When issued to task at hand to develop a blog based upon some question that I have on Genesis, I began to think about what question I should even ask. I, as a math major, have a significant lack in the creativity area, so coming up with a creative question is quite difficult for me. As I pondered about what question to ask, my mind kept going to Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagar Sarah’s servant. I had been told growing up that Islamic belief says that Muhammed (THE Mohammed that is Islam’s primary prophet) is a descendant of Ishmael and it says that the lineage for God’s covenant goes through Ishmael not Isaac. However, this is what I was merely told and accepted, so I decided that I should make Ishmael my topic of question just to verify whether what I’ve been told is true or not. Therefore, the question I would like to consider is “What is the lineage of Ishmael and what role does it play historically?”
In terms of the story found in Genesis, we can find that Abraham through Hagar had a son named Ishmael. From Genesis we can gather some information about Ishmael and his lineage and that information is as follows:
- Gen 16:3 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. Gen 16:4 And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.
- Gen 16:12 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.
- Gen 17:20 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.
- Gen 21:9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. (Mocking after the birth of Isaac—after the feast for Isaac’s weaning)
- Gen 21:10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. Gen 21:14 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.
- Gen 21:20 And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer. Gen 21:21 And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.
- Gen 25:9 And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre;
- Gen 25:12 Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s handmaid, bare unto Abraham: Gen 25:13 And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, Gen 25:14 And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, Gen 25:15 Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah: Gen 25:16 These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations. Gen 25:17 And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people. Gen 25:18 And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that is before Egypt, as thou goest toward Assyria: and he died in the presence of all his brethren.
So what we can gather from the narrative of Genesis is that Ishmael was born of the Egyptian servant Hagar, he was prophesied to be a wild man, he was prophesied to have twelve princes and a great nation, he mocked Isaac or Sarah after his birth, he and Hagar were cast out of the presence of Abraham and Sarah, he became a great archer with an Egyptian wife in the wilderness of Paran, he helped buy Abraham, he had twelve sons known by their names, towns, and castles, and he died at 137 years old. Moreover, we can see that he died among his brethren and that they dwelled near Egypt. Therefore, from Genesis as a record we can gather that all the things that were prophesied to happen to Ishmael did happen, but what I want to delve into is what exactly became of his lineage.
For detailed information about each son, I suggest going to http://lavistachurchofchrist.org/LVanswers/2005/03-17.htm, but as for my description of each son all I have to say is that there is information on each son besides Hadad external to the Bible that shows that each son had their own tribe or nation of people. Moreover, what can be discerned is that the accumulation of each son’s tribe became known as “Ishmaelites” and developed part of what we know as the Arab nation of today. Historically, it is gathered that the Ishmaelites developed much of the Northern part of the Arabian peninsula, and are described as war-like, tent-dwellers, rich in flock and herds, nomadic, and living by no law but the chiefs of their tribes. However, most of the historical—and even modern—impact of Ishmael’s lineage lies within the origin of Islam.
As I had said before, I had always been told that Muhammed claimed to be the descendant of Ishmael and I was wondering about the validity of that. After doing some research I discovered some validation of that belief, but skepticism on the validity of that genealogy. Nevertheless, what I discovered was rather intriguing.
Islamic belief is that Muhammed is a descendant of Ishmael, but what why is that of any importance? What really throws a curve ball in this situation is the fact that Islamic belief states that not only was Muhammed the descendant of Ishmael, but that Ishmael was the son that really received the covenant blessing with God—not Issac. Moreover, Islamic belief says that it was Ishmael—not Issac that was taken by Abraham to be sacrificed! They even have a ritual/celebration for the sacrifice called Eid ul-Adha in which they make animal sacrifices in memory of Ishmael nearly being sacrificed. However, what really makes this significant is the covenant itself within Islamic belief. What makes this relevant? Within this belief, is the concept that the Middle Eastern land is the land of promise from God for the Ishmaelites! That means that those who consider themselves followers of Islam have fought over this land with the Israelites because of the belief that Ishmael received the promise for that land. Therefore, the significance of Ishmael’s descendants becomes very real to the modern day world because it is the supposed descendants of Ishmael that war over a land due to their belief in God’s covenant with them (of course I recognize this isn’t the sole reason for the warring, but it is a contributing factor).
The reality this research has led me to is a very profound one: a single misinterpretation of the Bible (no matter which side is correct) has led to contribution to one of the modern day world’s biggest issues: Middle Eastern conflict. Therefore, the lineage of Ishmael has played quite a strong role in history relative to the past century, and will forever affect the ways of civilization.