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The Tradition of the Elders


Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3(For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

‘This people honors me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me;


in vain do they worship me,

teaching human precepts as doctrines.’

8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”

9 Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! 10For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ 11But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to God)— 12then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, 13thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.”

14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”

17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”


The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith

24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Jesus Cures a Deaf Man

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

Select a resource above

Mr 7:1-23. Discourse on Ceremonial Pollution. ( = Mt 15:1-20).

See on Mt 15:1-20.

Mr 7:24-37. The Syrophœnician Woman and Her Daughter—A Deaf and Dumb Man Healed. ( = Mt 15:21-31).

The Syrophœnician Woman and Her Daughter (Mr 7:24-30).

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

24. And from thence he arose, and went into the borders—or "unto the borders."

of Tyre and Sidon—the two great Phœnician seaports, but here denoting the territory generally, to the frontiers of which Jesus now came. But did Jesus actually enter this heathen 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 heathens. But though not "sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mt 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 had early spread from Galilee to this very region (Mr 3:8; Lu 6:17).

25. For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit—or, as in Matthew (Mt 15:22), "was badly demonized."

heard of him—One wonders how; but distress is quick of hearing.

and fell at his feet:

26. The woman was a Greek—that is, "a Gentile," as in the Margin.

a Syrophœnician by nation—so called as inhabiting the Phœnician tract of Syria. Juvenal uses the same term, as was remarked by Justin Martyr and Tertullian. Matthew (Mt 15:22) calls her "a woman of Canaan"—a more intelligible description to his Jewish readers (compare Jud 1:30, 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" (Mt 15:22). Thus, though no Israelite herself, she salutes Him as Israel's promised Messiah. Here we must go to Mt 15:23-25 for some important links in the dialogue omitted by our Evangelist.

Mt 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" (Mt 10:5); and being now among them Himself, He would, for consistency's sake, let it be seen that He had not gone thither 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 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; for we gather from His reply that they meant to solicit favor for her, though not for her sake so much as their own.

Mt 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 a 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 Syrophœnician could not attain to. What, then, can she answer to such a speech? Nothing. She has reached her lowest depth, her darkest moment: she will just utter her last cry:

Mt 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.

27. 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 ere 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, rather it is life from the dead. Out of the eater shall come forth meat (Jud 14:14). "At evening-time, it shall be light" (Zec 14:7). "Ah! 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."

28. And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord—or, as the same word is rendered in Mt 15:27. "Truth, Lord."

yet the dogs eat of the children's crumbs—"which fall from their master's table" (Mt 15:27). "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." Oh, what lightning quickness, what reach of instinctive ingenuity, do we behold in this heathen woman!

29. And he said unto her—"O woman, great is thy faith" (Mt 15:28). As Bengel beautifully remarks, Jesus "marvelled" only at two things—faith and unbelief (see Lu 7:9).

For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter—That moment the deed was done.

30. And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed—But Matthew (Mt 15:28) is 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.

Deaf and Dumb Man Healed (Mr 7:31-37).

31. 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 to the Sea of Galilee." The manuscripts in favor 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 southeasterly 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 favor of the received reading. Be this as it may, on returning from these coasts of Tyre, He passed

through the midst of the coasts—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 (Mt 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"—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 [multitudes] 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 Lu 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 here singles out one, whose cure had something peculiar in it.

32. And they bring unto him one that was deaf … 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.

33. 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" (Mr 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—As 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?" (Joh 5:6; Mt 20:32; 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 Mr 8:23; Joh 9:6).

34. And looking up to heaven—ever acknowledging His Father, even while the healing was seen to flow from Himself (see on Joh 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" (Mt 8:17), became mysteriously His own.

"In thought of these his brows benign,

Not even in healing, cloudless shine."


and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened—Our Evangelist, as remarked on Mr 5:41, loves to give such wonderful words just as they were spoken.

35. 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.

36. 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" (Mr 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" (Mr 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.

37. And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well—reminding us, says Trench, of the words of the first creation (Ge 1:31, Septuagint), upon which we are thus not unsuitably thrown back, for 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" (Mt 15:31). See on Mr 7:31.