Galatians 3:19
Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(19, 20) If such was not the function of the Law—if it had no power to modify the promise—what was its true function? It was a sort of measure of police. Its object was to deal with transgressions. It was also a temporary measure, of force only until it should be superseded by the coming of the Messiah. Unlike the promise, too, it was a contract. It was given by a mediator—that is, a person acting between two parties. Two parties were involved, with rigid conditions binding them both. On the other hand, the promise was given unconditionally by the sole act of God.

In stating the true function of the Law, the Apostle brings out its inferiority to the promise in four respects. (1) It dealt with sins, not with holiness; (2) it was temporary and transitory; (3) it was given, not directly, but indirectly, through the double mediation of the angels and of Moses; (4) it was conditional, and not like the promise, unconditional. It depended upon the fallible action of man, and not only upon the infallible word of God.

(19) Wherefore then serveth the law?—Literally, What then is the Law? What is its object or function? If it did not affect the promise, what did it do? The Apostle proceeds to answer this question.

It was added.—It was not a part of the original scheme, but came in as a sort of marginal addition. It was, as it were, a parenthesis in the design of Providence. The direct line of God’s dealings with man ran through the promise and its fulfilment. The Law came in by the way.

Because of transgressions.—It has been usual to give to this one of two opposite interpretations, to make it mean (1) to check or put down transgressions; (2) to multiply and increase transgressions, as in Romans 5:20. The expression seems wide enough to cover both ideas. The Law was given “because of transgressions:” i.e., it had its object in transgressions. Its original purpose was to make them known, and by imposing a penalty to check them; its real effect was to provoke and enhance them. The expression “because of transgressions” leaves it ambiguous which of these points is meant, or rather, it includes them all.

Till the seed should come to whom the promise was made.—By “the seed” is meant, as above, in Galatians 3:16, Christ, the Messiah. The promise is said to have been made to Him in whom it is fulfilled, just as, in Galatians 3:14, Christians are said to “receive the promise”—i.e., the fulfilment of the promise “of the Spirit.”

Ordained by angels.—The idea of angels having had a share in the giving of the Law appears in Deuteronomy 33:2 : “The Lord came from Sinai . . . He shined forth from mount Paran, and He came with ten thousands of saints.” For “saints” the LXX. substitutes, in the next verse, “angels.” Similar allusions are found at the end of St. Stephen’s speech (Acts 7:53): “Who have received the law by the disposition (as ordinances) of angels, and have not kept it;” and in Hebrews 2:2 : “If the word spoken by (through) angels was stedfast.” In this last instance, as in the present passage, the ministration of angels employed in it is quoted as showing the inferiority of the Law to the Gospel. In St. Stephen’s speech and in Josephus (Ant. xv. 5, 3) the same ministration is appealed to as enhancing the dignity of the Law. The different point of view is natural enough, according as the subject is regarded from the side of man or from the side of God.

In the hand of a mediator.—Through the instrumentality of a third person, distinct from the contracting parties—i.e., in this case, Moses. The term “mediator” was commonly applied to Moses in the Rabbinical writings, and appears to be hinted at in Hebrews 8:6, where our Lord is spoken of as “a mediator of a better covenant.” Many of the fathers, following Origen, took the mediator here to be Christ, and were thus thrown out in their interpretation of the whole passage.

Galatians 3:19. Wherefore then serveth the law — If the inheritance was not by the law, but by the promise, as a free gift, for what purpose was the law given, or what significancy had it? It was added because of transgressions — That is, to restrain the Israelites from transgressions, particularly idolatry, and the vices connected with idolatry, the evil of which the law discovered to them by its prohibitions and curse. Agreeably to this account of the law, idolatry, and all the abominations practised by the Canaanites, and the other heathen nations who surrounded the Israelites, were forbidden in the law under the severest penalties. Maimonides, a learned Jew, acknowledges, in his More-Nevochim, that the ceremonial law was given for the extirpation of idolatry; for, saith he, “When God sent Moses to redeem his people out of Egypt, it was the usual custom of the world, and the worship in which all nations were bred up, to build temples in honour of the sun, moon, and stars, and to offer divers kinds of animals to them, and to have priests appointed for that end. Therefore God, knowing it is beyond the strength of human nature instantly to quit that which it hath been long accustomed to, and so is powerfully inclined to, would not command that all that kind of worship should be abolished, and that he should be worshipped only in spirit; but required that he only should be the object of this outward worship; that temples and altars should be built to him alone; sacrifices offered to him only, and priests consecrated to his service.” So Cedrenus, of their festivals, separations, purgations, oblations, &c., observing, God enjoined them, that, being employed in doing these things to the true God, they might abstain from idolatry. And thus, saith Dr. Spencer, were they kept under the discipline of the law, and shut up from the idolatrous rites and customs of the heathen world, by the strictness of these legal observances, and the penalties denounced against the violators of them. “And it is well-known,” says Whitby, “that all the ancient fathers were of this opinion, that God gave the Jews only the decalogue, till they had made the golden calf; and that afterward he laid this yoke of ceremonies upon them to restrain them from idolatry, (see Ezekiel 20:7; Ezekiel 20:11; Ezekiel 20:24-25,) called by the apostle the law of carnal commandments, which he says, was abolished for the weakness and unprofitableness of it, Hebrews 7:16. Hence these ceremonies were called by St. Paul, στοιχεια του κοσμου, the rudiments of the world, Galatians 4:3; Colossians 2:8; namely, because for matter they were the same which the heathen used before to their false gods. But this ancient exposition, though partly true, does not contain the whole truth; for the apostle, in the Epistle to the Romans, informs us, that the law entered that sin might abound; that is, might appear to abound, unto death, that sin might appear sin, working death in, us, Romans 5:20; Romans 7:13. And that the law worketh wrath, namely, by giving us the knowledge of that sin which deserves it, Romans 3:20; Romans 4:15. And this answers to what the apostle here saith, that the law was added because of transgressions, namely, to discover them, and the punishment due to them. See on Galatians 3:22; Galatians 3:24. So also Macknight: “The law was added after the promise, to show the Israelites what things were offensive to God, Romans 3:20. Also, that by the manner in which it was given, becoming sensible of their transgressions, and of God’s displeasure with them for their transgressions, and of the punishment to which they were liable, they might be constrained to have recourse to the covenant with Abraham, in which justification was promised through faith, as it is now promised in the gospel. See Colossians 2:14.” Till the seed should come — That illustrious seed, the Messiah; to whom the promise was made — “It was not fit that the law of Moses, which condemned every sinner to death, should continue any longer than till the seed should come to whom it was promised that in him all nations should be blessed, by having their faith counted for righteousness. For Christ having come, and published in his gospel God’s gracious intention of justifying believers of all nations by faith, if the law of Moses, which condemned every sinner to death without mercy, had been allowed to remain, it would have contradicted the gospel, and have made the promise of no effect. It was, therefore, abrogated with great propriety at the death of Christ; especially as the gospel was a dispensation of religion more effectual than the law for destroying idolatry, and restraining transgression.” And was ordained — Greek, διαταγεις, appointed, promulgated, or spoken, as it is expressed Hebrews 2:2. This is affirmed likewise by Stephen, Acts 7:38; Acts 7:53. In the hand of a mediator — Namely, Moses, then appointed by God to act the part of a mediator between him and the people of Israel. The law was not given to Israel, as the promise was to Abraham, immediately from God himself, but was conveyed by the ministry of angels to Moses, and delivered into his hand as a mediator between God and them, and as a type of the great Mediator.

3:19-22 If that promise was enough for salvation, wherefore then serveth the law? The Israelites, though chosen to be God's peculiar people, were sinners as well as others. The law was not intended to discover a way of justification, different from that made known by the promise, but to lead men to see their need of the promise, by showing the sinfulness of sin, and to point to Christ, through whom alone they could be pardoned and justified. The promise was given by God himself; the law was given by the ministry of angels, and the hand of a mediator, even Moses. Hence the law could not be designed to set aside the promise. A mediator, as the very term signifies, is a friend that comes between two parties, and is not to act merely with and for one of them. The great design of the law was, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ, might be given to those that believe; that, being convinced of their guilt, and the insufficiency of the law to effect a righteousness for them, they might be persuaded to believe on Christ, and so obtain the benefit of the promise. And it is not possible that the holy, just, and good law of God, the standard of duty to all, should be contrary to the gospel of Christ. It tends every way to promote it.Wherefore then serveth the law? - This is obviously an objection which might be urged to the reasoning which the apostle had pursued. It was very obvious to ask, if the principles which he had laid down were correct, of what use was the Law? Why was it given at all? Why were there so many wonderful exhibitions of the divine power at its promulgation? Why were there so many commendations of it in the Scriptures? And why were there so many injunctions to obey it? Are all these to be regarded as nothing; and is the Law to be esteemed as worthless? To all this, the apostle replies that the Law was not useless, but that it was given by God for great and important purposes, and especially for purposes closely connected with the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham and the work of the Mediator.

It was added - (προσετέθη prosetethē). It was appended to all the previous institutions and promises. It was an additional arrangement on the part of God for great and important purposes. It was an arrangement subsequent to the giving of the promise, and was intended to secure important advantages until the superior arrangement under the Messiah should be introduced, and was with reference to that.

Because of transgressions - On account of transgressions, or with reference to them. The meaning is, that the Law was given to show the true nature of transgressions, or to show what was sin. It was not to reveal a way of justification, but it was to disclose the true nature of sin; to deter people from committing it; to declare its penalty; to convince people of it, and thus to be "ancillary" to, and preparatory to the work of redemption through the Redeemer. This is the true account of the Law of God as given to apostate man, and this use of the Law still exists. This effect of the Law is accomplished:

(1) By showing us what God requires, and what is duty. It is the straight rule of what is right; and to depart from that is the measure of wrong.

(2) it shows us the nature and extent of transgression by showing us how far we have departed from it.

(3) it shows what is the just penalty of transgression, and is thus suited to reveal its true nature.

(4) it is suited to produce conviction for sin, and thus shows how evil and bitter a thing transgression is; see the notes at Romans 4:15; Romans 7:7-11.

(5) it thus shows its own inability to justify and save people, and is a preparatory arrangement to lead people to the cross of the Redeemer; see the note at Galatians 3:24. At the same time,

(6) The Law was given with reference to transgressions in order to keep men from transgression. It was designed to restrain and control them by its denunciations, and by the fear of its threatened penalties.

When Paul says that the Law was given on account of transgressions, we are not to suppose that this was the sole use of the Law; but that this was a main or leading purpose. It may accomplish many other important purposes (Calvin), but this is one leading design. And this design it still accomplishes. It shows people their duty. It reminds them of their guilt. It teaches them how far they have wandered from God. It reveals to them the penalty of disobedience. It shows them that justification by the Law is impossible, and that there must be some other way by which people must be saved. And since these advantages are derived from it, it is of importance that that Law should be still proclaimed, and that its high demands and its penalties should be constantly held up to the view of people.

Till the seed should come ... - The Messiah, to whom the promise particularly applied; see Galatians 3:16. It is not implied here that the Law would be of no use after that; but that it would accomplish important purposes before that. A large portion of the laws of Moses would then indeed cease to be binding. They were given to accomplish important purposes among the Jews until the Messiah should come, and then they would give way to the more important institutions of the gospel. But the moral law would continue to accomplish valuable objects after his advent, in showing people the nature of transgression and leading them to the cross of Christ. The essential idea of Paul here is, that the whole arrangement of the Mosaic economy, including all his laws, was with reference to the Messiah. It was a part of a great and glorious whole. It was not an independent thing. It did not stand by itself. It was incomplete and in many respects unintelligible until he came - as one part of a tally is unmeaning and useless until the other is found. In itself it did not justify or save people, but it served to introduce a system by which they could be saved. It contained no provisions for justifying people, but it was in the design of God an essential part of a system by which they could be saved. It was not a whole in itself, but it was a part of a glorious whole, and led to the completion and fulfillment of the entire scheme by which the race could be justified and brought to heaven.

And it was ordained by angels - That is, the Law was ordained by angels. The word ordained here διαταγεὶς diatageis usually means to arrange; to dispose in order; and is commonly used with reference to the marshalling of an army. In regard to the sentiment here that the Law was ordained by angels, see the note at Acts 7:53. The Old Testament makes no mention of the presence of angels at the giving of the Law, but it was a common opinion among the Jews that the Law was given by the instrumentality of angels, and arranged by them; and Paul speaks in accordance with this opinion; compare Hebrews 2:2. The sentiment here is that the Law was prescribed, ordered, or arranged by the instrumentality of the angels; an opinion, certainly, which none can prove not to be true. In itself considered, there is no more absurdity in the opinion that the Law of God should be given by the agency of angels, than there is that it should be done by the instrumentality of man.

In the Septuagint Deuteronomy 33:2 there is an allusion of the same kind. The Hebrew is: "From his right hand went a fiery law for them." The Septuagint renders this, "His angels with him on his right hand;" compare Josephus, Ant. xv. 5, 3. That angels were present at the giving of the Law is more than implied, it is believed, in two passages of the Old Testament. The one is that which is referred to above, and a part of which the translators of the Septuagint expressly apply to angels; Deuteronomy 33:2. The Hebrew is, "Yahweh came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from Mount Paron, and he came (literally) with ten thousands of holiness;" that is, with his holy ten thousands, or with his holy myriads מרבבת קדשׁ mēribbot qodesh. By the holy myriads mentioned here what can be meant but "the angels"? The word "holy" in the Scriptures is not given to storms and winds and tempests; and the natural interpretation is, that he was attended with vast hosts of intelligent beings.

The same sentiment is found in Psalm 68:17 - "The chariots of God are myriads, thousands repeated; the Lord is in the midst of them, as in Sinai, as in his sanctuary." Does not this evidently imply that when he gave the Law on Mount Sinai he was surrounded by a multitude of angels? see Stuart on the Hebrews, Excursus viii. pp. 565-567. It may be added, that in the fact itself there is no improbability. What is more natural than to suppose that when the Law of God was promulgated in such a solemn manner on Mount Sinai to a world, that the angels should be present? If any occasion on earth has ever occurred where their presence was allowable and proper, assuredly that was one. And yet the Scriptures abound with assurances that the angels are interested in human affairs, and that they have had an important agency in the concerns of man.

continued...

19. "Wherefore then serveth the law?" as it is of no avail for justification, is it either useless, or contrary to the covenant of God? [Calvin].

added—to the original covenant of promise. This is not inconsistent with Ga 3:15, "No man addeth thereto"; for there the kind of addition meant, and therefore denied, is one that would add new conditions, inconsistent with the grace of the covenant of promise. The law, though misunderstood by the Judaizers as doing so, was really added for a different purpose, namely, "because of (or as the Greek, 'for the sake of') the transgressions," that is, to bring out into clearer view the transgressions of it (Ro 7:7-9); to make men more fully conscious of their "sins," by being perceived as transgressions of the law, and so to make them long for the promised Saviour. This accords with Ga 3:23, 24; Ro 4:15. The meaning can hardly be "to check transgressions," for the law rather stimulates the corrupt heart to disobey it (Ro 5:20; 7:13).

till the seed—during the period up to the time when the seed came. The law was a preparatory dispensation for the Jewish nation (Ro 5:20; Greek, "the law came in additionally and incidentally"), intervening between the promise and its fulfilment in Christ.

come—(Compare "faith came," Ga 3:23).

the promise—(Ro 4:21).

ordained—Greek, "constituted" or "disposed."

by angels—as the instrumental enactors of the law [Alford] God delegated the law to angels as something rather alien to Him and severe (Ac 7:53; Heb 2:2, 3; compare De 33:2, "He came with ten thousands of saints," that is, angels, Ps 68:17). He reserved "the promise" to Himself and dispensed it according to His own goodness.

in the hand of a mediator—namely, Moses. De 5:5, "I stood between the Lord and you": the very definition of a mediator. Hence the phrase often recurs, "By the hand of Moses." In the giving of the law, the "angels" were representatives of God; Moses, as mediator, represented the people.

Wherefore then serveth the law? Some might say: To what purpose was the law given? As if there could be no use of it unless it were available to justification.

It was added because of transgressions; it was (saith the apostle) given after the promise, not to supply something wanting as to justification, to prescribe some works that must be added; but either to restrain sin, 1 Timothy 1:9, or to show and discover sin, to make men see that they stood in need of Christ: see Romans 7:13.

Till the seed should come to whom the promise was made: till Christ the promised Seed should come, who is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth, Romans 10:4; upon whose coming the law contained in ordinances ceased. That Christ is here to be understood by the seed, is plain by the addition,

to whom the promise was made. Some here understand by the seed, Christ and the church, (which both make up Christ mystical), and interpret this text by Ephesians 2:14, till the Jews and Gentiles should be both made one. This law (he saith)

was ordained by angels. Luke, Acts 7:38, speaks of the law as published by one angel: the apostle, Hebrews 2:2, calls it, the word spoken by angels. We read of no angels, Exodus 19:20, nor of any of the saints; yet, Deu 33:2: Moses saith God came from Sinai, with ten thousand saints. The law was given either by the ministry of an angel, or by God attended with angels.

In the hand of a mediator; that is, (say some), under the power of Christ the Mediator; but by the mediator is rather to be understood Moses, which agreeth with Deu 5:5, where Moses telleth the Jews, that he stood between the Lord and them at that time, to show them the word of the Lord; nor is Christ any where called the Mediator of the old, but of the new testament, Hebrews 8:6 Hebrews 12:24.

Wherefore why then serveth the law?.... If this be the case, might an objector say, why was the law given? what ends and purposes are to be served by it? of what use can it be? there had as good been no law at all, if the inheritance is not of it, and there is no justification by it. To which it is answered,

it was added because of transgressions; four hundred and thirty years after the covenant made with Abraham; it did not succeed it, nor take the place of it, and so make it null and void; but was over and above added unto it, for the sake of restraining transgressions; which had there been no law, men would not have been accountable for them; and they would have gone into them without fear, and with impunity; but the law was given, to lay a restraint on men, by forbidding such and such things, on pain of death; and also for the detecting, discovering, and making known transgressions, what they are, their nature and consequences; these the law charges men with, sets them before them, in their true light and proper colours; and convicts them of them, stops their mouths, and pronounces them guilty before God: moreover, this law entered in, over and above any other revelation God was pleased to make, "that the offence might abound", Romans 5:20 either that particular offence, the sin of Adam, the apostle is there speaking of; the heinous nature of which, its aggravated circumstances, and the justness of its imputation to his posterity, were more clearly discerned by this law; and so the Syriac version here renders it in the singular number,

, "because of transgression"; or all other offences and transgressions, which are increased through the multiplicity of precepts, and attended with more aggravating circumstances, than if no law was given, and more eagerly pursued after, through the prohibition of them; such being the corrupt nature of man, that the more anything is forbidden, the more desirous it is of it: add to all this, that the law was given for the punishing of transgressions, for which it curses, and threatens with death, and inflicts it on Christless sinners: hence it is clear there can be no justification by it, and yet it is not useless and insignificant:

till the seed should come, to whom the promise was made; either Christ the seed of the woman, and of Abraham, who was to come in the flesh, and is come; and to whom the grand promise of life, and all the promises of the covenant were made; not for himself, but for those he represented, and in whom they are all secure: until whose coming to finish transgression, and bring in everlasting righteousness, the law was to continue in the form in which, and the use for which it was added, and then to cease as the ministration of Moses; for through the coming of Christ it received its full accomplishment, and came to an end; the ceremonial law was utterly abolished, and the moral law ceased to be a covenant of works, though it continues a rule of walk and conversation; and the whole Mosaic economy was no more: or else the seed here intends the spiritual seed of Abraham; particularly among the Gentiles, to whom the promise of blessedness, of justification, and eternal life was made; and the sense be, that till such time that a generation of faithful men, of believers in Christ, should arise among the Gentiles, the law was to continue with the Jews; but when they should spring up, the middle wall of partition should be broken down, and Abraham's spiritual seed among Jews and Gentiles make up one body, one people, and be fellow heirs and partakers of the promise of God in Christ, through the Gospel:

and it was ordained by angels; not Moses and Aaron, and Joshua, as some say; for though Moses was concerned in the giving of the law, yet not Aaron nor Joshua, nor are any of them ever called angels; but the holy elect angels are here meant, the ten thousands of saints, or holy ones, God came to Mount Sinai with, and the Lord was among, in the holy place; see Deuteronomy 33:2 and so the Jews say (l) that the Lord appeared on Mount Sinai gloriously, , "with companies", or "troops of angels", to give the law to his people: and this may be said to be "ordained" by them, inasmuch as it might be written and spoken by them, as the instruments and ministers God made use of; for though the tables are said to be the work of God, and the writing the writing of God, and to be written with the finger of God, and he is said to speak all the words of it, yet this hinders not, but that all this might be done by the means of angels; who might be employed in disposing and fitting the stones in the form they were, and in writing the law upon them; hence it is said to be given by the disposition of angels, Acts 7:53 and certain it is, that it was spoken by them, Hebrews 2:2 they forming in the air those articulate and audible sounds, when the law was delivered; who were also concerned in the thunderings and lightnings, and in the blowing of the trumpet, that waxed louder and louder at that time:

in the hand of a mediator; not Christ, as many interpreters, ancient and modern, have thought; for though he was present at the giving of the law, as appears from Acts 7:38 and is the Mediator between God and man, and had the law in his hand, out of which it went forth as the lawgiver; and as the surety of his people has fulfilled it, and by so doing put an end to it, and delivered them from the curse and condemnation of it; yet he is the Mediator of the new and better covenant, not the ministration of death, but of life; and so Moses and Christ, the law and Gospel, the old and the new covenant, are continually opposed to each other; besides, the mediator here seems to be represented as inferior to the angels, and as receiving the law into his hands from them, by whom it was ordained; which to conceive of Christ, is very much to the demeaning and lessening of him. Moses is the mediator here meant, who stood between God and the people of Israel; not to make peace between them, but to show the word of God from him to them, and this at their own request; see Deuteronomy 5:5, and in his hand the tables of the law were, when he came down from the mount, and was a typical mediator of Christ. So the Jews say of him, that

"he was "a mediator" between them and God (m).''

(l) Targum in 1 Chronicles 29.11. (m) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 136. 1, 2.

{22} Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of {o} transgressions, {p} till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; {23} and it was {q} ordained by {r} angels in the hand of a mediator.

(22) An objection which rises from the former answer: if the inheritance is not by the Law (in the least way) then why was the Law given after the promise was made? In order, the apostle says, to reprove men of sin, and so to teach them to look to Christ, in whom at length that promise of saving all people together should be fulfilled; the Law was not given in order to justify men.

(o) That men might understand by discovering their sins that they are only saved by the grace of God, which he revealed to Abraham, and that in Christ.

(p) Until the partition wall was broken down, and that full seed sprang up, made of two peoples, both of Jews and Gentiles. For by this word seed we may not understand Christ alone by himself, but coupled and joined together with his body.

(23) A confirmation of the former answer taken from the manner and form of giving the Law: for it was given by angels, striking a great terror into all, and by Moses a mediator coming between. Now they that are one need no mediator, but they that are in any way separated, and that are at variance one with another, do. Therefore the Law itself and the mediator were witnesses of the wrath of God, and not that God would by this means reconcile men to himself and abolish the promise, or add the Law to the promise.

(q) Commanded and given, or proclaimed.

(r) By the service and ministry.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Galatians 3:19.[140] After Paul has shown in Galatians 3:15-18 that the law does not abolish the far earlier covenant of promise, he might very naturally be met by the inquiry, “According to this view, then, what sort of end is left to be served by the law in connection with the history of salvation?” Hence he himself raises this question and answers it.

τί οὖν ὁ νόμος] sc. ἐστι: how does it stand therefore (if it is the case that the law does not abolish the covenant of promise) with the law? A general question, in which, to judge from the answer that follows, the apostle had in view the purpose for which God gave the law. On the neuter τί, with a nominative following, comp. 1 Corinthians 3:5 (in the correct reading): τί οὖν ἐστιν Ἀπολλώς; and see Stallbaum, ad Gorg. p. 501 E; Bernhardy, p. 336 f. Following J. Cappellus, Schott (also Matthies, though undecidedly, Jatho and Wieseler) takes τί for διὰ τί; very unnecessarily, however, and in opposition to the constant use of the τί οὖν so frequently recurring in Paul’s writings (Romans 3:1; Romans 4:1, et al.; comp. Galatians 4:15).

τῶν παραβάσεων χάριν προσετέθη] for the sake of transgressions it was added; that is, in order that the transgressions of the law might be brought out as real, it was, after the covenant of promise was already in existence, superadded to the latter (παρεισῆλθεν, Romans 5:20). The law namely, because it gives occasion to the potency of sin in man to bring about in him all evil desire (Romans 7:5; Romans 7:8), and nevertheless is too weak as a counter-power to oppose this sinful development (Romans 8:3), is the δύναμις τῆς ἁμαρτίας (1 Corinthians 15:56; and see Romans 7:7 ff.); but sin—which, although existing since Adam (Romans 5:13), is yet increased by that provocation of the law—has only come to assume the definite character of παράβασις in virtue of the existence of the law and its relation thereto (Romans 4:15). The same purpose of the law is expressed in Romans 5:20, but without the stricter definition of sin as παράβασις. Accordingly, τῶν παραβ. χάριν is not (with Wetstein) to be rationalized to this effect: “Lex sine dubio eo consilio lata est, ut servaretur, ὑπακοῆς χάριν; vitio tamen hominum evenit, ut peccata multiplicarentur.” This is in itself correct (comp. Romans 7:12), but is irrelevant here, where the point in question is the position of the law in connection with the divine plan of salvation, the final aim of which is redemption. The real idea of the apostle is, that the emergence of sins—namely, in the penal, wrath-deserving (Romans 4:15), moral form of transgressions—which the law brought about, was designed by God (who must indeed have foreseen this effect) when He gave the law, and designed in fact as a mediate end in reference to the future redemption; for the evil was to become truly great, that it might nevertheless be outdone by grace (Romans 5:20). The result, which the law, according to experience, has on the whole effected, and by which it has proved itself the δύναμις τῆς ἁμαρτίας (comp. also 2 Corinthians 3:6), could not be otherwise than the aim of God. Comp. Ritschl, p. 74 f.; Baur, neutest. Theol. p. 140 f.; Hilgenfeld, Wieseler, Holsten, Hofmann, Reithmayr, Matthias (who, however, assumes the intentional appearance of an ambiguity), Stölting, and others; also Lipsius, Rechtfertigungsl. p. 75; Lechler, apost. Zeit. p. 110. Luther (1519) strikingly remarks: “Ut remissio propter salutem, ita praevaricatio propter remissionem, ita lex propter transgressionem.” Observe, further, the article before παραβ., which summarily comprehends, as having really that character, the transgressions arising and existing since the giving of the law; comp. Holsten, z. Ev. d. Paul, u. Petr. p. 297. Others[141] consider that by τῶν παραβ. χάριν the recognition of sins is expressed as the aim of the law. So Augustine, Calvin, Beza, Piscator, Calovius, Wolf, Schoettgen, Michaelis, Windischmann, and others; also Winer (“ut manifestam redderet atque ita argueret illam, quam Judaei peccando sibi contrahebant, culpam”). But (1) this idea could not have been expressed by the mere τῶν παραβ. χάριν; for although χάριν is not always exclusively used in its original sense, for the sake of, in favour of, but may also be taken simply as on account of,[142] still, in order to be intelligible, Paul must have written τῆς ἐπιγνώσεως τῶν παραβάσεων χάριν as signifying: in order to bring sins to recognition as transgressions. And (2) the point of the recognition of sin was entirely foreign to this passage; for in τῶν παραβ. χάριν Paul desires to call attention to the fact that the law, according to the divine plan, was intended to produce exactly the objective, actual (not merely the subjective) opposite of the ΔΙΚΑΙΟΣΎΝΗ (comp. Galatians 3:21-22). On account of this connection also the interpretation of many expositors, ad coercendas transgressiones, is wholly to be rejected, because opposed to the context. So Jerome, Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Erasmus, Grotius, Zachariae, Semler, Morus, Koppe, Rosenmüller, Paulus, Rückert, Olshausen, Neander, Baumgarten-Crusius, de Wette, Baur, Ewald (“in order to punish them more strictly”); also Messner, Lehre d. Ap. p. 222, and Hauck, comp. Buhl; several, such as Grotius and Rückert, think that the inclination to Egyptian idolatry is chiefly referred to. This view is decidedly disposed of by the expression παραβάσεων, since ΠΑΡΑΒΆΣΕΙς as such could only come into existence with the law (Romans 4:15); previously there were sins, but no transgressions,—a view with which Romans 5:14 does not conflict, because the matter in question there is the transgression of a quite definite, positive command of God. The two last interpretations are combined by Flatt and Schott, as also by Reiche, following older expositors (comp. also Matthies),—a course inconsistent with hermeneutical principles in general, and here in fact involving an amalgamation of two erroneous views.

προσετέθη] it was added, is not inconsistent with what was said in Galatians 3:15, οὐδεὶςἐπιδιατάσσεται, because in the latter general proposition under ΟὐΔΕΊς third persons are thought of. The law, moreover, was not given as ἐπιδιαθήκη (see on Galatians 3:15), but as another institution, which, far from being a novella to the διαθήκη, was only to be a temporary intermediate measure in the divine plan of salvation, to minister to the final fulfilment of the promise. See the sequel, and comp. Romans 5:20; Romans 10:4.

ἌΧΡΙς ΟὟ ἜΛΘΗ ΤῸ ΣΠΈΡΜΑ Κ.Τ.Λ.] terminus ad quem of the merely provisional duration of this added institute. But these words are neither to be connected, in disregard of their position, with διαταγείς (Hofmann), nor to be placed in a parenthesis; for the construction is not interrupted. As to ἌΧΡΙς ΟὟ ἜΛΘῌ, usque dum venerit, comp. on Romans 11:25. According to the general usage of the N.T. (Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 198), the subjunctive, and not the optative (Matthiae, p. 1158), is used. Paul has not put ἄν, because there was no idea in his mind of any circumstances which could have hindered the event. See Stallbaum, ad Phaed. p. 62 C; Hermann, de part. ἄν, p. 110 ff.; Hartung, Partikell. II. p. 291 ff. Comp. on 1 Corinthians 11:26.

τὸ σπέρμα ᾧ ἐπήγγ.] that is, Christ, whose advent, according to Galatians 3:16, necessarily brought with it the fulfilment of the promise. The dative, however, does not stand for εἰς ὅν (Winer, Usteri), but just as in Galatians 3:16 : to whom the promise was made.

ἐπήγγελται] not promiserat (Vulgate, Bengel, Flatt, Hofmann), comp. Romans 4:21, Hebrews 12:26; but promissio facta est (2Ma 4:27), because thus it is not requisite to supply Θεός, and the expression corresponds very naturally with ἘῤῬΈΘΗΣΑΝ ΑἹ ἘΠΑΓΓΕΛΊΑΙ in Galatians 3:16. Hence also it is superfluous to supply Ἡ ΚΛΗΡΟΝΟΜΊΑ (Ewald).

ΔΙΑΤΑΓΕῚς ΔΙʼ ἈΓΓΈΛΩΝ ἘΝ Χ. ΜΕΣ.] the mode in which ὁ νόμος προσετέθη, or the form of this act: having been ordained through angels, etc. On διατάσσειν νόμον, comp. Hesiod, ἜΡΓ. 274. The simple ΤΆΣΣΕΙΝ ΝΌΜΟΝ is more frequently used, as in Plat. Legg. p. 863 D. It means to ordain a law, that is, to issue it for obedience, not to arrange it for publication (Stölting), so that the angels would be described here as the diaskeuastai of the law,—an idea which has no support anywhere, and would run counter to the view of the directly divine origin of the law (Exodus 31:18; Exodus 32:16; Deuteronomy 9:10). As to the use of the aorist participle in the language of narration, see Hermann, ad Viger. p. 774; Bernhardy, p. 383. The tradition that the divine promulgation of the law took place amidst the ministry of angels, is first found in the LXX., Deuteronomy 33:2 (not in the original text); then in Hebrews 2:2, Acts 7:38; Acts 7:53, Joseph. Antt. xv. 5. 3, and in the Rabbins, and also in the Samaritan theology. Comp. on Acts 7:53; Delitzsch, on Hebrews 2:2. Because the tradition itself and its antiquity are thus beyond doubt, and there is no warrant for supposing that Paul did not know it or was not likely to adopt it (as, indeed, he adopted other traditional teachings, Galatians 3:19-22. THE LAW WAS A TEMPORARY ENACTMENT ORDAINED TO DEAL WITH THE OFFENCES WHICH IT DENOUNCES UNTIL THE COMING OF THE PROMISED SEED. THE GOD FROM WHOM IT PROCEEDED WAS THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, BUT HE PROMULGATED IT THROUGH ANGELS AND AN APPOINTED MEDIATOR TO ALL THE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM AFTER THE FLESH, NOT TO THE ONE CHOSEN SEED. DID IT THEN CONTRAVENE HIS PROMISES? NAY VERILY. IF INDEED IT HAD BEEN CAPABLE OF QUICKENING LIFE, IT WOULD HAVE PROVIDED NEW MEANS OF JUSTIFICATION: BUT WHAT IT REALLY DID WAS TO CONVICT ALL ALIKE OF SIN, THAT THE PROMISE MIGHT BE GIVEN TO THOSE WHO BELIEVE ON FAITH IN CHRIST.—Τί οὖν ὁ νόμος. What function then had the Law, if it had absolutely no effect on God’s previous covenant with Abraham?—τῶν παραβάσεων χάριν. Our versions render this because of transgressions, ignoring the Greek article. But there could obviously be no transgressions until the Law existed, however grievous the moral degradation. The real meaning is that it was added with a view to the offences which it specifies, thereby pronouncing them to be from that time forward transgressions of the Law. Its design is gathered in short from its contents. The prohibitions of the Ten Commandments reveal their own purpose: they were enacted in order to repress the worship of false gods, idolatry, blasphemy, Sabbath breaking, disobedience to parents, murder, adultery, theft, false witness, covetousness. These sins prevailed before the Law, but by pronouncing them to be definite transgressions it called in the fear of God’s wrath to reinforce the weakness of the moral sense and educate man’s conscience. The same aspect of the Law is forcibly presented in 1 Timothy 1:9. Law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and unruly.… Attention is in both concentrated on the moral Law to the exclusion of the sacrificial and ceremonial.—ἄχρις οὗ. The alternative reading ἄχρις ἄν does not affect the sense. It is assumed on the strength of previous argument that the dispensation of the Law came to an end with the coming of Christ. By the gift of an indwelling spirit He emancipated His faithful disciples from allegiance to an outward Law.—ἐπήγγελται: He (i.e., God) hath promised (cf. Romans 4:21, Hebrews 12:26). ἐπαγγέλλεσθαι never has a passive sense in the N.T.—διαταγεὶς διʼ ἀγγέλων. The N.T. refers three times to the interposition of angels in the promulgation of the Law: God’s intercourse with Moses through the angel of His presence was evidently a common topic in Jewish schools of theology. In Acts 7:53 the fact is recorded by way of enhancing the authority of the Law; in Hebrews 2:2 it is contrasted with God’s revelation in His Son: here it is contrasted with God’s more familiar intercourse with Abraham. He drew nigh to God, and was called the friend of God: but at Sinai the people stood far off, and the Law was made known through the double intervention of angels and of a human mediator.—ἐν χειρὶ μεσίτου. The term μεσίτης was applied with the utmost latitude to any intermediate between two parties, whether it was the one great Mediator between God and man or any of the subordinate servants of God through whom He makes known His will to men or exercises His authority. The phrase ἐν χειρί defines its meaning here, for it implies that Moses was put in charge of the promulgation of the Law (cf. Numbers 4:28; Numbers 4:37 in LXX), and was God’s appointed agent for the purpose. This interposition of a mediator between God and the people was a marked feature of distinction between the Sinaitic and the patriarchal dispensation.

19–29. The Purpose and Use of the Law in relation to the Justification of the Sinner

19. If then the promise is not affected by the law, so that no new condition of justification is imposed by it, the question naturally arises, ‘Why was the law given?’ To this the Apostle has an answer ready. It was not given to limit, much less to supersede the promise. The promise and the law are like two circles, which touch, but do not intersect each other: each perfect of its kind, because both alike Divine in their origin. But in answering the question which he has anticipated, St Paul shews the inferiority of the law in several particulars to the earlier and ‘better covenant’ (Hebrews 8:6). (1) The law condemns: it cannot give life, because no man can fulfil its conditions. It provokes transgression, convinces of sin, and denounces punishment. (2) It was superadded as a parenthetical and temporary dispensation, commencing with the national life of the Jewish people, and terminating with the Advent of the Seed to whom the promise was given. (3) It was not delivered immediately, like the promises to Abraham, but mediately by Moses in the presence of Angels as attesting witnesses. (4) It was a contract between God and man, life depending on the fulfilment of its terms, and was therefore conditional, and not absolute like the promise.

it was added] Yet not so as to interfere with the promise. If any one man had succeeded in rendering perfect obedience to the law, he would have been justified, no less than they to whom the righteousness of Another was imputed by faith.

because of transgressions] Dismissing the explanations, ‘to check’ or ‘to punish’ transgressions, we may make St Paul his own interpreter. In Romans 5:20 he says that the law ‘intervened that the offence might abound’; in Romans 7:13, that the commandment was given in order that sin ‘might be shewn to be sin … that through the commandment sin might become exceeding sinful.’ Nay, he testifies that himself had not known sin ‘except through the law’ (Romans 7:7), for ‘through the law is the knowledge of sin’. And yet further, ‘the strength of sin is the law’ (1 Corinthians 15:56). From a comparison of these and other passages we infer that the purpose for which the law was given was not on the one hand the restraint or punishment of sin, nor on the other the increase of evil in the world. The evil existed already and was active. But its real nature, as an offence against God, rebellion against His authority, was not felt until that authority was expressed in the form of command and prohibition, that is, of law. The barrier which obstructs the force of the stream does not add to its force; it reveals the force by the resistance which it offers.

till the seed should come] This marks the limits of its operation.

the seed] That is, Christ. Surely it was by no accident that the term employed in the Abrahamic covenant is the same which is used in the yet earlier gospel (Genesis 3:15). The seed of Abraham is the seed of the woman.

to whom the promise was made] Lit. has been made. The promise was not annulled by the law. It continued in force, awaiting its fulfilment. This seems to be expressed by the perfect tense.

and was ordained by angels] ‘having been enjoined, or enacted, by means of angels’. In Deuteronomy 33:2 we read, R.V. ‘The Lord came from Sinai, And rose from Seir unto them; He shined forth from Mount Paran, And He came from the ten thousands of holy ones: At His right hand was a fiery law unto them.’ The expression, ‘with ten thousands of His saints’ is, literally, ‘from (amidst) myriads of holiness’, or ‘holy myriads.’ The R.V. ‘the ten thousands of holy ones’ is not a literal rendering, but a paraphrase denoting the angels; and though the LXX. render the clause, ‘with myriads of Kades’, they add (apparently from a different Hebrew text), ‘on His right angels (were) with Him’. The older versions and ‘expositors generally agree in the common rendering’. Lightfoot. That angels were present as attesting witnesses at the giving of the law was a common opinion among the Rabbinic teachers, and allusion is made to it not only by St Paul in this passage, but by St Stephen (Acts 7:53), by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (ch. Galatians 2:2), and by Josephus (Antt. xv. 5. 3). Regarded as the retinue of the Supreme Lawgiver, the angels by their presence added solemnity to the occasion. But that very presence emphasized the fact that the law was of the nature of a contract, conditional, not absolute, a transaction between two parties, not the spontaneous revelation of mercy by Him who ‘is One’.

by the hand of] A Hebraism nearly equivalent to, ‘by means of’ or simply ‘by’. It is so used frequently in the O.T., e.g. Numbers 4:37, when Moses and Aaron are said to have numbered the people ‘according to the commandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses[27]’. See Acts 7:35.

[27] The LXX. translates, ‘by the voice of the Lord in the hand of Moses.’

a mediator] The noun thus rendered occurs in four other passages of the N. T. (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 12:24), and in all of them refers to our Lord Jesus Christ. In the three latter He is expressly termed the Mediator of the new or better covenant. Here the mediator is associated with the first covenant. In the epistle to Timothy our Lord is a mediator ‘between God and man’. Here the mediator is between God and the people of Israel, i.e. of course, Moses. These considerations, together with a due regard to the general scope of the passage, lead to the rejection of the view that in this passage the Mediator is our Lord—indeed such a view may astonish us, though supported by such eminent names as Origen, Jerome, Augustine, and Chrysostom. Neither the noun nor the corresponding verb (see Hebrews 6:17) is found in the LXX., though its reference to Moses in the passage before us is confirmed by his own declaration, ‘The Lord our God made a covenant with you in Horeb.… I stood between the Lord and you at that time to shew you the word of the Lord’, Deuteronomy 5:2; Deuteronomy 5:5. The ‘covenant’ was the law of the Ten Commandments.

Galatians 3:19. Τί οὖν ὁ νόμος;) Some use this punctuation, τί οὖν; ὁ νόμος, κ.τ.λ. Indeed τί οὖν is often put by itself; sometimes, however, the interrogation is given at length, τί οὖν φημι; 1 Corinthians 10:19 : τί οὖν τὸ περισσὸν τοῦ Ἰουδαίου; Romans 3:1. What then is [the use of] the law, i.e., one might say, was the law therefore given in vain?—τῶν παραβάσεων χάριν, because of transgressions) that they might be acknowledged and might gain strength. Transgressions committed by men are noticed not so much before, Romans 5:13, as after the giving of the law. The same word occurs at Romans 4:15, where see the note; and in the plural at Hebrews 9:15. The antithesis is continueth, Galatians 3:10. The thing itself is explained at Galatians 3:21-22 : namely, all are “concluded under sin.”—ἐτέθη, it was put, given) He does not say, put instead of, substituted [for the promise]. Many have προσετέθη,[26] but ἐτέθη is more consistent with Galatians 3:15.—ἜΛΘῌ, should come) comp. came, Galatians 3:23.—τὸ σπέρμα, the seed) viz., believers of the New Testament, to whom is given the fulfilment of the promise; Galatians 3:22.—ᾧ ἐπήγγελται, to whom the promise was made) or rather to whom God promised; comp. ἐπήγγελται, Romans 4:21; Hebrews 12:26.—ΔΙΑΤΑΓΕῚς, ordained) not ἐπιδιαταγεὶς;[27] comp. Galatians 3:15, [ἐπιδιατάσσεται, addeth thereto any new ordinance].—διʼ ἀγγέλων, ἘΝ ΧΕΙΡῚ ΜΕΣΊΤΟΥ, by angels, in the hand of a mediator) A double mediation. Angels being the representatives of God, Hebrews 2:2 : a mediator standing as representative of the people. God delegated the law to angels as something rather alien to Him and severe: He reserved the promise to Himself, and gave and dispensed it according to His own goodness. Moses was the mediator; hence it is frequently said, ביד משה, by the hand of Moses. We have the definition of a mediator, Deuteronomy 5:5. Moses, as a mediator, is quite different from Christ—the one keeps back [repels]—the other brings forward [attracts].

[26] Προσετέθη is read by AB (judging from silence) C, both Syr. Versions, etc. Ἐτέθη by GD(Δ) corrected later, fg Vulg. (posita est), Iren. 182, 318.—ED.

[27] Ordained as a new thing to supersede the promise.—ED.

Verse 19. - Wherefore then serveth the Law? (τί οϋν ὁ νόμος;); what then (or, why then) is the Law? The apostle is wont thus to introduce the statement of some objection or some question relative to the point in hand which requires consideration (cf. Romans 3:1; Romans 4:1). He wishes now to show that, while the Law was a Divine ordinance, it was yet not intended to supersede the previously ratified covenant, but rather to prepare for its being completely carried out. It was added because of transgressions (tw = n παραβάσεων χάριν προσετέθη); on account of transgressions it was superadded. As χάριν denotes that so-and-so is done in consideration of this or that; this latter may be either some antecedent fact furnishing ground for subsequent action, as in 1 John 3:12; Ephesians 3:1; Luke 7:47, or some prospective result, which the action signified in the verb is intended to forward, as Jude 1:16. Here it intimates that the Law was given from a regard to men's sinful actions, with an implied contrast with the covenant of Christ's gospel, which was concerned with men's justification and benediction. The province of the Law is to expose sins, rebuke them, pronounce God's curse upon them, coerce and restrain them by the discipline of a system of outward rites and ceremonies. The office of the Law, as dealing with sinners as continuing sinful, while unable to make them new creatures, is indicated by St. Paul in 1 Timothy 1:9, where, after saying, "The Law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and unruly, for the ungodly and sinners," he proceeds to add a catalogue of offenders chargeable with the grossest form of criminality; which furnishes a most apt illustration of the word παραβάσεις ("transgressions") which he here uses, and which marks sins in their most wilful and most condemnable character. What was spiritually the outcome of the Law's action upon men's sinful nature, in making their "sin exceeding sinful," the apostle has vividly portrayed in the seventh chapter of the Romans. This last point, however, is probably not even glanced at here; and it is only by straining the sense of χάριν, that some commentators, notably Meyer, find the apostle to be here stating that the Law was added for the behoof of transgressions, as it were in their interest, to increase and intensify them, as in Romans 5:20, that the trespass might abound. This, however, is not naturally found in the present passage. All that the apostle here states is that the Law merely dealt with sins, having no function in relation to life and righteousness. The article before παραβάσεων indicates the whole class of objects referred to, as e.g. in τοῖς ἀνθρώποις (Hebrews 9:27). This" superadded" (προσετίθη) is not inconsistent with the οὐδ ἐπιδιατάσσεται, "nor addeth thereto," of ver. 15; inasmuch as it points to a Divine ordinance, which stood, so to speak, in a different plane from the covenant of grace, and in no way interfered with it. Till the seed should come (ἄχρις οῦ ἔλθῃ τὸ σπέρμα). The form of expression indicates the purpose of him who arranged it all, that the Law should last only so long, and was to come to an end when the seed came. To whom the promise was made (ῷ ἐπήγγελται); to whom the promise hath been made. The perfect tense of the verb, as in the case of κεχάρισται, in ver. 18, points to the still continuing validity of the promise. The "seed" is "Christ;" the historical Christ, indeed, but still viewed collectively as summing up in himself all who should be united to him. And it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator (διαταγεὶς δἰ ἀγγέλων ἐν χειρὶ μεσίτου); being ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator. The verb "ordain" (διατάσσειν), being most commonly used for "command," "order," as Luke 8:55; 1 Corinthians 7:17, is introduced in preference to δοθείς (comp. ver. 20 and John 1:17; John 7:19), as making more prominent the notion of imperative action on the part of the Divine Lawgiver. The whole passage is tinctured with the feeling that the giving of the Law, as contrasted with the dispensation of the Messiah, was marked by distance, sternness, alienation. This is the meaning of the mention of "angels" as the medium of communication on the side of Heaven, and of "a mediator" as the selected medium of reception on the side of Israel (compare the contrast between the two dispensations in Hebrews 12:18-24). This representation of the Law as given through angels is unmistakably made again in the Epistle to the Hebrews, in the words, "The word spoken through angels" (Hebrews 2:2), where also it is placed in the same contrast with the gospel as spoken by the Lord Jesus, which here is plainly implied, if indeed it is not expressly alluded to, in the enigmatic words, "but God is one," in the next verse. This view of the Law as communicated through the medium of angels is distinctly referred to by St. Stephen as the accepted belief of the Jewish theologians before whom he spoke: "Ye who received the Law as the ordinances of angels" (Acts 7:53), where the phrase, διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων, forms a remarkable parallel to the words, διαταγεὶς δι ἀγγέλων, now before us. The same view is put forth by Josephus ('Ant.,' 15:05, 3), "We having learned the most excellent of our doctrines and the most holy part of our Law through angels from God." Such, then, was incontestably the current belief of the Jewish people, both Christian and non-Christian. The Hebrew theologians directed a great deal of attention upon the doctrine of angels, of which the "boundless genealogies" spoken of by St. Paul (1 Timothy 1:4; comp. Colossians 2:18) was certainly one diseased branch. We may without improbability suppose that their exegetical sagacity, not unaided by the Spirit of God promised by him to his people upon their restoration from Captivity, detected the particular fact here indicated in Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalm 68:17; Exodus 19:16, 19. The countless hosts of his "saints" who attended upon the Lord on that occasion were not surely mere spectators; and to their intervention acting out the volitions of God might be most reasonably ascribed all the physical sights and sounds which gave to the giving of the Law its sensible awfulness (comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:16). "They raised the fire and smoke; they shook and rent the rock; they framed the sound of the trumpet; they effected the articulate voices which conveyed the words of the Law to the ears of the people, and therein proclaimed and published the Law; whereby it became ' the word spoken by angels'" (Owen, 'Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews,' 2:2). In the hand of a mediator (ἐν χειρὶ μεσίτου); by the hand of a mediator. Ἐν χειρί, in or by the hand, is unquestionably a Hebraism, being in the Septuagint the ordinary literal rendering of the Hebrew beyad; see e.g. Numbers 4:37, 45; which passages likewise show us whom the apostle means to designate as the mediator; in reference to which comp. also Deuteronomy 5:5, "I stood between (ἀνάμεσον) the Lord and you at that time [i.e. at the giving of the Law], to show you the word of the Lord." So Philo ('Vit. Mos.,' 678) speaks of Hoses as acting like a μεσίτης καὶ διαλλάκτης, "mediator and reconciler." Schottgen ('Hor. Hebr.') gives numerous examples from the rabbinical books of this application of the term "mediator "to Moses. This conception of Moses as a mediator seems implied also in the words, "Mediator of a better covenant" and "Mediator of a new covenant," which we have in Hebrews 8:6 and Hebrews 12:24, with reference to Christ. Evidently the mention of a mediator in the present passage is intended to point to the relations between the Lord and Israel as being those of distance and estrangement. If it be objected that the same inference would be deducible from the description of Christ as "Mediator between God and men," in 1 Timothy 2:5, we have it to say, in answer, that Christ, being in his nature both God and man, not only mediates between God and men, having made atonement or reconciliation by his cross, but in his own being unites God and man, abolishing actually that state of mutual alienation which the mediation of Moses by figure implied but could not in reality do away. We, too, were enemies to God before we were reconciled by the death of his Son (Romans 5:10); but now, being reconciled, we are at one with God in Christ: Christ's life in our nature both guaranteeing and effectuating our continued state of reconciliation with the Father as well as our own spiritual and eternal life. Galatians 3:19Wherefore then serveth the law? (τί οὖν ὁ νόμος)

Lit. what then is the law, or, why then the law? What is its meaning and object? A natural question of an objector, since, according to Paul's reasoning, salvation is of promise and not of law.

It was added (προσετέθη)

Comp. παρεισῆλθεν came in beside, Romans 5:20. Not as an addition to the promise, which is contrary to Galatians 3:18, but as a temporary, intermediate institution, in which only a subordinate purpose of God was expressed.

Because of transgressions (τῶν παραβάσεων χάριν)

In order to set upon already existing sins the stamp of positive transgression of law. Comp. Romans 4:5; Romans 5:13. Note the article, the transgressions, summing them up in one mass. Not, in order to give the knowledge of sins. This, it is true, would follow the revelation of sins as transgressions of law (Romans 3:20; Romans 7:13); but, 1. the phrase because of transgressions does not express that thought with sufficient definiteness. If that had been his meaning, Paul would probably have written τῆς ἀπιγνώσεως τῶν παραβάσεων χάριν on account of the knowledge of transgressions. 2. He meant to describe the office of the law as more than giving the knowledge of sins. Its office was, in revealing sin as positive transgression, to emphasize the objective, actual, contrary fact of righteousness according to the divine ideal, and to throw sin into contrast with that grand ideal.

The seed

Christ, whose advent was to introduce the fulfillment of the promise (Galatians 3:16).

Ordained (διαταγεὶς)

The verb means to arrange, appoint, prescribe. Of appointing the twelve, Matthew 11:1; of enjoining certain acts, Luke 8:55; Luke 17:10; 1 Corinthians 7:17; of the decree of Claudius, Acts 18:2. Here, describing the form or mode in which the law was added; the arrangement made for giving it.

By angels (δἰ ἀγγέλων)

Better, through angels as agents and intermediaries. Comp. εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων with reference to arrangements of angels; or as it was ordained by angels, Acts 7:53. The tradition of the giving of the law through angels appears first in Deuteronomy 33:2 (but comp. lxx and the Hebrew). See Hebrews 2:2; Acts 7:53. In the later rabbinical schools great importance was attached to this tradition, and it was not without influence in shaping the doctrine of angelic mediation which formed one of the elements of the Colossian heresy. Josephus (Ant. 15:5, 3) relates that Herod excited the Jews to battle by a speech, in which he said that they had learned the holiest of laws from God through angels. It is a general O.T. idea that in great theophanies God appears surrounded with a heavenly host. See Habakkuk 3:8; Isaiah 66:15; Zechariah 14:5; Joel 3:11. The idea of an angelic administration is also familiar. See Exodus 23:20; Exodus 32:34; Exodus 33:14; Isaiah 63:9; Joshua 5:14. The agency of angels indicates the limitations of the older dispensation; its character as a dispensation of the flesh.

In the hand of a mediator (ἐν χειρὶ μεσίτου)

Ἑν χειρὶ by the agency of. A Hebraism. In this sense, not elsewhere in N.T. See lxx, Genesis 38:20 Leviticus 16:21. In the hand of Moses, Leviticus 26:46; Numbers 4:37, Numbers 4:41, Numbers 4:45, Numbers 4:49. Comp. σὺν χειρὶ ἀγγέλου with the hand of the angel, Acts 7:35. For μεσίτης mediator, see on 1 Timothy 2:5, and comp. Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 12:24. It is a later Greek word signifying also umpire, arbitrator, and appears in lxx only in Job 9:33. The mediator here is Moses, who is often so designated by rabbinical writers. The object is not (as Meyer) to enable the reader to realize the glory of the law in the dignity and formal solemnity of its ordination, but to indicate the inferior, subordinate position held by the law in comparison with the promise, not the gospel. A glorification of the law cannot be intended, since if that were contemplated in the mention of angels and the mediator, the statement would tend to the disparagement of the promise which was given without a mediator. Paul, in the section Galatians 3:6-9, Galatians 3:7, aims to show that the law does not, as the Judaisers assume, stand in a relation to the divine plan of salvation as direct and positive as does the promise, and that it has not, like the promise and its fulfillment, an eternal significance. On the contrary, it has only a transitory value. This estimate of the law does not contradict Paul's assertions in Romans 7:12-25. In representing the law as subordinate and temporary he does not impugn it as a divine institution.

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