The Bible's story of a Canaanite mother whom Jesus allegedly called a dog and who sought Him to heal her demon-possessed daughter might appear as troubling when read and taken directly. Bible Answer Man Hank Hanegraaff, however, clears up the passages found in Matthew 15:21–28 in a recent podcast.
A listener asked Hanegraaff to explain why Jesus seemingly told the Gentile mother terrible things and treated her first with silence. The Christian Research Institute scholar welcomed the question and described the passage as one of the "most clever" stories in the Bible because it highlighted Jesus' wisdom.
Hanegraaff began his explanation with a historical background among the Jews, Gentiles and Samaritans to define why Jesus referred to the woman as a dog. In those days, the Jews had low regard for the Gentiles because they lacked spirituality, and those that were borne of intermarriages between the Jews and Gentiles -- the Samaritans -- were regarded as dogs.
"Here you have Jesus turning the tables, and the Gentile woman is used as an example to show the Jews that the dog has more acumen that the master," Hanegraaff said and suggested that Jesus was showing the Jews their prejudice. "It's right along with what Jesus has always taught. We shouldn't call someone a 'dog' and someone else a 'human being,'" Hanegraaff further explained.
The Gentile mom's persistence in seeking Jesus's help showed her faith in Him. In this regard, she was more of a believer than the Jews who were supposedly the religious ones.
Jesus ignored the mother in the beginning to test her faith and "drive home the point" to the Jews, according to Hanegraaff. The scholar added that there are other stories in the Bible where Jesus tested people's faith to uncover their actual intentions.
The Son of God wasn't insulting the woman by calling her a dog and ignoring her plea. Instead, He made her part of an important lesson that Jesus wanted to teach the Jews.