Galatians 4:1-7. An "heir" may be either one who is entering on his inheritance or one who is hereafter to enter on it. In a sense, the Christian inheritance is always future; heaven lies ahead. And the NT, with its strong eschatological background, felt the claims of the future more even than we do. Yet preceding verses speak of full sonship in Christ as largely implying entrance on the inheritance. The Spirit is earnest or first-fruits (Romans 8:23, 2 Corinthians 5:5, Ephesians 1:14). Dealing with Israel under the Law, Paul explains that, while an heir, Israel had been a minor, and therefore temporarily no better than a slave. Slave to whom? To the angels or spirits of the elements (mg.; Peake, EGT, on Colossians 2:8, after Spitta). From this bondage Israel was redeemed by the mission of the Son of God "born of a woman," i.e. [not necessarily virgin-born but] incarnate as human (cf. Job 14:1), and coming under the Law in order to abolish it and so intro duce the epoch of freedom and sonship (cf. supra on Galatians 3:1-14).
Galatians 4:8-11. The state of the Galatians, while heathen, was similar but worse. They had not been heirs in a state of temporary slavery, but frankly slaves to the mere element-spirits, those undivine gods they worshipped. If they now Judaize, they return to the same slavery. To make the imperfect OT Law an ultimate religious authority is to prefer nature-worship to Christ. Subordinate spirits, however over-ruled by God, instituted the Law. Here Paul comes nearer his great Gnostic follower Marcion than anywhere else; but, while Marcion hated the OT, Paul rejects only the Law, and rejects it only if it becomes a rival to the Gospel. His thought is delicately balanced on a knife-edge. In Rom., emphasis on the ceremonial (not part but aspect of the) Law disappears; it is viewed on its moral side as the law of God." In a later epistle, Col., the ceremonial again predominates.
Galatians 4:9. rather to be known of God: note the feeling of mystery, and cf. 1 Corinthians 8:1 ff.
Galatians 4:11. I am afraid: he does not despair of winning back his readers.
Galatians 4:12-20. An affectionate paragraph, reminding the Galatians how he had conformed in every legitimate way (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:19 ff.) to their customs, and begging them not to desert his faith. In the past, he and they had been good friends. His humiliating illness (epilepsy according to Lightfoot, malaria according to Ramsay, see p. 769. This attack is recorded nowhere else. His illness may be the stake in flesh of 2 Corinthians 12:7*), which either drove him at the first into their country or at the least prolonged his (original) visit, had not proved offensive to them: they saw in him an angel (cf. Galatians 1:8), nay (observe the climax, cf. Mark 13:32), Christ. Then they had thought themselves very happy to know Paul. If possible, they would have given him their own eyes (either because he had defective sight, cf. Galatians 6:11, or as the most precious thing they had, cf. Matthew 5:29). Now his frankness has angered them. Other teachers are, no doubt, more flattering—from sinister motives; if Judaizers carry their point, they will become an aristocracy and Gentile Christians their humble clients. The bond between evangelist and convert ought to hold even in absence. But it is a hard thing to win souls. It costs travail pangs. And the pains of spiritual labour may repeat themselves! What new thing can he say to them in this emergency?
Galatians 4:21 to Galatians 5:1. The new thing he tries is an allegorising spiritualising application of an OT story. Slave-born Ishmael mocked (Genesis 21:10*) free-born Isaac, and the son of the slave was righteously cast out. God means us to learn from this! Once more it is claimed that the OT supports Paul. A second quasi-allegory is intertwined with the first. According to later Jewish theology, the real Jerusalem, like all other sacred things, existed originally in heaven. And according to Paul the material or earthly Jerusalem, which rejects Jesus and clings to Law, is in hopeless bondage. Isaiah 54:1 must refer to the heavenly Jerusalem, partially manifested in the NT Church. Once more then, choose—between Christ and Law; Ishmael and Isaac; the true Jerusalem and the sham. Nay, they have chosen. Let them stand by their good choice! Let them not frustrate Christ's design (Galatians 5:1 mg.).
[Galatians 4:25. The meaning is apparently that the word "Hagar" is in Arabia used for Mt. Sinai. That this is philologically uncertain is no proof that Paul did not mean this. It gives an excellent sense, for it justifies the equation of Hagar with the Sinaitic covenant. Paul may say "in Arabia" rather than in the Arabian language, because he is referring to a local usage. If mg. gives the correct text, it is probably a gloss. An interesting suggestion has been made to the effect that the verb rendered "answereth to" means "has the same numerical value as." The Gr. words rendered "Hagar Sinai" = 1365, "the Jerusalem that now is" = 1364. But the Alpha in the former equation has to mean both 1 and 1000, there is a difference between the totals, and there is no indication of this sense in the passage. The verb means "is in the same category with."—A. S. P.]
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Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Galatians 4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany