Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 4 Study # 2
October 28, 2012
21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?
22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
1901 ASV Translation:
21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?
22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the freewoman.
23 Howbeit the son by the handmaid is born after the flesh; but the son by the freewoman is born through promise.
24 Which things contain an allegory: for these women are two covenants; one from mount Sinai, bearing children unto bondage, which is Hagar.
25 Now this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia and answereth to the Jerusalem that now is: for she is in bondage with her children.
26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother.
27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; Break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: For more are the children of the desolate than of her that hath the husband.
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.
29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, so also it is now.
30 Howbeit what saith the scripture? Cast out the handmaid and her son: for the son of the handmaid shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman.
31 Wherefore, brethren, we are not children of a handmaid, but of the freewoman.
- I. Paul's Attempt to Get the Galatians to "Hear".
- A. Having already given the Scriptural underpinnings of his core theology regarding Law and Grace, the apostle turns to an "allegory" (AV's translation) to emphasize the message of "Law".
- 1. This is the only reference of its kind in the New Testament. The verb is found nowhere else in the New Testament.
- 2. The word is "transliterated" into English, not translated.
- 3. The meaning is obvious: the historical record contains sufficient parallels to doctrinal truth to enable its use as a clear illustration of both meaning and significance.
- B. The appeal to the historical record of the births of Abraham's "two sons".
- 1. This "appeal to history" is significantly "on track" in that no "theology" that cannot be clearly seen in history is worth any allegiance. Truth "works"; lies explode at some point and destroy everything in reach.
- 2. The biblical record is eminently readable: Abraham's two sons had two different mothers and two different "reasons for being".
- a. The record of the Old Testament is clear that a man having more than one "sexual partner" in his marriage was not considered out of line at all by the culture of Israel. The entire nation of Israel resulted more from "bondmaids" than "wives" and, even then, there were two "wives".
- 1) Given the enormous impact of Sin upon the human race, we are not surprised that men tended strongly in the direction of giving themselves the liberty to multiply sexual partners in their marriages. What is surprising to some is that God acquiesced to this level of depravity to the degree that He "chose" the nation whose "mothers" ended up being four in number at the very outset.
- 2) However, given Paul's understanding of "Law" as the instrument of revelation for "sin" so that sin could become exceedingly sinful (Romans 7:13), it is understandable that God would not hide men's selfish lusts, nor determine to relate to them on a "legal" basis.
- b. The first "mother" was a "bondmaid". The term so translated typically refers to a woman who serves in the household. There is also a general sense of her status in the household as, in some sense, "beloved" that bleeds more out of the use of the term for a male equivalent than out of the use of the female term. It is highly doubtful that Sarah would have suggested a woman against whom she harbored ill will. After all, the "child" was to be hers because the "bondmaid" was hers. It is not likely that she would want a child from a woman for whom she cared little. Additionally, the "reason for being" for the son of the bondmaid was, without dispute, an attempt on Abraham's and Sarah's parts to obtain a "fulfillment" of the divine promise: a son.
- c. The second "mother" was "free". The term so used does not address just how "free" a wife could be in that culture. Since the New Testament is exceptionally clear on the concept that true relational unity only comes from mutual submission, the question can be asked: How "free" is "free"? What is the bottom line in the distinction between "bond" and "free"? Additionally, the "reason for being" is, indisputably, the fulfillment of the divine promise by the divine hand.
- 1) At issue in the concept of "freedom" is one basic core reality: the "free" person is not subject to something that, otherwise, would be binding upon him/her.
- 2) The question of "freedom", then, is the identity of the "something". In what way was Sarah "free" and Hagar "bound"? In what way is anyone "free" or "bound"? The bottom line is one: "freedom" means not being subject to "something" that constrains those who are not "free". "Bondage" means being subject to "something" for which the "free" have no responsibility of "performance". And, what is that "something"? At its most basic root, "bondage" is being subject to another's agenda. There can be "happy" folks who are "in bondage" and there can be "unhappy" folks who are "in bondage" -- the issue has nothing to do with the attitude involved -- but all who are "in bondage" are constrained to do the will of another.
- 3) In Galatians, "freedom" is crucial to Paul's theology of "Life". In Galatians, that "freedom" is from "Law" and its "yoke of bondage". The Law's "yoke of bondage" is the enforced demand that people do that of which they are incapable and, therefore, fail to do so that they are subjected to the penalty of failure. In other words, the theological "bondage" of Galatians is being compelled by an intolerable consequence to do the impossible. Alternatively, the theological "freedom" of this letter is partially found in this ability to do what is necessary. In that regard, there are two ways to freedom: one way is the elimination of "necessity" so that there is nothing to do; the other way is the empowerment to actually accomplish the necessity at the level of performance. However, there is another aspect of "freedom" and "bondage" that comes into play here: the issue of "desire" with no regard for "ability". Even if a person has the ability to do what is demanded, there is no freedom if that ability is constrained against one's own wishes. Thus, "freedom" is found in both the "willing" and the "ability to do" (Philippians 2:13).
- 4) How does Paul expect us to understand Sarah and Hagar as historical examples of these bondage/freedom issues? At the core, Sarah is "free" from the necessity of conceiving a son by three principles. First, she is "free" because she strongly desires the "son" who is at the root of the issues. Second, she is "free" because the promise of God relieves her of the "necessity" of conceiving by her own power. Third, she is "free" by reason of her head's (Abraham's) acknowledgement of her inability to conceive without consequence (putting her aside as "wife"). By the same token, Hagar is "bound", not because she does not desire a "son" (there is no revelation of which I am aware that identifies Hagar's "attitude" in the situation), but because she is subject to Abraham's sexual activity without regard for her own choice(s) and she is subject to both Abraham's and Sarah's intense intent that she bear a son. In a very real sense, Sarah was "bound" in that her "desire" was in direct conflict with her "ability", and Hagar was "free" in that her "ability" was in line with the demand that she conceive and bear a son. When we keep the lines clear, the confusion recedes.