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Ishmael

For other uses, see Ishmael (disambiguation).
"Ismail" redirects here. For the figure's role in Islam, see Ishmael in Islam. For other uses, see Ismail (disambiguation).
Ishmael
250px
A depiction of Hagar, the Egyptian, and Ishmael in the desert by François-Joseph Navez
Prophet, Patriarch, Father of the Arabs
Born Canaan
Died Arabia
Venerated in Template:If empty
Influences Abraham

Ishmael (Hebrew: יִשְׁמָעֵאל</span>, Modern Yishma'el, Tiberian Yišmāʻēl ISO 259-3 Yišmaˁel; Arabic: إسماعيلʾIsmāʿīl; Greek: Ἰσμαήλ Ismaēl; Latin: Ismael) is a figure in the Hebrew Bible and the Qur'an and was Abraham's first son according to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Ishmael was born of Abraham's marriage to Sarah's handmaiden Hagar (Genesis 16:3). According to the Genesis account, he died at the age of 137 (Genesis 25:17).[1]

The Book of Genesis and Islamic traditions consider Ishmael to be the ancestor of the Ishmaelites.

Etymology

Cognates of Hebrew Yishma'el existed in various ancient Semitic cultures,[2] including early Babylonian and Minæan.[1] It is translated literally as "God has hearkened", suggesting that "a child so named was regarded as the fulfillment of a divine promise".[2]

Genesis narrative

This is the account of Ishmael from Genesis Chapters 16, 17, 21, 25

Birth

In Genesis 16, the birth of Ishmael was planned by the Patriarch Abraham's first wife, who at that time was known as Sarai. She and her husband Abram (Abraham) sought a way to have children in order to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant that was established in Genesis 15. Since Sarai was 75 years old and had yet to bear Abraham a child, her idea was to offer her Egyptian handmaiden Hagar to Abraham, so that they could have a child by her. Abraham consented to a marital arrangement taking Hagar as his second wife[3] when he was in his late 85th year of age. Customs of that time dictated that, although Hagar was the birth mother, any child conceived would belong to Sarai and Abram (Sarah and Abraham).[4]

Genesis 16:7-16 describes the naming of Ishmael, and Yahweh's promise to Hagar concerning Ishmael and his descendants. This occurred at the well of Beer-lahai-roi, located in the desert region between Abraham’s settlement and Shur. Hagar fled here after Sarai dealt harshly with her for showing contempt for her mistress following her having become pregnant. Here, Hagar encountered an angel of Yahweh who instructed her to return and be submissive to Sarai so that she could have her child there. The blessing that this child's father was promised was that Abraham's descendants would be as numerous as the dust of the earth. However, the promise would be to a son of Sarai; yet God would make of this child a great nation, who would be named Ishmael, because he was of the seed of Abraham. However God also said regarding Ishmael specifically that he will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers. When Ishmael was born, Abraham was 86 years old.

Inheritance rights and the first circumcision

When he was 13 years old, Ishmael was circumcised at the same time as all other males in Abraham's house becoming a part of the covenant in a mass circumcision. His father Abram, given the new name "Abraham," was also at this time, at the age of 99, initiated into the covenant by having himself and the males of his entire household circumcised. (Genesis 17)

At the time of the covenant, God informed Abraham that his wife Sarah would give birth to a son, which he was instructed to name Isaac. God told Abraham that He would establish his covenant through Isaac, and when Abraham inquired as to Ishmael's role, God answers that Ishmael has been blessed and that He "will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation." (Genesis 17)

A year later, Ishmael's half-brother Isaac was born to Abraham by his first wife Sarah when she was 90 years old (Genesis 17:17) and had ceased having any signs of fertility.(Genesis 18:11)

On the day of feasting during which Abraham celebrated the weaning of Isaac, Ishmael was "mocking" or "playing with" Isaac (the Hebrew word is ambiguous[5])[1] and Sarah asked Abraham to expel Ishmael 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."[4][6] This proposition was grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son and the bondwoman, Hagar. Abraham only agreed when God told him that "for in Isaac your seed shall be called", and that He would "make a nation of the son of the bondwoman" Ishmael, since he was a descendant of Abraham. (Genesis 21:11–13)

At the age of 14, Ishmael was freed along with his mother. The Lord’s covenant made clear Ishmael was not to inherit Abraham’s house and that Isaac would be the seed of the covenant: "Take your son, your only son, whom you love and go to the region of Moriah." (Genesis 22:2-8) Abraham gave Ishmael and his mother a supply of bread and water and sent them away. Hagar entered in the wilderness of Beer-sheba where the two soon ran out of water and Hagar, not wanting to witness the death of her son, set the boy some distance away from herself, and wept. "And God heard the voice of the lad" and sent his angel to tell Hagar, "Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation." And God "opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water", from which she drew to save Ishmael's life and her own. "And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer." (Genesis 21:14–21)

Descendants

Main article: Ishmaelites

After roaming the wilderness for some time, Ishmael and his mother settled in the Desert of Paran, where he became an expert in archery. Eventually, his mother found him a wife from the land of Egypt.[7] They had twelve sons who each became tribal chiefs throughout the regions from Havilah to Shur (from Assyria to the border of Egypt).[8] His sons were:[9]

  1. Nebaioth Nabit (means First-born or First Fruit in Arabic نبيت or نبيط pronounced Nabeet)
  2. Kedar, (in Arabic قيدر pronounced Qaidar) father of the Qedarites, a northern Arab tribe that controlled the area between the Persian Gulf and the Sinai Peninsula. According to tradition, he is the ancestor of the Quraysh tribe, and thus of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad.[10]
  3. Adbeel, (means God's servant in Arabic عبدالله) established a tribe in northwest Arabia. It's the name of the prophet Muhammad's father.
  4. Mibsam (means Smiley in Arabic مبسم pronounced Mubsem)
  5. Mishma (means Obeyed in Arabic مسموع pronounced Masmou')
  6. Dumah (means Sand-Hill in Arabic دومه Doomah)
  7. Massa (means Night Fall in Arabic مساء pronounced Masa') father of a nomadic tribe that inhabited the Arabian desert toward Babylonia.
  8. Hadar (means The Rolling-Stone one of the many names of Lion in Arabic حيدر pronounced Haidar)
  9. Tema (means "The Good News" or "The Right Hand Man" in Arabic تيمن pronounced Tayman)
  10. Jetur (means Revolt or "Rebel" in Arabic يثور pronounced Yathur)
  11. Naphish (means Genuine or Precious in Arabic نفيس pronounced Nafees)
  12. Kedemah (means The Front Man or "Scout" in Arabic قدامه pronounced Qudamah)

Ishmael also had one known daughter, Mahalath or Basemath, the third wife of Esau.[11]

Ishmael also appeared with Isaac at the burial of Abraham.[12] Ishmael died at the age of 137.[13]

Family tree

Deuterocanonical references

The book of Jubilees places the location and identity of the Ishmaelites as the Arab peoples residing in Arab territories. This is the current view for the majority of the Christian, Islamic and Jewish faiths. According to Biblical accounts the Arab people traditionally have had long-standing alliances with the descendants of the Assyrians and the Medes.[citation needed]

World views

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).[1] For example, The narration in Genesis 16 is of J type and the narration in Genesis 21:8-21 is of E type.[14]

Islamic traditions consider Ishmael to be the ancestor of Arab people.[2]

Jewish traditions are split between those, like Josephus, who consider Ishmael the ancestor of the Arabs,[15] and those, like Maimonides, who believe that the northern Arabs are descended from the sons of Keturah, whom Abraham married after Sarah's death.[16]

Pre-Islamic Arabia

Some Pre-Islamic poetry mentions Ishmael, his father Abraham, and the sacrifice story, such as the Pre-Islamic poet "Umayyah Ibn Abi As-Salt", who said in one of his poems: بكره لم يكن ليصبر عنه أو يراه في معشر أقتال ([The sacrifice] of his first-born of whose separation he [Abraham] could not bear neither could he see him surrounded in foes).[17][18][19]

"Zayd Ibn Amr" was another Pre-Islamic figure who refused idolatry and preached monotheism, claiming it was the original belief of their [Arabs] father Ishmael.[20][21]

Also, some of the tribes of Central West Arabia called themselves the "people of Abraham and the offspring of Ishmael", as evidenced by a common opening of speeches and harangues of reconciliation between rival tribes in that area.[22][23]

Judaism

In Judaism, Ishmael has generally been viewed as wicked[citation needed] though repentant (whereas Christianity omits any reference to repentance, which is sourced in the Talmudic explanation of the Hebrew Bible).[2][24] Judaism maintains that Isaac rather than Ishmael was the true heir of Abraham.[4]

In some Rabbinic traditions Ishmael is said to have had two wives; one of them named Aisha. This name corresponds to the Muslim tradition for the name of Muhammad's wife.[2] This is understood as a metaphoric representation of the Muslim world (first Arabs and then Turks) with Ishmael.[25]

The name of an important 2nd century CE sage—Ishmael ben Elisha, known as "Rabbi Ishmael" (רבי ישמעאל), one of the Tannaim—indicates that the Biblical Ishmael enjoyed a positive image among Jews of the time.[citation needed]

Rabbinical commentators in the Midrash Genesis Rabbah also say that Ishmael's mother Hagar was the Pharaoh's daughter, thereby making Ishmael the grandson of the Pharaoh. This could be why Genesis 17:20 refers to Ishmael as the father of 12 mighty princes. According to Genesis 21:21, Hagar married Ishmael to an Egyptian woman, and if Rabbinical commentators are correct about Hagar being the daughter of the Pharaoh, his marriage to a woman selected by the Pharaoh's daughter could explain how and why his sons became princes.

However, according to other Jewish commentators, Ishmael's mother Hagar is identified with Keturah, the woman Abraham married after the death of Sarah, stating that Abraham sought her out after Sarah's death. It is suggested that Keturah was Hagar's personal name, and that "Hagar" was a descriptive label meaning "stranger".[26][27][28] This interpretation is discussed in the Midrash[29] and is supported by Rashi, Gur Aryeh, Keli Yakar, and Obadiah of Bertinoro. Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Itzhaki) argues that "Keturah" was a name given to Hagar because her deeds were as beautiful as incense (hence: ketores), and/or that she remained chaste from the time she was separated from Abraham—keturah [ קְטוּרָה Q'turah ] derives from the Aramaic word for restrained.

It is also said that Sarah was motivated by Ishmael's sexually frivolous ways because of the reference to his "making merry" (Gen. 21:9), a translation of the Hebrew word "Mitzachek". This was developed into a reference to idolatry, sexual immorality or even murder; some rabbinic sources claim that Sarah worried that Ishmael would negatively influence Isaac, or that he would demand Isaac's inheritance on the grounds of being the firstborn. Regarding the word "Mitzachek" (again in Gen. 21:9) The Jewish Study Bible by Oxford University Press says this word in this particular context is associated with; "Playing is another pun on Isaac's name (cf. 17.17; 18.12; 19.14; 26.8). Ishmael was 'Isaacing', or 'taking Isaac's place'."[30] Also others take a more positive view, emphasizing Hagar's piety, noting that she was "the one who had sat by the well and besought him who is the life of the worlds, saying 'look upon my misery'".[31]

Islam

Ishmael is recognized as an important prophet and patriarch of Islam. Muslims believe that Ishmael was the firstborn of Abraham, born to him from his second wife Hagar. Ishmael is recognized by Muslims as the ancestor of several prominent Arab tribes and being the forefather of Muhammad.[32] Muslims also believe that Muhammad was the descendant of Ishmael that would establish a great nation, as promised by God in the Old Testament.[33]
And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of 12 rulers, and I will make them into a great nation.

Ishmael in the Quran

Ishmael is mentioned over ten times in the Quran, often alongside other patriarchs and prophets of ancient times.