Friday, 6 May 2016
…for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— Galatians 4:25
Paul continues with his use of Old Testament pictures to reveal New Testament truths. He just showed in the previous verse that the things he is speaking about are symbolic. He noted that Hagar and Ishmael stood in contrast to Sarah and Isaac. Continuing on with this allegorical interpretation, he said that “…these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar.”
Hagar, the bondwoman, represents the old covenant. Therefore, “…this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia.” Paul has already said that these things are symbolic. Therefore, he is making a picture for us to see. The reason why it is important to remember this is because far too many scholars try to convert the name “Hagar” into an Arabic word which means “stone.” From there, they make the leap that Paul is literally equating her with Mount Sinai – a big pile of stones. This is nonsense. He has already said that these things are symbolic.
Hagar is simply being used to indicate the place of the giving of the law. That place then corresponds to the law itself; a law of bondage. This is fully explained in the next words which say that it “corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.” The law does not provide freedom. Instead, the law only highlights the bondage to sin that all men are confined under. Anyone who is under the law is in bondage.
“Jerusalem which is now” then continues to correspond to the law. It was given at Sinai, but the temple which continued in the service of the law was in Jerusalem. The sacrifices were there, the feasts were held there, and the high priest – who was only a type of Christ to come – ministered there. These things simply continued on with the bondage which was introduced at the giving of the law.
Paul’s reason for following this line of thought is the exact same reason as every other point in this epistle. Judaizers had come into the church and turned the Galatians away from the freedom which is found in the grace of Christ. Instead, they had been brought into the bondage of the law. He is simply trying to get them to realize that they were not moving forward, but backward.
God’s plan of redemption slowly unveils itself. Each step is intended to move us closer to Christ and ever-closer to the freedom of heaven’s wide expanses. The Galatians had been on the right path, but by the lies of the false teachers, they were exchanging freedom for confinement. His symbolic use of Hagar/Sinai/Jerusalem was intended to get them to see this.
As a technical point, the term, “Mount Sinai in Arabia” does not mean that Mount Sinai is actually in the land known as the modern Saudi Arabia. This is incorrect, but this interpretation has led to many fanciful claims by supposed Christian archeologists concerning the place where the Red Sea crossing occurred. These claims both lack proper biblical scholarship and are untrue. Rather, the Sinai Peninsula was, at the time of Paul, known as Arabia Petraea. Thus, the words “Mount Sinai in Arabia” fully support the traditional location of Mount Sinai.
Life application: Paul’s continued use of literal/historical accounts in the Old Testament, in order to show symbolic truths, explains why so many unusual passages are found in the Old Testament. They are literal and true, but they are included in order for us to search out how they point to Christ and His redemptive work in history. Be sure to always look for Christ as you read these wonderful accounts which may seem disconnected to everything else. In the end, they are not only connected, but they are vital to the overall message of the Bible.
Glorious God Almighty! It is just so wonderful to wake up each day and know that my sins have been forgiven by Christ. I know that I will stumble and fall in thought, word, or deed at some point in the day ahead. I know that I will regret it when it happens, but I also have the sure knowledge that such slips are already covered by the shed blood of Christ. Thank You for the cleansing fount which continually and ceaselessly keeps me in Your favor! Thank You for Christ my Lord. Amen.