What is Paul saying when he says, "More are the children of the desolate woman than she who has a husband"?


Galatians 4:27

ESV - 27 For it is written, "Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.

Clarify Share Report Asked March 30 2020 Received 167270910322119 Gregory Jones

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Mini Tim Maas Retired Quality Assurance Specialist with the U.S. Army
In my opinion, Paul is speaking (in the larger passage from which the verse cited in the question comes) of the freedom of Christians from having to perfectly obey the requirements of the Law that God gave to Israel through Moses in order to attain eternal life. Instead, Christians are now free from the Law's demands, and are saved as a result of their faith in Christ's atoning death and resurrection.

In that regard, he is drawing a parallel between that situation and the Old Testament account of Abraham, his wife Sarah, and Sarah's slave girl, Hagar (Genesis 16-21). God had promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. However, many years went by without Sarah becoming pregnant, and she was now in her eighties (and thus far past "normal" childbearing years). So Sarah suggested to Abraham that he try to fulfill God's promise by fathering a child with Hagar, which Abraham did. Nevertheless, God told Abraham again that it would be a son that he would have with Sarah who would be the fulfillment of God's original promise.

Then, at the age of 90 or 91, Sarah finally gave birth to her son Isaac, who was "free" (since both his parents were free), in contrast to Ishmael (Abraham's son with Hagar), who was technically a slave (even though he was Abraham's son) since his mother was a slave.

In Ephesians 4:27, Paul is quoting from Isaiah 54:1 in likening those who try to earn salvation through their obedience to the Law (and are thus figuratively "slaves" to the Law) to Ishmael, and Christians who receive salvation by God's grace through faith in Christ to Isaac, since they no longer are required to perfectly obey the Law in order to be saved.

Through those Christians (who are figuratively or spiritually descended from Abraham through "the desolate [or barren] woman" (Sarah)), Abraham has a greater number of descendants (or "children") than his actual physical descendants (that is, the Jews) who futilely try to gain salvation by obeying the Law.

This freedom is also a foreshadowing of the manner in which those spiritual descendants will occupy the "new Jerusalem" in eternity (as described by John in Revelation 21:2), where they will be forever free, in contrast to the Jewish inhabitants of the actual city of Jerusalem at the time that Paul was writing, who (in addition to being spiritual slaves to the Law) were also not physically free, but were subject to occupation and rule by the Roman Empire.

March 30 2020 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

001153bb 93cf 4797 838f 09c99e76f3d9 Ryan A
John Chyrsostom says: "Who is the woman with the husband? Is it not obviously the synagogue [as married to the law]? Yet the barren one has surpassed her in childbearing. For the synagogue contains one nation, whereas the children of the church fill Greece, Africa, land, sea and the whole inhabited world."

Jerome also writes: "The Church, long time barren, bore no children before Christ was born of the Virgin; but when she bore to Abraham, i.e, the elect father, Christ as Isaac, the laughter of the world, whose very name spoke of heavenly mysteries, then she brought forth many children to God."

April 06 2020 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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