Galatians 3:13, Curse of the law. The curse of the law is not the Torah-law, but the penalty for violating it. Yeshua came to save us from the penalty of the law, not from the law itself. Through his grace and forgiveness coupled with our repentance, we are saved from the consequences of violating the law (the penalty of the law, which ultimately is death), but we have not been liberated from obedience to the law. That would be like saying that if someone pays your fine for speeding, the speeding laws no longer apply to you and you are free to drive at any speed you like. This of course is absurd.
Galatians 3:19, It was added/sent again. This refers to the Torah in its codified form as given to the Israelites at Sinai, and to the sacrificial system that was imposed on the rebellious Israelites until the time of Yeshua’s death on the cross (see notes at Jer 7:22). Let me explain.
The Levitical priesthood (along with the elaborate tabernacle sacrificial system) was a temporary institution that YHVH added (Gal 3:19 cp. Jer 7:21–22) to the nation of Israel’s legal system because of the firstborn Israelites’ (who YHVH commissioned to be the priests of their families, Exod 19:22 cp. Exod 13:2, 11–16) failure to prevent Israel from worshipping the golden calf and to sin by faithlessly grumbling and murmuring against Elohim. In a general sense, YHVH didn’t give the Israelites the Torah at this time—the principles of which they and their forefathers already knew (e.g. Gen 26:5), and which were in existence since the foundation of the earth. These eternal and inviolate principles had already been passed on down to successive generations by men like Enoch, Noah and the patriarchs. So what other law was added? At Mount Sinai, the eternal principles of the Torah were codified into an administrative legal system (with civil penalties including the institution of a sacrificial system as a penalty for sin, which the Bible calls this system “the law of Moses”), and this codified system became the constitution of the nation of Israel. At the same time, YHVH gave them the institution of the Levitical priesthood and the sacrificial system (Gal 3:19), which (along with the rest of the Torah) pointed them to their need for Yeshua the Savior (Gal 3:16, 24). An example of such a codified system of law would be the American Constitution, the principles of which the founding fathers gleaned from many sources (including the biblical Torah, the ancient Greeks, English common law, the English Magna Carta and the French philosophers), which they then combined to make the legal code that now governs the United States (in theory). A similar situation occurred with the law of Moses, except the source for it was the Word, will, heart and character of Elohim, which he had revealed his servants of antiquity, and which then had been passed on down as well as additional laws that were given to Moses pertaining to governing the nation of Israel.
The civil penalties that the law of Moses prescribes along with the sacrificial and Levitical systems were temporary institutions that pointed, like a schoolmaster, tutor or pedagogue (to use Paul’s analogy in the latter part of Galatians chapter four), to Yeshua the Messiah, and which were completely fulfilled by the Messiah as the writer of Hebrews goes on to explains in great detail (see Hebrews chapters 5–11).
The general principles of the Torah are inviolate and have never changed. This includes the ten commandments, the biblical feasts, the Sabbath, the dietary laws, and all the laws and principles that regulate moral behavior as well as tell us how to love Elohim with our total being and our neighbor as ourselves. These are the eternal principles of the Torah of which Yeshua said that not one jot or tittle would pass away, that we must obey (both letter and spirit), and that obedience to will determine the saint’s rewards in the kingdom of Elohim. Yeshua explains all these things in his landmark and pivotal teaching that history now refers to as the Sermon on the Mount (i.e. Matthew chapters five through seven). Read it, believe it and follow these principles as they lead and guide you into the kingdom of heaven through Yeshua the Messiah!
Galatians 3:24, Schoolmaster. The church’s concept and understanding of the schoolmaster is incorrect. Consider what David Stern has to say about it:
Stern in his Complete Jewish Bible translates schoolmaster as custodian. He explains why in his JNT Commentary (p. 553). The word translated as schoolmaster in the KJV and other English Bibles is the Greek word paidagogos which literally means boy-leader. In ancient Greece a paidagogos was a slave who conducted a boy to and from school and was not actually the school teacher. You can verify this definition in Webster’s dictionary. As languages evolve words change in meanings. Therefore, a secondary modern meaning of pedagogue is a teacher or schoolmaster and pedagogy is the science of teaching. Stern explains that the ancient Greek paidagogos had no teaching function and although the Torah had as one of its goals the leading of Jewish people to the Messiah, as Paul explicitly states at Romans 10:4, that is not the import of the present verse. The paidagogos actually would have been a harsh disciplinarian for the Jewish people, providing some protection but generally making the Jewish person aware of many transgressions so that Jews might turn from legalistic rule-following and be declared righteous legally on the basis of faith and being faithful to Yeshua, whose trusting faithfulness to God the Father purchased our salvation.”
Just because the Torah-pedagogue brought us to the Messiah, doesn’t mean we don’t need it anymore. This is a presumptuous and false understanding of Paul in Galatians 3:24 in its broader context.
One purpose of the Torah was to identify our sin (1 John 3:4) and hence our need for the Messiah who forgives that sin. This is what Paul is saying in Gal 3:24.
However, according to the Bible, that isn’t the only purpose of the Torah. It also shows how to walk in righteousness once Messiah has forgiven us of our sins. It also shows us how to love Elohim with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourself, as Yeshua declared in Mark 12:28–31. Love is also the fulfilling of the law, as Paul states in Romans 13:8–10. It also shows us how to know Elohim intimately (1 John 2:3) and how to have the love of Elohim in us (1 John 2:5) and how to walk as Yeshua walked (1 John 2:6).It also shows us how to love the Messiah (John 14:15). It also shows us how to be blessed physically in this lifetime (Deut 28), and will determine our level of spiritual rewards in the world to come (Matt 5:19). Sadly, the mainstream church doesn’t teach these biblical truths.
To say that we don’t need the Torah any longer is tantamount to saying that it’s now all right to worship idols, take Elohim’s name in vain, dishonor our parents, steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, covet, have sex with animals, etc. This is, of course, absurd. But this, in reality, is what those who say the law was done away with are saying.
Galatians 3:29, Abraham’s seed [Gr. sperma]. Spermameans “a seed containing life within itself from which a plant germinates; the virile semen and its seed, children, offspring or progeny; family, posterity; of divine energy of the Set-Apart Spirit operating within the soul by which we are regenerated Luke 3:8.” Here Paul is stating unequivocally that if one belongs to Messiah, then one is a seed, offspring or progeny Abraham and an heir to the blessings of Abraham. It may seem a curious or impossible thing as human who is not genetically descended from Abraham could still be considered to be from the sperm or seed of Abraham. This shouldn’t be a difficult thing to comprehend in light of John’s statement in Luke 3:8. Speaking to the Jews, he says, “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that Elohim is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.’”
Galatians 4:9, Weak and beggarly elements. Paul here is speaking to both formerly unbelieving Jews and former pagan Gentiles who are now “one in Messiah Yeshua” (Gal 3:28). So what are “the weak and beggarly elements…of the world” (verses 3 and 9 combined) to which he is referring that both Jews and Gentiles did when they “did not know Elohim”? These are religious activities or works that each performed in order to gain the favor of Elohim in the case Jews, and to gain the favor of pagan gods in the case of the Gentiles. Either way, legalistic observance of rules and regulations, whether it be the Torah-law of Moses, or the do’s and dont’s of various Greek philosophical schools cannot earn one merit with YHVH Elohim. Our own works, no matter how meritorious they may be will not earn us salvation. Salvation is only granted through grace and produces good works or righteousness (Eph 2:8–10). Therefore, the weak and beggarly elements of this world are not the good works of Torah observance, but the twisted philosophies of worldly religionists who insist that the adherents to their religious programs must follow a set of do’s and don’ts of their invention and under their control in order for one to be part of their religious club. This is bondage that Paul is referring to in this verse and elsewhere in his writings that humans must come out from under.
Galatians 4:10, Days and months and seasons and years. Since Paul is speaking to former Pharisaical Jews and pagan Gentiles, this can refer both to both the biblical feasts as well as pagan celebrations and observances. Religious legalism whereever it may be found is unacceptable to Elohim. Any religious ideology, biblical or pagan, can be turned into a religious praxis that people are made to believe is essential for “salvation,” “enlightenment” or to attain immortality. Paul is coming against all of this. There is only one path to salvation and that is through faith in Yeshua the Messiah and that comes by his grace.
Galatians 4:21, Under the law.
Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?
The Jews in Paul’s day who glorified the Old Covenant with its stringent penalties imposed on humans when they violated the Torah were sadly misguided. The New Covenant that Yeshua initiated through his death on the cross frees those who place their faith in Yeshua from the Torah’s death penalty as a result of sin.
In essence, Paul is asking the question, why would anyone want to go back under the Old Covenant with its severe penalties, when one can be under the provisions of the New Covenant, and have one’s sins paid for by Yeshua, and be free of the bondage or weight of the Torah’s death penalty, which is like a sword hanging over one’s head by a thread (Gal 5:1)?
Paul then goes on to say that those who claim that circumcision (i.e. Torah-obedience) is a mandatory pre-requisite for salvation (Gal 5:3–5 cp. Acts 15:1), are, in essence, going back under the Old Covenant with its severe penalties, and are trusting in their own good works to save them instead of the grace of Elohim. Because of this mistaken belief, they have fallen from grace (Gal 5:3–5).
Galatians 4:24, Symbolic [allegory, KJV]. By definition, an allegory is “a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral.” This is what Paul proceeds to do in following teaching about Hagar being likened to Mount Sinai and the Old Covenant and Rebecca being likened to the heavenly New Jerusalem and the New or Everlasting Covenant. As David Stern points out in his commentary on this passage, this allegory is a midrash, which is Jewish literary form that “brings out ethical and devotional aspects of the Bible, sometimes drawing out and applying what is manifestly there, and sometimes imposing meanings on the text, although the norm in Judaism is not to make a midrash that violates the p’shat (simple sense) of the text.”
Galatians 4:21–31, Under the law—Two Women and Two Covenants. Hagar and Sarah represent the two religious approaches discussed above. The Hagar approach is to earn Elohim’s favor by taking matters into one’s own hands when it comes to finding favor with Elohim. This is what Abraham did when he went into Hagar and had a son by her. Similarly, the Pharisaical Jews had perverted the Torah-law of Moses and its Sinaitic Covenant into a legalistic set of do’s and dont’s in order to earn favor with Elohim and to gain salvation. This is bondage to man-made rules and regulations and leads to death. It is men trying to work out their own salvation by their own means. By contrast, Sarah represents those who put their trust in Elohim and who trust in his grace. This is what Abraham did when he trusted Elohim to give him a son through Sarah. The latter example represents the Abrahamic Covenant and New Covenant where salvation is by grace through faith (as Paul points out clearly in Romans 4) and is not based on our good works.
Legalism is bondage whether it be in response YHVH’s Torah-law or any other set of religious do’s and don’ts be it be Islam, Buddhism, Hinudism, Roman Catholicism or whatever. This is because one is always striving to do better, to do more things to earn the favor of men and God, or to measure up, but one is always falling short. Obedience to YHVH’s Torah out of love and devotion to Elohim and not feeling condemned when one falls short of perfect obedience since one’s short comings are covered by grace and the imputed righteousness of Elohim is not bondage. This is freedom in Elohim’s grace.
In the case of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, the over-arching issue was the insistence by the converts from Pharisaical Judaism that circumcision was a prerequisite to salvation (Acts 15:1 cp. Gal 5:12) as opposed to the biblical truth that salvation is by grace through faith in Yeshua leading to the good works of righteousness (e.g. Eph 2:2–8), and all of which is based on love for Elohim and one’s fellow man (Mark 12:29–31; John 14:15, 21; Rom 13:8–10). Paul argues this same point in Romans chapter four where he shows that Abraham was saved by faith decades before he was circumcised in the flesh. In other words, his heart was circumcised before his male appendage was. To a say that works, in this case, physical circumcision, is a prerequisite for salvation is the “different gospel” of those who “want to pervert the gospel of Messiah” that Paul refers to in Galatians 1:6–9. In fact, he pronounces a curse on those who teach that through a legalistic obedience to the Torah one can earn Elohim’s favor and thereby be guaranteed eternal life. This is because this is a lie that produces death, not life. Legalism in and of itself is not the biblically revealed path to salvation. It never has been and never will be.
Galatians 5:1–4, Yoke of bondage. (See notes at Acts 15:10.) Peter uses the same working in Acts 15:10 calling the concept of a works-based salvation involving circumcision “a yoke on the neck…which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear.”
Galatians 5:18, But if you be led of the Spirit, you are not under the law. To understand this passage, let’s back up to verse 16 where Paul instructs the Galatians to walk in the Spirit of Elohim, and not to fulfill the lust of the flesh. What are the lusts of the flesh? Doing that which comes naturally to the carnal, sinful man such as lust, adultery, lying, stealing, worshipping false gods, coveting, and so on. All these things are a violation of YHVH’s Torah-commands.
In verse 18, Paul says that if one walks in accordance with YHVH’s Holy Spirit, then one won’t be sinning or violating the Torah, and thus coming under the penalty of the law when one violates it. One, instead, will be fulfilling the Torah by loving one’s neighbor as oneself, which is the fulfillment of the Torah (vv. 14–15). Then in verses 19 through 21, Paul goes on to list the works of the flesh, all of which are violations of the Ten Commandments and the rest of YHVH’s Torah’s laws. He then lists the fruit of the Spirit (vv. 22–25), which are the summation and result of Torah-obedience (cp. Rom 13:8–10; John 14:14; 1 John 2:3–6).
So now what about verse 18? Very simply this. If we walk in accordance with the Spirit of Elohim that convicts us of sin (i.e. Torahlessness, 1 John 3:4) and leads us away from sin (John 16:8) and into the truth of Yeshua who is the Living Torah-word and truth of Elohim (John 14:6; John 1:1, 14), we will be walking in YHVH’s Torah-truth (Ps 119:142, 151), and under YHVH’s grace if and when we sin. If we either don’t place our faith in Yeshua, or try to earn our own salvation by our good works, then we have failed to receive YHVH’s grace and have placed ourselves under the penalty of the law, which is death. This is a summation and the bottom line message of Paul’s message in the Epistle to the Galatians!