National Association of Christian Ministers Summary Series


Ishmael is a significant figure in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament. He is known as the first son of Abraham, born to him through his wife’s maidservant, Hagar.


Birth of Ishmael:

    • Ishmael’s birth is recorded in Genesis 16. Due to Sarah’s barrenness, she gives her maidservant, Hagar, to Abraham to bear him a child. Ishmael is born as a result of this arrangement.


Promise to Ishmael:

    • After Ishmael’s birth, God promises Hagar that Ishmael will become the father of a great nation. This promise is found in Genesis 16:10-12.


Circumcision of Ishmael:

    • Ishmael and all the males in Abraham’s household are circumcised when Abraham receives the covenant of circumcision from God. This event is described in Genesis 17:23-27.


Conflict with Isaac:

    • Ishmael’s relationship with Isaac, his half-brother and the child of promise, becomes strained over time. This tension is evident in Genesis 21 when Isaac is weaned, and Sarah sees Ishmael mocking him. As a result, Sarah insists that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away.


Hagar and Ishmael in the Wilderness:

    • After being sent away by Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael wander in the wilderness of Beersheba. When their water runs out, Hagar despairs, but God provides for them by revealing a well. This story is recounted in Genesis 21:14-21.


Ishmael’s Descendants:

    • Ishmael’s descendants are listed in Genesis 25:12-18. They became twelve tribes according to their settlements and camps.


Death of Ishmael:

    • The Bible does not explicitly record Ishmael’s death. However, it mentions that he lived 137 years (Genesis 25:17).


Ishmael is portrayed as the son of promise to Abraham and Hagar, but his story is also marked by conflict, particularly with Isaac, his half-brother. Despite being sent away, God promises to bless Ishmael and make him the father of a great nation, fulfilling the covenant made with Abraham.