beg'-er-li (ptochos): The word has the thought of "to crouch" or "cringe," such as is common with professional beggars. It is used in Mt 5:3 and Ga 4:9, and in both cases means complete spiritual destitution. As used in Galatians it expresses the contrast between their present condition and the former estate, toward which he says they are again tending. Paul has in mind both the Jewish and heathen systems of religion with all their outward show. He therefore here emphasizes the immeasurable superiority of the riches and liberty in Christ. He further expresses this same thought of the law in Ro 8:3 and Heb 7:18. In view of the wretchedness of the condition indicated by the word "beggarly," he states his astonishment that they should so little appreciate the liberty and riches which they now enjoy as even to think of going back to the former condition.
Jacob W. Kapp