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;
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 399.1Read in context »
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 406.1Read in context »
But the purposes of Christ were not thwarted. He allowed the evil spirits to destroy the herd of swine as a rebuke to those Jews who were raising these unclean beasts for the sake of gain. Had not Christ restrained the demons, they would have plunged into the sea, not only the swine, but also their keepers and owners. The preservation of both the keepers and the owners was due alone to His power, mercifully exercised for their deliverance. Furthermore, this event was permitted to take place that the disciples might witness the cruel power of Satan upon both man and beast. The Saviour desired His followers to have a knowledge of the foe whom they were to meet, that they might not be deceived and overcome by his devices. It was also His will that the people of that region should behold His power to break the bondage of Satan and release his captives. And though Jesus Himself departed, the men so marvelously delivered, remained to declare the mercy of their Benefactor. GC 515.1
Other instances of a similar nature are recorded in the Scriptures. The daughter of the Syrophoenician woman was grievously vexed with a devil, whom Jesus cast out by His word. (Mark 7:26-30). “One possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb” (Matthew 12:22); a youth who had a dumb spirit, that ofttimes “cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him” (Mark 9:17-27); the maniac who, tormented by “a spirit of an unclean devil” (Luke 4:33-36), disturbed the Sabbath quiet of the synagogue at Capernaum—all were healed by the compassionate Saviour. In nearly every instance, Christ addressed the demon as an intelligent entity, commanding him to come out of his victim and to torment him no more. The worshipers at Capernaum, beholding His mighty power, “were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power He commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out.” Luke 4:36. GC 515.2
Those possessed with devils are usually represented as being in a condition of great suffering; yet there were exceptions to this rule. For the sake of obtaining supernatural power, some welcomed the satanic influence. These of course had no conflict with the demons. Of this class were those who possessed the spirit of divination,—Simon Magus, Elymas the sorcerer, and the damsel who followed Paul and Silas at Philippi. GC 516.1Read in context »
Jesus knows the burden of every mother's heart. He who had a mother that struggled with poverty and privation, sympathizes with every mother in her labors. He who made a long journey in order to relieve the anxious heart of a Canaanite woman will do as much for the mothers of today. He who gave back to the widow of Nain her only son, and in His agony upon the cross remembered His own mother, is touched today by the mother's sorrow. In every grief and every need, He will comfort and help. MH 42.1
Let mothers come to Jesus with their perplexities. They will find grace sufficient to aid them in the care of their children. The gates are open for every mother who would lay her burdens at the Saviour's feet. He who said, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not” (Mark 10:14), still invites mothers to bring their little ones to be blessed by Him. MH 42.2
In the children who were brought in contact with Him, Jesus saw the men and women who should be heirs of His grace and subjects of His kingdom, and some of whom would become martyrs for His sake. He knew that these children would listen to Him and accept Him as their Redeemer far more readily than would grown-up people, many of whom were the worldly-wise and hardhearted. In teaching, He came down to their level. He, the Majesty of heaven, answered their questions and simplified His important lessons to meet their childish understanding. He planted in their minds the seeds of truth, which in after years would spring up and bear fruit unto eternal life. MH 42.3Read in context »