Three Women, Three Covenants
Sarah and Hagar were two women, who at various points in time, had a child with Abraham. God used the events in the lives of three women, in order to illustrate and explain three of His Covenants. As we are told, in Gal.4:22‑24 (Diaglott) "For it has been written, that Abraham had two sons; one from the bond‑woman, and one from the free‑woman. Now, the one from the bond‑woman was naturally produced; but the other, from the free‑woman, was through the promise. Which things are allegorical; for these represent Two Covenants."
Here we are specifically told that Sarah and Hagar represent covenants. A "covenant" is an agreement, between two or more individuals. Whereas, an "allegory" is when persons, including events in their lives, personify or represent a concept or idea. In other words, an allegory is an illustration or type, which was lived by people.
God makes Covenants with mankind for various reasons, including: to teach us lessons, to help us understand his Plans and Purposes, and the ultimate purpose being to convey blessings. God chose to use the relationship between a husband, wife, and their children, in order to illustrate His Covenants.
Notice what God did not use, in illustrating His Covenants. He did not use a contract. A business contract is rather cold and impersonal; and is mainly used from a legal standpoint. Neither did God use a Teacher‑to‑Student relationship. A Teacher‑to‑Student relationship is mainly one‑way; the teacher instructs the student; and it is oftentimes an impersonal relationship; purely from an educational standpoint.
Instead, God chose to use the relationship between a husband and wife (and their children) to give us a clearer and deeper insight into His Covenants. A husband and wife relationship is a close relationship, a lasting relationship, a warm and loving relationship, and a mutual relationship. So are God’s Covenants with mankind!
It is important to have an understanding of God’s Covenants and to know which Covenant we are being developed under, in order for us to better serve God, by knowing the requirements as well as the blessings and rewards offered for the Covenant we are under, if we are faithful unto death. A proper understanding of God’s Covenants also helps to determine where we are, relative to God’s timeline with mankind.
Throughout the allegory recorded in Galatians chapter 4, of Abraham and the three women he had children with, Abraham pictures God. In the Bible there are several scriptures which refer to God as a "husband." Isaiah.54:5 "For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name." Jeremiah 31:32, "...which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD."
Sarah was Abraham’s first wife. She was not a servant. (Gen.11:29) Sarah pictures the Grace Covenant, under which the Church class is developed during the Gospel Age; as we read: "Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman." (Gal.4:28,31 NIV) Truly, it is only because of the grace of God that a little flock of faithful followers is being called, then chiselled and polished by adverse experiences from following God and His righteousness. As the apostle Paul wrote concerning these, "...at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on (is no longer by) works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace." (Rom.11:5‑6 NIV)
Paul spoke of this heavenly calling as being a "gift," writing: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." (Eph.2:8 NIV) This grace extended by God to us, is not because of anything we have done, but rather it was made possible because of the ransom sacrifice of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. As Paul tells us, "he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy…through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:5‑7 NIV)
For many years Sarah was unable to have any children. (Gen.11:30) So also, the fulfilment of God’s promise made to Abraham, that "in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;" (Gen.22:18) remained barren for many years. Then, when Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah 90 years old, God made a promise to Abraham, "Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him." (Gen.17:19)
"The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac…and Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him." (Gen.21:1‑3,5) The promise given by God to Abraham’s son Isaac was, "I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant." (Gen.17:19) And that "in Isaac shall thy seed be called." (Gen.21:12) In Galatians 3 we are told that Isaac allegorically pictures Christ, "Now to Abraham and his seed (Isaac) were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." (Gal.3:16)
Years later, obeying God’s instructions to him, Abraham offered up his only son Isaac, in sacrifice: "And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the LORD…said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me." (Gen.22:10‑12) So also, God gave his only begotten Son (Jesus) to die as a Ransom for All. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son." (John 3:16)
In Gen.22:6 we are told that Abraham laid the wood for the sacrifice upon Isaac and Isaac carried the wood as the two of them travelled to the place where Abraham would have an altar. If you have ever tried to carry a load of wood in your arms or on your back, you know that wood is heavy to carry. This indicates that Isaac was strong and is a proof that he was a willing sacrifice. He was not a small, helpless young boy; but rather a strong young man. So also, Jesus willingly gave his life as a Ransom sacrifice for All. He tells us, "I lay down my life for the sheep…No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself." (John 10:15,18)
Years later, when Isaac was in his thirties, Abraham instructed his servant Eliezer, saying: "thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac…The LORD God of heaven, which took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence." (Gen.24:4,7)
The remainder of Genesis 24 tells of the wondrous account of how God led and directed Eliezer in the selection of a bride for his master Abraham’s son Isaac. Stopping at a well of water outside the city of Nahor, Eliezer prayed to God for help and guidance in selecting the bride for Isaac, asking if "the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master." (vv.10‑14)
Before he had done speaking, Rebekah came with her pitcher upon her shoulder and "was very fair to look upon, a virgin." (v.16) After filling her pitcher with water from the well, Eliezer asked her for some water to drink, which she willingly gave to him. Afterward, Rebekah said to Eliezer, "I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking." (v.19) She then emptied the rest of the water in her pitcher into the trough and "ran again" to the well in order to draw water, "and drew for all his camels." (v.20) Eliezer bowed down his head "and worshipped the LORD, and blessed the LORD God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master’s brother’s daughter unto his son." (v.48)
A camel is not like a horse in drinking, because a camel can drink at one time enough water to last an entire week. One large camel can drink about 18 gallons (80 litres/21 US gallons) in 10 minutes, almost 10 times more than what a horse can drink, because the camel’s unique metabolism enables it to store the water in its bloodstream. (Contrary to popular belief, the "humps" on the camel do not store water but rather fat.) Rebekah had "a lot" of work to do, in order to give water to 10 camels! She would have had to draw around 200 gallons of water. It must have taken her a long time. Her legs and arms must have become tired and ached, from repeatedly pulling up a heavy bucket full of water from the depths of the well, and then carrying it to the water trough.
Rebekah then took Eliezer to her father’s house. There Eliezer recounted to Rebekah’s father and brother all the things that had taken place. Rebekah was called out to leave her family and homeland, and to journey to meet her bridegroom. So also, during the Gospel age, there is the call of the Church class, to leave behind earthly hopes, ambitions, and goals; to become the Bride of Christ, to become the Lamb’s wife (the Lamb picturing Christ), as we read: "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church." (Eph.5:23) "For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." (2 Cor.11:2)
In Galatians 4, Paul says that the son "by a freewoman" was (born) "by promise," and that "Jerusalem which is above is free." (Gal.4:22,23,26) So also, there are many scriptures which indicate that the Church class’ reward is a heavenly reward. "But you have come to Mount Zion, to...the heavenly Jerusalem...to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven." (Heb.12:22‑23 NIV) "But our citizenship is in heaven." (Phil.3:20 NIV) "An inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade…kept in heaven for you." (1 Peter 1:4 NIV) "If the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling." (2 Cor.5:1‑2 NIV)
The woman Hagar was "a servant," and therefore not free, and allegorically pictures the Law Covenant. As we are told: "These things are being taken figuratively: the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: this is Hagar." (Gen.16:1 ESV; Gal.4:24‑25 NIV) Under the Law Covenant, we are told that "Moses was faithful in all his house, as a servant." (Heb.3:5)
Hagar had a son, named Ishmael, with Abraham before Sarah did. So also, the Law Covenant was made with Israel before spiritual Israel (the Church class) was developed. Abraham was 86 years old when Ishmael was born. (Gen.16:16) Ishmael pictures the nation of Israel, because of the four specific promises which God gave to Ishmael: as for Ishmael:
So too, God made these same four promises to Israel. God said to Jacob, "Israel shall be thy name...be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee." (Gen.35:10‑11) And God promised there would be "twelve tribes of Israel." (Gen.49:28)
The incident is recorded when Ishmael mocked Isaac, and as a result Sarah asked Abraham to cast off Hagar and Ishmael. (Gen.21:9‑10) So too, natural Israel as a nation was cast‑off for a time, because of their rejection of the Messiah. Jesus said to them, "Jerusalem…Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." (Matt.23:37‑38)
In the book of Exodus, we are told that Moses received the Law at Mount Sinai. (Exod.19:1‑3,8) Thus in Galatians we read: "...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." (Gal.4:24‑25)
Keturah was Abraham’s last wife. She is another significant type. She pictures the New Covenant. Prior to becoming Abraham’s wife, Keturah was a concubine and had six sons with Abraham. (1 Chron.1:32) We are told in the scriptures that Abraham was ten years older than Sarah, and that Sarah died when she was 127 years old. (Gen.17:17; 23:1) Thus, Abraham was 137 years old when Sarah died. After his mother Sarah died, Abraham’s son Isaac married Rebekah. (Gen.24:67) Then, Abraham took Keturah as his wife. (Gen.25:1) We believe Keturah pictures the New Covenant for two reasons.
First, because of the timing when Abraham took Keturah as a wife. Abraham took Keturah as a wife, after Isaac married Rebekah. (Gen.25:1) So also, the New Covenant will be in operation "after those days," after the Bride of Christ is completed and after the marriage of the Bridegroom (Christ) to the Bride (the Church class).
In Heb.8:8‑13 we read, "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt…For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days (after the Gospel Age, after the completion of the Church class), saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old."
The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 11, "Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. ...For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins." (Rom.11:1,25‑27)
Isaac was the only heir of Abraham, and we are told that "Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac." (Gen.25:5) So also, the Christ (Head and Body) are the "sons of God" and therefore the seed of promise, as we read in Gal.3:29, "if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."
A second reason Keturah pictures the New Covenant, is what was (and what was not) given to Keturah’s sons. Unto Keturah’s sons, that is, "unto the sons of the concubines…Abraham gave gifts." (Gen.25:6) So too, in the kingdom, Israel and the world of mankind will receive blessings (gifts), such as no more sickness, sorrow, or death, (Rev.21:4) as well as the blessings (gifts) of Peace and Joy. (Isa.35; Luke 2:10,14) We believe Keturah was not mentioned by name in Gal.4, because at the time of the writing of the letter to the Galatians, it was not yet God’s due time for the New Covenant to be understood.
In summary, in Galatians the apostle Paul explains to us an allegory, where Abraham (as a husband), pictures our Heavenly Father. Sarah (Abraham’s first wife) pictures the covenant under which the Church class is now being developed. Isaac (the only son of Abraham and Sarah; a willing sacrifice), pictures Christ. Rebekah (called out, to leave her family and homeland to journey to meet her Bridegroom), pictures the Gospel Age heavenly calling of the Church class. Hagar (a servant woman) pictures the Law Covenant. Ishmael (Hagar’s son) pictures the nation of Israel. Keturah (who became a wife to Abraham after Isaac married Rebekah) pictures the New Covenant and her children, from when she was a concubine, picture the world of mankind.
During the present Gospel Age, those who accept Christ as their Saviour and willingly, and fully, offer up themselves in full consecration to God, are under the Sarah Covenant. If faithful unto death, those under the Sarah Covenant will receive a heavenly reward and will be joint‑heirs with Christ to bless the world of mankind. After the marriage of the Lamb (Christ) and his Bride (the Church class) is complete, then those upon the earth (Israel and all mankind), as well as all those asleep in death in the grave will all be raised from the dead and will receive "gifts," kingdom blessings.