Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.
And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil...But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.
And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.
Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.
And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
The Syrophoenician woman exemplifies implicit faith in and a knowledge of the divinity of the Son of God. The Savior not only granted the miracle for which she petitioned in behalf of her daughter, but commended her for her great faith. This commendation echoes other scriptural examples of cultural outsiders who sought for and recognized truth, such as the widow of Zarephath, Naaman the leper, the Queen of the South, the Centurion's servant, and the wife of King Lamoni.
This portrayal of the story attempts to present a hopeful view of the miracle recorded by Matthew and Mark. Some who read each account are distracted by what might seem a racial slur in the Savior's declaration that He is not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel and that it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. Instead, I see this as nothing more than a riddle-like parable testing her understanding; a test of faith which she passes with flying colors by immediately shaping the parable to suit her urgent desire â€" Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.
As one writer declared: The woman's commendable persistency was based on the faith that overcomes apparent obstacles and endures even under discouragement. (See Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1916, p. 356.) Such is the quality of the faith we all seek, regardless of race or culture; indeed, as another ancient prophet inquired, speaking to those who would have been considered children of the covenant: Are we not all beggars? (Mosiah 4:19)
Symbolism in Blessed Are The Meek
In Matthew and Mark, the woman is described as a Canaanite, Greek, and Syrophoenician who located the Savior while He visited the gentile borders of Tyre and Sidon, then under Roman rule. These facts allow a wide variety of possibilities concerning her nationality and appearance. There is, therefore, great latitude in depicting both the figure and her surroundings.
The woman depicted signifies the Caucasian race since the the races of Phoenicia are supposedly descended from Shem, her costume echoes traditional Phoenician dress, and the background is inspired by wall paintings and the stonework of home interiors in ancient Greece and Rome. The olive branches in the wall fresco symbolize the blessings of the Savior's great and eternal Atonement, wrought among the olive trees in Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives.
The dog by her side is an elegant Italian greyhound. Such whippets and greyhounds are known to date back to ancient Egypt, and also frequently appear in Roman mosaics.
The woman's posture is not abject, but worshipful. The Greek words, used in both Biblical accounts to describe her behavior, denote devotion. Hope and anticipation are bright in her eyes, not misery. She looks upward with sincere belief in a loving and merciful Savior. Acknowledging the Savior as the source of all goodness, she casts herself at His feet, even in company with the dogs, mentioned in the parable, content to receive a crumb if that be the Master's will.
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