A Canaanite woman’s faith

Matthew 15:21-28 describes an encounter between Jesus and a Canaanite woman.

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”

But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”

And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Why did this woman have such faith even though she wasn’t an Israelite?  The Bible doesn’t tell us.  However I have thought of a possible explanation.  It involves something that happened in the Old Testament.

In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him.
1 Kings 16:29-30

God responded to Ahab’s evil deeds by sending Elijah the prophet to him.

Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”
1 Kings 17:1

Elijah had to go into hiding to keep from being killed by Ahab and God directed him to a place of safety.

Then the word of the LORD came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.”
1 Kings 17:8-9

The widow lived near Sidon, in the same region where Jesus encountered the Canaanite woman.

When Elijah arrived the widow was on the verge of starvation, having nothing but a small amount of flour and oil.

And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”

And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’”
1 Kings 17:12-14

Later the widow’s son died and Elijah restored him to life.

And the LORD listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.”
1 Kings 17:22-23

The response to these miracles was that the woman was convinced that Elijah was truly a prophet of God.

And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.”
1 Kings 17:24

God later called Elijah to leave the widow’s home and appear before Ahab.

After many days the word of the LORD came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth.”
1 Kings 18:1

This call came many days after the woman realized that Elijah was a prophet.  What happened during that time?  The Bible doesn’t tell us anything but I think it is possible that the following events took place:

The widow wanted to know as much as she could about the God who had saved her son’s life.  Elijah told her all he knew, including the promise of a messiah.  If her son was old enough to understand Elijah taught him too; if he was too young his mother taught him when he was old enough.

When the boy grew up and had a family he passed what he had learned on to his children and they passed it on to theirs.  The woman who asked Jesus for help was one of his descendants and she had faith because of the knowledge that had been handed down to her by her family.  She realized that Jesus was the messiah God had promised and therefore had the power to help her daughter; she believed he would be willing to help her because Elijah had been willing to help her ancestor.

This series of events is just speculation and might be completely wrong but if it is true it would explain why the woman had such strong faith.

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Posted on May 10, 2013, in Miscellaneous and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on A Canaanite woman’s faith.

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