Topics New Testament Studies
The Two Covenants: Sarah and Hagar
By Jeff A. Benner
In Paul's letter to the Galatians he explains the two covenants. Below is my commentary on Galatians 4:21-31.
Tell me you who want to be under the covenant of obedience, are you not aware of what the Torah says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman.
The covenant of law is like the relationship between a master and the servant. God is the master and those in this covenant relationship are servants to him and must obey him. If the servant disobeys he is punished or executed. The covenant of love is like the relationship between a father and son. God is the father and those in this covenant relationship are his sons. The father protects and provides for his son out of love, unconditionally. As the son grows he begins to return the love by following in his fathers footsteps. The servant's relationship with the master remains static while the relationship between father and son grows.
His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.
Because of the heart of stone, which covers our heart of flesh, our natural way of entering into covenant relationship is through blessings and curses. It is only through supernatural ways that the heart of flesh is revealed bringing us into the covenant of love.
These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves. This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.
The Greek word translated as "above" is ano, meaning above and is the same word used for "born from above" in John 3.3. Those who are born in the super (a Latin word meaning above) natural way are born in the Jerusalem that is above. How does this supernatural birth occur? Yeshua was born by the "breath" of God and it is by this breath that our hearts of flesh are revealed.
Hagar represents the present day Jerusalem and the leaders of Israel who keep Israel in the slavery of the covenant of law. Through the breath of God we are supernaturally born into freedom, which is represented, by Sarah and her sons supernatural birth by the breath of God.
For it is written: Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband. Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted (Gk: dioko meaning to chase away) the son born by the power of the Spirit.
Those born in the natural way will chase away those who are born from above desiring the inheritance promised to those in the covenant of love.
It is the same now. But what does the Scripture say? Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son."
This verse quotes Genesis 21:9 and in the verse prior to that (Genesis 21:8) it says that Sarah saw Ishmael (meaning one who hears God) laughing. Sarah said "all who hear what God has done will laugh for me" Sarah saw Ishmael laughing. Evidently Ishmael was pursuing after the inheritance promised to the firstborn.
Similarly, the Israel under the covenant of law has continually pursued after those born from above, for the inheritance naturally belongs to the Israel that is free in the covenant of love.
Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
Who is born from above? Those whose hearts of flesh have been revealed by the breath of God, are the sons of Abraham through the free woman Sarah, whether Jew or Gentile. As Shaul says in Eph 2.12,19;
You were separate from Messiah excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world......You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household.
Those born of the free woman receive the promised inheritance - the land of Israel.
He remembers forever his covenant spoken by command to a thousand generations. Which he cut with Abraham and he swore to Isaac and he made it stand for Jacob, a decree for Israel, a covenant everlasting. To say to you, I give the land of Canaan, bound as your inheritance.
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The Hebrew word "Torah" is usually translated into the English word "Law". Because of this translation there is a great misunderstanding of what "Torah" truly is.