Mark 7:1-30

Followers of Tradition

Now the Pharisees and some of the scribes came from Jerusalem and gathered around Him, and they had seen that some of His disciples ate their bread with [ceremonially] impure hands, that is, unwashed [and defiled according to Jewish religious ritual]. ([a]For the Pharisees and all of the Jews do not eat unless they [b]carefully wash their hands, holding firmly to the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they [c]cleanse themselves [completely according to ritual]; and there are many other things [oral, man-made laws and traditions handed down to them] which they follow diligently, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper utensils.) So the Pharisees and scribes asked Jesus, “Why do Your disciples not live their lives according to the tradition of the elders, but [instead] eat their bread with [ceremonially] unwashed hands?” He replied, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites (play-actors, pretenders), as it is written [in Scripture],

These people honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.

They worship Me in vain [their worship is meaningless and worthless, a pretense],
Teaching the precepts of men as doctrines [giving their traditions equal weight with the Scriptures].’

You disregard and neglect the commandment of God, and cling [faithfully] to the tradition of men.”

He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside and nullifying the commandment of God in order to keep your [man-made] tradition and regulations. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother [with respect and gratitude]’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of his father or mother must be put to death’; but you [Pharisees and scribes] say, ‘If a man tells his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you is Corban, (that is to say, already a gift to God),”’ then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother [since helping them would violate his vow of Corban]; so you nullify the [authority of the] word of God [acting as if it did not apply] because of your tradition which you have handed down [through the elders]. And you do many things such as that.”

The Heart of Man

After He called the people to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen [carefully] to Me, all of you, [hear] and understand [what I am saying]: there is nothing outside a man [such as food] which by going into him can defile him [morally or spiritually]; but the things which come out of [the heart of] a man are what defile and dishonor him. [d][If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”]

When Jesus had left the crowd and gone into the [e]house, His disciples asked Him about the parable. And He said to them, “Are you, too, so foolish and lacking in understanding? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile and dishonor him, since it does not enter his heart, but [only] his stomach, and [from there it] is eliminated?” (By this, He declared all foods [f]ceremonially clean.) And He said, “Whatever comes from [the heart of] a man, that is what defiles and dishonors him. For from within, [that is] out the heart of men, come base and malevolent thoughts and schemes, acts of sexual immorality, thefts, murders, adulteries, acts of greed and covetousness, wickedness, deceit, unrestrained conduct, envy and jealousy, slander and profanity, arrogance and self-righteousness and foolishness (poor judgment). All these evil things [schemes and desires] come from within and defile and dishonor the man.”

The Syrophoenician Woman

Jesus got up and left there and went to the region of Tyre [and Sidon, the coastal area of Phoenicia]. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know about it; but it was impossible for Him to be hidden [from the public]. Instead, after hearing about Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet. Now the woman was a Gentile (Greek), a [g]Syrophoenician by nationality. And she kept pleading with Him to drive the demon out of her daughter. He was saying to her, “First let the children [of Israel] be fed, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the [h]pet dogs (non-Jews).” But she replied, “Yes, Lord, but even the pet dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” And He said to her, “Because of this answer [reflecting your humility and faith], go [knowing that your request is granted]; the demon has left your daughter [permanently].” And returning to her home, she found the child lying on the couch [relaxed and resting], the demon having gone.

  1. Mark 7:3 Mark explains Jewish customs and translates Hebrew terms for his Gentile readers.
  2. Mark 7:3 Lit with the fist. This probably refers either to the method of washing the hands or, perhaps more likely, to the volume of water used.
  3. Mark 7:4 The Greek word used is baptize, which in this context refers to an immersion ritual normally performed in a miqveh, a special bathtub large enough for the purpose and filled with water that was to be collected naturally. The miqvehs typically were built into the ground outside where they could collect rain water.
  4. Mark 7:16 Early mss do not contain this verse.
  5. Mark 7:17 It was probably Peter’s house.
  6. Mark 7:19 I.e. He abolished all prohibitions given in the Law against certain foods.
  7. Mark 7:26 She came from an area north of Israel, between the Lebanon Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea.
  8. Mark 7:27 Jews used kuon (dog) as a derogatory term referring to Gentiles. This dog (kuon) was a despised, filthy, homeless street scavenger. When speaking with this woman, Jesus uses a word for “dog” (kunarion) that refers to a household pet. The use of the word kunariois by both Jesus and the woman reflects the tenderness and spiritual depth of this exchange. More importantly, it foreshadows the fact that Gentile believers will not be spiritually homeless, but will also be welcomed into God’s household as His children. The gracious response of the woman recorded in v 28 confirms that on some level she understood this.

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