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B.W. Johnson Commentary on Matthew 15: 21-28

From The People's New Testament, B.W. Johnson, 1891

21. Jesus . . . departed into the coasts. Compare Mark 7:24-30. Tyre and Sidon. Tyre and Sidon were the two principal cities of Phoenicia, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Tyre was about twenty miles south of Sidon, and about one hundred miles in a straight line northwest of Jerusalem. In the days of David and Solomon, Tyre was the leading seaport of the world. It was afterwards taken by the Babylonians, the Persians, and Alexander, but up to the time of Christ it remained a great commercial city. Since then its harbor has been filled with sand, and there remains only a wretched shadow of its former greatness. Both were Gentile cities in a Gentile country. This is the only instance in the Lord's ministry when he went beyond the bounds of Palestine.

22. Behold, a woman of Canaan. The name Canaan was the oldest bestowed upon the country, and all the heathen inhabitants were often called Canaanites, whether of the same stock or not. Mark says (7:26) that the woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician; i. e., a Gentile, and a Syro-Phoenician, because she lived in the district of Syria called Phoenicia. Have mercy on me. She has a boon to ask for her daughter, or rather indeed for herself, for so entirely had she made her daughter's misery her own. My daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. More correctly, "a demon." See note on Matt. 8:28. [89] O Lord, thou son of David. It is remarkable that two of the brightest examples of faith seen in the ministry of Christ were exhibited by Gentiles, that of the centurion (Matt. 8:8, 9), and of this woman. The fact that the latter addresses Jesus as "the son of David," shows that she knew of the prophecies concerning the Christ and that he would be the son of David.

23. He answered her not a word. He neither repelled her, nor made a favorable answer. There were reasons for hesitation, given in verse 24, on which see the comment , but there is no doubt that it was his purpose to have mercy. He delayed in order to bring out a great lesson.

24. I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The Lord's personal mission was to the Jews. Under the first commission his apostles were directed to go only to the Jews (Matt. 10:6). It would be impossible to evangelize the Gentiles without setting aside the Jewish customs, the law of Moses, and arousing the bitterest prejudice of the Jews. Hence it was the divine plan that the Son should "keep the law blameless" during his ministry. It was only when the Jews crucified him "that the handwriting of ordinances was nailed to the cross," the "wall of partition" between Jews and Gentiles broken down, and all prepared for the Great Commission which bade his disciples "go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."

25. Then came she and worshipped him. Instead of being discouraged by the words of Christ, she only became the more earnest.

26. It is not meet to take the children's bread. She knew that, in comparing the Jews to the children of God's family, and the heathen to the dogs without, he simply used the customary language of a Jew. He would bring out fully the greatness of her faith. The gospel was offered first to the Jews and then to all.

27. Truth, Lord. Observe that she acquiesces heartily in Christ's declaration: it is not fit that the dogs be fed before the children. Yet the dogs eat of the crumbs. The word for crumbs is a diminutive, and means little crumbs.

28. Woman, great is thy faith. We can see how greatness of faith is manifested: (1) She came to Christ under difficulties. (2) She persevered when her prayer seemed to be denied. (3) She still pleaded when obstacles were presented. (4) She waited at the feet of the Lord until he had mercy. Such faith always prevails. Her daughter was made whole. Mark, who adds some features omitted by Matthew, follows the woman home, where she found her daughter no longer raving, or in convulsions, but lying quiet on the bed, healed in consequence of her mother's faith and prayers.

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