|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:8-11 The happy change whereby the Galatians were turned from idols to the living God, and through Christ had received the adoption of sons, was the effect of his free and rich grace; they were laid under the greater obligation to keep to the liberty wherewith he had made them free. All our knowledge of God begins on his part; we know him because we are known of him. Though our religion forbids idolatry, yet many practise spiritual idolatry in their hearts. For what a man loves most, and cares most for, that is his god: some have their riches for their god, some their pleasures, and some their lusts. And many ignorantly worship a god of their own making; a god made all of mercy and no justice. For they persuade themselves that there is mercy for them with God, though they repent not, but go on in their sins. It is possible for those who have made great professions of religion, to be afterwards drawn aside from purity and simplicity. And the more mercy God has shown, in bringing any to know the gospel, and the liberties and privileges of it, the greater their sin and folly in suffering themselves to be deprived of them. Hence all who are members of the outward church should learn to fear and to suspect themselves. We must not be content because we have some good things in ourselves. Paul fears lest his labour is in vain, yet he still labours; and thus to do, whatever follows, is true wisdom and the fear of God. This every man must remember in his place and calling.
Verse 10. - Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years (ἡμέρας παρατηρεῖσθε, καὶ μῆνας καὶ καιρούς καὶ ἐνιαυτούς); days ye are intent on observing, and months, and seasons, and years. In the compound verb παρατηρεῖν, the prepositional prefix, which often denotes "amiss," seems rather, from the sense of "at one's side," to give the verb the shade of close, intent observation. This may be shown by the circumstances to be of an insidious character; thus the active παρατηρεῖν in Mark 3:2; Luke 6:7; Luke 14:1; Acts 9:24, and the middle παρατηροῦμαι, with no apparent difference of sense, in Luke 20:20. Josephus uses the verb of "keeping the sabbath days" ('Ant.,' 3:05, 8), and the noun παρατήρησις τῶν νομίμων, for "observance of the things which are according to the laws" ('Ant.,' 8:03, 9). The accumulation of nouns with the reiterated "and," furnishing another example of the δεινότης of St. Paul's style, betokens a scornfully impatient mimesis. These reactionaries were full of festival-observing pedantry - "days," "new moons," "festivals," "holy years," being always on their lips. The meaning of the first three of the nouns is partially suggested by Colossians 2:16, "Let no man judge you... in respect of a feast day, or a new moon, or a sabbath day (ἑορτῆς νουμηνίας, σαββάτων);" in which passage, we may observe, there is a similar tone of half-mocking mimesis; where the same ideas are apparently presented, but in a reverse order. Comp. also 2 Chronicles 8:13, Offering according to the commandment of Moses, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts, three times in the year, even in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles." The "days," then, in the present passage, we may suppose, are the sabbath days, together perhaps with the two fast days every week which the Jewish tradition prescribed (Luke 18:12). The "months" point to the new moons, the observance of which might occasion to these Gentiles considerable scope for discussion in adjusting themselves to the Jewish calendar, different no doubt from the calendar they had been hitherto used to. The "seasons" would be the annual festivals and fasts of the Jews, not only the three prescribed by the Levitical Law, but also certain others added by tradition, as the Feasts of Purim and of Dedication. So far we appear to be on tolerably sure ground. The fourth item, "years," may refer either to the sabbatical year (Leviticus 25:2-7), which at any rate latterly the Jews had got to pay much attention to (1 Macc. 6:49, 53; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 14:10, 6; also 14:16, 2; Tacitus, 'Hist.,' 5:4); or possibly the jubilee years, one such fiftieth year, it might be, falling about this time due. Bengel ('Gnomon') supposes that a sabbatical year might be being held A.D. , to which date he assigns this Epistle; while Wieseler ('Chronicles Synops.,' p. 204, etc., referred to by Bishop Lightfoot) offers a similar conjecture for the year A.D. autumn to A.D. autumn. Very striking is the impatience which the apostle manifests in overhearing as it were the eager discussions occupying the attention of these foolish Galatian Judaizers. Their interest, he perceived, was absorbed by matters which were properly for them things of no concern at all, but which, with ostentatious zeal as such persons do, they were making their concern. The cause of their doing so lay, we may believe, in the feeling which was growing up in their minds that such like outward observances would of themselves make their life acceptable to God; this general sentiment habiting itself, in the choice of the particular form of outward ceremonies to be adopted, in the observance of the celebrations given by God to his people for the season of their nonage. The principle itself was no doubt repugnant to the apostle's mind, even apart from the Judaizing form which it was assuming, and which threatened a defection from Christ. Curious regard to such matters he evidently on its own account regards with scorn and impatience. But therewith also the old venerable religion, localized at Jerusalem as its chief seat, would under the impulse of such sentiments be sure to perilously attract their minds away from the "reformation" (διόρθωσις, Hebrews 9:10) to which it had now been subjected; and they were in danger of losing, nay, had in great degree at least already lost, the zest which they once had fell in embracing the exceeding great and precious gifts which Christ had brought to them. What was there here but the "evil heart of unbelief" spoken of in Hebrews 3:12, "in departing from the living God," now manifesting himself to his people in his Son? It is this animus characterizing the behaviour of the Galatian Churchmen which marks its essential difference as compared with that observance of "days" and "meats" which in Romans 14. the apostle treats as a matter, relative to which Christians were to live in mutual tolerance. As long as a Christian continued to feel his relation to the Lord Jesus (Romans 14:6-9), it mattered not much if he thought it desirable to observe the Jewish sabbath or to abstain from eating animal food. He might, indeed, make himself thereby chargeable with spiritual unwisdom; the apostle clearly thought he would; but if he still held fast by Christ as the sole and all-sufficing Source to him of righteousness before God and of spiritual life, he was to be received and welcomed as a brother, without being vexed by interference with these foolish tenets of his. It became different when his care for such really indifferent externals took his heart away from a satisfied adherence to the Lord; then his ceremonialism or asceticism became rank and even fatal heresy. And this was what the apostle was fearing on behalf of his once so greatly cherished disciples in Galatia.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. Lest the apostle should be thought to suggest, without foundation, the inclination of these people to be in bondage to the ceremonies of the law, he gives this as an instance of it; which is to be understood, not of a civil observation of times, divided into days, months, and years, for which the luminaries of the heavens were made, and into summer and winter, seedtime and harvest, which is not only lawful, but absolutely necessary; but of a religious observation of days, &c. not of the lucky and unlucky days, or of any of the festivals of the Gentiles, but of Jewish ones. By "days" are meant their seventh day sabbaths; for since they are distinguished from months and years, they must mean such days as returned weekly; and what else can they be but their weekly sabbaths? These were peculiar to the Israelites, and not binding on others; and being typical of Christ, the true rest of his people, and he being come, are now ceased. By "months" are designed their new moons, or the beginning of their months upon the appearance of a new moon, which were kept by blowing trumpets, offering sacrifices, hearing the word of God, abstaining from work, and holding religious feasts; and were typical of that light, knowledge, and grace, the church receives from Christ, the sun of righteousness; and he, the substance, being come, these shadows disappeared. By "times" are intended the three times in the year, when the Jewish males appeared before the Lord at Jerusalem, to keep the three feasts of tabernacles, passover, and pentecost, for the observance of which there was now no reason; not of the feast of tabernacles, since the word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us; nor of the passover, since Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us; nor of pentecost, or the feast of weeks, or of the first fruits of the harvest, since the Spirit of God was poured down in a plenteous manner on that day upon the apostles; and when the firstfruits of a glorious harvest were brought in to the Lord, in the conversion of three thousand souls. And by "years" are to be understood their sabbatical years; every seventh year the land had a rest, and remained untilled; there were no ploughing and sowing, and there was a general release of debtors; and every fiftieth year was a jubilee to the Lord, when liberty to servants, debtors, &c. was proclaimed throughout the land: all which were typical of rest, payment of debts, and spiritual liberty by Christ; and which having their accomplishment in him, were no longer to be observed; wherefore these Galatians are blamed for so doing; and the more, because they were taught to observe them, in order to obtain eternal life and salvation by them.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
10. To regard the observance of certain days as in itself meritorious as a work, is alien to the free spirit of Christianity. This is not incompatible with observing the Sabbath or the Christian Lord's day as obligatory, though not as a work (which was the Jewish and Gentile error in the observance of days), but as a holy mean appointed by the Lord for attaining the great end, holiness. The whole life alike belongs to the Lord in the Gospel view, just as the whole world, and not the Jews only, belong to Him. But as in Paradise, so now one portion of time is needed wherein to draw off the soul more entirely from secular business to God (Col 2:16). "Sabbaths, new moons, and set feasts" (1Ch 23:31; 2Ch 31:3), answer to "days, months, times." "Months," however, may refer to the first and seventh months, which were sacred on account of the number of feasts in them.
times—Greek, "seasons," namely, those of the three great feasts, the Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.
years—The sabbatical year was about the time of writing this Epistle, A.D. 48 [Bengel].
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