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Jesus and the Canaanite woman

Discussion in 'Christian Scriptures' started by Lily Sunflower, Jun 10, 2019.

  1. Lily Sunflower

    Lily Sunflower Member

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    Hi everyone. I'm not sure if I'm posting this in the right place - if I'm not, mods, please move it.

    I'd like to talk about a Bible passage that has always troubled me - Matthew 15:21-28, Jesus and the Canaanite woman. I think I've gained some insight on it, and I would love to hear your opinions and suggestions.

    The part that always bothered me was Jesus calling this poor woman a dog. It seemed so cruel, when she was only seeking help for her daughter. But now I think He used her faith to give a lesson to His disciples. They urged Him to send her away, and I imagine them nodding in approval when He said what He did. I think that approval must have turned to shock, however, when they heard the rest of the conversation, and Jesus's ultimate acceptance of and blessing of her. Jesus showed them that faith, not race or nationality, was the most important factor in having a relationship with Him.

    As for the "dog" comment, I think that Jesus knew that the woman had a strong spirit, and would counter it the way that she did, saying "even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table" (verse 27, NIV). (whereas if He had said that to me, depending on my mood, I would have either burst out crying, or replied "who are you calling a dog?!). Jesus would never be callous and try to hurt someone's feelings - He knows what each individual person can handle, and works through the right people at the right time to get His message across.

    I would really appreciate any further insights or suggestions that anyone would like to share. Thank you.
     
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  2. icxn

    icxn Bραδύγλωσσος αἰπόλος μαθητεύων κνίζειν συκάμινα

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    By accepting the insult the woman showed her great humility and by calling the healing of her daughter a crumb, she manifested her faith that Christ is God (to whom, being the creator of all, the healing of someone is but a trivial matter).
     
  3. Dave-W

    Dave-W Welcoming grandchild #7, Arturus Waggoner! Supporter

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    One thing to note that does not come across in any English version:

    The word for "dog" our Lord used was for an adult male dog. The word for "dog" she used was for a female puppy. Adult male dogs (although disliked by Jews) were useful as working animals. It was an insult but not a severe one. But she chose to humble herself even more by saying female puppy instead adult male dog.

    It was (in part) a test of her both her humility and tenacity.
     
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  4. Lily Sunflower

    Lily Sunflower Member

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    Thank you @icxn . I didn't think of looking at it that way, and that makes perfect sense.
     
  5. Lily Sunflower

    Lily Sunflower Member

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    I didn't know this @Dave-W . I think I get it - in showing her humility she displayed the attitude we should have as followers of Jesus.

    I'm learning so much from all of you. Thank you!
     
  6. bcbsr

    bcbsr Newbie

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    What's impressive about the woman is her humility. She doesn't have the kind of knee-jerk reaction typical of the proud Pharisees who couldn't take criticism and invoked murderous anger in them. No doubt Jesus was aware of her humility in responding to her. Many people can't get past the first part of the gospel, which Paul lays in Romans 1-3:20, namely that we're sinners, we're inherently not good people. That does dissuade the humble from reading the rest of the message and getting saved by faith.
     
  7. Lily Sunflower

    Lily Sunflower Member

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    I can really relate to this. I don't take criticism well (although with God's help I'm working on it), and I'm not very humble, so I guess that's why this passage got to me so much.
     
  8. JustRachel

    JustRachel He welcomed me back! <3 Supporter

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    I believe the gentiles are referred to as dogs elsewhere in scripture. Perhaps this is a clue.
     
  9. prodromos

    prodromos Senior Veteran Supporter

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    I've never really understood why people take offense at being likened to dogs.
    Dogs are patient and long suffering, loyal to a fault and love their masters unconditionally.
     
  10. Radagast

    Radagast has left CF Supporter

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    Actually, this is not true. Both words are the plural of kunarion (small dog). As with other Greek diminutives, this word is neither masculine nor feminine, but neuter.

    You may be confused by the fact that, as required by the grammar, two different cases are used (dative and nominative).
     
  11. paul1149

    paul1149 that your faith might rest in the power of God Supporter

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    There's a lot to this story going on under the surface. I think it's the most easily misunderstood interaction in the NT.

    If you compare Mt 15 and Mk 7, it's easier to piece together what's going on. The woman appears, calling out for help. She's "following after" rather than approaching, all the while addressing Jesus as "Son of David". This is a Jewish messianic term. The woman, being Syro-Phoenician, had no right to that term (the Jews were extremely exclusive at that time), but she is trying to garner favor with Jesus. Thus she keeps her distance lest she be identified.

    Jesus doesn't heed the disciples' pleas to send her packing as a nuisance. He has a plan. It involves the healing the woman wants, but also much more. Knowing her desperation, He ignores her for a while, then finally puts an end to her ruse by saying He was only called to the house of Israel. The woman sees her only hope walking away, and with nothing left to lose at this point, her desperation overcomes her fear and she comes to Him. There is no more posing by her, it is just a distraught woman seeking help.

    At this critical point Jesus goes from seemingly callous to seemingly cruel. He says says it's not right to give the children's food to dogs. But our translations are poor. He uses the word we would use for puppies ("little dogs"). I picture Him saying this with a gleam in His eyes, a smile on His face and a slight lilt in His voice. His words are actually doing the opposite of what it might seem on paper. He is tossing the woman a softball and inviting her to knock it out of the park. The woman picks up on it and, encouraged, replies firmly and with wit. Jesus, delighted, grants her the wish as He had always intended.

    The woman went through a lot more that day than she anticipated, but she came away with far more than she could have imagined. Not only was her daughter healed, she had met the Savior of the World, not from afar, but personally, and not under any pretenses, but just as she was, a Canaanite woman. And she had bee accepted as such. It would be a day she would never forget.
     
  12. samwise gamgee

    samwise gamgee Member Supporter

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    I think a dog's loyalty to his master is a picture of the kind of loyalty we should show to God.

    Have any of you ever wondered why the woman's faith was so strong? I can think of one possible explanation. When Elijah was hiding from King Ahab God told him to go to this region where a widow would feed him. Elijah kept the woman's supply of oil and flour from running out and when her son died he brought him back to life. This would have made the woman and her son want to learn as much as possible about the God of Israel. When the son had children of his own he would no doubt pass this knowledge on to them. It is possible that this woman was one of his descendants. She would have had extensive knowledge of God because indirectly she was taught by Elijah.

    A Canaanite woman’s faith
     
  13. Lily Sunflower

    Lily Sunflower Member

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    Thank you for your responses everyone - you've really helped me to understand this passage, and in the process helped me understand something about myself. My focus was on the woman's strong spirit, when what's really important is her humility. It made me realize (or perhaps acknowledge is the proper word) that I have an issue with pride. I think I need to study up on humility, and learn to accept slights with grace, like this woman did, and like Jesus did.
     
  14. Francis Drake

    Francis Drake Returning adventurer.

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    I think your OP was a good first analysis of the passage. Then add the other contributions and we get a great examination of the subject.

    Above all Jesus is kind hearted to those who humbly seek him, but when it came to the proud Pharisees, Jesus cuts them to pieces.

    Also, just like Solomon, Jesus doesn't always mean what he says, as the following reveals.-
    1Kings3v16At that time two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him.

    17One woman said, “Please, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth while she was in the house. 18On the third day after I gave birth, this woman also had a baby. We were alone, with no one in the house but the two of us. 19During the night this woman’s son died because she rolled over on him. 20So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I was asleep. She laid him in her bosom and put her dead son at my bosom. 21The next morning, when I got up to nurse my son, I discovered he was dead. But when I examined him, I realized that he was not the son I had borne.”

    22“No,” said the other woman, “the living one is my son and the dead one is your son.”

    But the first woman insisted, “No, the dead one is yours and the living one is mine.” So they argued before the king.

    23Then the king replied, “This woman says, ‘My son is alive and yours is dead,’ but that woman says, ‘No, your son is dead and mine is alive.’”

    24The king continued, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought him a sword, 25and the king declared, “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”

    26Then the woman whose son was alive spoke to the king because she yearned with compassion for her son. “Please, my lord,” she said, “give her the living baby. Do not kill him!”

    But the other woman said, “He will not be mine or yours. Cut him in two!”

    27Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. By no means should you kill him; she is his mother.”

    28When all Israel heard of the judgment the king had given, they stood in awe of him, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice.

    When as a young Christian I first read this story, I was horrified at what seemed an incredibly evil judgement. It was some time before I realised that Solomon never ever intended the baby harm.

    Even if Solomon had known the right answer from God, it wouldn't have ended the cat fight between the women. To eradicate all future argument, Solomon had to ensure the right answer was self explanatory. His command to cut the baby in half guaranteed the true mother was revealed.

    Thus not all we see from Jesus is intended to be true.
     
  15. mukk_in

    mukk_in Yankees Fan Supporter

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    Those who have read the actual translation will have a better handle on this one. Salvation was initially to the Jews and then to us Gentiles. As the Lord often said, He was sent to the lost sheep of Israel. In that context, she was of secondary importance at that time. Eventually, in the great commission, salvation is for all of us. Peace in Christ.
     
  16. 2PhiloVoid

    2PhiloVoid I fought 7 impossible demons before ... breakfast! Supporter

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    Lily, I think you nailed the issue on the head. The only additional thing to realize about this passage is that it, like similar passages illustrating Jesus' dealings with non-Jews, demonstrates that God, in Christ, was also more than willing to extend His eternal grace, mercy and redemption to the Gentiles of all kinds, even those with the reputation of a Canaanite or a Samaritan. :sunglasses:
     
  17. Mark51

    Mark51 Newbie Supporter

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    I can understand your initial reaction. It does seem like a strong term; however, I believe that with a little background and interpretation may soften your impression.

    First, John the Baptizer’s responsibility was to attempt to turned many of the Israelites back to pure worship toward God. (Luke 1:16; John 1:31) Then Jesus and his apostles followed up in this work, toward “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” by opening blind eyes to the false traditions of men. (Matthew 15:24; 10:6) Yet, only a remnant accepted Jesus as Messiah and were saved.-Roman 9:27; 11:7.

    Secondly, to the Jewish nation, non Jewish people of the “nations” were likened to dogs of which were considered unclean animals. However, in likening the gentiles to “little dogs”-which might be kept in a home, and not to wild dogs of the street-Jesus softened the comparison. Nevertheless, what Jesus said was likely to test the woman‘s faith. Rather than taking offense, the woman humbly and correctly interprets Jesus’ reference to Jewish prejudices and continues her plea.
     
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