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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE GALATIANS - Chapter 4 - Verse 24
Verse 24. 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 here used by Paul allhgorew is derived from allov, another, and agoreuw, 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 the eightieth Psalm. 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 found 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 of 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," (Mt 26:26;) i.e., this represents my body. The bread was not the living body that was then before them. So in Ga 4:28: "This is my blood of the new covenant;" i.e., 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 Barnes "Ge 41:26".
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. Marg., Sin. 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 Barnes "Ac 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.
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