By Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg and Rev. Jim Stowe

Two Gospels record a meeting between Judean Jesus and a Greek woman (Mk.7:24-29; Matt.15:21-28). Jesus goes to Tyre and Sidon (allotment territory of the tribe of Asher that was never fully taken over by Israelite). There he meets a desperate mother willing to do anything for her suffering child: “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely tormented by a demon.” (Mat. 15:21-22)

As we continue reading we see that Jesus first gave her the silent treatment. Then, when his Jewish disciples demanded he answer her, he responded: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” However, the woman was relentless. “She came, knelt before him, and said, “Lord, help me!” He answered her: “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” (Mat. 15:23-26)

The most offensive statement, of course, has to do with Jesus’ comparison of Greek Gentiles to dogs. The key to understanding this text is found in realization that only in the modern Western world dogs are thought to be part of the family. Dogs (often) live inside and not outside of the family home, but it was not so in the ancient times in the East. In other words, the comparison to dogs was not meant to dehumanize the Greek woman but to emphasize that Jesus’ primary mission was to Israel – to those inside of God’s family, not outside of it.

Understood this way, we see that there was nothing dehumanizing in Jesus’ response.  It is no different from what Apostle Paul would later write: “…the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.” In spite of some misunderstood statements about his seeming disregard for the physical family, Jesus here says – family first!

But what made Jesus act different towards her now? Clearly it was her response: “Yes, Lord,” she said, “yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus replied to her, “Woman, your faith is great. Let it be done for you as you want.” (Matthew 15:27-28)

This Sidonian woman displayed the true faith of Israel exemplified in the Torah by both Abraham and Moses. Just like them, she was willing to argue with God, believing with unwavering faith that He is just, good, and merciful.

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196 COMMENTS

  1. Yes. The point of comparison in the metaphor of gentiles being dogs is very important. I also think that you hit the nail on the head.

  2. Dear Eli Besides what you wrote, there is in the Tanach some mention about animals not to be living inside… I once read it but do not remembre where in the Law is it mentioned… Thanks

  3. In the light of the disciples’ displeasure at the woman’s plea, a fair case can be made that when Jesus did speak, he voices a thought typical of his disciples’ opinion — “taking the children’s bread and giving it to the dogs”. Their opinion, not his, their voice, not his … then we can go a step further and see Jesus is being ironic. The disciples’ opinion is not his own. Dogs are of course outside of the household, not household pets; scavengers, eating trash wherever they find it. But does Jesus express own opinion, or the disciples’?

    • I agree it is possible to think in this direction,although I think it may unfairly portray disciples and all Jews in negative light at the expense of our discomfort and missunderstanding :-).

      • Jesus chose to go there, and as on other occasions when he goes out of Jewish territory, he responds to the fatih he finds. On the other hand, the disciples express displeasure and ask Jesus to send the woman away. I think this is the significant starting point. Jesus’ two utterances make boundaries, and are difficult as Jesus’ conviction or the disciples’. He is ironic about the disciples’ point of view, not his, and not all Jews. I am then confronted with my attitude to others; which is I think at the centre of this episode. I suggest irony explains.

        • I agree with you. Jesus used subversion often, where knew what He plans to do, but starts out by bringing the status quo out in sharp focus, then flips it on its head. This account has much in common with “Lazarus/Rich Man”. A suffering person/dogs eating crumbs from tables there also. (Judah had five brothers, & the kingship, the temple, priests & sacrifices were in their territory = royal purple, fine linen, eating sumptuously). The Gentile woman did address Jesus as “Son of David”, but corrects this in admitting she’s “a little dog”, which, along with great faith wins out!

        • Ronnie Simm. I fully agree with you on this matter. It is very clear from the passage that our Lord was testing the faith of the woman and dealing with the pride of his apostles and by demonstration teaching them the lesson of humility. A lesson we all need to learn especially today.

    • The dogs ate from the masters table! It was inside not outside! Gentiles were unclean and not to be socialized with the Jew! Read Acts 10 where Peter is shown unclean beast to “rise and eat”! no so sayeth Peter I have never touche anything common or unclean and this is what Jesus is revealing here with this woman!

    • I agree and had seen this story the same way. It was a reaching moment for the disciples showing them that He wasn’t just the Savior of Israel but of everyone.

  4. I thought that the dogs common at that time were Saluki type hounds which are sight hounds. We are to walk by faith not sight and her response was most appropriate in that case. You have given me another angle from which to view this passage. Thank you.

  5. A Jewish hero is Caleb, Joshua’s second-in-command, whose name means “dog” in Hebrew. Just as a point of interest. Obviously the name was given to a male child to wish upon the child the unparalleled loyalty and fearlessness of a dog, not because the dog was a loathsome animal. Maybe Jesus had this in mind as well. And clearly people in the first century let dogs in their houses or the dogs would not have been eating crumbs from under the table.

  6. The woman’s statement in response to Jesus was also an indication of the fact that we (Jews and Gentiles alike) all have one Master; that is God, the Head of the Family (Jewish and Christian believers). It reminds me that God, in his mercy, ‘makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust [Matt 5:45].

    • Not sure that was the intent given what Jesus said to her. 🙂 But you are of course right whether or not this was her intent.

  7. Hello. Do you disagree with Morris in the Pillar NTC..(Matthew) and the New Amer Comm – Matthew (Blomberg) and others, regarding the use of ‘kynarion’ vs ‘kyon’ here? Per Morris “clearly house pets”; with a footnote p404 “that such dogs were kept …is clear from the Mishnah.” Eating from the table assumes they are already inside the house. Thoughts? At any rate the “children” had just been promoted up from wayward livestock in v24, so Jesus may been seen as an equal opportunity offender.

  8. Judges 1:7 speaks, Adonaibezek ( Lord of lightning) thinks to highly of himself, God re-affirms HIS covenant, after Joshiwa dies Judah is sent to go forward, God’s mantle of authority! Instead of Adonaibezek’s boasting in subjugating the 70 Kings, like little dog’s under his table (he) is humbled and made to live and beg like a little dog until death. This woman could very well be from the dispersion after Babylon, her descendants refused for lack of documentation, and yet a child of Promise. Scattered seed of Abraham! Matthew 15:24, child of Israel!

  9. Interesting! Her faith in Jesus made the exception to the rule, her faith meant that Jesus then reached out to her, but as he stated he was here ” for the lost sheep of the House of Israel”. What does he mean by ” Lost sheep of the house of Israel” How were they lost? What had they lost? Did they not follow Torah? What is he saying here, he doesn’t say the Children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or the ten tribes? He states the “Lost sheep ” .And shouldn’t it have been faith in HaShem not man?

  10. Is there a legitimate claim of differentiation between the words and their context as indicated by well attested Greek dictionaries and Lexicons? In the first, Matt. 7:6 Jesus does seem to use the word for dog pejoratively, not just as a covenant reference. Strongs: κύων kuon Meaning: a dog 2) metaph. a man of impure mind, an impudent man. In the second case, Matt 15:26 the diminutive for of dog is used, suggesting a less severe address to the woman of Canaan. DANKER: κυναρίοις. noun dative neuter plural from κυνάριον

    • Hi, Warren. I like the eagle in your picture. cool. About dictionaries and lexicons: they are very important crucial tools, BUT we must also remember that they too carry a measure of translation subjectivity. The Greek used for the dog there is a dog that is family dog vs. stray dog.

  11. Not refuting your interpretation, Dr. Eli; but just a question: If the dogs were outside animals, why does the woman speak of them eating crumbs that fall from the master’s table? Seems to me that they would be like my yorkies lying in wait for what I might drop.

  12. I get that she had faith, but Mark 7:28-29 says her child was healed because she said, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs?” This doesn’t make sense. Oh… I guess I tried to find some hidden meaning in the Greek woman’s answer and forgot to ask myself what Jesus was capable of doing with her answer. I love thinking and you certainly keep me thinking!

  13. From the first time I read the story, it was very obvious what Jesus was doing by talking with the Greek woman as he did. I’m surprised that you say the comparison Jesus employed has disturbed millions of people. Why would that be? One thing that does disturb me somewhat is what seems to be an almost narcotic need to attach “Jewish” to much of what you write especially when the Jewishness is so obvious. Example why Judean Jesus? Isn’t it obvious Jesus was a Jew in the original sense–from the tribe of Judah. Why such a strong need?

  14. previous to the encounter with the Canaanite woman, Jesus taught the hypocrites that it is what comes out of the heart that is good; and that unwashed hands do not defile a man if his heart is pure. Here, Jesus learned his own lesson. Remember, he paused in silence and considered the woman. Jesus stepped beyond his Jewish-ism and accepted the faith of a person not normally considered worthy of his message. The words ‘children’ and ‘dog’ merely reflect this. If Jesus the man could learn from God, so can we all, dogs or children…

  15. Extraordinary if it was never easy to befriend either Jesus or Gentiles, so there is a gaff about the acquaintances. Micah 5:2c says whose ways are from of old, and how JESUS is said to have suffered at the hands of Gentiles is shocking to the modern mind, among first to be spit upon and tortured for it is said Jesus tortured the demon possessed, St Mark 5;7 But the wonder of HIs emergence as made again from the Dead is the proof of God’s eternal people the Jews, whom Jesus also made sure did not simply throw

  16. If the dogs weren’t living inside the home, how did her next statement about them eating the crumbs from the master’s table make sense? I appreciate you attempt to make this text more understandable, but what you said doesn’t really make this seem any less dehumanizing.

  17. I try to approach words we read in scriptures, whether spoken by Jesus or others, as spoken or written to be understood by the intended audience in their cultural settings. The words are either plain or idiomatic, even though today we may fail to grasp their idiomatic meanings. Dr. Eli, as you posit, Jesus uses the idiom of “crumbs for the dogs” not as a derogatory term, but as conveying the meaning individuals are to feed their household first before feeding those outsides of the house. In this case Jesus’s house, he is referring to is Israel and those outside

  18. …the house, the gentiles. If this was a common idiom, could it have had its’ most common use in relaying the obligation of individuals within Israel to feed those within their own home before feeding others outside, even though the outsiders are of the same tribe. This brings to mind Paul’s admonition, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

  19. I don’t think that being compared to a dog is all that terrible. It isn’t the same as the insult of today. Jesus uses animal metaphors more than once. I guess a dog is just one who is a sinner. But Jesus responds very lovingly to the expression of this woman’s faith, which puts her (as the sinner come home) ahead of the 99 just. I don’t think we have to stand on our dignity with Jesus. He knows our category, based on our sins. The important thing is to show Him our faith. That is what this Canaanite woman

  20. Jews often referred to Gentiles as “dogs” because of the…er…”habits” of the Gentiles. Jesus was sent to bring Israel back to a right relationship with Hashem and then Israel was supposed to do the job of evangelizing the Gentiles. One gets some notion of how exasperating this must have been for the Jews assigned to teach the Gentiles, in Paul’s scolding letters to the Corinthians. He told them that they did things that even those remaining in paganism didn’t do and what’s worse, they bragged about it!

  21. What doesn’t make sense to me is that the Jews (disciples) seemingly did not recognize Jesus right off, but the gentiles (centurion & this woman) got faith immediately. This makes me wonder if the word faith means something other than accepting all of Jesus (died, buried, raised – 1 Cor 15:3,4). Could faith mean they accepted God’s authority or plan?

  22. I have always thought that Jesus ignored the woman at first because she came using words she had heard but which had no true meaning to her – “Have mercy on me Lord, son of David”. Though her request was sincere, these words were not from her heart, just a formula she had learned. I believe He finally listened to her because she humbled herself, spoke from the depths of her heart – “Lord, help me.” Simple, honest and sincere, not trying to impress Him with words. He responded as He always does to anyone who seeks Him wholeheartedly.

  23. Jesus called his disciples sheep, so his referring to the Sidonian woman as a dog is actually a step up. And she WAS much smarter than most. There are few domesticated animals as stupid as sheep. Dogs are much smarter. Further, Jews would eat sheep, but never dogs. Yet, nobody seems to be upset when Jesus refers to them as sheep. In fact, look at Isaiah 55: We are like snails bumping up against the foot of a human, wondering what we encountered. Contrast our intelligence with that of the Most High. The relative contrast seems moot.

    • Hi Rob. Well, you know what they say, “… Never make a metaphor stand on all four [legs]” Jesus, and Isaiah, for that matter, are focused on a specific attribute of sheep and dogs. But what can I tell you? Sheep aren’t the brightest animal on the farm….

  24. Ha ha! But how are we sheep supposed to interpret these deep mysteries? “As high as the heavens are above the earth…” But Ruah HaKodesh will teach us everything when He comes. Maybe not this one… We still have to wait for the full revelation of this story for when Yeshua returns, I think. Be assured that these pearls are not cast before swine in our case! We treasure them and keep them in or hearts!

  25. Very interesting to say the least! I love at!!! This woman would not back down! She took criticism, insults and still pressed on! She was in dire need of helping her child! She was not going down without a fight. She ‘knew’ JESUS was the ONLY help for her daughter! She presented a relentless argument to her CREATOR/GOD and her ‘faith’ gave her victory/deliverance! I’d love to hear the daughters view of deliverance! LOL That has to be exciting!!! Many of your topic/headings draw me into them (dangling the carrot in front of the horse LOL ). Thank you!

  26. Shalom. Thank you for explaining this scripture. Family and those inside the house first is certainly understandable. I am glad the word dog was not intended as a slur. This is an example of God’s and Yeshua’s compasion for all who sincerely call out to them.

  27. Clearly, dogs cannot eat the crumbs that fall from the table if they are not within the master’s house!
    The notion that dogs (and gentiles) are not and cannot be members of the master’s household and within the master’s house is obviously false.
    Dogs do not, however, have a seat/place set at the master’s table!

  28. I think when Jesus said words to the effect his bread is for the children and not for the little dogs ( not for the chosen people of God eg the Gentiles he meant it. The Greek woman picked up on this and acted metaphorically as a stray dog to humbly eat the crumbs that fall from her masters table.
    I believe that the Jews of today continue to consider themselves special being the chosen people.
    In the current Jewish peoples awards to those who are not Jewish the title given is Honorable Gentile . The concept of a God for all seems to have come from Paul with the inspiration from Jesus. When Christ was put on the cross the sign above was King of the Jews, not King of Mankind. Thats how he was seen. He did however acknowledge non Jews faith in him.

  29. Shalom all,

    Its amazing teaching. Unlike when I came to the Yashua in 2003, I now am not taking anthing without studing context and background of the Word. Why was it said, to whom and what is it attempting to address?

    Everytime I read this Spirit filled Word here I get the answers in full just from these posts. You are doing the right thing Dr Eli.

    As to the topic at hand, it does sound very offensive if one just picks on one part of the dialoge but when read throughly in context then its clear. It shows the power of true faith and Gods mercy in love.

    Adonai bless you all

  30. Most of the comments are insightful and thought provoking. In my tribe we say one finger cannot kill a louse. Meaning there is strength in seeking counsel. When scripture talks about heaven n who will make it it defines and the without are the dogs… then describes the nature of those without. He clearly knows us more than others might and therefore she offered no argument as to His judgement of her but presented instead the one for her daughter as it seems the predicament of her daughter wasn’t of guilt but virtue of being her daughter

  31. Just another comment on this passage..

    A couple of observations on dogs
    You read of dogs being domesticated very early in human history. First consider Job when he spoke of the dogs of my flock (30:1). Reaching back to the Romans and Greeks we have Homer telling of a faithful dog well skilled in the chase from the Iliad. and Plato in the Republic compares the warrior class to a dog’s courage and gentleness. But it does seem that rabbinic sources do look favorably on dogs as you pointed out as house pets.

    I have always look at this set of verses a little differently as the reference to the dogs was more of a test of and example of faith.

    The woman came to Jesus in faith – never questioned IF Jesus could free her daughter from a demon
    She has such tenacity, she will not be deterred by silence, words, or being declined.
    She did not take offence at Jesus words, she was humble – she is after all a Canaanite.
    This mother was I think prepared to stay as a humble mom before this man she knew could heal her child. Faith, tenacity, and humility from a Canaanite woman.
    And her Faith healed her daughter.

  32. When Jesus walked the earth as a Jewish man, Christianity didn’t exist. So Gentiles weren’t Christians. It wasn’t until after Jesus left us that Christianity was conceived through apostle Peter and his missionary work along with the other apostles. The blue print being the New Testament.

    • Amen. So many people today lose sight of that fact. Yeshua was a Jew…a Jew who taught that the legalism taught by the Pharisees and Saducees was misguided and was not of G-d. He (and his apostles) celebrated the Feasts and the Holy days commanded. Modern day christianity falls very short of how Yeshua and the apostles would have lived and believed, I’m sure. I pray in the name of Yeshua, that in these days that more and more people would have eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to receive The Truth of The Word of G-d.

  33. Well as the Gospels are written in ancient Greek, I would assume that a later scribe had a dislike to the Greeks and included these passages, I can’t personally see a Greek writer of the Gospels including this disinflation of his race.

  34. Her request wasn’t answered until she referred to Yashua as Lord instead of her previous, but pretentious title: Son of David, as she wasn’t a Jew.

  35. I always loved that account and thank the Lord for it every time I run across it. When I encounter someone who seems to be offended by it I remind them Jesus cane to do and fulfill many things in Israel, but that His disciples were going to be blessed with the great unprecedented privilege of taking the gospel to the entire world 😀. Greatest honor in history.

  36. In the main, I agree with your claims in “Gentiles, Dogs and Jesus.” However, it seems to me that you make Jesus’ remark (to the Canaanite woman) out to be a bit more palatable to modern sensibilities than is warranted. On the one hand, we can rest assured that Jesus wasn’t insulting her or speaking disdainfully. On the other hand, for him to use the term ‘dog’ implied not only that she was outside the covenant but also that she, like Gentiles generally, was looked upon as debased and/or evil. (Exodus 22:31; Deuteronomy 23:18; 1 Samuel 24:14; 2 Samuel 3:8 & 9:8; 2 Kings 8:13; Proverbs 26:11; Ecclesiastes 9:4; Philemon 3:2; Revelation 22:15.)

  37. so enlightening a topic. the Sidonian woman knows what she wants haven exhausted the options at her disposal, she went looking for JESUS!…..AS i paraphrase…..’master even the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from the children’s table….. meaning LORD, just allow me my own space in the house. i know and i have been told how wasteful your children can be about your blessings. how they don’t know what they carry….. and the AMALEKITES took it, next the philistines, next the Syrians and so many others. JUST LET ME STAY HERE LORD!

  38. Jesus was a Jew, who like other Jews resented the occupation of the Jewish homeland by Greeks, Romans, Canaanites and other gentiles, often referred to as Cutheans in the Talmud so as not to be too direct about it. However, Jesus was more liberal, even telling the story of the “Good Samaritan” who did a humane deed indicating he wasn’t prejudiced against Gentiles in general. The animus against Gentiles was not that they were Gentiles, but against those who were occupying the God-given land that was supposed to belong to the nation of Israel.

  39. The Kingdom of Heaven is open for all on earth and salvation is through Jesus Christ. There is no other name whereby men(ie.everyone) may be saved. God is long-suffering not wanting that any should perish but that ALL should turn torepentance.

    • Both Matthew and Mark record not “dogs” proper which would have been out with the flock, but rather “puppies,” little dogs. It is reasonable that the young dogs would have been allowed inside.

      • Nah…that’s highly doubtful eg Rabbi Eliezer [said] “He who eats with
        an idolator is like unto one who eats with a dog”.
        The text is plain as is the circumstances and context of the time eg exclusivity of Judaism and gentiles.. The gospel writers have the Syro-Phoenician /Canaanite woman correcting Jesus and therefore correcting those who believed that the Gentiles (the dogs) were excluded from Jesus’s message. Not to mention Jesus ceding the debate to a woman which would have been unthinkable in the first century.

          • Yes it does. A couple of things which make this account extraordinary. 1) It was a woman who spoke back to Jesus. That was remarkable and unthinkable in itself for the time. 2) We know that sections of Early Christianity did teach that Gentiles had to become Jews which was in line with the teaching of the Shammai school. (Paul calls those Judaizers ‘dogs’ in Phil 3:2) 3) “Dog” is also the synonym in rabbinical literature for shameless and relentless people, and therefore for wicked heathen.
            Nope…this is more than just ‘priority’…..

          • Now you’re equating “shameless and relentless people” (which is not a sin, think Abraham in the issue of Sodom) with “wicked heathen.” I could not disagree more.

          • Once again you deny the context in which the gospel was written.

            Rabbinic literature equated gentiles with dogs…..eg Rabbi Eliezer AND you have the Shammaite school at the time of Jesus who were actively promoting that ALL communication between gentiles and Jews should be completely prohibited. Heck they even had some of the Hillel school killed over it. How sad that you force your own modern bias onto the text.

            You seem to be disagreeing with history.

  40. Actually, if one is not part of the family of God, he is far worse off than dogs. Dogs will not be judged,
    people will — even believers…1 Corinthians 5:10.

  41. If I had registered to learn Biblical Hebrew, would I know whether question marks were employed?
    An implied (rhetorical) question mark after Jesus’ words: ‘Is it right to take the children’s bread’ might have cast a friendlier light on the exchange, which led to healing.
    Thanks for many enlightening explanations!

    • Jesus’ words were recorded in Greek, not Hebrew, but for early manuscripts that were written in capitals, not even spaces were employed let alone question marks. 🙂

  42. Some are disappointed by his referring to dogs because they expected a better standard of behaviour in speech as well as action from someone who claimed to show us an improved standard of behaviour towards others. If Jesus is G-d is he proposing a relativistic morality?

    • There is a standard for morality, but flexibility in judgment on God’s part depending on each person’s journey and understanding.

  43. I stand for correction. . But just maybe God gave her the insight to say even the dogs eat the crumbs from the masters table. Just because he wanted to be seen and known as the merciful God that He is. Where would she have gotten that wisdom from, but from God. To build up everybody’s faith and trust in Him. The creator of all. It is not His Will that ANY should perish. Beautiful Lord of All.

  44. why cant Yeshua/Jesus’s words not be just what He said? The reference He made at that time was not a future reference of dogs as pets. He called her a dog. Why? maybe because of the culture of people at the time, sin, disobedience, and unholyness…once again even Jesus’s own words must be “corrected” and “explained” because we live in a world where most people are “snowflakes” and people are offended easily. Lets not try and worry too much to try and get a meaning that will make everyone feel good, we should have faith and trust in him.

    • She was offended and stood up for herself displaying dignity in her response. Her response was not rude but was so self-effacing that Jesus was ashamed and did the right thing.

    • You’re right in that Jesus was calling the woman a derogatory term and yes he was being at least extremely sectarian and most probably bigoted.

      The message from the gospel is that is not acceptable and that Jesus marvelled at her faith. Jesus was in effect, put in his place by a heathen….and a woman at that!!!!

      As for ‘snowflakes’….well most people don’t like being labelled with derogatory terms.

  45. To add on my previous comment, I am a gentile, I believe as stated above that there may be other reasons why the reference of a dog was used, maybe because she was a certain race or had a certain culture maybe it was for all gentiles but if I am a dog, I will become Worthy, even if I am only saved by grace. My point is people must stop finding ways to use the Bible to make us feel good or to JUSTIFY our lives today…if its sin its sin if you are unholy you are unholy we should not use the Bible in such a way to try and make something that is wrong -right. I see it in everyday churches too…preachers preaching forgiveness to lawless people by assuring them it does not matter what they do they will be forgiven. They have stopped to warn them that they must respect Yeshua…they are not taught in churches that Yeshua will kill millions/billions of people…He does not need to be Justified in a manner that suits our liking

  46. As the NT writers often remezed their scriptures, could this story be a remez to 1 Kings 17, were we have Elijah and the Phoenician woman who eats crumbs from the table with the “master”, and Jesus sees this gentile woman from the same region knows her text and the message begins to come clear thar Messiah will be for both Jew and gentile, children and “dogs”. Could Jesus strong response have been to this pagan woman knowing her text and worship of the one God? All in light of Matthew’s overall message of “kingdom” for all, jew and gentile.

    • I don’t see enough connecting points to draw a remez to the story in 1 Kings 17, but it is possible. By faith in the true God, both gained appreciably from the “master”.

  47. The verse “It is not right to take the children’s bread” sounds very negative. I like your translation “first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.” I am curious about the meaning of the word argue in Hebrew. It seems like arguing with God is more like God revealing Himself. Our doctrine teaches that faith is something we have enough of. Somehow faith (arguing) should be connected to His work.

    • The dialogue in Genesis 18 between God and Abraham does not include any word related to “argue” actually. It was a cordial exchange, and more so Abraham was very reverent in his plea. But he certainly showed courage and persistence by making his plea.

  48. Dogs are loyal to their master even if the master will abuse his pet, inflict pain. The woman, though she received such treatment, she showed so much faith that the Lord Jesus Christ provided her relief.

  49. But if the dog is outside, how can it eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table? It sounds like the dog is at the master’s feet.

    • The Greek should be translated puppies. It is reasonable that puppies were allowed indoors, but the dogs had a job outdoors to do.

  50. The scriptures are very plain. Jesus is just saying He was to go to His people first. His family to teach them first. She was not of His family. By the Jews she was considered beneath them.
    But because of her faith she became His family just as we all have become. He was teaching His disciples in everything He did so they would remember after He was gone. Sometimes I think you can make it harder than it is. You read the Bible and allow the Holy Spirit to show you the Way!

  51. I always think there are multiple ways of seeing a story in scripture and I appreciate all the comments above. The woman is certainly humbling herself when she associates herself with a dog waiting for crumbs from the table. She is not afraid to be a beggar before God. She is a reminder that God looks for the humble and contrite heart and favors that over pride and grasping at things as if they automatically belong to us. She is asking to receive from a heavenly table beyond this world and her honest humility is what touches Jesus’ heart.

  52. The words for ‘dogs’ are different in the NT.
    (a) little dog or household dog (kuarion) as in Matthew 15:26, 27 and Mark 7:27, 28. Jesus is testing the Syrophonecian woman and not calling Gentiles dogs.
    (b) dog (kuon) as in Luke 16:21, Phil 3:2, II Peter 2:22 and Revelation 22:15 where it is a reference to Sodomites (see Deuteronomy 23: 17, 18).

  53. Many Thanks for the explanations.
    That’s the very same question i was discussing with my friend over the weekend, as to how could the Messiah, the Savior of the world call some people “dogs”. I didn’t understand it at all and it didn’t make sense to me.
    Thanks

  54. I have never, ever assumed he called her a dog. I believe he was only speaking in parable, as he often does, and because she believed, she understood its meaning, framing her response with the same elements of the parable.

  55. Having pondered this passage I believe this was a known saying in Israel, Rabbinic style wisdom in the form of a traditional proverb. As a Gentile she would not be expected to know the second part of the proverb. That she knew was indicative of serious study. From this we can see that Christ was pleased with her knowledge which informed her boldness, causing her to stand firm on the written word, demanding its physical realization. The proverb would read: One does not give the children’s bread to the dogs, however even the puppies eat the crumbs that fall.

  56. Dr Eli

    Thank you for this fascinating exegesis of this text! May you please clarify the phrase whereby the woman responds:” even dogs eat crumbs that fall from their masters’ table”. What does it mean, as you have said that dogs were not domestic at that time? A table is a home appliance, and “their” is a possessive pronoun, which implies that dogs had owners. Please clarify, Dr Eli

  57. What about the “crumbs”? Many of the comments I have read focus on the “dogs” and those who point out the difference in the Greek used are valid and helpful. However what is missing is any mention of the “crumbs”. This woman realized – and truly felt – that even the smallest grace from God was precious. From one who has been on the “outside” I assure you the crumbs are very special. Here Jesus used the faith of this Gentile woman to open our eyes to how precious even the “crumbs” are. We take too much for granted.

  58. Regarding the whole dogs inside or out question: wouldn’t the crumbs from the table be swept outside after the meal? Then they would be available for the dogs to eat. Her reply would be even more humble if she were saying that even dogs may eat the garbage that is thrown out. Perhaps she was saying that even the least crumb, brushed from his robe onto the road, would be enough for an undeserving Gentile. She had faith, not just in His power, but also in His mercy. [Imagine how offended we’d be if Jesus had used “cockroaches”, not “dogs”:-)]

  59. Your insights are really helpful. I think we Christians often miss the full meaning by thinking that the Bible is to be taken literally. I do have a question, maybe an observation. If women were so devalued and especially a gentile women, even getting that close to the table was an accomplishment. I wonder if her response might have “taught” Jesus something about women because it seems as if Jesus attitude towards women took a different direction after this incident.

    • Hi Frank. I’m quite certain that this passage focuses on ethnicity, not gender. But in the end, her persistence and faith won her a captive audience from the Master!

  60. How does this square with Matt 5:22.
    But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Depends on the audience to whom this is written by the author?

  61. I’m amazed that the lady knew Jesus was the Son of David. She wasn’t Jewish and she only needed to call Jesus Lord. When she did this Jesus answered in a way she understood. There was no doubt a house dog in that home and Jesus played on that to lead her to realize that we can come to Him just as we are we don’t need to stand on another to have Jesus bless us.

  62. Paul quoted a common view held toward a group of people in his day (and he happened to agree with it) “One of Crete’s own prophets has said ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.’ This saying is true.” Saying she was a dog was not something Jesus believed. He was simply quoting the view that many Jewish people held toward gentiles, namely that “they’re dogs.” But he didn’t agree with this derogatory label – that she was a dog, inferior, less. He knew her heart and saw that her faith was great.

  63. Should Jesus know in advance just how much our pets, in this instant, dogs, are so very much loved in our times??

  64. My version of the Bible said he called them the “little dogs “ which is very literal. All his disciples were Jews not one Greek. My conclusion is that he meant what he said namely he had not come to spiritually feed the Gentiles. Jesus’s mission was to turn Judaism on its head that’s why they killed him. Jesus is full of compassion and as the woman was quick witted persistent ,believing in the healing power of Jesus , not for herself but for her child Jesus healed the child .

  65. Now the question is when did Jesus turn to feed the Gentiles. This predominantly seems to come from Saul who became Paul. The question is why did this Messianic Jew , the Jews Jew suddenly gets some warmth for gentiles namely Greeks. The Jews celebrated Hanika where the revolted against the Greeks and this appears to have occurred before Christ so why did Psul go against this tradition of Jewish victory over the Greeks.

    • Because of a little something that happened on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), but maybe you were asking rhetorically and already knew the answer. 🙂

  66. Why do you call the women a Greek?

    Mark, calls the woman “the Syrophoenician race”,
    and Matthew calls the woman a Canaanite (the same as John Mark)

  67. I read your post almost every day, calling gentiles being dogs is not the way it presented here and off course in the bible. For example puppies won’t open their eyes for more than two weeks after birth. Even once their eyes are open; their vision isn’t that great for the days to come. Once we grow in faith,there is a good lesson to learn behind the metaphor…. “Woman, your faith is great. Let it be done for you as you want.” (Mat.15:27-28)
    In conclusion , if you keep seeking Him by faith then……

  68. Jesus know all things. He knew the woman and her humility. He wanted his companions to see her humility and faith and learn from it. Do tell us? What did He mean when He said “Without are dogs”?

    Please don’t be called Reverend . There is only one to be

  69. It is important to understand that IN CHRIST, there is neither Jew nor Gentile…that Jew and Gentile believers in Christ are ONE BODY… ONE NEW

  70. Jesus was not really Jewish. The Jewish writer John said that The Word was GOD and created the world then car and then became FLesh and dwelled among us. Anyone who believes in Him become a Son of the DEITY

  71. Don’t be offended by “dogs”. The Bible calls those lacking appreciation pigs.
    Din’t throe your pearls before swine. Nice!

  72. Have been following this topic for weeks now w/o comment. But to say Yeshua was “ashamed” of His statement? Absolutely not. To be that racially biased would be outright sin and He was without sin; the Lamb without blemish. No this was a teaching moment and act of mercy. FAITH

  73. I apologize for a misstatement. I had commented before, but forgot. Smile. I truly believe Yeshua was preparing the disciples for their future ministry. He was that Servant lamp of the menorah which lighted those others..and together, these chosen ones were to be the Light of the World. Sustaining Light.

  74. I’d like to comment on the comparison of Gentiles versus Dogs. This has always been a thorn in my side. I love, and worship my Saviour and Redeemer, Jesus Christ and am a true follower and a Christian. How could he not know then that dogs would become like family?

  75. While he may have known that she had faith, I think he was trying to be offensive to her because in Acts 10:28, Peter established that it was unlawful for Jews to be in a gentile’s presence, because they considered them unclean. The Samaritan woman at the well confirms this.

    • Hi Bernard, I don’t think Peter “established” that it was unlawful… as much as he was just pointing out the current norm (right before overturning it), but I see your point.

    • Shalom, Devi. I’m so happy that you are getting so much out of these insights. God bless you!

  76. Did Yeshua ever change His mind and give the bread to the Gentiles? He came to feed the lost sheep (Jews), His own and His many of His own did not receive Him. With this in mind when did His command to His disciples change? Please let me know.

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