The Old Testament in Galatians
Article by Phil Scranton
The book of Galatians shows the apostle Paul’s strong
dependence on the OT Scriptures, not just for wisdom and historical facts, but
also for typical representations embedded in the Hebrew narratives. As we explore the relationships between
different passages it will also accent our appreciation for the inspiration of
the Scriptures. We will not look at all the
OT quotations in Galatians, but we will look at a correspondence of other
things such as ideas associated with places like Damascus. We will see a practical application of Paul’s
basis for associating slavery with the law, and hope to better grasp his
rejoicing in the freedom of grace. And
we will also see the basis of his use of Sarah and Hagar as representatives of
different covenants. This last is a
theme of the Scriptures that carries through even to the days of David. This carrying over of the covenant theme
through history required a change in representative features. Originally the promise covenant required the
birth of children by Sarah and Rebekah.
The symbolic role of these women would be transferred to the ark of the
covenant as the nation grew and the covenant could no longer be represented by
a single person.
One of the
miraculous things about the inspiration of the Scriptures is that events are
often recorded in such a way that they foreshadow other things. This does not require any misrepresentation
of the actual events, but it simply depends on recording the appropriate details
of an event so that it can represent more than just historical facts. We live in a day when criticism of the sacred
texts has been so extensive that many fail to see the true glory of God’s
book. We hope to awaken a fresh
confidence in Him and in His communication with humanity.
The Damascus Connection
There are some
very interesting correlations between Genesis 15 and the opening chapters of
Galatians. What we want to point out is
the similarity in the flow of topics addressed.
The most curious of these is probably the mention of Damascus. In Genesis 15:2 Abraham asked Yahweh about
His promise of descendants, noting that his servant, Eliezer of Damascus, would
be the heir to his possessions if he failed to beget a child. The mention of Damascus here seems a chance
detail, while in Galatians (1:17) where Paul mentions it, it was the place of a
significant event. This correlation is
strengthened because in chapter 14 Abraham had just travelled near to Damascus
to rescue Lot (Gen. 14:15), so both Abraham and Paul journeyed toward Damascus.
It was on the road
to Damascus that Paul met the Lord, was struck blind, and then fasted and
prayed in Damascus for three days. Then
he received his healing and his call to carry the evangel to all nations—not just
the Jews. In Genesis 15:2 Abraham’s
complaint to God was that the only heir he had to all his possessions, and the
only heir he had to carry on in God’s plan and purpose, was a foreigner. He was not a natural son of Abraham and was
not from Abraham’s homeland. We might
well ask the question, “Who was more perplexed with the possible involvement of
other peoples in God’s plan…Paul or Abraham?”
But the mention of
Damascus is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg here in the parallels
between these passages. At the end of
Genesis 14, between the two mentions of Damascus, Abraham met Melchizedek, whom
we are told was a type of Christ (Heb. 5:5-10; 7:1-3). Paul, on the road to Damascus, met Christ
Himself. Not only did Abraham meet
Melchizedek, but Melchizedek brought bread and wine—the symbols of Christ’s
cross—a cross that was a stumbling block to Paul and many Jews.
Genesis 15 begins
by telling us that Abraham had a vision in which he conversed with God. Paul was struck blind on the road by his
vision of Christ, and in Damascus he had a vision of Ananias coming and healing
him. In the vision of Abraham, Yahweh
said to him, “I am your Shield, your exceedingly increased Reward.” Abram had already seen God as his shield in
his victory in chapter 14 over the raiding kings who captured Lot, and also in
Egypt when Sarai was taken by Pharaoh.
words in Genesis 15:1 seem very suggestive of a change—God was Abraham’s
greatly increased Reward. How was it
that this Reward had increased? Abraham
responded to Yahweh that He had given him no seed. Yahweh assured Abraham that he would indeed
have seed that came from his own internal parts that would be his heir. Then Yahweh brought Abraham outside, told him
to count the stars if he could, and promised him his seed would become as the
stars in number.
commentators have suggested the idea that this refers to Abraham’s seed from
among the nations, and Paul says as much in Galatians 3 when he tells us those
who are Christ’s are Abraham’s seed. And
according to the evangel committed to Paul, Abraham’s seed from all nations has
a celestial allotment in the kingdom, making the star seed especially
appropriate to describe them. This
promise is greater than the initial promise given to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3.
correspondences between Genesis 15 and the early chapters of Galatians have not
been exhausted. Immediately after Yahweh
promised Abraham that his seed would be as the stars in number, we are told
that Abraham believed Him and God counted it to him for
righteousness—justification by faith.
Beginning in Galatians 2:15, after mentioning Damascus and the evangel
going to the nations, Paul gives us one of the great passages on justification
Then, in Galatians
4, Paul goes on to tell how Israel under law is represented by Ishmael and
Hagar being expelled from Abraham’s house.
The casting out of Hagar and Ishmael parallels the casting out of Israel
and the covenant of law. And the casting
off of Israel accompanies the revelation of justification by faith. The freedom of justification and grace comes
with the changes that cancel the administration of law.
by faith (Gen. 15:6), Abram’s vision takes up the subject of his seed coming
into possession of the land. After the
preparation of the covenantal sacrifice, Yahweh told Abraham that his seed
would be captive and ill-treated in a foreign land before they came into the
land He promised to give them.
Afterwards they would come out enriched and return to the land. We see this happening in the Egyptian slavery
and exodus, but we also hear the prophets speak of another, greater
exodus. Paul as well speaks of a future
regathering and salvation of Israel.
14, 15: Abram
Rescued Lot and
others near Damascus 14:15
Going to Damascus
to persecute believers
bread and wine
Christ was crucified
Abraham had a
Paul had a vision
exceedingly increased Reward—his seed as the stars of heaven
Paul: an evangel
with an increased scope. Israel’s
casting away is the conciliation of the world (Rom. 11:15)
Abaham’s seed as
with a heavenly administration (Eph. 1)
the faith of Christ (2:15, 16)
Abraham’s seed to
be captives and slaves in a foreign land (Gen. 15:13, 14)
Israel cast off nationally—Hagar
and Ishmael cast out (Gal. 4; see also Rom. 9-11)
for Abraham’s seed and the land to be given to his seed.
of Israel, and future glory for believers
The Hagar/Moses Connection: Law
In Galatians 4
Paul tells us that Sarah and Hagar are representative of two covenants. Some aspects of this are not too far to seek,
but Paul goes so far as to say that what was written in the Scriptures was
allegorizing, meant to teach us something.
How should we understand this, and is there more to it than what we see
in Galatians 4?
“Tell me, you who want to be
under law, are you not hearing the law?
For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, one out of the maid and
one out of the free woman. But the one,
indeed, out of the maid is begotten according to flesh, yet the one out of the
free woman through promise: which is allegorizing, for these women are two
covenants; one, indeed, from mount Sinai, generating into slavery, which is
Hagar. Yet Hagar is Mount Sinai in
Arabia; it is in line with the Jerusalem which now is, for she is in slavery
with her children. Yet the Jerusalem
above is free, who is mother of us all.
For it is written:
‘Be glad barren one, who art not
Burst forth and implore, thou who
are not travailing!
For many are the children of the
Rather than of her who has the
“Now you, brethren, as Isaac, are
children of promise. But even as then,
the one generated according to flesh persecuted the one according to spirit,
thus also it is now. But what is the
scripture saying? Cast out the maid and
her son, for by no means shall the son of the maid be enjoying the allotment
with the son of the free woman.
Wherefore, brethren, we are not children of the maid, but of the free
woman” (Gal. 4:21-31 CV).
Hagar was a
slave. She belonged to Sarah and was
obligated to do what Sarah told her to do.
So when Sarah told her to be a surrogate mother for her she complied. Probably Hagar thought there would be benefits
in this for herself, because she would be the mother of the child of a wealthy
and influential man. Israel’s
relationship to God since the covenant at Sinai was similar to this. Israel belonged to Yahweh, and they were
obligated to live for him and keep His covenant and live according to His
laws. So the Israelites, whose capital
was Jerusalem, were these people under the law, and, in a very real since, they
were Yahweh’s slaves. Ishmael never rose
above Hagar’s station in Abraham’s household.
pregnancy with Ishmael was by natural means, Sarah’s pregnancy was not. Sarah had always been barren, and gave birth
to Isaac when she and Abraham were very old.
This birth required an invigorating gift of life from God to Abraham and
Sarah. So the life and lineage of Isaac
was a gracious gift, and shows a relationship to God based on grace. Grace does not require obedience like law
does. Paul bases this grace in the
celestial Jerusalem since it is the result of Christ’s ascension to and
authority in heaven. And as Hagar did
not remain in Abraham’s house, so the Jewish nation was cast off and driven
from possession of the land, while those of faith came to have a heavenly
calling, as Paul explains in his evangel.
Isaac, like Christ, was sacrificed typically on Mt. Moriah, and through
him the Israelites came into being.
Because of Christ’s sacrifice, life comes to all who believe. The One who was a supernatural gift became
the source of life and grace.
This pretty well
covers the details that Paul mentions and insinuates, but his familiarity with
the Scriptures may have included the thoughts expressed in the following table. We would note that Moses was inextricably
connected with the law. The words in
italics on both sides of the comparison represent the same Hebrew words.
“…Sarai…had an handmaid, an Egyptian,
whose name was Hagar” Gen. 16:1
Moses was born in slavery to the
Egyptians, and was recognized as an Egyptian by Reuel’s daughters.
The last two letters of Hagar’s name
(gr) mean stranger, or, sojourner
Moses identified himself as a
stranger (gr), in the naming of his son Gershom
“…Hagar…she said, I flee from the
face of my mistress Sarai” Gen.
“…Moses fled from the face of
Pharaoh” Ex. 2:15 (b-r-ch m p-n-y)
Hagar stopped at a fountain/well of
water in the wilderness. Gen. 16:7, 14
Moses sat down at a well of water in
Midian. Ex. 2:15
Hagar encounters the angel of the
LORD in the wilderness Gen. 16:7
Moses encounters the angel of the
LORD at the burning bush in the wilderness
“…return to thy mistress” Gen. 16:9
“Go, return into Egypt” Ex. 4:19
The angel of the LORD made
concessions to get Hagar to move.1
The LORD made concessions to get
Moses to move. Ex. 3:11—4:17
The angel of the LORD told Hagar He
had heard her affliction. Gen.
The LORD told Moses He had seen the affliction
of Israel and had heard their cries.
In 16:13 Hagar uses the word “here”
in naming her theophany. (h-l-m)
“Draw not “nigh here”; put off
thy shoes…” Ex. 3:5 These are the only two uses of this word in
the Pentateuch. (Under grace we draw
near by the blood of Christ. Eph. 2:13)
Hagar returned to Sarai
Moses returned to Egypt to face
Hagar waiting for Ishmael, her coming
seed, her coming son.
Galatians speaks much of the coming
seed. Moses was also a coming
Moses slays the Egyptian
taskmaster—representative of Egyptian law: Christ came under law to reclaim
those under law to give them the place of a son (Gal. 4:4-5)
Hagar gives birth to a son who will
not get the place of a son in Abraham’s house.
Moses figuratively gives birth to a
nation (Num. 11:12) that will enter a covenant of law which cannot make them
sons of God.
Hagar bears her son Ishmael.
Sarah bears her firstborn/only
son—Abraham’s son, his “only” Gen.
God slays Pharaoh’s firstborn (Ex.
12:29-30) and frees His firstborn son, Israel. Ex. 4:22
Hagar’s son and Sarah’s son cannot
live together Gen. 21:10
Pharaoh’s son and God’s son cannot
live together. Believer’s and
unbelievers cannot share the same allotment.
Hagar thrust out of Sarah’s
house and service. Gen. 21:10-14 (g-r-sh)
Moses and Israel thrust out of
Egypt. Ex. 11:1; 12:31-36, 39 Israel as a nation cast away.
Hagar and Ishmael thirst in the
desert, and God supplies water for them.
Moses and Israel thirst in the
desert, and God supplies water for them.
Ex. 15:25; 17:1-7
Hagar remains free from Sarah.
Moses and Israel remain free from
Pharaoh and Egypt. Believers freed
from law (Gal. 5:1).
Verses 9-11 all begin: “And the angel of the LORD said unto her…” There is no response recorded from
Hagar. But the presence and repetition
of this phrase shows that three separate comments were made by the angel. The first two statements were not enough to
make Hagar move. But when she was told
that her son would be as wild and free as the wild donkeys of the wilderness,
and that he would stand face to face against every man, she decided that she
had something worthy of enduring some hardship.
Perhaps these are not exactly concessions, but at least it was only
after the concession of giving additional information that she was ready to
return to Sarai. Exodus 3:11-4:17 shows
Moses’ reluctance to return to Egypt.
These common courses of events, the fleeing away and
the theophanies, followed by a returning and a final thrusting out, along with
all the other noted similarities, are too detailed to be coincidences. The design of the records of these events in
the Scriptures calls for their comparison and identification as being
There is another threefold comparison to consider
which reiterates that above. In Genesis
15 the LORD God made a covenant with Abahram.
“And he said unto Abahram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger
in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict
them four hundred years” (v. 13). These
are three conditions that must be met before Israel was freed from Egypt: (1)
strangers, (2) servants, (3) afflicted.
In Exodus 1 we find that the Egyptians afflicted the Israelites
and made them serve with rigor (vv. 11-14). But apparently the Israelites were at home in
Egypt, because there is no mention of them being strangers there. It is not until Moses has a son, and names
him Gershom, “for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land,”
that the narrative of Exodus makes an abrupt shift which turns attention to the
deliverance of Israel (Ex. 2:22-25). The
Hebrew word stranger, or, sojourner is made of the letters gr. The g and r in Gershom provide
the word stranger. Moses
fulfilled this aspect of the covenant in Genesis 15 for Israel. He was alone enough to realize that his
people were strangers in Egypt.
In the story of Hagar, the same three words are
prominent. Hagar’s name is made of 3
letters, including the gr. The
first letter, which we have as H in English, makes her name mean the
stranger. The word afflict
occurs in Genesis 16:6, 9 referring to Sarai’s treatment of Hagar. (Most translations do not render these texts
with the word afflict, but the same Hebrew word is used.) And in chapter 21, the feminine word is used
which corresponds to the masculine for serve. Clearly there are many aspects regarding
Hagar that are recorded in the scriptures in such a way as to give a
representation of Moses, Israel, and the bondage of law. It appears that Paul was not simply
clairvoyant, but he was interpreting the scriptures from a deep familiarity and
understanding of them, coupled with divine guidance.
The Wife/Sister Connection: Promise/Covenant Protection
“Yahweh said to
Abram: God by yourself from your land, from your kindred and from your father’s
house to the land that I shall show you.
“I shall make you
into a great nation,
And I shall bless
I shall indeed
make your name great,
And you will
indeed be a blessing;
I shall indeed
bless those blessing you,
And I shall curse
the one maledicting you.
In you all the
families of the ground will be blessed.
So Abram went just as Yahweh had told him; and Lot went with him”
These verses show
a promise that God made to Abraham. It
did take some time for Abraham to become separated from Lot and actually be
alone, but he did God’s bidding. And God
placed Himself under obligation to fulfill His promise to Abraham. Obviously, since the promise involved Abraham
having a family, Sarai played a key role in God’s plan and promise.
In Galatians Paul
tells us that Sarah and Hagar represent promise/covenants that God made, not
only with Abraham, but also Israel, and especially Christ. There are three instances in Genesis where
wives, Sarah and Rebekah, are presented as the sisters of their spouses. These narratives form a similar and progressive
set that reveals Sarah’s and Rebekah’s position as representative of the
covenant relationship of Israel to God.
The content of these passages will be presented in comparisons similar
to that of Hagar and Moses. The
relationship of Abraham to Hagar was simply that of servanthood, or
ownership. The relationship of Abraham
to Sarah was twofold: relative and spouse.
There was the familial relationship and the covenant of marriage
relationship. Rebekah was a cousin to
Isaac, as well as being his wife. This
double relationship is more like that of God to believers. He is related to us through creation and also
through the covenant in Christ’s blood. God
is Israel’s Creator as well as Husband (see Isa. 43:1-7; 54:5).
The protection of Sarah and Rebekah is a typical
representation of God’s protection of His people, and also of the fact that He
will not allow His covenant to be violated.
Some commentators today suggest that Sarah was violated during her tenure
in Pharaoh’s and/or Abimelech’s house.
We disagree with that conclusion.
While the Genesis account is silent on the point, Psalm 105:9-15 is more
emphatic. The fact remains that the
promised seed came and was the son of Abraham and Sarah, and the sons of Isaac
and Rebekah, and on down to Christ. As
we see God’s protection and maintenance of His covenant with Israel among the
Egyptians and Philistines, we see that the purpose of the sister/wife episodes
was to represent God’s faithfulness to Israel because of His promises and
Abraham and Sarai in Egypt
Israel in Egypt
“there was a famine in the
land” Gen. 12:10
“for the famine was also in
the land of Canaan” Gen. 42:5
“for the famine was heavy
in the land” Gen. 12:10 CV
“the famine, it was heavy
in the land” Gen. 43:1
“Abraham went down to Egypt to sojourn
there” Gen. 12:10
Joseph’s brothers: “we have come to sojourn
in this land” Gen. 47:4
Sarai was a fair woman; “the
Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair” Gen. 12:11, 14 (y-ph-h) 1
“now Joseph was well-favored
in shape as well as well-favored to the sight” Gen. 39:6 CV
Abraham to Sarai: “Then they will
kill me, but keep you alive” Gen.
King of Egypt to Hebrew midwives: “if
it is a son then you will put him to death, and if it is a daughter then she
will live” Ex. 1:16 CV
“the princes of
Pharaoh…commended her before Pharaoh”
The chief butler commended
Joseph to Pharaoh to interpret his dreams.
“…and the woman was taken into
Pharaoh’s house” Gen. 12:15
Joseph was taken into Pharaoh’s house
to rule Egypt, second only to Pharaoh.
Pharaoh treated Abraham well for
Sarai’s sake. Gen. 12:16
Pharaoh treated Jacob’s family well
for Joseph’s sake. Gen. 47:1-6, 11
Abraham’s wealth and property
increased. Gen. 12:16
Israel increased abundantly in
Egypt. Ex. 1:7
“…and the LORD plagued Pharaoh and
his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife” Gen. 12:17
“…LORD said…Yet will I bring one plague
more upon Pharaoh…afterwards he will let you go” Ex. 11:1
Pharaoh commanded his men to escort
Abraham and Sarai away Gen. 12:20
Egyptians pushing and urging Israel
to go Ex. 10:28, 29; 12:30-33
Abraham left with Sarai and all his
possessions Gen. 12:20; 13:1
Israel left, enriched, not leaving
any of their possessions as Pharaoh had tried to compromise Ex. 12:31-36
Abraham left wealthy
Israel despoiled the Egyptians Ex. 12:35-36
“Abraham was heavily stocked with
cattle, with silver and gold. So he
went his way by stages from the Negeb as far as Bethel” Gen. 13:2, 3 (CV) “And he went, following his moving
platoons” Gen. 13:3 DT
It took Israel 3 months to
travel to Mt. Sinai. Ex. 19:1, 2
“the sons of Israel…their moving
platoons” Ex. 17:1 DT
“…to the place where his tent had
been at the start, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar he had
formerly made there” Gen. 13:3, 4
“…when you bring the people forth
from Egypt you shall serve the One, Elohim, on this mountain” Ex. 3:12 CV
(came back to same place)
“…and there Abram called on the Name
of Yahweh” Gen. 13:4 CV
At Sinai Israel entered covenant
relationship with Yahweh. Ex. 19
adjective here for beautiful, fair, or, well-favored is used
twice of Sarah, Rebekah, Joseph, David and Abishag; singly for others; and the
noun and adjective are both used once for Esther. The adjective is also used of Jerusalem (Ps.
48:2). The noun (y-ph-y, instead
of y-ph-h) is used of Jerusalem in Psalm 50:2 and 3 times in Ezekiel
16:14, 15, 25. Ezekiel 16 gives the
prophetic history of Jerusalem as a maiden in covenant relationship with
God. Jerusalem passes through steps
similar to Sarah. She had renowned
beauty in covenant relation to God; she is taken captive for her sins; and she
will be restored in pristine glory.
By the many
parallels between Abraham’s and Sarai’s sojourn in Egypt and Israel’s sojourn
in Egypt, it is clear that the Scriptures mean for the two to be compared and
recognized as having a similar purpose.
We cannot say that since both Hagar and Sarai have been compared to the
same exodus, there is no difference between them. If the comparisons are laid side by side, a
number of differences are evident. Hagar
is extensively compared to Moses, the lawgiver.
Sarai is compared extensively to Joseph, the beloved son and savior of
the world. Other distinctions also show
Sarai in the position of the favored covenant people, and the parallel closes
in communication with Yahweh, in covenant relationship.
The Second Wife/Sister Connection
second wife/sister scene was with the Philistines at Gerar. It has many of the same features as the scene
in Egypt, and resembles the exodus from Egypt in many ways. Yet we will compare it with the capture of
the ark by the Philistines, another scene with similarities to the exodus. These scenes also have their own unique
points in common that make their comparison more suitable than comparing with
the exodus again. In Abraham’s and
Isaac’s days, their wives were the vessel from which the promised seed would
come. Now the wives are compared to the
ark of the covenant, since the time would soon pass when a single individual
could represent the covenant. The ark
represented God’s covenant and presence with the people.
The ark is named
with a variety of descriptions which suit their contexts and lend themselves to
special emphases. The original
description of the ark is found in Exodus 25:10-22. It says there that the tablets of stone on
which God wrote the ten commandments, the testimony, were to be placed
inside it. When that law is in view, the
ark is called the ark of the testimony.
Occasionally it is simply called the ark, but far more often the
ark of God, or, the ark of the LORD, or, the ark of the testimony,
or, the ark of the covenant. In 1
Samuel 4, the first 4 references to the ark are in relation to the
covenant. They are: the ark of the
covenant of the LORD (twice, vv. 3, 5), the ark of the covenant of the
LORD of hosts, who dwelleth between the cherubim (v. 4), and, the ark of
the covenant of God (v. 4). The next
45 or 50 references to the ark do not include mention of the covenant.
While it was in the
land of the Philistines, it was frequently designated the ark of the God of
Israel. Interestingly, the narration
refers to it as the ark of the LORD the two times that Dagon was
prostrated before it, emphasizing the superiority of Yahweh over Dagon. And later, when the Philistines were trying
to get rid of it, they referred to it as the ark of the LORD (1 Sam.
6:2). Perhaps this suggests a degree of
acknowledgment and realization of the superiority of the God Who was plaguing
them. The point we wish to emphasize
here is Israel emphatically calls it the ark of the covenant before the battle,
but the issue of the battle and the context following make it evident that
Israel had violated the covenant.
During the time
that the ark is not referred to as the ark of the covenant, it is not
housed in the tabernacle. It was removed
from the tabernacle at Shiloh to bring victory to Israel on the battlefield as
in the days of conquest. In the book of
Joshua, when Israel was winning many great victories, the ark was referred to
repeatedly as the ark of the covenant, and it frequently accompanied them into
battle. Apparently, knowledge of this
fact caused the elders of Israel to secure it from Shiloh (1 Sam. 4:3). But the ark was not brought by the Levites as
God had prescribed, and it was accompanied by the sons of Eli, whom God had
cursed for their sins. Israel had
violated the covenant and lost the ark, and the ark brought severe casualties
upon Israel as well as the Philistines.
It was not again called the ark of the covenant until David was
restoring it properly, according to the law, and placing it in a tabernacle in
passage, 1 Samuel 4-7, holds many parallels to the possession of Sarah by
Abimelech, and should be understood to lay great stress on the thought of
covenant relationship to God. This is
part of the background for the concept of Sarah and Hagar representing
covenants. Again, italicized words
represent the same Hebrew word used in both elements of the comparison.
Abraham and Sarah among the
The ark of the covenant
among the Philistines
Abraham journeyed toward the
Negeb—south land—in the direction of Egypt, away from the land of promise1 Gen. 20:1
Israel had fallen away from God, the
priesthood was corrupt, and there was idol worship in Israel. 1 Sam. 7:3
Abraham sojourned in Gerar, land of
the Philistines Gen. 20:1
Israel went out to fight the
Philistines without consulting God2 1 Sam. 4:1
Abimelech, king of Gerar sent and
took Sarah Gen. 20:2
“…and the ark of God was taken” by
the Philistines 1 Sam. 4:11
God spoke to Abimelech in a dream at
night Gen. 20:3
God visited Dagon and the Philistines
by night, prostrating Dagon before the ark
1 Sam. 5:2, 3
God said to Abimelech: “Behold, thou
art but a dead man” Gen. 20:3
Dagon was dead, head and hands
broken off. 1 Sam. 5:2,3; “Send away the ark…that it slay us
not…for there is a deadly destruction”
1 Sam. 5:11
Abimelech rose early in the morning
and called his servants. Gen. 20:8
Philistines rose early the
next day; and early the following morning. 1 Sam. 5:3, 4
“therefore suffered I thee not to touch
her” Gen. 20:6
“…but if not, then we will know that
it is not his [God’s] hand that smote [touched] us” 1 Sam. 6:9
“the men were sore afraid” Gen. 20:8
the word for men is not humans, nor men as opposed to women, but enosh;
the mortals were afraid; same words used in 1 Samuel
“And the Philistines were afraid…and
they said…Be strong and quit yourselves like men…quit yourselves like men
and fight” 1 Sam. 4:7-9
“the LORD had fast closed up all the
wombs of the house of Abimelech” Gen.
20:18 Though this plague appears to
have affected only women, the same general area of the body was affected by
God smote the cities of the
Philistines with tumors, in their “hinder parts” (Ps. 78:66); many died. An infestation of mice or rats accompanied
the plague (1 Sam. 5:6-12), which some suppose to have been bubonic.
The closing of the wombs was on all
under Abimelech’s authority. Gen.
God’s hand was heavy against all
the cities of the Philistines. 1 Sam.
6:4, 17, 18
“So Abraham prayed unto God; and God healed
Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bore children.” Gen. 20:17
“If you send away the ark of the God
of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return him a trespass offering;
then you shall be healed” 1
“And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen,
and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them to Abraham, and restored
him Sarah, his wife.” Gen. 20:14
“And take the ark of the LORD, and
lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold, which ye return him for a
trespass offering, in a coffer by the side of it; and send it away, that it
may go.” 1 Sam. 6:8
“And Abimelech said, Behold, my land
is before thee: dwell where it
pleaseth thee.” Gen. 20:15
“So the Philistines were subdued, and
they came no more into the border of Israel…and the cities which the
Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel.”3 1 Sam. 7:13, 14
1 Even directions,
such as south, or toward Egypt, are important features of the text that should
be considered and not go unnoticed. For
example, Abimelech protested to God, “wilt thou slay also a righteous
nation?” This is so like Abraham’s
question to God in 18:23: “Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the
wicked?” And, after that, Abraham rose
early the next morning (19:27), just as Abimelech did, to see the judgment
passed upon Sodom and Gomorrah.
Similarities like these invite comparisons of the texts.
2 In 1 Samuel 4:1,
the first sentence belongs to chapter 3.
“Now Israel went out…” begins a new section of the book that runs
through chapter 7. Israel did not go out
to fight the Philistines under instruction to Samuel from God. Samuel does not come on the scene again until
chapter 7. And there he tells them that
if they want any help from God they must first repent.
3 There is a time
gap (1 Samuel 7:2) between Israel’s reacquisition of the land and the return of
the ark. Still, these verses contain
information that is presented as part of the section of the book from chapter 4
through 7. This passage contains two
battles—Aphek and Mizpeh—both with the Philistines. Both battles are located by the Scriptures in
the vicinity of Ebenezer, though that rock and place were not so named until
after the second battle. Both battles
begin with a loud noise that strikes fear to the hearts of the
Philistines. There was wailing in the
cities of the Israelites and wailing in the cities of the Philistines. Dagon fell before the ark and suffered
decapitation, and Eli, the corrupt priest, fell and broke his neck because the
ark was taken. Both Israel and the
Philistines were smitten with plagues because of the ark, and Israel may have
had more casualties than Philistia!
There are many details in the context that prove its unity, and it
should be considered as such, even though considerable time elapsed before the
The Third Wife/Sister Connection
In this section we
will compare Isaac and Rebekah’s sojourn in Gerar with David’s proper moving of
the ark to Jerusalem. With Abraham,
Sarah and Hagar represented two different covenants. With Isaac, Rebekah represents a continuation
of the covenant God made with Abraham and Sarah. An interesting difference in the wife/sister
episode of Isaac and Rebekah is that Rebekah is never taken from Isaac. This is in keeping with their typology. They are a different generation of the
covenant people than that which saw the casting away of the bondwoman—the
nation under law. Rebekah had come to
Isaac as he represented One Who was ascended.
She travelled to the land with the servant to meet Isaac there. This may represent Israel coming back to God
through the work of the Spirit and through Christ in a future day. The comparative episode in David’s day shows
the proper restoration of covenantal devotion that had been broken by Israel,
and had lain dormant many years.
between our primary texts is that the Genesis passage is prefixed by Jacob
obtaining the birthright from Esau. The
second passage is prefixed by the house of David replacing the house of Saul on
the throne. Then David restores covenant
relationship to God.
If there is any
doubt that David’s bringing of the ark to Jerusalem initiates a new beginning
of covenant relationship, note the following.
“And David said…let us bring again the ark of our God to us; for we
inquired not about it in the days of Saul” (1 Chron. 13:2, 3). Then, in the account of David using the
proper means to bring the ark into Jerusalem, the term ark of the covenant
is used no less than seven times (1 Chron. 15:25—17:1). The ark is mentioned in 1 Chronicles about 20
times before the account of its entrance into Jerusalem, but in none of those
is it called the ark of the covenant. In
1 Sam. 6:15, where the parallel passage is found, some manuscripts have the
full phrase, ark of the covenant, but some do not. But, historically, that is the time when the
phrase comes back into use again. The
next occurrence of the term in Samuel is 2 Samuel 15:24. There David is fleeing Jerusalem from
Absalom. He gives direction for the ark
to be left in Jerusalem, with the hope that God will be pleased to bring him
back to it. This shows reliance by David
upon God to fulfill His covenant with him.
relates the events of Isaac and Rebekah in Gerar. Again, the journey to Gerar is precipitated
by a famine, but the text makes it clear that it was a different famine from
that in the days of Abraham. Verses 2-5
relate an appearance of Yahweh to Isaac, the purpose of which was to make it
thoroughly clear that Isaac is now the holder of the covenant promises in
Abraham’s stead. Like the passages in 2
Samuel 6:12-23 and 1 Chronicles 15:25-29; 16, there is special emphasis in the
Genesis passage on the covenant.
Contrary to the
passages concerning Abraham and Sarah in Gerar and Egypt, God does not allow
Rebekah to be taken by Abimelech. In the
bringing of the ark to Jerusalem, God does not allow anyone but the designated Levites
to touch it. He is fully capable of
protecting His own covenant and seat.
The capture of the ark by the Philistines made that emphatically
fear of being killed so they might take Rebekah, Isaac told the people Rebekah
was his sister. The royal personage,
Abimelech, king of the Philistines, watching from the window saw (Gen.
26:8). The royal personage, Michal,
daughter of king Saul, watching from the window saw (2 Sam. 6:16; 1
Chron. 15:29). All the same words are
used in all three passages. This is very
Abimelech saw: sporting
(KJV, ASV), caressing (New Scofield, NASB, NIV), laughing (ESV,
Emphasized Bible), fondling (RSV), making love (TEV, LB), playing
(Young’s Literal), dallying (Darby’s).
What we know of what Abimelech saw is this: (1) it was something that
identified Isaac and Rebekah as husband and wife, rather than brother and
sister. Probably it was sexual in some
way. (2) it is the same word family as
the name Isaac (ts-ch-q). The
verb varies considerably in its sense as it changes tenses and contexts. Sarah laughed upon hearing she would
bear a son. Lot seemed as one who mocked
to his sons-in-law. Samson made sport
before the Philistines, and when the children of Israel rose up to play
at Sinai, it was to commit immorality.
The same word is used in all these instances.
All Israel played
before the Lord (2 Sam. 6:5; 1 Chron. 13:8).
Michal saw David dancing and playing (1 Chron. 15:29), and David
said to Michal, “therefore will I play before the LORD” (2 Sam.
6:21). In these passages an alternate
form for ts-ch-q is used: s-ch-q.
Both forms occur in Judges 16 in reference to Samson being made sport
for the Philistines. If the order of O.
T. books in the English Bible is used, this is the first occurrence of s-ch-q. Except for one occurrence in Ezekiel, all the
uses of ts-ch-q are found in Genesis through Judges 16. All occurrences of s-ch-q are to be
found from Judges 16 onward through the O. T.
There is no significant difference in the meanings of the words, so we
may take them as a variant of the same word.
This concordant use, then, of the same expression is another factor
tying the passages in Genesis 26 with those in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles.
In both cases the
royal personage looking out the window accuses the person they saw of actions
of a sexual nature. Abimelech was very
displeased, and accused Isaac of negligence that could have resulted in
adultery and brought a curse on his people.
Michal was very displeased and jealous and accused David of acting
indecently before the handmaidens of Israel (2 Sam. 6:20).
in Gerar was not through Abimelech, but from God (Gen. 26:12). Because of David’s love for God, he was
blessed again and again, but not through Michal, who kept idols, and never bore
David any children.
and Rebekah among the Philistines
of the Covenant Restored to Jerusalem
Follows the account of Esau selling
his birthright to Jacob for food. Esau
called Edom-same letters as Adam who also sold his birthright for food
Follows the account of Saul losing the
kingdom to David. Saul repeatedly
said, “I have sinned” (1S 15:24, 30; 26:21) as one guilty of breaking
law. David said, “I have sinned
against Yahweh” (2S 12:13; 24:10, 17) but understood God’s mercy and grace
A famine came to
be in the land, Isaac went to Gerar among Philistines, God told him to remain
in the land and not go to Egypt.
Abram to go to Egypt (Gen. 12:10), and the family of Jacob to go down to Egypt
(Gen. 41:56-42:5; 43:1).
beautiful, and God’s covenant was beautiful
Isaac said Rebekah
was his sister
Abram said Sarai
was his sister
Isaac sojourned in
Gerar of the Philistines
Abram sojourned in
Gerar of the Philistines; David overcame the Philistines who had previously
taken the ark of the covenant
Strong emphasis on
Strong emphasis on
covenant with the ark
Abimelech looked through the window and saw
Isaac caressing (?) Rebekah
Michal looked through the window and saw
David playing/dancing (?) before the Lord
royalty, king of Gerar
royalty, daughter of Saul
Isaac of lying for doing something with sexual connotations with Rebekah
David of risqué behavior in front of the women of the kingdom
Abimelech never touches Rebekah; Abimelech orders that
none of his people touch Isaac or
The word for
“touch” is the point of comparison here.
God does not allow
anyone but the priests to touch the
ark of the covenant. Previously Uzzah touched the ark to steady it and was
struck dead. The priests had to cover
all the tabernacle furnishings before the sons of Kohath moved them so the
Kohathites would not die (Num. 4:15).
“Touch not mine anointed” (Ps. 105:15; God
to the nations; David used it of Saul)
Isaac farmed the
land and God caused it to produce abundantly, flocks and herds grew, Isaac
became increasingly great (Gen. 26:12-14)
on both men becoming great)
God had chosen
David over Saul and anyone in Michal’s family (2 Sam. 6:21), he would be
glorified in the eyes of the people (6:22), God would establish his house and
make him great (7:8-16)