Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The Pharisees find fault with the disciples for eating with unwashen hands, Mar 7:1-5. Christ exposes their hypocrisy, and shows that they had made the word of God of no effect by their traditions, Mar 7:6-13. He shows what things defile men, Mar 7:14-16; and teaches his disciples in private, that the sin of the heart alone, leading to vicious practices, defiles the man, Mar 7:17-23. The account of the Syrophoenician woman, Mar 7:24-30. He heals a man who was dumb, and had an impediment in his speech, Mar 7:31-37.
Came from Jerusalem - Probably for the express purpose of disputing with Christ, that they might entangle him in his talk. Malice and envy are never idle - they incessantly hunt the person they intend to make their prey.
They found fault - This is wanting in ABEHLV, nineteen others, and several versions: Mill and Bengel approve the omission, and Griesbach rejects the word. If the 3d and 4th verses be read in a parenthesis, the 2d and 5th verses will appear to be properly connected, without the above clause.
Except they wash their hands - πυγμῃ, the hand to the wrist - Unless they wash the hand up to the wrist, eat not. Several translations are given of this word; that above is from Dr. Lightfoot, who quotes a tradition from the rabbins, stating that the hands were to be thus washed. This sort of washing was, and still continues to be, an act of religion in the eastern countries. It is particularly commanded in the Koran, Surat v. ver. 7, "O believers, when ye wish to pray, wash your faces, and your hands up to the elbows - and your feet up to the ankles." Which custom it is likely Mohammed borrowed from the Jews. The Jewish doctrine is this: "If a man neglect the washing, he shall be eradicated from this world." But instead of πυγμῃ, the fist or hand, the Codex Bezae has πυκνῃ, frequently: and several of the Itala have words of the same signification. Bathing is an indispensable prerequisite to the first meal of the day among the Hindoos; and washing the hands and the feet is equally so before the evening meal. Ward's Customs.
And when they come - This clause is added by our translators, to fill up the sense; but it was probably a part of the original: for εαν ελθωσι is the reading of the Codex Bezae, Vulgate, Armenian, and most of the Itala. The clause in my old MS. Bible is read thus: And thei turninge agein fro chepinge. The words seem essentially necessary to a proper understanding of the text; and, if not admitted on the above authority, they must be supplied in italics, as in our common translation.
Except they wash - Or dip; for βαπτισωνται may mean either. But instead of the word in the text, the famous Codex Vaticanus; (B), eight others, and Euthymius, have ῥαντισωνται, sprinkle. However, the Jews sometimes washed their hands previously to their eating: at other times, they simply dipped or plunged them into the water.
Of cups - Ποτηριων; any kind of earthen vessels.
Pots - Of measures - ξεϚων, from the singular ξεϚης, a measure for liquids, formed from the Latin sextarius, equal to a pint and a half English. See this proved by Wetstein on this place. My old MS. renders it cruetis.
Of brazen vessels - Χαλκιων. These, if polluted, were only to be washed, or passed through the fire; whereas the earthen vessels were to be broken.
And of tables - Beds, couches - και κλινων. This is wanting in BL, two others, and the Coptic. It is likely it means no more than the forms, or seats, on which they sat to eat. A bed or a couch was defiled, if any unclean person sat or leaned on it - a man with an issue - a leper - a woman with child, etc. As the word βαπτισμους, baptisms, is applied to all these, and as it is contended that this word, and the verb whence it is derived, signify dipping or immersion alone, its use in the above cases refutes that opinion and shows that it was used, not only to express dipping or immersion, but also sprinkling and washing. The cups and pots were washed; the beds and forms perhaps sprinkled; and the hands dipped up to the wrist.
Why walk not thy disciples - See on Mat 15:2-9 (note).
Honoreth me - Με τιμᾳ - but the Codex Bezae, and three copies of the Itala, have με αγαπᾳ, loveth me: - the Ethiopic has both readings.
Washing of pots and cups, etc. - This whole clause is wanting in BL, five others, and the Coptic: one MS. omits this and the whole of the ninth verse. The eighth verse is not found in the parallel place of Mat 15:7-9.
Full well - Καλως, - a strong irony. How noble is your conduct! From conscientious attachment to your own traditions ye have annihilated the commandments of God!
That ye may keep - But στησητε, that ye may establish, is the reading of D, three others, Syriac, all the Itala, with Cyprian, Jerome, and Zeno. Griesbach thinks it should be received instead of the other. God's law was nothing to these men, in comparison of their own: hear a case in point. "Rabba said, How foolish are most men! They observe the precepts of the Divine law, and neglect the statutes of the rabbins!" Maccoth, fol. 22.
For Moses said, etc. - See all these verses, from this to the 23d, explained Matthew 15:3-20 (note).
Your tradition - D, later Syriac in the margin, Saxon, and all the Itala but one, add τῃ μωρᾳ, by your Foolish tradition, your foolish law: - Anglo-Saxon.
When he had called all the people - But instead of παντα, all, παλιν, again, is the reading of BDL, later Syriac in the margin, Coptic, Ethiopic, Saxon, Vulgate, all the Itala but one. Mill and Griesbach approve of this reading.
Into the draught - See on Mat 15:17 (note).
Purging all meats? - For what is separated from the different aliments taken into the stomach, and thrown out of the body, is the innutritious parts of all the meats that are eaten; and thus they are purged, nothing being left behind but what is proper for the support of the body.
Into the borders of Tyre and Sidon - Or, into the country between Tyre and Sidon. I have adopted this translation from Kypke, who proves that this is the meaning of the word μεθορια, in the best Greek writers.
A certain woman - See this account of the Syrophoenician woman explained at large, Mat 15:21-28 (note).
The woman was a Greek - Rosenmuller has well observed, that all heathens or idolaters were called Ἑλληνες, Greeks, by the Jews; whether they were Parthians, Medes, Arabs, Indians, or Ethiopians. Jews and Greeks divided the whole world at this period.
Laid upon the bed - The demon having tormented her, so that her bodily strength was exhausted, and she was now laid upon the couch to take a little rest. The Ethiopic has a remarkable reading here, which gives a very different, and, I think, a better sense. And she found her daughter Clothed, Sitting upon the couch, and the demon gone out.
They bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech - Though from the letter of the text, it does not appear that this man was absolutely deprived of speech; for μογιλαλος literally signifies, one that cannot speak plainly - a stammerer; yet it is certain also that the word means a dumb person; and it is likely that the person in question was dumb, because he was deaf; and it is generally found that he who is totally deaf is dumb also. Almost all the versions understand the word thus: and the concluding words seem to confirm this - He maketh both the deaf to hear, and the Dumb, κωφους, to speak.
And he spit, and touched his tongue - This place is exceedingly difficult. There is scarcely an action of our Lord's life but one can see an evident reason for, except this. Various interpretations are given of it - none of them satisfies my mind. The Abbe Giradeau spiritualizes it thus: -
1. He took him aside from the multitude - When Christ saves a sinner, he separates him from all his old evil companions, and from the spirit and maxims of an ungodly world.
2. He put his fingers in his ears - to show that they could be opened only by the finger, i.e. the power, of God, and that they should be shut to every word and voice, but what came from him.
3. Spitting out he touched his tongue - to show that his mental taste and relish should be entirely changed: that he should detest those things which he before esteemed, and esteem those which he before hated.
4. Looking up to heaven - to signify that all help comes from God, and to teach the new convert to keep continually looking to and depending upon him.
5. He groaned - to show the wretched state of man by sins and how tenderly concerned God is for his present and eternal welfare; and to intimate that men should seek the salvation of God in the spirit of genuine repentance, with strong crying and tears.
6. He said, Be opened - Sin is a shutting of the ears against the words of God; and a tying of the tongue, to render it incapable of giving God due praise. But when the all-powerful grace of Christ reaches the heart, the ear is unstopped, and the man hears distinctly - the tongue is unloosed, and the man speaks correctly.
After all, it is possible that what is attributed here to Christ belongs to the person who was cured. I will give my sense of the place in a short paraphrase.
And Jesus took him aside from the multitude: and [the deaf man] put his fingers into his ears, intimating thereby to Christ that they were so stopped that he could not hear; and having spat out, that there might be nothing remaining in his mouth to offend the sight when Christ should look at his tongue, he touched his tongue, showing to Christ that it was so bound that he could not speak: and he looked up to heaven, as if to implore assistance from above: and he groaned, being distressed because of his present affliction, and thus implored relief: for, not being able to speak, he could only groan and look up, expressing by these signs, as well as he could, his afflicted state, and the desire he had to be relieved. Then Jesus, having compassion upon him, said, Be opened: and immediately his ears were opened, so that he could hear distinctly; and the impediment to his speaking was removed, so that he spake properly. The original will admit of this interpretation; and this, I am inclined to believe, is the true meaning of this otherwise (to me and many others) unaccountable passage.
Ephphatha - Ethphathach, Syriac. It is likely that it was in this language that our Lord spoke to this poor man: and because he had pronounced the word Ephphathach with peculiar and authoritative emphasis, the evangelist thought proper to retain the original word; though the last letter in it could not be expressed by any letter in the Greek alphabet.
He spake plain - Ορθως, distinctly, without stammering. One MS. has, And he spoke, praising God. There is no doubt of this: but the evangelist, I think, did not write these words.
Tell no man - See on Mat 8:4 (note). This miracle is not mentioned by any other of the evangelists. Another proof that Mark did not abridge Matthew. For a practical review of the different important subjects of this chapter, see Matthew 15:1-39 (note), and particularly the observations at the end.
He hath done all things well - This has been, and ever will be, true of every part of our Lord's conduct. In creation, providence, and redemption he hath done all things well. The wisest philosophers are agreed that, considering creation as a whole, it would be impossible to improve it. Every thing has been made in number, weight, and measure; there really is nothing deficient, nothing redundant; and the good of the creature seems evidently more consulted than the glory of the Creator. The creature's good is every where apparent; but to find out how the Creator is glorified by these works requires the eye of the philosopher. And as he has done all things well in creation, so has he in providence: here also every thing is in number, weight, measure, and time. As creation shows his majesty, so providence shows his bounty. He preserves every thing he has made; all depend upon him; and by him are all things supported. But how glorious does he appear in the work of redemption! How magnificent, ample, and adequate the provision made for the salvation of a lost world! Here, as in providence, is enough for all, a sufficiency for each, and an abundance for eternity. He loves every man, and hates nothing that he has made; nor can the God of all grace be less beneficent than the Creator and Preserver of the universe.