4:1Now a minor heir is no better off than a slave even though they will inherit the whole estate,4:2since they are under guardians and household administrators until the time set by the father.4:3So it is also with us: when we were minors we were enslaved by the elemental spirits1 of the world.4:4But when the time set by God arrived, he sent out his Son to be born from a woman and under Law,4:5so that he could redeem those under the Law and adopt them as children.4:6So since you are children, God sends out the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, so that we can call out, “Daddy, Father!”4:7meaning you are no longer a slave but a child— and if a child, then an heir through God.
4:8But before, of course, you had no concept of God and were a slave to what were not really gods at all.4:9Yet now that you know God— or rather are known by God— how can you turn back again to those weakling elemental spirits and enslave yourselves to them again?4:10You are observing sacred months and times and years!4:11I fear for you, that somehow I labored for nothing on your behalf.
4:12Become like me, sisters and brothers, because I was once like you. I plead with you because you did me no wrong.4:13You know that when I brought the Gospel to you before, I was physically ill.4:14Yet you were not put off by my physical condition and did not “spit me out,”2 but you accepted me as though I were a Messenger of God or even as Anointed Jesus.4:15So where is your happiness? I vouch for you that if you could, you would have gouged out your own eyes and given them to me!4:16Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
4:17Those people are trying to sway you to their side, and not out of pure motives. They want to cut you off from me so you will admire them.4:18Now admiring someone is fine, and not just when I’m around.4:19But my little children, I am writhing in the pains of childbirth with you until you become like the Anointed!4:20I want so much to be there with you in person right now so I could change my tone. I am exasperated with you!
4:21Tell me, you who want to go back under the Law, do you not listen to it?4:22For it has been written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and one by the free woman.4:23But the one by the slave woman came purely by means of the flesh, while the one by the free woman came through a promise.4:24This is an allegory, for these women represent two legal contracts. One was from Mt. Sinai in Arabia and gave birth into slavery— that is Hagar.4:25She represents Mt. Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to Jerusalem today, since she and her children are still in slavery.4:26Yet the Jerusalem from above is free— it is she who is our mother.4:27For it has been written, “Be glad, childless one who is not giving birth! Break your silence and shout, you who are not in labor pains! For the children of the single woman outnumber those of the one with a husband!”
4:28Now brothers and sisters, you are children of promise, corresponding to Isaac.4:29But the child of the flesh persecuted the child of the Spirit; it’s the same now as it was then.4:30But what does the scripture say? “Send the slave woman and her son away, for he will not share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”4:31So then, sisters and brothers, we are not children of the slave woman but of the free woman.
- 1The word rendered “elemental spirits” has a wide range of meanings in the general area of principles or basic things as well as dark spiritual beings of great power. The context here seems to favor the latter, considering also its use in vs. 9.
- 2Paul is likely referring at least in part to the pagan practice of spitting three times to ward off a spell cast by “the evil eye,” making his reference to the Galatians’ willingness to “gouge out their own eyes” a play on words. Yet on the other hand, during his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was struck blind for three days, so it could also refer to a literal eye problem.