Thirdmill Study Bible

Notes on Matthew 15:2-22

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Unwashed hands - Matthew 15:2

They do not wash their hands when they eat. The Jewish people of this time period had developed many traditions about purity that were rooted in God's law but often added other requirements and prohibitions (Matt. 23:25-28). Some of these concerned what foods to eat and the importance of washing one's hands for ritual purity. This statement from the Pharisees stands in sharp contrast to Jesus's compassionate feeding of the multitudes in need (Matt. 14:13-21) – Jesus cares for people out of compassion; the Pharisees and scribes were only concerned about following the traditions about hand washing. See further on 15:11.

Dedicated to God – Matthew 15:5

"Whatever help you would have received from me is now a gift given to God." The Jewish rabbis developed specific traditions about declaring property or money as "dedicated to God," which meant they could not be used for any other purpose. Jesus pointed out that this tradition should not be used to prevent people from doing what God himself has clearly commanded — that everyone should honor their parents by taking care of them.

Isaiah's prophecy – Matthew 15:8-9

Well did Isaiah prophecy about you. Jesus quoted these words from Isaiah 29:13 that teach a main theme in Matthew — external righteousness is insufficient for godliness; God sees and cares about the inner person, the heart, most of all (Matt. 5:8, 48; 6:21-24).

Clean and unclean - Matthew 15:11

Nothing that enters into the mouth defiles. The point of 15:1-20 is that God sees and cares about the heart or inner person. The question of hand-washing before eating arose in 15:2 and is concluded in Jesus' clear teaching in 15:10-20 — nothing outside of a person is about to defile the heart. Whether a person is clean or unclean is not an external matter, but is a matter of the heart. What a person eats with their mouth does not determine purity, but what comes out of the mouth because this reveals the heart (see also Matt. 12:31-37).

Rooted up – Matthew 15:13

Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. This language of future judgment upon unfaithful people is a similar to image to what John the Baptist warned (Matt. 3:9-10) and what Jesus also said in 8:10-12. Jesus has been sent by God to separate all the world into those who are God's people and those who are not (Matt. 10:34; 13:11-16; 25:31-46), and this is based on how one responds to Jesus — either showing faith or not (Matt. 7:21-27).

Without understanding – Matthew 15:16

Are you also still without understanding? Jesus has already taught his disciples that the difference between his followers and those outside is whether they have been given revelation about Jesus by God the Father (Matt. 11:25-27; 13:11-16). Yet the reality of life is that even Jesus' closest disciples still struggle to understand Jesus and his teaching.

Son of David – Matthew 15:22

Son of David. This is one of the many titles for Jesus in the Gospels and the first description of Jesus (see Matt. 1:1-17). It specifically refers to the promise that a descendant of David will rule as a king over Israel (2 Sam. 7:12-16; Ps. 132:11; cf. Matt. 12:23).

A Canaanite woman - Matthew 15:22

A Canaanite woman. The Gospel of Mark refers to this woman by a more geographical description, "Syrophoenician" (Mark 7:26). Matthew calls her a "Canaanite" woman to allude to the notorious Gentiles who opposed the Israelites at the Exodus when they were fleeing Egypt (Exod. 33:1-2). This allusion is part of the broader exodus theme in this section (see note on Matt. 14:13-33), with Jesus as the new Moses. In contrast to the Jewish leadership that were opposed to Jesus, this Gentile woman was commended for her great faith (Matt. 15:28).

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