Abram Hagar and Ishmael

Genesis 16 describes the story of Abram, Hagar and Ishmael. Hagar was an Egyptian maidservant of Abram and Sarai (before their names were changed to Abraham and Sarah, (See hyperlink Change of names Abram and Sarai). Sarai was barren and, as was customary at the time, she gave Hagar to Abram in order that Abram would have an heir {1}. Hagar becomes pregnant and as a result becomes arrogant towards Sarai. Antagonism between them and Hagar flees to the desert. The Angel of God finds her beside a well and tells her that she will give birth to a son who will be called Ishmael, ‘for God has heard me (my affliction)’ and that he will become a great nation. She goes back to Abram and Sarai and where she gives birth to Ishmael.

In Genesis 21 again the issue of antagonism between Sarai (now Sara) and Hagar arises again after the birth of Isaac and on this occasion under coercion from Sara, Abram (now Abraham) evicts Hagar and her son Ishmael and casts them to the desert with minimal supplies provided by Abraham. God confirms a second time to Hagar that Ishmael will become a great nation.

Gematrically the story is of interest as follows:

Abram, spelt אברם :aleph, beth, resh, mem = 1-2-200-40 = 243

Hagar, spelt הגר : heh, gimmel, resh = 5-3-200 = 208


Abram+Hagar = 243+208 = 451


Ishmael, spelt ישמעאל yod, shin, mem, ayin,aleph, lamed = 10-300-40-70-1-30 = 451

Hence the union of Abram and Hagar = 451, produces Ishmael = 451. It is a union ordained by God emphasising that Ishmael will ‘be numbered for a multitude and will be a wild man’ (Genesis 16:10-12) and ‘twelve princes he shall beget and I will make him a great nation’ (Genesis 17:20). Indeed Ishmael, who marries an Egyptian, does become a great nation and leader of twelve tribes – The Ishmaelites.

This union between Abram and Hagar is not insignificant and a key to the future fate of the Children of Israel and the world as a whole.

As we learn in the story of Joseph (See hyperlink Reuben and the conspiracy of the brothers) the Ishmaelites, using their ‘dual nationality’ are traders between Egypt and Canaan and become the intermediaries who sell Joseph as a slave into Egypt {2}. It is the Ishmaelites who are the agents of change and facilitate the migration of the Children of Israel into Egypt and as a result saving them from famine and allowing them to be fruitful and multiply (See be fruitful and multiply in Egypt). The history of the Children of Israel and of the Jewish people would not be the same had not Ishmael existed.

Ishmael was not just the son of Abram’s concubine and his wife’s maidservant. Abram regarded Ishmael truly as his son, as is noted several times in the texts. It is specifically noted that when God instructed Abram and all the males in his household to be circumcised, Ishmael was 13 years old year. It is for this reason that Moslem nations conduct the circumcision in the 13th year and not the 8th day as is the Jewish custom (See hyperlink the circumcision)

And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all who were born in his house, and all who were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the same day, as God had said to him: And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin (Genesis 17:23,25)

In the same day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son (Genesis:17:26)

This too bears significance inasmuch that 13 is associated with the name of God (See hyperlink The Aleph: head of bull, the name of God yin and yang).

There is therefore no doubt that the birth of Ishmael and the tribes of Ishmael were ordained by God. This is particularly noted in the term ‘gathered to his people’. This term is rarely used in the Bible and is particularly reserved for the three patriarchs and Ishmael (See hyperlink gather to his people):

And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, a hundred and thirty seven years; and he expired and died; and was gathered to his people: Genesis 25:17

The tribes of Ishmael effectively become the core of the Arab race. As we see in later biblical text the tribes of Ishmael amalgamate with tribes of Esau (Edom):

Then went Esau to Ishmael, and took, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham's son, the sister of Nebaioth, to be his wife: (Genesis 28:9)

Unfortunately, as is often the case with brothers, enmity rises up between the Tribes of Israel and the nations of the Ishmaelites, and of Esau (Edom). And in Psalm 83 we see that all the Arab nations have turned against Israel until today.

Do not keep silent, O God; do not hold your peace and be still, O God: For, behold, your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate you have lifted up the head: They have taken crafty counsel against your people, and consulted against your hidden ones: They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may no longer be remembered: For they conspire together with one accord; they make an alliance against you: The tents of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; of Moab, and the Hagarites: Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre: Assyria also has joined them; they are the strong arm of the children of Lot; Selah: (Psalm 83:2-9)

{1} In accord with transcriptions found on clay tablets written about mid-nineteenth to eighteenth Century BCE, in the region of Mesopotamia where Abraham lived, it was not uncommon, particularly in the Nuzi practices, for wives who were barren to give their maidservants to their husband in order to produce heirs.

{2} Unfortunately the role of the Ishmaelites in human trade perpetuated from this instance right up to the 19th century

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