Ishmael was Abraham’s first son, born of an Egyptian slave. He was considered Abraham’s chief heir but lost that position when Isaac was born. Ishmael was also the father of 12 tribes.
God promised Abraham that he would have a son, but Sarah was barren and old. Therefore, she offered her slave Hagar to Abraham, to be his concubine (secondary wife). According to the customs of that time, this was acceptable, to guarantee their offspring ( Genesis 16: 1-2 ).
See also: who was Abraham in the Bible?
Abraham married Hagar and she became pregnant. When she found out she was pregnant, Hagar treated Sara with contempt for being sterile. So Sara mistreated Hagar so much that she ran away. In the desert, Hagar had an encounter with God, who told him that his son would be called Ishmael and would have many descendants ( Genesis 16: 10-11 ). Obeying, Hagar returned home, treated Sara well and had her son.
Abraham was 86 years old when Ishmael was born and thought he would be her heir. But God said that the heir would be Sarah’s son. Abraham prayed for Ishmael and God assured him that Ishmael would also be blessed. But the covenant to be God’s people would be established with Isaac’s descendants ( Genesis 17: 19-21 ).
At 13, Ishmael was circumcised, along with his father and all the men in his household. The following year, Ismael’s life changed. Sara became pregnant and gave birth to Isaac. When Isaac was weaned, Abraham threw a big party. During the party, Sara saw Ismael making fun of Isaac and she was very angry. She told Abraham to send Ishmael and his mother away, because he would not be an heir ( Genesis 21: 8-10 ).
See Sara’s story here .
Abraham was concerned for his son but God told him that he would protect Ishmael. So Abraham sent Ishmael and Hagar away, with just some food. They were in the desert when the food ran out and Ishmael cried, because they were going to die there. God heard their cry and showed them a fountain where they could draw water ( Genesis 21: 17-19 ).
Ishmael grew up and lived in the desert of Parã. He became an archer and married an Egyptian ( Genesis 21: 20-21 ). He had 12 children, who became the patriarchs of 12 tribes. Ishmael’s daughter married Esau, son of Isaac. Ishmael seems to have reconciled with his father’s family. He attended his father’s funeral, along with Isaac ( Genesis 25: 7-9 ). But his descendants, the Ismailis, had many conflicts with their neighbors, including the Jews, descendants of Isaac.
Ishmael was the fruit of wrong decisions but God did not abandon him. The Bible says that God was with Ishmael, looking after him. Although he was not the promised son, God also made promises to bless Ishmael. God loved Ishmael.