Easton's Bible Dictionary
(1) Abraham's eldest son, by Hagar the concubine ( Genesis
16:15 ; 17:23
). He was born at Mamre, when Abraham was eighty-six years of age, eleven years
after his arrival in Canaan ( Genesis
16:3 ; 21:5
). At the age of thirteen he was circumcised ( Genesis
17:25 ). He grew up a true child of the desert, wild and wayward. On the occasion
of the weaning of Isaac his rude and wayward spirit broke out in expressions of
insult and mockery ( Genesis
21:9 , 21:10
); and Sarah, discovering this, said to Abraham, "Expel this slave and her son."
Influenced by a divine admonition, Abraham dismissed Hagar and her son with no
more than a skin of water and some bread. The narrative describing this act is
one of the most beautiful and touching incidents of patriarchal life ( Genesis
21:14 - 16
). ( See HAGAR )
Ishmael settled in the land of Paran, a region lying between Canaan and the mountains
of Sinai; and "God was with him, and he became a great archer" ( Genesis
21:9 - 21
). He became a great desert chief, but of his history little is recorded. He was
about ninety years of age when his father Abraham died, in connection with whose
burial he once more for a moment reappears. On this occasion the two brothers
met after being long separated. "Isaac with his hundreds of household slaves,
Ishmael with his troops of wild retainers and half-savage allies, in all the state
of a Bedouin prince, gathered before the cave of Machpelah, in the midst of the
men of Heth, to pay the last duties to the 'father of the faithful,' would make
a notable subject for an artist" ( Genesis
25:9 ). Of the after events of his life but little is known. He died at the
age of one hundred and thirty-seven years, but where and when are unknown ( Genesis
25:17 ). He had twelve sons, who became the founders of so many Arab tribes
or colonies, the Ishmaelites, who spread over the wide desert spaces of Northern
Arabia from the Red Sea to the Euphrates ( Genesis
37:25 , 37:27
), "their hand against every man, and every man's hand against them."
(2) The son of Nethaniah, "of the seed royal" ( Jeremiah
40:8 , 40:15
). He plotted against Gedaliah, and treacherously put him and others to death.
He carried off many captives, "and departed to go over to the Ammonites."
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
God that hears
Smith's Bible Dictionary
(whom God hears)
(1) The son of Abraham by Hagar the Egyptian his concubine; born when Abraham
was fourscore and six years old. ( Genesis 16:15 , 16:16 ) (B.C. 1910.) Ishmael
was the first-born of his father. He was born in Abrahams house when he dwelt
in the plain of Mamre; and on the institution of the covenant of circumcision,
was circumcised, he being then thirteen years old ( Genesis 17:26 ) With the institution
of the covenant, God renewed his promise respecting Ishmael. He does not again
appear in the narrative until the weaning of Isaac. At the great feast made in
celebration of the weaning, "Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she
had borne unto Abraham, mocking," and urged Abraham to cast him and his mother
out. Comforted by the renewal of Gods promise to make of Ishmael a great nation,
Abraham sent them away, and they departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.
His mother took Ishmael a wife out of the land of Egypt." ( Genesis 21:9 - 21
) This wife of Ishmael was the mother of the twelve sons and one daughter. Of
the later life of Ishmael we know little. He was present with Isaac at the burial
of Abraham. He died at the age of 137 years. ( Genesis 25:17 , 25:18 ) The sons
of Ishmael peopled the north and west of the Arabian peninsula, and eventually
formed the chief element of the Arab nation, the wandering Bedouin tribes. They
are now mostly Mohammedans who look to him as their spiritual father, as the Jews
look to Abraham. Their language, which is generally acknowledged to have been
the Arabic community so called, has been adopted with insignificant exceptions
throughout Arabia. The term "Ishmaelite" occur on three occasions: ( Genesis 37:25
, 37:27 , 37:28 ; 39:1 ; Judges 8:24 ; Psalms 83:6 )
(2) One of the sons of Azel, a descendant of Saul through Meribbaal or Mephibosheth.
( 1 Chronicles 8:38 ; 9:44 )
(3) A man of Judah, father of Zebadiah. ( 2 Chronicles 19:11 )
(4) Another man of Judah, son of Jehohanan; one of the captains of hundreds who
assisted Jehoiada in restoring Joash to the throne. ( 2 Chronicles 23:1 )
(5) A priest of the Bene-Pashur, who was forced by Ezra to relinquish his foreign
wife. ( Ezra 10:22 )
(6) The son of Nethaniah; a perfect marvel of craft and villainy, whose treachery
forms one of the chief episodes of the history of the period immediately succeeding
the first fall of Jerusalem. His exploits are related in ( Jeremiah 40:7 ; 41:16
) with a short summary. During the siege of the city he had fled across the Jordan
where he found a refuge at the court of Baalis. After the departure of the Chaldeans,
Ishmael made no secret of his intention to kill the superintendent left by the
king of Babylon and usurp his position. Of this Zedaliah was warned in express
terms by Johanan and his companions, but notwithstanding entertained Ishmael and
his followers at a feast, ( Jeremiah 41:1 ) during which Ishmael murdered Gedaliah
and all his attendants. The same night he killed all Zedaliahs establishment,
including some Chaldean soldiers who were there. For two days the massacre remained
entirely unknown to the people of the town. On the second day eighty devotees
were bringing incense and offerings to the ruins of the temple. At his invitation
they turned aside to the residence of the superintendent, and there Ishmael and
his band butchered nearly the whole number: ten only escaped by offering a heavy
ransom for their lives. This done he descended to the town, surprised and carried
off the daughters of King Zedekiah, who had been sent there by Nebuchadnezzar
for safety, with their eunuchs and their Chaldean guard, ( Jeremiah 41:10 , 41:16
) and all the people of the town, and made off with his prisoners to the country
of the Ammonites. The news of the massacre had by this time got abroad, and Ishmael
was quickly pursued by Johanan and his companions. He was attacked, two of his
bravos slain, the whole of the prey recovered; and Ishmael himself with the remaining
eight of his people, escaped to the Ammonites.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
ish'-ma-el (yishma'e'l, "God heareth," or "God may," "shall hear"; Ismael):
(1) The son of Abraham by Hagar, the Egyptian slave of his wife Sarah.
The circumstances connected with his birth reveal what seems to us to be a very
strange practice. It was customary among ancient peoples to correct the natural
defect of barrenness by substituting a slave woman. In our narrative, this is
shown to be authorized and brought about by the legitimate wife with the understanding
that the offspring of such a union should be regarded as her own: "It may be that
I shall obtain children by her," literally, "that I shall be builded by her" (Genesis
The hopes of Sarah were realized, for Hagar gave birth to a son, and yet the outcome
was not fully pleasing to Abraham's wife; there was one serious drawback. As soon
as Hagar "saw that she had conceived," her behavior toward her mistress underwent
a radical change; she was "despised in her eyes." But for the intervention of
the angel of Yahweh, the boy might have been born in Egypt. For, being dealt with
hardly (or humbled) by Sarah, the handmaid fled toward that country. On her way
she was told by the angel to return to her mistress and submit herself "under
her hands." She obeyed, and the child who was to be as "a wild ass among men"
was born when his father was 86 years old (Genesis 16:7 - 16).
At the age of 13 years the boy was circumcised (Genesis 17:25) in accordance with
the Divine command received by Abraham: "Every male among you shall be circumcised"
(Genesis 17:10). Thus young Ishmael was made a party to the covenant into which
God had entered with the lad's father. The fact that both Abraham and his son
were circumcised the same day (Genesis 17:26) undoubtedly adds to the importance
of Ishmael's partaking of the holy rite. He was certainly made to understand how
much his father loved him and how deeply he was concerned about his spiritual
welfare. We may even assume that there was a time when Abraham looked upon Ishmael
as the promised seed. His error was made clear to him when God promised him the
birth of a son by Sarah. At first this seemed to be incredible, Abraham being
100 years of age and Sarah 90. And yet, how could he disbelieve the word of God?
His cherished, though mistaken, belief about Ishmael, his doubts regarding the
possibility of Sarah's motherhood, and the first faint glimmer of the real meaning
of God's promise, all these thoughts found their expression in the fervid wish:
"O that Ishmael might live before thee!" (Genesis 17:18). Gradually the truth
dawned upon the patriarch that God s thoughts are not the thoughts of men, neither
their ways His ways. But we have no reason to believe that this entire changing
of the mental attitude of Abraham toward Ishmael reacted unfavorably on his future
treatment of this son "born of the flesh" (compare Genesis 21:11). If there were
troubles in store for the boy likened by the angel of Yahweh to a wild ass, it
was, in the main, the youngster's own fault.
When Isaac was weaned, Ishmael was about 16 years of age. The weaning was made
an occasion for great celebration. But it seems the pleasure of the day was marred
by the objectionable behavior of Ishmael. "And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the
Egyptian .... mocking" (Genesis 21:9). Her jealous motherly love had quickened
her sense of observation and her faculty of reading the character of children.
We do not know exactly what the word used in the Hebrew for "mocking" really means.
The Septuagint and the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) render the
passage: "When Sarah saw the son of Hagar .... playing with Isaac," and Paul followed
a later tradition when he says: "He that was born after the flesh persecuted him
that was born after the Spirit" (Galatians 4:29). Lightfoot (in his notes to the
Epistle to the Galatians) says: "At all events the word seems to mean mocking,
jeering." At any rate, the fact remains that Sarah objected to the bringing up
of the son of promise together with the "mocker," and so both mother and son were
banished from the tents of Abraham.
Now there came a most critical time in the life of young Ishmael. Only some bread
and a bottle of water were "put on the shoulder" of Hagar by Abraham when he expelled
her with her son. Aimlessly, as it seems, the two walked about in the wilderness
of Beersheba. The water was soon spent, and with it went all hope and energy.
The boy, being faint with thirst and tired out by his constant walking in the
fierce heat of the sun, seemed to be dying. So his mother put him rapidly down
in the shade of some plant. (We do not share the opinion of some writers that
the narrative of Genesis 21:8 represented Ishmael as a little boy whom his mother
had carried about and finally flung in the shade of some shrub. Even if this passage
is taken from a different source, it is certainly not in conflict with the rest
as to the age of Ishmael.) After this last act of motherly love--what else could
she do to help the boy?--she retired to a place at some distance and resignedly
expected the death of her son and perhaps her own.
For the 2nd time in her life, she had a marvelous experience. "God heard the voice
of the lad" and comforted the unhappy mother most wonderfully. Through His angel
He renewed His former promise regarding her son, and then He showed her a well
of water. The lad's life was saved and, growing up, he became in time an archer.
He lived in the wilderness of Paran and was married by his mother to an Egyptian
wife (Genesis 21:21).
4. His Children:
When Abraham died, his exiled son returned to assist his brother to bury their
father (Genesis 25:9). In the same chapter we find the names of Ishmael's 12 sons
(Genesis 25:12) and a brief report of his death at the age of 137 years (Genesis
25:17). According to Genesis 28:9 he also had a daughter, Mahalath, whom Esau
took for his wife; in Genesis 36:3 her name is given as Basemath.
The character of Ishmael and his descendants (Arabian nomads or Bedouins) is very
accurately and vividly depicted by the angel of Yahweh: "He shall be as a wild
ass among men; his hand shall be against every man, and every man's hand against
him" (Genesis 16:12). These nomads are, indeed, roaming the wilds of the desert,
jealous of their independence, quarrelsome and adventurous. We may well think
of their progenitor as of a proud, undaunted and rugged son of the desert, the
very counterpart of the poor boy lying half dead from fatigue and exposure under
the shrub in the wilderness of Beersheba.
6. In the New Testament:
The person and the history of Ishmael, the son of Abraham, "born after the flesh,"
is of special interest to the student of the New Testament because Paul uses him,
in the Epistle to the Galatians, as a type of those Jews who cling to the paternal
religion in such a manner as to be unable to discern the transient character of
the Old Testament institutions, and especially those of the Mosaic law. By doing
so they could not be made to see the true meaning of the law, and instead of embracing
the grace of God as the only means of fulfilling the law, they most bitterly fought
the central doctrine of Christianity and even persecuted its advocates. Like Ishmael,
they were born of Hagar, the handmaid or slave woman; like him, they were Abraham's
sons only "after the flesh," and their ultimate fate is foreshadowed in the casting
out of Hagar and her son. They could not expect to maintain the connection with
the true Israel, and even in case they should acclaim Christ their Messiah they
were not to be the leaders of the church or the expounders of its teachings (Galatians
4:21 - 28).
(2) The son of Nethaniah (Jeremiah 40:8 - 41:18; compare 2 Kings 25:23 - 25).
It is a dreary story of jealousy and treachery which Jeremiah has recorded in
chapters 40 , 41 of his book. After the destruction of Jerusalem and the deportation
of the better class of Jewish citizens, it was necessary to provide for some sort
of a government in the depopulated country. Public order had to be restored and
maintained; the crops of the fields were endangered and had to be taken care of.
It was thus only common political prudence that dictated to the king of Babylon
the setting up of a governor for the remnant of Judah. He chose Gedaliah, the
son of Ahikam, for the difficult position. The new officer selected for his place
of residence the city of Mizpah, where he was soon joined by Jeremiah. All the
captains of the Jewish country forces came to Mizpah with their men and put themselves
under Gedaliah's orders (Jeremiah 40:13). Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, the son
of Elishama "of the seed royal" (2 Kings 25:25) was among their number--all of
which must have been rather gratifying to the new governor. But he was destined
to be cruelly disappointed. A traitor was among the captains that had gathered
around him. Yet the governor might have prevented his dastardly scheme. Johnnan,
the son of Kareah, and other loyal captains warned him of the treachery of Ishmael,
telling him he was induced by Baalis, the Ammonite king, to assassinate the governor.
But the governor's faith in Ishmael was not to be shaken; he even looked upon
Johanan's report as false and calumnious (Jeremiah 40:16).
About 2 months after the destruction of Jerusalem, Ishmael was ready to strike
the mortal blow. With 10 men he came to Mizpah, and there, at a banquet given
in his honor, he killed Gedaliah and all the Jews and Chaldeans that were with
him. He succeeded in keeping the matter secret, for, 2 days after the horrible
deed, he persuaded a party of 80 pious Jews to enter the city and killed all but
10 of them, throwing their bodies into a pit. These men were coming from the ruins
of the Temple with the offerings which they had intended to leave at Jerusalem.
Now they had found out, to their great distraction, that the city was laid waste
and the Temple destroyed. So they passed by Mizpah, their beards shaven, their
clothes rent, and with cuts about their persons (Jeremiah 41:5). We may, indeed,
ask indignantly, Why this new atrocity? The answer may be found in the fact that
Ishmael did not kill all of the men. He spared 10 of them because they promised
him some hidden treasures. This shows his motive. He was a desperate man and just
then carrying out a desperate undertaking. He killed those peaceful citizens because
of their money, and money he needed to realize his plans. They were those of a
traitor to his country, inasmuch as he intended to deport the inhabitants of Mizpah
to the land of his high confederate, the king of the Ammonites. Among the captives
were Jeremiah and the daughters of the Jewish king. But his efforts came to naught.
When Johnnan and the other captains were told of Ishmael's unheard-of actions,
they immediately pursued the desperate adventurer and overtook him by the "great
waters that are in Gibeon." Unfortunately, they failed to capture Ishmael; for
he managed to escape with eight men to the Ammonites.
See, further, GEDALIAH.
(3) A descendant of Benjamin and the son of Azel (1 Chronicles 8:38; compare 9:44).
(4) The father of Zebadiah who was "the ruler of the house of Judah, in all the
king's (Jehoshaphat, 2 Chronicles 19:8) matters" (2 Chronicles 19:11).
(5) The son of Jehohanan, and a "captain of hundreds," who lived at the time of
Jehoiada and Joash (2 Chronicles 23:1).
(6) One of the sons of Pashhur the priest. He was one of those men who had married
foreign women and were compelled to "put away their wives" (Ezra 10:22).
(1) the King James Version "Ismael" (Judith 2:23), the son of Abraham by
(2) 1 Esdras 9:22 (King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American)
"Ismael"), corresponding to Ishmael in Ezra 10:22.
angel shows well of water, archer, bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, circumcised, define, first-born, ishmael, mocking isaac, son of abraham and hagar