(ESV) Gal. 3:15-20

15 To give a human example, brothers:[fn] even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. 19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

I would appreciate any help with exegesis on this passage.

  • 3
    This question merely quotes a scripture and shows no research whatsoever.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 17:06
  • It's a question. I'm supposed to provide research in my question?
    – DDover
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 20:59
  • 2
    Yes, DDover, you are expected to provide some evidence of having tried to find an answer, but that you're left needing help to arrive at a conclusion. A problem with what you've posted here is that it could be a "help me do my homework" type request. This site is for getting to the bottom of difficult points about the Bible. Can you comment on particular points in the passage that have you stumped, and say why?
    – Anne
    Commented Dec 30, 2021 at 12:50
  • It's not an easy passage. I was hoping for some insight. That was a serious inquiry about if I needed to provide research with my question; I'm new to this site. I take exception to "help me do my homework."
    – DDover
    Commented Dec 31, 2021 at 9:32

5 Answers 5


Rule Number 1 is to establish the context, and Rule Number 2 is to stick to the passage being expounded (as opposed to skipping all over the Bible with related texts.) The goal of your exposition is to glorify God by showing his truth, as stated in his word, and to help others have a greater appreciation of all that. To the extent that you point to God and Christ, to that extent faith in God and Christ should be enhanced.

So, do start with an appropriate introduction (as I hope I have done with my opening paragraph.) Your introduction should explain the context for your presentation. Paul's context begins in ch.2 vs. 15 - "a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.") Paul expresses dismay that Christians in Galatia are being deceived by people trying to get them back into legalistic observance of the Mosaic law. So, he tells them to consider how Abraham pleased God - before the Mosaic law was established - it was by his faith in God. Paul uses this to show that it's the same with them, spiritual children of Abraham (even though they are Gentiles) as God justifies the Gentiles by faith. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law. Then comes the verses you are to major on.

The body of your presentation should smoothly continue, going now into details. I'm not going to do that for you. Personal prayer and study of the scriptures will be required on your part. It is the Holy Spirit who reveals truth to those earnestly seeking. Whereas various theological writings can be helpful, some can be downright misleading, so never use them as your primary, or main source of preparation.

The conclusion of your presentation should summarise the main points in the body of it. Needless to say, it should also tie in the context you established at the start, and repeat main truths (for emphasis). Don't lose sight of the fact that the context was about Christ's redemption, so that spiritual 'heirs' of Abraham would have the blessing of faith by the Spirit. Because Christ is the one true 'seed' of promise, he alone can mediate between us and God.

Those are just a few suggestions, for your guidance and encouragement.


One of the main points being made by Paul here is that the Law is a covenant between God and Israel and was mediated by a man (Moses) whereas the promise to Abraham was made by God and mediated by God alone. Many folks tie this in to the land promise made by God to Abraham in Genesis 15 but that is not strictly accurate:

And he said, Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away. And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram - Genesis 15:9-18

Seed in the passage above is a collective singular (functionally plural) and, as Paul later points out in Romans 9:7-8, it is not ultimately the natural descendants of Abraham but the children of promise. Christ is the seed and we are God's children when we are in Christ.

But now notice that your assigned passage takes great pains to announce:

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.

This singular use of seed or offspring rules out the Genesis 15 passage because all of these usages are, contextually, collective singular. The actual singular usage is instead found in Genesis 22:

And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. - Genesis 22:15-18

Notice three instances of "thy seed" in the above passage. The first instance is plural (collective singular) and refers back to the Genesis 15 promise. The next two instances are actually singular because of it's reference by the singular pronoun and, as your passage in Galatians makes clear, refers to Christ.

There is a grammatical suffix in the Hebrew attached to the word for enemies which refers it back to seed or offspring. So the word "seed" is the same but it is made singular by "his enemies" referring back to seed. Translations that rely heavily on the Septuigant sometimes miss it because it is not carried over into the LXX but it is there in the Hebrew in, for example, the Westminster Leningrad Codex and the Masoretic Text. The link following is particularly helpful because it parses out the text to a high degree and highlights the suffix which you can then find in just about any Hebrew text.


The grammatical suffix that you see highlighted on the left side in the masoretic text is a personal possessive pronoun. As it appears in the masculine singular form of the verb "hating" (translated enemies) it forces us to refer back to the one who drives out and occupies (rendered possess) whom we know from the context to be the seed.

The inheritance is of promise but the Law, says Paul, was added through a mediator because of transgressions until the coming of the seed to whom the promise was made. A mediator, says Paul referring to the Law, is not a mediator of one but, he says referring to the promised seed, God is one.

Therefore, the promise that the singular seed (Jesus Christ) will possess the gates of his enemies and that all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in Him is God (the Father) mediating a covenant with Himself (the Son).

  • I'm sorry, this is very false, Paul uses the singular for seed in Roman 9:7,8. Gen 15 uses singular seed also. I recommend getting a good interlinear and looking this stuff up.
    – Austin
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 16:10
  • 1
    Good edit. I slightly disagree. Paul doesn't make his argument about collective vs individual singulars, but singular vs plural. The seed is always a singular identity, the Christ, & so Israel is called God's firstborn. The Christ identity applies to Gen 15 & 22. The Christ identity can apply to an individual or collective simultaneously. A prophecy that clearly applies to an individual in Ps 2:8,9 actually applies to the conquering collective in Rev 2:26. We will bless the nations & will posses the gates of our enemies. Both the faithful Israel & the church have a singular Christ identity.
    – Austin
    Commented Dec 30, 2021 at 18:48
  • 1
    I think the promises have power for us because they are ultimately collective in implication and often application. So instead ruling on the Gen 15 promises out because of the collective nature of their fulfillment, we should rule them out for us because they were already fulfilled 430 years after they were given.
    – Austin
    Commented Dec 30, 2021 at 21:10
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    Hi @MikeBorden, I only quoted offspring because you quoted offspring. In the KJV you quoted, you have the same issue where Paul contrasts "seeds" as of many vs "seed" as of one and not "seed" as of many vs "seed" as of one. He doesn't call out collective singular here as you previously indicated when you said 'That's why Paul distinguishes between "offspring as of many" and "offspring as of one".' Instead he only contrasts plural as of many vs singular as of one.
    – Austin
    Commented Dec 31, 2021 at 14:43
  • 1
    Mike Borden, the part of Paul's argument where he says, 'It does not say, “And to seeds,” referring to many,'... seems incoherent if one would never use the plural form for multiple human seed or offspring in English or Greek or Hebrew to contrast the singular form with. "Seeds" in this context sounds awkward in all 3 languages. The argument would make more sense if he said instead 'It does not say, “And to seed,” referring to many, but...' This would better cohere with how multiple descendants would be contrasted with a singular descendant in Hebrew and Greek.
    – Austin
    Commented Jan 2, 2022 at 6:44

These verses are showing a contrast between a promise of God given to Abraham and the law also given by God to the nation of Israel until their seed came.

The promise is based totally on God's word. The law is based on man's doing, basically showing man's failure to keep it.

Often it's easier for men to have faith in the work they can see, and are doing then to believe in something they can't see, to have faith in God's word alone. (That's why we live by the faith of Christ)

So what was the promise Paul been given by God to call these people out of the present evil age?

The Lord Jesus Christ,a who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, Galatians 1:3-4

Just as Abraham had been called out by God to leave his country so these believers have been called out too leave this present evil age into the grace of God.

God had taken away their sins through Jesus Christ since He had given himself for them.

This was done according to the will of God and Father of them. Their lives had been hidden in the seed of Christ. They never knew it untill Paul was sent to them and he delivered the good news to them. It had already happened on their behalf because they were of the seed that had been promised to Abraham.

They were in Christ, the seed of God where all the promises were given.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs acc according to the promise. Galatians 3:26-29

God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; Rom. 4:17

See also Romans 4:13-25


One has to be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God ( the real promised land). So this offspring, Christ, is talking about Christ IN you, like Paul explains. (It's a huge doctrinal difference to really understand that the offspring is Christ in you, not bloodline kin-- remember Paul also explains Sarah/Isaac is the new covenant and Hagar/ Ishmael is the old covenant) The law didn't negate anything about being born again, it LED people to the realization that they needed to be born again or..it was suppose to. Most didn't understand. Notice the scripture also says, "before AbraHAM was, I am"...that's a difference from Abram. It doesn't say, "before Abram was" Abram was not born again yet, Abraham was the new man, born again. So before he became Abraham, Christ joined him.


A key part of this passage is important to correctly understand John 8:58

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”

...but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. Gal 3:16

Paul is quite clear that Jesus is a descendant of Abraham and did not exist before Abraham as many like to think - even though this aspect of "existing' must be read-in to scripture.

Abraham 'saw Jesus day and was glad' - how? By an understanding that God supplied to bolster his faith and trust in God's promises to him.

All these people died in faith, without having received the things they were promised. However, they saw them and welcomed them from afar. And they acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. Hebrews 11:13

Jesus was certainly before Abraham - in very real prominence and as the key and 'cornerstone' to God's plan of salvation - planned and promised and prophesied from Gen 3. Jesus is far greater and more important than every other man including the patriarch Abraham!

  • It is important to understand John 8:58. Before Abraham was (came into being) I (the Son of God) am. This is not a verse explaining Jesus' faith building understanding of God's plan. It is a statement of being: Before Abraham's being, I am. Abraham had a starting point. Not so with the Son. They didn't take up stones to kill him because he said he had a good understanding of God's plan. Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 23:23
  • @mike I don't know why I am bothering to point out that Jesus is the word of God, the word that was with God in the beginning is now embodied in the human Jesus. Whatever the logos is (from our limited grasp of God's power, presence and wisdom) Jesus does understand intimately. He doesn't need to be before Abraham in time as you desperately need him to be. His preeminence as the 'word made flesh' is ample reason to support John's expression. None of the Apostles even hint at the dogma you prefer over the scriptures when they are allowed to remain in the harmony God intended.
    – Steve
    Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 23:41
  • The whole "I am" thing is a distraction and contradiction. It doesn't make any sense, is applied selectively (ignoring other instances of ego eimi) and undermines what Jesus was sent to accomplish. Making him God, renders the whole temptation and dying thing a complete farce and makes the Devil an idiot.
    – Steve
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 0:00
  • Do you think the Jews wanted to stone Jesus because he was claiming to have an intimate understanding of God's plan? Where is that clearly stated and not just inferred as a means of evasion? He corrected them and rebuked their use and misuse of Scripture and their understanding of God many times without threat of stoning. Each time the stonings became immanent it was upon other claims. Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 16:03

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