain life given him, preferred dying of thirst to eating without washing his hands.

4. When they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. In the Greek, not the word rendered “wash” elsewhere in the passage, but baptize. Abbott renders it “plunge” and says: “Apparently, in the ritual of the Pharisees, washing by pouring on water sufficed for those who remained at home, but immersion of the hands in water was required of those who had gone abroad.” Many other things. They not only insisted on washing the hands, because of the tradition, but also, many other things. Geikie says: “The law of Moses required purifications in certain cases (Lev. 12:1–5), but the rabbis had preverted the spirit of Leviticus in this as in other things, for they taught that food and drink could not be taken with a good conscience when there was the possibility of ceremonial defilement. If every perceivable precaution had not been taken, the person or the vessel used might have contracted impurity, which would thus be conveyed to the food, and through the food to the body, and by it to the soul. Hence it had been long a custom, and latterly a strict law, that before every meal not only the hands, but even the dishes, couches, and tables, should be scrupulously washed.”

5. The Pharisees and scribes asked him. On the Savior's discourse that follows, as far as verse 23, consult notes on Matt. 15:1–20. 186

24. From thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon. Consult the notes on Matt. 15:21–28, where the incident of the “woman of Canaan” is fully given. 187

31. He came … through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. A district east of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan, so called because it contained ten cities. Only Mark gives the account of the following miracle.

32. One that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech. Probably had not been born deaf, as he was not dumb.

33, 34. Put his fingers in his ears. The manner of the Lord in this miracle was peculiar. I understand that he used signs instead of words in order to arouse faith in the deaf man. He touched the organs that had lost their office and then looked to heaven. This would be deeply significant to one who had learned to understand by signs. Ephphatha. A word in the common language of Judea at that time, meaning “Be opened.”

35. His ears were opened. At once both his difficulties were removed.

36. He charged them that they should tell no man. Consult note on Matt. 8:4.

37. He hath done all things well. Compare Gen. 1:31. He maketh both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak. Christ, ever since, has been engaged, spiritually, in the same work. 188

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