The Isaac and Ishmael Question

I have been asked to write an article on this subject which seems very opportune as many Moslems believe that Christians and Jews have changed the OT to reflect that Ishmael should have had the covenant for his seed when God explicitly states that Isaac is as he is of the Spirit and faith:-

Isaac, on the other hand, was the child of promise. Read the record: “And God said, Nay, but Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son; and thou shalt call his name Isaac; and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his seed after him.” Genesis 17:19. Paul states clearly that “the son by the freewoman is born through promise.” Galatians 4:23. Isaac was the seeding of the coming Messiah in whom all God’s redemptive purposes were and are centered. The promise stated that “in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Genesis 12:3. That this definitely predicted the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, is confirmed by the word of the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul in Galatians 3:16

There are ample archaeological evidence to back the translation and correctness of the scriptures way before Jesus was born. Furthermore the New Testament confirms via Paul that Isaac is from the spirit and Ishmael through the flesh.

End of Note:

This solid Biblical teaching is presented here due to a current wave of distorted politically motivated teaching and preaching wrongly to the effect that “the God of Abraham” (the Jews) and the “God of Ishmael” (the Palestinians and other Arabs)) treats both Jews and Arabs alike as to His Promises, Covenants, and their respective destinies.Both the Tenach (what Christians call the “Old Testament”). and the Christian “New Testament” plainly teach, and outline in great detail, the differences in His plans and purposes for these two branches of the human family.

SALVATION is open to all mankind, but other questions such as “the linage of the Prophets, Messiah etc.”, and “entitlement to possession of the Promised Land” are not universal.

The Land belongs to God; He calls it “My Land”; so even Israel is a steward of the Land for God’s purposes.

Alan C. Lazerte – Director, Christian Action for Israel

(Twentieth Century Version) by Charles Lee Feinberg, Th.D., Ph.D.

In Galatians 4:21-31 we read:

Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the freewoman. Howbeit the son by the handmaid is born after the flesh; but the son by the freewoman is born through promise. Which things contain an allegory: for these women are two covenants; one from Mount Sinai, bearing children unto bondage, which is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and answereth to the Jerusalem that now is; for she is in bondage with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother. For it is written. Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; Break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: For more are the children of the desolate than of her that hath the husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, so also it is now. Howbeit what saith the scripture? Cast out the handmaid and her son: for the son of the handmaid shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman. Wherefore, brethren, we are not children of a handmaid, but of the freewoman.


It is a settled and assured Biblical principle, well known to students of the Scriptures, that certain past events project themselves into the future and form the pattern and mold for prophetic events. Such an example is to be found in the exodus of the people of Israel from Egyptian bondage. In the eleventh chapter of his prophecy Isaiah is foretelling the manner in which in a coming day God will regather His scattered and dispersed people from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and the islands of the sea. Then he notes that God will utterly dry up the tongue of the Egyptian sea (as He dried up the Red Sea of old), so that the returning remnant could march over dryshod.

And there will be a highway for the restored exiles from Assyria “like as there was for Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.” See Isaiah 11:11-16; also Jeremiah 23:1-8. What God has done in the past is held out as an indication of what He will yet do in and for Israel. Take for instance, the events in the life of the patriarch Jacob as related to the land of Canaan. He was settled in the land; through the anger of Esau he had to flee the land to Mesopotamia; he returned to the land. This is a pattern of his descendants, Israel, who lived in the land for centuries, have been exiled these many centuries from the land, and will yet be restored to their own land. After this manner Isaac and Ishmael form a pattern too.


Because Ishmael and Isaac had the same father, it is not to be inferred that all was similarity between them. From a consideration of Genesis 13:1,2 with 16:1 we note that Abraham brought two things with him from Egypt: (1) wealth and (2) an Egyptian handmaid, Hagar. What trouble, strife, separation, and conflict were caused by the wealth from Egypt is clearly shown in chapters 13 to 15. Chapters 16 and following reveal what discord was introduced through the bringing of Hagar into the home life of Abraham and Sarah. Ishmael, child of Hagar, came ultimately from Egypt, which is a type of the world and all that is opposed to God.

See Revelation 11:8. Egypt stands as the great oppressor of the people of God, just as the world would enslave God’s own in every age. Moreover, Ishmael was from the flesh (Galatians 4:23,29). When Abraham and Sarah would not abide God’s time for the promised child, then the man of faith hearkened to the fleshly arrangements of his wife in order to have a child by his handmaid. And from this union have come those who have been the inveterate enemies of the gospel of Christ through the centuries, namely, the seed of Ishmael. Esau also represents in the Scriptures the flesh and its desires.

When we turn to Genesis 36:3 for the list of the wives of Esau, we are not at all surprised to find that one of them is “Basemath, Ishmael’s daughter, sister of Nebaioth.” The flesh is joined to the flesh; flesh ever gravitates to its own level, the flesh. Finally, when we seek the origins of Ishmael we must recall that he is from unbelief also. Despite the clear promises of God Abraham prayed earnestly, “Oh that Ishmael might live before thee!” This was unmitigated unbelief. To this supplication God answered, “Nay!” Compare Genesis 17:18,19. Such is the background of the life of Ishmael.

Isaac, on the other hand, was the child of promise. Read the record: “And God said, Nay, but Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son; and thou shalt call his name Isaac; and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his seed after him.” Genesis 17:19. Paul states clearly that “the son by the freewoman is born through promise.” Galatians 4:23. Isaac was the seeding of the coming Messiah in whom all God’s redemptive purposes were and are centered. The promise stated that “in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Genesis 12:3.

That this definitely predicted the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, is confirmed by the word of the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul in Galatians 3:16: “Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” And this promise included Isaac, because the genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew (1:2) and that in the Gospel of Luke (3:34) both incorporate the name of Isaac in the honoured lineage of the Messiah of Israel. Moreover, to Isaac was given the land of promise with all the blessings attendant upon occupation therein. Note these passages: Genesis 12:7 and 13:14-17 among a number of others. Do you not see the recurring words of importance: “land” and “seed?” Isaac was the child of promise and by virtue of that was related to all the blessings in the land of promise. Put it down as an incontrovertible fact of the Bible that the land of promise and the seed of promise are inseparably linked.

At this point one may be inclined to ask why, then, was Ishmael the firstborn? The Bible principle is that the natural ever comes first and is superseded by the spiritual. First it is the natural Adam, then it is the spiritual Last Adam; first Ishmael, then Isaac; first Esau, then Jacob; first the natural birth, then the spiritual birth; first the natural body in this life, then the spiritual body in the resurrection (I Corinthians 15:44). The natural seed, as Ishmael, is ever motivated by unbelief.

The incident is told that a friend once said to Dr. Agnew Johnson, “It will be ten thousand years before India becomes Christian.” “You are drawing a hard line on God,” said the doctor. “Oh, I forgot about Him,” was the startling reply. “Then,” said the doctor, “you can make it ten million years if you leave Him out.” Unbelief never reckons on the power and promise of the living God.

The Portion of Ishmael and Isaac

What portion was allotted to these respective children of Abraham? With respect to Ishmael God had promised: “And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.” Genesis 17:20. A great people and nation are promised to Ishmael. Indeed, the peoples that have come from Ishmael and fruitful and populous. A further word was spoken concerning this son: “And he shall be as a wild ass among men; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell over against all his brethren.” Genesis 16:12. This passage is full of light on Ishmael and contains important details. It informs us that Ishmael as a wild ass among men will be of unbridled and unrestrained nature.

His will be a rough and raw existence. Just as the wild ass makes his home in the desert (Job 39:5-8), so the sons of Ishmael have been known as the sons of the desert. Furthermore, he will be at sword’s point with all men and all men will be in conflict with him. He will be a hostile and belligerent nation. And he was to dwell eastward (see Genesis 25:18) of his brethren, where his stronghold has been ever since that time.

The portion of Isaac was a blessed one indeed, and has been touched upon in part already. He was in the line of promise with all the spiritual blessings promised Abraham descending directly to him (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:12-21 – the exact title deed to the land in perpetuity; 22:15 ff. – the confirmation of the covenant blessings after the offering up of Isaac in intent; 26:1-5 – the reaffirmation of all the promises to Isaac in a time of famine and need). Subsequent history shows Isaac was drawn to spiritualities.

It is true that the experiences of Genesis 22 were meant to test and prove the faith of Abraham (verse 1), but we submit that Isaac was no inanimate object without thought or feeling during those tremendous events of that hour. He willingly submitted himself to the altar of sacrifice when he saw that preparation was being made for his own offering up. The Scriptures pass over that phase in silence, it is true, but neither do they record any word of drawing back or rebellion on the part of Isaac. He definitely was mindful of the higher things of life, the spiritual things. On the contrary part, Ishmael was ever attracted to temporalities, and the things of time and sense. When we read of Ishmaelites they are merchants going down to Egypt (see Genesis 37:25; 39:1). The world and its interests loomed all important for Ishmael and his descendants. But with Isaac were the great and exceeding promises of God which were and are of a world-comprehensive character. His was a blessed and full-portion.

The Persecution of Isaac by Ishmael

If the reader should consider at this point that we have employed too strong a word in the word “persecution,” let him only turn to Galatians 4:29 where he will find the word “persecuted.” It is the Holy Spirit’s own word. And the more we contemplate the details of the Biblical narrative in the Genesis chapters, the better we shall comprehend the full meaning of the persecution indicated. Just think back on the situation in the home of Abraham with the elder son displaced from the heirship. In the Orient this is no small matter. The firstborn was to have a double portion of the inheritance. In this instance it belongs not to Ishmael but Isaac. Would the natural man find any delight in such an arrangement which set aside his fleshly claims? Then pause for a moment to consider the contention in the home which must have gone on between Hagar and Sarah. It appears that the climax to all this conflict and disharmony was reached at the weaning of Isaac. See Genesis 21:8 ff. In the East this stage in the life of a child is reached when he is between three and five years of age. It is a time of particular joy because the early hardships and dangers of infant life have been successfully passed through. For that reason Abraham made a joyous feast for his heir according to the promise. It was more than Ishmael could down, and he made a mockery of the whole affair. The patience of Sarah was exhausted and she demanded the expulsion of the handmaid and her son. Why is so much being made of a simple unhappy home scene? Because the effects of it were never dissipated.

If you will read the book of Nehemiah, the account of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem according to the will and purpose of God, you will find a list of the enemies of the work of God among His people in chapter 4 and verses 7 and following. Among the antagonists of God’s work are the Arabians, sons of Ishmael. Centuries later one of the most solemn scenes in all human history was transacted. The blessed Son of God, the incarnate Second Person of the Trinity, was on trial for His life before none other than Herod the Great. And who was Herod the Great as to parentage? Mark this: his mother was a Nabataean (of Ishmael) and his father was of Idumaean (Esau) extraction. The Son of Isaac is being judged by the son of Ishmael.

What is the attitude of Ishmael’s seed toward that of Isaac’s seed through the years? The Psalmist gives us the whole picture thus:

O God, keep not thou silence:
Hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God.
For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult;
And they that hate thee have lifted up the head.
They take crafty counsel against thy people,
And consult together against thy hidden ones.
They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation;
That the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.
For they have consulted together with one consent;
Against thee do they make a covenant:
The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites [mark these and note that they are placed at the head of the list too]; Moab, and the Hagarenes; Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre: Assyria also is joined with them;
They have helped the children of Lot. Psalm 83:1-8.

Nothing less than the complete extinction and annihilation of God’s people Israel have been the goal and aim of the Ishmaelites down the course of their national history. During the Middle Ages the sons of Ishmael (the Arabs) subjugated large portions of Europe and the countries to the east, thus aiding with the Romish Church to make those ages the Dark Ages of history. And today these sons of Ishmael are among the greatest adversaries of the Gospel of our blessed Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. And what of Ishmael in the twentieth century, since we would bring the story down to our own day? We have all read of the conflict carried on and the bloodshed in the 1929 riots, in the late years of the last decade, and seemingly the climax is nearing with the present day riots and the machinations of the Arab League to drive out the sons of Isaac from the land. What are the events of our own day in Palestine if not a living prolongation of that struggle and conflict which went on in the home (in Palestine too) of Abraham in the century long ago? And is this the conclusion of the matter? Verily, it is not! Just as Sarah of old commanded,

“Cast out this handmaid and her son: for the son of this handmaid shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac” (Genesis 21:10),

so now the Spirit of God through Paul says,

“Cast out the handmaid and her son: for the son of the handmaid shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman.” Galatians 4:30.

God will in His own good time cast out the sons of Ishmael, despite all their devisings and intrigues, and will settle the sons of Isaac, in spite of their loud cries for help to the helpless nations of the earth instead of turning now to the Lord God who gave them the land forever, in the land of promise in perpetuity.


But at this point I would ask a pertinent question of you, dear reader. Of what profit or avail is the land to Israel, the sons of Isaac, as long as they are lost, dead in trespasses and sins, not trusting in the Messiah and God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? It is of no use to them as far as spiritual things are concerned. They must become sons of Isaac by faith as well as by birth. God has given us the privilege and opportunity of getting the Gospel to them. What will we do about it?

Adapted from “The Friend of Israel.”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s