Bible Commentaries
Matthew 15

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-38


Matthew 14:34-36, Matthew 15:1-38

Contents:—Secret landing of the Lord in Galilee, and His recognition. Accusation of the deputation from the synagogue at Jerusalem, that His disciples transgressed the traditions. Reply of Jesus, and rebuke addressed to the Pharisees of Galilee. Christ’s teaching to the disciples in reference to tradition. Jesus journeying into the heathen country of Tyre and Sidon, and the woman of Canaan. Second miraculous feeding of the multitude; or, second realm in the desert, as contrasted with that of the spiritual authorities, which allowed the people to perish from want.

1. The deputation from Jerusalem, and the rebuke of Jesus addressed to the Pharisees of Galilee. Christ’s teaching to the disciples in reference to tradition. Matthew 14:34-36; Matthew 15:1-20

Matthew 14:34 And when they were gone [had passed] over,31 they came into the land of Gennesaret. 35And when the men of that place had knowledge of him,32 they sent out into all that country round about,33 and brought unto him all that were diseased; 36And besought him that they might only touch the hem [fringe]34 of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.35

Matthew 15:1 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees which [who] were of Jerusalem,36 saying, 2Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. 3But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by [because of]37 your tradition? 4For God commanded, saying,38 Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death [surely die].[39] 5But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his[40] father or his10 mother, It is a gift [devoted to God, a sacrifice], by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; 6And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free.41 Thus have ye made the commandment [law]42 of God of none [no] effect by [because of] your 7tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias [Isaiah] prophesy of you, saying, 8This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth,43 and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. [Isaiah 29:13.] 9But in vain they do worship me, 10teaching for [as] doctrines the commandments of men. And [then] he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: 11Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a [the] man [i. e., makes him legally unclean]; but that which cometh out of the month, this defileth a [the] man. 12Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? 13But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. 14Let them alone: they be [are, εἰσι] blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall [will] fall into the ditch. 15Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. 16And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? 17Do not ye yet [Do ye not],44 understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? 18But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man 19For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false 20witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a [the] man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a [the]45 man.


Matthew 14:34. Into the land of Gennesaret.—As the time of persecution had commenced, they probably landed on a retired part of the coast. This appears, 1. from the manner in which the place where they landed is described; 2. from the circumstance that the people of that place brought sick persons from the scattered houses in the district, and that, according to Mark, Jesus passed through villages and towns before He appeared in the synagogue at Capernaum; while, lastly, this view is also supported by the analogous account of the landing, contained in Matthew 15:39. The designation, “land of Gennesaret,” Mark 6:53, was given to the western shore of the lake; from which, indeed, the latter derived its name. According to Josephus (De Bello Judges 3:10, Judges 3:8), the district extended 30 furlongs in length and 20 in breadth, so that it must have comprised only a part of the western shore. Robinson (ii. p. 400) suggests that it extended from Khân Minyeh on the north to Mejdel on the south; in which case it would nearly embrace the modern district of el-Ghuweir, or the “Little Ghôr.” According to Josephus, the climate of this district was very mild, and the soil fertile.

Matthew 14:35. And when the men of that place had knowledge of Him.—Meanwhile morning had dawned, and Jesus was immediately recognized by the people.

Matthew 14:36. The fringe of His garment.—Comp. Matthew 9:20. Christ merely passed through the district, and the haste of His journey accounts for the manner in which the cures were performed; the expression being at the same time symbolical, and indicating on the one hand the most passing touch, and on the other the strong faith of the people in that district. We might almost have expected that tradition would have laid the scene of healing the woman with the issue of blood in the country of Gennesaret instead of at Paneas. If that woman lived here after she was restored, we may perhaps conjecture that ever afterward special importance attached in the mind of the people to this mode of healing. But we must remind the reader that Jesus passed through the lower district of the sea-shore when He performed that miracle.

Matthew 15:1. Then met Jesus, etc.—The following three sections (about the washing of hands, the woman of Canaan, and the second feeding of the multitude) are only related by Matthew and by Mark. Between these events and those formerly related, we must insert the address of Jesus, in the synagogue at Capernaum, concerning the manna of heaven (John 6:22-71), as also the festival of Easter, which, according to John 6:0, was close at hand, even at the first feeding of the multitude. From Luke 10:38, we would infer that Jesus had on that occasion tarried in Bethany, while the disciples went on to Jerusalem. In the Jewish capital, the disciples seem to have given offence by their bold statements and by the evangelical liberty of their conduct. Hence Jesus was now charged with heresy in Galilee, and was watched in the field. Then followed the healing of the man with the withered hand, and of him who was possessed with a blind and dumb devil, the last conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees of Galilee, the parables and probably the events recorded in Luke 13:1-9; Luke 13:11-17. Meantime, the deputation of Pharisees and scribes, with which our section opens, had arrived from Jerusalem; having been despatched partly on account of the offence which the disciples had given in the holy city, and partly on account of the report of the Pharisees of Galilee, to the effect that Jesus was too powerful for them, and that they required assistance from the capital.—The arrangement of Matthew follows the order of things more than of time. After having related how the Lord was repelled by the ruler of Galilee, he now records the conflict between Jesus and the supreme authorities of the synagogue.

The Pharisees and Scribes.—With the article.[1] We adopt the arrangement of Codd. B., D., Orig., etc., by which the Pharisees are mentioned before the scribes, although this is opposed by Lachmann and Tischendorf. The persecution at Jerusalem originated with the Pharisees, the scribes having given it a proper legal form in the shape of a deputation from the synagogue. This is no doubt indicated by the use of the article, and not, as Meyer supposes, “the scribes who lived in Jerusalem and had come thence.” The deputation represented the whole body of the Pharisees and scribes in Jerusalem. There are references to several such deputations in the New Testament.

Matthew 15:2. Why do Thy disciples transgress?—Referring to the occasion to which we have above alluded. The charge is at first urged in a cautious manner, although the Master is made responsible for the supposed transgressions of His disciples.—The tradition, παράδοσις.—A new and more dangerous mode of attack. Hitherto they had only charged Him with violating the Sabbath, or with supposed transgressions of the law itself. But now they based their accusations upon tradition, as of acknowledged authority. The miraculous cures of Jesus and His teaching might be urged in answer to their charges of violation of the law; but the disciples were apparently, transgressing the traditions without any excuse for it. The παραδοσις, ἄγραφος διδασκαλία. Hesychius. See the Sermon on the Mount. Within the circle of His disciples, Jesus had from the first declared Himself opposed to traditions, but their renunciation on the part of His followers had only of late appeared. This charge of the Pharisees is illustrated by the following extract. Meyer: “The Jews attached greater value to tradition than even to the written law, appealing in support of it to Deuteronomy 4:14; Deuteronomy 17:10. More especially did they pay respect to the traditionary injunction of washing the hands before meals, to which it was thought Leviticus 15:11 referred. See Lightfoot, Schöttgen, and Wetstein on the passage.” Jesus did not reject this, tradition, viewing it merely as a custom (which was also common among the Persians, Greeks, and Romans). He only refused to recognize it as a binding or religious ordinance, and hence omitted it in urgent circumstances. The whole passage may be regarded as throwing a peculiar light upon the history of Pharisaism, with its “hedge around the law,” and upon that of the Sanhedrin and of the Talmud.

Of the elders.—Fritzsche: The teachers of the law. Meyer: Our ancestors, with special reference to Hebrews 11:2. But we must not forget that the official πρεσβύτεροι of the Sanhedrin and of the synagogues were the theocratic authorities which administered and sanctioned the traditions of their ancestors.

Matthew 15:4. Let him die the death.—In the original Hêbrew: מוֹת יוּמָת, he shall surely die. The Sept. renders it, he shall end by death (by execution): θανάτῳ τελευτάτω.

Matthew 15:5. But ye say.—The change of the verb deserves notice. It is a gift, δωρον, קָרְבִּן, a sacrifice or gift to the temple. There are two significant omissions in the phraseology of the text. 1. ἐστι or ἔσται is omitted. If a person merely pronounced the word “Corban” over any possession or property, it was irrevocably dedicated to the temple. Thus it became a kind of interdict. Compare Lightfoot, von Ammon ii. 226. Mishna, נדיים, de votis. Joseph. Contr. Ap. 1, 22.–2. “But ye say, or make the tradition, Whosoever shall say to his father, or his mother, It is a gift! that with which thou mightest be assisted by me,” … Here Jesus breaks off and allows His opponents to state their own conclusion, which was as follows: “he is free of his duty as a child.” The Lord seems unwilling to draw, or at least to state, the sinful conclusion at which Pharisaism had arrived. Hence the aposiopesis, which appears most clearly in the language of Mark, is peculiarly suitable.2 Perhaps the inference might have been differently expressed by some of the Rabbins. Jesus, however, draws his own conclusion,3 which is: He will surely not honor his father or his mother. So Meyer. But Grotius, Bengel, and Winer regard this clause as being the words of the Pharisees themselves, implying: He need not honor his father, etc. But this view is improbable in itself, and contrary to the language of the text. [Not at all. Comp. my critical note 11 on Matthew 15:5-6, p. 275.—P. S.]

Matthew 15:6. Made of no effect.—More than merely “transgressed.” Some Rabbins (as Rabbi Eliezer) regarded the duty of children to honor their parents as higher than all the commandments. But the Jewish authorities insisted that vows, even if incompatible with this injunction, were binding.

Matthew 15:7. Well (aptly, καλῶς) did Isaiah prophesy of you. Isaiah 29:13.—Not in the sense of natural inspiration (de Wette), nor of prediction in the strictest sense (Meyer), nor merely of application (Maldonatus); but as in Matthew 13:14 sqq. with special reference to Isaiah 6:0. We have here the other aspect of the hardening to which the prophet referred, in the shape of a pretended sanctity. As the statement of Isaiah in reference to the hardening of his cotemporaries was completely fulfilled in the cotemporaries of Jesus, so also his statement about their pretended sanctity; in other words, his verbal prophecy about his cotemporaries was, in this respect also, a typical prophecy of the times of Jesus.

Matthew 15:9. In vain, μάτην.—Meyer explains the expression as implying that it was fruitless (without moral result) and groundless (temere). In our opinion, it expresses the idea of emptiness or vanity, which includes groundlessness in point of principle, and fruitlessness so far as results were concerned. The Hebrew text has no expression corresponding to this μάτην; but the Sept. may probably have translated from another reading.

Matthew 15:10. Then He called the multitude.—The Saviour turns away from these hypocrites, whose questions about the washing of the hands He does not even condescend to answer, since out of their own mouths they were convinced of making the commandments of God of no effect. Christ now turns to the people, and instructs them in the difference between Levitical and real defilement.

Matthew 15:11. Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth;i.e., with reference to the relation between Levitical defilement and the חל, or profanus, in the real sense of the term. The Lord presents the Levitical idea of impurity in a moral light. The question is not—to take the present instance—to be decided by the physical mouth (or the use of certain meats), but by the moral mouth (or the language). What is here said concerning the going into and coming out of the mouth, applies to the whole series of Levitical and moral injunctions concerning purity. The statement was in the first place, indeed, intended as a justification of His disciples on the charge brought against them by the Pharisees. But the inference was obvious, that all these injunctions required to be fulfilled in a higher sense (although this did not imply that the Lord denied their validity as Levitical ordinances). As a matter of course, when the symbol would be completely fulfilled, its outward representation must fall to the ground.

Matthew 15:12. After they heard this saying.—“This remark is commonly referred to Matthew 15:3-9. But we would rather apply it, with Euthym. Zigab, to Matthew 15:11.” Meyer. It is, indeed, quite true that it would have been impossible for them to have replied to Matthew 15:3-9, while in answer to Matthew 15:11 they might bring against Him the charge of subverting not only tradition, but even the written law. Still, their anger about His application to them of the prophecy of Isaiah must have increased their resentment and offence at His λόγος. Nor must we here omit to observe the moral distinction between giving offence to the Pharisees and to the least of the disciples.

Matthew 15:13. Every plant.—Referring to the teaching and the traditions of the Pharisees (Ewald, Meyer, etc.), not to their persons (Fritzsche, Olshausen, de Wette). At the same time, we should also bear in mind what was said in Matthew 13:0 about the identification of individuals with the doctrines which they professed.

Matthew 15:14. Into the ditch.—The cistern. Meyer supposes that the expression refers to Gehenna, implying that they were hopelessly lost. But, in our opinion, it primarily applies to historical and national, not to personal judgments. We infer this from the fact, that both classes of the blind are said to fall into the ditch,—those who feel their need of being guided (or the people), as well as those who think they see, and assume to be leaders (sec John 9:0). The difference between them, however, was very great; and with reference to the Jewish people, comp. Romans 9-11.

Matthew 15:15. Peter.—Acting as the representative of all the disciples; see Mark 7:17.—This parable.—The whole discourse was parabolical, but sufficiently explained by the context, and not, as Peter seems to have supposed, a separate parable in the more limited sense of the term. It appears as if Peter had felt it difficult to distinguish between the symbol and the reality. Jesus had employed the physical as an emblem of the moral mouth, and in that particular His statement might be regarded as parabolical. But even in that respect the parabolical form had not been strictly carried out.

Matthew 15:17. Do not ye understand?—The place where the bodily functions are finally purified, is that where they terminate, ὁ� (which, according to Suidas, designates both anum and sellam; derivatur enim άπὸ τῶν ἑδρῶν. The term is evidently related to ἄφεδρος, by which the Sept. render the place where menstruous women underwent purification). But that which constitutes the true nature of man can only be cleansed if the heart, whence words and actions issue, is purified. And this is the only true purity, contrasted with which all symbolical purifications are of no value. (See above, the antithesis between mercy and sacrifice.) A symbol becomes null and void if applied against the truth which it had been intended to present to the mind. In that case its real object is lost, and it does harm instead of good. Compare here Mark.

Matthew 15:19. For out of the heart proceed.—The Saviour implies that evil works first pass through the channel of an evil mouth, thus disclosing the evil state of the heart.


1. As the Gospel history unfolds, the gulf between the believing and the unbelieving portion of the people becomes wider. If the former would fain touch the hem of His garment in order to be restored, the latter excommunicate Him, because His disciples had offended against their traditions.
2. Let us mark the progressive hostility against the Lord. First the Pharisees of Judea, then they of Galilee, had pronounced against Him; while both are now combined against Him and His word. The expression, “the Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem,” clearly implies that they were a deputation from the synagogue, representing the whole body of the Pharisees and scribes.
3. No doubt the peculiar arrangement adopted by Matthew was intended to indicate this state of matters. Hence the description of Christ’s conflict with the secular authorities is followed by that of the assaults on the part of the Pharisees and scribes.
4. The increasing bitterness of His enemies appears also from the circumstance, that they now charged Him, in presence of the people, with setting at nought popular traditions. They evidently seem to have regarded the conduct of the disciples as reflecting the teaching of their Master. Hence the Lord feels called upon to set before the people the contrast between self-righteous traditionalism and the eternal commandments of God. This He illustrates in connection with the first and most special law of humanity. But the principle here laid down embraces a far wider range. It condemns all dead traditionalism which is inconsistent with life, and indeed every ecclesiastical ordinance which in spirit or in form is incompatible with the fundamental principles of our humanity, with the institutions of God, or with the demands of our moral nature.

5. The mere traditions of men are plants which our Father in heaven has not planted. They have sprung from temporal motives, were subservient to temporal interests, and became a temporal curse to those who blindly followed them. Hence also they shall at last meet with an earthly fate, and be rooted up. According to Heubner, the future tense, here used, must be regarded as implying that a certain thing must necessarily be done. But although it is quite true that Christ by His word roots up the principle of tradition in His Church, yet the actual process of uprooting will take place in the course of those judgments which the progress of history shall evolve. Comp. 1 Corinthians 3:13.

6. The antithesis between the mouth in the physical and in the moral sense involved a principle by which all the ordinances concerning meats were removed, in view of and as fulfilled by the law of the spirit. This, indeed, was the main ground of offence to the Pharisees. However, it was not the intention of the Lord to annul on this occasion these ordinances, as little as He meant to enjoin the cessation of sacrifices when He quoted the saying of the prophet, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.” In the present instance also, a reference to the Hebrew expression would exhibit the right relationship between what was material and what immaterial (which had been perverted by hypocrisy), implying, as it did, that the latter was of no importance, and even contemptible, when contrasted with what in itself was material. On the symbolical import of these ordinances comp. the well known works on Old Testament Symbolism [by Bähr, Kurtz, Fairbairn], and the article Reinigkeit in Winer’s Bibl. Encycl. The religious lustrations prescribed in the law gave rise to the pharisaical ordinances concerning the washing of hands before meals. In His teaching the Lord goes back upon the fundamental principle of all lustrations, laying peculiar stress on the antithesis between what was external and what was internal, since the Pharisees were in danger of substituting what was intended as a symbol, for the reality to which it pointed.

7. The words of Jesus may be regarded both as a doctrinal and as a controversial statement. The charge of the Pharisees implied that He and His disciples were a company of defiled sinners. Our Lord retorts by showing that defilement really attached to the Pharisees, not in any outward sense, but by the wicked thoughts issuing from their hearts. The doctrine, that out of the heart come evil thoughts, is not inconsistent with the dogma concerning the devil, since Satan can only tempt man, not produce sin in him. Comp. James 1:14.

8. The moment when Christ turns from the rulers of the synagogue to address Himself to the people, is both highly significant in itself and typical. The same may be said of the fact, that immediately afterward He passed for the first time beyond the boundary of the Holy Land; not, indeed, directly into the coast of Tyre, although soon afterward into the territory of Sidon. “Perhaps He found it necessary to impress upon the disciples, who as yet could not fully receive the contrast between Pharisaism and the religion of the Spirit, that the curse of defilement hung over the Holy Land.” Similarly, Elijah, when he could no longer find a habitation in Judea, had passed into Phœnicia, and even tarried there for a time.


The welcome and the ban which awaited the Lord on His return into His own country.—The secret landing of the Lord anon a public event.—The secret arrival of Christ a blessed event for the poor and needy who trusted in Him.—How the Pharisees and scribes would have shut up the way of the Lord: 1. Opposing their human authority to His divine mission; 2. their vain scholastic questions to His heavenly Revelation 3:0. the objections of their traditionalism to His proclamation of mercy; 4. their miserable pretensions to His blessed reality; 5. their thoughts of death to His way of life.—Sad decay of the once glorious synagogue.—The small masters in the presence of the great Master. 1. They call on Him, who is the Judge and Saviour of the world, to rebuke His disciples; 2. to wash that hand which restores life and health; 3. to purify that mouth whose word and breath sanctify the world; 4. to hallow the meal of Him who is the bread of life.—The traditionalism of the elders in its antagonism to the law of the Eternal One: 1. By a perversion of the law it dares to prefer charges against Him who is the personal law; 2. by its traditions it renders vain even the eternal commandments of God; 3. under the mask of sanctity it dares to condemn everlasting righteousness itself.—Inseparable connection between zeal for traditions and hypocrisy.—How the Lord brings to nought the plans of these zealots: 1. By replying to them, (a) throwing light on their doctrine; (b) on their character; 2. by turning from them, (a) giving liberty to the people by the word of liberty; (b) giving liberty to His own disciples by the call of liberty: “Let them alone.”—Hypocrisy in its historical development: 1. What forms it assumed at the time of Isaiah 2:0. at the time of Christ; 3. in our own days.—The unprofitableness and the judgments of hypocrisy: 1. It is a spurious service of the lips; 2. it is a vain and external service of the temple; 3. it is the vain service of the schools (unreal in the family, in the church, in the school, and in the state).—Let us meet the hypocrisy of officialism by imitating the example of the Lord and turning to the people.—The teaching of the Pharisees, and the doctrine of the Lord. 1. The former exalt what is sensuous above that which is spiritual, the external (as, for example, washings, fasts, prayers, almsgiving, etc.) above the internal; while Jesus sanctifies what is external by that which is internal. 2. The Pharisees convert the emblem into the reality, and thereby destroy it; while Jesus merges in and fulfils the symbol by the reality.—The offence of the Pharisees.—Objections to traditionalism: 1. It wants a divine origin. It has not its root in truth or in life, and hence has neither divine authority nor divine efficacy. It will give way before divine institutions (it is rooted up); it must give way before spiritual civilization, like heathenism, or like primeval forests.—“Let them alone” ( Matthew 15:13), or justification of the Reformation by the mouth of the Lord.—The blind leaders of the blind. 1. What they have in common: (a) Their guilt; (b) their ultimate fate. 2. Wherein they differ: the blind leaders are responsible both for themselves and for those whom they mislead; but, on the other hand, it is equally sinful on the part of the blind to allow themselves to be led by blind leaders.—The fall into the ditch.—“Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth into the mouth,” etc.?—Terrible import of these words of the Lord in regard to those who pass moral judgments upon points connected with merely outward observances.—Even the mouth must be regarded as sacred to the Lord, and what it partakes becomes a spiritual feast, but only from its connection with, and dependence upon, the state of the heart.—If we seek purity in external things, our purification, being of the earth, will pass away.—That which proceedeth out of the mouth cometh forth from the heart.—Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life, Proverbs 4:23.—The deeds of the heart manifesting themselves by the words of the mouth.—Whatever cleaves to and defaces an object contrary to its purpose, defiles it; hence the defilement of sin.—The progress of that defilement which separates between the Lord and us: 1. Evil distinctions (exaltation of the outward over the inward); 2. adulteries (apostasy from the living God); 3. fornications (with the world and its pomp); 4. thefts (what is holy is taken from the Lord and given to the world); 5. false witnesses (lying accusations against what is holy); 6. blasphemies (see Matthew 12:0).—What defileth a man before God: 1. Wherein defilement consisteth; 2. how it is contracted.—How eternal purity answered the charge of defilement brought against it by impure sinners.—How the wondrous beauty, purity, and delicacy of the emblem may be perverted into impurity, if it is set up in opposition to the reality which it was intended to foreshadow.

Starke:—Nov. Bibl. Tub.: Those self-conceited hypocrites who boast of being the Church, are generally the worst enemies and persecutors of the kingdom of Christ. Full of impurity themselves, they represent as sin what is not sin, and spy out the liberty of Christians, Galatians 2:4; 2 Timothy 3:5.—What a shame that the name of God should be used as a pretext to cover ambition and covetousness! This the false church has always done.—Quesnel: A desire for new inventions, and love for old errors and superstitions, are the fruitful source whence the disturbances of the Church spring, 1 Timothy 1:4-7.—Cramer: This is the mark of all hypocrites and sanctimonious persons, that they treat as a matter of conscience things indifferent, while they deal lightly with things of which they should make a matter of conscience.—Woe to children who would rather see the back than the face of their parents, who would rather commit them to the grave than support them!—Quesnel: It is sacrilegious to devote to God what should have been given in fulfilment of duties to which the instincts of nature and the law of God equally point.—Hedinger: Beware of sanctimonious people: they deceive the simple, but are ignorant of Christ.—Nothing is to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving, 1 Timothy 4:4.—An unwashen mouth.—The heart in its natural state a poisonous fountain of evil thoughts.—Every plant, etc., 1 Corinthians 3:12.—It is quite possible to be spiritually blind while possessing accurate knowledge of the letter and even outward learning, Isaiah 56:10.—Nov. Bibl. Tub.: That which is external can neither defile nor sanctify what is within, but the mind and heart sanctify or defile the outward deed.—Gossner: Lying traditions are turned into truth, and the Word of God and the truth of Christ are condemned as lies and heresies.—God desires above all the heart.—Look to your plants. What does not proceed from God is not tolerated by God.—Preachers and hearers often lie in the same ditch of ignorance, worldliness, and pharisaical self-righteousness.

Lisco:—It is characteristic of a false faith to exalt the traditions of men above the commandments of God.—Gerlach:—It is characteristic of sin that it cannot remain quiescent, but must manifest itself outwardly, and thereby be completed.—A high reputation before men, and the applause of our cotemporaries, are of no avail in the kingdom of God if the new birth be wanting.—That which is external remains such, even though a man have received it internally.

Heubner:—Genuine and spurious purity.—The false teachers calling the heavenly Master to account.—They accuse Him of instilling into His disciples erroneous and dangerous principles.—Let us not be astonished when we see the most vain and heartless persons arrogating to themselves the post of leaders in religious matters.—Custom has frequently the most pernicious authority, and proves a fetter to the truth.—Immense difference between the traditions of men and the commandments of God.—Outward religious claims can never come into conflict with those of love.—None could have been further removed from a religion without love and righteousness than Christ.—Any religious or ecclesiastical usage which proves inconsistent with the law of love is an abomination unto Him.—The words of the prophets always true.—The human heart the same at different periods of time.—Man has a natural tendency to hypocrisy.—How careful are we to be outwardly pure, regardless of the state of matters within!—To follow Jesus, we must be free from all human authority.—The heart of man, which ought to be a temple of the Holy Spirit, naturally the dwelling-place of all abominations.


[1][See my critical note 6, p. 275. Cod. Sinait likewise puts the Pharisees first.—P. S.]

[2][The aposiopesis is clear in the parallel passage of Mark 7:11, after κορβᾶν, but he omits the second clause altogether, viz. the words: (καὶ) οὐ μὴ τιμήσει (τιμήσῃ), which create the only difficulty in our case.—P. S.]

[3][This is inconsistent with the preceding remark that the Saviour was unwilling to draw or to state the conclusion of the Pharisees.—P. S.]

[31] Matthew 14:34.—[Διαπράσατες, Ewald and Lange: da sie hinübergeschifft waren; G. Campbell: having passed over; A. Norton, Conant, and the N. T. of the A. B. U.: passing over; Rheims and Archbishop Kendrick (The Four Gospels, N. Y. 1849): having passed the water; Wiclif: whanne thei hadden passid ouer the see.—P. S.]

[32] Matthew 14:35.—[Lange: da die Leute … Ihn erkannten; Norton: when they saw who he was; Campbell, and Conant: knowing him, ἐπιγνόντες αὐτόν.—P. S.]

[33] Matthew 14:35.—[Εἰς ὅλην τὴν περί χωρον ἐκείνην, into the whole neighboring country; Lange: in die ganze Umgegend; Campbell: through all that country; Conant: into all that country round (omitting only the about of the E. V.—P. S.]

[34] Matthew 14:36.—[Κράσπεδα correspond to the צִרצִית, which the Jews were directed to wear on the corners of the outer garments, Numbers 15:38 sq. Campbell, and Kendrick translate: tuft; Norton, and Conant: fringe; all the older English versions to A. D. Matt 1611: hem—P. S.]

[35] Matthew 14:36.—[Campbell, Norton, and Conant drop: perfectly; but Lange retains it: (vollständig) geheilt, διεσώθησαν; Meyer: sie wurden durchgerettet, so dass sie sofort gesund aus der Krankheit hervorgingen.—P. S.]

[36]Ch. 15, Matthew 14:1.—[Simpler and better with modern translators and revisers: Pharisees, and Scribes from Jerusalem (dropping: which were), even in case we retain the article οί before ἀπό, which is omitted in the authorities of Lachmann and Tregelles, and also in Cod. Sinaiticus.—P. S.]

[37] Matthew 14:3.—[Διὰ τὴν παράδοσιν ὑμῶν, or on account of, or for the sake of (Conant), but not: on the pretense of (Norton), nor: by (E. V. and Campbell). The preposition διά with the accusative seldom, if ever, denotes instrumentality; besides this would not suit the connection; for, as Conant correctly remarks, “it was regard for tradition, as of higher worth and authority, which led them to set aside the word of God, and it is this with which they are here charged.” The Vulgate correctly translates: propter traditionem vestram; the Peschito (Syriac V.) likewise; on account of your tradition; Wiclif, Rheims: for your tradition; Cranmer: because of; Tyndale and Geneva B. falsely: through, for which the Bishops’ B. and King James’ B. substituted by. All the good German versions have: um .. willen, or wegen, on account of.—P. S.]

[38] Matthew 14:4.—[So according to the reading: ἐνετείλατο λέγων. But the older reading of manuscripts, versions, and patristic citations, is εῖπε, said (without commanded). So Lachm. and Tischend., while Alford retains ἐνετεἰλα το λἐγων. Lange puts geboten und (commanded and) in smaller type in parenthesis.—P. S.]

[39] Matthew 14:4.—[Θανάτῳ τελεντάτω, lit: shall end by death, shall be executed, the inaccurate LXX rendering of the intensive Hebrew form מוֹח יָמוּת, Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9.—P. S.]

[40] Matthew 14:5.—[His before father and mother, need not be italicized; the definite article in Greek (τῷ πατρὶ ἢτῇ μητρί) having here the force of our possessive pronoun.—P. S.]

[41] Matthew 14:5-6.—[The translation of this somewhat difficult sentence, which is generally regarded as elliptical, but not necessarily so, depends partly on the construction (see Exeg. Notes), partly on the reading. The common text reads, Matthew 14:6 : οὐ μὴ τιμήσῃ (which the E. V. co-ordinates with ἂν εἴπῃ, as a second part of the protasis: whosoever shall sayand honor not); but the majority of ancient critical authorities are in favor of the future: οὐ μὴ τιμήσει, either with καί (so Tischendorf and Alford), or without καί (as Lachmann and Tregelles read). The Cod. Sinait likewise omits καί, but reads τιμηση, and inserts after ὠφεληθῇς the words: ονδεν εστιν, which I have not seen in any other manuscript or critical apparatus (the reading is: ουδεν εστιν ου μη τιμηση τον πρα, abridged for πατέρα, etc.). The choice lies between the following explanatory translations: (1) But ye say:Whoever saith to his father or mother: ‘A gift’ [i.e., it is an offering consecrated to God, and therefore not alienable to other use], ‘whatsoever thou mightest be profited with from me’ [i. e., by which I might support thee]; and honor not (καὶ οὐ μὴ τιμήσῃ, coördinate with ἂν εἴπῃ, and second member of the protasis) his father or his mother …” (supply the apodosis: he shall be free, or is free, viz., from the obligation of the fifth commandment). And [words of the Saviour] ye have made the law of God of no effect, for the sake of your tradition. (2) Or, if we read (καὶ) οὐ μὴ τιμήσει, and commence here the words of the Lord, we must translate: But ye say: “Whoever saith to his father or his mother: ‘It it a gift [i.e., an inalienable altar-offering] from which thou mightest be benefited by me,’ ” … [supply the apodosis of the Pharisees: the same is not bound to honor or support his parents, since by doing so he would violate his vow, or alienate what belongs to God]. (And) he [words of Christ] shall in no wise honor his father or his mother. And thus ye have made the law of God of no effect, etc. So Meyer and Lange. But this ellipsis seems somewhat forced and unnatural. (3) Or, finally, we may regard the second clause, with Grotius, Bengel, Winer, and Conant, as the apodosis, no matter whether we read: καὶ οἰ μὴτι μὴσῃ, or οὐμὴ τι μήσει. I prefer the latter (without καὶ) as the older reading, and explain: But ye say: “Whoever saith, etc., he (the same) shall in no wise honor his father or his mother.” Thus have ye, etc. This explanation avoids the hypothesis of an aposiopesis and requires no supplement of an apodosis; it also retains the full force of οὐμὴ, a strong negative asseveration, which in connection with the future expresses earnest dissuasion or positive prohibition (as in Matthew 16:22 : οὐ μὴ ἒσται σοι τοῦτο). If we retain καί we must explain it, with Winer: “he too,” i.e., in such a case (comp. Winer’s Grammatik, etc., § 64 sub aposiopesis, p. 529, note: wer zu seinen Eltern sprichtder braucht auchin diesem Falleseine Eltern nicht zu ehren), or rendor with Scrivener: he shall not then honor. At all events it seems to me most natural to regard the second clause as the apodosis of the Pharisees, which expresses their decision and neutralizes the fifth commandment. The Saviour thinks it unnecessary to refute them and simply states the result: Thus ye have made the law if God of no effect.—Conant observes, that the ellipsis in the Common Version: he shall be free, “is supplied from Beza’s Latin Version: insons erit, and is one of the many evidences of its influence (often injurious) on King James’ revisers.”—P. S.]

[42] Matthew 14:6.—[The authorities are divided between τὴ νἐν τολὴν, the commandment, τὸν νόμον, the law (Tischend., Alford), and τὸν λόγον, the word (Lachm. and Tregelles.—P. S.]

[43] Matthew 14:8.—The words of the text. rec.: ἐγγίζει μοι ὁ λαὸς οὗτος τῷ στόματι αὐτῶν, are wanting in the oldest authorities [including Cod. Sinait.], and omitted in all critical editions [since Griesbach]. Probably an insertion from the Septuagint.

[44] Matthew 14:17.—[Leave out yet. The best authorities and editions read οὐ, not, for οὔπω, not yet. Dr. Lange includes such, yet, in parenthesis.—P. S.]

[45] Matthew 14:20.—[The Greek has always the definite article before ἄνθρωπος in this section, and the E. Vers, thus renders it in Matthew 14:18 : defile the man.—P. S.]

Verses 21-28

2. Christ’s Journey into the Heathen Coasts of Tyre and Sidon, and the Woman of Canaan. Matthew 15:21-28

(The Gospel for Reminiscere)

21     Then Jesus went thence,[4] and departed [withdrew, ἀνεχώρησεν] into the coasts [regions] of Tyre and Sidon. 22And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil [κακῶς δαιμοςίζεται]. 23But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away 24[dismiss her]5; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 25Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. 26But he answered and said, It is not meet6 to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to [little] dogs. 27And she said, Truth [Yea, Ναί], Lord: yet [for even]7 28the [little] dogs8 eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it [done, γενηθήτω] unto thee even9 as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.


Matthew 15:21. The journey of Jesus through the regions of Tyre and Sidon.—The representatives of the Pharisees and scribes at Jerusalem had not merely accused the Lord of transgressing the traditions, but also indirectly declared Him defiled, or profane, because in the circle of His disciples He had omitted the washing of hands. To this charge Jesus had replied, by convincing them of their own moral defilement, contracted by their words and thoughts. The interview had ended in their taking offence, which, of course, implied that Jesus was now to be formally accused of heresy. Accordingly, as previously in Judea, so now in Galilee, He could no longer show Himself openly without being exposed to their murderous plans. But His decease was to be accomplished at Jerusalem. Hence He withdrew from Galilee (ἀνεχώρησεν). It Was as if He were driven into the boundary lands of heathenism by His horror of Jewish hypocrisy, as well as by way of precaution against their designs. In the first place He passed northwest through the mountains of Upper Galilee, and into the border land of Phœnicia. Hence He literally went εἰςτὰμέρη, and not merely in that direction (Grotius, Bengel). But, according to Matthew 15:22, He only touched the heathen boundary line (Kuinoel, Vatablus, Meyer). From Mark 7:24 we infer that He had wished to continue there for some time in retirement, probably to prepare for further public movements. Thus He had, so to speak, been again driven to the very limits of human society, just as at His birth, on entering upon His office, and again at last on Golgotha. The Jewish world was closed against Him; nor had the hour yet come when the heathen world would be open to His word, the wall of separation not having yet been broken down by His death. For a season, Jesus seems hemmed up in the narrow border land between Canaan and Phœnicia, there to meditate in deep solitude upon His further movements. But He could not remain unknown. The healing of the Syrophenician woman’s daughter, who had discovered His presence in those parts, spread His fame. He now travelled northward through the territory of Sidon (Lachmann and Tischendorf read διὰ Σιδῶνος in Mark 7:31, after B., D., L.), and came to the foot of Mount Lebanon. Thence He paused (Mark 7:31) through the boundary land of Decapolis (i.e., the northern districts of the Decapolis, which according to Pliny included Damascus; according to Lightfoot, only Cesarea Philippi). Thus the Lord again arrived at the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. “As Jesus passed through the territory of Sidon from north to south, to return to the Sea of Galilee through the boundary districts of the Decapolis, He must have described a semicircle, passing through the mountain solitudes and valleys at the foot of Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, and close by the snow-capped top of Hermon. Under a deep sense of having been driven from His own country, He travelled through the solitudes of that district, His mind already engaged with the decease which He was to accomplish.” (Leben Jesu, ii. 2, 870.)

Matthew 15:22. And, behold, a woman of Canaan.—X αναναία, a Phœnician. “During the earliest times of Jewish history, several tribes of Canaanites, כְּנַעֲנִי, who were the original inhabitants of Palestine, ‘ad retired northward before the Israelites. From these the Phœnicians were descended. See Reland, Palestina, pp. 7, 50; Winer, Real-Wörterbuch; Lightfoot, in loc.” Meyer. Further particulars are given in the Gospel of Mark.—Came out.—From the territory beyond to the place where Christ was.—(Thou) Son of David.—The Messianic hopes of the Jews were well known. Besides, we conclude that the woman had somehow been informed that the Son of David, or the Messiah, was at hand. She believed, although from Matthew 15:26 it appears that she was not a proselyte of the gate, and the genuineness and spirituality of her faith required to be tried.—Have mercy on me.—Bengel: Suam fecerat pia mater miseriam filiœ. Of course, the heathens would share the Jewish belief in demoniacal possesions.

Matthew 15:23. Dismiss her.—Or, “have done with her,” as we might render the sense of ἀπόλυσον αὐτήν—leaving it indefinite whether this was to be accomplished by fulfilling or by refusing her request. The former, however, is more likely; for the answer of Jesus shows that the disciples had interceded on behalf of the woman. [Alford: “The word ἀπόλυσον does not necessarily imply granting her request, nor the contrary; but simply, dismiss her, leaving the method to our Lord Himself.” But Jesus, who penetrated into the heart of the disciples, interprets their request as an intercession in behalf of the poor woman ( Matthew 15:24), which agrees better, also, with their natural sympathy and charity.—P. S.]

Matthew 15:24. I am not sent hut to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.—The question has been urged, whether this statement implied a positive or a hypothetical refusal of the woman’s petition. Hase, de Wette, Stier, Ewald, and Meyer, hold that it was intended as a real refusal, which afterward, however, was overcome by the firm trustfulness of the woman. But what meaning do these commentators attach to the term overcome? Jesus could only be overcome as God Himself is overcome. In other words, for the sake of magnifying the office of faith, He allows the trial of our faith to assume the form of a conflict. On the other hand, it cannot have been His sole aim to try the faith of the woman (Chrysostom and others). If this were the case, the reply of Christ would still remain unexplained. In our view, the faith of the woman was tried in order to show that she really was a spiritual daughter of Abraham; in which case she would in truth be reckoned one of the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Possibly she might have attached only heathen ideas to the expression, Son of David, when her faith would merely have been superstition. This would become manifest, if, on trial, the spiritual elements were found to be wanting, viz., perseverance, humility, reflection, and confidence. In these respects the faith of the woman was now to be tried and proved. Such a test would show to the disciples that she really was a spiritual daughter of Israel. For, while showing mercy to those who were susceptible among the heathen, the Lord would not give offence to His own people in Israel. Hence it was necessary to prepare the disciples themselves to receive the woman into their fellowship. The same principle also regulated the progress of the Church subsequent to the feast of Pentecost. It is a summary solution of the question to say, that before Pentecost only Jews had been received, and afterward heathens also. If the heathens who were now received wanted outward circumcision, they had undergone the circumcision of the heart (Romans 2:0). Only as belonging to the spiritual Israel could they share in the salvation of Israel; and the believing Jews themselves were con strained to acknowledge that they had part with them (Acts 10:11), having previously been taught that they themselves were the true Israel, only under the same conditions of faith and circumcision of the heart. Thus the narrative of the text prefigures the future enlargement of the Church, and the reception of the heathen into it. And this at the right moment—when, on the one hand, the conduct of Israel had driven the Lord into the border land of heathenism; while, on the other, the anticipation of the ingathering of the heathen would elevate Him above the sorrow which weighed upon Him. But such individual instances of mercy shown to the heathen before the death of Christ, differ from the general call addressed to them after His decease, in that, in the former case, those who obtained mercy had become, so to speak, believing Israelites—owning the privileges of the chosen race and the validity of their law—while by the death of Christ the law itself was fulfilled, and therefore abolished, so far as its outward form was concerned.

Matthew 15:26. It is not meet, or proper.—The reading it is not lawful, is evidently a gloss or interpretation. Such a reply would have removed all doubt, and cut off-every hope; while the expression actually used allows the law of the spirit to shine through that of the letter. At first sight it might appear as if Jesus Himself designated this order of things “ex publico Judœorum affectu” (Erasmus). But a closer examination shows that this was not the case. For, while the Jews were wont to designate the heathen as dogs (Lightfoot, Suicer, Wetstein, Eisenmenger, Entdecktes Judenthum, 713), they are in the text only called κυνάρια, not κύνες; implying that they were not like the great wild dogs which in the East infested towns and villages, but that they might be compared to small dogs attached to households (in Luke 16:21, however, the word κύνες is used). This apparently slight distinction forms the basis of the woman’s reply. Besides, the antithesis—“to take the bread from the children and to give it to little dogs”—would serve to show the humane motive prompting the seemingly inhumane conduct—the Christian spirit under the Jewish guise, and to convince the woman that the question was not to be decided by any ordinance of traditionalism, but by the law of the spirit.

Matthew 15:27. Yea, Lord.—The word ναί by way of admission, not of contradiction; but not exclusively, or even primarily, referring to the designation “little dogs.” To have done so would have been to miss the meaning of Christ, although He had, no doubt, also intended to set before her mind the defilement clinging to her as a heathen. She acquiesces in the truth of the whole statement, humbly submitting to the judgment implied in the figure employed—that she had no right or title to the covenant-dispensation. But adopting this very figure (not with ἀλλά, as Chrysostom, Luther, [and our authorized version] have it, but with καὶγάρ, she converts it into an argument. Yea, Lord—she says—it is even so: it is not meet to give the children’s bread to the little dogs; but, on the contrary, the little dogs are sustained by what is left over from the superabundance on their master’s table. De Wette interprets: “For dogs must be content with the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” The meaning of her reply seems to be: Even so, Lord; for it is not customary for the children to suffer want in order that the little dogs may be fed, but rather that the latter are sustained by the crumbs which fall from the table.10 Viewed in this light, the reply is most becoming, indicating: 1. Humility, or submission to a figure which apparently involved shame and, as understood by the Jews, reproach. 2. Perseverance, transforming a seeming refusal into an implied promise of help. 3. Spirituality, recognizing under the repulsive garb of the figure, the mind of Christ, whose love and benevolence she realized even through the unpromising medium. Evidently she beheld the rich fulness of Christ and of His kingdom. 4. Confidence, that the goodness and grace of the Lord were unlimited and illimitable.

Matthew 15:28. O woman, great is thy faith.—Thu showing that, in the one main point, she was one of the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

From that very hour.See Matthew 9:22; John 4:53. An instance of healing at a distance, as in Matthew 8:13; John 4:0. The intermediate link in this case was the heart of the mother, so closely knit to that of her daughter; as in the other two instances it had been the paternal affection of the royal officer, and the deep faith of the centurion at Capernaum.


1. Christ banished as impure from the Holy Land, and passing through heathen countries. Historical parallels: Elijah, Paul.

2. The conduct of Christ in this case was occasioned by His twofold desire of influencing His disciples, as well as trying the faith of the woman. When her deep trustfulness became apparent, it must at the same time have evoked in the disciples the conviction that she was a genuine daughter of Abraham. It was not, and could not be, the intention of the Saviour to form a new communion of believing heathens by sweeping away the old communion of believing Israelites. Thus the event here recorded was not an exception to His ordinary dealings, but rather a symbolical directory which afterward guided the conduct of the Apostles; comp. Acts 10:11, and the journeys of Paul to Jerusalem, with which each of his missionary expeditions terminated.

3. When modifying the Jewish prejudice to the effect of treating as little dogs, who are included in the economy of mercy, those whom the Jews would have excluded from it as mere dogs, our Lord expresses the theocratic contrast between Judaism and heathenism in such a manner as to enable the woman to urge it in support of her plea. As ordained by God, this contrast implied that salvation was to be communicated to the heathen through the spiritual training and preparation enjoyed by Israel. But this arrangement had been perverted by Jewish prejudice, and the heathen were represented as impure dogs who had no part in the divine economy, and were excluded from the hope of salvation. Christ rectified this error by transforming the term of reproach employed by prejudice into a parable. It is not meet to take the bread from the children of the house, and to give it in the first place to the little dogs. Not that He implied that the house was poor, but that the time for the little dogs had not yet arrived. And such, indeed, was the general rule. But in her spiritual wisdom the woman took up the other aspect of the figure. The house and the table—she urged—are both full, and even during the meal crumbs fall to the ground. These may surely be eaten by the little dogs. Thus, while acknowledging the arrangements of the Old Testament economy, she exalted the fulness of Christ, which far exceeds all limitations.

4. On the miraculous cures at a distance, comp. my Leben Jesu, ii. 1, 275. These mysterious communings of mind form, so to speak, the basis for gracious blessings granted in answer to intercessory prayer.


The journey of Jesus through heathen territory an implied injunction of missionary labor.—As Judaism gradually closed, the heathen world commenced to open to the gospel.—The new place of retreat of the Lord.—The sorrows and joys of the Lord on this journey.—How the worldly-mindedness of His professing people always drove Him anew into the wilderness: 1. In His infancy; 2. after His baptism; 3. in the midst of His activity; 4. before His last sufferings; 5. at His ascension.—Elijah and the widow of Sarepta (1 Kings 17:9); Jesus and the woman of Canaan.—The woman of Canaan; or, successful prayer: 1. So earnest; 2. so believing; 3. so humble; 4. so wise; 5. so instant and persevering; and hence, 6. with such glorious results.—Boldness of this petitioner: 1. She cried after Him; 2. she fell down before Him.—Greatness of the trial to which the Lord subjected her faith: 1. Her difficulties: (a) He answered her not a word; (b) He appeared to refuse her request,—“I am not sent,” etc.; (c) He gave her a seemingly harsh reply: “It is not meet,” etc. 2. Yet there was hope for her: (a) He gave not a positive refusal, or did not turn from her; (b) He spoke of the lost sheep, or reasoned with her; (c) He only said that the little dogs were not to be fed if it deprived the children of their bread, or He put a plea into her mouth.—How it must clearly appear that ours is genuine faith, and not superstition, if we are to have part in the salvation of Israel.—How even the heathen may, in the sight of the Lord, belong to, the lost sheep of the house of Israel.—How the Lord trains His disciples to be apostles to the heathen.—Shortcomings in the intercession of the disciples: 1. Their motive was good (the woman required help, and the Lord was able to grant it); 2. their arguments were insufficient (they were molested by her cries); 3. but even these insufficient arguments indicated the presence of love and compassion (the cry of a heathen went to their heart, and they forgot their Jewish prejudices).—It is impossible to continue cherishing fanaticism if we but rightly understand the cry of the human heart for help.—Why the Lord would have the disciples receive the woman into their communion.—Let us not go forth to the heathen attempting to win souls for a particular sect at home.—Exclamation of astonishment about the faith of this poor heathen.—Glorious declaration, “Be it done to thee even as thou wilt.”—The greatness of her faith consisted in great humility, great trustfulness, and great ardor, notwithstanding a very small measure of knowledge.—Maternal love and faith here combined.—Thus the Lord showed Himself victorious over the devils even among the heathen.—Intercession as opening up the heathen world to Christ.—How the longing of the world and the compassion of the Church meet and combine at the footstool of Jesus.

Starke:Canstein: God withdraws His gracious presence from those who are weary of it, and who despise His word and benefits: Acts 13:46; Hosea 5:15 :—If we listen to the doctrine of men, we shall lose sight of Christ, Galatians 5:4.—Zeisius: It is the gracious will of God that even the heathen should be gathered into the kingdom of Christ, Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6.—Hedinger: God frequently exercises His people by manifold trials; He even appears to be cruel in delaying His aid, in order to draw out their prayers and to prove their faith.—Canstein: Even the tyranny of Satan must be subservient to the glory of the divine name.—Lo, how the cross drives people into the arms of our blessed Saviour!—O thou precious cross, how very needful and useful thou art!—Prosperity leads from Christ, but adversity brings to Him.—Parents should feel the misery of their children as deeply as their own; but the greatest of all afflictions is, if they are under the dominion of Satan, and do his works.—Parents should be concerned for the physical, and still more for the spiritual, well-being of their children.—Canstein: God is faithful, who adapts the measure of our temptations to that of the grace given us, 1 Corinthians 10:13.—It is sinful to spend upon dogs or other animals that by which we ought to relieve men, who are the children of God.—We should not withhold even from animals their necessary sustenance.—Osiander: It is a grievous temptation to think that you are not one of Christ’s sheep; still, continue to cleave implicitly to Christ, and you will overcome—Quesnel: A genuine penitent will not be discouraged by the way in which God deals with him.—Faith will only increase, not decrease under trials, 1 Peter 1:6-7.—The Lord is near to all that call on Him, Psalms 145:18.—Intercession, James 5:14-15.—If we desire to receive from God what we ask, we must be content first to bear what God may be pleased to send, even though it were the greatest trial.—The prayers and the faith of parents bring down the richest blessing upon their children.

Gossner:—The Canaanites, once so corrupted that they had to be expelled from the Holy Land, lest the Jews might be ruined by their contact, were now in fact better than the Jews, and this woman left her home to meet Jesus.11—If we would show mercy, we should not be too hasty, but proceed cautiously.

Gerlach:—The woman of Canaan had heard little of Christ; but her faith shows how even small knowledge may produce great effects, if received into a humble and broken heart.—Analogous passages of Scripture: the parable of the unjust judge, Luke 18:8; the wrestling of Jacob, Genesis 32:24; the distress of Moses, Exodus 4:24; the cry of Jesus, Matthew 27:46 (Psalms 22:0).—It is remarkable how, in a certain sense, this woman rectified the words of Jesus; but this arises from the nature of the thing.—The law, which accuses and condemns man, is removed by the grace which faith appropriates.

Heubner:—Expelled from His own country, Christ still remained faithful to it.—He often delayeth His answer, lest we should grow weary of calling upon Him, and that although the promise remaineth true, Isaiah 65:24, “Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.”—Let us not be tempted to treat the entreaties of any one as troublesome. Res sacra miser.Chrysostom: Jesus fulfilled even the law which prohibited the Jews from having communion with the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 7:0; although it only applied to their idolatrous customs, comp. the life of Elijah), in order that He might be able to say, Which of you convinceth me of sin? John 8:46.—A Christian combines love to his own country with affectionate interest in the world generally.—Import of the word “nevertheless,” to which the Christian cleaves in pleading with God, Psalms 73:23-26.—Truth, Lord; yet.12—The whole system of faith contained in these three words.—In one sense I have no claim upon Thee yet in another I have.—Faith will stand the most searching and painful trial, and at last obtain the victory.—“Truth, Lord” (humility); yet (faith).—Bengel: Let us ever bear in mind that we are heathens.—We should be glad to receive the crumbs which fall from the table, instead of attempting to jump upon it, and even to upset it—Chrysostom: “Great is thy faith:” thou hast not seen a single miracle; thou hast not heard any one of the prophets; thou hast not been trained in the law; thou hast been passed by and treated with contempt by Me. Still thou hast persevered; receive then the acknowledgment of thy faith.—Noble mother of Canaan! how many mothers has thy example encouraged!—Wisdom and grace of Jesus in His dealings with the woman of Canaan: 1. In drawing her; 2. in trying her; 3. in rewarding her.—The woman of Canaan a figure of the Christian wrestling in faith—Faith and prayer are inseparable.

Reinhard:—On the connection between true humility before God and genuine confidence in Him.—Mehliss: Even when help is deferred our confidence should not fail.—Bachmann: The Lord the Author and the Finisher of our faith.—Krabb (of Langenberg): Jesus and the woman of Canaan; or, faith: 1. How it wrestles; 2. how it conquers.

[Matthew Henry:—Those whom Christ intends most signally to honor, He first humbles and lays low in a sense of their own meanness and unworthiness. We must first feel ourselves to be as dogs, less than the least of all God’s mercies, before we are fit to be dignified and privileged with them.—Christ delights to exercise great faith with great trials, and sometimes reserves the sharpest for tie last, that being tried, we may come forth like gold.—Special ordinances and church privileges are children’s bread, and must not be prostituted to the grossly ignorant and profane. Common charity must be extended to all, but spiritual dignities are appropriated to the household of faith.—If we cannot reason down our unbelief, let us pray it down.—“Great is thy faith.” The woman had many graces, wisdom, humility, meekness, patience, perseverance in prayer; but these were the fruits of her faith, which of all graces honors Christ most; therefore of all graces Christ honors faith most.—P. S.]


[4] Matthew 15:21.—[Lit: went forth from thence (ἐξελθὼν ἐκεῖθεν); Lange: ging aus von dort.—P. S.]

[5] Matthew 15:23.—[Lange translates ἀπόλυσον αυτήν: finde sie ab, either by granting or refusing her request; Campbell, Norton, Conant, Alford: dismiss her. So also Meyer: entlasse sie, viz., by granting her request, which is implied in the answer of Christ, Matthew 15:24.—P. S.]

[6] Matthew 15:26.—Fritzsche, Lachmann, Tischendorf, [Alford] read: οὐκἔξεστι, following D. and some versions and fathers [instead of the text. rec. οὐκ ἔστι καλό, it is not good, or proper]. A false interpretation. [Meyer derives the received reading from Mark 7:27, and prefers οὐκ ἔξεστι, es ist nicht erlaubt, it is not lawful, it is wrong. Lange retains the received reading and translates καλόν: fein. Codd. Alex., Vatic., and Sinait. sustain the text, rec.: οὐκ ἔστι καλόν—P. S.]

[7] Matthew 15:27.—[Καὶ γάρ cannot mean yet (Luther: aber doch; Campbell: yet exen), which denotes opposition, and would qualify the preceding affirmative: Yea, but for also, nam etiam, or nam et (Lat. Vulgate), denn auca (Lange), by which the woman supports her assent to the Saviour’s assertion and turns it to her own account. Alford: “The sense of καὶ γάρ is not given by ‘yet’ in the E. V. The woman, in her humility, accepts the appellation which our Lord gives her, and grounds her plea upon an inference from it.… Our Lord, in the use of the familiar diminutive [κυνάρια], has expressed not the uncleanness of the dog, so much as his attachment to and dependence on the human family; she lays hold on this favorable point, and makes it her own, ‘if we are dogs, then may we fare as such:—be led with the crumbs of Thy mercy.’ She was, as it were, under the edge of the table—close on the confines of Israel’s feast.” Comp. also Lange’s Exeg. Note.—P. S.]

[8] Matthew 15:27.—[Lit. here and in Matthew 15:26 : little dogs, κυνάρια; Vulg.: catelli; Luther and Lange: Hündlein. The Lord purposely softened the harsh term, and caused his mercy to shine through the Jewish contempt of the heathen. Comp. Exeg. Notes.—P. S.]

[9]Ver 28.—[Even is an unnecessary insertion of the E. V.—P. S.]

[10][So also Wordsworth: “Yea, Lord, Thou sayest true, it is not right to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs: for the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their master’s table. Let me therefore have not bread, but only crumbs; and do not give me even them, but let me pick up what falls from the table. A beautiful image of the humility of the faithful Gentiles, hungering and thirsting for the least fragments of the gospel which dropped from the table of the Jews who despised It” Comp. Alford’s explanation quoted above.—P. S.].

[11][This thought is borrowed from St. Chrysostom.—P. S.].

[12][Assuming this rendering of the Authorized English Version, and the corresponding German Version of Luther (aber doch) to be correct, against which compare the Exeg. Notes.—P. S.].

Verses 29-38

3. The Second Miraculous Feeding. Matthew 15:29-38

29And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the Sea of Galilee.; and [he] went up into a mountain, and sat down there. 30And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed,13 and many others, and 31cast them down at Jesus’ [his] feet;14 and he healed them: Insomuch [so] that the multitude [multitudes, τοὺς ὂχλους] wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak [speaking, λαλοῦντας], the maimed to be whole [whole], the lame to walk [walking], and the blind to see [seeing]: and they glorified the God of Israel. 32Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way. 33And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude? 34And Jesus saith unto 35them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes. And he commanded the multitude [multitudes, ὄχλοις] to sit [lie] down on the ground. 36And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. 37And they did all eat [all ate], and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat [of the fragments] that was [were] left seven baskets full. 38And they that did eat [ate] were four thousand men, besides women and children.


Matthew 15:29. From thence,further on; μεταβἀς. See above.

And sat down there.—He must needs return to His people. Accordingly, after having passed round the sources of Jordan, He again arrived at the eastern shore of the sea, and sat down there, or settled on the mountain,—i.e., continued His solitary communing in prayer. But He could not remain unknown.

Matthew 15:30.—The text here introduces a new description of sufferers, the κυλλοί, or maimed in hands or feet. Perhaps the term may allude to cretins.—The people cast them down at His feet,—indicating, according to Bengel and Meyer, their haste; according to Fritzsche and de Wette, implicit confidence; and according to Baumgarten-Crusius, the helplessness of the persons who were afflicted. But may it not at the same time indicate both the rudeness of these mountaineers, and their confidence, boldness, and their rapid movements in order to bring to the feet of Jesus all who were diseased? Among these cures Mark specially instances that of a deaf and dumb person (Mark 7:32).

Matthew 15:31. They glorified the God of Israel.—These remote mountaineers knew little of the Messianic character of Jesus. Probably they had adopted many heathen notions, and were wont to compare other gods with the God of Israel. Hence they now glorified the God of Israel, in consequence of the miracles of Him whom they acknowledged as His prophet.

Matthew 15:32-38. But Jesus called His disciples to Him.—The case was much more urgent than on the former occasion. The multitude had followed Him from the mountains, and not, as formerly, gathered in preparation for the festival of Easter. For three days they had continued with Him, partly forgetful of the wants of nature. Such scanty provision as they had brought with them was consumed. There was no possibility of either going into neighboring towns, or quickly returning across the lake. They could only retire to their mountain homes through the passes by which they had followed Him. They might therefore readily faint by the way. Similarly, the case was one of much greater difficulty than formerly. The multitudes here collected were more ignorant of the extent of Christ’s power. On the other hand, the supply of the disciples was somewhat larger—seven loaves and a few fishes; whilst the multitude was smaller, at least by a thousand men. These circumstances will explain why the disciples in their discouragement designated their fishes as ἰχθύδια, and why Christ here commanded (ἐκέλευσε) the multitude to sit down.

From the similarity of this narrative to that of the first feeding of the people, and from the evident perplexity of the disciples, Schleiermacher and others have erroneously inferred that Matthew had here a second time reported one and the same fact. Krabbe, Hoffmann, Ebrard, and others controvert this view. Meyer thinks that the two events were different; but that the narratives had, in the course of tradition, become more like each other than the facts themselves. But the difference between them appears even in the terms for the baskets (σπυρίδες, baskets for provisions) in which the fragments were gathered, and in the circumstance that there were seven of them. Meyer: “The seven baskets correspond to the number of the loaves; the twelve baskets to that of the Apostles.” If it be asked why less was left over when the provision had been originally greater, and the number of guests smaller, we might, perhaps, in reply, point to the difference in the baskets. But if the twelve baskets implied that the Lord would make abundant provision for all the Apostles if they surrendered everything for Him, the seven baskets may indicate both that He would richly reward their sacrifices (seven baskets for seven loaves), and that their requirements were diminishing since their pilgrimage was nearing its end.


As above in the account of the first feeding of the multitude, Matthew 14:14-21.


They cast those who were afflicted at Jesus’ feet.—Cast all your care upon Him.—How the gracious help of the Lord should incite us to compassion.—Christ and His cures: 1. The variety of sufferings (the maimed also); 2. the rude attendants; 3. the Saviour always ready to help.—The repetition of the miraculous feeding of the multitude reminding us of the words of the Lord, “The poor ye have always with you.”—Comparison between the two occasions on which the multitudes were fed: 1. The second occasion was seemingly less distinguished than the first (seven loaves, five loaves; five thousand, four thousand; twelve baskets, seven baskets). 2. In reality, it was greater. (On the first occasion the people knew Him well, while on the second they were ignorant mountaineers from the utmost boundaries of the land; on the first occasion the crowd was preparing to go up to the feast, while on the second it was gathered from the mountains; on the first occasion the miracle took place at the close of the first day, but on the second after they had continued for three days with Jesus.) Similarly, the results were different. (On the first occasion they would have made Him their king, while on the second they glorified the God of Israel.)—What lessons the Lord here imparts for Christian households. He teaches them: 1. Confidence in His own superabundant riches; 2. carefulness in the use of the blessings which He bestows on them.—Provision is always made for the women and children along with the men.—The circumstance that the women and children are not specially mentioned, implying a promise for their provision.

Starke: See how obtuse our reason is when we continue to harbor doubts and unbelief, although we have so many evidences of the power and goodness of our God, Numbers 11:18-23.—Osiander: When God bestows His blessing, that which seemeth little becometh much.—Cramer: Nature is satisfied with plain fare (bread and fishes).—To eat and be satisfied are always combined when God spreads the table for His children.—Carefulness turns everything to account.—Quesnel: The more liberally we employ the gifts of God in a manner pleasing to Him, the more abundantly shall we receive of them, Galatians 6:9.—Luther: Let us frequently think of the great multitude of peoples who daily sit down at God’s table, and are satisfied. This will help us to glorify the love and power of our God.—Quesnel: Let heads of houses rely upon the divine provision, however numerous their families, Psalms 37:25.

Lisco:—Erroneously: “This event occurred near Magdala, a city by the Lake of Galilee.”—Gerlach: Magdala, a city by the Lake of Galilee, not far from Gadara.—This mistake seems to have originated with Lightfoot and Wetstein.

Heubner:—The less the people thought about eating and drinking, the more did Christ care for their wants.—“Many children, many prayers.”—Christ the spiritual Head of the house.—The Christian parent after the example of Christ.


[13] Matthew 15:30.—The order in the enumeration of the sick varies in the critical authorities. The one followed in the text is supported by E., G.. R., etc., Lachmann.

[14] Matthew 15:30.—[For the text. rec.: πόδας τοῦ Ἰησοῦ, all the critical editions read πόδας αὐτοῦ, His feet. So also Lange in his version.—P. S.]

Verse 39


Matthew 15:39 to Matthew 16:12

Contents:Although the Lord landed privately on the western shore near Magdala, He was immediately met by His enemies. The combined authorities of the country now demand of Him to prove His claims to the Messianic title by showing that sign from heaven, which in their carnal expectations they connected with the appearance of the promised Deliverer. Their object evidently was to represent His probable refusal of their request as an acknowledgment of His being a false Messiah. Jesus dismisses them with a rebuke, In which He again points them to the sign of Jonah, i.e., to His death and resurrection. Thus rejected in Galilee, He immediately returns across the sea to the eastern shore, there to prepare in retirement for His last journey to Jerusalem. The warning addressed to the disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees and scribes was intended to teach them that they were now to forsake Galilee, which had practically surrendered itself to heathenism, just as Hoses and his people had left the land of Egypt.

1. The Sign from Heaven. Matthew 15:39 to Matthew 16:4

Matthew 15:39 And he sent away the multitude [multitudes, ὄχλους], and took ship [entered into the ship],15 and came into the coasts of Magdala [Magadan].16

Matthew 16:1 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came,17 and tempting, desired him 2that he would shew [to show] them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be18 fair weather: for the sky is red. 3And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites,19 ye can [ye know how to]20 discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? 4A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign [and no sign shall] be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet21 Jonas [Jonah]. And he left them, and departed.


Matthew 15:39.—Into the coasts of Magdala [Magdalan, Magadan].—The circumstance that Jesus secretly lands in an obscure and unknown place, throws considerable light on the degree of hostility and persecution which He had to encounter during His last journey in Galilee. The watchfulness of the Jewish leaders appears from this, that despite the precautions used by the Lord, they are seemingly ready immediately to meet Him, this time with a categorical demand.—Magdalan lay on the western shore of the lake. Probably it is the modern small Village of el Mejdel, about an hour and a half to the north of Tiberias, and protected toward the sea by high cliffs (Robinson, ii. 897; Schubert, iii. 250). Robinson enumerates the various arguments against placing it on the eastern shore of the lake. In all likelihood the name of Mary Magdalene was derived from this place, which also gave birth to several of the Rabbins mentioned in the Talmud. According to Mark 8:10, the landing took place in the district of Dalmanutha, probably a village not far from Magdalan. We conjecture that the Lord touched the shore somewhere between these two villages, and nearer to Dalmanutha than to Magdalan—the account in Mark being the more accurate, while Matthew only speaks of Magdalan, as being the place more generally known. Winer suggests that Magdalan was the מִגְרַּל אֵל of the Old Testament; Ewald, that it was Megiddo, which, however, according to Robinson, 2:329, lay farther inland. The view of Ewald is based on the reading Μαγεδάν, in Codd. B., D., the Syriac version, etc. (which has been adopted by Lachmann and Tischendorf), and with which the reading Μαγεδάν (Vulg., Ital.) may be compared. But Codd. C., M., the Coptic translation, etc., read Μαγδαλάν. Now it is quite possible, either that this difference of reading may have originated from a desire to assimilate this name to that of a better known place, or else that Magada, the name of an obscure village on the lake, may have been converted into that of the well-known birthplace of Mary Magdalene.

Matthew 16:1. And the Pharisees and (the) Sadducees.—According to Strauss and de Wette, this is the same event as that recorded in Matthew 12:38. The remark is true, but only so far as the spirit, the tendency, and some of the external features, not so far as the peculiar characteristics, of the narrative are concerned. Evidently, it occurred at a later period of history; the place where the Saviour landed, the demand made upon Him, and His reply, are all different. Strauss and de Wette regard it as improbable that the Pharisees and Sadducees should have combined. And yet these two parties must have united in the Sanhedrin which condemned Jesus to death! Instead of such idle conjectures, it would have been well if critics had rather inquired how it came that the two parties even at this early period united in their hostility to the Saviour. That both the Pharisees and the Sadducees are introduced with the article,1 implies that in this case they represented the hierarchical authorities of the country generally. In the former contest, the Synagogue alone had been represented, while now in all probability the Sanhedrin itself, in its official capacity, deals with Jesus. Hence also the express demand of a sign from heaven, which may be considered as the logical inference from the last interview between the Pharisees and Jesus. On that occasion, the Saviour had not only discarded the authority of traditionalism, but His statements might even be interpreted as implying superiority to the law itself. This they knew was equivalent to asserting His claims as the Messiah. Accordingly, they now gave full utterance to the idea which the Pharisees of Galilee had previously urged, though in a less distinct manner ( Matthew 12:0), by demanding a sign from heaven. Withal, as Theophylact remarks, their request still implies the supposition that the miraculous cures performed by Him had been effected by the power of Beelzebul.

Tempting (πειράζοντες), or in order to tempt Him.—This does not necessarily imply the presupposition that He was really a false Messiah, and hence unable to show the sign from heaven. For, if He had acceded to their request, they would have been well satisfied with Him, and He would have been a Messiah according to their own mind, pledged to fulfil all their carnal hopes (see Matthew 4:0) Repeatedly afterward did they utter their secret desire that it might even be so; nor does this hope seem to be wholly extinct even in the derisive taunt, “If He be the Son of God let Him come down from the cross.” But these carnal hopes were already in great measure eclipsed by their unbelief and their hostility. Hence the primary object of this twofold temptation was to represent Jesus to the people as a spurious Messiah, who was unable to substantiate His claims.

A sign from heaven.—The same request had already been proffered by the Jews after He had driven from the temple those that bought and sold (John 2:18); and His reply “Destroy this temple,” etc., substantially conveyed the same meaning as the answer given on the occasion recorded in the text. A second demand to the same effect was made, according to John 6:30, immediately after the first miraculous feeding of the multitude, or about the same time as the request mentioned in Matthew 12:38; a proof that the artifice of entrapping Him by such a proposal was at the time further carried out. In the text, this demand is brought forward a third time, and now in most explicit language. This sign from heaven was popularly expected to be outwardly visible; such passages as Daniel 7:13 being interpreted in a sensuous manner, and probably referred to some visible manifestation of the Shechinah. From the answer of Christ, in which the appearance of the clouds as a sign of the weather is subordinated to the signs of the spiritual world, we infer that the Pharisees and Sadducees shared the popular notions. The sign which they expected was, therefore, something purely external, belonging to a totally different sphere from the miraculous cures performed by Jesus. That the term ἐπερωτᾷν implies not merely questioning (as Fritzsche and Meyer suppose), but a formal demand, appears from die reply of Jesus: γενεά, κ.τ.λ., σημεῖον ἐπιζητεῖ, and from the meaning of ἠρώτων in Matthew 15:23. The reply of Jesus is entirely adapted to the character of the deputation. If on a former occasion He had convinced the deputation from the synagogue that they were wretched teachers of the law, He now shows that these rulers were equally indifferent politicians, i.e., very superficial observers of the signs of the times. They knew how to prophesy the weather for the ensuing day, but not how to interpret the signs of the times.

Matthew 16:2-3. When it is evening.Curiosi erant admodum Judæi in observandis tempestatibus cæli et temperamento aëris. Lightfoot. We would suggest that the Lord attached a symbolical meaning to what He said about the signs of the weather. The red at even of the Old Testament betokened fair weather at hand. Similarly, the red sky at the commencement of the New Testament indicated the storm about to descend upon Israel. But they were incapable of understanding either one or other of these signs.

Matthew 16:3. The signs of the times.—The plural τὰ σημεί͂α τῶν καιρῶν is here used on account of the contrast of these two times. Beza, Kuinoel, and others, apply the expression to the miracles of Jesus; Grotius, to the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies; Meyer and de Wette, to the Messianic hopes and views entertained by the people in connection with Jesus. But undoubtedly these signs of the times depended mainly on their own relationship and conduct toward the Lord, which really constituted the contrast between this evening and morning, or the contrast of these καιρῶν. Accordingly, we might apply the redness of the sky at evening to the activity of Christ, and the red and lowering sky in the morning to His sufferings on the cross. This would strictly accord with His sign of the prophet Jonah. Besides, the reply of Jesus also involved the rebuke, that their views of the sign from heaven were entirely carnal and sensuous, applying only to the clouds and the outward sky; while the true sign from heaven consisted in the spiritual indications of the times. The circumstance that Jesus thus addressed the Pharisees and Sadducees before the people, seems to have been the reason why Luke records the event in a different connection (Luke 12:54). Compare also the μὴ μετεωρίζεσθε of Luke 12:29.

Matthew 16:4. The sign of Jonah.—This time without any further explanation; implying that their present demand was connected with the former request of the Pharisees (Luke 12:0), and hence that they were already acquainted with His explanation of the sign of Jonah. As if He would say, I refer you to My former statement on this subject as sufficient and final.

And He left them.—This abrupt termination indicates that He judicially gave them up. Bengel: Justa severitas. Comp. Matthew 15:10; Matthew 21:17; Matthew 22:46; Matthew 24:1. But the strongest evidence of this judicial surrender lies in the fact that Jesus at once passed to the eastern shore, and in His warning of the disciples against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Manifestly Jesus now immediately returned with His disciples to the other side. (Comp. here Meyer against Fritzsche.)


1. The demand of the Pharisees for a sign from heaven was certainly in itself no absurdity. But it depended upon an entire confusion of the first and the second advent of Christ. It is quite true that the prophecies on which they founded their views contained references to vast transformations in the world which would result from the completion of Christ’s mission. But as the death and resurrection of Christ are related to the end of the world as the principle to the full development, or as the seed-corn to the ripe fruit, so also is the sign of Jonah (or Christ’s death and resurrection) most definitely connected with those signs from heaven which shall usher in the final catastrophe. Indeed, strictly speaking, it is the sign from heaven in principle which by and by will also appear in the clouds of heaven (Matthew 24:30).

2. Ye know how to discern the face of the sky, but.—Of course this statement does not imply that it was easier to interpret the signs of the spiritual world than those of the sky. But the former, and not the latter, was the calling and business of the Sanhedrin, while in reality they were better prophets of the weather than interpreters of those prophecies which it was their duty to expound. Besides, the statement also indicates that the signs of the sky are uncertain, and may deceive us; while moral signs, if properly understood, never mislead.

3. Mark relates that the Saviour sighed deeply in spirit when His enemies again met Him with this demand. He fully comprehended the decisive importance of that hour. Henceforth He could no longer tarry in Galilee—Galilee rejected Him. This holds even more true of Judea, whence these persecutions issued. The Master felt that now only a brief time of respite was left Him on the other side of Jordan, to prepare Himself and His intimate disciples for the decease at Jerusalem.
4. This was the third occasion on which Jesus was driven from Galilee, and passed over the lake into the mountains. The first time it was to avoid the court of Herod; the second time He retreated before the traditionalism of the schools; the third time before the hardened hierarchy of the whole country.


The demand of a sign from heaven; or, the old temptation under a new form. 1. The old temptation: (a) The proposal itself, to be a worldly Messiah, a Jewish conqueror, not a Saviour of nations; to overthrow the old world, not to renew the spiritual world by regeneration, and thereby to transform the external world. (b) Why a temptation? Because it was based upon elements of truth which were perverted into error. 2. The new form of this temptation, (a) It was under the guise of a sign from heaven; (b) partly an allurement and partly a threat, forming a transition from the temptations from the pleasures of the world (Matthew 4:0) to those from its sufferings (Matthew 26:0); (c) it was urged with the evident intention to represent the Lord to the people as a false Messiah, and thus to destroy His influence, even if He escaped their hands.—How the Jewish politicians, in their knowledge of the weather, overlooked the signs of the spiritual weather: (a) They lost the brightest day; (b) they encountered the severest storm.—The successors of the prophets sunk to the level of weather-prophets,—a warning example.—How even their superficial knowledge of nature would rise in testimony against their theology.—Why the Lord here calls them hypocrites? (a) Because they neglected and misunderstood those spiritual signs which it was their calling to interpret, while, on the other hand, they gave themselves to the interpretation of outward signs with which they had no business; (b) because in general they perverted their spiritual into a secular calling.—Outward calculations of things always end in this, that a man at last becomes slavishly dependent upon wind and weather.—How most men allow themselves to be so engrossed by the signs of the visible sky as to overlook what is going on in the spiritual sky.—The true signs of the time.—Signs at evening and in the morning in the kingdom of God.—Let us not be dependent on wind and weather, but look up to the Sun of righteousness.—Why no other sign than that of Jonah could be given to this evil and adulterous generation.—He left them and departed; or, the decisive hour: 1. His death was now decided upon; 2. their fall and judgment were now decided; 3. the grand course of events during the long-suffering of Christ, from His resurrection to His second advent, was now decided; 4. the future condition of the Church as sharing the fate of her banished and persecuted Lord was now decided; 5. the termination of the old things of this world by the final judgment was now decided.—And He left them; or, the silent commencement of a new era.—He departed; but they are still standing and waiting for the sign from heaven.

Starke:—The Pharisees and the Sadducees.—Hedinger: In any undertaking against Christ or His people, Pilate and Herod will always be ready to join hands, Luke 23:12.—The enemies of Christ always repeat objections which have already been thoroughly answered and refuted.—Unbelief trusts God no further than it can see with its eyes and feel with its hands; while true faith simply relies on the word of God, even though it sees neither signs nor miracles.—Canstein: Let us give heed to those times which God has marked by certain signs.—Woe to those from whom Jesus departs; who is to be their Saviour and Helper?

Gerlach:—If your vision were not at fault, you could descry miracles enough to satisfy you!

Heubner:—How fruitful is human wisdom in expedients for our earthly concerns, and how inexperienced and unskilful in divine things!—There are “signs of the times” in the kingdom of heaven.—These signs only a devout mind can read; the Spirit of God discloses the purposes of God.—A Christian and a spiritual policy.—Christ does not beg for applause.


[1][The article before Σαδδουκαῖοι is omitted by Tischendorf, Lachmann, and Alford on the best authorities, which Dr. Lange must have overlooked.—P. S.]

[15]Ch. 15, Matthew 15:39.—[Ἀνὲβη εἶς τὸ πλοῖον.]

[16] Matthew 15:39.—[The authorities are divided between Μαγδαλάν, Μαγαδά ν, and Μαγδαλά. The Vatican and the Sinaitic MSS. read Μαγαδάν, and so do Tischendorf, Lachmann, and Alford. Lange prefers Μαγδαλάν. See his Exeg. and Crit Notes in loc.—P. S.]

[17] Matthew 16:1.—[Better: And the Pharisees and (the) Sadducees came, Καὶ προσελθόντες οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ (οί) Σαδδουκαῖοι.—P. S.]

[18] Matthew 16:2.—[The interpolation here and in Matthew 16:3 is unnecessary. Fair weather! is more lively. So Ewald, Lange: Sehön Wetter! Meyer: Heiteres Wetter! The Greek has only one word in each case, εὐδία (from εῦ̓ and Διός, gen. of Ζεύς), clear sky, fine weather, and χειμών, storm, rainy, foul weather.—P. S.]

[19] Matthew 16:3.— γποκριταί, hypocrites, is wanting in Codd., C., D., L., etc., and thrown out by Lachmann and Tischendorf [Cod. Sinait. omits all the words from ὀψίας γενομένης, to δύνασθε Matthew 16:2-3, probably by an oversight of the transcriber.—P. S.]

[20] Matthew 16:3.—[ Γινώσκετε. So also Lange: ihr versteht’s. The second discern (διακρίνελν) of the E. Vers, is an interpolation, but makes the sense clearer. The lit. rendering is: Ye know (γινώσκετε) how to discern the face of the sky; but can ye not (οὐ δύναδθε) the signs of the times? Lange gives τῶν καιρῶν an emphatic sense and translates: die Zeichen der Enttcheidungszeiten, the decisive epochs, such as the one of Christ’s ministry on earth.—P. S.]

[21] Matthew 16:4.— Τοῦ προφήτου is wanting in B., D., L., and erased by Lachmann and Tischendorf. [It is also omitted in the Codex from Mt. Sinai, and in the editions of Tregelles, and Alford. Lange retains it in his version, but in smaller type and in parenthesis.—P. S.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Matthew 15". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.