Mark 7.1-37 tells us about Yeshua’s confrontation with the Pharisees from Beit (house) Shammai over ritual handwashing and the traditions of the elders in the Oral Law; and he heals two individuals who were sick.
v 1…And the Pharisees (from Beit Shammai) and some of the scribes gathered together around him when they had come from Jerusalem (there was an alliance between Shammai and the Sadducees from 20 BC to 30 AD when Beit Shammai ruled in the Sanhedrin),
v 2…and had seen that some of his talmidim were eating their bread (already kosher-this issue is not about eating unkosher or kosher food) with impure hands (not ritually clean according to the halakah of Beit Shammai; the other main group of Pharisees were called Beit Hillel, the school Paul was from), that is, unwashed (ritually according to Beit Shammai).
v 3…For the Pharisees (from Shammai) and all the Jews (meaning “many”) do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders (Beit Shammai)-this was their oral law and each group had their own halakah. Yeshua will be addressing Beit Shammai here and they were opposed to Yeshua. Beit Hillel only required hand washing at Festivals, so they disagreed on this, along with over three hundred other things. The oral law said this was done to make people aware of the concept of “priesthood” but the Torah never required this. This tradition is man-made and by making it a “heavy transgression” they undermined the authority of the Torah that never required it in the first place. Christianity has done the same thing by requiring Sunday worship over the Sabbath; saying you can eat foods forbidden by the Torah like pork, catfish; Easter has replaced Passover, etc. This is a ritual ceremony. We don’t need experts trained in the oral law to explain the written Torah. His word is clear in Deut 30.11-14 so that even a small child can understand it in Deut 31.9-13. Yeshua said in Matt 23.1-3 that we should not obey the oral traditions of Beit Shammai (see Matt 23.1-3 notes in our study of Mathew on this site),
v 4…and when they came from the market place (where they may have contracted ritual impurity according to their traditions), they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves (by tevilah, or immersion, or rachatz, meaning washing) and there are many other things which they have received (in their oral law) in order to obaseve such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.
v 5…And the Pharisees (from Beit Shammai based on what they are saying here) and the scribes asked him, “Why do your talmidim not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands (the word walk is “halakah”)?”
v 6…And he said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips (confession), but their hearts (desires, thoughts, intentions) is far from me (Isa 29.13),
v 7…but in vain (empty) do they worship me, teaching as doctrines (of God) the precepts of men (thus adding to the Torah, which they cannot do-Deut 4.2; Prov 30.5-6).’
v 8…Neglecting (setting aside) the commandments of God you hold to the traditions of men (in their oral traditions-if Yeshua came to do away with the law, or Torah, why would he reprove them for doing just that?).”
v 9…He was also saying to them, “You nicely set aside the commandments of God in order to keep (incorporating into their lives their oral traditions by doing specific things, at specific places, at specific times by specific people) your traditions (in the oral law).
v 10…For Moses said (they were to obey Moses in the Torah in Matt 23.2-3), ‘Honor your father and your mother’, and ‘He who speaks evil of father and mother, let him be put to death’,
v 11…but you say, ‘If a man says to his father and mother, anything of mine you might have been helped by is korban ( a dedicated offering), that is given to God (and can’t be used for anything else),
v 12…you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother (this was the position of Beit Shammai);
v 13…invalidating (nullifying) the word of God by your tradition (in the oral law) which you have handed down and you do many things such as that (Yeshua is not giving ‘zero weight’ to the traditions, but does insist that human traditions should not violate or invalidate the word of God. Giving to parents is a higher law than their traditions).”
v 14…And summoning the multitude again, he began saying to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand;
v 15…there is nothing outside the man which is going into him and defile him, but the things which proceed out of man are what defile the man (v 20-23).
v 16…If any man has ears to hear (to perceive doctrinal truth), let him hear (be instructed).”
v 17…And when leaving the multitude, he had entered the house (a residence), his talmidim questioned him about the parable (midrashic aggadah).
v 18…And he said to them, “Are you too so uncomprehending? Do you not see that whatever goes into the man from the outside cannot defile him (“defile” is the word “koino” in Greek and it means, “common, profane.” If he was talking about levitical or ceremonial uncleanness, as in Lev 11 and eating unclean foods, the Greek word “akathartos” would have been used. What Yeshua is saying was nothing to do with eating unclean animals, they already knew not to do that);
v 19…because it does not go into his heart (desires), but into his stomach and eliminated (into the toilet), purging all foods (by digestion and elimination-some translations say here, “declaring all foods clean” which is not accurate. If Yeshua is saying you can eat pig now he would have been violating the Torah and that would have invalidated him as the Messiah. But we know that is not what he meant because he was without sin-1 John 3.4).
v 20…And he was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man (from his heart and desires), that is what defiles the man (his actions that violate the Torah).
v 21…For from within, out of the heart (desires) of man, proceed the evil thoughts and fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries,
v 22…deeds of coveting and wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.
v 23…All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man (in other words, to eat kosher foods with unwashed hands ritually does not defile him, or make the food unclean-Matt 15.20. The issue being dealt with here is not whether or not you can eat food forbidden in Lev 11.1-23).”
v 24…And from there he arose (from Capernaum) and went away to the region of Tyre (and Sidon-Matt 15.21). And when he had entered a house, he wanted no one to know (for privacy and that the non-Jews would not flock to him -Mark 1.45; Matt 16.20), yet he could not escape notice.
v 25…But after hearing of him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit, immediately came and fell at his feet (in respect and reverence).
v 26…Now the woman was a Gentile (a Canaanite-Matt 15.22), of the Syrophoenician race (Syrian language and Phoenician by nationality). And she kept asking him (she was shouting after them as they were leaving-Matt 15.23) to cast the demon out of her daughter.
v 27…And he was saying to her, “Let the children be satisfied first (he was sent to the children of Israel first; the Jew first-Rom 1.16, 10.1110-13), for it is not good to take the children’s bread (what was meant for Israel) and throw it to the dogs (as they were outside the covenant at this time, but not for long. Yeshua did not use the normal word for “dogs” here but a softened one that meant “little dogs.” In Greek, a diminutive is usually affectionate and he took the “bite” out of the usage).”
v 28…But she answered (with great faith) and said to him, “Yes, Lord, even the dogs (little dogs) under the table feed on the children’s crumbs (and satisfy their need for survival-she only wanted a morsel for her daughter, a small favor for a little dog).”
v 29…And he said to her, “Because of this answer (he only marveled at two things, faith and unbelief), go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”
v 30…And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having departed (at once-Matt 15.28).
v 31…And again he went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the sea of Galilee within the region of Decapolis.
v 32…And they brought to him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they entreated him to lay his hand on him.
v 33…And he took him aside (from the multitude by himself-all of us are deaf and need to be separated from the world through “election”-Eph 1.4), and put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting (spittle is a sign of strength, and no spittle denotes weakness-Psa 22.15), he touched his tongue (with the saliva-this alludes to his spiritual ear being opened, and spitting and touching his tongue speaks of the application of the Torah and his word. Everything he does here are types of what he does spiritually for us-Mark 8.23);
v 34…and looking up to heaven (as the source for all blessings) with a deep sigh (in compassion for his condition because sin had been brought into the world), he said to him, “Ephratha (Aramiac)!” That is, “Be opened!”
v 35…And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly (in a correct manner).
v 36…And he gave them orders (to those who brought the man) not to tell anyone (he had work to do and did not want to be hindered-Matt 16.20; Mark 1.45, 7.24), but the more he ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it.
v 37…And they were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well (not a big show or fakery); he makes even the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.”