Ishmael and Isaac in the Bible: A
Response to a Christian’s Objections, Part Two
In response to our critique of his unsupported
claim that Ishmael was a teenager but “not as strong as one”, the Christian
“What tactics? What is there to figure
out, they were in the wilderness of Be′er-she′ba, lost their way, ran out of
water and fell out from exhaustion. Hellooo! Let us be reasonable, okay.”
tactic is to make an unsupported allegation to explain why Ishmael had to be
carried by his mother through the desert in the same way Jewish commentators
like Rashi did. They knew something was
not right about the story, so to explain it, they simply concocted a legend
about a curse placed on Ishmael by Sarah.
The Christian made a different excuse, and failed to back it up with any
He also did not answer any of our
questions. Here they are again:
he tell us how far Hagar went while carrying her son before she finally “gave
he show us any example prior to the exile into the desert where Ishmael was
“not strong and needed to be carried”?
we refuted the idea that Ishmael was not a “strong” teenager since he
supposedly was able to live in the desert indefinitely and become an
archer! How does a previously weak
teenager become a hardy desert dweller?
Next, the Christian stated in response to our observation
that the Hebrew word “hay-ye-led” always refers to a child:
so? It is clear you must not understand/read Hebrew.
- yeled (409b); from
3205; child, son, boy, youth:—
boy(7), boys(3), child(32), child's(2), children(27), lad(2), lads(1),
young(3), young men(6), youths(5).
therein lies the problem. The Christian
does not seem to understand the difference between “yeled” and “hay-ye-led”. They are not the same word! The link provided by this individual even
provides examples of the different variants of “yeled”, which of course have
different meanings. For example, the link
provides an example of when “yeled” refers to a “man”, namely Genesis 4:23,
which we mentioned in the previous article.
The variant of “yeled” used in this verse is “we-ye-led”, which is
clearly a different word than “hay-ye-led”.
The definition of “yeled”, according
to one authoritative dictionary is summarized as the following:
refers to children of both genders in a number of cases. This term is found approximately eighty times
with the various meanings ‘child (male and female),’ ‘son,’ ‘boy,’ ‘youth.’
Yeled occurs approximately
sixty times meaning ‘child.’ For
example, it refers to Ishmael (cf. Gen. 21:8ff.); the Israelite children
rescued by the courageous Hebrew midwives in Egypt (cf. Exod. 1:17f.); Moses (Exod.
2:3ff.); the child (boy) of the Zarephath widow miraculously brought back to
life by Elijah (cf. 1 Kgs. 17:21ff.).
See also 2 Kgs. 4:18, 26, 34.”
should be noted that the above source references Genesis 21:8. What variant of “yeled” is used in this
verse? Why “hay-ye-led” of course! We also referred to Exodus 2:3 in the
original article since “hay-ye-led” is used there as well to refer to the
infant Moses. So, it is clear that “hay-ye-led”
means “child”, not “young man”.
To continue, in a 2001 article in
the journal “Vetus Testamentum”, S. Nikaido of Berkeley University made a very
interesting observation about the depiction of Ishmael in Genesis 21, which
supports our contention that the story has been altered by Jewish scribes. Nikaido states:
to Gen. xvii 25 (P), Ishmael was at least thirteen. Therefore, Gen. Rabbah 53.13
(also Rashi) suggests that he was carried because of illness; Abravanel
interprets we"et-hayyeled as meaning Ishmael helped carry the
provisions. Modern commentators,
however, fault the discrepancy on P’s superimposed chronology (Gen. xvi 16 and
xxi 5; xvii 25), a phenomenon occurring elsewhere (e.g., Gen. xii 11 compared
with xvii 17 and xii 4). The text clearly does not portray Ishmael as a grown
child (P) but most likely as an infant (E), since Hagar not only carries him (xxi
14) but also “casts” him under a bush (v. 15; cf. Exod i 22) and “lifts him up”
(v. 18). Other clues include: God hears
the child’s voice (v. 17), presumably crying, rather than his mother’s (E.
Fripp, “Note on Gen. xxi 6. 8-12”, ZAW 12 , pp. 164-65), the
reference to his “growing” (v. 20), and the fact that Hagar is not portrayed as
being in any mortal danger but only the child.”
should be amply clear that Genesis 21 is not an honest and factual depiction of
Ishmael. He was clearly a very young
child. Having proven this conclusively,
we must note that if anyone does not “understand/read Hebrew”, it is the
Finally, the Christian made the following claim (emphasis in the original):
“Again, verses that were interpreted
wrongly by Muslims and then blame the Bible as being corrupt/tampered. The
child indeed is Isaac, the one of choice!”
It should be noted that the Christian did not even respond
to any of the points we raised regarding the inconsistency of referring to
Isaac as Abraham’s “only son” when Ishmael was also his son and the first born. The Christian simply repeated his initial
argument without providing any supporting evidence.
case, scholars point to the fact that even some Jews saw the difficulty with
claiming that Isaac was Abraham’s only son.
In a 2006 article in the journal “Dead Sea Discoveries”, Betsy
Halpern-Amaru made the following interesting observation about a variant of the
story in question in the fragment of the Dead Scrolls known as 4Q225:
author of 4Q225 develops a structure that creates a new backdrop for the
narrative of the Aqedah. Prefacing the account of the Aqedah is a summary
presentation of the promises of a son and multiple progeny in Gen 15:2–6 (2 i 3–7).
Isaac’s birth is announced immediately thereafter (2 1 8–9a) and thereby is
explicitly portrayed as the fulfillment of the preceding divine promise of a
son. The Ishmael narratives that intervene between the promises of the covenant
making in Genesis 15 and the birth of Isaac are omitted. Indeed, in 4Q225 Ishmael is never born. Consequently,
when God commands Abraham to sacrifice his only son (2 i 11), Isaac is quite
literally…the only son the patriarch has.”
So, we can see that the author of this extra-biblical
variant of the Genesis story of Ishmael and Isaac was so adamant in removing
the inconsistency that he completely omitted Ishmael’s birth from the
narrative, thereby literally making Isaac the “only son”!
How can our Christian detractor
insist on his a priori assumptions? As
must be enforced by reason. When faith becomes blind it dies.”
So, we would like to invite our Christian friend to use his
reason and not resort to blind faith. Your salvation depends upon it.
And Allah knows best!
 “Expository Dictionary
of Bible Words: Word Studies for Key English Bible Words Based on the Hebrew
and Greek Texts”, p. 176.
 Nikaido, S. 2001.
"HAGAR AND ISHMAEL AS LITERARY FIGURES: AN INTERTEXTUAL STUDY." Vetus
Testamentum 51, no. 2: 219-242. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost
(accessed February 17, 2014).
 Halpern-Amaru, Betsy.
2006. "A Note on Isaac as First-born in Jubilees and Only Son in
4Q225." Dead Sea Discoveries 13, no. 2: 127-133. Academic Search
Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed February 17, 2014).
a footnote, Halpern-Amaru also notes:
Werman has argued that the exclusion of Ishmael has a polemical basis that is
also evident in the reworking of the Aqedah narrative.”
the text of the 4Q225 fragment, see Geza Vermes, “The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls”,