Abraham had two sons: One was his child and the other one was not. Let us explain it: Jehovah called Abraham to be a great blessing, but Sarai was barren. Jehovah tells Abraham to look to the north and to the south, to the east and to the west, and promises that he will give all that land to his seed (Gen. 13:15). The years went by and Sarai, who was still barren and tired of waiting for the miracle, said to Abraham: Behold, Jehovah has prevented me from bearing children. Go into my servant: perhaps I will obtain children through her. And Abraham entered into Hagar, and she conceived. (That was ten years after the promise – Gen. 16:1-4). After 25 years after the promise, when Ishmael, son of the Egyptian slave, was fourteen years old, and Abraham, ninety-nine, Sara was made pregnant by Jehovah, and gave him a son, whose name was Isaac (Gen. 21:1-5).
As we have said above, Abraham had two sons: one that was his, and another one that was not. The one that was his child was born according to the flesh, that is to say, was born of human intercourse with Hagar. The son that was not his child was begotten by the work of Jehovah; therefore he was not Abraham’s son.
The one that was Abraham’s, the angel named him Ishmael (Gen. 16:11).
The on that was not Abraham’s, Jehovah named him Isaac (Gen. 17:19).
The legitimate son of Abraham, begotten in the womb of Hagar, was rejected before birth. This is in Gen. 16:4-11. This rejection became real later, when Ishmael, the carnal son of Abraham, persecuted the carnal son of Jehovah (Gen. 21:9-13). We say carnal son of Jehovah, because Jehovah begot Isaac in the flesh in the carnal womb of Sara. Then something difficult to understand happened.
The son that was Abraham’s was rejected as not being his son and banished by both Abraham and Jehovah (Gen. 21:9-12). And the son that belonged to Jehovah was considered an illegitimate son and heir of Abraham. This is why, when Abraham offered Isaac in holocaust to Jehovah, the Bible says that Abraham sacrificed his only begotten son (Heb. 11:17).
It is worthy of notice that Abraham, after the death of Sara, remarried with Keturah and begot six more children besides Ishmael, whose names are Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah — these six: not including the children of the concubines (Gen. 25:1-7). But Abraham gave gifts to all his children, and the heir of everything he had was Isaac, the one that was not his son. Ishmael did not inherit anything.
The problem resides in that Jehovah begot Isaac in the flesh; therefore Isaac cannot be an only begotten son, for an only begotten is the only one to be generated. In the New Testament we read that God does not generate children in the flesh. The apostle John wrote: “But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God’s children, to those who believe in his name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). And if God does not beget children in the flesh, how did Jehovah beget Isaac in the flesh? It is written in the New Testament that every man generated in the flesh by his carnal parents, in order to be a child of God, has to be born again; in other words, he has to be spiritually generated by the Holy Spirit. The story happened in the following manner: “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. The same came to him by night, and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Most certainly, I tell you, unless one is born anew, he can’t see the Kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Most certainly I tell you, unless one is born of water and spirit, he can’t enter into the Kingdom of God! That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit’ (John 3:1-6). According to Jesus’ explanation in John 3:1-6, Isaac could not be the only begotten son of Abraham, for he had been generated by Jehovah, in the flesh, and Abraham had the firstborn in the flesh, which was Ishmael, plus six more children with Keturah, and the children of the concubines, besides. Also, Isaac could not be an only begotten son in the spirit, because he had not been born again by the Holy Spirit.
However, Paul gives us his version so as to spare us from exasperation. He says: “Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, don’t you listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the free woman. However, the son by the handmaid was born according to the flesh, but the son by the free woman was born through promise. These things contain an allegory, for these are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children to bondage, which is Hagar. For this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answers to the Jerusalem that exists now, for she is in bondage with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is the mother of us all” (Gal. 4:21-26).
Now, I ask: Did Jehovah make a covenant in Sinai with Hagar and the Ishmaelites, Ishmael’s descendants? No! Jehovah established a covenant with the descendants of Isaac on Mount Sinai. What do we make of this? Let us explain:
Paul declares that both women and their sons are an allegory. In an allegory the elements that are used are not literal. Therefore Hagar and her son are a covenant; and Sara and her son are another covenant. In the covenant of the earthly inheritance, which is the Jerusalem of the earth, there are Hagar and her children, which are rejected. Sara and her children are the heavenly inheritance, that is to say, the covenant of grace and of all the delivered from the captivity of this world. The text of Gal. 4:21-31 explains both inheritances.
By Pastor Olavo Silveira Pereira