The Meaning of Matthew 17:15 Explained

Matthew 17:15

KJV: Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.

YLT: and saying, 'Sir, deal kindly with my son, for he is lunatic, and doth suffer miserably, for often he doth fall into the fire, and often into the water,

Darby: Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is lunatic, and suffers sorely; for often he falls into the fire and often into the water.

ASV: Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is epileptic, and suffereth grievously; for oft-times he falleth into the fire, and off-times into the water.

KJV Reverse Interlinear

Lord,  have mercy  on my  son:  for  he is lunatick,  and  sore  vexed:  for  ofttimes  he falleth  into  the fire,  and  oft  into  the water. 

What does Matthew 17:15 Mean?

Context Summary

Matthew 17:9-21 - Lack Of Faith Rebuked
As Raphael suggests in his great painting, there is a close connection between the mountain and the valley. The glory of the one did not make our Lord indifferent to the bitter need of the other. It seems as though He desired to impress on us the great truth, that we must have the seclusion and exaltation of communion with God before we can successfully deal with the anguish and terror that devastate human lives. See Matthew 17:21.
In Matthew 17:17 our Lord grieves over the unbelief of His disciples. Though they had enjoyed His careful teaching, they had failed to grasp His secret, which He here again elaborates. Faith is openness to God. It is the lifting of the curtain, that the healing light may enter. The tiny seed unlocks its little doorway to welcome the entering life of nature; and as this continues to enter, it forces the rootlet downward and the green shoot upward. It is thus also with the life of God in the soul. Let this life of God in and there is no limit to what it will effect. [source]

Chapter Summary: Matthew 17

1  The transfiguration of Jesus
14  He heals the boy with a demon,
22  foretells his own passion,
24  and pays tribute

Greek Commentary for Matthew 17:15

Epileptic [σεληνιαζεται]
Literally, “moonstruck,” “lunatic.” The symptoms of epilepsy were supposed to be aggravated by the changes of the moon (cf. Matthew 4:24). [source]
He has it bad [κακως εχει]
(κακως εχει — kakōs echei) as often in the Synoptic Gospels. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for Matthew 17:15

Matthew 4:24 Those that were sick []
” “Held together” or “compressed” is the idea of the participle. The same word is used by Jesus in Luke 12:50 and by Paul in Philemon 1:23 and of the crowd pressing on Jesus (Luke 8:45). They brought these difficult and chronic cases (present tense of the participle here) to Jesus. Instead of “divers” say “various” (ποικιλαις — poikilais) like fever, leprosy, blindness. The adjective means literally many colored or variegated like flowers, paintings, jaundice, etc. Some had “torments” (βασανοις — basanois). The word originally (oriental origin) meant a touchstone, “Lydian stone” used for testing gold because pure gold rubbed on it left a peculiar mark. Then it was used for examination by torture. Sickness was often regarded as “torture.” These diseases are further described “in a descending scale of violence” (McNeile) as “demoniacs, lunatics, and paralytics” as Moffatt puts it, “demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics” as Weymouth has it, (δαιμονιζομενους και σεληνιαζομενους και παραλυτικους — daimonizomenous kai selēniazomenous kai paralutikous), people possessed by demons, lunatics or “moon-struck” because the epileptic seizures supposedly followed the phases of the moon (Bruce) as shown also in Matthew 17:15, paralytics (our very word). Our word “lunatic” is from the Latin luna (moon) and carries the same picture as the Greek σεληνιαζομαι — selēniazomai from σεληνη — selēnē (moon). These diseases are called “torments.” [source]
Luke 9:39 It teareth him that he foameth [σπαρασσει αυτον μετα απρου]
Literally, “It tears him with (accompanied with, μετα — meta) foam” (old word, απρος — aphros only here in the N.T.). From σπαρασσω — sparassō to convulse, a common verb, but in the N.T. only here and Mark 1:26; Mark 9:26 (and συνσπαρασσω — sunsparassō Mark 9:20). See Mark 9:17; and note on Matthew 17:15 for variations in the symptoms in each Gospel. The use of μετα απρου — meta aphrou is a medical item.Hardly (μολις — molis). Late word used in place of μογις — mogis the old Greek term (in some MSS. here) and alone in Luke‘s writings in the N.T. save 1 Peter 4:18; Romans 5:7.Bruising him sorely Common verb for rubbing together, crushing together like chains (Mark 5:4) or as a vase (Mark 14:3). See notes on Matthew 17:15 and notes on Mark 9:17 for discussion of details here. [source]
Luke 9:39 Bruising him sorely [συντριβον αυτον]
Common verb for rubbing together, crushing together like chains (Mark 5:4) or as a vase (Mark 14:3). See notes on Matthew 17:15 and notes on Mark 9:17 for discussion of details here. [source]

What do the individual words in Matthew 17:15 mean?

and saying Lord have mercy on my - son for he is epileptic miserably suffers often for he falls into the fire water
καὶ λέγων Κύριε ἐλέησόν μου τὸν υἱόν ὅτι σεληνιάζεται κακῶς πάσχει πολλάκις γὰρ πίπτει εἰς τὸ πῦρ ὕδωρ

λέγων  saying 
Parse: Verb, Present Participle Active, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: λέγω 
Sense: to say, to speak.
Κύριε  Lord 
Parse: Noun, Vocative Masculine Singular
Root: κύριος  
Sense: he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master, lord.
ἐλέησόν  have  mercy  on 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Imperative Active, 2nd Person Singular
Root: ἐλεέω 
Sense: to have mercy on.
μου  my 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Genitive 1st Person Singular
Root: ἐγώ  
Sense: I, me, my.
τὸν  - 
Parse: Article, Accusative Masculine Singular
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
υἱόν  son 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root: υἱός  
Sense: a son.
σεληνιάζεται  he  is  epileptic 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Middle or Passive, 3rd Person Singular
Root: σεληνιάζομαι  
Sense: to be moon-struck or lunatic.
κακῶς  miserably 
Parse: Adverb
Root: κακῶς  
Sense: miserable, to be ill.
πάσχει  suffers 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: πάσχω  
Sense: to be affected or have been affected, to feel, have a sensible experience, to undergo.
πολλάκις  often 
Parse: Adverb
Root: πολλάκις 
Sense: often, frequently.
πίπτει  he  falls 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: πίπτω 
Sense: to descend from a higher place to a lower.
εἰς  into 
Parse: Preposition
Root: εἰς  
Sense: into, unto, to, towards, for, among.
πῦρ  fire 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Neuter Singular
Root: πῦρ  
Sense: fire.
ὕδωρ  water 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Neuter Singular
Root: ὕδωρ  
Sense: water.