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Biography of Ishmael

HomeChristianity and the BibleBiography of Ishmael

Son of Abraham and father of the twelve tribes of Arabia

Some facts about Ishmael:
Firstborn son of Abram (Abraham) and Hagar
Ishmael means “God will hear”
Half brother of Isaac
He was a skilled archer
He married an Egyptian woman
Fathered 12 sons and 1 daughter
Said to be the ancestor of Muhammad

Ishmael was the oldest son of Abram (Abraham). His mother was Hagar, Sarai’s (Sarah’s) Egyptian maidservant. God told Abram and Sarai that they would have many descendants, despite their old age. When they tired of waiting, Sarai convinced Abram to take matters into their own hands, and he took Hagar as his second wife.

While pregnant, Hagar began to despise Sarai, which she passed on to Abram. He allowed Sarai to do as she wished, and she began to mistreat Hagar. After she fled Sarai, God came to Hagar and told her to go back. He said that He would give her many descendants as well, and instructed her to name the child Ishmael, which means “God hears.” Abram was 86 when Ishmael was born.

Abraham wanted his son Ishmael to be blessed by God, as Isaac would be blessed. God told him that His covenant would be through Isaac, but that Ishmael would be the father of 12 rulers, and also lead a great nation.

When the boy was 16, Sarah saw Ishmael mocking 2 year-old Isaac and asked Abraham to kick the boy and his mother out of the house. Abraham hesitated until God promised that He would take care of the boy for Abraham’s sake. He expelled Hagar and Ishmael, who went out into the wilderness of Beersheba.

They ended up in the wilderness of Paran. Ishmael became an expert archer, and was married to an Egyptian woman. In accordance with God’s promise, they had twelve sons: Nebaioth, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. They also had a daughter named Mahalath or Bashemath, who married Esau. Ishmael and Isaac together buried their father, Abraham. I’m not aware of any date being suggested for Ishmael’s death, but Genesis 25:17 says that he lived 137 years.

Muslims consider Ishmael an appointed prophet of God and teach that it was he, not Isaac, that was almost sacrificed in Genesis 22. This is celebrated by Muslims every year as Eid ul-Adha. Muhammad, founder of Islam, is thought to be a descendant of Ishmael. In the writings of the Baha’i, Ishmael is considered a lesser prophet… and their leader, known as “the Bab”, is thought to be Ishmael’s descendant as well.

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2 responses to “Biography of Ishmael”

  1. Allen says:

    Would like to know more about Ishmael people;did God curse them. Will there ever be peace in the middle east?

    • Tony says:


      Ishmael was blessed by God, who promised Abraham that his oldest son would become a great nation. Certainly God didn’t curse them as a group. With twelve sons and a daughter, Ishmael is certainly the ancestor of many. Most Arabs and Turks are considered to be his descendants.

      As for peace in the middle east, yes. Revelation 20 speaks of Jesus reigning for a thousand years, and one would assume peace in that time. Some suggest that the antichrist will usher in a time of peace prior to a great conflict, but I’m not entirely convinced.

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