Why Was Ishmael’s Genealogy Important?

Ishmael’s Family Records


The object of the inspired writer seems to be to show how the promises of God were fulfilled to both the branches of Abraham’s family. Isaac has been already referred to; God blessed him according to the promise. He had also promised to multiply Ishmael, and an account of his generation is introduced to show how exactly the promise had also been fulfilled to him.


Ishmael had twelve sons, whose families became distinct tribes. They peopled a very large country that lay between Egypt and Assyria, called Arabia. The number and strength of this family were the fruit of the promise, made to Hagar and to Abraham, concerning Ishmael.


Ishmael’s Descendants

This is the account of the family of Ishmael, the son of Abraham through Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian servant. Here is a list, by their names and clans, of Ishmael’s descendants: The oldest was Nebaioth, followed by Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa,  Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. These twelve sons of Ishmael became the founders of twelve tribes named after them, listed according to the places they settled and camped.

Genesis 25:12-16 (NLT)



Ishmael Descendants


Names were important in these days. Ishmael was the father of all of today’s Arabs. The names Ishmael “God will hear” gave his children some insight into him and what his attitude was.


  1. His firstborn was named Nebajoth, which meant “fruitfulness.”
  2. Ishmael’s second son was named Kedar, which meant “dusky (of the skin or the tent).” Apparently that was descriptive of Kedar’s skin.
  3. His third son was named Adbeel, meaning “disciplined of God.” We don’t have any record of what the significance of that name meant, but it implies Ishmael was still God-conscious.
  4. The next son was named Mibsam, which meant “fragrant.” This might imply that he accepted the discipline Ishmael went through with his previous son and things turned out better by the time this son was born.
  5. Mishma meant “hearing.”
  6. Dumah meant “silence.”
  7. Massa meant “burden.”
  8. Hadar meant “chamber.”
  9. Tema meant “a desert.”
  10. Jetur meant “encircled.”
  11. Naphish meant “refreshed.”
  12. Kedemah meant “eastward.”


The Ishmaelites were to roam freely across the desert, often in conflict with others. Modern-day Arabs claim descent from Ishmael; his brethren are Israelites. Ishmael was certainly more prolific than his half-brother Isaac. Yet Isaac was the blessed of the Lord.


Ishmael lived for 137 years. Then he breathed his last and joined his ancestors in death. Ishmael’s descendants occupied the region from Havilah to Shur, which is east of Egypt in the direction of Asshur. There they lived in open hostility toward all their relatives.

Genesis 25:17-18(NLT)


The Ishmaelites didn’t get along with any of their kin however the inclusion of Ismael’s genealogy demonstrates that the Lord continued to love and care for Abraham’s first son, even though Isaac was the son of the covenant.



Adam Clarke’s Commentary
Andrew Wommack’s Living Commentary
Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary



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