Ishmael was Sarah’s idea of having children through her maidservant Hagar, because she was barren. She said to her husband Abraham,
“THE LORD has kept me from having children. Go and sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Gen. 16:2
Hagar who was an Egyptian was a product of Abraham’s sojourn to the land of Egypt when a severe famine struck Canaan. When Hagar was pregnant, she despised her mistress Sarah because of the latter’s inability to have children. As a consequence, Sarah mistreated her and she fled. In the desert, God sent an angel to Hagar who was told to go back and submit to her mistress Sarah. Hagar gave birth to a son that Abraham named Ishmael I accordance with the word of the angel.
When a covenant of circumcision was established between God and Abraham, God made the following proclamation concerning Ishmael in Gen. 17:20.
“And as for Ishmael, I have heard you; I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his number. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation
Even after the birth of Isaac the child of promise, God reaffirmed His promise on Ishmael when he declared in Gen. 21:13 that,
“I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”
Ishmael and his mother were expelled from Abraham’s house Sarah did not want him to have an inheritance in the house of Abraham. It may have been very horrifying for him to send his own blood out of the house but Abraham had to do it because Ishmael was not the child of promise. Can you imagine sending away a son born in your own house who lived with you till teenage hood? Abraham gave them some food and water and sent them out to no place in particular. Ishmael and his mother wandered in the dry deserts until the water got finished.
Not wanting to watch her son die of thirst, Hagar put the crying Ishmael under one of the bushes, sat nearby and also began to weep furiously.
They were both crying and about to die from thirst when God heard the boy’s cry and an angel called on Hagar from heaven and said,
“Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand for I will make him into a great Nation.” Gen.21:17,18
God opened Hagar’s eyes and she saw water in a well which they drank. By reason of the covenant with Abraham and his offspring, God was with Ishmael as he grew up to become a man. He dwelt in the desert and when he was old enough to get married his mother got him a wife from Egypt, her native home country.
The story of Ishmael who is the great grandfather of the desert tribes is an interesting one and can be summarized as follows:
• Came to be only because Sarah wanted to use Hagar as a surrogate mother in raising a family.
• While he was still in his mother’s womb, God promised to make him into a great nation and his descendants too numerous to count.
• After he was born God reiterated the promise to make him fruitful and greatly increase his number.
• When he was sent out of the house, God rescued him from the jaws of death by miraculously providing a well of water in the midst of the desert.
Even though Isaac was the child of promise through whom God sustained His covenant with Abraham, his other seed Ishmael was also reckoned with by God because he was Abraham’s offspring. God intervened on two occasions to save and preserve his life. When Hagar and Ishmael cried for lack of water, it was the boy’s cry that God heard because he was Abraham’s seed. God loved Ishmael and provided water for him to drink even when it was naturally impossible to source for water in the desert. If God hated Ishmael and had no plan for him, there would have been no basis for him to intervene in life threatening situations to sustain and keep him alive.
All these point to the fact that our God is a covenant keeping God.
That is why we call him Jehovah,
What he said he would do,
That’s what he surely does.
His name is JEHOVAH.