(1) Scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem.—The presence of these actors on the scene is every way significant. They had been prominent in like accusations. It was by them that our Lord had been accused of blasphemy in forgiving sins (Matthew 9:3), of eating and drinking with publicans and sinners (Matthew 9:11), of disregarding fasts (Matthew 9:14), of casting out devils by Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24), of Sabbath-breaking (Matthew 12:2; Matthew 12:10). It was, we may believe, their presence in the synagogue of Capernaum which led our Lord to adopt (as in John 6:26-65) a form of teaching so unlike the usual tenor of that of His Galilean ministry. And now they return to the charge again with a new and characteristic accusation.
By your tradition.—As before, for the sake of. They had inverted the right relation of the two, and made the tradition an end, and not a means. St. Mark (Mark 7:9) gives what we cannot describe otherwise than as a touch of grave and earnest irony, in the truest and best sense of that word, “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own traditions.”
If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.—The proverb was probably a familiar one (it is given in St. Luke 6:39 as part of the Sermon on the Plain), but, as now spoken, it had the character of a prophecy. We have but to read the Jewish historian’s account of the years that preceded the destruction of Jerusalem to see what the “ditch” was towards which teachers and people were alike blindly hastening. Bitter sectarianism, and wild dreams, and baseless hopes, and maddened zeal, and rejection of the truth which alone had power to save them, this was the issue which both were preparing for themselves, and from which there was no escape.
Came out of the same coasts.—Better, of those regions, coming forth (i.e., from some house or village), cried . . .
O Lord, thou son of David.—The words show that the fame of the Prophet of Nazareth had travelled beyond the limits of Galilee, and that He was known to the people of the Tyre and Sidon district by the most popular of the Messianic names. This was natural enough, even if we think only of popular rumours as the channel through which the fame had reached her. Luke 6:17, however, suggests a more direct source of knowledge. Among the multitude that listened to the Sermon on the Plain, and brought those that were “vexed with unclean spirits,” had been people “from the sea-coast of Tyre and Sidon.” The mother of the demoniac daughter may well have cherished for months the hope that one day the great Deliverer would come within her reach. And now, beyond all expectation, He had come across the boundary of Israel, and she saw Him in her own country. St. Mark adds, significantly, that “He would have no man know” of His presence, but He “could not be hid” (Mark 7:24). The scene, as described by St. Mark, was in the house into which He had retired in order to avoid notice.
Send her away; for she crieth after us.—The disciples were clearly unable to enter into either of the two feelings which were thus contending for the mastery. Their words, as interpreted by our Lord’s answer, were, in some sense, a plea in favour of the woman. They wished Him to grant what she asked for, and so to dismiss her. And yet we feel that their words were far harsher than their Master’s silence. They wanted only to be rid of her presence, which had followed them from the streets into the house, to be freed from the loud eager cries which vexed them.
The answer has, even taking this into account, a somewhat harsh sound, but it did not go beyond the language with which the woman must have been familiar, and it was probably but a common proverb, like our “Charity begins at home,” indicating the line of demarcation which gave a priority to the claims of the family of Israel to those of strangers. We may well believe that there was no intentional scorn in it, though it emphasized an actual distinction.
Be it unto thee even as thou wilt.—St. Mark adds, as spoken by our Lord, “Go thy way, the devil is gone out of thy daughter,” and that when the woman went to her house, she found her child laid on the bed, calm and peace and slumber having taken the place of restless frenzy.
It is obvious that the lesson of the story stretches far and wide. Wherever man or woman is by birth, or creed, or even sin, among those whom the judgment of the heirs of religious privileges counts unworthy even of the lowest of spiritual blessings, among outcasts and heirs of shame, the excommunicated and the lost, there the thought that “the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs” may bring, as it has often brought, the faith that changes despair into something not far short of the full assurance of hope.