Why does Paul quote from Deuteronomy 21.23 in Galatians 3.13?

What does the apostle Paul mean in Galatians 3.13 when he says that “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,” and why does he quote from Deuteronomy 21.23? — Fazal Bismil, Karachi, Pakistan

According to Jewish law, the corpses of executed idolaters and blasphemers were hanged on a tree to show that they were accursed by God (Deuteronomy 21.22, 23). Such severe punishment was intended to have a deterrent effect within the community. In these instances, the corpse of the criminal could be hung for public display as a warning. In this situation, the corpse must be removed and buried before nightfall of the day of execution. Otherwise, the presence of death would render the land unclean and bring it under God's curse.

In Galatians 3.13, the apostle Paul is quoting from Deuteronomy 21.22, 23. The Deuteronomy passage speaks of the threatening curse from which Christ freed us by his death on the cross (tree). Christ freed us from the Law's curse so that we might enjoy “the blessing of Abraham” and “so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3.14). In Galatians 3.10-13, Paul argues that “by becoming a curse for us,” Jesus has overturned the Law's power to condemn us and opens the way for God's blessings to be bestowed on us.

The apostle Paul sees in Jesus's crucifixion the revelation of his obedience (Philippians 2.8) and love (Galatians 2.20). Jesus's crucifixion brings deliverance from sin (Colossians 2.14) and the curse of the law (Galatians 3.13) and brings about reconciliation and peace (Ephesians 2.16).

Puzzled by a Scripture passage? Submit your Bible-related questions to Dr. Liana Lupas at LLupas@AmericanBible.org or via U.S. mail. ABSRecord.com/bibleqa

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