Galatians 4:3
Parallel Verses
New American Standard Bible
So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.

King James Bible
Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:

Darby Bible Translation
So we also, when we were children, were held in bondage under the principles of the world;

World English Bible
So we also, when we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental principles of the world.

Young's Literal Translation
so also we, when we were babes, under the elements of the world were in servitude,

Galatians 4:3 Parallel
Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Even so we - We who were Jews - for so I think the word here is to be limited, and not extended to the pagan, as Bloomfield supposes. The reasons for limiting it are:

(1) That the pagans in no sense sustained such a relation to the Law and promises of Gad as is here supposed;

(2) Such an interpretation would not be pertinent to the design of Paul. He is stating reasons why there should not be subjection to the laws of Moses, and his argument is, that that condition was like that of bondage or minorship.

When we were children - (νήπιοι nēpioi). Minors; see the note at Galatians 4:1. The word is not υἱοι huioi, "sons;" but the idea is, that they were in a state of non-age; and though heirs, yet were under severe discipline and regimen. They were under a kind of government that was suited to that state, and not to the condition of those who had entered on their inheritance.

Were in bondage - In a state of servitude. Treated as servants or slaves.

Under the elements of the world - Margin, Rudiments. The word rendered "elements" (sing. στοιχεῖον stoicheion), properly means a row or series; a little step; a pin or peg, as the gnomen of a dial; and then anything "elementary," as a sound, a letter. It then denotes the elements or rudiments of any kind of instruction, and in the New Testament is applied to the first lessons or principles of religion; Hebrews 5:12. It is applied to the elements or component parts of the physical world; 2 Peter 3:10, 2 Peter 3:12. Here the figure is kept up of the reference to the infant Galatians 4:1, Galatians 4:3; and the idea is, that lessons were taught under the Jewish system adapted to their nonage - to a state of childhood. They were treated as children under tutors and governors. The phrase "the elements of the world," occurs also in Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:20. In Galatians 4:9, Paul speaks of these lessons as "beggarly elements," referring to the same thing as here.

Different opinions have been held as to the reason why the Jewish institutions are here called "the elements of the world." Rosenmuller supposes it was because many of those rites were common to the Jews and to the pagan - as they also had altars, sacrifices, temples, libations, etc. Doddridge supposes it was because those rites were adapted to the low conceptions of children, who were most affected with sensible objects, and have no taste for spiritual and heavenly things. Locke supposes it was because those institutions led them not beyond this world, or into the possession and taste of their heavenly inheritance. It is probable that there is allusion to the Jewish manner of speaking, so common in the Scriptures, where this world is opposed to the kingdom of God, and where it is spoken of as transient and worthless compared with the future glory. The world is fading, unsatisfactory, temporary. In allusion to this common use of the word, the Jewish institutions are called the wordly rudiments. It is not that they were in themselves evil - for that is not true; it is not that they were adapted to foster a worldly spirit - for that is not true; it is not that they had their origin from this world - for that is not true; nor is it from the fact that they resembled the institutions of the pagan world - for that is as little true; but it is, that, like the things of the world, they were transient, temporary, and of little value. They were unsatisfactory in their nature, and were soon to pass away, and to give place to a better system - as the things of this world are soon to give place to heaven.

Galatians 4:3 Parallel Commentaries

The Allegories of Sarah and Hagar
We shall attempt this morning to teach you something of the allegories of Sarah and Hagar, that you may thereby better understand the essential difference between the covenants of law and of grace. We shall not go fully into the subject, but shall only give such illustrations of it as the text may furnish us. First, I shall want you to notice the two women, whom Paul uses as types--Hagar and Sarah; then I shall notice the two sons--Ishmael and Isaac; in the third place, I shall notice Ishmael's conduct
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 2: 1856

Luther -- the Method and Fruits of Justification
Martin Luther, leader of the Reformation, was born at Eisleben in 1483, and died there 1546. His rugged character and powerful intellect, combined with a strong physique, made him a natural orator, so that it was said "his words were half battles." Of his own method of preaching he once remarked: "When I ascend the pulpit I see no heads, but imagine those that are before me to be all blocks. When I preach I sink myself deeply down; I regard neither doctors nor masters, of which there are in the church
Various—The World's Great Sermons, Volume I

"For as Many as are Led by the Spirit of God, they are the Sons of God. For Ye have not Received the Spirit of Bondage
Rom. viii. s 14, 15.--"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." The life of Christianity, take it in itself, is the most pleasant and joyful life that can be, exempted from those fears and cares, those sorrows and anxieties, that all other lives are subject unto, for this of necessity must be the force and efficacy of true religion,
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning

The Moral Reactions of Prayer
The Moral Reactions of Prayer All religion is founded on prayer, and in prayer it has its test and measure. To be religious is to pray, to be irreligious is to be incapable of prayer. The theory of religion is really the philosophy of prayer; and the best theology is compressed prayer. The true theology is warm, and it steams upward into prayer. Prayer is access to whatever we deem God, and if there is no such access there is no religion; for it is not religion to resign ourselves to be crushed
P. T. Forsyth—The Soul of Prayer

Cross References
Romans 7:14
For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.

2 Corinthians 11:20
For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face.

Galatians 2:4
But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.

Galatians 4:2
but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father.

Galatians 4:8
However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.

Galatians 4:9
But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?

Galatians 4:24
This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar.

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