Bible Symbolism

In Galatians 4 the Apostle declares: 21 Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a female slave, the other by a free woman. 23 But he who was of the female slave was born after the flesh; but he of the free woman was by promise. 24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which engenders to bondage, which is Hagar. 25 For this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answers to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. 26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written, Rejoice, you barren that bore not; break forth and cry, you that travail not: for the desolate has many more children than she which has an husband. 28 Now we, brothers, as Isaac was, are the children of promise, 29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. 30 Nevertheless what said the scripture? Cast out the female slave and her son: for the son of the female slave shall not be heir with the son of the free woman. 31 So then, brothers, we are not children of the female slave, but of the free. In this teaching the Apostle is clearly saying that the rituals and rites of the Mosaic law called the first covenant are symbolized by Hagar and the birth of Ishmael. He calls the mother of the children of the first covenant the physical city of Jerusalem.  In the context of the entire chapter he is comparing the purely physical descendant's of Abraham to the people of faith, be they Jew or Gentile. This article, Symbolism in Genesis Regarding the First and Second Covenant goes into this very deeply. The point of this is that he is quoting from one of the old Testament prophecies about the New Jerusalem to teach this; Isaiah 54.


     Isaiah 54:1 Sing, O barren, you that did not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you that did not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, said the LORD.
This is the verse Paul quotes. The way he is interpreting it is that the Mosaic Law and the physical city of Jerusalem were the married wife that bore many children. The people of faith though, few and for most of the history of ancient Israel persecuted and murdered by the faithless; these are the children of the desolate woman. However with the coming of the messiah the children of the desolate woman, in this case the children of the Jerusalem from above, the New Jerusalem, would bear more children than the earthly city would. The rest of the prophecy in Isaiah 54 will say more of this.

      2 Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of your habitations: spare not, lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes; 3 For you shall break forth on the right hand and on the left; and your descendants shall inherit the Nations, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited. A truly amazing prophecy exhorting the faithful with the promise that lay ahead. That the people of faith soon to be of all nations will grow and expand. So much so that it will be said the descendant of Abraham, the Messiah, through them will inherit the nations. That the fruit of this will be prosperous civilizations. (The desolate cities will be inhabited.)

      4 Fear not; for you shall not be ashamed: neither be you confounded; for you shall not be put to shame: for you shall forget the shame of your youth, and shall not remember the reproach of your widowhood any more. 5 For your Maker is your husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and your Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called. 6 For the LORD has called you as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when you were refused, said your God. 7 For a small moment have I forsaken you; but with great mercies will I gather you. 8 In a little wrath I hid my face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on you, said the LORD your Redeemer. 9 For this is as the waters of Noah to me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with you, nor rebuke you. 10 For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, said the LORD that has mercy on you. Here are more references to the bride of Christ. The shame and the reproach of her youth and being forsaken is a reference to the tribulations the believers in ancient Israel faced at the hands of the Gentiles because of the wickedness of the majority of its citizens and its leaders. Due to this they were not recipients of any of the earthly promises of God made to Abraham and in many other places in the scripture. It seemed as if they were forsaken by God and left to the whims of the wicked.  It mattered not how they lived their lives before the Lord. They reaped whatever the despots who ran the world sowed. This certainly did not change in New Testament times and for many a century beyond that. Yet in the next verses we have a promise of a day when that would not be so.

      11 O you afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with fair colors, and lay your foundations with sapphires. 12 And I will make your windows of agates, and your gates of carbuncles, and all your borders of pleasant stones. 13 And all your children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of your children. 14 In righteousness shall you be established: you shall be far from oppression; for you shall not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near you. 15 Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by me: whoever shall gather together against you shall fall for your sake. 16 Behold, I have created the smith that blows the coals in the fire, and that brings forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy. 17 No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, said the LORD.  The first few verses unmistakably use the same type of illustrations as the New Jerusalem in Revelation.  Verse 14 clearly states that the way these children of the heavenly city will be established in the earth is because of righteousness. That the terror and the oppression their ancestors were subjugated to will not be their story, their testimony.  Verse 15 points out that these promises will come to pass in a world where evil exists because the wicked seek to conquer the people of faith. It simply shows that unlike the ancient world where the wicked reigned in perpetuity. In this one with the Lords help, the righteous will come out on top.


     This prophecy by  Hosea starts out with a common theme among many of the OT prophets who illustratively use an adulterous wife to describe ancient Israel's relationship to God. Just a Isaiah's prophecy above though it speaks of a time to come when God's people, (those of faith of all nations.) will become his faithful wife who will dwell safely in their lands. The really profound verse is the last one though. Hosea states as a prophecy that God's wife, his bride will not be taken up to heaven as so many suppose but instead sown into the earth, exactly as all the New Jerusalem prophecies say. Proving the point that the New Jerusalem is an illustration or symbolic of believers that as prophecy become especially relevant in the time period after the fall of the Roman Empire in 1453 AD.  The time period when all the earthly promises to the saints in time past, unfulfilled in their days begin to come to pass in nations as the influence of Gods invisible kingdom expands throughout the earth.

      Hosea 2: 1 Say you to your brothers, Ammi; and to your sisters, Ruhamah. 2 Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband: let her therefore put away her prostitutions out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts; 3 Lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born, and make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst. 4 And I will not have mercy on her children; for they be the children of prostitutions. 5 For their mother has played the harlot: she that conceived them has done shamefully: for she said, I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink. 6 Therefore, behold, I will hedge up your way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths. 7 And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now. 8 For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal. 9 Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness. 10 And now will I discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of my hand. 11 I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts. 12 And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, whereof she has said, These are my rewards that my lovers have given me: and I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them. 13 And I will visit on her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgot me, said the LORD. 14 Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably to her. 15 And I will give her her vineyards from there, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt. 16 And it shall be at that day, said the LORD, that you shall call me Ishi; and shall call me no more Baali. 17 For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name. 18 And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. 19 And I will betroth you to me for ever; yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in mercies. 20 I will even betroth you to me in faithfulness: and you shall know the LORD. 21 And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, said the LORD, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; 22 And the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel. 23 And I will sow her to me in the earth; and I will have mercy on her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, You are my people; and they shall say, You are my God.

      In case there is some skepticism about this referencing believers of all nations; parts of the last verse are quoted in the NT as speaking to believers of all nations.

     1st Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

© Daniel Martinovich 2002-2017