corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies

Galatians 4



Other Authors
Verse 1

Now I say ( λέγω δὲ )

Introducing a continued, explanatory discussion. Comp. Galatians 3:17; Galatians 5:16; 1 Corinthians 1:12.

The heir ( ὁ κληρονόμος )

See on inheritance, 1 Peter 1:4. The article is generic as in the mediator, Galatians 3:20.

A child ( νήπιος )

A minor. See on 1 Corinthians 3:1. Used by Paul in contrast with τέλειος fullgrown. See Ephesians 4:13; 1 Corinthians 14:20; Philemon 3:15. The Jews called proselytes or novices babes. See Romans 2:20.

Lord of all

Legally, by right of birth, though not actually.

Verse 2

Tutors ( ἐπιτρόπους )

Better, guardians. See on Luke 8:3. Only here in Paul. A general term, covering all to whom supervision of the child is intrusted, and should not be limited to παιδαγωγός (Galatians 3:24). See 13:2; 14:2.

Governors ( οἰκονόμους )

Better stewards. Lat. dispensatores. More special than guardians, signifying those who had charge of the heir's property. See on Luke href="/desk/?q=lu+16:1&sr=1">Luke 16:1. In later Greek it was used in two special senses: 1. The slave whose duty it was to distribute the rations to the other slaves: so Luke 12:42. 2. The land-steward: so Luke 16:1. Comp. Romans 16:23, ὁ οἰκονόμος τῆς πόλεως , commonly rendered city-treasurer: A.V. chamberlain. In Lucian, Alex. 39, the Roman procurators, or fiscal administrators, are called Καίσαρος οἰκονόμοι ; comp. 1Esdr. 4:49; Esther 8:9. The dispensator in the Roman household had charge of the accounts and made the payments (see Cicero, ad Att. xi. 1; Juv. Sat i. 91). He was commonly a slave. Christian teachers are called “stewards of the mysteries of God” and “of the grace of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1; 1 Peter 4:10), as those who have received the counsels of God and impart them to men. A bishop or overseer is also called “a steward of God” (Titus 1:7).

The time appointed ( προθεσμίας )

N.T.oolxx. In Athenian law the term limited for bringing actions and prosecutions. Προθεσμίας νόμος astatute of limitations. It was also applied to the time allowed a defendant for paying damages, after the expiration of which, if he had not paid, he was called ὑπερήμερος , or ἐκπρόθεσμος , or ὑπερπρόθεσμος onewho had gone over his day of payment. Whether Paul's figure assumes that the father is dead or living is a point which does not affect his argument. It is not easy to decide. As Alford justly remarks: “the antitype breaks through the type and disturbs it, as is the case wherever the idea of inheritance is spiritualised.” Προθεσμία anappointed time for the termination of the minority, would seem to imply that the father is conceived as living; since, if he were dead, that matter would be regulated by statute.

Verse 3


Not Jewish Christians only, but all Christians. For in Galatians 4:5, Jewish Christians are distinctly characterized as those under the law, while the following we, subjects of Christian adoption, points back to the we in this verse. Again, elements of the world is too wide a conception to suit the law, which was given to Israel only.

Elements of the world ( τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου )

For the word στοιχεῖα in N.T. see Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:20; Hebrews 5:12; 2 Peter 3:10, 2 Peter 3:12.

See on 2 Peter 3:10. Interpretations differ. 1. Elements of knowledge, rudimentary religious ideas. See Hebrews 5:12. The meaning of world will then be, the material as distinguished from the spiritual realm. Elements of the world will be the crude beginnings of religion, suited to the condition of children, and pertaining to those who are not Christians: elementary religious truths belonging to mankind in general. Thus the Jewish economy was of the world as appealing to the senses, and affording only the first elements of a spiritual system. The child-heir was taught only faint outlines of spiritual truth, and was taught them by worldly symbols. 2. Elements of nature - of the physical world, especially the heavenly bodies. See 2 Peter 3:10, 2 Peter 3:12; Wisd. 7:17. According to this explanation, the point would be that the ordering of the religious life was regulated by the order of nature; “the days, months, times,” etc. (Galatians 4:10), as well as the heathen festivals, being dependent on the movements of the heavenly bodies. This was the patristic view (Ambrose, Augustine, Chrysostom, Theodoret). 3. The elements of the world are the personal, elemental spirits. This seems to be the preferable explanation, both here and in Colossians 2:8. According to Jewish ideas, all things had their special angels. In the Book of Jubilees, chapter 2, appear, the angel of the presence (comp. Isaiah 63:9); the angel of adoration; the spirits of the wind, the clouds, darkness, hail, frost, thunder and lightning, winter and spring, cold and heat. In the Book of Enoch, 82:10-14, appear the angels of the stars, who keep watch that the stars may appear at the appointed time, and who are punished if the stars do not appear (18:15). In the Revelation of John we find four angels of the winds (14:18); the angel of the waters (16:5); the angel in the sun (19:17). In Hebrews 1:7we read, “who maketh his angels winds.” Paul also recognizes elemental forces of the spiritual world. The thorn is “a messenger of Satan” (2 Corinthians 12:7); Satan prevents his journey to Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:18); the Corinthian offender is to be “delivered to Satan” (1 Corinthians 5:5); the Kingdom of God is opposed by “principalities and powers” (1 Corinthians 15:24); Christians wrestle against “the rulers of the darkness of this world; against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the upper regions” (Ephesians 6:12). In this passage the elements of the world are compared with overseers and stewards. This would seem to require a personal interpretation. In Galatians 4:8, “did service to them which by nature are no gods,” appears to be = “in bondage under the elements,” suggesting a personal interpretation of the latter. The Galatians had turned again to the observance of times and seasons (Galatians 4:10), which were controlled by the heavenly bodies and their spirits.

Verse 4

Fullness of the time ( τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ χρόνου )

The moment by which the whole pre-messianic period was completed. Comp. Ephesians 1:10. It answers to the time appointed of the Father (Galatians 4:2). For πλήρωμα see on John 1:16. The meaning of the word is habitually passive - that which is completed, full complement. There are frequent instances of its use with the genitive, as “fullness of the earth, blessing, time, the sea, Christ,” in all which it denotes the plenitude or completeness which characterizes the nouns.

Sent forth ( ἐξαπέστειλεν )

From himself: from his heavenly glory. This does not mean that God then, for the first time, embodied what had previously been a mere ideal, but that he sent forth a preexisting person. See Philemon 2:6.

Made of a woman ( γενόμενον )

Or born. Repeated, and expressing the fact that Christ became a man, as distinguished from his prehistoric form of being.

Under the law

The earthly being of Christ began under the law. He was not only of human birth, but of Jewish birth; subjected to all the ordinances of the law, as circumcision for instance, like any other Jewish boy.

Verse 5

To redeem ( ἵνα ἐξαγοράσῃ )

See on Galatians 3:13. To redeem from the dominion and curse of the law. The means of redemption is not mentioned. It cannot be merely the birth of Christ of a woman and under the law. These are mentioned only as the preliminary and necessary conditions of his redeeming work. The means or method appears in Galatians 3:13.

We might receive ( ἀπολάβωμεν )

Not receive again or back, as Luke 15:27, for adoption was something which men did not have before Christ; but receive from the giver.

The adoption ( τὴν υἱοθεσίαν )

PoSee on Romans 8:15, and comp. Romans 9:4; Ephesians 1:5. Not sonship, but sonship conferred.

Verse 6

Because ye are sons ( ὅτι )

For ὅτι in this sense at the beginning of a clause see Romans 9:7; 1 Corinthians 12:15; John 15:19; John 20:29. The emphasis is on sons. The spirit would not be given is ye were not sons. Others take ὅτι as demonstrative, as a proof that ye are sons; but examples of such usage are wanting. It is not a proof of the fact of sonship that the apostle is giving, but a consequence of it. Comp. Romans 8:16, where the witness of the Spirit attests the sonship.

The Spirit of his Son

The Holy Spirit which animated Jesus in his human life, and which, in the risen Christ, is the life-principle of believers. See 1 Corinthians 15:45, and comp. Romans 8:9-11. The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Christ, Romans 8:9, Romans 8:10, where Paul uses Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ and Christ as convertible terms. The phrase Spirit of Jesus Christ only Philemon 1:19. In John 3:34Christ is represented as dispensing the Spirit. He is fully endowed with the Spirit (Mark 1:10; John 1:32): he sends the Spirit from the Father to the disciples, and he is the burden of the Spirit's testimony (John 15:26; John 16:7, John 16:9, John 16:10, John 16:15). The Paraclete is given in answer to Christ's prayer (John 14:16). Christ identifies his own coming and presence with those of the Spirit (John 14:17, John 14:18). Paul identifies him personally with the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17).

Our hearts

Note the interchange of persons: we might receive, ye are sons, our hearts. Comp. Romans 7:4.

Crying ( κρᾶζον )

A strong word, expressing deep emotion. The verb originally represents the sound of a croak or harsh scream; thence, generally, an inarticulate cry; an exclamation of fear or pain. The cry of an animal. So Aristoph. Knights, 1017, of the barking of a dog: 285,287, of two men in a quarrel, trying to bawl each other down: Frogs, 258, of the croaking of frogs. This original sense appears in N.T. usage, as Matthew 14:26; Matthew 15:23; Matthew 27:50; Mark 5:5, etc., and is recognized even where the word is used in connection with articulate speech, by adding to it the participles λέγων, λέγοντες sayingor διδάσκων teachingSee Matthew 8:29; Matthew 15:22; Mark 3:11; John 7:28, etc. In Mark 10:47the inarticulate cry and the articulate utterance are distinguished. At the same time, the word is often used of articulate speech without such additions, as Mark 10:48; Mark 11:9; Mark 15:13, Mark 15:14; Luke 18:39; Acts 7:60; Acts 19:34; Romans 8:15. It falls into more dignified association in lxx, where it is often used of prayer or appeal to God, as 4:3; 6:7; Psalm 21:2,5; 27:1,54:16; and in N.T., where it is applied to solemn, prophetic utterance, as Romans href="/desk/?q=ro+9:27&sr=1">Romans 9:27; John 1:15, and is used of Jesus himself, as John 7:28, John 7:37; John 12:44, and of the Holy Spirit, as here. The Spirit gives the inspiration of which the believer is the organ. In Romans 8:15the statement is inverted. The believer cries under the power of the Spirit.

Abba, Father

Comp. Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15. Ὁ πατήρ theFather, is not added in order to explain the Aramaic Abba for Greek readers. Rather the whole phrase Ἁββά ὁ πατήρ had passed into the early Christian prayers, the Aramaic title by which Christ addressed his Father (Mark 14:36) being very early united with the Greek synonym. Such combinations of Hebrew and Greek addresses having the same meaning were employed in rabbinical writings. Comp. also Revelation 9:11; Revelation 12:9.

Verse 7

Servant ( δοῦλος )

Bondservant. See on Matthew 20:26; see on Mark 9:35; see on Romans 1:1.

Then an heir ( καὶ κληρονόμος )

Καὶ marks the logical sequence. Comp. Romans 8:17. The figure is based upon Roman, not upon Jewish, law. According to Roman law, all the children, sons and daughters, inherited alike. According to Jewish law, the inheritance of the sons was unequal, and the daughters were excluded, except where there were no male heirs. Thus the Roman law furnished a more truthful illustration of the privileges of Christians. Comp. Galatians 3:28.

Of God through Christ

The correct reading is διὰ θεοῦ throughGod, omitting Christ.

Verse 8

d Over against their filial freedom in Christ, Paul sets their lapse into subjection to the elements of the world (Galatians 4:3).

Knew not God

See on 2 Thessalonians 1:8.

Ye did service ( ἐδουλεύσατε )

Better, were in bondage or were slaves.

By nature ( φύσει )

Not denying their existence (comp. 1 Corinthians 8:5) but their deity. Emphasis on by nature. Comp. 1 Corinthians 10:20.

Verse 9

Rather are known of God

Rather corrects the first statement, have known God, which might seem to attach too much to human agency in attaining the knowledge of God. The divine side of the process is thrown into the foreground by are known, etc. Known does not mean approved or acknowledged, but simply recognized. Saving knowledge is doubtless implied, but is not expressed in the word. The relation of knowledge between God and his sons proceeds from God. The Galatians had not arrived at the knowledge of God by intuition nor by any process of reasoning. “God knew them ere they knew him, and his knowing them was the cause of their knowing him” (Eadie). Comp. 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Timothy 2:19; Matthew 7:23. Dean Stanley remarks that “our knowledge of God is more his act than ours.” If God knows a man, that fact implies an activity of God which passes over to the man, so that he, as the subject of God's knowledge, comes into the knowledge of God. In N.T. γινώσκειν often implies a personal relation between the knower and the known, so that knowledge implies influence. See 1 Corinthians 2:8; John 1:10; John 2:24; John 17:3. For a parallel to this interchange between the active and the passive, see Philemon 3:12.

How ( πῶς )

“A question full of wonder” (Bengel). Comp. I marvel, Galatians 1:6.

Turn ye again ( ἐπιστρέφετε πάλιν )

Better, the continuous present, are ye turning, as of a change still in progress. Comp. Galatians 1:6. Πάλιν againaccording to N.T. usage, and corresponding with πάλιν ἄνωθεν in the following clause. Not back, which is the earlier sense and the usual classical meaning.

Weak and beggarly elements ( ἀσθενῆ καὶ πτωχὰ στοιχεῖα )

For elements see on Galatians 4:3. For πτωχὰ beggarlysee on Matthew 5:3. The two adjectives express the utter impotence of these “elements” to do and to bestow what was done and given by God in sending his Son into the world. Comp. Romans 8:3; Hebrews 7:18.

Again ( πάλιν ἄνωθεν )

Ἄνωθεν ( ἄνω above) adds to πάλιν the idea of going back to the beginning. Its primary meaning is from above; thence, from the first, reckoning in a descending series. So Luke 1:3; Acts 26:5. Such combinations as this are not uncommon in N.T. and Class. See, for instance, Acts 18:21; Matthew 26:42; Acts 10:15; John 21:16. But these additions to πάλιν are not pleonastic. They often define and explain it. Thus, John 21:16, πάλιν marks the repetition of Jesus' question, δεύτερον the number of the repetition. He asked again, and this was the second time of asking.

Ye desire ( θέλετε )

It was more than a mere desire. They were bent on putting themselves again into bondage. See on Matthew 1:19.

Verse 10

Ye observe ( παρατήρεισθε )

See on Mark 3:2, and see on John 18:12, and comp. Joseph. Ant. 3:5,5, παρατηρεῖν τὰς ἑβδομάδας towatch the weeks. The word denotes careful, scrupulous observance, an intent watching lest any of the prescribed seasons should be overlooked. A merely legal or ritual religion always develops such scrupulousness.


Sabbaths, fast-days, feast-days, new moons. Comp. Romans 14:5, Romans 14:6; Colossians 2:16.


Sacred months. Comp. Isaiah 66:23. In the preexilic time the months were mostly not named but numbered first, second, third, etc., and this usage appears also in the post-exilic writings of the O.T. Only four months had special names: the first, Abib, the ear month, which marked the beginning of harvest (Exodus 13:4; Exodus 23:15; Exodus 34:18): the second, Sif or Zîv, the flower month (1 Kings 6:1, 1 Kings 6:37): the seventh, Ethanum, the month of streaming rivers fed by the autumnal rains (1 Kings 8:2): the eighth, Bul, the month of rain (1 Kings 6:38). In the post-exilic time names for all the months came into use, the most of which appear in the Palmyrene inscriptions and among the Syrians. According to the Talmud, the returning Jews brought these names from Babylon. The names of all are found in a month table discovered at Nineveh. Nîsan corresponds to Abib (Nehemiah 2:1; Esther 3:7), answering to the latter part of March and April. Jjar answered to Ziv (Targ. 2 Chronicles 30:2), our May. Tisri to Ethanim, the seventh month of the ecclesiastical, and the first of the civil year, corresponding to October. Marcheschwan (see Joseph. Ant. 1:3,3) answered to Bul and November. Tisri, being the seventh or sabbatical month, was peculiarly sacred, and the fourth (Sivan, June), fifth (Ab, August), and tenth (Tebeth, January) were distinguished by special fasts.

Times ( καιροὺς )

Better, seasons. See on Matthew 12:1; see on Ephesians 1:10, and comp. Leviticus 23:4. The holy, festal seasons, as Passover Pentecost, Feast of Tabernacles. See 2 Chronicles 8:13.

Years ( ἐνιαυτούς )

Sabbatical years, occurring every seventh year. Not years of Jubilee, which had ceased to be celebrated after the time of Solomon.

Verse 11

I am afraid of you ( φοβοῦμαι ὑμᾶς )

Not a felicitous translation, though retained by Rev. Rather, “I am afraid for you or concerning you.” The second ὑμᾶς is not attracted into the principal clause so as to read, “I am afraid lest I have bestowed labor,” etc. The two clauses are distinct. I am afraid about you: then the reason for the fear is added, lest I have bestowed, etc.

Upon you ( εἰς ὑμᾶς )

Lit. into you. The labor, though in vain, had born directly upon its object. See the same phrase Romans 16:6.

In vain ( εἰκῇ )

Comp. Galatians 3:4; 1 Corinthians 15:2, and εἰς tono purpose, Philemon 2:16; 2 Corinthians 6:1; Galatians 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:5. After all my labor, you may return to Judaism. Luther says: “These words of Paul breathe tears.”

Verse 12

Be as I am ( γίνεσθε ὡς ἐγώ )

Better, become as I am; free from the bondage of Jewish ordinances.

I am as ye are ( κἀγὼ ὡς ἐγώ )

Rather, I became. Supply ἐγενόμην or γέγονα . Become as I am, for I became a Gentile like you. Comp. Philemon 3:7, Philemon 3:8. For the phrase γινέσθαι ὡς tobecome as, see Matthew 6:16; Romans 9:29; 1 Corinthians 4:13; 1 Corinthians 9:20-22.

Ye have not injured me at all ( οὐδέν με ἠδικήσατε )

This translation misses the force of the aorist, and conveys a wrong impression, that Paul, up to this time, had received no wrong at the hands of the Galatians. This was not true. The reference is to his earlier relations with the Galatians, and is explained by Galatians 4:13, Galatians 4:14. Rend. ye did not injure me at all. Ye did not injure me then, do not do so now.

Verse 13

Ye know ( οἴδατε δὲ )

The A.V. omits δὲ which is wanting in some Mss. Δὲ not oppositional as commonly explained: “Ye did not injure me, but on the contrary ye know, etc.”; but introducing an explanation of ye did not injure me by reference to the fact that they might easily have been moved to do him wrong by the unfavorable circumstances under which he first preached the gospel to them (through infirmity of the flesh). The formulas οἶδα δὲ , οἴδαμεν δὲ , οἴδατε δὲ , are habitually used by Paul to introduce an explanation of what precedes, from a new point of view. See Romans 2:2; Romans 3:19; Romans 15:29; Philemon 4:15. The general sense therefore is: “Ye did not wrong me at all as you might easily have been moved to do; for ( δὲ ) you know in what an unfavorable light my infirmities placed me when I first came among you.”

Through infirmity ( δἰ ἀσθένειαν )

On account of infirmity. Referring to the fact that Paul, in his first journey, was compelled by sickness to remain in Galatia, and preached to the Galatians during this enforced sojourn. This fact made their kindly reception the more commendable.

At the first ( τὸ πρότερον )

Either generally, at an earlier time than the present (as John 6:62; John 9:8; 1 Timothy 1:13), or the first time (as Hebrews 7:27). Here in the latter sense. Paul had visited the Galatians twice before he wrote this letter.

Verse 14

My temptation which was in my flesh ( τὸν πειρασμὸν ὑμῶν ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου )

The correct reading is πειρασμὸν ὑμῶν yourtemptation. The trial to which they were subjected by his bodily infirmity (Galatians 4:13), and which might have tempted them to treat him with indifference.

Ye despised not nor rejected ( οὐκ ἐξουθενήσατε οὐδὲ ἐξεπτύσατε )

Commonly explained by making both verbs govern your temptation. Thus the meaning would be: “You were tempted to treat my preaching contemptuously because of my bodily infirmity; but you did not despise nor reject that which was a temptation to you.” This is extremely far fetched, awkward, and quite without parallel in Paul's writings or elsewhere. It does not suit the following but received me, etc. It lays the stress on the Galatians' resistance of a temptation to despise Paul; whereas the idea of a temptation is incidental. On this construction we should rather expect Paul to say: “Ye did despise and repudiate this temptation.” Better, make your temptation, etc., dependent on ye know (Galatians 4:13); place a colon after flesh, and make both verbs govern me in the following clause. Rend. “Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel to you the first time, and (ye know) your temptation which was in my flesh: ye did not despise nor reject me, but received me.” The last clause thus forms one of a series of short and detached clauses beginning with Galatians 4:10. Ὁυκ ἐξουθενήσατε yedid not set at nought, from οὐδέν nothingThe form οὐθέν occurs Luke 22:35; Luke 23:14; Acts 19:27; Acts 26:26; 1 Corinthians 13:2; 2 Corinthians 11:8. For the compound here, comp. Luke 18:9; Luke 23:11; Acts 4:11; 2 Corinthians 10:10. oClass. Ἑξεπτύσατε spurnedN.T.oLit. spat out. A strong metaphor, adding the idea of contempt to that of setting at nought. Comp. Hom. Od. v. 322; Aristoph. Wasps, 792. The two verbs express contemptuous indifference. Ἑμέσαι tovomit, as a figure of contemptuous rejection, is found in Revelation 3:16. The simple πτύειν tospit only in the literal sense in N.T. Mark 7:33; Mark 8:23; John 9:6, and no other compound occurs.

As an angel

Bengel says: “The flesh, infirmity, temptation, are known to angels; wherefore to receive as an angel is to receive with great veneration.”

As Jesus Christ

With even higher honor than an angel. Comp. Matthew 10:40; John 13:20.

Verse 15

Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? ( ποῦ οὖν ὁ μακαρισμὸς ὑμῶν )

Μακαρισμὸς , PoComp. Romans 4:6, Romans 4:9. Not blessedness, but pronouncing blessed, felicitation. “What had become of your self gratulation on my presence and teaching?” Ye spake of is an attempt to render ὑμῶν . Better, “Where is then that gratulation of yours?

I bear you record ( μαρτυρῶ )

Better, witness. Bear record is common in A.V. for bear witness. Record is used both of a person, as God is my record, Philemon 1:8; I call God for a record, 1 Corinthians 1:23, and in the sense of evidence or testimony. So Shaks. Richard II. I. i. 30:

“First, Heaven be the record to my speech.”

Plucked out ( ἐξορύξαντες )

Lit. dug out. Only here, and Mark 2:4, of digging up the roof in order to let down the paralytic before Jesus.

Your own eyes ( τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ὑμῶν )

Better, your eyes. Eyes, as most treasured possessions. Comp. Psalm 17:8; Proverbs 7:2; Zechariah 2:8. Some have found here evidence that Paul was afflicted with disease of the eyes. See Dr. John Brown's Horae Subsecivae. Accordingly they explain these words, “You would have given me your own eyes to replace mine.” But ὑμῶν is unemphatic, your. All attempts to connect the passage with Paul's “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 7:7) are to be dismissed as fanciful.

Verse 16

Therefore ( ὥστε )

Better, so then: seeing that your love for me has waned.

Your enemy ( ἐχθρὸς ὑμῶν )

Ἐχθρὸς enemyin an active sense, as is shown by the next clause. Not passive, an object of hatred, which would have the pronoun in the dative.

Because I tell you the truth ( ἀληθεύων ὑμῖν )

Ἀληθεύειν , only here and Ephesians 4:15, means to speak the truth or to deal truly. The present participle refers to the same time as γέγονα Iam become, the time of his second visit. The clause is usually construed as interrogative (A.V.). It is rather a direct statement with a slight interrogative suggestion. “So then, I am become your enemy, am I.”

Verse 17

They zealously affect you ( ζηλοῦσιν ὑμᾶς )

They are zealously paying you court in order to win you over to their side. Affect, in this sense, is obsolete. It is from affectare, to strive after, earnestly desire. So Shaks. Tam. of Shr. I. i. 40:

“In brief, sir, study what you most affect.”

Ben Johnson, Alchem. iii. 2:

“Pray him aloud to name what dish he affects.”

As a noun, desire. So Chaucer, Troil. and Cress. iii. 1391:

“As Crassus dide for his affectis wronge” (his wrong desires).

Comp. 1 Corinthians 12:31; 1 Corinthians 14:1.

Not well ( οὐ καλῶς )

Not in an honorable way.

Nay ( ἀλλὰ )

So far from dealing honorably.

They would exclude you ( ἐκκλεῖσαι ὑμᾶς θέλουσιν )

From other teachers who do not belong to their party - those of anti-Judaising views who formed the sounder part of the church.

That ye might affect them ( ἵνα αὐτοὺς ζηλοῦτε )

So that in your isolation from others, you might be led to seek affiliation with them.

Verse 18

It is good - in a good thing

Ζηλοῦσθαι tobe zealously sought, in the same sense as before. It is passive. It is good for you Galatians to be zealously sought. In a good thing ( ἐν καλῷ ) answers to οὐ καλῶς nothonorably, Galatians 4:17. In a good matter - the interest of the gospel. Thus Paul would say: “These Judaisers zealously strive to win you over to their views; but they do not do this in an honorable way. There is no harm in seeking to interest and enlist you, provided it is in a good cause.”

Verse 19

My little children ( τεκνία μου )

Only here in Paul, but often in John. See John 13:33; 1 John 2:1, 1 John 2:12, 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:7, 1 John 3:18, etc. See on Galatians 3:26.

I travail in birth again ( πάλιν ὠδίνω )

Better as Rev. of whom I am again in travail. Ὡδίνω only here and Revelation 12:2. Galatians 4:27is a quotation. The metaphorical use of the word is frequent in O.T. See Psalm 7:14; 31:5; 43:17; Micah href="/desk/?q=mic+4:10&sr=1">Micah 4:10; Isaiah 26:18; Isaiah 66:8. Paul means that he is for the second time laboring and distressed for the Galatian converts, with the same anguish which attended his first efforts for their conversion. The metaphor of begetting children in the gospel is found in 1 Corinthians 4:15; Philemon 1:10. It was a Jewish saying: “If one teaches the son of his neighbor the law, the Scripture reckons this the same as though he had begotten him.”

Until Christ be formed in you ( μέχρις οὗ μορφωθῇ Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν )

The forming of Christ in them, their attainment of the complete inner life of Christians, is the object of the new birth. By their relapse they have retarded this result and renewed Paul's spiritual travail. The verb μορφοῦν N.T.oThe idea under different aspects is common. See Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 2:16; 1 Corinthians 6:15; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 1:27.

Verse 20

I desire ( ἤθελον )

Better, I could wish, the imperfect tense referring to a suppressed conditional clause, as if it were possible. Comp. Acts 25:22; Romans 9:3.

To change my voice ( ἀλλάξαι τὴν φωνήν μου )

To address you, not with my former severity, so as to make you think me your enemy, but affectionately, as a mother speaks to her children, yet still telling them the truth ( ἀληθεύων ).

I stand in doubt of you ( ἀποροῦμαι ἐν ὑμῖν )

Lit. I am perplexed in you. For this use of ἐν, comp. 2 Corinthians 7:16; Galatians 1:24. Paul's perplexity is conceived as taking place in the readers. For the verb, see on Mark 6:20; see on 2 Corinthians 4:8. Paul means: “I am puzzled how to deal with you; how to find entrance to your hearts.

Verse 21

Tell me

He plunges into the subject without introduction, and with a direct appeal.

Desire ( θέλοντες )

Are bent on being under the law. See on Galatians 4:9.

Under the law ( ὑπὸ νόμον )

For νόμος with and without the article, see on Romans 2:12. Here, unquestionably, of the Mosaic law.

Hear ( ἀκούετε )

(Do ye not) hear what the law really says: listen to it so as to catch its real meaning? Comp. 1 Corinthians 14:2; lxx, Genesis 11:7; Deuteronomy 28:49.

The law ( τὸν νόμον )

In a different sense, referring to the O.T. For a similar double sense see Romans 3:19. For νόμος as a designation of the O.T. generally, see 1 Corinthians 14:21; John 10:24; John 11:34; John 15:25.

Verse 22

For ( γάρ )

Your determination to be under the law is opposed by Scripture, if you will understand it, for it is written, etc.

A bondmaid ( τῆς παιδίσκης )

The bondmaid, indicating a well known character, Hagar, Genesis 16:3. The word in Class. means also a free maiden; but in N.T. always a slave. So almost always in lxx; but see Rth 4:12 ; Judith 12:13.

Verse 23

Was born ( γεγέννηται )

Has been born, or is born: perfect tense, treating the historical fact as if present.

After the flesh ( κατὰ σάρκα )

According to the regular course of nature. Very common in Paul.

By promise ( δἰ ἐπαγγελίας )

Most editors retain the article, the promise of Genesis 17:16, Genesis 17:19; Genesis 18:10. Comp. Romans 9:9. In virtue of the promise; for according to natural conditions he would not have been born.

Verse 24

Are an allegory ( ἐστιν ἀλληγορούμενα )

N.T.oLit. are allegorised. From ἄλλο another ἀγορεύειν tospeak. Hence, things which are so spoken as to give a different meaning from that which the words express. For parable, allegory, fable, and proverb, see on Matthew 13:3. An allegory is to be distinguished from a type. An O.T. type is a real prefiguration of a N.T. fact, as the Jewish tabernacle explained in John href="/desk/?q=joh+3:14&sr=1">John 3:14. Comp. Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 10:6, 1 Corinthians 10:11. An allegory exhibits figuratively the ideal character of a fact. The type allows no latitude of interpretation. The allegory lends itself to various interpretations. This passage bears traces of Paul's rabbinical training. At the time of Christ, Scripture was overlaid with that enormous mass of rabbinic interpretation which, beginning as a supplement to the written law, at last superseded and threw it into contempt. The plainest sayings of Scripture were resolved into another sense; and it was asserted by one of the Rabbis that he that renders a verse of Scripture as it appears, says what is not true. The celebrated Akiba assumed that the Pentateuch was a continuous enigma, and that a meaning was to be found in every monosyllable, and a mystical sense in every hook and flourish of the letters. The Talmud relates how Akiba was seen by Moses in a vision, drawing from every horn of every letter whole bushels of decisions. The oral laws, subsequently reduced to writing in the Talmud, completely overshadowed and superseded the Scriptures, so that Jesus was literally justified in saying: “Thus have ye make the commandment of God of none effect through your tradition.”

Paul had been trained as a Rabbi in the school of Hillel, the founder of the rabbinical system, whose hermeneutic rules were the basis of the Talmud. As Jowett justly says: “Strange as it may at first appear that Paul's mode of interpreting the Old Testament Scriptures should not conform to our laws of logic or language, it would be far stranger if it had not conformed with the natural modes of thought and association in his own day.” His familiarity with this style of exposition gave him a real advantage in dealing with Jews.

It is a much-mooted question whether, in this passage, Paul is employing an argument or an illustration. The former would seem to be the case. On its face, it seems improbable that, as Dr. Bruce puts it: “it is poetry rather than logic, meant not so much to convince the reason as to captivate the imagination.” Comp. the argument in Galatians 3:16, and see note. It appears plain that Paul believed that his interpretation actually lay hidden in the O.T. narrative, and that he adduced it as having argumentative force. Whether he regarded the correspondence as designed to extend to all the details of his exposition may be questioned; but he appears to have discerned in the O.T. narrative a genuine type, which he expanded into his allegory. For other illustrations of this mode of treatment, see Romans 2:24; Romans 9:33; 1 Corinthians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 9:9, 1 Corinthians 9:10; 1 Corinthians 10:1-4.

For these are

Hagar and Sarah are, allegorically. Signify. Comp. Matthew 13:20, Matthew 13:38; Matthew 26:26, Matthew 26:28; 1 Corinthians 10:4, 1 Corinthians 10:16.

The one


From Mount Sinai ( ἀπὸ ὄρους Σινά )

The covenant emanating from Sinai: made on that mountain. The old covenant. See 2 Corinthians 3:14.

Which gendereth to bondage ( εἰς δουλείαν γεννῶσα )

That is, the Sinaitic covenant places its children in a condition of bondage; note the personification and the allegorical blending of fact and figure.

Which is Hagar ( ἥτις ἐστὶν Ἅραβίᾳ )

The Sinaitic covenant is that which, in Abraham's history, is Hagar: which is allegorically identified with Hagar the bondmaid.

Verse 25

For this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia ( τὸ δὲ Ἅγαρ Σινὰ ὄρος ἐστὶν ἐν τῇ Ἁραβίᾳ )

The sentence is not parenthetical. This covenant is the Hagar of that allegorical history which is explained by the resemblance of her name to the Arabic name of Sinai. The Greek order is not ὄρος Σινὰ , as Galatians 4:24, but Σινὰ ὄρος , in order to bring into juxtaposition the two names which are declared to coincide. The evidence, however, for the actual identity of the names is deficient. The proper name Hagar signifies wanderer or fugitive (Arab. hadschar comp. Hegira the term for the flight of Mahomet). It has probably been confounded with the Arabic chadschar a stone or rock, which cannot be shown to be an Arabic designation of Sinai. The similarity of the first two gutturals might easily lead to the mistake.

Answereth to ( συνστοιχεῖ )

N.T.oThe subject of the verb is Hagar, not Mount Sinai. Lit. stands in the same row or file with. Hence, belongs to the same category. See on elements, Galatians 3:3.

Jerusalem which now is

As contrasted with “the Jerusalem above,” Galatians 4:26. The city is taken to represent the whole Jewish race.

Verse 26

Jerusalem which is above ( ἡ ἄνω Ἱερουσαλὴμ )

Paul uses the Hebrew form Ἱερουσαλὴμ in preference to the Greek Ἱεροσόλυμα , which occurs Galatians 1:17, Galatians 1:18; Galatians 2:1. The phrase Jerusalem which is above was familiar to the rabbinical teachers, who conceived the heavenly Jerusalem as the archetype of the earthly. On the establishment of Messiah's kingdom, the heavenly archetype would be let down to earth, and would be the capital of the messianic theocracy. Comp. Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 12:22; Hebrews 13:14; Revelation 3:12, Revelation 21:2. Paul here means the messianic kingdom of Christ, partially realized in the Christian church, but to be fully realized only at the second coming of the Lord. For ἄνω , comp. Philemon 3:14; Colossians 3:1, Colossians 3:2.

Free ( ἐλευθέρα )

Independent of the Mosaic law; in contrast with the earthly Jerusalem, which, like Hagar, is in bondage. The Jerusalem above therefore answers to Sarah.

Which is ( ἥτις ἐστὶν )

The double relative refers to the Jerusalem which is above, not to free. That Jerusalem, as that which is our mother, is free.

The mother of us all

Render, our mother. Πάντων alldoes not belong in the text.

Verse 27

d The last statement is proved from Scripture, lxx of Isaiah 54:1, which predicts the great growth of the people of God after the Babylonian exile. It is applied to the unfruitful Sarah, who answers to the Jerusalem above, and who is a type of God's dealings with her descendants.

Break forth ( ῥῆξον )

In this sense not in N.T. The ellipsis is usually supplied by φωνήν voicecause thy voice to break forth. Others prefer εὐφροσύνην joyas suggested by εὐφράνθητι rejoice Ῥήξει φωνὴν occurs Job 6:5, of the lowing of the ox; and ῥηξάτωσαν , ῥηξάτω εὐφροσύνην in Isaiah 49:13; Isaiah 52:9. As these are the only instances in lxx in which the verb is used in this sense, as the quotation is from Isaiah, and as the verb occurs twice in that prophecy with εὐφροσύνην joyit seems better to supply that noun here. Cause joy to break forth.

Many more children than ( πολλὰ τὰ τέκνα - μᾶλλον ἣ )

Incorrect. Not as Lightfoot and others for πλείονα ἣ morethan. Rather, “Many are the children of the solitary one in a higher degree than those of her which hath a husband.” It is a comparison between two manys. Both had many children, but the solitary had a greater many.

Verse 28

As Isaac was ( κατὰ Ἱσαὰκ )

Lit. after the manner of Isaac. See Romans 9:7-9, and, for this use of κατὰ , 1 Peter 1:15; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10.

Children of promise ( ἐπαγγελίας τέκνα )

Not promised children, nor children that have God's promise, but children who are not such by mere fleshly descent, as was Ishmael, but by promise, as was Isaac: children of the Jerusalem above, belonging to it in virtue of God's promise, even as Isaac was the child of Sarah in virtue of God's promise.

Verse 29

d Notwithstanding this higher grade of sonship, the children of promise, the spiritual children of Abraham, are persecuted by the Jews, the mere bodily children of Abraham, as Isaac was persecuted by Ishmael.

Persecuted ( ἐδίωκε )

Comp. Genesis 21:9, where Ishmael is said to have mocked Isaac (lxx, παίζοντα μετὰ ): but the Jewish tradition related that Ishmael said to Isaac: “Let us go and seek our portion in the field.” And Ishmael took his bow and arrows and shot Isaac, pretending that he was in sport. Paul evidently meant something more than jeering.

After the Spirit ( κατὰ πνεῦμα )

The divine Spirit, which was the living principle of the promise. Comp. Romans 4:17. The Spirit is called “the Spirit of the promise,” Ephesians 1:13.

Verse 30

What saith the Scripture?

Giving emphasis to the following statement. Comp. Romans 4:3; Romans 10:8; Romans 11:2, Romans 11:4. Quotation from lxx of Genesis 21:10. For the words of this bondwoman - with my son Isaac, Paul substitutes of the bondwoman - with the son of the freewoman, in order to adapt it to his context. This is according to his habit of adapting quotations to his immediate use. See 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 15:55; Ephesians 5:14, etc.

Shall not be heir ( οὐ μὴ κληρονομήσει )

Or, shall not inherit. One of the key words of the Epistle. See Galatians 3:18, Galatians 3:29; Galatians 4:1, Galatians 4:7. The Greek negation is strong: shall by no means inherit. Comp. John 8:35. Lightfoot says: “The law and the gospel cannot coexist. The law must disappear before the gospel. It is scarcely possible to estimate the strength of conviction and depth of prophetic insight which this declaration implies. The apostle thus confidently sounds the death knell of Judaism at a time when one half of Christendom clung to the Mosaic law with a jealous affection little short of frenzy, and while the Judaic party seemed to be growing in influence, and was strong enough, even in the Gentile churches of his own founding, to undermine his influence and endanger his life. The truth which to us appears a truism must then have been regarded as a paradox.”


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Galatians 4:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology