Q&A: Jesse and Ishmael

Jesse and Ishmael

Question

Islam claims that Jesse in Isaiah 11:1-2 is Ishmael. Is this true?

Answer

Isaiah 11:1-2 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him - the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD.
Islam maintains that Jesse, in Isaiah 11:1-2, is a contraction of the name Ishmael and therefore the descendent referred to is of Ishmael and not of Jesse. They go further and state that prophecy advises us that "he" will be a success as a statesman and a leader of men. They claim this is Muhammad.

There are great similarities in the two names. From Strong's Hebrew Dictionary:

3448 Yishay - yee-shah'-ee - by Aramaic Iyshay {ee-shah'-ee}; from the same as 'yesh' (3426); extant; Jishai, David's father:--Jesse.

3458 - Yishma`e'l - yish-maw-ale' from 'shama`' (8085) and ''el' (410); God will hear; Jishmael, the name of Abraham's oldest son, and of five Israelites:--Ishmael.

However, while these names are similar, they are also two distinct people. Ishmael, the son of Hagar (Gen. 16), is never called Jesse. And Jesse, the father of David (1 Sam. 16:1-13), is never called Ishmael. So, following common rules of logic, the person is someone who descends from Jesse and not from Ishmael. Who is this person? Jesus (Matt. 1, especially Matt 1:1, 6, 16; Luke 3:23-38, especially Luke 31-32).

Additionally, the descendant of Jesse was to accomplish the following:

(1) Bring in a kingdom of complete peace (Isa. 11:6-9). The images of transformed rapacious beasts picture the peaceable kingdom of Christ. This vision is being fulfilled in the unity of Christ's Church today and will find complete fulfillment in the new heavens and new earth (a now, but not yet reality).

(2) Re-gather true Israel (Isa. 11:12-16). The first time of gathering was the exodus; the second would be the gathering from exile brought about by the Assyrians and later extended by the Babylonians (Isa. 51:9-11). No matter where the people of God were taken in exile, the son of David would gather a remnant of them back to the Land of Promise (Isa. 24:15; 42:4, 10; 51:5; 59:18-19). Jesus inaugurated this gathering of exiled Jews on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and he continues to gather them as the Gospel of Jesus Christ goes forth. When he returns the faithful remnant of Judah will be gathered at the New Jerusalem from above (Rev. 21:1-3).

Muhammad is dead. He cannot fulfill these prophecies. And Jesse and Ishmael are two distinct people. The root of Jesse is Jesus Christ - who is risen from the dead!

Please see: Christianity and Islam Contrasted

Reference:

Richard Pratt, General Editor. Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2003.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

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