The Allegory of Hagar and Sarah

The Allegory of Hagar and Sarah
December 19, 2021
Passage: Galatians 4:21-5:1  
Service Type:

We're going to look tonight in the book of Galatians.

  • Galatians 4:21-5:1

There were those in the Galatian churches who had been involved with or influenced by the Judaizing teachers. They were seeking to teach them that the only way to go to Heaven, was first to become a Jew, then become a Christian. This allegory of Hagar and Sarah teaches that the law is not binding and we have liberty in Christ.

This was Paul's final argument to prove that the system of faith had replaced the work of the Law of Moses. This allegory is based on the history of Abraham, his two wives, and two sons.

I challenge you to go back and read the story of Hagar and Sarah, and their two children, Ishmael, and Isaac.

  • Genesis 16 & 21

Sarah was barren, but God had promised Abraham that they would have a child. They grew tired of waiting, so Sarah concocted a plan, that was to use Hagar, her handmaid, and became as it were a surrogate mother so to speak. Hagar despised Sarah and because of this attitude, she was forced to leave.

Ishmael was born when Abraham was 86. Later Isaac was born to Sarah when Abraham was 100. This meant that Ishmael at 14 years older, and he mocked and tantalized Isaac. He and his mother, Hagar, were cast out.

This story is what the allegory in Galatians 4 is based on.

Allegory -- a figure of speech [Simile - metaphor - metonymy - synecdoche - hyperbole]. The word comes from two words -- another, and to speak. It means to speak something else than what the language means.

It is like a simile or metaphor but is more extended, it is a figurative application of historical or real facts. This does not mean that the historical record of Moses was not true.

Put another way, “An allegory is a literary device used to tell stories on two levels: the literal and the figurative. The literal level is the plot, characters, and setting. The figurative level is what these elements represent.”

This is the plot, the story of two women found in Genesis 16 and 21. Paul uses these two women and their story as an allegory, representing two covenants.

The Allegory of the Two Women

You have two women and two covenants.

  • Hagar the handmaid
    • Handmaiden/ Slave
    • Old Covenant
    • Bondage
  • Sarah
    • Free Woman
    • New Covenant
    • Freedom

You have two sons and two births.

  • Ishmael
    • Birth not according to promise.
    • Natural birth
    • Jewish religion, a religion in which people are determined by who their parents are.
  • Isaac
    • Birth of promise
    • Spiritual birth
    • Church of Christ

You have two social ranks and two spiritual ranks.

  • Ishmael
    • Domestic bondage
    • Jewish religion, legal bondage, bound by the law
    • Legal bondage
  • Isaac
    • Domestic Freedom
    • Church of Christ
    • Spiritual Liberty

You have two characters with two dispositions.

  • Ishmael
    • Persecutor
    • Jewish Religion
    • Jews Persecuted Church
  • Isaac
    • Persecutor
    • Jewish Religion
    • Jews Persecuted Church

You have two inheritances, both physical and spiritual.

  • Ishmael
    • Slave’s portion
    • Jewish nation
    • Temporal possession of Canaan
  • Isaac
    • Prince’s portion
    • Church of Christ
    • Spiritual inheritance

Two Were Cast Out: Hagar and Ishmael

  • Would not inherit
  • Old covenant
  • Were cast out

Two Remained: Sarah and Isaac

  • Galatians 4:28
  • Acts 3:25


  • Child of promise
  • New covenant
  • We are Christians by a promise

Learning the Application of the Allegory of Hagar and Sarah

We see the New Law foreshadowed within the Old Law.

  • Galatians 4:21-22

Some of the people wanted to follow Judaism, even after the law of Christ was in effect. He said, do you not understand the law? Your desire to be under the law conflicts with the teachings of the law. Paul then proceeds to explain the real meaning of the law about the two covenants.

He tells about Abraham, Abraham had 2 sons. We know later he had more than two sons, but this story is only about two. One by a handmaid and the other by a freewoman. The status of the mother determined the status of the sons, not the status of the father. There is a New Law foreshadowed in the Old Law.

  • Galatians 4:23

He of the bondwoman was born after the flesh, in an ordinary way. He of freewoman was by a promise by Divine means but miraculous because Abraham and Sarah had passed the age of procreation. It had been promised to Abraham and Sarah.

  • Genesis 12:1-3

In this child of promise, through Isaac, the seed, all the way down through to Jesus, through whom all nations of the earth would be blessed.

  • Galatians 4:24

Which things are an allegory?

  • Galatians 4:25-26

He compares them to the Jerusalem which is, now, and the one which will be. Jerusalem, the physical one at that time was going to come to an end.

Hagar is Mt. Sinai, representing Jerusalem the center of the law of Moses, the temple. Those under the law were under bondage to it. In Arabia, Hagar and Ishmael dwelt in Paran, the territory near Sinai. Of course, it's believed by many that the Arab people descend from Ishmael. In Arabia, she is is in bondage with her children, Hagar, a slave, bore children that by birth passed into slavery. Jerusalem and all those who follow Judaism are in bondage to the law. The slave covenant will produce slave children, and the free covenant will produce free children.

Sarah is like the Jerusalem that is above, that's Spiritual, and is a symbol of the church, is free in contrast to bondage. The church is the mother of all Christians. Through Jesus, the church is adopted into the family of God, into the family of Isaac.

  • Galatians 4:27-28

The barren one is referring to Sarah. Sarah was barren at first but she would have many more sons.

  • Isaiah 54:1

The children of promise as Isaac was the child of promise. Followers of Christ are the children of promise. The new Jerusalem will surpass in glory the old Jerusalem.

  • Galatians 4:29

Ishmael persecuted Isaac. The one born of the flesh - Ishmael, mocked the prospects of Isaac and his spiritual destiny. Ishmael was older but he was not the child of promise. Even so, it is now. The Jews were born of flesh and born into the nation of Israel and the religion of Judaism. And, they were now persecuting those following the gospel - Christians.

We see the law of the flesh warring against the law of the spiritual. The Jews were the great instigators of persecution during the first century.

  • Galatians 4:30
  • Genesis 21:10

Sarah demanded they cast out Hagar and Ishmael. He would not be heirs with Isaac. The inheritance was to go to Isaac -- not to Ishmael, and not to Isaac and Ishmael. The covenant was to be cast out. The old is to be cast away. The New covenant remains after the Old is done away.

Children of Liberty

  • Galatians 4:31 & 5:1

Not children of Bondwoman. We are not under the law. But we are offspring of the freewoman through the law of Christ. For those in Christ to seek to hold on to the law makes no more sense than for a freeman to seek to become a slave.

We are to stand fast in liberty, the law was a system of bondage, in Christ, we are freed from bondage. The Law has been replaced, and Christ is the great spiritual liberator.

We have freedom because we are the children of the freewoman. Don't get entangled again in that old yoke of bondage.

  • Acts 15:10

He's talking about the law of bondage, the law of Moses, which entangled them in bondage. We aren't to be entangled in the yoke of bondage. A child is more zealous to obey his father than a slave his master. The child acts from love, the other from fear. Love is a joyful service, the heart and feelings are in it. Fear is a burdensome, unwilling service.

We are the children of liberty. We serve God out of our love for Him.

Misunderstanding the covenants continues to cause problems. Premillennialism [1,000-year reign] is based on a misunderstanding of the covenants. They think that the old covenant has not been fulfilled.

Seventh-Day Adventist groups want to keep the Sabbath because they misunderstand the covenants. Many religious groups go to the Old Law and try to bring parts of it into the new law of Christ, instrumental music and tithing, and other things which were put away with the Old Law.

Three dispensations = Patriarchy, Judaism, Christianity - the old covenant is gone.

Old Covenant is gone:

  • Colossians 2:14
  • Ephesians 2:14-16

Jews are not heirs today, and therefore, they are lost. The Old Covenant cannot save anyone. The New Covenant has replaced it and remains.

  • 2 Corinthians 3:6 -7, 11
  • Galatians 3:26-29

Christians are heirs and are saved. We are no longer living under the law but under Christ. We're not living under the law of Moses, we live under Christ.

In order to live under Christ, we must be obedient to His will. We must believe that He is the Son of God, repent of our sins, confess His Holy Name, and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.

If we can assist you in coming to know the New Law of liberty which makes us free in Christ Jesus, please contact us.

  • A.L.C. June 20,76, Notes on Galatians
  • Sermon by Gus Nichols
  • Sermon charts by Thomas A. Campbell
  • Sermon by Arthur Pigman
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