- For Daniel Quinn's book 'Ishmael', see Ishmael (novel)
Ishmael in Judaism and Christianity
In the Book of Genesis (xvi, xvii, xxi, xxv) and later texts, Ishmael or Yishma'el (ישמעאל "God will hear", Standard Hebrew Yišmaʿel, Tiberian Hebrew YišmāʿÍl) is Abraham's eldest son, born by his second wife Hagar. In Genesis 16 Sarai (Abram's wife) gives Abram her maid-servant Hagar to bear him children, since she acknowledged that God had kept her from having children (16:2).
Hagar became pregnant and was despised by Sarai (16:4) who subsequently ill-treated her. As a result she ran away from home into the desert where an angel found her near a spring. Here the prophecy of Ishmael is recorded in Genesis 16:
- 11 "You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael (God hears), for the LORD has heard of your misery.
- 12 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."
The well of Hagar in Genesis 16 was named Beer lahai-roi ("Well of the Living One who Sees Me" or as some render it, "Well of the Vision of Life")
Sarah became pregnant (Genesis 21) and bore Isaac. On the day of his weaning Ishmael was mocking and so was driven out. They wandered in the desert of Beersheba (well of the oath) and when the water was gone she put the child under a bush and went a distance (a bowshot) away to die. The Bible does not explicitly mention the child crying but does mention Hagar sobbing. Strangely enough, (Genesis 21:17) it says God heard the boy crying (as opposed to the mother who was explicitly mentioned as crying). A well miraculously appears to save both child and mother.
According to Genesis 21, he became a skilled archer and lived in the desert; his mother obtained a wife for him from Egypt.
The figure of Ishmael will have accounted for uncivilized Semitic tribesmen living in the deserts in Biblical times. According to divine prediction, Ishmael remained a savage. See Islam below
Ishmael in Islam
In the Qur'an (the holy book of Muslims), Ishmael is known as the first-born son of Abraham from Hagar and an appointed Prophet of God. Islamic tradition also believes that he was the one nearly sacrificed, not Isaac (or Ishaq in the Quran). Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God is celebrated in Eid ul-Adha every year by Muslims.
Islamic tradition holds that Ishmael helped his father build the Kaaba in Mecca (or "Makkah"). Ishmael is supposedly buried near the Kaaba on the grounds of the Masjid al Haram. Another legend tells that he and his mother were in Makkah without water. The frantic running of his mother in pursuit of water, only to be followed by a miraculous spring appearing from the ground, is used to describe the origin of the Zamzam Well.
Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
In Daniel Quinn's Ishmael, Ishmael is a talking gorilla with whom the main character engages in epiphanizing conversations. Ishmael uses the Socratic method to make the main character and the reader realise certain truths.
- The Jewish Encyclopedia: Ishmael http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/ , with additional legendary Jewish and Islamic material.
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01