|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:1-7 The apostle deals plainly with those who urged the law of Moses together with the gospel of Christ, and endeavoured to bring believers under its bondage. They could not fully understand the meaning of the law as given by Moses. And as that was a dispensation of darkness, so of bondage; they were tied to many burdensome rites and observances, by which they were taught and kept subject like a child under tutors and governors. We learn the happier state of Christians under the gospel dispensation. From these verses see the wonders of Divine love and mercy; particularly of God the Father, in sending his Son into the world to redeem and save us; of the Son of God, in submitting so low, and suffering so much for us; and of the Holy Spirit, in condescending to dwell in the hearts of believers, for such gracious purposes. Also, the advantages Christians enjoy under the gospel. Although by nature children of wrath and disobedience, they become by grace children of love, and partake of the nature of the children of God; for he will have all his children resemble him. Among men the eldest son is heir; but all God's children shall have the inheritance of eldest sons. May the temper and conduct of sons ever show our adoption; and may the Holy Spirit witness with our spirits that we are children and heirs of God.
Verse 2. - But is under tutors and governors (ἀλλὰ ὑπὸ ἐπιτρόπους ἐστὶ καὶ οἰκονόμους) but is under guardians and stewards. Ἐπίτροπος is, in Greek, the proper designation of a minor's guardian; as, for example, is shown by Demosthenes's speeches against Aphobus, who had been his ἐπίτροπος. These speeches also show that the ἐπίτροπος was entrusted with the handling of the property of his ward. Yet, as οἰκονόμος more especially denotes one entrusted with the management of property, it should seem that St. Paul uses the former term with more especial reference to the guardian's control over the person of his ward. The ward has to do what the ἐπίτροπος, guardian, thinks proper, with no power of ordering his actions according to his own will; while, on the other hand, the youth is not able to appropriate or apply any of his property further than as the "steward" thinks right; between the two he is bound hand and foot to other people's control. The plural number of the two nouns indicates the rough and general way in which the apostle means to sketch the case; speaking in a general way, one may describe a minor as subject to "guardians and stewards." Until the time appointed of the father (ἄχρι τῆς προθεσμίας τοῦ πατρός). The noun προθεσμία, properly an adjective, ὥρα or ἡμέρα being understood, is used very commonly to denote, either a determined period during which a thing is to be done or forborne, which is its most ordinary sense (see Reiske's 'Lexicon to Demosthenes'); or the further limit of such a period, whence Symmachus uses it to render the Hebrew word for "end" in Job 28:3; or, lastly, a specified time at which a certain thing was to take place, as, for example, Josephus, 'Ant.,' 7:04, 7, "When the (προθεσμία) day appointed for the payment came." This last seems to be the meaning of the word here, though it admits of being taken in the second sense, as describing the limit of the child's period of nonage. The somewhat loosely constructed genitive, τοῦ πατρός, "of the father," may be compared either with the διδακτοὶ τοῦ Θεοῦ, "taught of God" (John 6:45), or, in a somewhat different application, "the chastening and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). In reference to the whole case as stated by the apostle, it has been asked - Is the father to be conceived of as dead, or as only gone out of the country, or how? It is sufficient to reply that "the point of the comparison" - to use Bishop Lightfoot's words - "lies, not in the circum stances of the father, but of the son;" and, further, that to supplement the description which the apostle gives by additional particulars not relevant for the purpose of the comparison would only tend to cloud our view of its actual import. In fact, any image taken from earthly things to illustrate things spiritual will inevitably, if completely filled out, be found to be in some respects halting. Another inquiry has engaged the attention of commentators, as to how far the particular circumstance, that the period of nonage is made dependent upon the father's appoint meat, can be shown to agree with actual usage as it then obtained. It would seem that no positive proof has hitherto been alleged that such an hypothesis was in strict conformity with either Greek or Roman or Hebrew law. And hence some have had recourse to the precarious and far-fetched supposition that St. Paul founds his thesis on Galatian usage, arguing that such would have been in accordance with that purely arbitrary control which, according to Caesar ('Bell. Gall.,' 6:19), a paterfamilias exercised over wife and children among the kindred tribes in Gaul. The scruple, how ever, now referred to arises from supposing that we know more about the facts than we really do know. So far as has been shown, we cannot tell what was really the precise rule of procedure which, in the case described by the apostle, prevailed either in Judaea, or in Tarsus, or in Galatia; nor again from what region of actual experience St. Paul drew his illustration. We, therefore, have no possible right to say that the case which he supposes was not fairly supposable. On the contrary, when we reflect how open the apostle's mind was for taking note of facts about him, and how wide and varied his survey, we may safely rest assured that his supposed case was in reality framed in perfect accordance to the civil usage, to which the Galatians would understand him to refer. At the same time, it must be conceded that, amongst different modes of arranging a minor's case which actual usage permitted or may be imagined to have permitted, the apostle selected just that particular mode which would best suit his present immediate purpose.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But is under tutors and governors,.... The word rendered "tutors", is adopted by the Jewish Targumists and Rabbins into their language; and by the former is used (x) for any ruler and governor, civil or domestic; and by the latter, for such as are guardians of infants, fatherless children, and such as are under age, as it is here used; and who were either appointed by the will of the deceased, or by the sanhedrim, of whom they say (y), , "we do not appoint a tutor or guardian for a bearded person"; that is, an adult person, one that is grown up to man's estate; but , "we appoint a guardian for an infant"; and they had not used to appoint women or servants, or such as were minors themselves, or any of the common people; but men of substance, integrity, and wisdom (z); a fatherless child had two tutors (a); the power that guardians so appointed had, is at large described by Maimonides (b). Governors were such as acted under the tutors or guardians, and were employed by them for the improvement of their estates and minds, as stewards, schoolmasters, &c. until the time appointed of the father; by his last will and testament, which might be sooner or later, as he pleased; but if he died intestate, the time of minority, and so the duration of tutors and guardians, were according to the laws of the nation; which with the Romans was until a man was twenty five years of age; and with the Jews, for a male, was until he was thirteen years of age and one day; and for a female, until she was twelve years of age and one day, if the signs of ripeness of age appeared; but if they did not, the time was protracted until they were twenty, and even sometimes till they were thirty five years of age, before the matter was determined (c).
(x) Targum Jon. ben Uzziel in Genesis 39.4. & xli 34, 35. & xliii 15. Targum in Esther i. 8. & 2. 3. (y) T. Bab. Bava Metzia, fol. 39. 1, 2.((z) Maimon. Hilch. Necabot, c. 10. sect. 6. (a) Bartenora in Misn. Pesachim, c. 8. sect. 1.((b) Hilch. Nechalot, c. 11. (c) Ib. Hilch. Ishot, c. 2. sect. 1, 2.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. tutors and governors—rather, "guardians (of the person) and stewards (of the property)." Answering to "the law was our schoolmaster" or "tutor" (Ga 3:24).
until the time appointed of the father—in His eternal purposes (Eph 1:9-11). The Greek is a legal term, expressing a time defined by law, or testamentary disposition.
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