Hagar and IshmaelA couple weeks ago we had a reunion for those of us who had gone on a mission trip to Africa this summer. Father Anthony Messeh shared a word with us about Abraham and his two sons, Isaac and Ishmael. Father Anthony was comparing Isaac and Ishmael, contrasting what the Spirit accomplishes versus what the flesh accomplishes. This motivated me to pick Ishmael as the character for study last Monday. I wasn’t able to finish it in one day so I ended up completing it today.
Biographical Study Form from Rick Warren’s Bible Study Methods:

1. NAME Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagar

Genesis 16-17
Genesis 21:8-21
Genesis 25:7-18
Genesis 28:8-9
Genesis 36:1-4
Genesis 37:23-28
Genesis 39:1
Judges 8:24
1 Chronicles 1:28-31
1 Chronicles 2:17
1 Chronicles 27:30
Psalm 83:5-6
Romans 9:7-9
Galatians 4:21-31

Ishmael was the not the result of God’s will but rather Sarah and Abraham trying to find a logical solution to their problem of having a son. Being born according to the “flesh,” Ishmael could only be so much compared to Isaac who was born according to the “Spirit.” Ishmael, while blessed by God was not the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham and would not partake of the inheritance and fulfillment of His covenant. Ishmael, being born of a slave woman was not free while Isaac, in fulfillment of God’s promise was by His grace born free.

A. Ishmael’s mother – Hagar

1. Egyptian maidservant (Genesis 16:1)
2. Given by Sarah to Abraham with the hope of obtaining children by her (Genesis 16:2)
3. When Hagar conceived Ishmael, she became despised in Sarah’s eyes (Genesis 16:4)
4. Hagar fled when Sarah dealt harshly with her (Genesis 16:6)
5. Angel of the Lord named her son Ishmael, stating that he will be a wild man, in conflict with everyone and dwelling among his brethren (Genesis 16:11-12)
6. Hagar bore Ishmael to Abraham when he was eighty-six years old (Genesis 16:16)
B. Abraham – sign of the covenant

1. Abraham says to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might like before You!” (Genesis 17:18)
2. God replies, “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.” (Genesis 17:19-21)
3. Abraham circumcised Ishmael at the age of thirteen (Genesis 17:25)
C. Isaac comes into the picture

1. Isaac is born when Ishmael is 14 years old
2. Ishmael is caught scoffing at Isaac on the day he was weaned (Genesis 21:8-9)
3. Hagar and Ishmael are cast out, but God tells Abraham that He will make a nation out of Ishmael because he is of Abraham’s seed (Genesis 21:10-13)
4. God hears Ishmael’s voice in the wilderness and calls Hagar and tells her that He will make Ishmael into a great nation. (Genesis 21:18-18)

D. Ishmael grows up

1. God is with Ishmael during which time he grows up and lives in the wilderness and learns to be an archer (Genesis 21:20)
2. Ishmael dwells in the wilderness of Paran and Hagar takes a wife from Egypt for him (Genesis 21:21)

E. Abraham passes away

1. Abraham leaves the inheritance to Isaac only (Genesis 25:5)
2. Ishmael buries his father with Isaac (Genesis 25:9)
F. Ishmael has twelve sons as God promised
1. Ishmael’s sons – Nebajoth, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadar,Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah (Genesis 25:13-15)
2. Ishmael dies at the age of 137 in the presence of all his brethren (Genesis 25:17-18)
3. Esau marries Ishmael’s daughter Mahalath, the sister of Nebajoth to please his father Isaac (Genesis 28:8-9)
G. The Ishmaelites –

1. Purchased Joesph from his brothers and sold him to the Egyptians (Genesis 37:23-28, 39:1)
2. Listed as part of an enemy confederacy against God (Psalm 83:5-6)

A. What were the characteristics of his parents? How did they influence him?

Abraham is known as a man of faith and obedience, considered the father of the Jewish nation. Hagar was Sarah’s maidservant, a bondwoman, who was given to Abraham by Sarah to conceive Ishmael. God blessed Ishmael and made a nation out of him because he was the seed of Abraham. (Genesis 21:13) Hagar chose an Egyptian wife for Ishmael, one who probably wouldn’t have known God. (Genesis 21:21)

B. Was there anything special about his birth?

Sarah and Abraham were trying find their own solution to the problem of not having a male heir, even though God had already promised a son to them. Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham and Hagar gave birth to Ishmael. Ishmael was born to a bondwoman (slave) and was the result of Sarah and Abraham trying to fulfill God’s promise within the limitations of the flesh.

C. What was his occupation?

Archer. (Genesis 21:20)

D. What were his particular faults and weaknesses?

When Isaac was weaned Ishmael scoffed at Isaac. (Genesis 21:9). St. Paul goes as far to say that Ishmael persecuted Isaac (Galatians 4:29), which makes sense considering that Ishmael was a young man, probably around 16 to 17 years of age and Isaac was just a little boy at 2 to 3 years of age. Ishmael probably thought himself superior because he was the firstborn, but that he quickly found that he lost his right to the inheritance.

E. What were the results of his sins and weaknesses?

When Sarah saw Ishmael scoffing Isaac, she asked Abraham to cast Hagar and Ishmael out. (Genesis 21:9-14)

Arrogant, foolish, derisive (Genesis 21:9)

Children of the flesh are not the children of God. (Romans 9:8)

Ishmael’s life was blessed yet it was not the same as Isaac’s because he was born of a bondwoman and by an act of the flesh compared to Isaac who was born of a freewoman through a miracle of the Lord. Many times we think the solution is in what we can do, but if we rely only on what we can do we still be slaves to the flesh, which is limited. Ishmael was still blessed and had twelve sons which became a nation, but that is nothing compared to what God did through Isaac and his family, granting them the inheritance and the family line that would lead to the Messiah.

Do I want to be like Ishmael or Isaac? I need to look to God to fulfill his promise and be willing to wait for Him to do so on His schedule. Many times God is willing to do amazing things but I am not willing to trust in the promise He has given but rather want to find out a more logical or feasible solution. I pray that I can have the faith and the patience to trust in the Lord so as to have the advantage of being free rather than bound in the limitations of the flesh. I will begin to evaluate if the things I want to do and put them before God to see if this is His will or my lack of trust or patience in Him.

Trying to solve things with our own methods will never equal what God has promised to do, we must wait and trust in the Lord. Ishmael was given a blessed life yet he was not the child of promise. When God promises us something, it may not make sense or seem like it is take a long time to come, but He is faithful.