|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:21-27 The difference between believers who rested in Christ only, and those who trusted in the law, is explained by the histories of Isaac and Ishmael. These things are an allegory, wherein, beside the literal and historical sense of the words, the Spirit of God points out something further. Hagar and Sarah were apt emblems of the two different dispensations of the covenant. The heavenly Jerusalem, the true church from above, represented by Sarah, is in a state of freedom, and is the mother of all believers, who are born of the Holy Spirit. They were by regeneration and true faith, made a part of the true seed of Abraham, according to the promise made to him.
Verse 25. - For this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia. This clause has been the subject of much conflicting opinion. The reading of the Greek text is itself much debated, and in the original authorities (manuscripts, versions, and Fathers) it appears in a great variety of forms. A detailed discussion of the latter point would be out of place here; and for the premisses from which the critical judgment is to be drawn, the reader is referred to Alford, and to a detached note which Bishop Lightfoot adds in his ' Commentary,' at the end of this fourth chapter. Only the main result needs to be stated. There are two forms of the text, between which the choice lies. One is that of the Textus Receptus, namely, Τὸ γὰρ Ἄγαρ Σινᾶ ὄρος ἐστὶν ἐν τῇ Ἀραβίᾳ," For the word Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia." This is maintained by Meyer, Alford, Ellicott, and San-day. The other, omitting the word Ἄγαρ, runs thus: Τὸ γὰρ Σινᾶ ὄρος ἐστὶν ἐν τῇ Ἀραβία, "For Sinai is a mountain in Arabia." This is accepted by Bentley, Lachmann, Tregelles, Tischendorf (latterly), Bengel, De Wette, Windischmann, Howson, and Lightfoot. In respect to the original authorities, there is not generally thought to exist any great preponderance in the evidence for either the retention or the omission of the word "Hagar." The decision, therefore, depends chiefly upon a comparison of the internal probabilities. In order to this, we must gain as clear a view as we can of the meaning of the above two readings. That of the Textus Receptus, Τὸ γὰρ Ἄγαρ Σινᾶ ὄρος ἐστὶν ἐν τῇ Ἀραβίᾳ, according to Chrysostom, as well as modern critics, means this: "For the word Hagar is [represents] in Arabia Mount Sinai." Chrysostom remarks, "Hagar is the word for Mount Sinai in the language of that country; "and again, "That mountain where the old covenant was delivered, hath a name in common with the bondwoman." Critics make reference to Galatians 1:17, "I went away into Arabia." "It is difficult," says Dean Stanley, 'Sinai and Palestine,' p. 50." to resist the thought that he [St. Paul] too may have stood upon the rocks of Sinai, and heard from Arab lips the often-repeated Ha jar, rock, suggesting the double meaning to which the text alludes." But the Arabic word for "rock" is chajar, differing from Hajar, the Arabic form of the bondwoman's name, by having eheth for its initial letter instead of he. Further, the Arabs would have used the word only as a common noun, "rock," and not as a proper noun, the name of the mountain. St. Paul could not have mistaken the one for the other. There is no evidence at all to substantiate Chrysostom's assertion that the Arabs did name the mountain Hagar; he apparently thought so only because the apostle seemed to him to affirm it. See Lightfoot further on this point. Moreover, the sentence, "The word Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia," is not what St. Paul would have written to express this idea; either, instead of "in Arabia" he would have written "in the language of the country;" or else, "for the Mount Sinai is called Hagar in Arabia." Another objection to this reading is the order in which the words Σινᾶ and ὄρος stand. Elsewhere where the words are conjoined the order is, as in ver. 24, ὄρος Σινᾶ. The passages are these: Exodus 19:18, 20; 24:26; 31:18; 34:2; Nehemiah 9:13; Acts 7:30. The reversal of the order here indicates that Σινᾶ is the subject, and ὄρος belongs to the predicate; that is, that Ἄγαρ must be expunged from the text, and that we adopt the other reading, Τὸ γὰρ Σινᾶ ὄρος ἐστὶν ἐν τῇ Ἀραβίᾳ, "For Sinai is a mountain in Arabia," the well-known land of Hagar and her descendants; Genesis 16:7; Genesis 21:21; Genesis 25:18 (see Mr. Peele's articles on "Hagar" and "Shur" in the 'Dictionary of the Bible'). The article is prefixed to Σινᾶ as having been already just mentioned; as if it were "for this Sina is," etc. The purpose of the clause, however it be read, is plainly to make more colourable the allegorical exposition; it explains why the locality of the giving of the Law has been referred to in the words, "one, from Mount Sinai" - a local specification quite alien to the apostle's usual manner in referring to the old covenant, and only had recourse to here for this particular object. And answereth to (or, is in the same rank with) Jerusalem which now is (συστοιχεῖ δὲ τῇ νῦν Ἱερουσαλήμ); and standeth in the same class (literally, in the same column) with the Jerusalem that now is. The use of the verb συστοιχεῖν the reader will find amply illustrated in Liddell and Scott's 'Lexicon.' In the military language of Greece, illustrated out of Polybius, οἱ συστοιχοῦντες were those standing in the same file or column, one behind another (as οἱ συζυγοῦντες were those standing side by side in the same rank). Hence, as if tabulated on a board, ideas belonging to the same class, both types and antitypes, were conceived of as if placed in a vertical line in column, and so were called συστοιχοῦντες: whilst ideas belonging to a class contrasted with the former, both types and antitypes, were conceived of as placed horizontally opposite to the former in another column; the two sets of contrasted ideas being ἀντίστοιχα to each other. Thus in the present instance we have two columns -
Hagar, slave mother; — Sarah, freewoman.
Ishmael, slave child; — Believers, free children.
Covenant from Sinai; — Promise.
Jerusalem that now is; etc. — Jerusalem that is above; etc. (Compare Erasmus's note in Peele's 'Synopsis.') It is not improbable, as Bishop Lightfoot observes, that St. Paul is alluding to some mode of representation common with Jewish teachers employed to exhibit similar allegories (see Bengel's note above referred to). We may, therefore, conclude that the subject of the verb συστοιχεῖ, whatever it is, is regarded by the apostle as standing in the same category with the now subsisting Jerusalem, especially in the particular respect which he presently insists upon; namely, as being characterized by slavery. For this is the main point of this whole allegorical illustration; that Judaism is slavery and the Christian state liberty. It is not clear whether the subject of this verb, "standeth in the same column with," is "the covenant from Mount Sinai," or "Hagar," or "Sinai." If either of the two former, then the first clause of this verse is a parenthesis. The construction runs the most smoothly by adopting the third view, which takes" Sinai" as the subject. Sinai, that gave forth the covenant which is represented by Hagar, "stands in the same column" with "the Jerusalem that now is;" for Sinai is the starting-place of the covenant which has now its central abode in Jerusalem; the people that was there is now here; and the condition of slavery into which Sinai's covenant brought them marks them now at Jerusalem. And is in bondage with her children (δουλεύει γὰρ [Receptus, δουλεύει δὲ] μετὰ τῶν τέκνων αὐτῆς); for she is in bondage with her children. The reading γὰρ is substituted for δὲ by the editors with general consent. That the subject of the verb "is in bondage" is "the Jerusalem that now is," is apparent from the contrasted sentence which next follows, "but the Jerusalem that is above is free." "With her children;" repeatedly did our Lord group Jerusalem with" her children "(Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:35; Luke 19:44), having, however, in view the city itself with its inhabitants; while St. Paul probably regards Jerusalem more in idea, as representing Judaism in its central manifestation; "her children" being consequently these who were living under the Law. The apostle here assumes that this mystical Jerusalem with her children was in bondage, making the fact a ground for identifying her with Hagar. That the fact was so St. Paul knew, both from his own experience and from his observation of others. The religious life of Judaism consisted of a servile obedience to a letter Law of ceremonialism, interpreted by the rabbins with an infinity of hair-splitting rules, the exact observance of which was bound upon the conscience of its votaries as of the essence of true piety. The apostle also probably took account of the slavish spirit which very largely characterized the religious teaching of the ruling doctors of Judaism; their bondage, that is, not only to the letter of the Law, but to the traditions also of men; that spirit which those who heard the teaching of the Lord Jesus felt to be so strongly contrasted by his manner of conceiving and presenting religious truth. "He taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes." But the main point now contemplated by the apostle was bondage to ceremonialism.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For this Agar is Mount Sinai in Arabia,.... The Arabic version, instead of Arabia, reads "Balca". The Syriac version makes Hagar to be a mountain, reading the words thus, "for Mount Hagar is Sinai, which is in Arabia": and some have been of opinion that Sinai was called Hagar by the Arabians. It is certain, that which may be pronounced Hagar, does signify in the Arabic language a stone or rock; and that one part of Arabia is called Arabia Petraea, from the rockiness of it; the metropolis of which was or "Agara", and the inhabitants Agarenes; and Hagar was the name of the chief city of Bahrein, a province of Arabia (r): and it may be observed, that when Hagar, with her son, was cast out, they dwelt in the wilderness of Paran, Genesis 21:21 which was near to Sinai, as appears from
Numbers 10:12 so that it is possible that this mount might be so called from her, though there is no certainty of it; and near to it, as Grotius observes, was a town called Agra, mentioned by Pliny (s) as in Arabia. However, it is clear, that Sinai was in Arabia, out of the land of promise, where the law was given, and seems to be mentioned by the apostle with this view, that it might be observed, and teach us that the inheritance is not of the law. It is placed by Jerom (t) in the land of Midian; and it is certain it must be near it, if not in it, as is clear from Exodus 3:1. And according to Philo the Jew (u), the Midianites, as formerly called, were a very populous nation of the Arabians: and Madian, or Midian, is by (w) Mahomet spoken of as in Arabia; and it may be observed, that they that are called Midianites in Genesis 37:36 are said to be Ishmaelites,
Genesis 39:1 the name by which the Arabians are commonly called by the Jews. The apostle therefore properly places this mountain in Arabia. But after all, by Agar, I rather think the woman is meant: and that the sense is, that this same Agar signifies Mount Sinai, or is a figure of the law given on that mount.
And answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children; that is, agrees with and resembles the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and of all the cities and towns in Judea; and she, being a bondwoman, represented that state of bondage the Jews were in, when the apostle wrote this, who were in a state of civil, moral, and legal bondage; in civil bondage to the Romans, being tributaries to the empire of Rome, and under the jurisdiction of Caesar; in moral bondage to sin, to Satan, to the world and the lusts of it, whose servants they in general were; and in legal bondage to the ceremonial law, which was a yoke of bondage: they were in bondage under the elements or institutions of it, such as circumcision, a yoke which neither they, nor their forefathers could bear, because it bound them over to keep the whole law; the observance of various days, months, times, and years, and the multitude of sacrifices they were obliged to offer, which yet could not take away sin, nor free their consciences from the load of guilt, but were as an handwriting of ordinances against them; every sacrifice they brought declaring their sin and guilt, and that they deserved to die as the creature did that was sacrificed for them; and besides, this law of commandments, in various instances, the breach of it was punishable with death, through fear of which they were all their life long subject to bondage: they were also in bondage to the moral law, which required perfect obedience of them, but gave them no strength to perform; showed them their sin and misery, but not their remedy; demanded a complete righteousness, but did not point out where it was to be had; it spoke not one word of peace and comfort, but all the reverse; it admitted of no repentance; it accused of sin, pronounced guilty on account of it, cursed, condemned, and threatened with death for it, all which kept them in continual bondage: and whereas the far greater part of that people at that time, the Jerusalem that then was, the Scribes, Pharisees, and generality of the nation, were seeking for justification by the works of the law, this added to their bondage; they obeyed it with mercenary views, and not from love but fear; and their comforts and peace rose and fell according to their obedience; and persons in such a way must needs be under a spiritual bondage.
(r) Castel. Lex. Polyglot. col. 804. (s) Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 28. (t) De locis Hebraicis, fol. 96. H. (u) De Fortitudine, p. 741. (w) Koran, c. 7. p. 126.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
25. Translate, "For this word, Hagar, is (imports) Mount Sinai in Arabia (that is, among the Arabians—in the Arabian tongue)." So Chrysostom explains. Haraut, the traveller, says that to this day the Arabians call Sinai, "Hadschar," that is, Hagar, meaning a rock or stone. Hagar twice fled into the desert of Arabia (Ge 16:1-16; 21:9-21): from her the mountain and city took its name, and the people were called Hagarenes. Sinai, with its rugged rocks, far removed from the promised land, was well suited to represent the law which inspires with terror, and the spirit of bondage.
answereth—literally, "stands in the same rank with"; "she corresponds to."
Jerusalem which now is—that is, the Jerusalem of the Jews, having only a present temporary existence, in contrast with the spiritual Jerusalem of the Gospel, which in germ, under the form of the promise, existed ages before, and shall be for ever in ages to come.
and—The oldest manuscripts read, "For she is in bondage." As Hagar was in bondage to her mistress, so Jerusalem that now is, is in bondage to the law, and also to the Romans: her civil state thus being in accordance with her spiritual state [Bengel].
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