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Ishmael [Ĭsh'mael]—god heareth.

1. The son of Abraham, by Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian maid. Ishmael was born when Abraham was eighty-six years of age, and was circumcised when he was thirteen years of age, along with his father and his servants. He received the divine promise that he would beget twelve princes and become a great nation. He died at the age of 137 (Gen. 16:11-16; 17:18-26; 25:9-17; 28:9; 36:3). Ishmael was the founder of the tribal family called Ishmaelites, sometimes referred to as Midianites (Gen. 37:25-28).

The Man Who Became an Outcast

Ishmael, who was some fourteen years older than Isaac, was not his father’s heir and did not share his father’s property. Abraham was tenderly attached to Ishmael (Gen. 17:18), and the casting out of the boy and his mother by Sarah was a great grief to Abraham. Such a hard transaction was necessary to keep the inheritance unbroken for Isaac’s possession. “To thee will I give it” (Gal. 3:16; 4:30). Ishmael’s name is a monument of God’s goodness in answering prayer. “God shall hear.” What did He hear? He heard the moaning of Hagar’s broken heart. God said concerning Ishmael: “I will make him a great nation” (Gen. 21:18).

The names of Ishmael’s twelve sons have been preserved but there is no record of any good they achieved (Gen. 25:13-16).

Paul tells us that the record of Hagar and Ishmael is an allegory (Gal. 4:24). Hagar and Sarah represent two covenants—Jewish and Christian. Hagar represents the law, and Ishmael, because he was born of the bond woman, typifies those who are under the law. Isaac, because of his super-natural birth, represents those born anew by the Spirit of God.

The casting out of Ishmael has been productive of bitter fruit, surviving in the religion of Mohammed. The wild hearts beat on in the bosoms of those who form the Arab world. Little did Sarah know, when she persuaded Abraham to take Hagar that she was originating a rivalry which has run in the keenest strife through the ages, and which oceans of blood have not stopped.

The Moslem Arabs claim descent from Ishmael. Ishmael’s mother and wife were Egyptian, which differentiates them from pure Hebrew. Arabian tribes springing from Ishmael are scattered throughout the Arabian peninsula. When Ishmael received his name, the Lord said that he would be “a wild man,” or “a wild-ass man” as the Hebrew expresses it.

2. An ancestor of Zebadiah who was one of Jehoshaphat’s judicial officers (2 Chron. 19:11).

3. A Son of Azer and a descendant of Saul through Jonathan (1 Chron. 8:38; 9:44).

4. A son of Jehohanan and one of the military officers associated with Jehoiada in the revolution to raise Joash to the throne (2 Chron. 23:1).

5. A son of Pashbur and one of the priests persuaded by Ezra to put away his foreign wife (Ezra 10:22).

6. A son of Nethaniah, a member of the royal house of David who took part in the murder of Gedaliah. His vile conduct and character are fully described by Jeremiah (40:8-16; 41).

Devotional content drawn from All the Men of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer. Used with permission.

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