Ishmael and Isaac were the sons of the Hebrew patriarch Abraham. Ishmael was the first son. His mother was Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian maidservant. Isaac’s mother was Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Both sons buried their father and then separated from each other – on peaceful terms (we think) - to live their own lives. Ishmael and his offspring lived as nomads in northern Arabia. The name Abraham means "father of a multitude". This article assumes the reader has general knowledge of a major figure in biblical history and of Mohammed, the founder of Islam.
Modern Day Arabs and Their Father Abraham
The Ishmaelites were, are, or should be the descendants of Ishmael. For genealogy purposes, this matter seems pretty cut and dry. But who are the true Ishmaelites?
The Sons, Grandsons and Great Grandsons of Abraham
Mapping The Family Tree of the True Ishmaelites is Really Not Complicated
Isaac was not the physical and biological firstborn son of Abraham, but he was deemed the legitimate heir to his father’s wealth and worldly possessions because his mother was Sarah, the first wife.
Jacob - whose name was later changed to Israel - was the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham, and he had 12 sons:
- six (6) sons by his wife, Leah;
** Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun;
- two (2) sons by Leah’s handmaid, Zilpah;
** Gad and Asher;
- two (2) sons by wife, Rachel;
** Joseph and Benjamin;
- two (2) sons by Rachel’s handmaid, Bilhah;
** Dan and Naphtali.
Jacob’s name was changed to Israel and his sons, the great grandsons of the patriarch became the foundation of the Hebrew nation. They were first known as Hebrews, then as the 12 Tribes of Israel or the Israelites. Later in history, their Babylonian captors began calling them Jews and that's what everybody calls the to this day.
Ishmael was actually the physical and biological firstborn son of Abraham by Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian handmaid. In ancient times, in certain cultures, it was a common practice, if a wife was unable to bear children for her husband that a slave would be permitted to serve as a surrogate. It was Sarah who suggested to her husband that Hagar bear children on her behalf. After all they had been married for many years and their union had produced no offspring. However, several years later, in her old age, Sarah became pregnant and she bore Isaac.
Ishmaelites were, are or should be the descendants of Ishmael
(Hold that thought.)
According to Jewish scriptures, Ishmael – the brother of Isaac, the uncle of Israel (Jacob) - was also the father of twelve (12) sons: (1) Nebajoth, (2) Kedar, (3) Adbeel, (4) Mibsam, (5) Mishma, (6) Dumah, (7) Masa, (8) Hadar, (9) Tema, (10) Jetur, (11) Naphish, and (12) Kedemah. They are also referred to as 12 tribes (or nations). The book of Genesis honors them as “twelve princes according to their nations”.
After the death of Sarah, Abraham took another wife, Keturah. Wife? Concubine? Concubine made wife? Wife or concubine, she bore him six sons. One of the sons was named Midian. The Midianites inhabited the Arabian Desert. They were a fierce desert people who fought constantly with their relatives, i.e. the Israelites.
In time, the Midianites became merged or associated with the Ishmaelites; likely because they both occupied the same geographical area, and lived a similar existence as nomadic tribes. (Likely, that is to say, a possible explanation.)
So to be clear: the birth order is Ishmael, Isaac, Israel and then Midian.
* The Israelites are the seed of Abraham through his grandson, Israel and his son Isaac, by his first wife, Sarah.
* The Ishmaelites are Abraham’s descendants through Ishmael, his son by Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian handmaid.
* The Midianites can be traced through Abraham’s son, Midian, by his second wife, Keturah.
Isaac, Ishmael, and Midian all had the same father; but not the same mother.
For some reason, during the course of history, the Midianites became interlinked, interwoven, commingled, absorbed or lumped together with the Ishmaelites.
Two final notes: The five other sons of Abraham by Keturah? Their names were Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Ishbak, and Shuah. They were also founders of Arabian tribes. Also, Ishmael had a daughter named Mahalath. She married Esau, her cousin because – he was the son of Isaac, the twin brother of Israel (Jacob), Ishmael's nephew.
Historically, Arabia began as three (3) kingdoms: Minaean, Sabaean, and Hymarite (c. 1200 B.C. – 525 B.C.).
* The Minaeans were in Southwest Arabia (c. 1200 B.C. – 650 B.C.)
* The Sabaeans (c. 930 B.C. – 115 B.C.) controlled the spice trade through Southern Arabia.
* The Himyarites also flourished in Southern Arabia (c. 115 B.C. – 525 A.D.)
From 525 – 575 A.D., Ethiopia (formerly Abyssinia) set up a kingdom in Southern Arabia; and in 579 B.C., the Persians took over. The north was influenced by Byzantium and Syria. (Today, Byzantium is Istanbul.)
It was the religion of Islam that was used to unite the people into a theocratic State, with Mecca and Medina as the spiritual centers of the Arab world; largely due to the efforts of Mohammed, who died in 632 A.D. Mohammed, the founder of Islam, claims Ishmael as his ancestor, as do most Arabs.
Pure? Mixed? Genuine?
(Unhold that thought that you were holding.)
** Arabs - referred to as “pure Arabs” - said to be the descendants of Joktan, the son of Eber, the son of Salah, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah.
** Then there are “mixed Arabs”, which according to most Arab historians, are the descendants of Ishmael.
** Then there are the “genuine Arabs” who count Ishmael as their father. How?
Ishmael’s 12 sons and their descendants lived in Northern Arabia. The Arabic word for “desert” is “bedu”. Arabian peoples originating from Ishmael’s offspring dispersed through the Arabian Peninsula; and the “genuine Arabs” who call themselves Bedouins (literally “desert men”) esteem Ishmael as the father of the tribes of the Arabian Desert and as such consider themselves Ishmaelites.
** The clearest distinction that seems to be made is that the Muslim Arabs – or Arabs who are converts to Islam - claim descent from Ishmael and acknowledge Abraham as their patriarchal father as well, are the “mixed”.
** Whereas, it appears the “pure” Arabs trace their roots to Noah.
** The “genuine” claim to be Ishmael’s descendants, but may or may not be converts to Islam.
The historians seem to label the “genuine” (Bedouins) as “mixed”; but the Bedouins insist they are “genuine desert people” and it’s the Muslim Arabs who are the “mixed Arabs”.
(It looks that way from a distance to a foreigner!)
CONCLUSION? If only they all wore golden earrings. They’d be so much easier to identify. The inspiration for this article came from a scriptural text in the book of Old Testament book of Judges.
“For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.”(Judges 8: 24)
The Genealogy of Abraham according to the Bible
Genealogy of Abraham