(Ishʹma·el) [God Hears (Listens)].
When informed that Sarah would also have a son from whom “kings of peoples” would come, Abraham petitioned God in behalf of his firstborn: “O that Ishmael might live before you!” God’s reply, after declaring that the future son Isaac would be the covenant heir, was: “As regards Ishmael I have heard you. Look! I will bless him and will make him fruitful and will multiply him very, very much. He will certainly produce twelve chieftains, and I will make him become a great nation.” (Ge 17:16, 18-20) Ishmael was then circumcised, at the age of 13, along with his father and his father’s servants.—Ge 17:23-27.
A year later Isaac was born; Ishmael was now 14. (Ge 16:16; 21:5) Five years after that, in 1913 B.C.E., on the day of Isaac’s being weaned, Ishmael was caught “poking fun” at his younger half brother. (Ge 21:8, 9) This was no innocent child’s play on the part of Ishmael. Rather, as implied by the next verse in the account, it may have involved a taunting of Isaac over heirship. The apostle Paul says these events were “a symbolic drama” and shows that the mistreatment of Isaac by the half-blooded Egyptian Ishmael was persecution. Hence, this was the beginning of the foretold 400 years of Israel’s affliction that ended with deliverance from Egyptian bondage in 1513 B.C.E.—Ga 4:22-31; Ge 15:13; Ac 7:6; see ISAAC.
Ishmael’s demonstration of scorn toward Isaac led to the dismissal of him and his mother from Abraham’s household, but not without provisions for their journey. Abraham “took bread and a skin water bottle and gave it to Hagar, setting it upon her shoulder, and the child, and then dismissed her.” (Ge 21:14) Some have interpreted this to mean that Ishmael, now 19 years old, was also placed on the back of Hagar, and indeed this is the way some translations read. (JB, Mo, Bagster’s LXX) Certain scholars, however, consider the phrase “setting it upon her shoulder” as only parenthetical, inserted to explain how the bread and water were carried, and so, if this phrase is placed in parentheses or set off by commas, the difficulty is removed. Professors Keil and Delitzsch assert that the expression “and the child” depends upon the sentence’s principal verb “took,” not on the verb “gave” or the word “setting.” This tie-in of “the child” with “took” is made by the conjunction “and.” The thought, therefore, is this: Abraham took bread and water and gave them to Hagar (placing them on her shoulder) and took the child and also gave it to her.—Commentary on the Old Testament, 1973, Vol. I, The First Book of Moses, pp. 244, 245.
Hagar apparently lost her way in the wilderness of Beer-sheba, and so when the water ran out and Ishmael became exhausted, “she threw the child under one of the bushes.” (Ge 21:14, 15) This expression “threw the child” does not mean Ishmael was a baby in arms. The Hebrew word yeʹledh (child) does not necessarily refer to an infant but is often applied to an adolescent boy or a young man. Hence, it was said of the youth Joseph (17 at the time) that he was sold into slavery over Reuben’s protest, “Do not sin against the child [vai·yeʹledh].” Lamech likewise spoke of “a young man [yeʹledh]” as having wounded him.—Ge 42:22; 4:23; see also 2Ch 10:8.
Neither does Hagar’s act of ‘throwing’ the child down imply she was carrying him in her arms or on her back, though she was evidently supporting her tired son. She apparently withdrew her support suddenly, as did those who brought lame and infirm ones to Jesus and “fairly threw them at his feet.”—Mt 15:30.
In accord with the meaning of Ishmael’s name, “God heard” his cry for help, provided the necessary water, and allowed him to live to become an archer. As a nomadic inhabitant of the Paran Wilderness, he fulfilled the prophecy that said of him: “He will become a zebra of a man. His hand will be against everyone, and the hand of everyone will be against him; and before the face of all his brothers he will tabernacle.” (Ge 21:17-21; 16:12) Hagar found an Egyptian wife for her son, and he in time fathered 12 sons, chieftains and family heads of the promised “great nation” of Ishmaelites. Ishmael also had at least one daughter, Mahalath, who married Esau.—Ge 17:20; 21:21; 25:13-16; 28:9; see ISHMAELITE.
At the age of 89 Ishmael assisted Isaac in burying their father Abraham. After that he lived another 48 years, dying in 1795 B.C.E. at the age of 137. (Ge 25:9, 10, 17) There is no record of Ishmael’s being buried in the cave of Machpelah, the place of burial for Abraham and Isaac, along with their wives.—Ge 49:29-31.
4. One of “the chiefs of hundreds” who entered the covenant with High Priest Jehoiada for the overthrow of wicked Athaliah and the enthronement of Jehoash; son of Jehohanan.—2Ch 23:1, 12-15, 20; 24:1.
5. Ringleader of those who killed Governor Gedaliah only three months after the downfall of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E.; son of Nethaniah of the royal line. At the time the governor’s appointment was made by Nebuchadnezzar, Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, was in the field as one of the military chiefs. Later, he came to Gedaliah and apparently entered a sworn covenant of peace and support with the governor. Secretly, however, Ishmael conspired with Baalis, the king of the Ammonites, to kill Gedaliah. Other military commanders, including Johanan, warned Gedaliah of Ishmael’s mischief, but the governor, not believing the report, refused to grant Johanan permission to strike Ishmael down.—2Ki 25:22-24; Jer 40:7-16.
As a result, when Gedaliah was entertaining Ishmael and his band of ten men at a meal, they rose up and killed their host as well as the Jews and Chaldeans who were with him. The next day these assassins seized 80 men who had come from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria, killing all but 10 of them, and throwing their bodies into the great cistern built by King Asa. Ishmael and his men then took the remnant of those living in Mizpah captive and headed for Ammonite territory. On the way Johanan and his forces overtook and rescued the captives, but Ishmael and eight of his men escaped to their Ammonite sanctuary.—2Ki 25:25; Jer 41:1-18.