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We are use to hearing the story of Abraham and Isaac, but we often forget about Abraham’s oldest son Ishmael. Throughout the Bible, the Ishmaelites (Ishmeelites) play an important role in many of the events that take place. Let’s start by taking a look at the circumstances surrounding the birth of Ishmael.
Different People Named Ishmael In Scripture
In order to keep everything in context, we must first acknowledge that there are several different people named Ishmael in scripture, but two stand out over the others:
- Ishmael: son of Abraham (Genesis 28:9)
- Ishmael: son of Nethaniah (2 Kings 25:23)
For the sake of this study, we’ll only be looking into the son of Abraham.
Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar
Abraham spent the majority of his time traveling to and from Hamite countries, and in the process he began to accumulate wealth. One of his biggest accumulations of wealth occurred in Egypt after pharaoh took his wife Sarai.
“And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.” – Genesis 12:16
It is here that we find the most likely origin of Hagar, Abraham’s Egyptian concubine. After leaving Egypt, Lot decides to settle in Sodom, and Abraham moves his family into Canaan (Hamite territory).
“Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.” – Genesis 16:1
Abraham taking a second wife was his first wife’s idea. There are also several other points that stand out in this situation:
- God stays silent on the issue of Abraham having multiple wives.
- God stays silent on the subject of interracial marriage.
- God stays silent on marrying Egyptian descendants of Ham.
- Both Sarah and Abraham see no problem with having a half Hamite heir.
If God had anything against any of the above, he surely didn’t make his opinion known. This is a major roadblock for those that teach that Ham’s entire lineage was cursed.
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Hagar Flees From Sarah
After the getting pregnant with Ishmael, Hagar begins to despise Sarah, which leads to a situation only described as Sarai dealing “hardly” with Hagar (Genesis 16:6). This harsh treatment causes the pregnant Hagar to flee into the wilderness. While she’s in the wilderness crying, the angel of the Lord sees her:
“And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.” – Genesis 16:7-9
It is this encounter that will lead to another major nation with Abrahamic origin.
The Blessing of Ishmael
Many times we are so caught up with the blessings of Israel and the Church, that we forget that Ishmael and the Ishmaelites were blessed to be a great nation as well. Not only does this blessing play a huge role in scripture, it also plays a huge role in modern day politics:
“And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” – Genesis 16:10-12
If we look at the Middle East today, we see that it is mostly Arab and African, and Arab tradition traces their origin directly to Ishmael. The belief in Arabs originating with Ishmael is reflected heavily in Islam. It is also interesting to point out the constant state of war involving Arab nations and terrorist groups like ISIS, fulfills the prophecy that “his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him”.
This may be one reason why there will never be peace in the Middle East until Christ returns. Ishmael’s warring nature is prophetic.
God Confirms Ishmael’s Blessing
In the Bible, the story leaps forward by 13 years from Abraham being 86 years old (Genesis 16:16) to Abraham being 99 years old (Genesis 17:24). Just before Abraham’s age is given, he asks God to accept Ishmael as the promised son. Once again, Abraham didn’t see any problem with a mixed race son being the son of promise, which is a blow to those that believe the Bible is against mixed race marriages.
However, God has other plans, but he confirms that Ishmael will be blessed as a nation.
“And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.” – Genesis 17:20
This promise is going to lead to the Ishmaelites playing major roles in many events in the Bible. Before we get into those events, lets take a look at the sons of Ishmael.
The Descendants of Ishmael (Ishmaelites)
God promised Abraham that Ishmael would have 12 princes (12 Tribes of Ishmael), but it isn’t until Genesis 25:13-16 that we learn the names of these sons.
- Nebajoth: Esau’s brother in law (Genesis 28:9)
- Kedar: Known for their black tents (Song of Solomon 1:5), archers, and mighty men (Isaiah 21:17). Were also prophesied to fall from glory along with other Ishmaelite nations (Isaiah 21:11).
- Adbeel: No information found in scripture.
- Mibsam: No information found in scripture.
- Mishma: No information found in scripture.
- Dumah: Mentioned as sharing in Kedar’s fall from power (Isaiah 21:11).
- Massa: No information found in scripture.
- Hadar: Mentioned as reigning in the land of Edom, but is unclear if this is the Hadar being referred to (Genesis 36:39), but he is the only Hadar mentioned just a few chapters prior to this reference.
- Tema: Referenced in Job to describe his friends looking upon his affliction (Job 6:19), in Isaiah as bringing water to the thirsty (Isaiah 21:14), and included in the fall of Kedar (Isaiah 21:17).
- Jetur: Allied with Naphish and were conquered by the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh (1 Chronicles 5:19).
- Naphish: Allied with Jetur and were conquered by the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh (1 Chronicles 5:19).
- Kedemah: No information found in scripture.
These sons would collectively start the nation that would become known as the Ishmaelites (Ishmeelites).
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The Hagarites and Hagarenes
Several times in scripture the Hagarites are mentioned 3 times, and once they are referred to as Hagarenes. These two terms seem to be another name for Ishmaelites. They are mentioned in connection with descendants of Ishmael, such is in the book of Joshua:
“And they made war with the Hagarites, with Jetur, and Nephish, and Nodab.” – 1 Chronicles 5:19
Another indication that we have is that each of these terms begins with Hagar (Ishmael’s mother).
Key Ishmaelite Events In The Bible
The Ishmaelites (Ishmeelites) play very important roles several times in scripture. Here is a list of the important events involving Ishmaelites.
- Buy Joseph from the Midianites (Genesis 37:28)
- Sell Joseph to Potiphar (Genesis 39:1)
- Went to war with Gideon (Judges 8:1-35)
- Went to war with Saul (1 Chronicles 5:10-20)
- Plot to cut off Israel from being a nation (Psalm 83:6)
The Ishmaelite Conspiracy To Destroy Israel
In the book of Psalms, we are introduced to a conspiracy to cut off Israel from being a nation. In addition to Edom, Moab, and several others, Edom and the Hagarenes are also mentioned as part of the confederacy against Israel.
“They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance. For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee: The tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; of Moab, and the Hagarenes; Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assur also is joined with them: they have holpen the children of Lot. Selah.” – Psalm 83:4-8
There are some that believe that this plot involved Israel being enslaved, stripped of their culture, re-educated, and passing off scripture as Europeanized generations later. According to scripture and other historical documents, the Israelites fled to various parts of Africa to escape persecution. This may explain why slave traders hired certain African tribes to round up specific groups of people targeted for slavery in the Americas and other parts of the world. The Transatlantic slave trade may not have been a free for all, but a carrying out of Psalm 83.
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