Mark 7 Bible Commentary

McGarvey and Pendleton

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(Read all of Mark 7)
7:1  And there are gathered together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem1, Mark 7:1,2 JESUS FAILS TO ATTEND THE THIRD PASSOVER: SCRIBES REPROACH HIM FOR DISREGARDING TRADITION. (Galilee, probably Capernaum, Spring A.D. 29.) Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23; John 7:1
And there are gathered together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem. Evidently several days intervened between the address of John 6:22-40 and the events recorded here, for the Pharisees and scribes would not be likely to leave Jerusalem until after the passover.

7:3  (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands diligently, eat not1, holding the tradition of the elders2;
For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands diligently, eat not. See Luke 11:38.
Holding the tradition of the elders. Belief in the tradition of the elders was the fundamental peculiarity of the Pharisaic system. They held that these traditions, or oral expositions of and additions to the law, were revealed to Moses along with the law, and were communicated by him orally to the elders of the people, by whose successors they had been handed down through each successive generation. They regarded these traditions as equal in authority with the written word.

7:4  and [when they come] from the market-place, except they bathe themselves, they eat not1; and many other things there are, which they have received to hold, washings of cups, and pots, and brasen vessels.)
And [when they come] from the market-place, except they bathe themselves, they eat not. Various types of uncleanness are specified in the Mosaic law. Traditions extended the idea of uncleanness so as to hold the man as probably unclean who had been in the marketplace, where he might have touched an unclean person, and to hold certain cups, pots, and brazen vessels as ceremonially unclean when neither the laws of Moses nor the laws of hygiene declared them to be so. Since the law of Moses ordered the unclean to dip himself in a bath for cleansing, the tradition of the elders required a like dipping in these cases of uncleanness which they had invented. When we remember that bathing was a daily practice among the Pharisees, we are less surprised at this observance. As to the theory that the tradition of the elders was derived from Moses, Jesus here flatly contradicts it. There is no trustworthy evidence to show that it is of higher antiquity than the time of the return from the Babylonian captivity.

7:5  And the Pharisees and the scribes ask him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders1, but eat their bread with defiled hands?
Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders,
but eat their bread with defiled hands? These Pharisees coming from Jerusalem could find nothing wherein Jesus or his disciples transgressed the law, so they eagerly grasped this transgression of the tradition as affording ground for an accusation.

7:6  And he said unto them, Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written1, This people honoreth me with their lips, But their heart is far from me. Mark 7:6,7
Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written. See Isaiah 29:13. Jesus does not deny their charge, but justifies his disciples by attacking the whole traditional system, basing his attack upon a pointed prophecy which condemns it.

7:8  Ye leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men1.
Ye leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men. It is hard for us to learn and apply the distinction between serving God as God wishes to be served, and serving him according to our own wishes and notions.

7:10  For Moses said1, Honor thy father and thy mother; and, He that speaketh evil of father or mother, let him die the death3:
For Moses said. That is, God said it through Moses.
Honour thy father and thy mother. See Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16.
And, He that speaketh evil of father or mother, let him die the death. See Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9.

7:11  but ye say, If a man shall say to his father or his mother1, That wherewith thou mightest have been profited by me is Corban2, that is to say, Given [to God]; Mark 7:11,12
But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or his mother. Leaving for a moment the main question concerning uncleanness and washing, Jesus makes good his indictment against their tradition by giving an example of the mischievous way in which it set aside God's commandments. The law required the honoring of parents, and for any one to cast off his parents in their old age, thus subjecting them to beggary or starvation, was to do more than to speak evil of them. Such conduct was practically to curse them, and to incur the death penalty for so doing.
That wherewith thou mightest have been profited by me is Corban,
that is to say, Given [to God]. But at this point the Pharisees interfered with their tradition, which taught that a son could say of that part of his estate by which his parents might be profited, It is a gift; that is, a gift to God, and by thus dedicating that part to God, he would free himself from his obligation to his parents.

7:13  making void the word of God by your tradition, which ye have delivered1: and many such like things ye do.
Making void the word of God by your tradition, which ye have delivered. Thus tradition undid the law. God's law leads to pure and acceptable worship, while human additions and amendments make worship vain, if not abominable. There is probably no one such addition or amendment which does not to a greater or less degree make some commandment void.

7:14  And he called to him the multitude again, and said unto them1, Hear me all of you, and understand: Mark 7:14,15
And he called to him the multitude again, and said unto them. Having been accused by the scribes and Pharisees of a breach of their tradition, Jesus points out to "them" generally the iniquity of tradition, for it lay within their power as leaders to remedy the whole system of things. Having done this, he turns to the "multitude" and answers before them as to the offense with which he is specifically charged. Thus he gives to the leaders general principles, and to the common people the single instance.

7:16  [If any man hath ears to hear, let him hear1.]
If any man hath ears to hear, let him hear. See Mark 4:9.

7:17  And when he was entered into the house from the multitude, his disciples asked of him the parable1.
His disciples asked of him the parable. They asked what he meant by the words contained in (Mark 7:15; Matthew 10:11). The word "parable" is used her in its looser sense to indicate an obscure saying.

7:18  And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also1? Perceive ye not, that whatsoever from without goeth into the man2, [it] cannot defile him;
Are ye so without understanding also? It was to be expected that the multitude, swayed by the teaching of the Pharisees, would be slow to grasp what Jesus said about uncleanness; but the disciples, having been so long taught of him, and having felt free to eat with unwashed hands, should have been more quick of understanding.
Perceive ye not, that whatsoever from without goeth into the man,
[it] cannot defile him. Thus Jesus sets forth the simple doctrine that a man's moral and spiritual state is not dependent upon the symbolic cleanness of his physical diet, much less is it dependent on ceremonial observances in regard to things eaten, or the dishes from which they are eaten. Of course, Jesus did not mean at this time to abrogate the Mosaic law of legal uncleanness.

7:19  because it goeth not into his heart, but into his belly, and goeth out into the draught1? [This he said], making all meats clean.
Because it goeth not into his heart, but into his belly, and goeth out into the draught? These uncleannesses worked no "spiritual" defilement, but were merely typical of such; for the food in no way touched or affected the mind or soul, the fountains of spiritual life, but only the corporeal organs, which have no moral susceptibility.

7:22  covetings, wickednesses, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye1, railing, pride, foolishness:
An evil eye. See Matthew 6:23 and see Matthew 20:15.

7:23  all these evil things proceed from within, and defile the man1.
All these evil things proceed from within, and defile the man. By thus showing that legal defilement was merely symbolic, Jesus classed it with all the other symbolism which was to be done away with when the gospel reality was fully ushered in Colossians 2:16,17. In saying, therefore, that Jesus made all meats clean, Mark does not mean that Jesus then and there repealed the law. The declaration came later (Acts 10:14,15). He means that he there drew those distinctions and laid down those principles which supplanted the Mosaic law when the kingdom of God was ushered in on the day of Pentecost. Here was the fountain whence Paul drew all his teaching concerning things clean and unclean.

7:24  And from thence he arose1, and went away into the borders2 of Tyre and Sidon3. And he entered into a house, and would have no man know it4; and he could not be hid5. SECOND WITHDRAWAL FROM HEROD'S TERRITORY. Matthew 15:21; Mark 7:24
And from thence he arose. The journey here is indicated in marked terms because it differs from any previously recorded, for it was the first time that Jesus ever entered a foreign or heathen country.
And went away into the borders. Some commentators contend from the use of the word "borders" that Jesus did not cross over the boundary, but the point is not well taken, for Mark 7:31 shows that the journey led through Sidon.
Of Tyre and Sidon. For the location of these cities, see Matthew 11:21. Jesus withdrew to escape the opposition of his enemies and the mistaken movements of his friends. As he was not on a missionary tour, it was perfectly proper for him to enter heathen territory.
And he entered into a house, and would have no man know it. Jesus sought concealment for the purposes note above. He also, no doubt, desired an opportunity to impact private instruction to the twelve.
And he could not be hid. The fame of Jesus had spread far and wide, and he and his disciples were too well known to escape the notice of any who had seen them or heard them described.

7:25  But straightway a woman, whose little daughter1 had an unclean spirit2, having heard of him3, came and fell down at his feet4. HEALING A PHOENICIAN WOMAN'S DAUGHTER. (Region of Tyre and Sidon.) Matthew ; Matthew 15:22-28; Mark 7:2-30
A woman, whose little daughter. The Greek word for "daughter" ("thugatrion") is a diminutive, such as often used to indicate affection.
Had an unclean spirit. See Mark 1:23.
Having heard of him. Having formerly heard of his power and having recently heard of his arrival in the neighborhood.
Came and fell down at his feet. The narrative indicates that Jesus had left the house and was moving on, and that the woman obtruded herself upon his notice by falling in front of him and obstructing his way.

7:26  Now the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by race. And she besought him that he would cast forth the demon out of her daughter.
The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by race. The Macedonian conquest had diffused Greek civilization throughout western Asia till the word "Greek" among the Jews had become synonymous with "Gentile". The term "Canaanite" was narrower and indicated an inhabitant of Canaan --that is, a non-Jewish inhabitant of Palestine. The term "Syrophenician" was narrower still. It meant a Syrian in Phoenicia, and distinguished the Phoenicians from the other Syrians. Phoenicia was a narrow strip near the northeast corner of the Mediterranean Sea. It was some twenty-eight miles long with an average width of about one mile. Canaan means lowland; Phoenicia means palmland. The Canaanites founded Sidon (Genesis 10:19), and the Phoenicians were their descendants.

7:27  And he said unto her, Let the children first be filled1: for it is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs2.
Let the children first be filled. By the word "first" Jesus suggested that there would come a time of mercy for the Gentiles.
For it is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs. He uses the Greek diminutive "kunarion" for the word "dog", thus indicating a tame pet, and suggesting rather the dependence and subordinate position than the uncleanness of the dog. By so doing he gave the woman an argumentative handle which she was not slow to grasp.

7:28  But she answered and saith unto him, Yea, Lord; even the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs1.
Yea, Lord; even the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs. Jesus had suggested that domestic "order" by which dogs are required to wait until the meal is over before they receive their portion; but with a wit made keen by her necessity, she replies by alluding to the well-known fact that dogs under the table are permitted to eat the crumbs "even while the meal is in progress"; intimating thereby her hope to receive and before all the needs of Israel had first been satisfied. By using the word "dogs" Jesus did not mean to convey the impression that he shared the Jewish prejudices against Gentiles; a construction which would be contrary to Matthew 8:10-12 Luke 4:25,26.

7:29  And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the demon is gone out of thy daughter1.
For this saying go thy way; the demon is gone out of thy daughter. Thus by ending this little incident illustrates the doctrine that men should pray and not faint (Luke 18:1-8). The woman's experience has been often repeated by other parents who have prayed for children which, if not demon-possessed, was certainly swayed by diabolical influences. The woman's faith is shown in many ways: (1) She persisted when he was silent. (2) She reasoned when he spoke. (3) She regarded this miracle, though a priceless gift to her, as a mere crumb from the table of his abundant powers. It is noteworthy that the two most notable for faith--this woman (Matthew 15:28) and the centurion (Matthew 8:10; Luke 7:9)--were both Gentiles.

7:30  And she went away unto her house, and found the child laid upon the bed, and the demon gone out1.
And she went away unto her house, and found the child laid upon the bed, and the demon gone out. The posture of the daughter indicated the physical exhaustion which would naturally succeed the intense nervous strain of demoniacal possession--especially the last paroxysms produced by the departing demon.

7:31  And again he went out from the borders of Tyre1, and came through Sidon unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the borders of Decapolis. ANOTHER AVOIDING OF HEROD'S TERRITORY. Matthew 15:29; Mark 7:31
And again he went out from the borders of Tyre, etc. From Tyre Jesus proceeded northward to Sidon and thence eastward across the mountains and the headwaters of the Jordan to the neighborhood of Damascus. Here he turned southward and approached the Sea of Galilee on its eastern side. Somewhere amid the mountains on the eastern side he sat down; that is, he ceased his journeying for some days. See Matthew 11:21 on Tyre and Sidon; see Matthew 4:25 on Decapolis.

7:32  And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech1; and they beseech him to lay his hand upon him. THE DEAF STAMMERER HEALED AND FOUR THOUSAND FED. Matthew 15:30-38; Mark 7:32-8:9
And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech. The man had evidently learned to speak before he lost his hearing. Some think that defective hearing had caused the impediment in his speech, but Mark 7:35 suggests that he was tongue-tied.

7:33  And he took him aside from the multitude privately1, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat, and touched his tongue2;
He took him aside from the multitude privately. He separated him from the crowd to avoid publicity. See Mark 7:36.
And put his fingers into his ears, and he spat, and touched his tongue. By signs indicating an intention to heal, Jesus gives him the assurance which in other cases he is accustomed to give by words. He evidently induced the man by signs to stick out his tongue. He then placed one finger of each hand in the man's ears, after which he spat. Where he spit is not said. He then touched with one or both his thumbs the man's tongue, and, speaking the healing word, the cure was accomplished.

7:34  and looking up to heaven, he sighed1, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened2.
And looking up to heaven, he sighed. Why he sighed is not said. It was doubtless an expression of sympathy, though Farrar thinks he did so because he thought of the millions there were of deaf and dumb who in this world never hear and never speak.
And saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. Jesus here, as in the healing of Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:41), spoke the Aramaic.

7:35  And his ears were opened, and the bond of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.
And his ears were opened . . . and he spake plain. He was evidently not deaf from his birth, or he would not have known how to speak at all.

7:36  And he charged them that they should tell no man1: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it2.
And he charged them that they should tell no man. Jesus was still seeking to suppress excitement. A very little encouragement from him would have brought together a multitude, the very thing which he was journeying to avoid. He therefore cautioned the people to be silent.
But the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it. But by a common freak of human nature, his desire to avoid publicity made him more wonderful in the eyes of the people, and thereby inspired a greater eagerness on their part to tell about him.

7:37  And they were beyond measure astonished1, saying, He hath done all things well; he maketh even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak2.
And they were beyond measure astonished. Mark here coins a double superlative to express the boundlessness of their amazement.
Saying, He hath done all things well; he maketh even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak. Commendation upon the workman which had originally been bestowed upon his work (Genesis 1:31). These were the people who had asked Jesus to depart from their coast on account of the loss of their swine (Mark 5:17). A complete change in their feelings had taken place since that day.

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