Yeshua generally walked in the Land of Israel. However, one time He departed from the Galilee area to walk in the area of Tyre and Sidon. The reason that He visited these places was that there were Jewish communities there. After Yeshua arrived there, behold, a Canaanite woman went out from the same place to speak with Him. This woman yelled to Him, saying, “Have mercy upon me L-rd, Son of David, my daughter is greatly afflicted by a demon.”
The response of Yeshua seems to most people a little strange. Most of the time Yeshua helped individuals with their needs. This time, “He did not reply to the woman.” Although Yeshua did not answer her, she continued to yell at Him, and at the end Yeshua said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel”. After she heard Yeshua’s words, she drew close and bowed down to Him and said again, “O L-rd, help me”. Yeshua responded to her and said, “It’s not proper to take the bread of the children and throw it to the dogs.”
Most of the commentators are surprised at Yeshua’s words. Their interpretations show that most of them do not understand the purpose of the Jewish people. These commentators think that the Jews were the people of G-d, but now G-d has forsaken Israel and replaced Israel, giving her calling to another. This simply is not correct. First and foremost, G-d loves all people with the same amount of love. When considering the aspect of His love, it does not matter if someone is a Jew or a Gentile, G-d loves each in the same manner.
It is important to know the reason why the Jewish people exist. This reason is to bless all the nations of the world. This is written in the Torah portion from Gen. 12:3, “And in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” This means that G-d has an order to bless the nations. What is this order? G-d, according to His sovereign will, has chosen the Jewish people to fulfill this task. Unfortunately today, most Christians forget this fact
Yeshua said the following sentence, “I was not sent, but only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel”, because He knew the reason that He was sent into the world. This reason is to return the Jews to their calling. This is why He answered the Canaanite woman in the manner He did. It is most important to understand the significance of her reply. (She approached and bowed down to Yeshua and said, “L-rd, help me”.) In other words, L-rd what you have just said does not upset me, now will you please heal my daughter?
Yeshua responded with a very significant sentence in order to check if the Canaanite woman really understood what He meant. He said to her, “It is not proper to take the bread of the children and cast it to the dogs.” Is the intent of Yeshua truly to call the Gentiles dogs? Absolutely not! Yeshua simply used this analogy to show the order that G-d will follow to fulfill His desire to bless all the nations. The essence of this analogy is that G-d will not bless the gentiles in a direct manner, but rather by means of the Jews. The apostle Paul says, “Behold, the gifts and the callings of G-d are irrevocable.” Romans 11:29.
Of course Yeshua knew His calling to proclaim to the House of Israel and afterwards it would be the Jews that would proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles. It is good to remember that all the apostles at the beginning were Jews and all the authors of the Bible, including Luke, were also Jews. By means of these Jews, it is written in the book of Acts, “These men turned the world upside down” (see Acts 17:6).
It has already been said that Yeshua came to this area to proclaim to the lost sheep of the House of Israel, therefore He responded to the Canaanite woman in this manner in order to emphasize this purpose. However, when this woman heard all of His words and said, “Yes, L-rd, but even the dogs eat from the crumbs that fall from the table of their master”, He answered her and said, “Woman, great is your faith. It shall be done according to your desire”, and Yeshua healed her daughter immediately.
This event teaches the foundation of true faith. Unfortunately, most of the commentators fail to understand this point. A well-known Christian author, Herbert Lockyer states, “The Jews saw the gentiles as dogs.” Mr. Lockyer fails to see that the Jews did not make this comment, but it was Yeshua the Son of G-d. Was it His intent to call the gentiles “dogs”? Not at all!
The Holy Spirit inspired the authors of the New Covenant to write in Greek. In this language, there are two words which it is possible to translate as dog. The first word has the meaning of a wild and dangerous dog. Yeshua did not use this word. The second has the meaning of a dog who is a pet; a dog that is lovable and is considered part of the family. This is the word that Yeshua used.
Mr. Lockyer misses this point. He continues and says, “…but by means of a lack of faith they (the Jews) cease to be the true Israel and became dogs”. In order to support his interpretation, he quotes from the prophet Isaiah 56:10-11. Mr. Lockyer errs because the prophet Isaiah is not talking about Jewish people in a general manner, but the leaders of Israel and only those leaders immediately before the destruction of the first temple. These leaders kept silent while great injustices were taking place and therefore Isaiah used this analogy. Therefore, it is a great error to call the Jewish people dogs. Unfortunately, Mr. Lockyer is like a too high percentage of Christians that believe that G-d has cast away the Jewish people, rather than understanding that Yeshua is simply using an analogy which emphasizes the order by which G-d’s blessings will be received (first Israel and then the rest of the nations) and the task which Israel has to bless the nations. This view is supported by Romans 1:16 which says, “…to the Jew first and then also to the Greek (Gentile).
*Mr. Lockyer’s statement can be read in its entirety in his book “All About God in Christ” page 114, Hendrickson Publishers 1995.
Author: Dr Baruch Korman