Study 28: Gal.
Two sons, two Covenants
me, ye that desire to
be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written,
Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a
freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the
flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things
an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount
Sinai, which gendereth [=gives
birth to] to bondage, which is Agar. For this
is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and
is in bondage with her children.
1. An allegory
In order to illustrate his
point Paul cites an example from one of the books of the law! Although
Genesis contains no law, in the sense of the Mosaic law, it was, with
other books of the Pentateuch, considered to be one of the
books of the law.
And Paul turns our attention to the incident of Abraham,
Ishmael, calling it an allegory.
Now we neeed, at this point, put the record straight about what is an
allegory. Vine in his expostional dictionary puts it thus:
"contain an allegory" (AV, "are an
allegory"), formed from allos, "other," and agoreuo, "to speak
in a place of assembly" (agora, "the market-place"), came to
signify "to speak," not according to the primary sense of the
word, but so that the
facts stated are applied to illustrate
"allegorical" meaning does not do away with the
literal meaning of the narrative. There may
be more than one
"allegorical" meaning though, of course, only one literal
meaning. Scripture histories represent or embody spiritual
principles, and these are ascertained, not by the play of the
imagination, but by the rightful application of the doctrines of
So what we have in Gal
Paul recollecting this incident in Abraham's life, and uses
to illustrate the principle of being under the law and of the flesh.
So let us consider the matter more closely.
2. Ishmael - of the
When God called Abram from Ur of
the Chaldees, He promised him a Land to dwell in. It came out
the blue, Abram didn't decide for himself to move away to a land he
didn't know; it was God's initiative and His alone. Sometime
Abram was bothered about how his descendants were going to inherit, the
he had none!
these things the
word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram:
I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. And Abram
Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the
steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said,
Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is
mine heir. And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,
This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine
own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth
and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able
to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for
righteousness. And he said unto him, I am the LORD that
thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.
Abram, in order to help out, suggested the son of his
could be heir; but God said no, for He had given him the land and the
heir would come from Abram's own body. We then have the
of the covenant. Moving into the next chapter of Genesis we find that
Sarai, seeing that she could have no children, enticed Abraham into
having a child and heir by her handmaid, Hagar.
Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an
Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said unto Abram,
now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto
my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram
hearkened to the voice of Sarai. And Sarai Abram’s
Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the
land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.
was thinking, we are
not told, but we can imagine: "well
the heir from Hagar, an Egyptian, would be from my
body as God promised, and it is what the others in the world do anyway,
there can't be anything wrong I'm trying to help God out."
If he didn't
say that verbally his actions certainly did. Thus Ishmael was
born of the flesh, and not as Isaac was to be, of promise.
Whilst this is not Paul's direct point here, it is worth noting
that this also illustrates walking after the flesh.
knowing God's will, reason as to how it should be accomplished; so by
carnal thinking employ the methods of the world (which is what Egypt,
in type represents) and if necessary join themselves to handmaids
(slaves) of the world. Instead of believing God and allowing
to fulfil His will in His way.
Back to Paul's argument: because Ishmael was born of a slave
woman he too was a slave, as far as the promise of God was
concerned. It was Isaac that was to receive the
not Ishmael. We remind ourselves that this is an allegory of the
Covenants, and in no way suggests that Ishmael nor his descendants are
inferior as people.
3. Under the law?
This allegory was a rebuke to those who wanted to be
Already in this epistle Paul has established some basic things:
So now Paul, in relating Ishmael and Isaac, one of the flesh
and the other of the Spirit, shows the Galatians the foolishness of
wanting to be under the law; apart from the previous things mentioned,
he states that just as Ishmael was in bondage, being born of bondmaid,
so they were, if they wanted to be of the law; for a son of a
slave was slave and a son of a freewoman was free. The
were showing by their actions that they were desirous to be slaves once
- The works of the law can not justify, only
faith can do that.
- Receiving the Spirit is by faith and not the works of
- Ministry of the Spirit is by faith and not works of
- The law brings a curse, and Christ has redeemed us
from it. Gal.3:10-13.
- The law was ADDED as an extra till Christ was
- The law was a 'schoolmaster ' to bring us to
Christ Gal.3: 24
- Being under the law meant being on the same level as
slave, being in Christ means we have the position of sons Gal.3:26 -
4. The Covenants
So then what does the allegory represent?
things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants;
the one from
the mount Sinai, which gendereth [=gives
birth to] to bondage, which is Agar.
that it is the two
Covenants: the old and new. The Mosaic, or old Covenant, was
given at Mount Sinai. Let us consider what this Old Covenant actually
was. We have already established that is was added as a temporary
measure until the Spirit came. So what was it and its terms?
4.1 The Old Covenant
The Old Covenant was established, at
Mount Sinai, with Israel. If they kept the Covenant then they would be
a kingdom of priests unto God.
Moses went up unto
God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus
shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel;
Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on
eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now
therefore, if ye
will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a
peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These
are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
nation a set of
laws, rituals, ceremonies and sacrifices for them to keep. All, as we
know was external, but it was what God told them to do as their part in
keeping the Covenant. As long as they kept their part God kept His, and
they remained safely in the Land. But they couldn't keep it! Reading
the OT shows us clearly that the nation habitually broke the Covenant:
despite God raising up Judges, prophets, righteous kings, the nation
fell away. So much so that God had no alternative but to bring
judgement on Israel.
The nation was divided and eventually, when there was no remedy, God
sent judgement and exile.
Moreover all the chief
of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the
abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the LORD which
he had hallowed in Jerusalem. And the LORD God of their
fathers sent to them by his
messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion
on his people, and on his dwelling place: But they mocked the
messengers of God, and despised his words,
and misused his prophets, until the
wrath of the LORD arose against his
people, till there was no remedy. Therefore he
brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who
slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary,
and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that
stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand. And all the
vessels of the house of God, great and small, and
the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king,
and of his princes; all these he brought to Babylon. And they
burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of
Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed
all the goodly vessels thereof. And them that had escaped
from the sword carried he away to
Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign
of the kingdom of Persia: To fulfil the word of the LORD by
the mouth of Jeremiah, until
the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she
kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years.
But God in doing so promised a new and
better Covenant. The writer to the Hebrews puts it thus:
if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have
been sought for the second. For finding fault with them,
he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new
covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day
when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt;
because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not,
saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make
the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I
will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I
will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And
shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother,
saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the
greatest. For I will be merciful to their
unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no
In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that
which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
Heb.8:7-13 quoting Jer.31:31-34
4.2 The New Covenant
the Covenant that was
at fault, but the people; for they had no power to keep it. So
God promised the New Covenant, whereby God would place His laws in the
heart, there would be a change of heart in the people Ezk.
This new Covenant would mean there would be no external law to keep,
but, rather, it would be internal; we would have His Spirit by whom we
live. We would know God personally, and we would
learn individually from Him. By being born again
entering into the New Covenant we would be able to live as God intended
us to live. Why then did the Galatians desire to be under the system
that only brought bondage, and inability to please God?
5. Of which son are
Two sons, two Covenants. One of promise, by the
Spirit, one of bondage, by the flesh. Which are you of? We
have already seen that if we are of faith then we are of the promised
seed, and are blessed with faithful Abraham, and are his children. Gal. 3:7-15. We
are therefore of the freewoman and are free; we are not of the
bondmaid, Hagar [ ie.
you are trying to be a Christian by an external code then you are not
the Spirit, and are not in the New Covenant. And therefore you are not
of the freewoman but of the bondmaid. You cannot be of both
sons, so which are you of? The promised seed, or of the flesh?
If you were once in the
Spirit and are now living life by external laws/rules then
you have fallen
away. Sinai gives birth to bondage, just as
James' thought that once lust has conceived, the final outcome is death
when followed through to its conclusion, so the same basic idea here is
present: once you desire to be under an external law/works of the flesh
you have given birth to an outcome that leads only to bondage. Flesh
gives birth to flesh, Spirit to spirit Jn.3:6.
If you are born again then you are of the Spirit and of the
freewoman, why then desire to be under bondage once more in
to live by external rules? Why go back to that which is
If you are in one of these conditions then you are either, not born
again in the first place, or were
and have now returned into bondage; whichever the case then
you need to repent and be
renewed by God's Spirit.