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Isaac & Ishmael

Isaac & Ishmael


Abraham in Gerar

Abraham decided to move south. He left Hebron, where he had dwelt for twenty-five years and went to Gerar, in the land of the Philistines.

As he had done in Egypt many years earlier, Abraham again concealed the fact that Sarah was his wife, fearing that the Philistines might want to slay him. Believing that Sarah was Abraham’s sister, King Abimelech of the Philistines had her brought to the palace. But G‑d smote the king and his servants with plagues, so that they would not touch her. As soon as the king found out the cause of his punishment he called Abraham and begged his forgiveness. To make up for his wrong, he gave Abraham and Sarah many gifts. Abraham prayed to G‑d to cure Abimelech and his royal household, and the prayers were answered. Abimelech and his people knew that Abraham was a saintly man, and they begged him to stay in their land. Abraham, agreed, and resided in Gerar for twenty-six years.

Isaac’s Birth

G‑d’s promise was fulfilled. When Abraham was one hundred years old and his wife ninety,: Sarah gave birth to a son. Abraham called him Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day, making him a party to the holy covenant G‑d had established with Abraham.


As we know, Isaac was not Abraham’s first born, for Hagar had borne him Ishmael thirteen years earlier. But Ishmael had not grown up as his father had hoped. He was inclined towards many things Abraham considered wicked. Ishmael even prayed to idols when he believed himself unobserved.

Sarah observed him and realized that he would have a bad influence upon the young Isaac. She therefore implored Abraham to send Ishmael away. Abraham understood the motive of his wife’s request, but he feared to send his son away to a place where he might become even worse. However, G‑d told Abraham to do as Sarah had requested, and Abraham then sent Hagar and Ishmael away, providing them with water and food for the journey.

The Miraculous Well

Hagar and Ishmael lost their way in the wilderness of Beer Sheba and soon ran out of water. Hagar could not watch the boy’s suffering and put him in the shade of a bush, while she sat some distance away and cried. An angel then called to Hagar and assured her that G‑d had seen the suffering of her boy. He would live and become the father of a mighty nation. And suddenly, Hagar saw a spring nearby.

Hagar and Ishmael were saved from death and continued their journey. G‑d blessed the boy, for he was Abraham’s son. Ishmael grew up into a strong man. He lived on the outskirts of the desert and became a great archer. Ishmael lived his life in his own way. He married and had many children. His children multiplied and became known under the name of Ishmaelites, or Arabs, the people of the desert.

From Our People by Jacob Isaacs published and copyrighted by Kehot Publication Society 1946-1948
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kontoculai October 3, 2017

Where is it written that Ishmael prayed to idols?I thought God was with him(Genesis 21:20) Reply

Andrew California September 8, 2017

"His children multiplied and became known under the name of Ishmaelites, or 'Arabs', the people of the desert." (Emphasis added.)

Just curious to know whether or not the concept of Arabs as being the Children of Ishmael is merely a matter of conventional acceptance, or if there is anything specifically scriptural which affirms that this is the case.

"People of the desert" may refer to any number of different peoples inhabiting the area of the Middle East and North Africa.

Are there biblical place names which correlate to ancient cities or villages existing, or known to have existed, in the southern Arabian Peninsula back in the early biblical period where these "people of the desert" were believed to have dwelled? Reply

Mendel Adelman September 11, 2017
in response to Andrew:

Hello Andrew,

It is not truly based on Scriptural proof.

There are mentions of tribes that descend from Hagar later on in the Bible, and they are descrobed as living on the Eastern bank of the Jordan river, but nothing connecting today's Arabs directly to Ishmael.

That tradition is one that the Arabs espouse.

Ishmael actually dwells in the desert of Paran in the Bible (Genesis 21:21), which is to the west of Israel, not the east. Additionally, he takes a wife from Egypt, inplying that that was the direction to which he lived. Reply

Andrew Schulsinger California September 14, 2017
in response to Mendel Adelman:

"...but nothing connecting today's Arabs to Ishmael. That tradition is one that the Arabs espouse."

Thanks for confirming my suspicions about this, rabbi. After a bit of my own research, that's precisely the conclusion I arrived at, as well. I just wanted to be sure I hadn't overlooked anything.

Also, thank you for all the additional illuminating information I'd not been aware of. Much appreciated.

One more question:

If, later on in scripture, as you stated, certain tribes residing east of the Jordan river had descended from Hagar, are they believed to have migrated there from the area where Ishmael dwelled in Paran? Is there a chronology to these events?

To my knowledge, Hagar had only one child (Ishmael). Are the aforementioned tribes believed to have descended from Ishmael, or from any other children Hagar may be presumed to have had? Reply

Anonymous Sydney February 25, 2017

God promised Abraham that through him would come a people and a nation and a messiah that would be a blessing to the whole world.And a world wide kingdom of peace and prosperity where Israel would be the leading nation of the whole world.
The Muslims claim that all the promises that were given to Abraham apply to Ishmael so therefore they believe they are the people of God and the whole land of Israel should be their rightfully.So they have to destroy Israel(the Jews) to prove to themselves they are God's chosen people or otherwise are they all wrong? Their fighting for their eternal destiny.Their freaking out that the Jews are their and prospering.But Abraham had two sons and the promises went to Isaac.And Isaac had two sons and one was Esau and the other Jacob.The promises of God did not go through Esau but went through Jacob.So therefore the chosen people of God came through the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.Many times in the Old Testament God tells us this! Reply

Jeff Maynard May 11, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Here's something 2 think about, Esau married Ishmael's daughter and also Asher's 1st wife was Ishmael's descendant. I just wonder how many of Abrahams descendants married Ishmael's descendants Reply

Ruth Upright NJ, USA July 10, 2016

Hagar carries 16 yr. old Ishmael Walid, on 11-2-2013 you said: "How can hagar carry a 13 year old son and walk in the desert Ishmael was a child when she took him away and this is the missing chapter. (And Abraham...put the child on [Hagar's] shoulder, and sent her away...) There is something wrong in your story."

Walid, on 11-2-2013 you said: "How can hagar carry a 13 year old son and walk in the desert Ishmael was a child when she took him away and this is the missing chapter. (And Abraham...put the child on [Hagar's] shoulder, and sent her away...) There is something wrong in your story."

There's nothing wrong. Abraham was 86 years old when Ishmael was born. And Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. So Ishmael was actually about 16 years old when Isaac was weaned and Ishmael was sent into the desert with his mother. So your question becomes: How could Hagar possibly have carried 16 yr. old Ishmael on her shoulder in the desert, whether or not he was healthy, when he would seem to have been too heavy? Consider that Abraham fathered children at 86 and 100 years old. Not normal by today's standards. And he lived to 175 years old. So human development seemed to be at LESS than half speed. That would mean that at 16 years old, Ishmael was equivalent to a 6-8 year old by today's standards. Reply

Anonymous May 6, 2017
in response to Ruth Upright:

The scripture did not say Abraham placed Ishmael upon Hagar's shoulder. The scripture says that Abraham place provisions (Food and Water) upon her shoulder and placed some upon the shoulder of the child. (Gen 21:14) And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave [it] unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away:If he was 16 he was well capable of carrying his own load.
You must understand writing and literature. The part that says "putting it on her shoulder" is a part of writing or literature that further explains an action.
In fact the text could be removed to better understand the scripture however, I would never remove anything from the Holy Word.
Also, He would have never put the child upon her shoulder he would have put the child in her arms. Reply

Yitzak Barnet June 30, 2016

Ishma'el God would never forsake Abrahams first born who was the one Abraham was about to sacrifice for his Lord, there is something distinctly wrong with how Ishma'el and Hagar are represented and also what is left out in the Old Testament with regards to this, seems like someone deliberately did not want this read so with a slight of hand changed what was then into what we are led to believe today.
Shalom Reply

Hank Gant USA June 18, 2016

Yes, the blood of Abraham runs through the veins of Arabs. In the Quran they view that Ishmael was the first born son and received the covenant. If it was accepted this were true, the covenant still comes from God through Abraham. Where does this leave Islam. Praying to the God of Christians and Jews? In spite of the Covenant, Ishmael was still blessed. God never broke his promise. Islam scorns God and His believers, but if it weren't for the blessing to Ishmael, Islam would never exist. When Abraham passed, both Ishmael and Isaac came together, there was no fight. Catholics and Protestants don't kill each other in the hundreds of millions, like Shiite and Sunni. We worship the same God. The Islam world needs to come to peace within themselves. When you find peace within yourselves things change. It is said in the Quran that Satan deceived Allah. When you come to terms with each other, you will have defeated the one who deceived you. Your enemy is not the God of Abraham,it is Satan. Reply

chitoba gumbo April 17, 2016

So does the story of Ishmael and Isaac indicates that the child born from maidservant is not being honoured even the child comes as a result of the influence from Sarah? Reply

Anonymous April 6, 2016

Maybe I need to read the passages once more but this seems to me a benign account of what went down with Hagar and Ishmael. When I read it it seemed as though Sarai feared Isaac had no claim to his fathers inheritance since he was born second and urged Abraham to shun Hagar and their son so Isaac would take the place as first born. Starting a couple thousand year long blood feud over land. Reply

Anonymous December 16, 2015

I've always thought of Ishmael as a neutral character. He had no say in being born and was basically sent away, for practicing the ways of his mother. Yet God blessed him anyways and from him came a great people. He was also a good son as evidenced when he was present during Abraham's funeral. A very fascinating character Reply

Simcha M Bart Los Angeles December 12, 2015

In the Torah (Genesis chapter 17 and later in chapter 21 ) G‑d told Abraham: "Your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac, and I will establish My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his seed after him..." "For in Isaac will be called your seed..." thus indicating that the true child of Abraham - his seed - is Isaac, not Yishmael(as is evidenced as well from later in chapter 17). Interestingly, Yishmael's mother is referred by G-d in those chapters as your maidservant, as opposed to Sarah who is referred to as your wife, further indicating the distance placed even between the mother of Yishmael from Abraham as opposed to Sarah - the mother of Isaac. Reply

Uroosa khan July 8, 2017
in response to Simcha M Bart:

You're saying that God doesn't honour Ishamel because he's a maid servents is against justice and God can't do anything that is unjust.why ishmael couldn't be a prophet why he couldn't inherit any good character from his father just because his mother is poor maid? Reply

Anonymous Romania October 23, 2015

Curious Muslims think that Ishmael was the one to be sacrificed as is stated something like sacrifice your only son" . Jews think that Isaac was the one to be sacrificed although they know Ishmael was first born. How do rabbis explain this. Reply

Mutahir Kazmi California October 17, 2015

This Torah story and the teachings of Sages are eye opener. Torah tells us the story of Jewish and Muslim people's ancestry and Quran confirms that. The Jews and the Muslims (Arabs) are children of Abraham. So what is this all fight about. Sit down together, read Torah , read Quran and talk to each other as a family. No more fight , no more oppression. The world is tired of their senseless conflict and this one way victory can not go forever. Today's victors can become tomorrow's victims. So shake hands, embraces each other and be at peace as a family.

I see Christianity in the middle and as such can serve a bridge to form a much larger Abrahamic heritage. Reply

Deborah Lemons Dale City September 20, 2015

Ishmael and Isaac
what is the meaning of each name. I found one reference which says Ishmael is "God will hear". Reply

Yisroel Cotlar Cary, NC November 18, 2013

Re: While Ishmael was 13, he fell ill which is why he could not walk on his own. This is also the reason why the supply of water was used up faster than they had expected. Reply

walid November 12, 2013

How can hagar carry a 13 year old son and walk in the desert Ishmael was a child when she took him away and this is the missing chapter.
(And Abraham rose up in the morning and took loaves and a skin of water, and gave [them] to Agar, and he put the child on her shoulder, and sent her away, and she having departed wandered in the wilderness near the well of the oath )
There is something wrong in your story. Reply

Kitty April 5, 2017
in response to walid:

Maybe it means that she now had the full responsibility of the boy? Reply

Irene Esparza Lubbock, Texas/USA December 16, 2010

I love these studies from a Jewish viewpoint I am an American and I have weekly Bible Studies in my home. I found this site about 3 weeks ago and have been using them in my studies. My students have enjoyed and are very happy with them. Thank you very much for this extra information that you have for anyone who wants and needs it. P.S. I pray for you always. Reply

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