Thursday, April 02, 2009

Genesis 25:11-18 -- Ishmael's Family

Genesis 25:11-18: And it came about after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac lived by Beer-lahai-roi. Now these are {the records of} the generations of Ishmael, Abraham's son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah's maid, bore to Abraham; and these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the firstborn of Ishmael, and Kedar and Adbeel and Mibsam and Mishma and Dumah and Massa, Hadad and Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages, and by their camps; twelve princes according to their tribes. These are the years of the life of Ishmael, one hundred and thirty-seven years; and he breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people. They settled from Havilah to Shur which is east of Egypt as one goes toward Assyria; he settled in defiance of all his relatives.

Volume I ended at Genesis 25:10 with the death of Abraham. As we begin Volume II we are informed that after Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac or perhaps continued to bless Isaac. What a delight that must be for a parent? And what does that look like in today’s world?

To begin with, the God we believe in cares for our family. His relationship may be strongest with us, but He, partly, but not exclusively, because of that relationship, He also cares for those that we cherish and love. And that care goes on after we’re gone from this earth. That is a benefit for the Christian. Genesis 25:11 is the first clear evidence of that in scripture.

So what does that look like for us today? For starters, it is not about fame and riches. It is not about prestigious positions in big companies, or fancy houses, or multiple luxury cars. It is not about having money to travel the world in Executive Class. No, for in fact as I pen these words, I think of one of my beloved children. At this very point in time, he is once again between jobs, separated from his wife of two years, and living in a very small basement apartment. Yet he is walking with the Lord, volunteering at his church, enjoying friends, is in good health and excellent spirits. He is pursuing journalism classes and with his wife, working on their relationship to see if they can get back together. His finances are limited to whatever small writing assignments he can get and he’s doing a great job of writing when he does get work. I believe God is very much interested in him. Perhaps to teach him more lessons that he has not yet learned. For me, that is blessing enough and I thank God for it.

The text records that Ishmael, Abraham’s eldest son through Hagar, the Egyptian handmaid of his wife, Sarai, had twelve sons. Each one set up their own village or town that was likely protected as one or more campsites of many tents. This was typical of Nomadic tribes at the time and each of Ishmael’s sons was the chief or prince of their village people or tribe.

With the knowledge of the fact that Ishmael died after living 137 years, we can now return to our chronological table that we started in Volume I of the series. As shown by the first three, the birth of Ishmael, and the last three entries we made in Volume I reproduced below, we are keeping track of the number of years since Adam was created (that year being designated as ‘year 0’). To these we now add Ishmael’s death according to Scripture.

• 0 Adam created (Genesis 1:27)
• 130 Seth born to Adam (Genesis 5:3)
• 235 Enosh born to Seth (Seth was 135 years old) (Genesis 5:6)
• . . . .
• 3257 Abraham was 86 when Hagar bore Ishmael to him (Gen. 16:16)
• . . . .
• 3271 Abraham was 100 when Sarah bore Isaac to him (Gen. 21:5)
• 3308 Isaac was 37 years old when Sarah died (3271 plus 37)
• 3346 Abraham died at age 175 (Genesis 25:7,8)

Now we can add the following:

• 3394 The death of Ishmael (based on his birth in 3257 and now Genesis 25:17)

Scripture tells us that the sons of Ishmael settled from Havilah to Shur. Havilah is first mentioned in Genesis 2:11 when the text identifies the various lands that the rivers flowing out of Eden went through. Havilah was on the river Pison. In Genesis 10, Havilah is the name of a great-grandson (vs. 7) and a great-great-great-great-great-grandson (vs. 29) of Noah. (I continue to be amazed at the details that God had arranged to be passed on to the author of Genesis so many years later.) Havilah as a place was part of the old Persia, the new Iran, and likely closer to India or at least that part that today is Pakistan.

But more interesting than the exact location is the fact that the Bible specifies that Ishmael and his families settled there in “defiance of all his relatives”. The King James Version uses the words “in the presence” of his brethren (or relatives). Several other versions however seem to indicate the Hebrew word used implied more than that as hinted at in the New American Standard Bible we are using. The consensus is that he settled facing, or opposite, or away from his brothers or relatives. This may well be in keeping with the prophecy that angel gave to Hagar when she was pregnant with him. In Genesis 16:12 we read, “And he will be a wild donkey of a man, His hand will be against everyone, And everyone’s hand will be against him; And he will live to the east of all his brothers.” Certainly these verses here are evidence that he flourished and stood out among his brothers, holding his own. Still, there is no record here that he was weary of the world when he died or willing to leave it as Abraham, his father, was.

On the other hand, Ishamael did live 137 years which demonstrates how God listened to Abraham’s prayer for him in Genesis 17:18 when he pleaded, “Oh that Ishmael might live before Thee!”

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