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Ishmael in Judaism and Christianity

In the Book of Genesis (xvi, xvii, xxi, xxv) and later texts, Ishmael or Yishma'el (ישמעאל "God will hear", Standard Hebrew Yišmaʿel, Tiberian Hebrew YišmāʿÍl) is Abraham's eldest son, born by his concubine Hagar. In Genesis 16 Sarai (Abram's wife) gives Abram her maid-servant Hagar to bear him children, since she acknowledged that God had kept her from having children (16:2).

Hagar became pregnant and despised Sarai (16:4) and subsequently was ill-treated. As a result she ran away from home into the desert where an angel found her near a spring. Here the prophecy of Ishmael is recorded in the bible. (16:11-13)

"You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael (God hears), for the LORD has heard of your misery. 12 He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers."

The well of Hagar in Genesis xvi was named Beer lahai-roi ("Well of the Living One who Sees Me" or as some render it, "Well of the Vision of Life")

Sarah became pregnant (Genesis 21) and bore Isaac. On the day of his weaning Ishmael was mocking and so was driven out. They wandered in the desert of Beersheba (well of the oath) and when the water was gone she put the child under a bush and went a distance (a bowshot) away to die. The Bible does not explicitly mention the child crying but does mention Hagar sobbing. Strangely enough, (Genesis 21:17) it say's God heard the boy crying (as opposed to the mother who was explicitly mentioned as crying). A well miraculously appears to save both child and mother.

It mentions then that he becomes an archer and lives in the desert. We are told that his mother obtains a wife for him from Egypt.

Ishmael in Islam

In the Qur'an (the holy book of Muslims), ʾIsmāʿīl (Arabic اسماعيل) is known as the first-born son of Abraham from Hagar. Islamic tradition also believes that he was the one nearly sacrificed, not Isaac (or Ishaq in the Quran). Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God is celebrated in Eid ul-Adha every year by Muslims.

Islamic tradition holds that Ishmael helped his father build the Kaaba in Mecca (or "Makkah"). Ishmael is supposedly buried near the Kaaba on the grounds of the Masjid al Haram. Another legend tells that he and his mother were in Makkah without water. The frantic running of his mother in pursuit of water, only to be followed by a miraculous spring appearing from the ground, is used to describe the origin of the Zamzam Well. Muhammad is considered a direct descendant of Ishmael.

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Other Ishmaels: