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Ishmael, 1

Ish´mael (heard of God), Abraham's eldest son, born to him by Hagar; the circumstances of whose birth, early history, and final expulsion from his father's tents, are related in the articles Abraham, Hagar [see also ISAAC, INHERITANCE]. He afterwards made the desert into which he had been cast his abode, and by attaching himself to, and acquiring influence over, the native tribes, rose to great authority and influence. It would seem to have been the original intention of his mother to have returned to Egypt, to which country she belonged; but this being prevented, she was content to obtain for her son wives from thence. Although their lots were cast apart, it does not appear that any serious alienation existed between Ishmael and Isaac; for we read that they both joined in the sepulchral rites of their father Abraham (). This fact has not been noticed as it deserves. It is full of suggestive matter. As funerals in the East take place almost immediately after death, it is evident that Ishmael must have been called from the desert to the death-bed of his father; which implies that relations of kindness and respect had been kept up, although the brevity of the sacred narrative prevents any special notice of this circumstance. Ishmael had probably long before received an endowment from his father's property, similar to that which had been bestowed upon the sons of Keturah (). Nothing more is recorded of him than that he died at the age of 137 years, and was  the father of twelve sons, who gave their names to as many tribes (; ). He had also two daughters, one of whom became the wife of Esau.

It has been shown, in the article Arabia, that Ishmael has no claim to the honor, which is usually assigned to him, of being the founder of the Arabian nation. That nation existed before he was born. He merely joined it, and adopted its habits of life and character; and the tribes which sprung from him formed eventually an important section of the tribes of which it was composed. The celebrated prophecy which describes the habits of life which he, and in him his descendants, would follow, is therefore to be regarded not as describing habits which he would first establish, but such as he would adopt. The description is contained in the address of the angel to Hagar, when, before the birth of Ishmael, she fled from the tents of Abraham:—'Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael (God hears), because the Lord hath heard thine affliction. And he shall be a wild man: his hand shall be against every man, and every man's hand against him, and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren' (). This means, in short, that he and his descendants should lead the life of the Bedouins of the Arabian deserts; and how graphically this description portrays their habits, may be seen in the article Arabia, in the notes on these verses in the Pictorial Bible, and in the works of Niebuhr, Burckhardt, Lane, etc.; and, more particularly, in the Arabian romance of Antar, which presents the most perfect picture of real Bedouin manners now in existence. The last clause, 'He shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren,' is pointedly alluded to in the brief notice of his death, which states that 'he died in the presence of all his brethren' (). Of this expression various explanations have been given, but the plainest is the most probable: which is, that Ishmael and the tribes springing from him should always be located near the kindred tribes descended from Abraham.

Ishmael, 2

Ishmael, a prince of the royal line of Judah, who found refuge among the Ammonites from the ruin which involved his family and nation. After the Chaldeans had departed he returned, and treacherously slew the too-confiding Gedaliah, who had been made governor of the miserable remnant left in the land [GEDALIAH]. Much more slaughter followed this, and Ishmael, with many people of consideration as captives, hastened to return to the Ammonites. But he was overtaken near the pool of Gibeon, by Johanan, a friend of Gedaliah, and was compelled to abandon his prey and escape for his life, with only eight attendants, to Baalis, king of the Ammonites, with whom he appears to have had a secret understanding in these transactions: B.C. 588 (Jeremiah 41).





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Ishmael'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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