An allegory is a story, almost always fictional, wherein abstract or spiritual ideas and principles are symbolized using people and events. It differs slightly from a parable in that parables teach religious lessons and don’t necessarily center on characters as much as the objects and events. Allegories also differ slightly from fables insofar as fables employ the personification of animals, plants, inanimate objects, and forces of nature (e.g., the sun or the wind) as characters.
There is an interesting opening to Paul’s statement concerning the allegory found in Galatians 4: “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?”. Paul then directs the Galatians’ attention to the account of Abraham, his two sons and their respective mothers: Hagar and Sarah. I find Paul’s “do you not hear” statement interesting, for nowhere else do we find this allegory and its teaching expressed so clearly (cf Rom 9:6-9).
The allegory presents an interesting contrast to the thinking of those who desired to be under the law. I am convinced these Christians were Gentile converts who were unduly influenced by the Judaizers. One can only imagine how these false teachers presented the glorious history of the Jewish people: the call of Abraham and the greatness of the man from whom they all descended; the Exodus; the Decalogue, the Conquest, the greatness of David and Solomon, etc.
But there was only one problem… in the scenario of that moment, they no longer had any rightful claim to Abraham or the things promised to him. Instead, they were presented by Paul as the son of Hagar, despised by Sarah and cast out with his mother into the wilderness.
When the promise to Abraham was fulfilled in Christ (Gal 3:16), the only true children of Abraham were those who were partakers of the promise by faith, not the flesh. Again, referring back to chapter 3, those who were the children of God by faith were those who had been baptized into Christ.
Paul thus calls these faltering Christians back from the lies and misrepresentations of the Judaizers, “Nevertheless, what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.’ So then, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.”