The folly of returning to legal observances for justification. (1-7) The happy change made in the Gentile believers. (8-11) The apostle reasons against following false teachers. (12-18) He expresses his earnest concern for them. (19,20) And then explains the difference between what is to be expected from the law, and from the gospel. (21-31)
Verses 1-7 The apostle deals plainly with those who urged the law of Moses together with the gospel of Christ, and endeavoured to bring believers under its bondage. They could not fully understand the meaning of the law as given by Moses. And as that was a dispensation of darkness, so of bondage; they were tied to many burdensome rites and observances, by which they were taught and kept subject like a child under tutors and governors. We learn the happier state of Christians under the gospel dispensation. From these verses see the wonders of Divine love and mercy; particularly of God the Father, in sending his Son into the world to redeem and save us; of the Son of God, in submitting so low, and suffering so much for us; and of the Holy Spirit, in condescending to dwell in the hearts of believers, for such gracious purposes. Also, the advantages Christians enjoy under the gospel. Although by nature children of wrath and disobedience, they become by grace children of love, and partake of the nature of the children of God; for he will have all his children resemble him. Among men the eldest son is heir; but all God's children shall have the inheritance of eldest sons. May the temper and conduct of sons ever show our adoption; and may the Holy Spirit witness with our spirits that we are children and heirs of God.
Verses 8-11 The happy change whereby the Galatians were turned from idols to the living God, and through Christ had received the adoption of sons, was the effect of his free and rich grace; they were laid under the greater obligation to keep to the liberty wherewith he had made them free. All our knowledge of God begins on his part; we know him because we are known of him. Though our religion forbids idolatry, yet many practise spiritual idolatry in their hearts. For what a man loves most, and cares most for, that is his god: some have their riches for their god, some their pleasures, and some their lusts. And many ignorantly worship a god of their own making; a god made all of mercy and no justice. For they persuade themselves that there is mercy for them with God, though they repent not, but go on in their sins. It is possible for those who have made great professions of religion, to be afterwards drawn aside from purity and simplicity. And the more mercy God has shown, in bringing any to know the gospel, and the liberties and privileges of it, the greater their sin and folly in suffering themselves to be deprived of them. Hence all who are members of the outward church should learn to fear and to suspect themselves. We must not be content because we have some good things in ourselves. Paul fears lest his labour is in vain, yet he still labours; and thus to do, whatever follows, is true wisdom and the fear of God. This every man must remember in his place and calling.
Verses 12-18 The apostle desires that they would be of one mind with him respecting the law of Moses, as well as united with him in love. In reproving others, we should take care to convince them that our reproofs are from sincere regard to the honour of God and religion and their welfare. The apostle reminds the Galatians of the difficulty under which he laboured when he first came among them. But he notices, that he was a welcome messenger to them. Yet how very uncertain are the favour and respect of men! Let us labour to be accepted of God. You once thought yourselves happy in receiving the gospel; have you now reason to think otherwise? Christians must not forbear speaking the truth, for fear of offending others. The false teachers who drew the Galatians from the truth of the gospel were designing men. They pretended affection, but they were not sincere and upright. An excellent rule is given. It is good to be zealous always in a good thing; not for a time only, or now and then, but always. Happy would it be for the church of Christ, if this zeal was better maintained.
Verses 19-20 The Galatians were ready to account the apostle their enemy, but he assures them he was their friend; he had the feelings of a parent toward them. He was in doubt as to their state, and was anxious to know the result of their present delusions. Nothing is so sure a proof that a sinner has passed into a state of justification, as Christ being formed in him by the renewal of the Holy Spirit; but this cannot be hoped for, while men depend on the law for acceptance with God.
Verses 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.
Verses 28-31 The history thus explained is applied. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bond-woman, but of the free. If the privileges of all believers were so great, according to the new covenant, how absurd for the Gentile converts to be under that law, which could not deliver the unbelieving Jews from bondage or condemnation! We should not have found out this allegory in the history of Sarah and Hagar, if it had not been shown to us, yet we cannot doubt it was intended by the Holy Spirit. It is an explanation of the subject, not an argument in proof of it. The two covenants of works and grace, and legal and evangelical professors, are shadowed forth. Works and fruits brought forth in a man's own strength, are legal. But if arising from faith in Christ, they are evangelical. The first covenant spirit is of bondage unto sin and death. The second covenant spirit is of liberty and freedom; not liberty to sin, but in and unto duty. The first is a spirit of persecution; the second is a spirit of love. Let those professors look to it, who have a violent, harsh, imposing spirit, towards the people of God. Yet as Abraham turned aside to Hagar, so it is possible a believer may turn aside in some things to the covenant of works, when through unbelief and neglect of the promise he acts according to the law, in his own strength; or in a way of violence, not of love, towards the brethren. Yet it is not his way, not his spirit to do so; hence he is never at rest, till he returns to his dependence on Christ again. Let us rest our souls on the Scriptures, and by a gospel hope and cheerful obedience, show that our conversation and treasure are indeed in heaven.
Galatians 4:1-31 . THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED: ILLUSTRATION OF OUR SUBJECTION TO THE LAW ONLY TILL CHRIST CAME, FROM THE SUBJECTION OF AN HEIR TO HIS GUARDIAN TILL HE IS OF AGE. PAUL'S GOOD WILL TO THE GALATIANS SHOULD LEAD THEM TO THE SAME GOOD WILL TO HIM AS THEY HAD AT FIRST SHOWN. THEIR DESIRE TO BE UNDER THE LAW SHOWN BY THE ALLEGORY OF ISAAC AND ISHMAEL TO BE INCONSISTENT WITH THEIR GOSPEL LIBERTY.
1-7. The fact of God's sending His Son to redeem us who were under the law ( Galatians 4:4 ), and sending the Spirit of His Son into our hearts ( Galatians 4:6 ), confirms the conclusion ( Galatians 3:29 ) that we are "heirs according to the promise."
the heir--( Galatians 3:29 ). It is not, as in earthly inheritances, the death of the father, but our Father's sovereign will simply that makes us heirs.
child--Greek, "one under age."
differeth nothing, &c.--that is, has no more freedom than a slave (so the Greek for "servant" means). He is not at his own disposal.
lord of all--by title and virtual ownership (compare 1 Corinthians 3:21 1 Corinthians 3:22 ).
2. tutors and governors--rather, "guardians (of the person) and stewards (of the property)." Answering to "the law was our schoolmaster" or "tutor" ( Galatians 3:24 ).
until the time appointed of the father--in His eternal purposes ( Ephesians 1:9-11 ). The Greek is a legal term, expressing a time defined by law, or testamentary disposition.
3. we--the Jews primarily, and inclusively the Gentiles also. For the "we" in Galatians 4:5 plainly refers to both Jew and Gentile believers. The Jews in their bondage to the law of Moses, as the representative people of the world, include all mankind virtually amenable to God's law ( Romans 2:14 Romans 2:15 ; compare Note, in a state of discipline suitable to nonage, till Christ came as the Emancipator.
were in bondage--as "servants" ( Galatians 4:1 ).
under the elements--or "rudiments"; rudimentary religion teaching of a non-Christian character: the elementary lessons of outward things (literally, "of the [outward] world"); such as the legal ordinances mentioned, Galatians 4:10 ( Colossians 2:8 Colossians 2:20 ). Our childhood's lessons [CONYBEARE and HOWSON]. Literally, The letters of the alphabet ( Hebrews 5:12 ).
4. the fulness of the time--namely, "the time appointed by the Father" ( Galatians 4:2 ). Compare Note, Luke 1:57 , Acts 2:1 , Ezekiel 5:2 . "The Church has its own ages" [BENGEL]. God does nothing prematurely, but, foreseeing the end from the beginning, waits till all is ripe for the execution of His purpose. Had Christ come directly after the fall, the enormity and deadly fruits of sin would not have been realized fully by man, so as to feel his desperate state and need of a Saviour. Sin was fully developed. Man's inability to save himself by obedience to the law, whether that of Moses, or that of conscience, was completely manifested; all the prophecies of various ages found their common center in this particular time: and Providence, by various arrangements in the social and political, as well as the moral world, had fully prepared the way for the coming Redeemer. God often permits physical evil long before he teaches the remedy. The smallpox had for long committed its ravages before inoculation, and then vaccination, was discovered. It was essential to the honor of God's law to permit evil long before He revealed the full remedy. Compare "the set time" ( Psalms 102:13 ).
was come--Greek, "came."
sent forth--Greek, "sent forth out of heaven from Himself" [ALFORD and BENGEL]. The same verb is used of the Father's sending forth the Spirit ( Galatians 4:6 ). So in Acts 7:12 . Compare with this verse, John 8:42 , Isaiah 48:16 .
his--emphatical. "His own Son." Not by adoption, as we are ( Galatians 4:5 ):nor merely His Son by the anointing of the Spirit which God sends into the heart ( Galatians 4:6 , John 1:18 ).
made of a woman--"made" is used as in 1 Corinthians 15:45 , "The first man, Adam, was made a living soul," Greek, "made to be (born) of a woman." The expression implies a special interposition of God in His birth as man, namely, causing Him to be conceived by the Holy Ghost. So ESTIUS.
made under the law--"made to be under the law." Not merely as GROTIUS and ALFORD explain, "Born subject to the law as a Jew." But "made" by His Father's appointment, and His own free will, "subject to the law," to keep it all, ceremonial and moral, perfectly for us, as the Representative Man, and to suffer and exhaust the full penalty of our whole race's violation of it. This constitutes the significance of His circumcision, His being presented in the temple ( Luke 2:21 Luke 2:22 Luke 2:27 ; compare Matthew 5:17 ), and His baptism by John, when He said ( Matthew 3:15 ), "Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness."
5. To--Greek, "That He might redeem."
them . . . under the law--primarily the Jews: but as these were the representative people of the world, the Gentiles, too, are included in the redemption ( Galatians 3:13 ).
receive--The Greek implies the suitableness of the thing as long ago predestined by God. "Receive as something destined or due" ( Luke 23:41 , 2 John 1:8 ). Herein God makes of sons of men sons of God, inasmuch as God made of the Son of God the Son of man [AUGUSTINE on Psalm 52].
6. because ye are sons--The gift of the Spirit of prayer is the consequence of our adoption. The Gentile Galatians might think, as the Jews were under the law before their adoption, that so they, too, must first be under the law. Paul, by anticipation, meets this objection by saying, YE ARE sons, therefore ye need not be as children ( Galatians 4:1 ) under the tutorship of the law, as being already in the free state of "sons" of God by faith in Christ ( Galatians 3:26 ), no longer in your nonage (as "children," Galatians 4:1 ). The Spirit of God's only Begotten Son in your hearts, sent from, and leading you to cry to, the Father, attests your sonship by adoption: for the Spirit is the "earnest of your inheritance" ( Romans 8:15 Romans 8:16 , Ephesians 1:13 ). "It is because ye are sons that God sent forth" (the Greek requires this translation, not "hath sent forth") into OUR (so the oldest manuscripts read for "your," in English Version) hearts the Spirit of His son, crying, "Abba, Father" ( John 1:12 ). As in Galatians 4:5 he changed from "them," the third person, to "we," the first person, so here he changes from "ye," the second person, to "our," the first person: this he does to identify their case as Gentiles, with his own and that of his believing fellow countrymen, as Jews. In another point of view, though not the immediate one intended by the context, this verse expresses, "Because ye are sons (already in God's electing purpose of love), God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts," &c.: God thus, by sending His Spirit in due time, actually conferring that sonship which He already regarded as a present reality ("are") because of His purpose, even before it was actually fulfilled. So Hebrews 2:13 , where "the children" are spoken of as existing in His purpose, before their actual existence.
the Spirit of his Son--By faith ye are one with the Son, so that what is His is yours; His Sonship ensures your sonship; His Spirit ensures for you a share in the same. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His" ( Romans 8:9 ). Moreover, as the Spirit of God proceeds from God the Father, so the Spirit of the Son proceeds from the Son: so that the Holy Ghost, as the Creed says, "proceedeth from the Father and the Son." The Father was not begotten: the Son is begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost proceeding from the Father and the Son.
crying--Here the SPIRIT is regarded as the agent in praying, and the believer as His organ. In Romans 8:15 , "The Spirit of adoption" is said to be that whereby WE cry, "Abba, Father"; but in Romans 8:26 , "The SPIRIT ITSELF maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." The believers' prayer is His prayer: hence arises its acceptability with God.
Abba, Father--The Hebrew says, "Abba" (a Hebrew term), the Greek, "Father" ("Pater," a Greek term in the original), both united together in one Sonship and one cry of faith, "Abba, Father." So "Even so ('Nai,' Greek) Amen (Hebrew)," both meaning the same ( Revelation 1:7 ). Christ's own former cry is the believers' cry, "Abba, Father" ( Mark 14:36 ).
7. Wherefore--Conclusion inferred from Galatians 4:4-6 .
thou--individualizing and applying the truth to each. Such an individual appropriation of this comforting truth God grants in answer to them who cry, "Abba, Father."
heir of God through Christ--The oldest manuscripts read, "an heir through God." This combines on behalf of man, the whole before-mentioned agency, of THE TRINITY: the Father sent His Son and the Spirit; the Son has freed us from the law; the Spirit has completed our sonship. Thus the redeemed are heirs THROUGH the Triune GOD, not through the law, nor through fleshly descent [WINDISCHMANN in ALFORD]; ( Galatians 3:18 confirms this). "An heir")confirming Galatians 3:29 ; compare Romans 8:17 .
8-11. Appeal to them not to turn back from their privileges as free sons, to legal bondage again.
then--when ye were "servants" ( Galatians 4:7 ).
ye knew not God--not opposed to Romans 1:21 . The heathen originally knew God, as Romans 1:21 states, but did not choose to retain God in their knowledge, and so corrupted the original truth. They might still have known Him, in a measure, from His works, but as a matter of fact they knew Him not, so far as His eternity, His power as the Creator, and His holiness, are concerned.
are no gods--that is, have no existence, such as their worshippers attribute to them, in the nature of things, but only in the corrupt imaginations of their worshippers 2 Chronicles 13:9 ). Your "service" was a different bondage from that of the Jews, which was a true service. Yet theirs, like yours, was a burdensome yoke; how then is it ye wish to resume the yoke after that God has transferred both Jews and Gentiles to a free service?
9. known God or rather are known of God--They did not first know and love God, but God first, in His electing love, knew and loved them as His, and therefore attracted them to the saving knowledge of Him ( Matthew 7:23 , 1 Corinthians 8:3 , 2 Timothy 2:19 ; compare Exodus 33:12 Exodus 33:17 , John 15:16 , Philippians 3:12 ). God's great grace in this made their fall from it the more heinous.
how--expressing indignant wonder at such a thing being possible, and even actually occurring ( Galatians 1:6 ). "How is it that ye turn back again?"
weak--powerless to justify: in contrast to the justifying power of faith ( Galatians 3:24 ; compare Hebrews 7:18 ).
beggarly--contrasted with the riches of the inheritance of believers in Christ ( Ephesians 1:18 ). The state of the "child" ( Galatians 4:1 ) is weak, as not having attained manhood; "beggarly," as not having attained the inheritance.
elements--"rudiments." It is as if a schoolmaster should go back to learning the A, B, C'S [BENGEL].
again--There are two Greek words in the original. "Ye desire again, beginning afresh, to be in bondage." Though the Galatians, as Gentiles, had never been under the Mosaic yoke, yet they had been under "the elements of the world" ( Galatians 4:3 ):the common designation for the Jewish and Gentile systems alike, in contrast to the Gospel (however superior the Jewish was to the Gentile). Both systems consisted in outward worship and cleaved to sensible forms. Both were in bondage to the elements of sense, as though these could give the justification and sanctification which the inner and spiritual power of God alone could bestow.
ye desire--or "will." Will-worship is not acceptable to God ( Colossians 2:18 Colossians 2:23 ).
10. To regard the observance of certain days as in itself meritorious as a work, is alien to the free spirit of Christianity. This is not incompatible with observing the Sabbath or the Christian Lord's day as obligatory, though not as a work (which was the Jewish and Gentile error in the observance of days), but as a holy mean appointed by the Lord for attaining the great end, holiness. The whole life alike belongs to the Lord in the Gospel view, just as the whole world, and not the Jews only, belong to Him. But as in Paradise, so now one portion of time is needed wherein to draw off the soul more entirely from secular business to God ( Colossians 2:16 ). "Sabbaths, new moons, and set feasts" ( 1 Chronicles 23:31 , 2 Chronicles 31:3 ), answer to "days, months, times." "Months," however, may refer to the first and seventh months, which were sacred on account of the number of feasts in them.
times--Greek, "seasons," namely, those of the three great feasts, the Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.
years--The sabbatical year was about the time of writing this Epistle, A.D. 48 [BENGEL].
11. lest--Greek, "lest haply." My fear is not for my own sake, but for yours.
12. be as I am--"As I have in my life among you cast off Jewish habits, so do. ye; for I am become as ye are," namely, in the non-observance of legal ordinances. "The fact of my laying them aside among Gentiles, shows that I regard them as not at all contributing to justification or sanctification. Do you regard them in the same light, and act accordingly." His observing the law among the Jews was not inconsistent with this, for he did so only in order to win them, without compromising principle. On the other hand, the Galatian Gentiles, by adopting legal ordinances, showed that they regarded them as needful for salvation. This Paul combats.
ye have not injured me at all--namely, at the period when I first preached the Gospel among you, and when I made myself as you are, namely, living as a Gentile, not as a Jew. You at that time did me no wrong; "ye did not despise my temptation in the flesh" ( Galatians 4:14 ): nay, you "received me as an angel of God." Then in Galatians 4:16 , he asks, "Have I then, since that time, become your enemy by telling you the truth?"
13. how through infirmity--rather, as Greek, "Ye know that because of an infirmity of my flesh I preached," &c. He implies that bodily sickness, having detained him among them, contrary to his original intentions, was the occasion of his preaching the Gospel to them.
at the first--literally, "at the former time"; implying that at the time of writing he had been twice in Galatia. more violently afterward, "the thorn in the flesh" ( 2 Corinthians 12:7 ), which also was overruled to good ( 2 Corinthians 12:9 2 Corinthians 12:10 ), as the "infirmity of the flesh" here.
14. my temptation--The oldest manuscripts read, "your temptation." My infirmity, which was, or might have been, a "temptation," or trial, to you, ye despised not, that is, ye were not tempted by it to despise me and my message. Perhaps, however, it is better to punctuate and explain as LACHMANN, connecting it with Galatians 4:13 , "And (ye know) your temptation (that is, the temptation to which ye were exposed through the infirmity) which was in my flesh. Ye despised not (through natural pride), nor rejected (through spiritual pride), but received me," &c. "Temptation does not mean here, as we now use the word, tendency to an evil habit, but BODILY TRIAL."
as an angel of God--as a heaven-inspired and sent messenger from God: angel means "messenger" ( Malachi 2:7 ). Compare the phrase, 2 Samuel 19:27 , a Hebrew and Oriental one for a person to be received with the highest respect ( Zechariah 12:8 ). An angel is free from the flesh, infirmity, and temptation.
as Christ--being Christ's representative ( Matthew 10:40 ). Christ is Lord of angels.
15. Where, &c.--Of what value was your congratulation (so the Greek for "blessedness" expresses) of yourselves, on account of your having among you me, the messenger of the Gospel, considering how entirely you have veered about since? Once you counted yourselves blessed in being favored with my ministry.
ye would have plucked out your own eyes--one of the dearest members of the body--so highly did you value me: a proverbial phrase for the greatest self-sacrifice ( Matthew 5:29 ). CONYBEARE and HOWSON think that this particular form of proverb was used with reference to a weakness in Paul's eyes, connected with a nervous frame, perhaps affected by the brightness of the vision described, Acts 22:11 , 2 Corinthians 12:1-7 . "You would have torn out your own eyes to supply the lack of mine." The divine power of Paul's words and works, contrasting with the feebleness of his person ( 2 Corinthians 10:10 ), powerfully at first impressed the Galatians, who had all the impulsiveness of the Celtic race from which they sprang. Subsequently they soon changed with the fickleness which is equally characteristic of Celts.
16. Translate, "Am I then become your enemy (an enemy in your eyes) by telling you the truth" ( Galatians 2:5 Galatians 2:14 )? He plainly did not incur their enmity at his first visit, and the words here imply that he had since then, and before his now writing, incurred it: so that the occasion of his telling them the unwelcome truth, must have been at his second visit ( Acts 18:23 , reprover. The righteous love faithful reproof ( Psalms 141:5 , Proverbs 9:8 ).
17. They--your flatterers: in contrast to Paul himself, who tells them the truth.
zealously--zeal in proselytism was characteristic especially of the Jews, and so of Judaizers ( Galatians 1:14 , Matthew 23:15 , Romans 10:2 ).
affect you--that is, court you ( 2 Corinthians 11:2 ).
not well--not in a good way, or for a good end. Neither the cause of their zealous courting of you, nor the manner, is what it ought to be.
they would exclude you--"They wish to shut you out" from the kingdom of God (that is, they wish to persuade you that as uncircumcised Gentiles, you are shut out from it), "that ye may zealously court them," that is, become circumcised, as zealous followers of themselves. ALFORD explains it, that their wish was to shut out the Galatians from the general community, and attract them as a separate clique to their own party. So the English word "exclusive," is used.
18. good to be zealously affected--rather, to correspond to "zealously court" in Galatians 4:18 , "to be zealously courted." I do not find fault with them for zealously courting you, nor with you for being zealously courted: provided it be "in a good cause" (translate so), "it is a good thing" ( 1 Corinthians 9:20-23 ). My reason for saying the "not well" ( Galatians 4:17 ; the Greek is the same as that for "good," and "in a good cause," in Galatians 4:28 ), is that their zealous courting of you is not in a good cause. The older interpreters, however, support English Version (compare Galatians 1:14 ).
always--Translate and arrange the words thus, "At all times, and not only when I am present with you." I do not desire that I exclusively should have the privilege of zealously courting you. Others may do so in my absence with my full approval, if only it be in a good cause, and if Christ be faithfully preached ( Philippians 1:15-18 ).
19. My little children--( 1 Timothy 1:18 , 2 Timothy 2:1 , 1 John 2:1 ). My relation to you is not merely that of one zealously courting you ( Galatians 4:17 Galatians 4:18 ), but that of a father to his children ( 1 Corinthians 4:15 ).
I travail in birth--that is, like a mother in pain till the birth of her child.
again--a second time. The former time was when I was "present with you" ( Galatians 4:18 ; compare Note,
Christ be formed in you--that you may live nothing but Christ, and think nothing but Christ ( Galatians 2:20 ), and glory in nothing but Him, and His death, resurrection, and righteousness ( Philippians 3:8-10 , Colossians 1:27 ).
20. Translate as Greek, "I could wish." If circumstances permitted (which they do not), I would gladly be with you [M. STUART].
now--as I was twice already. Speaking face to face is so much more effective towards loving persuasion than writing ( 2 John 1:12 , 3 John 1:13 3 John 1:14 ).
change my voice--as a mother ( Galatians 4:19 ):adapting my tone of voice to what I saw in person your case might need. This is possible to one present, but not to one in writing [GROTIUS and ESTIUS].
I stand in doubt of you--rather, "I am perplexed about you," namely, how to deal with you, what kind of words to use, gentle or severe, to bring you back to the right path.
21. desire--of your own accord madly courting that which must condemn and ruin you.
do ye not hear--do ye not consider the mystic sense of Moses' words? [GROTIUS]. The law itself sends you away from itself to Christ [ESTIUS]. After having sufficiently maintained his point by argument, the apostle confirms and illustrates it by an inspired allegorical exposition of historical facts, containing in them general laws and types. Perhaps his reason for using allegory was to confute the Judaizers with their own weapons: subtle, mystical, allegorical interpretations, unauthorized by the Spirit, were their favorite arguments, as of the Rabbins in the synagogues. Compare the Jerusalem Talmud [Tractatu Succa, cap. Hechalil]. Paul meets them with an allegorical exposition, not the work of fancy, but sanctioned by the Holy Spirit. History, if properly understood contains in its complicated phenomena, simple and continually recurring divine laws. The history of the elect people, like their legal ordinances, had, besides the literal, a typical meaning (compare 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 , 1 Corinthians 15:45 1 Corinthians 15:47 , Revelation 11:8 ). Just as the extra-ordinarily-born Isaac, the gift of grace according to promise, supplanted, beyond all human calculations, the naturally-born Ishmael, so the new theocratic race, the spiritual seed of Abraham by promise, the Gentile, as well as Jewish believers, were about to take the place of the natural seed, who had imagined that to them exclusively belonged the kingdom of God.
22. ( Genesis 16:3-16 , 21:2 ).
Abraham--whose sons ye wish to be (compare Romans 9:7-9 ).
a bond maid . . . a free woman--rather, as Greek, "the bond maid . . . the free woman."
23. after the flesh--born according to the usual course of nature: in contrast to Isaac, who was born "by virtue of the promise" (so the Greek), as the efficient cause of Sarah's becoming pregnant out of the course of nature ( Romans 4:19 ). Abraham was to lay aside all confidence in the flesh (after which Ishmael was born), and to live by faith alone in the promise (according to which Isaac was miraculously born, contrary to all calculations of flesh and blood).
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 ( Galatians 3:19 ) chiefly ( Hebrews 12:18 ). Paul was familiar with the district of Sinai in Arabia ( Galatians 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 ( Acts 3:25 ), "children of the covenant which God made . . . saying unto Abraham."
Agar--that is, Hagar.
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 ( Genesis 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].
26. This verse stands instead of the sentence which we should expect, to correspond to Galatians 4:24 , "One from Mount Sinai," namely, the other covenant from the heavenly mount above, which is (answers in the allegory to) Sarah.
Jerusalem . . . above--( Hebrews 12:22 ), "the heavenly Jerusalem." "New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God" ( Revelation 3:12 , 21:2 ). Here "the Messianic theocracy, which before Christ's second appearing is the Church, and after it, Christ's kingdom of glory" [MEYER].
free--as Sarah was; opposed to "she is in bondage" ( Galatians 4:25 ).
all--omitted in many of the oldest manuscripts, though supported by some. "Mother of us," namely, believers who are already members of the invisible Church, the heavenly Jerusalem, hereafter to be manifested ( Hebrews 12:22 ).
27. ( Isaiah 54:1 ).
thou barren--Jerusalem above: the spiritual Church of the Gospel, the fruit of "the promise," answering to Sarah, who bore not "after the flesh": as contrasted with the law, answering to Hagar, who was fruitful in the ordinary course of nature. Isaiah speaks primarily of Israel's restoration after her long-continued calamities; but his language is framed by the Holy Spirit so as to reach beyond this to the spiritual Zion: including not only the Jews, the natural descendants of Abraham and children of the law, but also the Gentiles. The spiritual Jerusalem is regarded as "barren" while the law trammeled Israel, for she then had no spiritual children of the Gentiles.
break forth--into crying.
cry--shout for joy.
many more--Translate as Greek, "Many are the children of the desolate (the New Testament Church made up in the greater part from the Gentiles, who once had not the promise, and so was destitute of God as her husband), more than of her which hath an (Greek, 'THE') husband (the Jewish Church having GOD for her husband, Isaiah 54:5 , Jeremiah 2:2 )." Numerous as were the children of the legal covenant, those of the Gospel covenant are more so. The force of the Greek article is, "Her who has THE husband of which the other is destitute."
28. we--The oldest manuscripts and versions are divided between "we" and "ye." "We" better accords with Galatians 4:26 , "mother of us."
children of promise--not children after the flesh, but through the promise ( Galatians 4:23 Galatians 4:29 Galatians 4:31 ). "We are" so, and ought to wish to continue so.
29. persecuted--Ishmael "mocked" Isaac, which contained in it the germ and spirit of persecution ( Genesis 21:9 ). His mocking was probably directed against Isaac's piety and faith in God's promises. Being the older by natural birth, he haughtily prided himself above him that was born by promise: as Cain hated Abe