Galatians 3:17

17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came 1four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.

Galatians 3:17 Meaning and Commentary

Galatians 3:17

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", (eiv criston) , "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 Genesis 15:10 ) ( Genesis 15:12 Genesis 15:13 Genesis 15:17 Genesis 15:18 ) 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 F6, 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 F7 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 F8 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 F9 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.


F6 Ganz Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 7. 1.
F7 Juchasln, fol. 156. 2.
F8 Jarchi in T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 9. 1.
F9 Antiqu. l. 2. c. 15. sect. 2.

Galatians 3:17 In-Context

15 Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man's covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it.
16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ.
17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.
18 For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.
19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.

Cross References 1

  • 1. Genesis 15:13; Exodus 12:40; Acts 7:6
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