New Defender's Study Bible Notes
4:24 allegory. When God’s Word is meant to be interpreted allegorically, the text indicates such. Symbolic, figurative, or parabolic language is occasionally used in the Bible, but this is normally clearly evident in the context. When the author does not indicate such language, the safe and proper way to interpret a text is not to interpret it at all, but simply to assume it means exactly what it says and to proceed on that basis. On the other hand, even this allegory is predicated on the actual historicity of the story of Sarah and Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael. In no way does Paul suggest that the events discussed did not really happen. The “spiritualizing” method of interpreting historical narratives (e.g., the Genesis record of creation) to avoid having to accept them as real history, is always unscriptural and dishonoring to God and His Word. In the special case here, both the historical record and the allegorical lesson derived from it must be taken as divinely inspired.
4:24 Agar. Hagar, Sarah’s maid, was the mother of a son sired by Abraham when he and Sarah became impatient in waiting for the promised son, Isaac. In the allegory, Hagar represents the law given at Sinai and the city of Jerusalem, whose “children,” like their mother, are in bondage, under the law (Galatians 4:25).
4:26 Jerusalem which is above. The heavenly Jerusalem is where the Lord Jesus is even now preparing a place for us (John 14:3). It is the “city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God,” for which Abraham was looking as He went out into the “strange country” to which God had led him (Hebrews 11:8-10). In the allegory, Sarah represents that city of freedom in the heavens; thus all her children, with Isaac as the heir of promise representing them, are likewise heirs of the promise and therefore free.
4:27 hath many more children. This quotation is from Isaiah 54:1. In the prophetic context it is a prophecy of the future restoration of Israel and Jerusalem when “the Jerusalem which is above” will actually come to earth as “the holy city, New Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:2). In the allegorical context, the barren woman represents Sarah, who in turn represents and begets all the children of promise who are the spiritual heirs of Abraham (Galatians 3:29).
4:29 persecuted. Ishmael, who was fourteen years older than Isaac, no doubt had been hoping (along with his mother Hagar) that he would inherit Abraham’s wealth. Therefore, he viciously mocked little Isaac the day Isaac was weaned (Genesis 21:8-9), and it became obvious that Isaac would be in danger as long as Ishmael and Hagar were a part of the household. Similarly, Paul says, those who trust in salvation by grace through faith alone will be subject to mocking and persecution by those who wish to impose legalistic bondage or pagan philosophy on the church, as long as they are permitted to have an influence there.
4:30 what saith the scripture. The reference, of course, is to Genesis 21:10, the point of the allegory being that the church should not allow false teachers to influence its belief and behavior. This admonition applied directly to the tolerance of Judaizers in the Galatian churches. It could also be applied to the folly of allowing false (i.e., unscriptural) doctrine of any kind to be taught in the church.