Questions From Readers
● Isaiah 54:1 says: “More are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife.” Who is the married wife here mentioned?—M. F., United States.
“Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith Jehovah.” The account continues with a call for the desolate woman to enlarge her tent and prepare for increase because the shame of her youth and her widowhood is to be forgotten: “For thy Maker is thy husband; Jehovah of hosts is his name.” In wrath Jehovah had hidden his face from her for a moment and for a small moment he had forsaken her, but now with great mercy and loving-kindness he takes to himself this desolate one who was like a widow and blesses her with numerous offspring, making her more blessed in this respect than the married wife.—Isa. 54:1-8, AS.
Paul spoke of these two symbolic women and likened them to Sarah and Hagar: “It is written that Abraham acquired two sons, one by the servant girl and one by the free woman; but the one by the servant girl was actually born in the manner of flesh, the other by the free woman through a promise. These things stand as a symbolic drama; for these women mean two covenants, the one from mount Sinai, which brings forth children for slavery, and which is Hagar. Now this Hagar means Sinai, a mountain in Arabia, and she corresponds with the Jerusalem today, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written: ‘Be glad, you barren woman who does not bear children; break out and cry aloud, you woman who does not have childbirth pains; because the children of the desolate woman number more than those of her who has the husband.’ Now we, brothers, are children belonging to the promise the same as Isaac was. But just as then the one born in the manner of flesh began persecuting the one born in the manner of spirit, so also now. Nevertheless, what does the Scripture say? ‘Castout the servant girl and her son, for by no means shall the son of the servant girl inherit with the son of the free woman.’ Wherefore, brothers, we are children, not of a servant girl, but of the free woman.”—Gal. 4:22-31, NW.
Hagar represented the law covenant arrangement that was instituted at Mount Sinai and that brought forth natural Israel as a nation of people for Jehovah’s name and that resulted in Jerusalem with its temple for the offering of sacrifices according to the terms of the covenant. This natural, earthly Jerusalem was constantly reminded by the law requirements that it was in bondage to sin and death. The children this arrangement brought forth were in slavery, just as was the son of the servant girl Hagar. Yet for a long time they were the only children produced. Sarah had no offspring, though she was the free woman and had a promise of a son. Finally she did have this son, Isaac. She represented the new covenant arrangement and the Jerusalem above, which waited a long time before bringing forth children. Until she did she was desolate, like a wife of youth cast off, like a widow, as though not married or husbandless as far as offspring were concerned. It was the Jerusalem corresponding to Hagar that seemed really married and productive of children.
In Hebrew a city is feminine in gender, is spoken of as a woman, and its residents are referred to as its children. Heavenly Jerusalem, the Jerusalem above, Jehovah’s invisible organization, like Sarah, finally brought forth a seed of promise, the Seed promised at Genesis 3:15. After a wait of four thousand years she did this when Jesus was brought forth as Jehovah’s Son when he was baptized and spirit-begotten. More free children of promise, not under the Hagar law covenant of bondage, were brought forth by the free woman at Pentecost and thereafter, as others were spirit-begotten and made a part of Christ’s body or his heavenly congregation. These were persecuted by the Jewish religious system and its leaders, the correspondency of Hagar’s son Ishmael who persecuted Isaac. Nevertheless, the offspring of the Jerusalem above multiplied while those of the natural, earthly Jerusalem that proved unfaithful were cast off as children of the great Father and Husband, Jehovah. Sarah was a woman living in a tent, and a family increase would have meant enlarging the tent; so the woman organization corresponding to Sarah was told that the time would come when she would have to enlarge her tent. In time she would have more offspring than the Hagarlike law arrangement that produced the nation of Israel, but all of whom, except a small remnant, were unfaithful and remained in bondage to sin and death. So the married wife of Isaiah 54:1 was the unfaithful Jerusalem whose residents or children were cast off, whereas the one long desolate, as a cast-off wife or widow without children, is Jehovah’s universal organization, the Jerusalem above, who in due time brings forth many children.