From the Commentary on the Whole Bible (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, 1871)
Mt 15:1-20. Discourse on Ceremonial Pollution. ( = Mr 7:1, 23).
The time of this section was after that Passover which was nigh at hand when our Lord fed the five thousand (Joh 6:4)—the third Passover, as we take it, since His public ministry began, but which He did not keep at Jerusalem for the reason mentioned in Joh 7:1.
1. Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem—or "from Jerusalem." Mark (Mr 7:1) says they "came from" it: a deputation probably sent from the capital expressly to watch Him. As He had not come to them at the last Passover, which they had reckoned on, they now come to Him. "And," says Mark (Mr 7:2, 3), "when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen hands"—hands not ceremonially cleansed by washing—"they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft"—literally, "in" or "with the fist"; that is, probably washing the one hand by the use of the other—though some understand it, with our version, in the sense of "diligently," "sedulously"—"eat not, holding the tradition of the elders"; acting religiously according to the custom handed down to them. "And when they come from the market" (Mr 7:4)—"And after market": after any common business, or attending a court of justice, where the Jews, as Webster and Wilkinson remark, after their subjection to the Romans, were especially exposed to intercourse and contact with heathens—"except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups and pots, brazen vessels and tables"—rather, "couches," such as were used at meals, which probably were merely sprinkled for ceremonial purposes. "Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him,"
2. Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
3. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?—The charge is retorted with startling power: "The tradition they transgress is but man's, and is itself the occasion of heavy transgression, undermining the authority of God's law."
4. For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother—(De 5:16).
and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death—(Ex 21:17).
5. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift—or simply, "A gift!" In Mark (Mr 7:11), it is, "Corban!" that is, "An oblation!" meaning, any unbloody offering or gift dedicated to sacred uses.
by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
6. And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free—that is, It is true, father—mother—that by giving to thee this, which I now present, thou mightest be profited by me; but I have gifted it to pious uses, and therefore, at whatever cost to thee, I am not now at liberty to alienate any portion of it. "And," it is added in Mark (Mr 7:12), "ye suffer him no more to do aught for his father or his mother." To dedicate property to God is indeed lawful and laudable, but not at the expense of filial duty.
Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect—cancelled or nullified it "by your tradition."
7. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying—(Isa 29:13).
8. This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, &c.—By putting the commandments of men on a level with the divine requirements, their whole worship was rendered vain—a principle of deep moment in the service of God. "For," it is added in Mr 7:8, "laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups; and many other such like things ye do." The drivelling nature of their multitudinous observances is here pointedly exposed, in contrast with the manly observance of "the commandment of God"; and when our Lord says, "Many other such like things ye do," it is implied that He had but given a specimen of the hideous treatment which the divine law received, and the grasping disposition which, under the mask of piety, was manifested by the ecclesiastics of that day.
10. And he called the multitude, and said unto them—The foregoing dialogue, though in the people's hearing, was between Jesus and the pharisaic cavillers, whose object was to disparage Him with the people. But Jesus, having put them down, turns to the multitude, who at this time were prepared to drink in everything He said, and with admirable plainness, strength, and brevity, lays down the great principle of real pollution, by which a world of bondage and uneasiness of conscience would be dissipated in a moment, and the sense of sin be reserved for deviations from the holy and eternal law of God.
Hear and understand:
11. Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man—This is expressed even more emphatically in Mark (Mr 7:15, 16), and it is there added, "If any man have ears to hear, let him hear." As in Mt 13:9, this so oft-repeated saying seems designed to call attention to the fundamental and universal character of the truth it refers to.
12. Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?—They had given vent to their irritation, and perhaps threats, not to our Lord Himself, from whom they seem to have slunk away, but to some of the disciples, who report it to their Master.
13. But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up—They are offended, are they? Heed it not: their corrupt teaching is already doomed: the garden of the Lord upon earth, too long cumbered with their presence, shall yet be purged of them and their accursed system: yea, and whatsoever is not of the planting of My heavenly Father, the great Husbandman (Joh 15:1), shall share the same fate.
14. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch—Striking expression of the ruinous effects of erroneous teaching!
15. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable—"when He was entered into the house from the people," says Mark (Mr 7:17).
16. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?—Slowness of spiritual apprehension in His genuine disciples grieves the Saviour: from others He expects no better (Mt 13:11).
17, 18. Do not ye yet understand that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth, &c.—Familiar though these sayings have now become, what freedom from bondage to outward things do they proclaim, on the one hand; and on the other, how searching is the truth which they express—that nothing which enters from without can really defile us; and that only the evil that is in the heart, that is allowed to stir there, to rise up in thought and affection, and to flow forth in voluntary action, really defiles a man!
19. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts—"evil reasonings"; referring here more immediately to those corrupt reasonings which had stealthily introduced and gradually reared up that hideous fabric of tradition which at length practically nullified the unchangeable principles of the moral law. But the statement is far broader than this; namely that the first shape which the evil that is in the heart takes, when it begins actively to stir, is that of "considerations" or "reasonings" on certain suggested actions.
murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies—detractions, whether directed against God or man; here the reference seems to be to the latter. Mark (Mr 7:22) adds, "covetousnesses"—or desires after more; "wickednesses"—here meaning, perhaps, malignities of various forms; "deceit, lasciviousness"—meaning, excess or enormity of any kind, though by later writers restricted to lewdness; "an evil eye"—meaning, all looks or glances of envy, jealousy, or ill will towards a neighbor; "pride, foolishness"—in the Old Testament sense of "folly"; that is, criminal senselessness, the folly of the heart. How appalling is this black catalogue!
20. These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man—Thus does our Lord sum up this whole searching discourse.
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