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Fausset's Bible Dictionary

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Ishmael (1)
Ishmael (2)
Lexicons
Hebrew - Ishmael, Ishmael's
Ishmael -

(See HAGAR; ISAAC; ABRAHAM) ("God hears"); the name of God is El, "the God of might", in relation to the world at large; not Jehovah, His name in relation to His covenant people.

1. Born of Hagar when Abraham was 86 (Genesis 16:15-16), dwelling at Mature. "Jehovah," in covenant with Abraham her husband, "heard her affliction" in the wilderness whither she had fled from Sarah. The angel of Jehovah described Ishmael in a prophecy which history is continually verifying, "he will be a wild man," Hebrew a wild donkey man, i.e. fierce and wild as the donkey of the desert, the type of restless unbridled lawlessness. Job 11:12; Job 24:5; "behold, as wild donkeys in the desert, go they forth to their work, rising betimes for a prey (for traveling in the East is at an early hour, to be before the heat): the wilderness yieldeth food for them and for their children"; i.e., these Bedouin robbers, with the unbridled wildness of the donkey of the desert, go thither. Robbery is "their work"; the wilderness which yields no food to other men "yieldeth food for them" by the plunder of caravans.

"His hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him"; an exact picture of Bedouin life." Many conquerors have marched into the Arabian wilderness, but they have never been able to catch this wild donkey and to tame him" (Baumgarten). "And he shall dwell in the presence of (in front of) his brethren," in close proximity to their kindred races, hovering round, but never mingling with them, never disappearing by withdrawal to some remote region, but remaining in that high table land S.E. of Judaea to which Judea may be said to look. Or else "to the E. (for as the orientals faced toward the E. in taking the points of the compass, the front meant the E.) of his brethren." In Job 1:3 the Arabs are called "the sons of the East." Ishmael was circumcised at 13 (Genesis 17:25), at which age Arabs and Muslims therefore still circumcise.

Abraham's love for him appears in his exclaiming, upon God's giving the promise of seed by Sarah, then 90, Abraham himself being 100, "Oh that Ishamel might live before Thee!" whether the words mean that he desires that Ishmael (instead of the seed promised to Sarah) might be heir of the promises, or, as is more consonant with Abraham's faith, that Ishmael might be accepted before God so as to share in blessings. Then God promised: "I have blessed him, ... twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation" (compare Genesis 25:12-17). See ISAAC on Ishmael's expulsion for "mocking," and (See HAGAR on Ishmael being called a "child," or "lad" (Genesis 25:14-15; Genesis 25:17), being at the time 15 or 16; the bread and bottle, but not the child, were "put on her shoulder.")

After God's saving them they "dwelt in the wilderness of Paran," the El Tih, the desert of Israel's wanderings; stretching from the wady Arabah on the E. to the gulf of Suez on the W., and from Sinai on the S. to Palestine on the N. According to eastern usage she, as a parent, chose a wife for her son, an Egyptian, possibly the mother of his 12 sons; rabbinical and Arab tradition give him a second wife; the daughter being termed "sister of Nebaioth" implies probably that the other brothers had a different mother. Esau married his daughter Mahalath before Ishmael's death, for it is written "Esau went unto Ishmael" (Genesis 28:9). At 137 Ishmael "died in the presence of all his brethren" (Genesis 25:17-18); i.e., fulfilling the prediction of the angel of Jehovah to Hagar (see above), Ishmael died, his nomad descendants stretching from Havilah S.E. and Shur S.W. toward the N.E., i.e. Assyria, in fact traversing the whole Arabian desert from the Euphrates to the Red Sea.

Ishmael himself cannot have settled far from Abraham's neighbourhood, for he joined with Isaac in the burial of his father (Genesis 25:9), and burial in the East follows a few hours after death. Ishmael first went into the wilderness of Beersheba, then into that of Paran. "The East country" unto which Abraham sent away his sons by concubines, not to be in the way of Isaac, must therefore have been in those regions (Genesis 25:6; Genesis 25:18). The people of Arabia are called "children of the East," Bene Kedem (Judges 6:3; Job 1:3), in modern times Saracens, i.e. "Easterns" (See EAST.) Ishmael's 12 sons enumerated Genesis 25:13-15 were fathers of tribes, as "their towns and their castles," or rather "hamlets," called after them, imply (Numbers 31:10). These "hamlets" were collections of rude dwellings of stones piled on one another and covered with tent cloths, often ranged in a circle. (See HAZEROTH.)

The Bible does not, as scepticism asserts, state that all the Arabs sprang from Ishmael. Nay, Joktanites and even Cushites in the S. and S.E. form a large element in Arab blood. In all the northern tribes which are of Ishmaelite descent, the characteristics foretold appear, they are "wild ... their hand against every man, and every man's hand against them"; but in S. Arabia, where Joktanite and other blood exists, these characteristics are less seen. The Ishmaelite element is the chief one of the Arab nation, as the native traditions before Muhammed and the language concur with the Bible in proving. The pagan law of blood revenge necessitates every Arab's knowing the names of his ancestors for four generations, so that the race is well defined.

The term" Ishmaelites" was applied in course of time to the Midianites, sprung from Abraham and Keturah, and not from Ishmael, because the Ishmaelites being the more powerful tribe gave their name as a general one to neighbouring associated tribes (Genesis 37:25; Genesis 37:28; Genesis 37:36; Psalm 83:6), the nomad tribes of Arabia (Judges 8:24). Before Muhammed, religion in the middle and S. of Arabia was fetish and cosmic worship, but in the N. relics of the primitive faith of Ishmael survived, and numbers became Karaite Jews or held the corrupt form of Christianity which was all they knew of it. The dissatisfaction felt with both of these creeds pioneered the way for Muhammed's success. The Arab conquerors have won a hundred thrones and established their Mohamedanism from the Senegal to the Indus, from the Euphrates to the Indian Ocean.

2. 1 Chronicles 8:38; 1 Chronicles 9:44.

3. 2 Chronicles 19:11.

4. 2 Chronicles 23:1.

5. 2 Chronicles 10:22.

6. Son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama of the seed royal of Judah (Jeremiah 40:7-41;Jeremiah 40:15; 2 Kings 25:23-25). Possibly descended from Elishama, David's son (2 Samuel 5:16). During the siege of Jerusalem Ishmael had fled to Baalis, king of Ammon, E. of Jordan. Probably Ishmael was of Ammonite blood on the mother's side, as some Jewish kings had Ammonite women in their harem (1 Kings 11:1). Baalis (called from the idol Baal) his host, urged him to slay Gedaliah who under the Babylonian king governed Judaea and the population which had not been carried away. Ishmael's royal descent fired his envy and ambition; hence, he lent a ready ear to the plot proposed by the ancient foe of Judah. Ishmael as well as the brothers Johanan and Jonathan, sons of Kareah, had commanded separate bands which watched the issue of the siege from the S.E. side of Jordan; "the forces in the fields," i.e. the pasture grounds of Moab (Jeremiah 40:7; Jeremiah 40:13), the modern Belka.

These captains crossed the Jordan to pay their respects to Gedaliah at Mizpah, N. of Jerusalem, upon his appointment. In spite of Johanan's open warning of Ishmael's intention, and even private offer to slay Ishmael in order to avert the death of Gedaliah and its evil consequences to the Jewish remnant, the latter in generous unsuspiciousness refused to believe the statement. Thirty days after, in the seventh month Ishmael and "ten men, princes of the king," at an hospitable entertainment given them by Gedaliah slew him with such secrecy that no alarm was given (compare Psalm 41:9), and then slew the Jews and Chaldeans, the men of war immediately about his person (not the rest, Jeremiah 40:16), with him. Jeremiah, who usually was residing there, was providentially elsewhere. No man knew it outside Mizpah for a time.

So on the second day fourscore devotees with shaven beards, rent clothes, having cut themselves with pagan mutilations (see Leviticus 19:27-28; Deuteronomy 14:1), were seen by Ishmael from the higher ground on which he was, advancing from the N. with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to "the house of the Lord," i.e. to the place where the temple had stood, and which was still sacred. They came from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria, where such pagan usages prevailed, expressive of sorrow; they hereby indicated their grief at the destruction of the temple and city. Ishmael met them, pretending to weep like themselves, and said, "Come to Gedaliah," as if he were one of his retinue. When they came into the midst of the city, or of the courtyard (Josephus), he closed the entrances and butchered all, except ten who promised, if spared, to show him treasures of wheat, barley, oil, and honey.

His greediness and needs overcame his cruelty, or he would not have spared even the ten. The 70 corpses he threw into the pit or cistern made by Asa to have a water supply when Baasha was about to besiege the city (1 Kings 15:22); as Jehu did to Ahaziah's 42 relatives, and as Nana Sahib did in our own times at Cawnpore. Next he carried off king Zedekiah's daughters, with their eunuchs and Chaldaean guard; and, doubtless being largely reinforced, carried away all the remaining people at Mizpah by way of Gibeon on the N. (Josephus says by Hebron round the S. end of the Dead Sea) toward Ammon, where probably he meant to sell them as slaves (Jeremiah 41:10; Jeremiah 41:16). Johnnan pursued and overtook him at the great waters in Gibeon (2 Samuel 2:13). His captives gladly "cast about," i.e. came round and joined Johanan, who slew two of the ten princes (Jeremiah 41:1-2; Jeremiah 41:15), leaving Ishmael with but eight to escape to Ammon.

The result was a panic among the Jewish remnant in Judaea, as Johanan had foreseen when he warned Gedaliah. But now, in spite of Jeremiah's remonstrance from the Lord, he, instead of checking, promoted the panic, and led all the recovered captives, Jeremiah included, into Egypt (Jeremiah 41:16-17; Jeremiah 41:42; Jeremiah 43:5-7). The calamity, Gedaliah's murder and the consequent dispersion of the Jews, was and is commemorated by the fast of the seventh month (Zechariah 7:5; Zechariah 8:19), the third of Tisri. Ammon's share in this tragedy was avenged in accordance with the Lord's word (Jeremiah 49:1-6; Ezekiel 25:1-7). The lessons from the history are, so long as pride, ambition, and revenge are harboured, men will ever scheme afresh to their own hurt.

Scarcely had Jerusalem paid the awful penalty of her sin than her princes began new plots of violence and bloodshed. Zedekiah's perfidious rebellion had hardly been crushed when Ishmael devised a fresh conspiracy. Nothing short of God's grace can correct the desperate depravity of man. The mystery that men of guileless simplicity fall victims to murderous treachery is one of many proofs that there is an enemy disordering the present world course. Faith looks above the cloud, and sees God ordering all things for the good of His people and for the punishment of the transgressors at the last.

The coming judgment will vindicate God's ways, glorify the saints with Christ their King, deliver the earth from the ungodly and Satan their prince, who shall be cast out for ever. Even now one bad man is made the scourge of another. The nemesis of crime is sure to overtake the guilty at last. However cunningly and laboriously he weaves iniquity, the web which was on the point of success is in a moment scattered to the winds by the breath of God, and the victims escape. The only fruit Ishmael derived from his crimes was being forced to flee as an outlaw, bearing about, Cain like, the murderer's brand, and a self torturing conscience, the earnest of the worm that never dieth.


Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from Fausset Bible Dictionary, 1949. Public Domain.

Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. "Entry for 'Ishmael'". "Fausset Bible Dictionary".
<http://classic.studylight.org/dic/fbd/view.cgi?number=T1810>. 1949.

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