“I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” (Gal. 5:12)
Is this a sarcastic blow or is Paul really that upset with the Judaizers? Of course he has reason to be upset considering the uproar they have caused with their demand of circumcision but this is a really sharp comment. Paul uses the word trouble maker, someone who agitates or creates turmoil to describe the Judaizers. He has a wish for them. The NIV says “would that.”
Emasculate themselves? Yes, the word is “cut off” or “cut away” and is sometimes used to describe what was done to private parts. If that is the case, then Paul is saying he wishes that the agitators would castrate themselves. Paul is so upset the trouble these men are causing over cutting off a small piece of flesh he wishes they would cut the entire member off. Strong language for today’s liking but not unusual for the time of Paul. In Philippians, Paul speaks of circumcision as the “mutilation of the flesh”.
According to the law those who are emasculated cannot enter the assembly of the Lord. Perhaps Paul is saying he wishes that these trouble makers would leave the assembly of the church with their false teaching.
Either way you look at it, demeaning or sarcastic, Paul is fed up with the work of the Judaizers and wishes them out of the Galatian communities. This verse ends this particular section of the letter and leaves us feeling a little strange about it all, perhaps wishing for a little more positive information. Paul has some good things to say coming up.
Task for Today: These harsh words should reinforce what we have been hearing for over four chapters. Stay away from works of the law, works for salvation. Those works done to earn are actually without profit so don’t bother with them. Do the works that are a result of salvation. It’s what God intended for His people to do, because they are saved.