Ishmael (Genesis 24:14–20)

Second Best

Ishmael’s birth could be called a mistake. It came about because Sarah and Abraham doubted God’s promise to provide them a child in their old age. The two conspired to “help God out” by using an Egyptian servant, Hagar, as a substitute wife for Abraham. Then, when God fulfilled his promise and Sarah bore a son of her own, she cruelly drove the servant and her son out into the desert. Ishmael, the innocent victim of this scheming, suffered the consequences.

Yet God also blessed Ishmael. He “heard the boy crying” when Ishmael was dying of thirst in the desert (21:17). God promised that Ishmael’s descendants would comprise a great nation. The Bible records that Ishmael had 12 sons and that the Ishmaelites were Israel’s neighbors for centuries. In fact, Arabs today traditionally trace their lineage back to Ishmael.

Ishmael apparently kept in contact with his original family; he attended Abraham’s funeral, and his daughter would marry Abraham’s grandson Esau. Yet his place in Abraham’s covenant with God was lost. In a similar way, Ishmael’s son-in-law Esau would enjoy the earthly blessings of success, even though God’s greatest blessing was reserved for Esau’s brother Jacob. In the Bible’s accounting, God’s covenant blessing always mattered more than earthly success.

Taken from NIV Student Bible

Hagar and Ishmael in the Wilderness, painting ...
Hagar and Ishmael in the Wilderness, painting by Karel Dujardin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How things have changed since Ishmael was born! He kept in contact but now his descendants only wish to wage war on his original family’s descendants. What went wrong? God kept His promise that Ishmael’s descendants would become a great nation too. They have no reason to complain that God didn’t love them or doesn’t love them, they, like everyone else, have simply to accept God’s love for He loves all of His creation.

Shirley Anne


Author: Shirley Anne

Happy to be alive because of Jesus