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Biblical People

Biblical People: The Canaanite Woman / The Syrophoenician Woman

Jesus hangs out in Tyre, trying to rest, but folks track him down. One of the people who comes to him for help is a foreign woman. While Matthew states she is from Canaan, Mark says she is a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. Some people call her a Syrophoenician. Regardless of where she’s from, the key point is that she isn’t Jewish. 

She has a little girl with a big issue. The girl’s possessed by an impure spirit. The mom begs Jesus to heal her daughter by driving out the demon within her.

Jesus dismisses the woman. He says what the people expect, insinuating he came only to help Jewish people, not foreigners. In doing so, he implies she’s a dog, trying to eat the children’s food. What he’s really doing is creating a teachable moment.

She does not accept his rebuff. 

His apparent ethnic judgment doesn’t offend her. She is quick to counter, noting that even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the children’s table.

Jesus affirms her wise reply. He pronounces the little girl healed. Now the people should realize that Jesus is here for both Jews and Gentiles. But they don’t.

When Mom gets home, her daughter is resting in bed. The demon is gone.

When we encounter a rebuff, do we accept it and give up or try even harder to achieve our goal? When God doesn’t seem to listen to our pleas for help, do we stop asking or persist?

[Discover more about this woman in Matthew 15:21–28 and Mark 7:24–30.]


Read about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.