The Syrophoenician Woman – 8 Points for Bible Study

Bible Study February 13, 2016  – Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30

1. The woman’s name is not known. Her identity by Matthew says she is a Canaanite.  As there was no country of Canaan at that time, the term may be a Semitic identification of reference by the Jews to the Phoenicians. Mark identifies her as “….a Greek born in Syrian Phoenicia…” (Mark 7:26).

2. Her story is a lesson in faith and love as she came to Jesus and begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter (Mark 7:26).

3. It is evident, that from the answer Jesus gave her; “First let the children eat all they want” (Mark 7:27) all involved understood the tension between the Jews and the Greeks.

4. Love – Jesus said the greatest commandment is: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the Greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).  Jesus also said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 list a number of admirable attributes such as, speaking in tongues, the gift of prophecy, faith to move mountains, giving to the poor, suffering martyrdom and being burned at the stake, but concludes that these great accomplishments are nothing without love. The Apostle John says “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8). However, Reverend Al Green reminds us that love is “Something that can make you do wrong, make you do right, love.” It is a mother’s love in this case, that makes the women risk prejudicial condemnation, to go to a person from a group that despised her people, and seek healing for her daughter. I’m sure this didn’t sit will with the Jews or her people, the Greeks of Syrophoenicia. Love however, conquered all.

5. In her initial call for help, she recognized him as being a direct desendent of King David. “A Canaanite woman from the vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly  from demon-possession.” (Matthew 15:22)

6. Jesus ignored her plea, but she was persistent. “Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” (Matthew 15:23)

7. There seems to be no real answer at why Jesus ignored the woman and spoke to her as he did in Matthew 15:24-26. Was he being witty to let her know he didn’t despise her like other Jews? Was he teaching his disciples a lesson regarding the scope of their ministry in the future? Did Jesus in his humanness have to come to grips with the true mission of his Father, God? Was he testing the woman’s level of faith? Or, was he using the woman as an example of what level faith in the healing power of God produced a response? No one knows the answers, but we know the woman had faith.

8. Faith – Many times the drive of the inward assurance of success outweighs the skill level. This is not to say that the woman didn’t have sufficient language skills to make her point to Jesus. In order to make the attempt, as She “begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter” (Mark 7:26), she had to have great faith that she would succeed. How many know how to solve their problems of life, but don’t have faith to not only take the first step in the right direction, but approach the task with the tenacity of guaranteed success. The Greek word parakaleo indicates an urgent call. Urgent enough that despite what may appear as rudeness from Jesus put him in a witty, seemingly challenging conversation which resulted in her showing him she had faith that be could and would heal her daughter. For, “Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour” (Matthew 15:28).

Study Guide:                                                                                                                                                    Syswerda, Jean E, Women of the Bible, 52 Bible Studies for Individuals and Groups, Zondervan, 1999

 

 

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