(24) Why does Abraham say, “Behold thy handmaid is in thy hand, do unto her what seems good to thee?” (#Ge 16:6). The literal expression used by the wise man contains a panegyric; for he does not call the woman who had conceived by himself, his wife, or his concubine, but the handmaiden of his wife. But since he saw that she also was a mother, he did not indulge in anger and embitter the feelings of her mind, but rather tranquillised her, and made her prudent. But the passage contains an allegory in the expression, “In thy hand:” as if, if I may so say, sophistry lives under the dominion of wisdom, which indeed does spring forth from the same fountain, but only in one part, and not directly; nor does it preserve the whole of its emanations pure, but draws up with its waters many fetid things, and many others of a similar character. Since, therefore, it is in thy hand and in thy power (for to whomsoever wisdom belongs, he is possessed also of all the branches of encyclical learning), do with it whatsoever pleases thee, for I am quite persuaded that you will judge with not more severity than justice; because that very thing is especially agreeable to you: I mean the distributing to every one according to his deserts, and giving to no one more than is just, either in the way of honouring or despising him.
(25) Why does he say, Sarah afflicted her? (#Ge 16:6). The literal meaning of the words is plain: but if we look to the inner sense of them, they contain a principle of this kind. It is not every affliction that is injurious, but there are even some occasions when they are salutary; and this is experienced by sick men at the hands of physicians, and by boys under their tutors, and by foolish people from those who correct them so as to bring them to wisdom. And this I can by no means consent to call affliction, but rather the salvation and benefit of both soul and body. Now a part of such benefit wisdom affords to the circle of encyclical knowledge; rightly admonishing the soul which is devoted to an abundance of discipline, and which is pregnant with sophism, not to rebel as if it had acquired some great and excellent good, but to acquiesce and venerate that superior and more excellent nature as its genuine mistress, in whose power is constancy itself, and authority over all things.