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Matthew 15:22

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

A woman of Canaan - Matthew gives her this name because of the people from whom she sprung - the descendants of Canaan, Judges 1:31, Judges 1:32; but Mark calls her a Syrophenician, because of the country where she dwelt. The Canaanites and Phoenicians have been often confounded. This is frequently the case in the Septuagint. Compare Genesis 46:10, with Exodus 6:15, where the same person is called a Phoenician in the one place, and a Canaanite in the other. See also the same version in Exodus 16:35; Joshua 5:12.

The state of this woman is a proper emblem of the state of a sinner, deeply conscious of the misery of his soul.

Have mercy on me, etc. - How proper is this prayer for a penitent! There are many excellencies contained in it;

  1. It is short;
  • humble;
  • full of faith;
  • fervent;
  • modest;
  • respectful;
  • rational;
  • relying only on the mercy of God;
  • persevering.
  • Can one who sees himself a slave of the devil, beg with too much earnestness to be delivered from his thraldom?

    Son of David - An essential character of the true Messiah.

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible
    Verses 21-28

    This narrative is also found in Mark 7:24-30.

    The coasts of Tyre and Sidon - These cities were on the seacoast or shore of the Mediterranean. See the notes at Matthew 11:21. Jesus went there for the purpose of concealment Mark 7:24, perhaps still to avoid Herod.

    Matthew 15:22

    A woman of Canaan - This woman is called, also, a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, Mark 7:26

    In ancient times, the whole land, including Tyre and Sidon, was in the possession of the Canaanites, and called Canaan. The Phoenicians were descended from the Canaanites. The country, including Tyre and Sidon, was called Phoenicia, or Syro-Phoenicia. That country was taken by the Greeks under Alexander the Great, and those cities, in the time of Christ, were Greek cities. This woman was therefore a Gentile, living under the Greek government, and probably speaking the Greek language. She was by birth a Syro-Phoenician, born in that country, and descended, therefore, from the ancient Canaanites. All these names might, with propriety, be given to her.

    Coasts - Regions or countries.

    Thou son of David - Descendant of David. See the notes at Matthew 1:1. The phrase here means the Messiah.

    Is grievously vexed with a devil - See the notes at Matthew 4:24. The woman showed great earnestness. She cried unto him, and fell at his feet, Mark 7:25.

    Matthew 15:23

    But he answered her not a word - This was done to test her faith, and that there might be exhibited to the apostles an example of the effect of persevering supplication.

    The result shows that it was not unwillingness to aid her, or neglect of her. It was proper that the strength of her faith should be fully tried.

    Matthew 15:24

    But he answered and said, I am not sent … - This answer was made to the woman, not to the disciples.

    The “lost sheep of the house of Israel” were the Jews. He came first to them. He came as their expected Messiah. He came to preach the gospel himself to the Jews only. Afterward it was preached to the Gentiles, but the ministry of Jesus was confined almost entirely to the Jews.

    Matthew 15:25

    She came and worshipped - That is, bowed down to him or did him reverence.

    See the notes at Matthew 8:2.

    Lord, help me! - A proper cry for a poor sinner, who needs the help of the Lord Jesus.

    Matthew 15:26

    But he answered and said, It is not meet … - That is, it is not appropriate or proper.

    Children‘s bread - The Jews considered themselves as the special children of God.

    To all other nations they were accustomed to apply terms of contempt, of which dogs was the most common. The Muslims still apply the term “dogs” to Christians, and Christians and Jews to each other. The term is designed as an expression of the highest contempt. The Saviour means to say that he was sent to the Jews. The woman was a Gentile. He meant merely using a term in common use, and designed to test her faith in the strongest manner - that it did not comport with the design of his personal ministry to apply benefits intended for the Jews to others. Evidently he cannot be understood as intending to justify or sanction the use of such terms, or calling names. He meant to try her faith. As if he had said, “You are a Gentile; I am a Jew. The Jews call themselves children of God. You they vilify and abuse, calling you a dog. Are you willing to receive of a Jew, then, a favor? Are you willing to submit to these appellations to receive a favor of one of that nation, and to acknowledge your dependence on a people that so despise you?” It was, therefore, a trial of her faith, and was not a lending of his sanction to the propriety of the abusive term. He regarded her with a different feeling.

    Matthew 15:27

    And she said, Truth, Lord … - What you say is true.

    Let it be that the best food should be given to the children - let the Jews have the chief benefit of thy ministry; but the dogs beneath the table eat the crumbs. So let me be regarded as a dog, a pagan, as unworthy of everything. Yet grant one exertion of that almighty power displayed so signally among the Jews, and heal the despised daughter of a despised heathen mother.”

    Matthew 15:28

    Great is thy faith - That is, thy trust, confidence.

    The word here seems to include, also, the humility and perseverance manifested in pressing her suit. The daughter was healed then. Going home, she found her well and composed, Mark 7:30.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    The dark corners of the country, the most remote, shall share Christ's influences; afterwards the ends of the earth shall see his salvation. The distress and trouble of her family brought a woman to Christ; and though it is need that drives us to Christ, yet we shall not therefore be driven from him. She did not limit Christ to any particular instance of mercy, but mercy, mercy, is what she begged for: she pleads not merit, but depends upon mercy. It is the duty of parents to pray for their children, and to be earnest in prayer for them, especially for their souls. Have you a son, a daughter, grievously vexed with a proud devil, an unclean devil, a malicious devil, led captive by him at his will? this is a case more deplorable than that of bodily possession, and you must bring them by faith and prayer to Christ, who alone is able to heal them. Many methods of Christ's providence, especially of his grace, in dealing with his people, which are dark and perplexing, may be explained by this story, which teaches that there may be love in Christ's heart while there are frowns in his face; and it encourages us, though he seems ready to slay us, yet to trust in him. Those whom Christ intends most to honour, he humbles to feel their own unworthiness. A proud, unhumbled heart would not have borne this; but she turned it into an argument to support her request. The state of this woman is an emblem of the state of a sinner, deeply conscious of the misery of his soul. The least of Christ is precious to a believer, even the very crumbs of the Bread of life. Of all graces, faith honours Christ most; therefore of all graces Christ honours faith most. He cured her daughter. He spake, and it was done. From hence let such as seek help from the Lord, and receive no gracious answer, learn to turn even their unworthiness and discouragements into pleas for mercy.
    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, 190

    I entreat you to awake and to seek God for yourselves. While Jesus of Nazareth is passing by, cry most earnestly unto Him, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David,” and you will receive sight. Through the grace of God you will receive that which will be more valuable to you than gold or silver or precious stones. 7T 190.1

    *****

    If there is ever one time above another when men need to preserve their connection with God, it is when they are called to bear special responsibility. It is not safe for us, when going into battle, to cast away our weapons. It is then that we need to be equipped with the whole armor of God. Every piece is essential. 7T 190.2

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    Ellen G. White
    The Desire of Ages, 399

    This chapter is based on Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30.

    After the encounter with the Pharisees, Jesus withdrew from Capernaum, and crossing Galilee, repaired to the hill country on the borders of Phoenicia. Looking westward, He could see, spread out upon the plain below, the ancient cities of Tyre and Sidon, with their heathen temples, their magnificent palaces and marts of trade, and the harbors filled with shipping. Beyond was the blue expanse of the Mediterranean, over which the messengers of the gospel were to bear its glad tidings to the centers of the world's great empire. But the time was not yet. The work before Him now was to prepare His disciples for their mission. In coming to this region He hoped to find the retirement He had failed to secure at Bethsaida. Yet this was not His only purpose in taking this journey. DA 399.1

    Read in context »
    Ellen G. White
    The Desire of Ages, 399-403

    This chapter is based on Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30.

    After the encounter with the Pharisees, Jesus withdrew from Capernaum, and crossing Galilee, repaired to the hill country on the borders of Phoenicia. Looking westward, He could see, spread out upon the plain below, the ancient cities of Tyre and Sidon, with their heathen temples, their magnificent palaces and marts of trade, and the harbors filled with shipping. Beyond was the blue expanse of the Mediterranean, over which the messengers of the gospel were to bear its glad tidings to the centers of the world's great empire. But the time was not yet. The work before Him now was to prepare His disciples for their mission. In coming to this region He hoped to find the retirement He had failed to secure at Bethsaida. Yet this was not His only purpose in taking this journey. DA 399.1

    Read in context »
    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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