<<the oldest son of Abraham>>
Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was unable to have children and so Abraham took a concubine who bore him a son, Ishmael. (This custom of having children by a servant woman was a common practice at the time). When aged about 16, Ismael, along with Hagar his mother, was expelled from Abraham’s family unit. Prior to his birth Hagar had been told his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him (Gen 16:12). Ishmael had 12 sons and from them extended the Arab nations who are pictured as hostile to God and Israel (Gen 21:13, 25:13-18). He lived about 2088-1943 BC. His story is told in Genesis chapters 16, 17, 25-28, 36.
Lessons from his life: * Ishmael was born as the consequence of Abraham and Sarah trying to help God fulfill His promise in their own fleshly natural way. Unfortunately, such efforts create more problems than they appear to solve. What is produced outside His will by an action of our flesh will always become a problem to us. Will we learn to trust God fully? Some circumstances in life we have no control over (eg. our heredity or parental ill feeling towards other relatives) while we do have control over others, such as our choices and actions. We may not have influence over what happens to us but we are responsible for our reactions.
* God took care of Hagar and her son in the desert and promised Abraham that because Ishmael was his child he would be blessed too, and would father a great nation even though they would be a continual source of irritation to the ‘children of promise’ (Gen 21:13-21). God does not forget about people, but is concerned for all who are made in His image. Do I wipe my hands of those I consider are outside God’s purpose or do not fit in with what He is doing at the present?
* Abraham and Sarah (through Hagar) tried to help God fulfill His promise. The NT draws a parallel here: fleshly human decisions (such as resulting in Ismael’s birth) cannot understand or achieve the blessings obtainable from spiritual responses (such as believing the promise for Isaac). The remedy is to completely get rid of the flesh by a definite decision, repentance and changed lifestyle so we can enter into the spiritual, yet carnality within us protests at such drastic measures, preferring we tolerate the flesh and settle for a compromise (Gal 4:28-31). How serious am I in dealing with ‘issues’ that God raises?
* Ishmael helped Isaac bury Abraham their father (Gen 25:9,10). Often in times of family crisis, the differences and ill feeling of the past can be overlooked and sometimes can be the catalyst to bring about reconciliation. While time can heal some emotional wounds, unfortunately, there is no record of this taking place in this case though, and the present day conflicts confirm the bitterness and ill will still directed against the Jews by radical Muslims.
See also: Abraham, consequences, Hagar, Isaac, Islam.