Galatians 3:17 MEANING

Galatians 3:17
(17) The fulfilment of the promise is thus to be seen in the Messianic dispensation now begun. The Law, which was given four hundred and thirty years after the promise, had no power to cancel it.

This verse contains the direct inference from the argument stated in Galatians 3:15. When a document has been sealed, no subsequent addition can affect it. The Law was subsequent to the promise; therefore the Law cannot affect it.

And this I say.--Now, what I mean to say is this; the inference that I intend to draw is this.

Confirmed before of God--i.e., confirmed by God before the giving of the Law.

In Christ.--These words are omitted in the group of oldest MSS., and should certainly be struck out. If retained, the translation should be: unto Christ--i.e., "with a view to Christ," to find its fulfilment in Christ.

Four hundred and thirty years after.--The giving of the Law from Mount Sinai is thus placed four hundred and thirty years after the giving of the promise to Abraham. This would include the two periods of the sojourn of the patriarchs in Canaan and the sojourn in Egypt. According to another system of chronology, the sojourn in Egypt alone occupied four hundred and thirty--or, in round numbers, four hundred--years. Thus, in Genesis 15:13, Abraham is warned that his seed is to be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and to be afflicted "four hundred years." In Exodus 12:40 it is expressly stated that "the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years." In Acts 7:6 the prophecy of Genesis 15:13 is quoted: the people were to be "entreated evil four hundred years." It is noticeable, however, that in Exodus 12:40, which is the least ambiguous of the three passages, the L.XX. and Samaritan Pentateuch add, "and in the land of Canaan," so as to make the four hundred and thirty years cover the whole of the two periods, in agreement with the present passage. It has been thought that an examination of the genealogy of Levi favours the same reckoning. It would seem, however, that there were two systems of chronology really current. Josephus adopts both in different parts of his writings (comp. Ant. ii. 15, ? 2, with Ant. ii. 9, ? 1; Wars, v. 9, ? 4), and both are represented in other writers of the period, or not very much later. It is possible that the shorter reckoning may have arisen from difficulties observed in the longer, though it may be questioned whether it does not raise greater difficulties itself.

Verse 17. - And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ (τοῦτο δὲ λέγω διαθήκην προκεκυρωμένην ὑπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ [Receptus adds, εἰς Ξριστόν]); and I say this: a covenant confirmed before of God. We have here the application of the aphorism laid down in ver. 15. "And I say this;" that is," And what I have to say is this." As God had already before made a solemn covenant with Abraham and his seed, the Law given so long after cannot have been intended to do away with it; fundamental principles of even human civil equity disallow of any such procedure. "Confirmed before." If the confirmation or ratification is to be distinguished as additional to the solemn announcement, we may find it either in the "seal" of circumcision (Romans 4:11), or in the oath "with which God interposed" (Hebrews 6:17) after the sacrifice of Isaac. The words εἰς Ξειστόν, "with reference to Christ," are expunged from the text by most recent editors. If genuine, they would seem intended to emphasize that position of "Christ" (i.e. in effect his Church) as future copartner with Abraham, which has been already affirmed in the preceding verse. The Law, which was four hundred and thirty years after ( μετὰ τετρακόσια καὶ τριάκοντα ἔτη [Receptus reads ἔτη before τετρακόσια, instead of here, with no difference to the sense] εγεονὼς νόμος); the Law, having come into existence four hundred and thirty years after. This number of years the apostle finds in Exodus 12:40, 41. In the Hebrew text of that passage this term of four hundred and thirty years defines the stay of the Israelites" in Egypt." But in the Septuagint, as well as in the Samaritan text, the term defines the sojourn of the Israelites ("themselves and their fathers" is, according to Tischendorf, added in the Alexandrian manuscript) "in the laud of Egypt and in the land of Canaan." With the view presented by this Septuagintal version agrees a definite statement of Josephus ('Ant.,' 2:15, 2), "They left Egypt... four hundred and thirty years after our forefather Abraham came into Canaan, but two hundred and fifteen years only after Jacob removed into Egypt." In two other passages, however ('Ant.,' 2:09, 1; 'Bell. Jud.,' 5:09, 4), Josephus speaks of the affliction in Egypt as lasting "four hundred years;" probably following in this computation the period mentioned in the Divine communication recorded in Genesis 15:13, and cited by St. Stephen (Acts 7:6) in his defence. It is unnecessary here to attempt to determine the chronological question, which is one not free from difficulty. Our readers are referred to some valuable observations of Canon Cook's, in his note on Exodus 12:40; who on apparently strong grounds considers that a longer period than two hundred and fifteen years must be allowed for the sojourn in Egypt (see, however, Mr. Reginald S. Peele's article, "Chronology," in 'Dictionary of the Bible,' vol. 1. pp. 321,322). If the Hebrew text of Exodus 12:40 as we have it is correct, and if the Septuagintal version of it errs in including the sojourn of the patriarchs in Canoan in the there mentioned period of four hundred and thirty years, then the number of years which the apostle here specifies, counting apparently from Abraham's arrival in Canaan when he received the first of the promises cited above in the note on ver. 16, is less than he would have been justified in stating by the interval between Abraham's arrival in Canaan and Jacob's going down into Egypt. But, however, even if the apostle's mind adverted to this particular point at all, which may or may not have been the case, it plainly would not have been worth his while to surprise and perplex his readers by specifying a number of years different from that which they found in the Greek Bible, which both he and they were accustomed to use, even though the greater number would have in a slight degree added to the force of his argument. Cannot dis-annul (οὐκ ἀκυροῖ); doth not disannul. The present tense is used, because the apostle is describing the present position. That it should make the promise of none effect (εἰς τὸ καταργῆσαι τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν). The "covenant" is here to a certain degree distinguished from "the promise." The latter, being the fundamental and characteristic portion of the former, is brought prominently forward, for the purpose of illustrating the character of the Christian economy as being above all things one of grace and gratuitous bestowment. The feeling also, perhaps, underlies the words that with one of generous spirit - and who so large-hearted and munificent as God? - in proportion as a promise which he has given is large and spontaneous, and the expectation raised by it eager and joyous, in that proportion is it impossible for him to baulk the promisee of his hope. The "promise" was "To thee and to thy seed will I give this land;" the "covenant," that Jehovah would be their God, and that they should recognize him as such.

3:15-18 The covenant God made with Abraham, was not done away by the giving the law to Moses. The covenant was made with Abraham and his Seed. It is still in force; Christ abideth for ever in his person, and his spiritual seed, who are his by faith. By this we learn the difference between the promises of the law and those of the gospel. The promises of the law are made to the person of every man; the promises of the gospel are first made to Christ, then by him to those who are by faith ingrafted into Christ. Rightly to divide the word of truth, a great difference must be put between the promise and the law, as to the inward affections, and the whole practice of life. When the promise is mingled with the law, it is made nothing but the law. Let Christ be always before our eyes, as a sure argument for the defence of faith, against dependence on human righteousness.And this I say,.... Assert and affirm as a certain truth, that is not to be gainsaid;

that the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul; by "the covenant" is meant, not the covenant made with Adam, as the federal head of all his posterity; for this was made two thousand years before the law was given; nor that which was made with the Israelites at Mount Sinai, for that itself is the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after this covenant; nor the covenant of circumcision given to Abraham, for that was not so long by some years, before the giving of the law, as the date here fixed: but "a covenant confirmed of God in Christ"; a covenant in which Christ is concerned; a covenant made with him, of which he is the sum and substance, the Mediator, surety, and messenger; and such is what the Scriptures call the covenant of life and peace, and what we commonly style the covenant of grace and redemption; because the articles of redemption and reconciliation, of eternal life and salvation, by the free grace of God, are the principal things in it. This is said to be "in Christ", , "with respect to Christ"; though the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions leave out this clause, nor is it in the Alexandrian copy, and some others; meaning either that this covenant has respect to Christ personal, he having that concern in it, as just now mentioned, and as it was made manifest and confirmed to Abraham, was promised in it to spring from him; or rather that it has respect to Christ mystical, as before, to all Abraham's spiritual seed, both Jews and Gentiles: and this is said to be "confirmed of God", with respect thereunto; which must be understood, not of the first establishment of the covenant, in and with Christ, for that was done in eternity; nor of the confirmation of it by his blood, which was at his death; nor of the confirmation of it in common to the saints by the Spirit of God, who is the seal of the covenant, as he is the Spirit of promise; but of a peculiar confirmation of it to Abraham, either by a frequent repetition thereof, or by annexing an oath unto it; or rather by those rites and usages, and even wonderful appearances, recorded in Genesis 15:9 and which was "four hundred and thirty years before" the law was given, which are thus computed by the learned Pareus; from the confirmation of the covenant, and taking Hagar for his wife, to the birth of Isaac, 15 years; from the birth of Isaac, to the birth of Jacob, 60 years, Genesis 25:26, from the birth of Jacob, to his going down into Egypt, 130 years, Genesis 47:9, from his going down to Egypt, to his death, 17 years, Genesis 47:28 from the death of Jacob, to the death of Joseph in Egypt, 53 years, Genesis 50:26 from the death of Joseph, to the birth of Moses, 75 years; from the birth of Moses, to the going out of the children of Israel from Egypt, and the giving of the law, 80 years, in all 430 years. The Jews reckoned the four hundred years spoken of to Abraham, Genesis 15:13 and mentioned by Stephen, Acts 7:6 from the birth of Isaac; but they reckon the four hundred and thirty years, the number given by Moses, Exodus 12:40 and by the apostle here, to begin from the confirming the covenant between the pieces, though somewhat differently counted; says one of their chronologers (f), we reckon the 430 years from the 70th year of Abraham, from whence to the birth of Isaac were 30 years, and from thence to the going out of Egypt, 400 years; and another (g) of them says,

"they are to be reckoned from the time that the bondage was decreed, in the standing between the pieces; and there were 210 years of them from thence to the going down to Egypt, and these are the particulars; the 105 years which remained to Abraham, and the 105 years Isaac lived after the death of Abraham, and there were 10 years from the death of Isaac, to the going down to Egypt, and it remains that there were 210 years they stayed in Egypt:''

another (h) of their writers says,

"that from the time that the decree of the captivity of Egypt was fixed between the pieces, to the birth of Isaac, were 30 years; and from the birth of Isaac to the going down of the children of Israel into Egypt, 400 years; take out from them the 60 years of Isaac, and the 130 years that Jacob had lived when he went into Egypt, and there remain 210.''

Josephus reckons (i) these years from Abraham's coming into the land of Canaan, to the departure of the children of Israel out of Egypt, and makes them 430, agreeably to Exodus 12:40 and to the apostle here, and to the Talmud; See Gill on Acts 7:6. However, be these computations as they will, it is certain, that the law, which was so long after the confirming of the covenant to Abraham, could not make it null and void: or that it should make the promise of none effect; the particular promise of the covenant, respecting the justification of Abraham and his spiritual seed, by faith in the righteousness of Christ.

(f) Ganz Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 7. 1.((g) Juchasln, fol. 156. 2.((h) Jarchi in T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 9. 1.((i) Antiqu. l. 2. c. 15. sect. 2.

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