But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?
You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain (Galatians 4:8 - 11, NKJV).
These verses are used by preachers to dissuade people from keeping the Bible Sabbath and annual Holy Days God commanded in Leviticus 23 and elsewhere. Because it is so obvious that the Galatians were trying to be as Jewish as possible, it is an easy scripture to misapply.
Some who wish to defend Holy Day keeping state that the days mentioned in Galatians 4 were pagan days. Their argument to support this belief is that Paul would certainly not call the Holy Days, etc. 'weak and beggarly elements.'
A Double Reverse Argument
In high school I was on the wrestling team. We had a move called a double reverse. When you were on top of your opponent, you were in the winning position, so to speak. When he got a "reverse" he was on top and he scored points.
In a double reverse, you used your opponent's momentum as he was gaining a reverse on you (essentially rolling you over) to continue the motion and roll him right back to the bottom. You went from top to bottom and back to top again. Let's give those who say that the days of Galatians 4:10 are Holy Days a "reverse" argument.
What are the days?
. . . My offering . . . shall ye OBSERVE to offer unto me in their due season . . . day by DAY. . . and on the Sabbath DAY two lambs of the first year . . . (Numbers 28:2 - 3, 9).
What are the months?
. . . and in the beginning of your MONTHS ye shall offer a burnt offering . . . (Numbers 28:11)
What are the times (or seasons)?
Three TIMES in a year shall all they males appear before the lord . . . the feast of unleavened bread . . . the feast of weeks . . . the feast of tabernacles . . . (Deuteronomy 16:16).
Note that the Greek word for "times" in Galatians 4:10 (kairos, Strong's #G2540) is translated "due season" in Luke 12:42, ". . . meat in due season." and other places.
. . . My offering . . . in their due SEASON (Numbers 28:2).
Note that Numbers 28:16 to 29:39 show the details of the offerings.
. . . these things ye shall do unto the lord in your set feasts . . . (Numbers 29:39).
So, the order is the same as is stated in Galatians 4:10, "Ye observe days (including Sabbath) and months (new moons) and times (seasons or Holy Days) and years." Let us now notice 2Chronicles 31:3.
He appointed . . . for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and for the burnt offerings for the Sabbaths (days) and the new moons (months), and for the set feasts (seasons), as it is written in the law of Moses.
What? Have those who deny the need to keep the Holy Days been right all along? So it seems - until the key to Galatians 4 verse 10 is revealed.
Touché! The Double Reverse
Yes, they are the Holy Days of the Old Covenant. However, the word for "observe" in Galatians 4:10 has a prefix. The word for observe is normally tereo in the Greek (Strong's Concordance #5083). The word here is paratereo (#3906).
Para is a prefix with a broad meaning, strongly modifying the word. Paratereo means to "observe scrupulously" or "observe in addition to," among other meanings. Paratereo is used in Luke 20:20 and translated "watched" in the King James Version Bible. Here the spies were watching Jesus scrupulously to see if they could find the slightest accusation against him.
What were the Galatians doing then? How were they "scrupulously" observing these days? The New World Translation has picked up this connotation of paratereo, even though it is missed in the Interlinear Bible. Strong's Concordance clearly shows the word in Galatians 4:10 and Luke 6:7, 14:1, 20:20, Mark 3:2 is #3906 (paratereo) which is different than to observe commands as in Matthew 23:3, 28:20, Acts 21:25 (tereo).
Galatians 3:3 makes it clear how the Galatians were scrupulously observing days. Paul asks "are ye so foolish? having begun in the spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?"
What flesh is he talking about here? In Hebrews 9 we find a discussion of the first covenant and its "worldly sanctuary" (verse 1). In Hebrews 10:6 we find the flesh offerings, "sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not, but a body hast thou prepared for me." Also the worldly sanctuary had "gifts according to the law" (Hebrews 8:4).
The Galatians had come to think that they had to offer animal sacrifices to be perfect with God, that believing in Christ was good, but believing in Christ and offering sacrifices was better. Notice Paul's question in verse 2, "This would I learn of you, received ye the spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?"
In 2:16 he is telling them ". . . a man is not justified by the works of the law" but by "the faith of Christ." Man cannot be justified by the offering of animals' blood, as "It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin" (Hebrews 10:4).
The Galatians were thinking that they needed to be as "Jewish" as possible. Notice they were pushing circumcision (see Galatians 5:2). Paul told them he was a strict Jew (Galatians 1:13, 14) and even Titus was not compelled to be circumcised (Galatians 2:3).
What, then, was Paul's concern for those in Galatia? Notice he was afraid for them. He did not say what they were doing was outright sin, but he was afraid they were looking to those fleshly offerings and not to Christ. He was not saying don't observe the annual Sabbaths or it's now all right to work on these Sabbath days of God!
Is Paul blameless?
Paul says that he was ". . . touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless" (Philippians 3:6). How was he blameless? Because he had offered all the commanded sacrifices for his transgressions under the law. Notice Ezra 10:19 which states, ". . . and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass."
Certainly there were some who did not confess their sins and offer the sacrifices. But those that did among the Jews were considered righteous.
Notice Leviticus 4:3, 13, 14, 20, 27, 31, 35. If someone offered an offering for their sin according to the law, it says, "it shall be forgiven them." The law was indebted to forgive that one occasion even though the offering could not purge the conscience. See Romans 4:4 "reward is . . . reckoned of debt."
Weak and Beggarly Elements
One area that is misunderstood in an attempt to say that Galatians 4:10 is talking of pagan days is based on verses 8 and 9. In verse 8 Paul reminds the Galatians that they, in the past, offered sacrifices to idols.
Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods (Galatians 4:8, KJV).
In verse 9 he says, ". . . how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?"
Was the law of carnal ordinances weak? See Hebrews 7:13, 16, 27 and especially verse 18 ". . . for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof." Just like the animals offered to idols, the animals offered by the Levites were earthly, came from the dust and returned to dust (ashes). Notice the word "elements" is the same word Paul uses about his bondage to the Jewish religion (Galatians 4:3).
Another overlooked point in understanding what Galatians 4:8 - 9 means is that the second use of the word "again" in, ". . . again to be in bondage" (verse 9) is not just one word but two.
In the first use of the word again ("how turn ye again") in verse 9 the Greek word palin is used. Palin is commonly translated as "again." The second use ("whereunto ye desire again") of the word again is from the Greek palin anothen. Anothen is translated in scriptures two ways, "again" and "from above." So Paul is saying ". . . how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again from above (Moses got the law from God above) to be in bondage?"
Yes, offering animal sacrifices daily, monthly, yearly was a form of bondage as we see Paul summarizing in Galatians 4:24 - 25.
". . . for these are the two covenants . . . one from the mount Sinai . . . and answereth to the Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children."
Now notice Romans 8:15 which states, "for ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear . . ."
The Sabbath and annual Holy (Feast) Days were (and are) not weak and beggarly elements but the animal sacrifices performed on them were.
The days of Galatians 4:10 are Sabbaths and new moons and Holy Days and jubilee years. The apostle Paul was not saying in Galatians to not observe them. He was saying he was afraid they were looking to and offering animal sacrifices on them as a supplement to Jesus' sacrifice.