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MARK CHAPTER 7
Mark 7:1-13 The Pharisees finding fault with his disciples for eating with unwashen hands, Christ reproveth them of hypocrisy, and of making void the commandments of God by the traditions of men.
Mark 7:14-23 He teacheth that a man is defiled, not by that which entereth in, but by that which cometh out of him.
Mark 7:24-30 He healeth the daughter of a Syrophenician woman,
Mark 7:31-37 and a man that was deaf and had an impediment in his speech.
See Poole on "Matthew 15:1", and following verses to Matthew 15:9. By the notion of traditions, our Saviour understandeth not such things as were delivered to them by God in his law, but such things as were delivered to them by the elders, that is, their rulers in the church in the former times; for, Mark 7:9, he opposeth traditions to God’s commandments, and said the latter were neglected by their zeal for the former: to give countenance to which traditions, as the papists would impose upon us to believe, that Christ communicated some things to his apostles, and they to the primitive churches, by word of mouth, which have been so transmitted from age to age; so the Jews pretended that God communicated his will in some things to Moses, which Moses did not publish to the people. And as the former pretend a power by Christ left to the church to determine rituals; so the Pharisees (their true predecessors) pretended a suchlike power. Amongst others, besides the divers washings mentioned by the apostle, Hebrews 9:10, amongst the carnal ordinances, imposed only until the time of reformation, they had invented many other washings, as sepimenta legis, hedges to the Divine law. They washed their hands often, when they came from market, or before they did eat, not for decency and neatness, but out of religion, lest they should have been defiled by touching any heathens, or any polluted things; and not their hands only, but their pots and cups, their beds and tables, and brazen vessels; as indeed there is no stop, when once men have passed the hedge of the Divine institution, of which popery is a plentiful instance, where it is hard to discern an ordinance of God in the rubbish of their superstitious traditions. And it is very observable, that superstitious men are always more fond of, and zealous for, the traditions of men in their worship, than keeping the commandments of God. It is with the papists more heinous to violate Lent than to violate the sabbath; for a priest to marry than to commit whoredom. This zeal in them ordinarily produces a neglect, or slight esteem, of the plain commandments of God. So it did in the Pharisees, Mark 7:9; upon which our Saviour calleth them hypocrites, Mark 7:6, and telleth them this worshipping of God was vain, sinful, and idle, and impertinent; there was in it a derogating from the authority of God, and arrogating of an undue authority to themselves, by their commands making those things necessary which are not so; and, as commonly it happeneth, when human inventions are over urged and multiplied, some are urged destructive of the Divine law, so it was with those Pharisees; so they had done as to the fifth commandment, of which we have spoken plentifully: See Poole "Matthew 15:4", and following verses to Matthew 15:6. Our Saviour goeth on, showing their ignorance and blindness, in imagining that any person could be defiled by eating with unwashen hands.
Our Saviour’s calling all the people unto him before he spake what next followeth, and his prefacing that discourse with, Hearken every one of you, and understand, lets us know that what he was about to say was a point of great moment, well worth their learning and observation.
The addition of these words, If any man have ears to hear, let him hear, confirm what I observed before, that our Saviour looked upon what he said as a truth of very great moment, and withal as such a notion which carnal hearts and superstitious persons had no ears to hear. This great truth was, That a man in the sight of God (for of such defilement he alone speaketh), could be defiled by nothing but what came from within him. How easily would a popish doctor have answered this: Doth not disobedience to the church’s commands come from within us? Our Saviour therefore must be understood of such things as come from within in disobedience to the commands of God; such are those which he mentions, Mark 7:21,Mark 7:22; for all things that come from within do not defile the man. And it is true, that a disobedience to the commands of any power, whether civil or ecclesiastical, is a thing which cometh from within and defileth a soul, if it be a disobedience in such things which God hath given them a power to command, but if not the case is otherwise.
That is, concerning this saying of his, which appeared to them dark, for a parable sometimes in Scripture signifieth no more, Psalms 49:4; yet one would think that our Saviour’s saying was plain enough. But custom is a great tyrant. The prejudice they had received from their superstitious teachers blinded them, and locked up their souls from receiving true and spiritual instructions. We see the same thing every day. What a heinous thing do the blind papists think it is to eat flesh in Lent, or on one of their fish days! Never considering by what law of God any men are restrained in such things. Our Saviour in the next words checks their blindness (see Mark 7:18-23).
Christ checks his disciples for understanding things no better. Ignorance is more excusable in those who are strangers to God and Christ than in those that have relation to him. In our Saviour’s enumeration of those things which come out of the heart, several things are reckoned up which are the overt actions of the tongue, eye, hands; but our Saviour saith all these flow from the heart, for the actions of the outward man are but the imperate actions of the will, and things past the imaginations and understanding, before they come at the will, to be chosen or rejected. Here are but some sins reckoned instead of many, for it is true of all our evil actions, that they are first hatched in the heart, and are first entertained in our thoughts, in our understandings, then chosen by our wills, and then the bodily members are commanded by the soul to the execution of them. Mark reckoneth more than Matthew, but in both the enumerations are imperfect, and some sins are named instead of all. Nothing but sin defileth the man. Sin hath its first rise in the heart, and floweth from thence.
See Poole on "Matthew 15:18", and following verses to Matthew 15:20.
Matthew records this history with several considerable additions; See Poole on "Matthew 15:21", and following verses to Matthew 15:28, where we have largely opened it.
This history is recorded by Mark only.
And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. We heard, Mark 7:24, of his going into those coasts; some think that our Saviour did not go out of the Jewish country, though he went to
the coasts of Tire and Sidon, which were pagan countries.
He came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. That Decapolis was a union of ten cities so called, is plain by the name; but what those cities were, and whether they lay on the same side of Jordan that Galilee did, or on the other side of Jordan, is disputed; most think they lay on the Galilean side.
One that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech: some think that he was dumb, but the word signifies one that spake with difficulty, so as it is likely his deafness was not natural; (for all naturally deaf, are also dumb; we learning to speak by hearing); besides that it is said after the cure, that
he spake plain: it was probably an accidental deafness happening to him after that he could speak. Their beseeching Christ to put his hand upon him, proceeded from their observation of him very often to use that rite in his healing sick persons.
And he took him aside from the multitude, not seeking his own glory and ostentation,
and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue. All these things were ex abundanti, not necessary actions, or naturally efficacious for his cure; but our Lord sometimes used no signs or rites, sometimes these, sometimes others, as it pleased him.
And looking up to heaven, he sighed, pitying the condition of human nature, subject to so many miseries, defects, and infirmities, and saith,
Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. By the word of his power he made the world, and by the word of his power he upholds it, and by the same word of his power he restoreth any lapsed or decayed part of it. He speaks, and it is done.
And straightway his ears were opened: nature obeyeth the God of nature. Concerning his charge of them not to publish it, and their disobedience to it, I have had occasion once and again to speak, and must confess I can neither satisfy myself in the reason from my own thoughts, nor from what I read in others. This miracle hath no other effect on the people than astonishment, and confession that what he did was well done; which was the common effect of Christ’s preaching and miracles upon the most.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Mark 7". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent