21 Tell me1, the ones who are wanting to be under the law2, do you not listen3 to the law4? 22 For it has been written that Abraham had two sons: one from a slave woman and one from a free woman. 23 But the one from the slave woman has been born according to the flesh5, but the one who was born from the free woman was through the promise. 24 These things are spoken figuratively6, for these women represent7 the two covenants: one covenant, on the one hand, is from the mountain of Sinai whose children were born into slavery. This is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and to which represents8 Jerusalem now9, for she is a slave with her children10. 26 But, on the other hand, the Jerusalem above is free11, who is our mother12. 27 For it has been written,
“Rejoice, barren woman, who can bear no children, break forth and shout, who can not suffer birth pains, because there are many more children of the deserted woman than the one who has a husband.”13
28 Now you, brothers, are children of the promise according to Isaac. 29 Now just as the one who was born according to the flesh14, at that time, persecuted the one born according to the spirit15; it is this same way even now16. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Throw out the slave woman and her son: for the son of a slave woman will never inherit with the son of a free woman”17 . 31 For this reason, brothers, we are not the children of a slave woman, but the children of a free woman.
1 With freedom Christ set us free18. Therefore, stand firm and do not be subject to the yoke19 of slavery again.
It is pretty astonishing that Paul would figuratively place the event that happened on Mount Sinai as being the slave Hagar. Jews of time would have seen the event as a blessing that God would give his law to the Jewish people. Paul says that the law enslaved the people so they are like Ishmael who was born from a slave woman. Even though Paul used to be a Pharisee Jew, you can see from this passage just how little he thought of the Jewish law at the time of this letter.
1 Λέγετέ μοι (Tell me) Greek: “Speak to me”.
2 ὑπὸ νόμον (under the law)
This could be translated “under subjection of the law”. If one was trying to be justified by performing the Jewish law, then one was subject to it.
3 ἀκούετε (listen)
4 Paul is again setting up the Galatians. The Jewish law consisted of the first five books of the Jewish Bible (the Old Testament). Genesis does not necessarily contain any of the Jewish laws per se, but was still considered part of the law as a whole. Paul is using this to set up the following passages.
5 κατὰ σάρκα (according to the flesh)
In other words, Ishmael was was born naturally where as Isaac was a miracle. There was nothing special about the birth of Ishmael, but the miracle that became the birth of Isaac was promised.
6 ἀλληγορούμενα (are spoken figuratively)
Greek: “are spoken allegorically”. An allegory is a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.
7 εἰσιν (represent)
Greek: “are”. The context of the passage demands “represent” here. Since Paul has said that the passage is an allegory, then we will use figurative language here as well.
8 συστοιχεῖ (represents)
or “corresponds to”.
9 Jerusalem is the center of the Jewish religion. Although there was a Christian church in Jerusalem, most of the Jewish people were still following the Jewish law. Paul is using the transliterated Hebrew name for the city, Ἰερουσαλήμ instead of the Hellenized Ἱεροσόλυμα in Chapters 1 and 2.
10 The children of Israel are under the bondage of the Jewish law.
11 Paul is referring to a heavenly Jerusalem where the new covenant establishes freedom from the bondage of the Jewish law through faith in Jesus Christ.
12 μήτηρ ἡμῶν (our mother)
The free women is our mother. The “Jerusalem above” represents the free woman, Sarah.
13 Quoted from Isaiah 54:1. The barren woman represents the “Jerusalem above” or the “heavenly” Jerusalem. The religious center in which the ones who have faith in Christ belong.
14 See note 5
15 An echo of Genesis 21:9 where Ishmael is found mocking Isaac by Sarah.
16 Which is evident from what the false-brothers were doing. The churches of Galatia’s persecution came through the “forcing” of Jewish law on them.
17 Quoted from Genesis 21:10. In other words, the Jewish law has no place in the Christian churches.
18 It may be said that through the freedom of the free woman we are born free by the Spirit.
19 ζυγῷ (yoke)
A yoke is a bar or frame of wood by which two draft animals are joined at the head or neck in order to work together effectively in pulling a plow, harrow, or wagon.
Γαλάτας 4·21 Λέγετέ μοι, οἱ ὑπὸ νόμον θέλοντες εἶναι, τὸν νόμον οὐκ ἀκούετε; 22 γέγραπται γὰρ ὅτι Ἀβραὰμ δύο υἱοὺς ἔσχεν, ἕνα ἐκ τῆς παιδίσκης καὶ ἕνα ἐκ τῆς ἐλευθέρας. 23 ἀλλ ̓ ὁ μὲν ἐκ τῆς παιδίσκης κατὰ σάρκα γεγέννηται, ὁ δὲ ἐκ τῆς ἐλευθέρας δι ̓ ἐπαγγελίας. 24 ἅτινά ἐστιν ἀλληγορούμενα· αὗται γάρ εἰσιν δύο διαθῆκαι, μία μὲν ἀπὸ ὄρους Σινᾶ εἰς δουλείαν γεννῶσα, ἥτις ἐστὶν Ἁγάρ. 25 τὸ δὲ Ἁγὰρ Σινᾶ ὄρος ἐστὶν ἐν τῇ Ἀραβίᾳ· συστοιχεῖ δὲ τῇ νῦν Ἰερουσαλήμ, δουλεύει γὰρ μετὰ τῶν τέκνων αὐτῆς. 26 ἡ δὲ ἄνω Ἰερουσαλὴμ ἐλευθέρα ἐστίν, ἥτις ἐστὶν μήτηρ ἡμῶν· 27 γέγραπται γάρ·
εὐφράνθητι, στεῖρα ἡ οὐ τίκτουσα, ῥῆξον καὶ βόησον, ἡ οὐκ ὠδίνουσα·
ὅτι πολλὰ τὰ τέκνα τῆς ἐρήμου μᾶλλον ἢ τῆς ἐχούσης τὸν ἄνδρα.
28 ὑμεῖς δέ, ἀδελφοί, κατὰ Ἰσαὰκ ἐπαγγελίας τέκνα ἐστέ. 29 ἀλλ ̓ ὥσπερ τότε ὁ κατὰ σάρκα γεννηθεὶς ἐδίωκεν τὸν κατὰ πνεῦμα, οὕτως καὶ νῦν. 30 ἀλλὰ τί λέγει ἡ γραφή; ἔκβαλε τὴν παιδίσκην καὶ τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς· οὐ γὰρ μὴ κληρονομήσει ὁ υἱὸς τῆς παιδίσκης μετὰ τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἐλευθέρας. 31 διό, ἀδελφοί, οὐκ ἐσμὲν παιδίσκης τέκνα ἀλλὰ τῆς ἐλευθέρας. Γαλάτας 5·1 Τῇ ἐλευθερίᾳ ἡμᾶς Χριστὸς ἠλευθέρωσεν· στήκετε οὖν καὶ μὴ πάλιν ζυγῷ δουλείας ἐνέχεσθε.