In the book of Galatians, we read an amazing passage that carries with it a message of freedom far beyond what we can even imagine. On the surface, these verses may seem as if the writer of the text, Paul, is speaking about being set free from the Torah, or Law of Moses, in a way the reader might conclude that all of that Old Testament stuff has now been done away with. But, let's look at the words in context. The context of the words in these verses, chapter, book, and the context brought by its connection to the Torah.
Galatians 3:13 (TLV):
Messiah liberated us from Torah's curse, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree")— 14 in order that through Messiah Yeshua the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so we might receive the promise of the Ruach through trusting faith.
In order to understand the intentions of a biblical text, which includes a quotation from an earlier text, as the quotation from Galatians does, we must look back to find the context of the original text that has been quoted. In this case, the writer of Galatians is quoting directly from Deuteronomy 21:22-23:
"Suppose a man is guilty of a sin with a death sentence and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree. His body is not to remain all night on the tree—instead you must certainly bury him the same day, for anyone hanged is a curse of God. You must not defile your land that Adonai your God is giving you as an inheritance."
Before we delve into the context of Deuteronomy, let's set the stage a little by looking at a couple related verses.
In 1 Peter 2:24, we read: "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we, removed from sins, might live for righteousness. 'By His wounds you were healed.'"
This verse references Isaiah 53:4-5: "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our pains. Yet we esteemed Him stricken, struck by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities. The chastisement for our shalom was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed."
There is a direct scriptural connection provided by Peter and Paul between Galatians, Deuteronomy, 1 Peter and Isaiah. This connection helps us to interpret and understand the context and meaning intended by Paul when he says Yeshua (Jesus) was cursed for us when he was hung on the tree.
When we look at Deuteronomy 21, we see that the person who hung on the tree was cursed. But, one hung on a tree was only cursed if that person was guilty. We know that Yeshua was not guilty in any way, so we have to look further to understand. That is where Galatians, Peter and Isaiah come into the picture. Peter tells us Yeshua hung on a tree so that our sin would be removed and we would be healed. Isaiah says He was pierced for our transgressions and chastised for our shalom and by His stripes we are healed. Notice both 1 Peter and Isaiah reference our healing. Now, look at Galatians once again where we see: "Messiah liberated us from Torah's curse, having become a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13a).
He did not become a curse because He was guilty. He became a curse for us because we were guilty. It was for our guilt, for our unrighteousness, for our healing. He liberated us not from the Torah. He liberated us from the curse we deserved and set us free from sin, and this brought healing to all believers, both Jew and Gentile.
Eric Tokajer is author of With Me in Paradise, Transient Singularity, OY! How Did I Get Here?: Thirty-One Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Entering Ministry, #ManWisdom: With Eric Tokajer and Jesus is to Christianity as Pasta is to Italians.
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