The Two Sons of Abraham

Brother Sewell: Please write up the two sons of Abraham – one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.

The passage is this: “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” (Gal. 4:21-26.)

This is the history of the wife of Abraham – Sarah, or “Sarai” until the Lord ordered it changed to “Sarah.” Sarah had no child till she was quite old, far beyond the natural age of becoming a mother. When she had apparently despaired of ever being a mother, she gave her maid to Abraham to wife, and she became the mother of Ishmael. It was foretold by an angel to his mother before he was born that he would be a wild man, that his hand would be against every man and every man’s hand would be against him. This prediction turned out to be literally true after he grew to manhood. He and his mother remained in the house of Abraham till Isaac was born and the time for his weaning had come. They had some sort of feast on that occasion, and Sarah saw Ishmael mocking at her son Isaac; and she at once decreed that he and his mother must leave at once, and so they did. From this time we have but few items of history of Ishmael. He married an Egyptian woman, had twelve sons, and the family drifted into Arabia and led a roving, wild sort of life. The Ishmaelites bob up occasionally in Bible history for a long time, but they never accomplish much in the world’s history. But this family, Hagar and her offspring, became a sort of type – Hagar, a type of the Jewish covenant, the law of Moses; and her posterity, a sort of type of the Jewish people under that covenant. This is what Paul means in the passage as part of his allegory: That Hagar represents the covenant that was established at Mount Sinai, “which gendereth to bondage … and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.” Her children represent in figure the Jewish people, which were under the law of Moses, which Paul calls a “yoke of bondage,” and the Jewish people are trying to hold on to that same yoke of bondage to this day. This is the typical meaning of the bondmaid and her son. But there is much greater importance attached to the other side of the allegory. Sarah lived on till she was quite old, when, in fulfillment of the promise of God through an angel, she bore a son in her old age. This is what is meant by Isaac’s being a child of promise, while Ishmael was born after the flesh–simply a natural, ordinary birth. Sarah was a type, or representative, of the new covenant of Christianity, and her posterity through Isaac were typical of Christians, Abraham’s spiritual posterity. So Sarah represents the church of God, the “Jerusalem which is above,” which “is free,” and “which is the mother of us all.” This is a beautiful figure, and in reality, represents in figure most of the history of the whole Bible and of the whole world to the end of time, when run out to its full meaning; for the spiritual seed of Abraham includes all Christians, both Jewish and Gentile, till the end of time. Paul used this figure in an effort to impress the Jewish Christians of Galatia with the folly and awful danger of turning back to the law of Moses, which had been set aside and which could save no one. He showed that if they undertook to keep the law they would lose all interest, all the benefits that belong to the new and everlasting covenant through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Elisha G. Sewell


The Promise to Abraham

Please give us an article in the Gospel Advocate on the promises made to Abraham – whether they have been fulfilled or not; or do we, as Christians, look for those promises yet to be fulfilled? In Gen. 13:14, 15, God said to Abraham: “Look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it.” Then in Acts 7:5 it is said that he did not inherit it. Why I want your views on this is that the Adventists are creating great excitement in this country among the brethren.

When people will not know and practice the word of God, they will be carried off by some delusion or other. God will send a delusion upon those who stubbornly reject his word. The people of this country and age do not know what the Bible teaches; hence they cannot believe or practice it. We think likely Adventism is as harmless a delusion of a religious character as can afflict them.

The promise to Abraham was: “In blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall poses the gate of his enemies; and in, thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” It is an indefinite question to ask if that promise has been fulfilled. There are so many items in the blessing that were not all to be accomplished at one time that the same answer will not answer for all.

The first promise, “I will bless thee,” certainly was fulfilled; the second, “In multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore,” was fulfilled. Their numbers increased beyond computation almost. They were given the mastery over their enemies, or possessed the gates of their enemies, until by disobedience they forfeited this power. Through Abraham the promised seed has come – Christ Jesus, our Lord. In him the blessing for all nations is provided. All nations who have received him have received the promised blessing, but the enjoyment of it depends upon our accepting that blessing and appropriating it through compliance with the conditions connected with the giving of it. The condition of enjoying the blessing through Christ is trust in him that leads to a full acceptance of Christ as the Ruler and Lord of all. No nation, as a whole, has accepted him thus. Some have wholly rejected him. They wholly fail of the blessing through this rejection. Only individuals of other nations and families accept him. To the extent that they receive and obey him, to that extent they have received the blessing. The blessings through Abraham have been provided and given to the world. The enjoyment of those blessings is only partial. The Jews have forfeited the blessings they once enjoyed. The Gentiles have only partially accepted the blessings, so to a very limited extent enjoy them. The blessings through Abraham have all been provided by God and placed in reach of man. Man enjoys them just to the extent that he receives and obeys Christ.

David Lipscomb