Galatians 4:21
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?

New Living Translation
Tell me, you who want to live under the law, do you know what the law actually says?

English Standard Version
Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?

Berean Study Bible
Tell me, you who want to be under the Law, do you not understand what the Law says?

Berean Literal Bible
Tell me, those wishing to be under the Law, do you do not listen to the Law?

New American Standard Bible
Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law?

King James Bible
Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?

Christian Standard Bible
Tell me, you who want to be under the law, don't you hear the law?

Contemporary English Version
Some of you would like to be under the rule of the Law of Moses. But do you know what the Law says?

Good News Translation
Let me ask those of you who want to be subject to the Law: do you not hear what the Law says?

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Tell me, those of you who want to be under the law, don't you hear the law?

International Standard Version
Tell me, those of you who want to live under the Law: Are you really listening to what the Law says?

NET Bible
Tell me, you who want to be under the law, do you not understand the law?

New Heart English Bible
Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
Tell me, you who wish to be under The Written Law, do you not hear The Written Law?

GOD'S WORD® Translation
Those who want to be controlled by Moses' laws should tell me something. Are you really listening to what Moses' Teachings say?

New American Standard 1977
Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law?

Jubilee Bible 2000
Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, have ye not heard the law?

King James 2000 Bible
Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?

American King James Version
Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?

American Standard Version
Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?

Douay-Rheims Bible
Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, have you not read the law?

Darby Bible Translation
Tell me, ye who are desirous of being under law, do ye not listen to the law?

English Revised Version
Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?

Webster's Bible Translation
Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?

Weymouth New Testament
Tell me--you who want to continue to be subject to Law--will you not listen to the Law?

World English Bible
Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, don't you listen to the law?

Young's Literal Translation
Tell me, ye who are willing to be under law, the law do ye not hear?
Study Bible
Hagar and Sarah
20how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you. 21Tell me, you who want to be under the Law, do you not understand what the Law says? 22For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman.…
Cross References
Luke 16:29
But Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let your brothers listen to them.'

Romans 6:14
For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

Treasury of Scripture

Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?

ye that.

Galatians 4:9 But now, after that you have known God, or rather are known of God, …

Galatians 3:10,23,24 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for …

Romans 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the …

Romans 7:5,6 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by …

Romans 9:30-32 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after …

Romans 10:3-10 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to …


Matthew 21:42-44 Jesus said to them, Did you never read in the scriptures, The stone …

Matthew 22:29-32 Jesus answered and said to them, You do err, not knowing the scriptures, …

John 5:46,47 For had you believed Moses, you would have believed me; for he wrote of me…

the law.

John 10:34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, You are gods?

John 12:34 The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ …

John 15:25 But this comes to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is …

Romans 3:19 Now we know that what things soever the law said, it said to them …

(21-31) The next eleven verses contain an elaborate argument from the history of the two sons of Abraham, as types of the two covenants, in further proof that freedom is the essential character of the Christian dispensation.

We have seen that St. Paul applies the history of the natural Israel allegorically to the spiritual Israel; and not only does he do this with reference to the history of the formed theocracy, but he goes back to its origin in the time of the patriarchs, and traces there the first beginnings of the separation between the Law and the promise. The same history had been already allegorically treated by Philo. The treatment of it by St. Paul is, however, quite different, and in keeping with the line of argument followed in the context.

The points of parallelism, which are drawn out in much detail, may be exhibited thus:--

Jewish Church.

Christian Church.

The bondwoman, Hagar.

The freewoman, Sarah.

Son of the bondwoman, Ishmael.

Son of the freewoman, Isaac.

Natural birth (the flesh).

Supernatural birth (the promise).

Mount Sinai.

Mount Zion.

The Law.

The Promise.

The earthly Jerusalem.

The heavenly Jerusalem.





Small offspring.

Large offspring.





The Jewish Church is enslaved.

The Christian Church is free.

(21) Ye that desire to be under the law.--A direct appeal to those who were inclined to give way to the Judaising party.

Do ye not hear the law?--"Hear" is probably to be taken in the sense of "give heed to," "listen to with attention," as in Matthew 10:14; Matthew 13:9; Matthew 13:13; Luke 16:29; Luke 16:31. Some have thought that it merely refers to the practice of reading a lesson from the Old Testament, which was adopted into the Christian Church from the synagogue.

Verse 21. - Tell me, ye that desire to be under the Law (λέγετέ μοι οἱ ὑπὸ νόμον θέλοντες εϊναι). After the outburst of affectionate earnestness expressed in the last four verses, the apostle seems to have paused, reflecting in what way he could the most effectually convince these Galatian legalists of their error. At length, a consideration occurs to him, which he impetuously so to speak hastens to abruptly sot before them. He has before (Galatians 3:29) shown to the Galatian believers that they were "Abraham's seed." He now means to show that, as children of Abraham through faith in Christ, they stood on a far higher footing than the children of the Sinai covenant did - a position which, by subjecting themselves afresh to the Law, they would forego. The verb "desire" (θέλοντες), as here introduced, intimates that this aspiration of theirs was a mere freak of self-will, there being nothing in the circumstances to prompt it. So in ver. 9, "Ye desire to be in bondage." In consequence of there being no article with νόμον, some would render ὑπὸ νόμον "under Law," that is, Law viewed in genere, as in Romans 4:15. But the whole scope of the Epistle resists this view. The apostle's contention with the Galatian perverters of the truth is not concerning Christians being subject to Law absolutely, but concerning their being subject to a Law of outward ceremonial observance; that is, to the Law of Moses; for there was no other system of positive ordinances by which, as of Divine authority, they could imagine themselves to be bound. The noun νόμος is used without the article, like other monadic nouns with an understood specific reference (for examples, Θεός, Κύριος Ξριστός Πνεῦμα διάβολος κόσμος); as it is also Romans 2:23; Romans 3:31; Romans 4:13, 14; Romans 5:13; 1 Corinthians 9:20; Galatians 2:21; Galatians 4:5; Philippians 3:5, 6. Do ye not hear the Law? (to\n no/mon οὐκ ἀκούετε;); to that Law give ye no heed? The article is here prefixed to νόμον to make the repetition of the noun the more telling; just as it is in Romans 2:23, Ος ἐν νόμῳ καυχᾶσαι διὰ τῆς παραβάσεως τοῦ νόμου τὸν Θεὸν ἀτιμάζεις; The verb ἀκούετε, hear, like our "listen to," means "take to heart what it says;" as in Matthew 10:14; Luke 16:29, 31. There is no reason for attributing to the verb such a sense of listening to an oral utterance as should warrant us in supposing, that the apostle is thinking in particular of the Galatian Christians as in the habit of "hearing" the Pentateuch and ether Old Testament Scriptures read, whether in Jewish synagogues (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:14, 15; Acts 15:21) or in Christian assemblages. That such Scriptures in the Septuagint Version were customarily read aloud when Christians assembled for united worship, especially in the absence or dearth of other inspired writings, is more than probable: we know from Justin Martyr ('Apol.,' 1. p. 83) that such was the custom from Sunday to Sunday in his days, when there were ἀποστολικὰ ὑπμνημονεύματα also available for such use. Moreover, the existence of such a custom helps us to understand how it was that the apostle could here, as in Romans 7:1, presuppose with Christian believers an acquaintance with the contents of the Pentateuch. But we require more here than the thought, "Are ye not wont to hear the Law read?" It is rather an acquaintance with its contents, and taking due account of them, that he demands of his readers. Some uncial manuscripts have ἀναγινώσκετε, read, instead of ἀκούετε. This reading of the text would only imply, not without a touch of sarcasm, the sense which the more accredited reading, ἀκούετε, may be understood as directly denoting. The use of the word "Law" to denote at once the system of Mosaic legislation and the historical record in which it is embedded, is remarkable. The Jews were accustomed to designate the Pentateuch by this term (comp. Matthew 5:17; Luke 16:16; Luke 24:44); and whoever would fain subject themselves to the positive enactments of the Mosaic Law as possessing Divine authority, would of course feel themselves bound also to accept the teaching of the historical record as clothed with the like authority. The apostle himself also accepted both as alike coming from God; only he required that the Divine purpose in both should be clearly understood and be suitably complied with. Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law,.... Not merely to obey it, as holy, just, and good, from a principle of love, and to testify subjection and gratitude to God; so all believers desire to bc under the law: but these men sought for justification and salvation by their obedience to it: they desired to be under it as a covenant of works, which was downright madness and folly to the last degree, since this was the way to come under the curse of it; they wanted to be under the yoke of the law, which is a yoke of bondage, an insupportable one, which the Jewish fathers could not bear; and therefore it was egregious weakness in them to desire to come under it: wherefore the apostle desires them to answer this question,

do ye not hear the law? meaning either the language and voice of the law of Moses, what it says to transgressors, and so to them; what it accused them of, and charged them with; how it declared them guilty before God, pronounced them accursed, and, ministered sententially condemnation and death unto them; and could they desire to be under such a law? or rather the books of the Old Testament, particularly the five books of Moses, and what is said therein; referring them, as Christ did the Jews, to the Scriptures, to the writings of Moses, and to read, hear, and observe what is in them, since they professed so great a regard to the law; from whence they might learn, that they ought not to be under the bondage and servitude of it. The Vulgate Latin version renders it, "have ye not read the law?" and so one of Stephens's copies; that is, the books of the law; if you have, as you should, you might observe what follows. 21. desire—of your own accord madly courting that which must condemn and ruin you.

do ye not hear—do ye not consider the mystic sense of Moses' words? [Grotius]. The law itself sends you away from itself to Christ [Estius]. After having sufficiently maintained his point by argument, the apostle confirms and illustrates it by an inspired allegorical exposition of historical facts, containing in them general laws and types. Perhaps his reason for using allegory was to confute the Judaizers with their own weapons: subtle, mystical, allegorical interpretations, unauthorized by the Spirit, were their favorite arguments, as of the Rabbins in the synagogues. Compare the Jerusalem Talmud [Tractatu Succa, cap. Hechalil]. Paul meets them with an allegorical exposition, not the work of fancy, but sanctioned by the Holy Spirit. History, if properly understood contains in its complicated phenomena, simple and continually recurring divine laws. The history of the elect people, like their legal ordinances, had, besides the literal, a typical meaning (compare 1Co 10:1-4; 15:45, 47; Re 11:8). Just as the extra-ordinarily-born Isaac, the gift of grace according to promise, supplanted, beyond all human calculations, the naturally-born Ishmael, so the new theocratic race, the spiritual seed of Abraham by promise, the Gentile, as well as Jewish believers, were about to take the place of the natural seed, who had imagined that to them exclusively belonged the kingdom of God.4:21-27 The difference between believers who rested in Christ only, and those who trusted in the law, is explained by the histories of Isaac and Ishmael. These things are an allegory, wherein, beside the literal and historical sense of the words, the Spirit of God points out something further. Hagar and Sarah were apt emblems of the two different dispensations of the covenant. The heavenly Jerusalem, the true church from above, represented by Sarah, is in a state of freedom, and is the mother of all believers, who are born of the Holy Spirit. They were by regeneration and true faith, made a part of the true seed of Abraham, according to the promise made to him.
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