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Jehovah’s Witnesses

New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)

Matthew 15:1-39

15  Then there came to Jesus from Jerusalem Pharisees and scribes,+ saying:  “Why do your disciples overstep the tradition of the men of former times? For example, they do not wash their hands+ when about to eat a meal.”+  In reply he said to them: “Why do you overstep the commandment of God because of your tradition?+  For example, God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’+ and, ‘Let the one who speaks abusively of* his father or mother be put to death.’*+  But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother: “Whatever I have that could benefit you is a gift dedicated to God,”+  he need not honor his father at all.’ So you have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition.+  You hypocrites, Isaiah aptly prophesied about you when he said:+  ‘This people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far removed from me.  It is in vain that they keep worshipping me, for they teach commands of men as doctrines.’”+ 10  With that he called the crowd near and said to them: “Listen and get the sense of it:+ 11  It is not what enters into a man’s mouth that defiles him, but it is what comes out of his mouth that defiles him.”+ 12  Then the disciples came and said to him: “Do you know that the Pharisees were stumbled at hearing what you said?”+ 13  In reply he said: “Every plant that my heavenly Father did not plant will be uprooted. 14  Let them be. Blind guides is what they are. If, then, a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”*+ 15  Peter responded: “Make the illustration plain to us.”+ 16  At this he said: “Are you also still without understanding?+ 17  Are you not aware that whatever enters into the mouth passes through the stomach and is discharged into the sewer?* 18  However, whatever comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and those things defile a man.+ 19  For example, out of the heart come wicked reasonings,+ murders, adulteries, sexual immorality, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. 20  These are the things that defile a man; but to take a meal with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” 21  Leaving there, Jesus now went into the region of Tyre and Siʹdon.+ 22  And look! a Phoe·niʹcian woman from that region came and cried out: “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David. My daughter is cruelly demon possessed.”+ 23  But he did not say a word in answer to her. So his disciples came and began to urge him: “Send her away, because she keeps crying out after us.” 24  He answered: “I was not sent to anyone except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”+ 25  But the woman came and did obeisance to him, saying: “Lord, help me!” 26  In answer he said: “It is not right to take the bread of the children and throw it to the little dogs.” 27  She said: “Yes, Lord, but really the little dogs do eat of the crumbs falling from the table of their masters.”+ 28  Then Jesus replied to her: “O woman, great is your faith; let it happen to you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour on. 29  Departing from there, Jesus next came near the Sea of Galʹi·lee,+ and after going up on the mountain, he was sitting there. 30  Then large crowds approached him, bringing along people who were lame, maimed, blind, speechless, and many others, and they laid them at his feet, and he cured them.+ 31  So the crowd felt amazement as they saw the speechless speaking and the maimed being made sound and the lame walking and the blind seeing, and they glorified the God of Israel.+ 32  But Jesus called his disciples to him and said: “I feel pity for the crowd,+ because they have already stayed with me for three days and they have had nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry,* for they may give out on the road.”+ 33  However, the disciples said to him: “Where in this isolated place are we going to get enough bread to satisfy a crowd of this size?”+ 34  At this Jesus said to them: “How many loaves do you have?” They said: “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35  So after instructing the crowd to recline on the ground, 36  he took the seven loaves and the fish, and after offering thanks, he broke them and began giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.+ 37  And all ate and were satisfied, and they took up seven large baskets full of leftover fragments.+ 38  Now those eating were 4,000 men, as well as women and young children. 39  Finally, after sending the crowds away, he got into the boat and came into the region of Magʹa·dan.+


Or “insults; reviles; speaks evil of.”
Or “certainly die.”
Or “ditch.”
Or “latrine; privy.”
Or “without food; fasting.”

wash their hands: That is, a ceremonial cleansing to adhere to tradition rather than out of concern for hygiene. Later, the Babylonian Talmud (Sotah 4b) puts eating with unwashed hands on par with having relations with a harlot, and it states that those who lightly esteem hand washing will be “uprooted from the world.”

a gift dedicated to God: The scribes and Pharisees taught that money, property, or anything that a person dedicated as a gift to God belonged to the temple. According to this tradition, a son could keep the dedicated gift and use it for his own interests, claiming that it was reserved for the temple. Some evidently evaded the responsibility of caring for their parents by dedicating their assets in this way.Mt 15:6.

hypocrites: The Greek word hy·po·kri·tesʹ originally referred to Greek (and later Roman) stage actors who wore large masks designed to amplify the voice. The term came to be used in a metaphoric sense to apply to anyone hiding his real intentions or personality by playing false or putting on a pretense. Jesus here calls the Jewish religious leaders “hypocrites.”Mt 6:5, 16.

illustrations: Or “parables.” The Greek word pa·ra·bo·leʹ, which literally means “a placing beside (together),” may be in the form of a parable, a proverb, or an illustration. Jesus often explains a thing by ‘placing it beside,’ or comparing it with, another similar thing. (Mr 4:30) His illustrations were short and usually fictitious narratives from which a moral or spiritual truth could be drawn.

illustration: Or “parable.”—See study note on Mt 13:3.

sexual immorality: The Greek word por·neiʹa is a general term for all sexual intercourse that is unlawful according to the Bible. It includes adultery, prostitution, sexual relations between unmarried individuals, homosexuality, and bestiality.—See Glossary.

adulteries: The plural form of the Greek word for “adultery” (moi·kheiʹa) is used here and could be rendered “acts (cases) of adultery.”—See Glossary, “Adultery.”

sexual immorality: The plural form of the Greek word por·neiʹa is used here and could be rendered “acts (cases) of sexual immorality.”—See study note on Mt 5:32 and Glossary.

Syrophoenician: This expression, a combination of “Syrian” and “Phoenician,” probably originated because Phoenicia was part of the Roman province of Syria.—See study note on Mt 15:22, where the woman is called “Phoenician,” or “Canaanite.”

son of David: Indicates that Jesus is the heir of the Kingdom covenant that is to be fulfilled by someone in David’s line.

did obeisance to him: Or “bowed down to him; paid him homage.” By calling Jesus “Son of David” (Mt 15:22), this non-Jewish woman evidently recognizes him as the promised Messiah. She renders obeisance to him, not as to a god or a deity, but as to a representative of God.—See study notes on Mt 2:2; 8:2; 14:33; 18:26.

look!: The Greek word i·douʹ, here rendered “look!,” is often used to focus attention on what follows, encouraging the reader to visualize the scene or to take note of a detail in a narrative. It is also used to add emphasis or to introduce something new or surprising. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the term occurs most frequently in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and in the book of Revelation. A corresponding expression is often used in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Phoenician: Or “Canaanite.” Greek, Kha·na·naiʹa. The early inhabitants of Phoenicia descended from Canaan, and in time, “Canaan” came to refer primarily to Phoenicia.—See study note on Mr 7:26, where the woman is called a “Syrophoenician.”

Son of David: See study notes on Mt 1:1; 15:25.

do obeisance: Or “bow down.” When the Greek verb pro·sky·neʹo is used to refer to the worship of a god or a deity, it is rendered “to worship.” In this context, however, the astrologers were asking for “the one born king of the Jews.” So it is clear that it refers to obeisance or homage to a human king, not a god. A similar usage is found at Mr 15:18, 19, where the term is used of the soldiers who mockingly “bowed down” to Jesus and called him “King of the Jews.”—See study note on Mt 18:26.

did obeisance to him: Or “bowed down to him; honored him.” People mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures also bowed down when meeting prophets, kings, or other representatives of God. (1Sa 25:23, 24; 2Sa 14:4-7; 1Ki 1:16; 2Ki 4:36, 37) This man evidently recognized that he was talking to a representative of God who had power to heal people. It was appropriate to bow down to show respect for Jehovah’s King-Designate.Mt 9:18; for more information on the Greek word used here, see study note on Mt 2:2.

did obeisance to him: Or “bowed down to him; paid him homage.” These people recognized Jesus as God’s representative. They rendered obeisance to him, not as to a god or a deity, but as to “God’s Son.”—See study notes on Mt 2:2; 8:2; 18:26.

did obeisance to him: Or “bowed down to him; paid him homage.” When the Greek verb pro·sky·neʹo is used to refer to worship of a god or of a deity, it is rendered “to worship.” But in this context, it refers to a slave’s showing respect and submission to a person who had authority over him.—See study notes on Mt 2:2; 8:2.

did obeisance to him: Or “bowed down to him; paid him homage.” By calling Jesus “Son of David” (Mt 15:22), this non-Jewish woman evidently recognizes him as the promised Messiah. She renders obeisance to him, not as to a god or a deity, but as to a representative of God.—See study notes on Mt 2:2; 8:2; 14:33; 18:26.

children . . . little dogs: Since dogs were unclean according to the Mosaic Law, the Scriptures often use the term in a derogatory sense. (Le 11:27; Mt 7:6; Php 3:2; Re 22:15) However, in both Mark’s account (7:27) and Matthew’s account of Jesus’ conversation, the diminutive form of the term meaning “little dog” or “house dog” is used, softening the comparison. Perhaps this indicates that Jesus was suggesting an affectionate term for household pets in non-Jewish homes. By likening Israelites to “children” and non-Jews to “little dogs,” Jesus evidently wanted to indicate an order of priority. In a household that had both children and dogs, the children would be fed first.

the maimed being made sound: These words are omitted in a few manuscripts, but the majority of early manuscripts and many later manuscripts include them.

felt pity: The Greek verb splag·khniʹzo·mai used for this expression is related to the word for “intestines” (splagʹkhna), denoting a feeling experienced deep inside the body, an intense emotion. It is one of the strongest words in Greek for the feeling of compassion.

feel pity: Or “feel compassion.”—See study note on Mt 9:36.

baskets: These may have been small wicker baskets with a cord handle that a traveler could use for carrying them. It is thought that they had a volume of approximately 7.5 L (2 gal).—See study notes on Mt 16:9, 10.

large baskets: Or “provision baskets.” The Greek word sphy·risʹ used here seems to denote a type of basket that is larger than the ones used on an earlier occasion when Jesus fed about 5,000. (See study note on Mt 14:20.) The same Greek word is used for the “basket” in which Paul was lowered to the ground through an opening in the wall of Damascus.Ac 9:25.

as well as women and young children: Only Matthew mentions the women and the young children when reporting this miracle. It is possible that the total number of those miraculously fed was over 12,000.

Magadan: While no place called Magadan is known today in the region around the Sea of Galilee, some scholars believe that Magadan is the same locality as Magdala, which is considered to be Khirbet Majdal (Migdal), about 6 km (3.5 mi) NNW of Tiberias. In the parallel account (Mr 8:10), the area is called Dalmanutha.—See App. B10.



In the Bible, a number of different words are used to describe various types of baskets. For example, the Greek word identifying the 12 vessels used to gather leftovers after Jesus miraculously fed about 5,000 men indicates that they may have been relatively small wicker handbaskets. However, a different Greek word is used to describe the seven baskets that contained the leftovers after Jesus fed about 4,000 men. (Mr 8:8, 9) This word denotes a large basket or hamper, and the same Greek word is used to describe the kind of basket in which Paul was lowered to the ground through an opening in the wall of Damascus.Ac 9:25.

Magadan, on the Sea of Galilee
Magadan, on the Sea of Galilee

After feeding 4,000 men, as well as women and children, Jesus and the disciples cross by boat to the region of Magadan on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. In Mark’s parallel account, the area is called Dalmanutha.Mr 8:10; for more comprehensive maps of Jesus’ ministry, see Appendix A7-D.