Gal 1:14 And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
Gal 1:15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,
Gal 1:16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
Gal 1:17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
Gal 1:18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
Gal 1:19 But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.
Gal 1:20 Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.
Gal 1:21 Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;
Gal 1:22 And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:
Gal 1:23 But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. Gal 1:24 And they glorified God in me
Paul and Arabia,
We don't know the reason that Paul went to Arabia or where in Arabia he went. Doing some research on line I found some information that may be of help as to where and the why. After reading Paul's account of his life and his conversion he tells of going to Arabia. One must conclude that the information here has something to do with his point being made in verses 11-12.
His teaching and instruction came from a revelation of Messiah. However, before this happened he was extremely zealous in persecuting believers. It is possible to find some answers as to the why and where of Paul heading into the Arabian Peninsula.
"Paul indicates in 1:14 that he belonged, before his conversion, to the tradition of
“zeal for the law.” This zeal led him not just into zealous study and prayer but into
violent action. Zeal of this sort was part of a long tradition within Judaism,"
Looking into Scripture we can see quite a list of others with a zeal for Yahweh; There was Phinehas in Numbers 25, the Maccabees, and then there was Elijah on Mount Carmel. Elijah was zealous in that after the battle of "the greater God" he then had all 850 of Baal's prophets cut down. According to some tradition the connection of Phinehas and Elijah with their zeal is quite strong. But even those with a great deal of zeal can fail or fall. After this great battle where Yahweh Elohim was shown to be greater Elijah ran for his life after hearing Jezebel was after it. He ran to the Mountain of Elohim, and there Elohim spoke to Him in a still small voice. He had great zeal and now a great disappointment. Yahweh reaffirms His love for him and commissions him to then go to Damascus.
Does this have anything to do with Paul? Yes, what kind of a person was Paul before his conversion? He was ZEALOUS. He belonged to the "Shammaite" school of thought which would mean he would want to take the law into his own hands and put things into action even when the ruling officials were being "negligent" in his eyes. Remember, he had advanced beyond his contemporaries in v. 14. His studies would have given him a great base of law and tradition to base his actions upon.
So, when stopped dead in his tracks on his way to Damascus by Messiah where would he have then gone? It is probable that he went as Elijah did to Sinai. Mt. Sinai in Arabia would be the only place of importance for a zealous, religious man such as Paul. He may allude to this in 4:25
Gal 4:25 for this Haḡar is Mount Sinai in Araḇ
ia, and corresponds to Yerushalayim which now is, and is in slavery with her children. These are the only two times in the NT that Arabia is mentioned. Paul then heads back to Damascus. Some other evidence that would lead us to this conclusion is Paul describing his call in prophetic terms from v. 15. We can find similarities in Isaiah 49:1
Isa 49:1 Listen to Me, O coastlands, and hear, you peoples from afar! יהוה has called Me from the womb, from My mother’s belly He has caused My Name to be remembered.
and Jeremiah 1:5.
Jer 1:5 "Before I formed you in the belly I knew you, and before you came out of the womb I did set you apart – I appointed you a prophet to nations."
His zeal was now going to be redirected. He would be zealous for Messiah 4:18 and 2 Cor. 11:2.
2Co 11:2 For I am jealous for you with a jealousy according to Elohim. For I gave you in marriage to one husband, to present you as an innocent maiden to Messiah.
Saul was sent back from Arabia to be the herald of the newly anointed Messiah, (1:16, 23). His was the kingship that would challenge the pagan powers (4:1-11), that would create the true community of the set apart people of Elohim. (I will be posting from A W Pink's book on Elijah later so make sure you see that post from here.) http://myksheartsathome.blogspot.com/2013/09/paul-like-unto-elijah.html
Paul sees Isaiah 49 as setting forth a new role that would consume the rest of his life. We can find a parallel line of thought from Paul in Romans 11: Here Paul is answering the question of Israel's failure to believe in Messiah and if salvation is now impossible for the Jews. Paul tells us that he is living proof that it is a false assumption. Sometimes he may feel all alone in this as did Elijah in I Kings 191Ki 19:10 And he said, "I have been very jealous for יהוה Elohim of hosts, for the children of Yisra’ĕl have forsaken Your covenant. They have thrown down Your altars, and they have slain Your prophets with the sword, and I am left, I alone, and they seek my life, to take it."
But Elohim's answer is this:1Ki 19:18 "And I shall leave seven thousand in Yisra’ĕl, all whose knees have not bowed to Baʽal, and every mouth that has not kissed him."
Rom 11:4 But what does the answer of Elohim say to him? "I have left for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baʽal." Rom 11:5 So therefore also, at this present time a remnant according to the choice of favour has come to be.
The true, loyal people of yahweh Elohim are not, after all, defined by their allegiance to
“the works of Torah,” the badges of Israel’s distinctiveness. So we find Paul heading to Sinai to make an appeal to Torah life and everything that it stood for within the traditions of being zealous. It was standing in the way of fulfilling the very promises that he had been fighting for in his zeal. So after hearing and being taught at Sinai by Messiah he was then able to transfer his zeal into a reworked frame work of faith based salvation and not that of works of Torah. The Torah was then to be used as a framework of demonstrating our love to Messiah as His instructions for His set-apart people. Here we are able to see that Torah was not being done away with and was never intended to be set aside. We will also get into this argument more in the coming chapters.