Verse 39. "He sent away the multitude" - But not before he had instructed their souls, and fed and healed their bodies.
"The coasts of Magdala." - In the parallel place, Mark viii. 10, this place is called Dalmanutha. Either Magdala was formed by a transposition of letters from Dalman, to which the Syriac termination atha had been added, or the one of these names refers to the country, and the other to a town in that neighbourhood. Jesus went into the country, and proceeded till he came to the chief town or village in that district. Whitby says, "Magdala was a city and territory beyond Jordan, on the banks of Gadara. It readied to the bridge above Jordan, which joined it to the other side of Galilee, and contained within its precincts Dalmanutha." The MSS. and VV. read the name variously-Magada, Madega, Magdala; and the Syriac has Magdu. In Mark, Dalmanutha is read by many MSS. Melagada, Madegada, Magada, Magidan, and Magedam. Magdala, variously pronounced, seems to have been the place or country; Dalmanutha, the chief town or capital.
In this chapter a number of interesting and instructive particulars are contained.
1. We see the extreme superstition, envy, and incurable ill nature of the Jews. While totally lost to a proper sense of the spirituality of God's law, they are ceremonious in the extreme. They will not eat without washing their hands, because this would be a transgression of one of the traditions of their elders; but they can harbour the worst temper and passions, and thus break the law of God! The word of man weighs more with them than the testimony of Jehovah; and yet they pretend the highest respect for their God and sacred things, and will let their parents perish for lack of the necessaries of life, that they may have goods to vow to the service of the sanctuary! Pride and envy blind the hearts of men, and cause them often to act not only the most wicked, but the most ridiculous, parts. He who takes the book of God for the rule of his faith and practice can never go astray: but to the mazes and perplexities produced by the traditions of elders, human creeds, and confessions of faith, there is no end. These evils existed in the Christian as well as in the Jewish Church; but the Reformation, thank God! has liberated us from this endless system of uncertainty and absurdity, and the Sun of righteousness shines now unclouded! The plantation, which God did not plant, in the course of his judgments, he has now swept nearly away from the face of the earth! Babylon is fallen! 2. We wonder at the dulness of the disciples, when we find that they did not fully understand our Lord's meaning, in the very obvious parable about the blind leading the blind. But should we not be equally struck with their prying, inquisitive temper? They did not understand, but they could not rest till they did. They knew that their Lord could say nothing that had not the most important meaning in it: this meaning, in the preceding parable, they had not apprehended, and therefore they wished to have it farther explained by himself. Do we imitate their docility and eagerness to comprehend the truth of God? Christ presses every occurrence into a means of instruction. The dulness of the disciples in the present case, has been the means of affording us the fullest instruction on a point of the utmost importance-the state of a sinful heart, and how the thoughts and passions conceived in it defile and pollute it; and how necessary it is to have the fountain purified, that it may cease to send forth those streams of death.
3. The case of the Canaanitish woman is, in itself, a thousand sermons. Her faith-her prayers-her perseverance-her success-the honour she received from her Lord, &c., &c. How instructively-how powerfully do these speak and plead! What a profusion of light does this single case throw upon the manner in which Christ sometimes exercises the faith and patience of his followers! They that seek shall find, is the great lesson inculcated in this short history: God is ever the same. Reader, follow on after God-cry, pray, plead-all in Him is for thee!-Thou canst not perish, if thou continuest to believe and pray. The Lord will help THEE.