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Was Ishmael saved?

Question
I hear at times that Ishmael was saved and he receives a bum rap when people call him lost. Was Ishmael lost or saved? If possible, please use the American Standard Version (ASV) Bible in your response.
Answer
Let's look at Paul's argument in:

Galatians 4:22-23 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the freewoman.

23 Howbeit the son by the handmaid is born after the flesh; but the son by the freewoman is born through promise.

24 Which things contain an allegory: for these women are two covenants; one from mount Sinai, bearing children unto bondage, which is Hagar.

25 Now this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia and answereth to the Jerusalem that now is: for she is in bondage with her children.

26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother.

27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; Break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: For more are the children of the desolate than of her that hath the husband.

28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.

29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, so also it is now.

30 Howbeit what saith the scripture? Cast out the handmaid and her son: for the son of the handmaid shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman.

31 Wherefore, brethren, we are not children of a handmaid, but of the freewoman.
Paul's analogy here is important for understanding who Ishmael was and who are the real descendents of Abraham. There are two mothers (Hagar and Sarah), two sons (Ishmael and Isaac), two covenants (of works and grace), and two cities (the now and the new). Israelites even today claim to be the decedents of Abraham. They claim to be "the saved." However, we need to discern which line of Abraham they are from. Are they from Hagar (according to the flesh), or Sarah (according to the promise? Are they bond slaves to sin and the law, or are they free in Christ? Are they persecutors or the persecuted? There is a lot in the question "Who's Your Mama?" - i.e., what is your religion? Judaism or Christianity?

But where in the Old Testament did Paul base his argument?

Indeed, God did bless the line of Ishmael as he promised to Abraham. Ishmael was fruitful and multiplied. He indeed became the father of twelve princes and a great nation (Gen. 17:20). But, Paul read further than Genesis 17 and 20 to Genesis 25:12-18 to discover whom these people became. Here we notice some interesting things about Ishmael:

12 These are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham's son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah's servant, bore to Abraham.

13 These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, named in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the firstborn of Ishmael; and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam,

14 Mishma, Dumah, Massa,

15 Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah.

16 These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages and by their encampments, twelve princes according to their tribes.

17 (These are the years of the life of Ishmael: 137 years. He breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people.)

18 They settled from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria. He settled over against all his kinsmen.
Here we see that Ishmael, though as a lad he served the Lord, he was "gathered to his own people" and not buried with his own covenant parents (compare with Gen. 23:1-20). We also see that he "gathered against his own kinsman." Ishmael's life seems to be a testimony of a lad who was in covenant with the Lord and later in life was discovered to be an apostate. As John says, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us" (1 John 2:19).

We need not stop here. What does the Book of Psalms say concerning this matter? Here we see the Ishmaelites who were against Jehovah:

Psalm 83:1 1 O God, keep not thou silence: Hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God.

2 For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult; And they that hate thee have lifted up the head.

3 Thy take crafty counsel against thy people, And consult together against thy hidden ones.

4 They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; That the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.

5 For they have consulted together with one consent; Against thee do they make a covenant:

6 The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab, and the Hagarenes;

7 Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre:

8 Assyria also is joined with them; They have helped the children of Lot. Selah
Moreover, Ishmael's sisters Mahalath (Gen. 28:9) and Basemath (Gen. 36:3) were married to Esau (Gen. 28:89), who was not of the elect (Rom. 9). God himself did not consider Ishmael Abraham's "true son," saying of Isaac: "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you" (Gen. 22:2). The God of the Bible is called "the God of Israel" 203 times. Never is he called the God of any other people and certainly never is He called the God of Ishmael or of the Arabs. Moses further declares, "Jehovah, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations" (Exod. 3:15). Twelve times this name is given to God. Christ argued the resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (i.e. all believers) from this title, declaring that "God is not the God of the dead but of the living" (Matt. 22:31-32).

In conclusion, we may say that God "blessed" reprobate Ishmael (Gen 17:20) and is "long-suffering" to the vessels of wrath (Rom. 9:22) who despise his goodness and forbearance (Rom. 2:4). Indeed, it is their unthankfulness for genuine favors that renders them so guilty (Rom. 1:21). Paul read the Old Testament and made his argument in Galatians 4. It was in Issac's seed, not Ishmael's, that God kept his promise of the everlasting covenant (Gen. 26:3-4). God kept his promise to Abraham, but Ishmael was a reprobate he did not keep the whole law. The line that was of Hagar symbolizes that which was lost.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).