Galatians 4:29 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Galatians 4:29, NIV: At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now.

Galatians 4:29, ESV: But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now.

Galatians 4:29, KJV: But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

Galatians 4:29, NASB: But as at that time the son who was born according to the flesh persecuted the one who was born according to the Spirit, so it is even now.

Galatians 4:29, NLT: But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit.

Galatians 4:29, CSB: But just as then the child born as a result of the flesh persecuted the one born as a result of the Spirit, so also now.

What does Galatians 4:29 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Paul is reaching the conclusion of his allegory, which contrasts living under the law of Moses to being justified by faith in Christ. He has shown this difference to be the same as that between living as a slave, or living as a free person. In this way, it is the difference between being born to Abraham's slave-wife Hagar (Genesis 16:1–3), as the result of human efforts, and being born to Abraham's free wife Sarah, as the result of the promise of God (Genesis 21:1–3).

Now Paul makes a further connection between the Ishmael/Isaac relationship and that between the Jewish religious leaders and the Christians of Paul's day. Ishmael, the son of the slave woman, persecuted Isaac, the promise-fulfilling son of the free woman. This persecution took the form of Ishmael, likely a teenager at the time, laughing at or mocking baby Isaac on the day of a feast in celebration of his being weaned (Genesis 21:8–9).

If we had been there, we might not have thought much about a teenage boy mocking his baby brother, but it was significant to Isaac's mother Sarah. That was the moment she demanded that Abraham cast out Hagar and Ishmael from their family to ensure that Ishmael did not share in Abraham's inheritance (Genesis 21:10).

For the purpose of his allegory, Paul is connecting Ishmael's mocking of Isaac with the Judaizers' persecution of the Christians. As Ishmael was born merely out of human effort, the Judaizers also taught that people could become acceptable to God through our own effort. Isaac's birth, though, was the result of God's work and the fulfillment of a promise. In the same way, Christians become God's children as the result of God's working through the Holy Spirit. It is not something we can make happen on our own.