The Syrophoenician Woman And Jesus

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“Even Dogs Eat the Crumbs” – The Syrophoenician Woman

When you teach verse by verse from the Bible you come across many interesting stories that are not commonly known.

This week I shared with my congregation one of these stories out of the gospel of Mark chapter 7 about the Syrophoenician woman. I find this story quite inspiring and I believe we can all learn something from the simple woman from a non-Jewish country.

You see, the story is not just about a woman having faith, but it is more about the attitude she came to Jesus with.

The attitude that we come to the Lord with is just as important if not more important than whether we have faith.

So take a journey with me if you will and let’s look at what we can learn from the Syrophoenician woman.

The Syrophoenician woman Bible verse

Mark 7:24-30
The Faith of a Gentile Woman 
24 Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre. He didn’t want anyone to know which house he was staying in, but he couldn’t keep it a secret. 25 Right away a woman who had heard about him came and fell at his feet. Her little girl was possessed by an evil spirit, 26 and she begged him to cast out the demon from her daughter.
Since she was a Gentile, born in Syrian Phoenicia, 27 Jesus told her, “First I should feed the children—my own family, the Jews. It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”
28 She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children’s plates.”
29 “Good answer!” he said. “Now go home, for the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And when she arrived home, she found her little girl lying quietly in bed, and the demon was gone.

Understanding Jesus’ Dialogue With The This Woman

syrophoenician woman image

In order to understand the passage about the Syrophoenician woman, you must understand the history and cultural context of that day.

If you are like me, when I first heard the term Syrophoenician I didn’t have a clue what that meant. For the longest time, I just assumed that it was a gentile nation and that was all that was needed to be known.

However when you look at the history between the Jews and this Syrophoenician nation then it sheds a lot of light on this passage.

Two hundred years before Jesus was born the Syrophoenician empire conquered the Jewish nation and sacked Jerusalem. They slaughtered men, women, and children by the thousands.

Their leader Antiochus Epiphanes went to the Jewish temple and after slaughtering the priests, sat in the temple and proclaimed himself God.

Well for obvious reasons this did not endear the Jewish people to those of the Syrophoenician empires. So when this woman broke in on Jesus’ time to try to get some quiet time in Tyre, it was not received with the most open of arms.

Understanding the cultural view of women in that day

Secondly, you need to understand that the way women are viewed today and the rights that women have today is much different than what it was in those days.

Women were considered property. They did not have rights. They were not supposed to address men unless they were first spoken to. They were definitely not supposed to go and beg another man for something. If they needed something they were supposed to go to their husbands.

So this woman was breaking all the cultural rules of the day. It is with that background and understanding that you need to read the Bible verse about the Syrophoenician woman.

Jesus’ Response to the Woman.

Was Jesus rude to the woman?

At first glance, you might think that Jesus was pretty rude to this woman.

But if you remember there have been other times when Jesus gets quite straightforward and stern with people. He does it all the time with the Pharisees.

So when He does it with this woman He is doing it for a purpose. In His response, we see 2 things.

Jesus primary mission was to the Jews.

The first thing we see is that He is expressing that He was first sent to the Jews. By His response that the children are supposed to eat the bread, it signifies that His mission is to the Jews and that the time of the gentiles had not yet arrived.

It wasn’t until He was rejected by the Jews that the time of gentiles came into being.

Although I believe that He came for all the world and that the world has benefited from Him, his mission on earth was to the Jews first.

Jesus was testing the heart attitude of this woman.

Secondly, we see that Jesus is testing the attitude of this woman. Even though she came and immediately bowed at His feet, He did not take that at face value and chose to test her to see if her actions and her heart lined up.

His reference to her and her people as dogs tested her attitude.

Most people, especially those of the female gender would not take kindly to being referred to as a dog. But that is the word that He used.

I believe He did this to see if she would have humility or not and that is the important thing we should learn about the Syrophoenician woman.

Her Response to Jesus

Here we see one of the greatest responses to Jesus I believe that was ever uttered.

She did not argue, she did not get offended, she instead accepted what He said and showed more humility than most people show. She said even the dogs eat the crumbs.

This is a sign both of her humility and a sign of her faith.

The humility and faith of this woman

The humility is shown when she acknowledges that her place in life is as low as a dog. The faith is shown when she says it would only take a crumb from the Master’s table to set her daughter free.

How many of us react with humility when we are tested by God about our attitudes? How many of us think it will only take a crumb from the Master’s table to see our prayers answered?

I believe it was the humility of this woman that touched the heart of Jesus and convinced Him that it was worth answering her petition to Him.

I don’t know about you but that is a huge challenge to me.

Usually, when I am confronted about my attitudes, I get defensive and/or make excuses. I do not always readily accept what the Lord says to me when He is challenging my attitude.

I also know that when I am praying, in my mind what I am praying for does not look like a crumb but a mountain.

I am challenged by this woman and both her humble heart and her exceeding faith.

How about you?

Are you challenged by the Syrophoenician woman? What do you think? Leave me a comment!


Pastor Duke

2 thoughts on “The Syrophoenician Woman And Jesus”

  1. The Greek word there is actually “puppy”, not dog:

    Greek: κυνάριον
    Transliteration: kunarion
    Pronunciation: koo-nar’-ee-on
    Definition: Neuter of a presumed derivative of G2965; a puppy: – dog.

    Here’s the word for dog used by Christ in Matthew

    Greek: κύων
    Transliteration: kuōn
    Pronunciation: koo’-ohn
    Definition: A primary word; a dog (hound) (literally or figuratively): – dog.

    I think He was actually tweaking the well-known attitude of the Pharisees toward Gentiles here. And I think her response is a humorous one given in response to His own humor here.

    I find this more in keeping with the Jesus Who shouted back to a woman who yelled out that the breasts that fed Him were blessed, “Yeah, rather blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.”

    Christ created our humanity. I don’t think He’s afraid of it much. 😉

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