Ishmael’s Daughter(s) and the Riddle of Esau’s Wives

In my previous post on the twelve sons of Ishmael, I left out at least one of Ishmael’s most important children: his daughter, or perhaps, his daughters. Their story is tied to Esau, Jacob’s brother, and chronologically comes later in the biblical narrative, but in the interest of keeping the Ishmael family together, I want to discuss it now. And what the story lacks in narrative, it gains in confusion: Genesis is simply unclear about exactly how many wives Esau had, what their names were, and who their parents were. And, depending on how you read it, Ishmael could have been blessed by one daughter who married Esau, or two. And before you dismiss that out of hand, remember that Jacob himself married two daughters of Laban, so it is entirely reasonable for Esau to also marry sisters.

A complicated tale that involves wading through bible genealogies? Where do I sign up!? Read on for more.

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Ishmael’s Children and Descendants

Ishmael by James Tissot (Source: Wikimedia Commons)The story of Ishmael is the next to come to a close, in the middle of Genesis 25. But before he passes away at the ripe old age of 137, the bible tells us a bit more about his children. Ishmael’s family, like Abraham’s children with Keturah, don’t factor into the biblical story directly. Instead, they are the founders of twelve more tribes of Canaan that the post-exodus Hebrews will have to deal with upon their return.

These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. These were the sons of Ishmael, and these are the names of the twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps.
Genesis 25:13-16

I thought it would be fun, just like I did with Abraham’s kids, to look at what the bible says about each of these twelve tribes and how they impacted our story, in big and small ways. One omission from this list, is Ishmael’s daughter (Mahalath, otherwise known as Basemath), but that story is complicated enough that I’m going to save it for another time.

I know that genealogies bore some of you to tears, but I love them and the way little connections are sprinkled throughout the bible, if you care to look for them. They make me feel like it’s all part of one connected story, rather than   bumps along the road to Jerusalem. Every story is important, though some are more fun than others.

Twelve more tribes for Ishmael! Read on for more.

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My Favorite Moment in Genesis – Isaac and Ishmael at Peace

In the bible as in life, sometimes the best things come in small packages. Hidden between two boring genealogies in Genesis 25 is a three line mini-story that is one of my favorite moments in Genesis. Here it is:

Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah.
Genesis 25:8-10

The story is profound in its simplicity: Isaac and Ishmael, two half-brothers who did not get along, come together in peace to bury their father. It’s an amazing story of forgiveness that I think says a lot to us still today. Read on for more.

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