Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Matthew 15:39

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

He sent away the multitude - But not before he had instructed their souls, and fed and healed their bodies.

The coasts of Magdala - In the parallel place, Mark 8:10, this place is called Dalmanutha. Either Magdala was formed by a transposition of letters from Dalman, to which the Syriac termination atha had been added, or the one of these names refers to the country, and the other to a town in that neighborhood. Jesus went into the country, and proceeded till he came to the chief town or village in that district. Whitby says, "Magdala was a city and territory beyond Jordan, on the banks of Gadara. It readied to the bridge above Jordan, which joined it to the other side of Galilee, and contained within its precincts Dalmanutha." The MSS. and VV. read the name variously - Magada, Madega, Magdala; and the Syriac has Magdu. In Mark, Dalmanutha is read by many MSS. Melagada, Madegada, Magada, Magidan, and Magedam. Magdala, variously pronounced, seems to have been the place or country; Dalmanutha, the chief town or capital.

In this chapter a number of interesting and instructive particulars are contained.

  1. We see the extreme superstition, envy, and incurable ill nature of the Jews. While totally lost to a proper sense of the spirituality of God's law, they are ceremonious in the extreme. They will not eat without washing their hands, because this would be a transgression of one of the traditions of their elders; but they can harbour the worst temper and passions, and thus break the law of God! The word of man weighs more with them than the testimony of Jehovah; and yet they pretend the highest respect for their God and sacred things, and will let their parents perish for lack of the necessaries of life, that they may have goods to vow to the service of the sanctuary! Pride and envy blind the hearts of men, and cause them often to act not only the most wicked, but the most ridiculous, parts. He who takes the book of God for the rule of his faith and practice can never go astray: but to the mazes and perplexities produced by the traditions of elders, human creeds, and confessions of faith, there is no end. These evils existed in the Christian as well as in the Jewish Church; but the Reformation, thank God! has liberated us from this endless system of uncertainty and absurdity, and the Sun of righteousness shines now unclouded! The plantation, which God did not plant, in the course of his judgments, he has now swept nearly away from the face of the earth! Babylon is fallen!
  • We wonder at the dulness of the disciples, when we find that they did not fully understand our Lord's meaning, in the very obvious parable about the blind leading the blind. But should we not be equally struck with their prying, inquisitive temper? They did not understand, but they could not rest till they did. They knew that their Lord could say nothing that had not the most important meaning in it: this meaning, in the preceding parable, they had not apprehended, and therefore they wished to have it farther explained by himself. Do we imitate their docility and eagerness to comprehend the truth of God? Christ presses every occurrence into a means of instruction. The dulness of the disciples in the present case, has been the means of affording us the fullest instruction on a point of the utmost importance - the state of a sinful heart, and how the thoughts and passions conceived in it defile and pollute it; and how necessary it is to have the fountain purified, that it may cease to send forth those streams of death.
  • The case of the Canaanitish woman is, in itself, a thousand sermons. Her faith - her prayers - her perseverance - her success - the honor she received from her Lord, etc., etc. How instructively - how powerfully do these speak and plead! What a profusion of light does this single case throw upon the manner in which Christ sometimes exercises the faith and patience of his followers! They that seek shall find, is the great lesson inculcated in this short history: God is ever the same. Reader, follow on after God - cry, pray, plead - all in Him is for thee! - Thou canst not perish, if thou continuest to believe and pray. The Lord will help Thee.
  • Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible
    Verses 32-39

    The miracle recorded here - the feeding of the four thousand - took place on a mountain near the Sea of Galilee. The same account is recorded in Mark 8:1-10. The circumstances of the miracle are so similar to the one recorded in Matthew 14:14-21, as to need little additional explanation.

    Matthew 15:32

    Three days, and have nothing to eat - This is not, perhaps, to be taken literally, but only that during that time they had been deprived of their ordinary or regular food.

    They had had only a very scanty supply, and on the third day even that began to fail.

    Matthew 15:39

    Coasts of Magdala - Mark says, “The parts of Dalmanutha.” Magdala was probably the same place which was formerly called Migdol, Joshua 19:38. It is now called Mejdel, and is situated a few miles north of the city of Tiberias, in the land of Gennesaret, on the western side of the Sea of Tiberias, and directly east of Cana of Galilee. “It is a wretched hamlet of a dozen low huts huddled into one, and the whole ready to tumble into a dismal heap of black basaltic rubbish.” - The Land and the Book (Thomson), vol. ii. p. 108. This was the birthplace of Mary Magdalene, out of whom the Saviour cast seven devils, Mark 16:9. Dalmanutha was probably a small village near to Magdala, of which no remains have been discovered. There is no contradiction in the statements of the two evangelists here, for they do not say that Jesus went to either of these towns, but only to the coasts or parts where they were situated.

    Remarks On Matthew 15:1-6.

    2.That people are strongly disposed to explain away the law of God, if possible. It is too strict for them, and too spiritual. They dare not often attack it directly, but they will explain it and dilute it so as to make it mean nothing. Wicked people do not love God‘s law, Matthew 15:4-6.

    3.People are prone to introduce foolish rites into religion. They do not love what God has commanded, and they attempt to compensate for not loving his doctrines by being great sticklers for their own, Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:3-4.

    4.All addition to the law of God is evil, Matthew 15:3. All ceremonies in religion which are not authorized by the New Testament are wrong. Man has no right to ordain rites to bind the conscience where God has commanded none, Colossians 2:23. People come the nearest to that which is right when they live nearest to just what God has commanded in the Bible.

    5.Hypocrites should be unmasked and detected, Matthew 15:7. He does a great service to people who detects their hypocrisy. That close and faithful preaching which lays open the heart, and shows people what they are, is that which comes nearest to the example of Christ. It may pain them, but the wounds of a friend are faithful Proverbs 27:6; and we should honor and love the man that, by the grace of God, can show us our own hearts. We always honor most the physician of the body that is most skilled in detecting and curing disease, and so should we the physician of the soul.

    6.We should be exceedingly cautious in avoiding formality in worship, Matthew 15:8-9. It is hypocrisy. God requires the heart. To render to him only the service of the lips is to mock him. Nothing can be acceptable but true piety, genuine love, and hearty obedience; nothing more hateful than an appearance of worshipping God, while the heart is in sin and the world.

    7.The duty of honoring parents, Matthew 15:4-6. Nothing can explain away this duty. It is binding on all. Parents should be obeyed, loved, respected. God requires it and we cannot be free from the duty. Under age, a child is bound always to obey a parent where the parent does not command anything contrary to the Bible; but when the parent commands anything contrary to the Bible, the child is not bound to obey, Acts 5:29. After the child is of age, he is to respect, love, and honor the parent; and, if poor and needy, to provide for his wants until he dies. It is certainly proper that we should do all that we can to comfort those in old age who did so much for us in childhood. A child can never repay a parent for his kindness to him.

    8.We are not at liberty to give to anything else not even to religious uses - what is necessary to render our parents comfortable, Matthew 15:4-6. They have the first claim on us. And though it is our duty to do much in the cause of benevolence, yet our first duty should be to see that our parents do not suffer.

    9.People easily take offence when they are faithfully reproved, and especially when their hypocrisy is exposed; and especially if this exposure is about some small matter on which they have greatly set their hearts some ceremony in worship or some foolish rite, Matthew 15:12.

    10.Every false doctrine is to be opposed and should be rooted up, Matthew 15:13. It is to be opposed by arguments and candid investigation, and not by abuse and misrepresentation. Christ never misrepresented any man‘s doctrine. He always stated it just as it was - just as they held it; and then, by argument and the word of God, he showed it was wrong. This is the proper way to manage all controversies.

    11.It is of great importance to search the heart, Matthew 15:19-20. It is a fountain of evil. It is the source of all crime. External conduct is comparatively of little importance. In the sight of God, the heart is of more importance; and if that were pure, all would be well.

    12.The doctrine of man‘s depravity is true, Matthew 15:19. If the heart produces those things which are specified by the Saviour it cannot be pure. And yet who is there from whose heart, at some time, these things have not proceeded? Alas, the world is full of instances that prove that the human heart may produce all these things.

    13.In our distress, and the distress of our children and friends, we should go to Jesus. We should, indeed, use all proper means to restore our friends when they are sick; but we should feel that God only can grant returning health and life, Matthew 15:22.

    14.We should not be discouraged that our prayers are not immediately answered. God knows the proper time to answer them, and it may be of great importance to us that the answer should be deferred, Matthew 15:23.

    15.We should still persevere, Matthew 15:24-27. We should not be discouraged. We should not be disheartened even by the appearance of neglect or unkind treatment.

    16.Our prayers will be answered if we persevere, Matthew 15:28. They that seek shall find. In due time - in the best and most proper time - a gracious God will lend an ear to our request, and grant the thing we need.

    17.We should come with humility and faith, Matthew 15:27. We can never think too little of ourselves, or too much of the mercy and faithfulness of Christ. Prayers of humility and faith only are answered.

    18.Christ will take care of his poor and needy followers. We may be assured that he has power to give us all we need, and that in times of necessity he will supply our wants, Matthew 15:32-38.

    19.The great number of poor in the world is no reason why he should not supply them, Matthew 15:38. He daily supplies the wants of nine hundred millions of human beings, besides countless numbers of the beasts of the field, of the fowls of heaven, and the fishes of the sea. It is a small thing to supply the needs of the few poor people on the earth, and He who feeds the world will take care of us in the time of need.

    20.We should be grateful to God for our daily food. We should render to him proper thanksgiving, Matthew 15:36.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    Whatever our case is, the only way to find ease and relief, is to lay it at Christ's feet, to submit it to him, and refer it to his disposal. Those who would have spiritual healing from Christ, must be ruled as he pleases. See what work sin has made; what various diseases human bodies are subject to. Here were such diseases as fancy could neither guess the cause nor the cure of, yet these were subject to the command of Christ. The spiritual cures that Christ works are wonderful. When blind souls are made to see by faith, the dumb to speak in prayer, the maimed and the lame to walk in holy obedience, it is to be wondered at. His power was also shown to the multitude, in the plentiful provision he made for them: the manner is much the same as before. All did eat, and were filled. Those whom Christ feeds, he fills. With Christ there is bread enough, and to spare; supplies of grace for more than seek it, and for those that seek for more. Christ sent away the people. Though he had fed them twice, they must not look for miracles to find their daily bread. Let them go home to their callings and their own tables. Lord, increase our faith, and pardon our unbelief, teaching us to live upon thy fulness and bounty, for all things pertaining to this life, and that which is to come.
    Ellen G. White
    The Desire of Ages, 405

    Then taking a boat with His disciples, He crossed the lake to Magdala, at the southern end of the plain of Gennesaret. In the border of Tyre and Sidon His spirit had been refreshed by the confiding trust of the Syrophoenician woman. The heathen people of Decapolis had received Him with gladness. Now as He landed once more in Galilee, where His power had been most strikingly manifested, where most of His works of mercy had been performed, and His teaching given, He was met with contemptuous unbelief. DA 405.1

    A deputation of Pharisees had been joined by representatives from the rich and lordly Sadducees, the party of the priests, the skeptics and aristocracy of the nation. The two sects had been at bitter enmity. The Sadducees courted the favor of the ruling power in order to maintain their own position and authority. The Pharisees, on the other hand, fostered the popular hatred against the Romans, longing for the time when they could throw off the yoke of the conqueror. But Pharisee and Sadducee now united against Christ. Like seeks like; and evil, wherever it exists, leagues with evil for the destruction of the good. DA 405.2

    Now the Pharisees and Sadducees came to Christ, asking for a sign from heaven. When in the days of Joshua Israel went out to battle with the Canaanites at Bethhoron, the sun had stood still at the leader's command until victory was gained; and many similar wonders had been manifest in their history. Some such sign was demanded of Jesus. But these signs were not what the Jews needed. No mere external evidence could benefit them. What they needed was not intellectual enlightenment, but spiritual renovation. DA 406.1

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    Cross References
    Jesus' Ministry in Galilee and Journey to Jerusalem