(19) What is the meaning of the statement, she had an Egyptian handmaid whose name was Hagar? (#Ge 16:1). Hagar is interpreted travelling, and she is the servant of a more perfect nature, being by nature an Egyptian less naturally; for the study of encyclical learning loves an abundance of knowledge, and abundant knowledge is, as it were, the handmaid of virtue, since the whole course and connection of sciences and arts is subservient to his use who is able to profit by their acquisition so as to attain to virtue, for virtue has the soul for its abode; but the course of arts and sciences stands in need of bodily instruments. But the body is symbolically Egypt; therefore the sacred writer here properly asserts the likeness of encyclical knowledge to Egypt. Nevertheless he has also given it a name by reason of its travelling abroad, since sophistry is a foreign thing, unconnected with the acquisition of that wisdom which alone is native, and which alone is necessary, which is the mistress of intermediate wisdom, and which conducts itself in a beautiful course through the guidance of encyclical studies.
(20) Why did Sarah say to Abraham, Behold the Lord has shut me up so that I shall not bring forth: go in now unto my handmaid so as to beget a son by her? (#Ge 16:2). In the actual letter of this statement it is the same thing to feel no envy, and also to provide for the welfare of the wise man who is her husband and her genuine brother; so that she, wishing to find a remedy for her own barrenness by means of her handmaid of whom she was mistress, gives her as a concubine to her husband. But there is a still greater abundance of her affection towards her husband indicated by this; for as she herself was accounted barren, she did not think it reasonable that the family of her husband should be left entirely without offspring, but preferred his advantage to her own dignity. This is what is indicated by this statement taken literally. But if we look to the inner sense of the passage it bears such an interpretation as this: it becomes those persons who are unable in respect of their virtue to bring forth beautiful works deserving of praise, to apply themselves to the intermediate kind of study, and, if I may so express myself, to procure themselves children from the encyclical branches of knowledge; for an abundance of knowledge is as it were the whetstone of the mind and of the intellect. And it is with great propriety that she says, The Lord has shut me up; for that which is shut up is generally opened again at a seasonable time. Therefore she was not destitute of hope, nor was her wisdom fixed in the belief that she should be for ever without offspring, but she knew that some day or other she should bring forth. Nevertheless she will not bring forth at present, but when the soul displays the purity of its perfection. But inasmuch as it is at present imperfect it is satisfied with using a milder kind of learning, such as is attainable by encyclical studies. On which account it is not without a purpose that in the sacred contests at Olympia also, those who are unable to attain to the first prize of victory are contented to be thought worthy of the second; for there is offered to the competitors a first, and a second, and a third prize by the presidents of the games, who are representatives of nature. So now to her the sacred writer attributes the first prize of virtues, and the second prize of encyclical study.