EWTN Catholic Q&A
Galatians 4:21-26
Question from Matthew Leeser on 11-23-2012:

Hello Father John,

I was reading Galatins today and am finding it hard to read Galtains 4 :21-26.

What is the connection with Hagar and Sinai? Did God also establish a Covenant with the Arabs at Sinai?


Answer by Fr. John Echert on 11-27-2012:

Some of the argument in Galatians are complicated, as is this one:

19 My little children, of whom I am in labor again, until Christ be formed in you.

20 And I would willingly be present with you now, and change my voice: because I am ashamed for you.

21 Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, have you not read the law?

22 For it is written, *that Abraham had two sons; the one by a bond-woman, **and the other by a free-woman.

23 But he that was by the bond-woman, was born according to the flesh; but he by the free-woman, according to the promise.

24 Which things are said by an allegory. For these are the two testaments. The one indeed on Mount Sina, bringing forth unto bondage, which is Agar.

25 For Sina is a mountain in Arabia, which hath an affinity with that Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.

26 But that Jerusalem, which is above, is free; which is our mother.

27 For it is written: *Rejoice, thou barren, that bearest not; break forth and cry out, thou that travailest not; for many are the children of the desolate, more than of her that hath a husband.

28 *Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise.

29 But as then he, who was born according to the flesh, persecuted him that was according to the spirit: so also now.

30 But what saith the scripture? Cast out the bond-woman and her son; for the son of the bond-woman shall not be heir with the son of the free-woman.

31 Therefore, brethren, we are not the children of the bond-woman, but of the free; by the freedom wherewith Christ has made us free.

The important point the Apostle wishes to make is to associate former covenant with Ishmael and slavery and the New Covenant with freedom. He does this through Hagar, the servant girl through whom Ishmael was born, who was therefore a slave offspring himself. The association of Hagar with Sinai, appears to be geographical, since that area was inhabited by descendants of Ishmael, though the Apostle may have had other associations in mind as well. He also links in the earthly city of Jerusalem, probably because the Judaizers and apostate Judaism were based there. He contrasts Sinai and earthly Jerusalem with Heavenly Jerusalem, to which Christians belong. The point is, for the Gentile converts to embrace ritual laws of the Old Covenant, they become slaves of that and not free. The Judaizers would have been enraged by his analogy, that linked them to their bitter enemies, the offspring of Ishamael--modern day Arabs.

Thanks, Matthew

Father Echert