Galatians 4:24
Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
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(24) Which things are an allegory.—Literally, Which things are allegorisedi.e., spoken in double sense,—

“Where more is meant than meets the ear.”

The allegorical sense does not exclude the literal sense. but is added to it. In like manner St. Paul speaks of the events which happened to the Israelites in their wanderings in the wilderness as happening “for our ensamples,” or, more correctly, “by way of types or figures” (1Corinthians 10:11): though elsewhere a distinction is drawn between “type” and “allegory,” the first implying that the narrative on which it is based is true, the second that it is fictitious. St. Paul does not use the word here in this strict sense. The justification for the allegorical treatment of the patriarchal history may be expressed in the words of Calvin: “As the house of Abraham was at that time the true Church, so there can be no doubt that the chief and most memorable events which happened in it are so many types for us.” At the same time, the argumentative force of the passage evidently rests upon the apostolic assertion of Christian liberty, not upon the logical cogency of the inference from the details of the type to the thing typified.

These are the two covenants.—“These,” i.e., these women, Hagar and Sarah. “Are,” in the sense of stand, for,” “typically represent,” as in the interpretation of the parable of the tares: “The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world” (Matthew 13:39); or, in the words of the institution of the Lord’s Supper: “this is my body . . . this is my blood” (Matthew 26:26; Matthew 26:28), where the meaning is really as little doubtful as here. “The two covenants” should be simply “two covenants.” What covenants the Apostle goes on to explain. So, too, “the one” in the next clause should be rather one.

Which gendereth to bondage.—Rather, bringing forth children unto bondagei.e., unto a state of bondage, so that from the moment they are born they are subject to bondage. The progeny of Hagar is a nation of bondsmen, like the Jews under the old covenant.

Galatians 4:24. Which things are an allegory — That is, a figurative speech, wherein one thing is expressed, and another intended. Or, as Macknight explains the expression more at large: “Properly, an allegory is, when persons and events, present or near at hand, with their qualities and circumstances, are considered as types or representations of persons and events more remote, to which they have a resemblance. Of this kind were the histories of some persons and events recorded in the Old Testament. For the qualities and circumstances of these persons were, it seems, so ordered by God, as to be apt representations of such future persons and events as God intended should attract the attention of mankind. This, however, is to be laid down as a fixed rule, that no ancient history is to be considered as allegorical but those which God himself, or persons inspired by him, have interpreted allegorically. Wherefore, since the apostle tells us that what Moses hath written concerning the wives of Abraham is an allegorical representation of the two covenants by which men are made the church and people of God, and that his sons, by these wives, represent the persons born under the two covenants, together with the treatment they are to receive from God, he must be believed, on account of the inspiration by which he wrote; especially as, in Galatians 4:27, he hath appealed to the prophet Isaiah, as giving the same account of these matters, Isaiah 54:1. And seeing the prophet, as well as the apostle, (Galatians 4:26,) considers Sarah as the mother of all true believers, may we not suppose she was made to conceive her son supernaturally, that she might be a type of the covenant under which believers are regenerated by the power of God; and that her son might be a type of all who by regeneration become members of the true church of God, called, (Galatians 4:26,) the Jerusalem above, which is free, both from the bondage and from the curse of the law? In like manner, Abraham’s son, by Hagar the bond-maid, may have been begotten by the natural strength of his parents, and born in bondage, that he might be a proper representation of such of Abraham’s children as are God’s visible church merely by being his children according to the flesh; consequently a type, or allegorical representation of the Jerusalem which existed when the apostle wrote, or of the then present Jewish church, which was in bondage to the law.” For these two persons — Hagar and Sarah; are — That is, may well be considered as representing the two covenants — Or the two dispensations of the law and gospel, the tenor of which is so different: the one covenant given from mount Sinai, which beareth children to bondage — That is, by this covenant the Israelites were made the visible church of God, and put in bondage to the law, and were, by its curse, excluded from the heavenly inheritance, if they had no other relation to Abraham than that of natural descent; which covenant is typified by Agar. — “The Jews are very properly said to have been brought forth into bondage by the covenant from Sinai, because the worship enjoined in that covenant was extremely troublesome and expensive; particularly their frequent separations on account of uncleanness, their purifications and washings, their numerous sacrifices, and especially their three annual journeys to Jerusalem;” all which things were the more grievous, in that they did not obtain for them justification before God, or peace of conscience; but with whatever anxious care and trouble the Jews that were piously disposed performed these things, their sense of sin and dread of punishment remained as great as before, Hebrews 9:9-10; Hebrews 10:1-3. “Besides, the covenant from Sinai rendered all that were under it slaves, by the rigour of its precepts, and the terror of its curse. But the covenant or law, which went forth from mount Zion, (Isaiah 2:3,) the gospel covenant, by abolishing these ineffectual rites of worship, and by erecting the Christian Church with its spiritual worship, makes all its members freemen and sons, who obey God from love, and who can address him with confidence by the endearing appellation of Father.”

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.Which things - The different accounts of Ishmael and Isaac.

Are an allegory - May be regarded allegorically, or as illustrating great principles in regard to the condition of slaves and freemen; and may therefore be used to illustrate the effect of servitude to the Law of Moses compared with the freedom of the gospel. He does not mean to say that the historical record of Moses was not true, or was merely allegorical; nor does he mean to say that Moses meant this to be an allegory, or that he intended that it should be applied to the exact purpose to which Paul applied it. No such design is apparent in the narrative of Moses, and it is evident that he had no such intention. Nor can it be shown that Paul means to be understood as saying that Moses had any such design, or that his account was not a record of a plain historical fact. Paul uses it as he would any other historical fact that would illustrate the same principle, and he makes no more use of it than the Saviour did in his parables of real or fictitious narratives to illustrate an important truth, or than we always do of real history to illustrate an important principle.

The word which is used here by Paul (ἀλληγορέω allēgoreō) is derived from ἄλλος allos, another, and ἀγορεύω agoreuō, to speak, to speak openly or in public - Passow. It properly means to speak anything otherwise than it is understood (Passow); to speak allegorically; to allegorize. The word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, nor is it found in the Septuagint, though it occurs often in the classic writers. An allegory is a continued metaphor; see Blair's Lectures, xv. It is a figurative sentence or discourse, in which the principal object is described by another subject resembling it in its properties and circumstances - Webster. Allegories are in words what hieroglyphics are in painting. The distinction between a parable and an allegory is said to be, that a parable is a supposed history to illustrate some important truth, as the parable of the good Samaritan, etc.; an allegory is based on real facts.

It is not probable, however, that this distinction is always carefully observed. Sometimes the allegory is based on the resemblance to some inanimate object, as in the beautiful allegory in Psalm 80. Allegories, parables, and metaphors abound in the writings of the East. Truth was more easily treasured up in this way, and could be better preserved and transmitted when it was connected with an interesting story. The lively fancy of the people of the East also led them to this mode of communicating truth; though a love for it is probably founded in human nature. The best sustained allegory of any considerable length in the world is, doubtless, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress; and yet this is among the most popular of all books. The ancient Jews were exceedingly fond of allegories, and even turned a considerable part of the Old Testament into allegory. The ancient Greek philosophers also were fond of this mode of teaching.

Pythagoras instructed his followers in this manner, and this was common among the Greeks, and was imitated much by the early Christians - Calmet. Many of the Christian fathers, of the school of Origen, made the Old Testament almost wholly allegorical, and found mysteries in the plainest narratives. The Bible became thus with them a book of enigmas, and exegesis consisted in an ingenious and fanciful accommodation of all the narratives in the scriptures to events in subsequent times. The most fanciful, and the most ingenious man, on this principle, was the best interpreter; and as any man might attach any hidden mystery which he chose to the scriptures, they became wholly useless as an infallible guide. Better principles of interpretation now prevail; and the great truth has gone forth, never more to be recalled, that the Bible is to be interpreted on the same principle as all other books; that its language is to be investigated by the same laws as language in all other books; and that no more liberty is to be taken in allegorizing the scriptures than may be taken with Herodotus or Livy. It is lawful to use narratives of real events to illustrate important principles always. Such a use is often made of history; and such a use, I suppose, the apostle Paul makes here of an important fact in the history of the Old Testament.

For these are - These may be used to represent the two covenants. The apostle could not mean that the sons of Sarah and Hagar were literally the two covenants; for this could not be true, and the declaration would be unintelligible. In what sense could Ishmael be called a covenant? The meaning, therefore, must be, that they furnished an apt illustration or representation of the two covenants; they would show what the nature of the two covenants was. The words "are" and "is" are often used in this sense in the Bible, to denote that one thing represents another. Thus in the institution of the Lord's supper; "Take, eat, this is my body" Matthew 26:26; that is, this represents my body. The bread was not the living body that was then before them. So in Galatians 4:28; "This is my blood of the new covenant;" that is, this represents my blood. The wine in the cup could not be the living blood of the Redeemer that was then flowing in his veins; see the note at that place; compare Genesis 41:26.

The two covenants - Margin, "Testaments." The word means here, covenants or compacts; see the note at 1 Corinthians 11:25. The two covenants here referred to, are the one on Mount Sinai made with the Jews, and the other that which is made with the people of God in the gospel. The one resembles the condition of bondage in which Hagar and her son were; the other the condition of freedom in which Sarah and Isaac were.

The one from the Mount Sinai - Margin, "Sina." The Greek is "Sina," though the word may be written either way.

Which gendereth to bondage - Which tends to produce bondage or servitude. That is, the laws are stern and severe; and the observance of them costly, and onerous like a state of bondage; see the note at Acts 15:10.

Which is Agar - Which Hagar would appropriately represent. The condition of servitude produced by the Law had a strong resemblance to her condition as a slave.

24. are an allegory—rather, "are allegorical," that is, have another besides the literal meaning.

these are the two covenants—"these [women] are (that is, mean; omit 'the' with all the oldest manuscripts) two covenants." As among the Jews the bondage of the mother determined that of the child, the children of the free covenant of promise, answering to Sarah, are free; the children of the legal covenant of bondage are not so.

one from—that is, taking his origin from Mount Sinai. Hence, it appears, he is treating of the moral law (Ga 3:19) chiefly (Heb 12:18). Paul was familiar with the district of Sinai in Arabia (Ga 1:17), having gone thither after his conversion. At the gloomy scene of the giving of the Law, he learned to appreciate, by contrast, the grace of the Gospel, and so to cast off all his past legal dependencies.

which gendereth—that is, bringing forth children unto bondage. Compare the phrase (Ac 3:25), "children of the covenant which God made … saying unto Abraham."

Agar—that is, Hagar.

Which things are an allegory: that is called an allegory, when one thing is learned out of another, or something is mystically signified and to be understood further than is expressed. The Scripture hath a peculiar kind of allegories, wherein one thing is signified by and under another thing. The thing here signifying, was Abraham’s wife and concubine, Sarah and Hagar.

For these are the two covenants; the apostle saith, these signified the two covenants, for that is the meaning of are: so as here we have one text more where the verb substantive is put for signifieth; and it will be hard to assign a reason why it should not be so interpreted in the institution of the Lord’s supper, notwithstanding the papists’ and Lutherans’ so earnest contending to the contrary. The very word is here used, diayhkai, that is used in the institution of the Lord’s supper. Here it is,

these are the two covenants or testaments; there, this is the new covenant. The apostle calls them two covenants, ( whereas they were but one), with reference to the time of their exhibition, and manner of their administration, in which they much differed. Nor must we understand the apostle as signifying to us by these words, that Moses wrote the history of Sarah and Hagar with such a design and intention; but only that that history is very applicable to the two covenants, and we shall find, Galatians 4:27, the apostle justifying this application from the authority of the prophet Isaiah. And hereto he complied with the general sense of the Jews, who judged that there was not only a literal, but a mystical sense also, of those histories of the patriarchs.

The one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar: the one covenant was that of the law delivered from mount Sinai, this was like Hagar; for as Hagar was herself a bondwoman, and so her child did partake of the condition of the mother, and Hagar bare a bondman or servant; so the law (which he calls a covenant, because of the stipulation of obedience from the people to the will of God revealed and declared) left those that were under it in a state of bondage or servitude.

Which things are an allegory,.... Or "are allegorized": so Sarah and Hagar were allegorized by Philo the Jew (p), before they were by the apostle. Sarah he makes to signify virtue, and Hagar the whole circle of arts and sciences, which are, or should be, an handmaid to virtue; but these things respecting Hagar and Sarah, the bondwoman and the free, and their several offspring, are much better allegorized by the apostle here. An allegory is a way of speaking in which one thing is expressed by another, and is a continued metaphor; and the apostle's meaning is, that these things point at some other things; have another meaning in them, a mystical and spiritual one, besides the literal; and which the Jews call

"Midrash", a name they give to the mystical and allegorical sense of Scripture, in which they greatly indulge themselves. An allegory is properly a fictitious way of speaking; but here it designs an accommodation of a real history, and matter of fact, to other cases and things, and seems to intend a type or figure; and the sense to be, that these things which were literally true of Hagar and Sarah, of Ishmael and Isaac, were types and figures of things to come; just as what befell the Israelites were types and figures of things that would be under the Gospel dispensation, 1 Corinthians 10:11.

for these are the two covenants, or "testaments"; that is, these women, Hagar and Sarah, signify, and are figures of the two covenants; not the covenant of works, and the covenant of grace. Hagar was no figure of the covenant of works, that was made and broke before she was born; besides, the covenant she was a figure of was made at Mount Sinai, whereas the covenant of works was made in paradise: moreover, the covenant of works was made with Adam, and all his posterity, but the covenant which Hagar signified was only made with the children of Israel; she represented Jerusalem, that then was with her children. Nor was Sarah a figure of the covenant of grace, for this was made long before she had a being, even from everlasting; but they were figures of the two administrations of one and the same covenant, which were to take place in the world successively; and which following one the other, are by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews called the first and the second, the old and the new covenants. Now these are the covenants or testaments, the old and the new, and the respective people under them, which were prefigured by these two women, and their offspring.

The one from the Mount Sinai; that is, one of these covenants, or one of the administrations of the covenant, one dispensation of it, which is the first, and now called old, because abolished, took its rise from Mount Sinai, was delivered there by God to Moses, in order to be communicated to the people of Israel, who were to be under that form of administration until the coming of the Messiah. And because the whole Mosaic economy was given to Moses on Mount Sinai, it is said to be from thence: hence, in Jewish writings, we read, times without number, of , a rite, custom, constitution, or appointment given to Moses "from Mount Sinai", the same phrase as here. Sinai signifies "bushes", and has its name from the bushes which grew upon if, (q); in one of which the Lord appeared to Moses; for Horeb and Sinai are one and the same mount; one signifies waste and desolate, the other bushy; as one part of the mountain was barren and desert, and the other covered with bushes and brambles; and may fitly represent the condition of such that are under the law.

Which gendereth to bondage; begets and brings persons into a state of bondage, induces on them a spirit of bondage to fear, and causes them to be all their lifetime subject to it; as even such were that were under the first covenant, or under the Old Testament dispensation:

which is Agar; or this is the covenant, the administration of it, which Hagar, the bondwoman, Sarah's servant, represented.

(p) De Cherubim, p. 108, 109. (q) Pirke Eliezer, c. 41.

Which things are an allegory: for {z} these are the {a} two covenants; the one from the mount {b} Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.

(z) These represent and symbolize.

(a) They are called two covenants, one of the Old Testament, and another of the New: which were not two indeed, but in respect of the times, and the diversity of the manner of ruling.

(b) He makes mention of Sinai, because that covenant was made in that mountain, of which mountain Hagar was a symbol.

Galatians 4:24. Ἅτινα] quippe quae, quae quidem, taking up the recorded facts under the point of view of a special quality.

ἐστιν ἀλληγορούμενα] are of allegorical import. The word ἀλληγορεῖν, not occurring elsewhere in the N.T., means ἄλλο ἀγορεύειν, so to speak (to set forth, to relate), that another sense is expressed than the words convey; which further meaning lies concealed behind the immediate meaning of what is said. Hesychius: ἀλληγορία ἄλλο τι παρὰ τὸ ἀκουόμενον ὑποδεικνύουσα. Comp. Quinctil. viii. 6; see Plut. Mor. p. 363 D, Athen. ii. p. 69 C; Philo, de migr. Abr. p. 420 B; Joseph. Antt. prooem. 4. In the passive: to have an allegorical meaning,[211] Schol. Soph. Aj. 186; Porph. Pyth. p. 185; Philo, de Cherub. I. p. 143; and see generally, Wetstein.[212] The understanding of the O.T. history in an allegoric sense was, as is well known, extremely prevalent among the later Jews. Synops. Sohar. p. 25. Galatians 1 : “Quicunque dicit narrationes legis alium non habere sensum, quam illius tantum historiae, istius crepet spiritus.” See generally, Döpke, Hermeneut. I. p. 104 ff.; Gfrörer, Gesch. d. Urchristenth. I. i. p. 68 ff. But on account of the Rabbinical training in which Paul had been brought up (comp. Tholuck in the Stud. u. Krit. 1835, p. 369 ff.; Weiss, bibl. Theol. p. 295 f.), and on account of his truthful character, nothing else can be assumed than that he himself was convinced that what he related contained, in addition to its historical sense, the allegorical import set forth by him; so that he did not intend to give a mere argumentum κατʼ ἄνθρωπον, but ascribed to his allegory the cogency of objective proof. Hence he has raised it into the keystone of his whole antinomistic reasoning, and has so earnestly introduced (Galatians 4:21) and carried it out, that we cannot hold (with Schott) that it was intended to be an argumentum secundarium, quod insuper accederet. But in the view of a faith not associated with Rabbinical training, the argument wholly falls to the ground as a real proof (Luther says that it is “too weak to stand the test”);[213] while the thing proved is none the less established independent of the allegory, and is merely illustrated by it. “Nothing can be more preposterous than the endeavours of interpreters to vindicate the argument of the apostle as one objectively true.” Baur, Paulus, II. p. 312, ed. 2.

αὗται] namely, Hagar and Sarah; for see afterwards ἥτις ἐστὶν Ἄγαρ. Hence not equivalent to ταῦτα, sc. τὰ ἀλληγορούμενα (Calovius and others), as is assumed, in order not to admit here an εἶναι σημαντικόν.

εἰσι] namely, allegorically, and so far = signify. Comp. Matthew 13:20; Matthew 13:38, et al.

δύο διαθῆκαι] two covenants, not: institutions, declarations of will (Usteri), or generally “arrangements connected with the history of salvation” (Hofmann), any more than in Galatians 3:15. The characteristic of a covenant, that there must be two parties, existed actually in the case of the διαθῆκαι (God and the men, who were subject to the law,

God and the men, who believe in Christ). Comp. 1 Corinthians 11:25μία μὲν ἀπὸ ὄρους Σινᾶ] One proceeding from Mount Sinai, which was instituted on Mount Sinai, and therefore issues from it. Instead of ἀπό, the mere genitive might have been used (Bernhardy, p. 223), but the former is more definite and descriptive. The μέν is without any corresponding δέ (Kühner, II. p. 430), for in none of the cases where δέ subsequently occurs is it correlative to this μέν. In point of fact the contrast anticipated in μία μέν certainly follows in Galatians 4:26, but not in conjunction with μέν; see what is said on Galatians 4:26.

εἰς δουλείαν γεννῶσα] bringing forth unto bondage, that is, placing those who belong to this covenant, by means of their so belonging, in a state of bondage, namely, through subjection to the Mosaic law. See Galatians 4:1 ff. The notion of a mother has caused the retention of the figurative expression γεννῶσα.

ἥτις ἐστὶν Ἄγαρ] ἥτις, quippe quae, is neither predicate (Bengel) nor attributive definition (as that διαθήκη, which Hagar is; so Hofmann), as if it were written Ἄγαρ οὖσα; but it is the subject, just as ἅτινα and αὗται, and also ἥτις in Galatians 4:26. The name, not as yet expressed, is now emphatically added. The Sinaitic covenant is that which Hagar is in the history referred to—is allegorically identical with Hagar.

[211] Not: to be the object of allegorical conception (Hofmann). The allegorical sense is à priori contained and given in the facts which stand recorded; they have, contained in them, the allegorical import which is only exhibited by the explanation. If ἐστιν ἀλληγ. were to be taken, not in the sense of being expressed, but in that of being conceived as such, which is certainly found in Plutarch, Synesius, and elsewhere, Paul must have written ἀλληγορεῖται, or the verbal adjective ἁλληγορητέος. Moreover, ἀλληγορεῖν is related to αἰνίττεσθαι as species to genus; but Hofmann arbitrarily asserts that the latter requires for its interpretation wit, the former understanding. Αἰνίττεσθαι includes every obscure or veiled discourse (Herod. v. 56; Plat. Rep. p. 332 B, and frequently; Soph. Aj. 1137; Eur. Ion. 430; Lucian, V. H. i. 2), whether it be in an allegorical form or not, and whether it require wit or not.

[212] In the older Greek, allegory was termed ὑπόνοια (see Plut. de aud. poet. p. 19 E), Plato, de Rep. p. 378 D; Xen. Symp. 3. 6; Ruhnk. ad Tim. p. 200 f.).

[213] We must be on our guard against confounding the idea of the allegory with that of the type (1 Corinthians 10:6; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Romans 5:14; comp. Hebrews 9:24; 1 Peter 3:21), as Calvin and many others have done: “a familia Abrahae similitudo ducitur ad ecclesiam; quemadmodum enim Abrahae domus tunc fuit vera ecclesia, ita minime dubium est, quin praecipui et prae aliis memorabiles eventus, qui in ea nobis contigerunt, nobis totidem sint typi.” Also Tholuck (d. A. T. im N. T. p. 39, ed. 6) and Wieseler understand ἀλληγορούμενα as equivalent to τυπικῶς λεγόμενα. But even Philo, de opif. m. I. p. 38. 10, puts the type not as equivalent, but only as similar to the allegory; and Josephus, Antt. prooem 4, speaks of Moses as speaking in a partly allegorical sense, without intimating that he intended historical types. The allegory and the type are contrasted on the one hand with that which is only πλάσματα μύθων, and on the other hand with that which is said ἐξ εὐθείας (directly, expressly). But neither does a type necessarily rest on allegorical interpretation, nor does the allegory necessarily presuppose that what is so interpreted is a type; the two may be independent one of the other. Thus, e.g., the allegory of the name of Hagar, in Philo, Alleg. II. p. 135. 29, is anything but typology. See the passages themselves in Wetstein. At any rate, the allegory has a much freer scope, and may be handled very differently by different people; “potest alius aliud et argutius fingere et veri cum similitudine suspicari; potest aliud tertius, potest aliud quartus, atque ut se tulerint ingeniorum opinantium qualitates, ita singulae res possunt infinitis interpretationibus explicari.” Arnobius. The type is a real divine preformation of a N.T. fact in the O. T. history. Comp. on Romans 5:14; also Tholuck, l.c. p. 47 ff. But one fact signifies another allegorically, when the ideal character of the latter is shown as figuratively presenting itself in the former; in which case the significant fact needs not to be derived from the O. T., and the interpretations may be very various. Comp. Kleinschmidt in the Mecklenb. theol. Zeitschr. 1861, p. 859. Matthias, in the interpretation of our passage, abides by the wider idea of “figure;” but this does not satisfy the strict idea of the allegorical, so far as this is the expression of an inner, deeper significance,—of an ἑτέρως νοούμενον.

Galatians 4:24. ἅτινά ἐστιν ἀλληγορούμενα. No doubt is thrown on the historical truth of the patriarchal history by classing the story of Ishmael with allegories: though an additional value is thereby claimed for it as embodying spiritual truth, and typifying the permanent relation between the two seeds.—αὗται γάρ εἰσιν. The two women are identified with the two covenants, the Sinaitic and the Christian, which they typify: and the characteristic features of the two are declared to be slavery and freedom.—γεννῶσα. This term is applied to the conception of the mother in Luke 1:13; Luke 1:57 also, though more often applied to the father.

24. which things are an allegory] Rather, ‘Now all these things may be regarded as an allegory’. The facts are historical, but they are types (1 Corinthians 10:11) calculated and intended to teach great spiritual truths, and they have their counterparts in the facts (equally historical) of the Gospel dispensation. We generally regard an allegory as a fictitious narrative. It may be so, as Bunyan’s Pilgrims’ Progress; but there is no indication in St Paul’s language that he dissented from the common belief among the Jews that the narrative in Genesis was historical[29].

[29] Dr Johnson defines an allegory as ‘a figurative discourse in which something other is intended than is contained in the words literally taken’. By the examples which he gives he seems to confound it with ‘a metaphor’.

for these are the two covenants] Rather, ‘for these (women) are two covenants (or dispensations)’.

the one from the mount Sinai] ‘one from Mount Sinai’. We should have expected, ‘and the other from Mount Sion, answering to the heavenly Jerusalem, bearing children into liberty, and this is Sara’; but the explanatory clauses which follow interrupt the construction, which is resumed in Galatians 4:26, ‘but Jerusalem which is above &c.’

which gendereth to bondage] Better, bearing children into bondage.

which is Agar] ‘and this is (typified by) Hagar’.

Galatians 4:24. Ἀλληγορούμενα) is compounded of ἄλλος and ἀγορέω, to say; so that an allegory is, when one thing is said, another more excellent is signified, for example, in mythology; see Eustathius, or at least the index to his work. This scheme will assist the comparison:—



Hagar, the Bond-maid:

The Son of the Bond-maid:

Isaac, the son of the Free Woman.

allegorically, the two covenants.

She who has a husband:

Those who are from Mount Sinai:

Those who are of the promise.

The Mountain (that is now):

She who is upwards (that shall be afterwards).

Jerusalem, which now is:

Jerusalem, which is above.

The Flesh:

The Spirit.


The Mother: brings forth slaves.

The Offspring, abundant at first:

more abundant afterwards.


suffers persecution.

is cast out:

rejoices in the inheritance.

But the language of Paul is of the most extensive application, so that his discourse may comprehend the doctrine both of the Law and the Gospel, and the Old and New Dispensations; and not only all these things together in the abstract, but also the people belonging to each doctrine and dispensation, as if they were two families, with their respective mothers, in the concrete. Hence that declaration, Agar is the covenant from Mount Sinai, to which we is opposed, Galatians 4:28. Hence, by parity of reasoning, the quick passing from the one to the other in the allegory.—μία μὲν, the one indeed) But (δὲ), in Galatians 4:26, corresponds to this indeed (μὲν); and there follows at Galatians 4:28, express mention of the promise, as an antithesis to Sinai or the law; and the same term, promise, swallows up the expression, the other covenant, which would seem to be required in the Apodosis.—Σινᾶ, Sinai) Therefore Paul chiefly treats of the moral law; comp. Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 12:18, etc.—εἰς δουλείαν γεννῶσα, which gendereth to bondage) For she has children, and those too at first numerous.—ἥτις, which) The predicate. Hagar is the subject,[39] if the enunciation be considered within the context; on the other hand, without the context, it is the predicate, as is the case in the allegorical discourse, Matthew 13:37-38.brings forth free-born children.The Desolate.The Free Woman.

[39] Beng. thus translates it, “Which Hagar is,” not “Which is Hagar.”—ED.

Verse 24. - Which things are an allegory (ἅτινά ἐστιν ἀλληγορούμενα); which things are written (or, expounded) with a further meaning. The relative ἅτινα, as distinguished from , probably means "which facts, being of this description, are," etc., or, "things, which are of such a sort that they are," etc. (comp. Colossians 2:23 in the Greek). The apostle, perhaps, intimates that the particulars just recited by him belong to a class of objects distinguished among other objects presented to us in the Old Testament by having a further sense than the literal historical one; the literal historical sense, however, by no means being thereby superseded. Comp. 1 Corinthians 10:11, "Now these things happened unto them (τύποι, or τυπικῶς) as figures [or, 'by way of figure ']." The verb ἀλληγορεῖν, is shown by lexicons, Liddell and Scott's and others, to mean, either to speak a thing allegorically or to expound a thing as allegorical. Bishops Ellicott and Lightfoot furnish passages illustrative of both meanings, particularly of the second; and the latter adds the observation that it is possible that the apostle uses the verb here in the sense of being allegorically expounded, "referring to some recognized mode of interpretation." St. Paul did at times refer to authority extrinsical to his own (Ephesians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 11:16; 1 Corinthians 15:11). But whichever of the two possible senses of the verb ἀλληγορεῖσθαι was the one here intended by the apostle, there is no improbability in the supposition that not now for the first time was the narrative of Hagar and Ishmael thus applied: it is quite supposable, for instance, that it had been so applied at Antioch, in the animated discussions in which Paul, Barnabas, and Silas encountered the Judaists in that Church. At all events, it is not merely supposable, but in a high degree probable, that at least some of the historical personages, institutions, and events of the Old Testament Scriptures were wont to be allegorically treated by leaders of Christian thought of the highest authority. We cannot acquiesce in the position adopted by some critics, that such allegorizing is to be relegated to the region of mere Jewish rabbinism, now to be regarded as exploded. And we need not here insist upon the consideration that a rabbinical origin would constitute no valid objection to our acceptance of such allegorizing treatment of Scripture, because that the results of rabbinical exegesis and of rabbinical investigations in theology were in many cases of the highest value - a fact which those who are acquainted, for example, with Professor Reuss's 'Histoire de la Theologie Cbretienne' will not be disposed to question. For we resist the attempt to thrust us back upon the schools of the rabbins, as if it were from them only that St. Paul derived this allegorical method of Scripture exposition. Those schools may have made him acquainted with it, it is true; but altogether independently of rabbinical instruction, the leading teachers of the Church, even before Paul's conversion, "unlearned men," ιδιῶται, as the rabbinists regarded them, had, as we cannot doubt, learnt thus to apply Scripture in the school of Jesus. Christ himself, not only before his passion, but also, and we may believe with greater definiteness and particularity, after his resurrection (Luke 24:27, 45; Acts 1:3), had imparted to his apostles and other disciples some expositions of historical facts of the Old Testament, which must have been of this description, and which would suggest the legitimate application of the same method in other analogous instances. And those men were not only disciples, pupils of Jesus, but were likewise especial, though not the exclusive, organs of the Holy Spirit's teaching in the Church (John 16:12-15; Ephesians 3:5; Ephesians 4:11). Particular allegorical expositions, therefore, received amongst those apostles and prophets of Christ, came clothed with the highest authority, emanating as they well might have done from Christ's own oral teaching, or from an immediate special leading of his Spirit. And, further, we feel ourselves entitled to believe that the supreme Revealer of spiritual truth to mankind might well think fit to appoint, not only words or ceremonial institutions as means of imparting religious instruction or of prophetical indication, but historical incidents as well; not merely so ordering the manner in which his inspired organs framed their narratives of certain occurrences as to make those narratives prophetical, but also in his disposal of human affairs so ordering the occurrences themselves as that they should be prophetical; furnishing (so to speak) tableaux vivants, in which the faith of his servants should read, ff not spiritual facts which were as yet future, at least spiritual facts after they had come to pass, the prophetical adumbration of which, now recognized by them, would serve to confirm their belief in them and their comprehension of them. The fact that Christ repeatedly and most pointedly referred to the strange experiences of Jonah as prophetical of his own passion and resurrection proves to a certainty that events might be predictive as well as utterances of prophets. Our Lord's use of the story of the brazen serpent, of the gift of manna, and of the Passover (Luke 22:16) points in the same direction. We have also apostolical guidance in construing the Passover, the Exodus, the story of Melehiscdec, Abraham's offering up of his son, the yearly Fast of the Atonement, as legitimately subject to similar treatment. Since the old economy with its histories and its ordinances originated from the same Divine Author as the new, it is no unreasonable belief that in the things of preparatory dispensations he had set foreshadowings, and in no scant number, of those great things in the spiritual economy which from "eternal ages" had been his thoughts towards us, and in which the whole progress of human history was to find its consummation. In the apostle's discussion of his subject there are in part distinctly specified, in part merely indicated, a great variety of contrasts; these the reader will find presented by Bengel in his 'Gnomon' in a tabulated form with great distinctness. For these are the two covenants; or, testaments (αῦται γάρ εἰσι δύο [Receptus, εἰσιν αἱ δύο] διαθῆκαι); for these women are two covenants. The Textus Receptus has αἱ δύο διαθῆκαι. but the article is expunged by all recent editors. What the apostle means is this: the circumstance that Abraham had two wives pointed to the fact that there were to be, not one covenant only, but two. He has previously (Galatians 3:15, 17) spoken of "the promise" as a covenant; while also this term was already a familiar designation of the economy which God appointed to the natural "seed of Abraham." Compare also Jeremiah's mention of these two "covenants" (Jeremiah 31:31). For the use of the verb "are," comp. Matthew 13:37-39; Revelation 1:20. A is B, and B is A, in the characteristics which they have in common. The one from the Mount Sinai (μία μὲν ἀπὸ ὄρους Σινᾶ); one from Mount Sinai. The μία δὲ, or, ἡ δευτέρα, which should have followed to make the sequel of the sentence conformable with its commencement, is, in form, wanting, having in the framing of the sentence got lost sight of, through the parenthesis introduced immediately after this clause to illustrate its bearing; for the words ἡ δὲ ἄνω Ἱερουσαλὴμ of ver. 26 only in substance furnish the apodosis to this protasis, being themselves evolved out of what immediately precedes them. The covenant which is our mother is styled, in Ver. 28,"promise." Windischmann proposes for a formally corresponding apodosis something of this sort: Ἡ δὲ δευτέρα ἀπ οὐρανοῦ (or, ἄνωθεν), εἰς ἐλευθερίαν γεννῶσα, ἥτις ἐστὶ Σάῥῤα συστοιχεῖ δὲ τῇ ἄνω Ἱερουσαλήμ η} ἐλευθέρα ἐστὶ μετὰ τῶν τέκνων αὐτῆς τούτεστιν ἡμῶν (or, οἵτινές ἐσμεν ἡμεῖς). "From Mount Sinai;" being promulgated from Mount Sinai, it takes its being therefrom. Which gendereth to bondage (εἰς δουλείαν γεννῶσα); bearing children unto bondage Those subject to a covenant are regarded as its offspring; as Acts 3:35, "Ye are the children... of the covenant," etc.: their lives are moulded by its direction; they come under the promises, or the discipline, assured by its terms; in short, they owe to it their spiritual condition. The apostle assumes it to be a manifest fact, having before repeatedly asserted it, that those under the Law are in a condition of servitude. Which is Hagar (ἥτις ἐστὶν Ἄγαρ); which is Hagar. The meaning of ἥτις here is, "which being such in character as it is, is Hagar." This covenant, with its children, being wrapped in an element of slavery, is kindred in character with Hagar and her offspring. It is objected that Ishmael was not, in fact, a slave. But as Hagar does not appear to have been a recognized concubine of Abraham, in the same way as Bilhah and Zilpah were concubines of Jacob, but still continued to be Sarah's handmaid ("thy maid," Genesis 16:6), her child was, of course, born into the same condition. With Sarah's consent, it is true, Abraham might, if he had thought fit, have adopted him as a child of his own; but this does not appear to have been done. Galatians 4:24Are an allegory (ἐστιν ἀλληγορούμενα)

N.T.o. Lit. are allegorised. From ἄλλο another, ἀγορεύειν to speak. Hence, things which are so spoken as to give a different meaning from that which the words express. For parable, allegory, fable, and proverb, see on Matthew 13:3. An allegory is to be distinguished from a type. An O.T. type is a real prefiguration of a N.T. fact, as the Jewish tabernacle explained in Hebrews 9, or the brazen serpent, John 3:14. Comp. Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 10:6, 1 Corinthians 10:11. An allegory exhibits figuratively the ideal character of a fact. The type allows no latitude of interpretation. The allegory lends itself to various interpretations. This passage bears traces of Paul's rabbinical training. At the time of Christ, Scripture was overlaid with that enormous mass of rabbinic interpretation which, beginning as a supplement to the written law, at last superseded and threw it into contempt. The plainest sayings of Scripture were resolved into another sense; and it was asserted by one of the Rabbis that he that renders a verse of Scripture as it appears, says what is not true. The celebrated Akiba assumed that the Pentateuch was a continuous enigma, and that a meaning was to be found in every monosyllable, and a mystical sense in every hook and flourish of the letters. The Talmud relates how Akiba was seen by Moses in a vision, drawing from every horn of every letter whole bushels of decisions. The oral laws, subsequently reduced to writing in the Talmud, completely overshadowed and superseded the Scriptures, so that Jesus was literally justified in saying: "Thus have ye make the commandment of God of none effect through your tradition."

Paul had been trained as a Rabbi in the school of Hillel, the founder of the rabbinical system, whose hermeneutic rules were the basis of the Talmud. As Jowett justly says: "Strange as it may at first appear that Paul's mode of interpreting the Old Testament Scriptures should not conform to our laws of logic or language, it would be far stranger if it had not conformed with the natural modes of thought and association in his own day." His familiarity with this style of exposition gave him a real advantage in dealing with Jews.

It is a much-mooted question whether, in this passage, Paul is employing an argument or an illustration. The former would seem to be the case. On its face, it seems improbable that, as Dr. Bruce puts it: "it is poetry rather than logic, meant not so much to convince the reason as to captivate the imagination." Comp. the argument in Galatians 3:16, and see note. It appears plain that Paul believed that his interpretation actually lay hidden in the O.T. narrative, and that he adduced it as having argumentative force. Whether he regarded the correspondence as designed to extend to all the details of his exposition may be questioned; but he appears to have discerned in the O.T. narrative a genuine type, which he expanded into his allegory. For other illustrations of this mode of treatment, see Romans 2:24; Romans 9:33; 1 Corinthians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 9:9, 1 Corinthians 9:10; 1 Corinthians 10:1-4.

For these are

Hagar and Sarah are, allegorically. Signify. Comp. Matthew 13:20, Matthew 13:38; Matthew 26:26, Matthew 26:28; 1 Corinthians 10:4, 1 Corinthians 10:16.

The one


From Mount Sinai (ἀπὸ ὄρους Σινά)

The covenant emanating from Sinai: made on that mountain. The old covenant. See 2 Corinthians 3:14.

Which gendereth to bondage (εἰς δουλείαν γεννῶσα)

That is, the Sinaitic covenant places its children in a condition of bondage; note the personification and the allegorical blending of fact and figure.

Which is Hagar (ἥτις ἐστὶν Ἅραβίᾳ)

The Sinaitic covenant is that which, in Abraham's history, is Hagar: which is allegorically identified with Hagar the bondmaid.

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