ESV - 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.
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Paul now attacks the Judaisers by using a form of argument that they themselves liked to use. He returns to the story of Abraham to show that law-keeping is slavery and it cannot be mixed with grace. (read Genesis 15:1-6; Genesis 16:1-16; Genesis 17:15-22; Genesis 18:1-15; Genesis 21:1-21.) Abraham had two sons, Ishmael, who was born as a result of human arrangements that lacked any exercise of faith, and Isaac, who was born in fulfilment of God’s promise. The mother of Ishmael was the slave woman Hagar; the mother of Isaac was Abraham’s true wife Sarah (21-23). Hagar is likened to the covenant of law given by God to Israel at Mt Sinai; Sarah is likened to the covenant of grace given freely to all people from heaven. The spiritual descendants of the slave woman are the Jerusalem Judaisers of Paul’s day; the spiritual descendants of the free woman are those saved by God’s grace through faith (24-26). The Jews, children of Abraham by natural descent, have largely failed to be God’s people; the Gentiles, who previously had neither life nor hope but who now largely make up the church, become Abraham’s spiritual children. Thus, in Paul’s illustration, the slave woman finishes with few offspring, but the free woman, who was formerly childless, now has a multitude of descendants (27). Ishmael is likened to the Jews who are slaves under the bondage of the law; Isaac is likened to those saved by God’s grace and freed from the law. Just as Ishmael persecuted Isaac, so the Jews under the law now persecute those who are God’s people through his grace. Children of the law and children of grace cannot live together; the former must be thrown out. There is no place for law-keeping in God’s family (28-31)
Although Hagar bore Ishmael to Abraham, she was a slave. She stands for Mount Sinai in a figurative sense because, under the Old Testament, the Jewish people were slaves under the Law given at Mount Sinai, which could not save them, since no one was capable of the perfect obedience that it required. With the coming of Christ, and through His perfect fuflfillment of the Law (of which He alone was capable), those who believed in Him were set free from the Law through grace and faith. Those who did not accept this freedom (the Jews, who were by then centered at Jerusalem) remained under slavery to the Law in an ongoing futile attempt to gain salvation and eternal life through their obedience to it.
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