[ish-mee-uhl, -mey-]
Ishmael [Heb.,=God hears], in the Bible. 1 Son of Abraham and Hagar; ancestor of 12 tribes in N Arabia. Through Sara's jealousy he and his mother were sent into the desert, where the angel of the Lord encountered them at a spring. Ishmael married an Egyptian and fathered 12 sons and a daughter. He was the half brother of Isaac and was Esau's father-in-law. In Islam, Ishmael is considered a prophet. The spring is traditionally identified with a Meccan well near the Kaaba, which Muslims believe was built by Ishmael and Abraham. Muslims recognize Arabs as Ishmael's descendants, thus distinguishing them from the Israelites, the descendants of Isaac. The Bible does not clarify the peoples called Ishmaelites (or Ishmeelites); the term is generally regarded as referring to caravan traders. 2 In First Chronicles, descendant of Saul. 3 Ancestor of the Zebediah of Jehoshaphat's court in Second Chronicles. 4 Ally of Jehoiada in Second Chronicles. 5 Priest separated from his foreign wife in the Book of Ezra. 6 Assassin of Gedaliah.

Ishmael (Hebrew: יִשְׁמָעֵאל, Standard Yišmaʿel Tiberian Yišmāʿêl; Arabic: إسماعيل, 'Ismāʿīl) is a figure in the Torah, Bible, and Qur'an. Jewish, Christian and Muslim believers regard Ishmael as Abraham's eldest son, born of his wife Sarah's hand maiden Hagar(). Though born of Hagar, according to Mesopotamian law, Ishmael was credited as Sarah's son According to the Genesis account, he died at the age of 137 ().

Both Jewish and Islamic traditions consider Ishmael as the ancestor of Northern Arab people.

Judaism has generally viewed Ishmael as wicked though repentant. Judaism maintains that Isaac (the father of the Jewish people) rather than Ishmael was the true heir of Abraham. The New Testament contains few references to Ishmael. In Christian biblical interpretation, Ishmael is used to symbolize the older—now rejected—Judaic tradition; Isaac symbolizes the new tradition of Christianity. Islamic tradition, however, has a very positive view of Ishmael, giving him a larger and more significant role. The Qur'an views him as a prophet, and as the actual son that Abraham was called on to sacrifice, as opposed to Isaac.

Etymology and meaning

Cognates of Hebrew Yishma'el existed in various ancient Semitic cultures. For example, it is known that the name was used in early Babylonian and in Minæan. It is translated literally as "God has hearkened", suggesting that "a child so named was regarded as the fulfillment of a divine promise."

Hebrew Bible

See also: Account of Isaac in the Hebrew Bible

Chapters 16-25 of the book of Genesis contain the stories of Ishmael. Historians and academics in the fields of linguistics and source criticism believe that the stories of Ishmael belong to the three strata of J, or Yahwist source, the P, or Priestly source, and the E, or Elohist source (See Documentary hypothesis).For example, The narration in is of J type and the narration in is of E type.

According to the Bible, Sarah (Abraham's wife) was childless, yet desired a son. She offers her maidservant Hagar to Abraham as a surrogate. Customs of the time dictated that, although Hagar was the birth mother, any child conceived would belong to Sarah and Abraham.

Hagar became pregnant and proud of herself, which resulted in harsh treatment by Sarah. Hagar fled and ran into the wilderness, where an angel appeared to her by a spring of water. The angel of the Lord told her to return, adding that God would increase her descendants through a son whose name would be Ishmael. The angel told Hagar that Ishmael would become "a wild donkey of a man" and would be in constant struggle with others.

So Hagar returned to Abraham's house, and had a son whom she named Ishmael. Abraham was 86 years old when Ishmael was born. Abraham, obeying God's commandment, circumcised Ishmael when he was thirteen. The next year, Abraham's wife Sarah became pregnant with his second son, Isaac. One day Sarah was angered by seeing Ishmael mocking or playing with Isaac (the Hebrew word is ambiguous), and she asked Abraham to expel him and his mother, saying: "Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac." Ishmael was very dear to Abraham. He initially refused to do as Sarah asked. He finally gave in to his wife's request when God told him that He would take care of Ishmael, since he was a descendant of Abraham. Abraham provided Hagar and her child with bread and a bottle of water and sent her into the desert of Paran. Hagar, with her son, wandered in the wilderness and ran out of water. When they were reduced to great distress, an angel appeared and showed Hagar a spring of water saying "What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation."

They lived in the wilderness of Paran, where Hagar's son became an expert in archery. His mother married him to an Egyptian woman. According to the Bible, Ishmael had 12 sons who became twelve tribal chiefs. The twelve sons of Ishmael, were named Nebaioth, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah (See ) Ishmael's sons settled everywhere from Havilah to Shur, i.e. from Assyria to the border of Egypt. Ishmael also had a daughter named Mahalath or Bashemath who married Esau.. Ishmael also appears with Isaac at the burial of Abraham. Ishmael died at the age of 137.

Jewish traditions

see also Isaac in Jewish traditions
Judaism has generally viewed Ishmael as wicked though repentant. According to the Haggadah Ishmael was as an idolater and a "brother-hater, who becomes ill from Sarah's evil eye." Ishmael later repents and comes to revere his brother Isaac.

In some Rabbinic traditions Ishmael is said to have had two wives named Aisha and Fatima. Those names correspond to the Muslim tradition for the names of Muhammad's wife and daughter. This is understood as a metaphoric representation of the Muslim world (first Arabs and then Turks) with Ishmael. The Talmud also mentions God's regret over Ishmael.

The Israelites regarded the supposedly freedom-loving and bellicose descendants of Ishmael as inferior because Abraham had expelled Ishmael and his mother.

New Testament

see also Hagar in the New Testament, Isaac in New Testament
According to the Genesis account, Ishmael and his mother were expelled at the instigation of Sarah, in order to make sure that Isaac would be Abraham's heir. In the book of Galatians, Paul uses the incident "to symbolize the relationship between Judaism, the older but now rejected tradition, and Christianity." (Gal 4:21-31) In Galatians 4:28-31, Hagar is associated with the Sinai covenant, while Sarah is associated with the covenant of grace (into which her son Isaac enters).


see also: Hagar in Islamic traditions

Ishmael (Arabic: Ismā'īl) is a prophet in Islam. The Qur'an considers him to be a son of Abraham. His name appears twelve times in the Qur'an mostly in a list with other prophets "as part of a litany of remembrances in which the pre-Islamic prophets are praised for their resolute steadfastness and obedience to God, often in the face of adversity."

Both Jewish and Islamic traditions consider Ishmael as the ancestor of Arab people. According to the Muslim tradition, Muhammad was a descendant of Ishmael through his son Kedar.

Abraham and Ishmael are said to have built the foundations of the Ka'aba ("They were raising the foundations of the House",). Islamic traditions hold that the Ka'aba was first built by the first man, Adam. Abraham and Ishmael rebuilt the Kaaba on the old foundations.

The Qur'an states that Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son. The son is not named in the Qur'an (see) and in early Islam, there was a controversy over the son's identity. However the belief that the son was Ishmael prevailed, and this view is continued to be endorsed by Muslim scholars. The argument of those Muslims who believed in the Ishmael theory was that "the promise to Sarah of Isaac followed by Jacob excluded the possibility of a sacrifice of Isaac." The other party held that the son of sacrifice was Isaac since "God's perfecting his mercy on Abraham and Isaac (in ) referred to his making Abraham his friend and saving him from the burning bush and to his rescuing Isaac.".

According to Bruce Metzger and Michael Coogan, professors of Religious Studies, the circumcision of Muslims has its roots in the tradition that Ishmael was circumcised.

Bahá'í Faith

The Bahá'í writings state that it was Ishmael, and not Isaac, who was the son of Abraham almost sacrificed. However, the Bahá'í writings also state that the name is unimportant as either could be used: the importance is that both were symbols of sacrifice. The Bahá'í writings also consider Ishmael an ancestor of Muhammad and the Arabs. According to Shoghi Effendi, there has also been another Ishmael, this one a prophet of Israel



Books and journals

  • Metzger, Bruce M; Michael D Coogan (1993). The Oxford Companion To The Bible. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195046458.
  • Nikaido, S. (2001). "Hagar and Ishmael as Literary Figures: An Intertextual Study". Vetus Testamentum 51
  • Werblowsky, R.J. Zwi; Geoffrey Wigoder (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-508605-8.Encyclopedias
  • In Brill's New Pauly- Antiquity (2005). Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 978 9004122703. .
  • In The Columbia Encyclopedia (2000). Gale Group. ISBN 978-1593392369. .
  • In Encyclopedia of Christianity (2005). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-522393-4. .
  • In Encyclopaedia of Islam Online Brill Academic Publishers. ISSN 1573-3912. .
  • In Encyclopedia of Religion (2005). MacMillan Reference Books. ISBN 978-0028657332. .
  • In The New Encyclopedia Britannica (2005). Encyclopedia Britannica, Incorporated; Rev Ed edition. ISBN 978-1593392369. .
  • In Encyclopedia of the Qur'an (2005). Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 978-9004123564. .

See also

External links

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