Abraham had 8 sons in total. The oldest was Ishmael (through Hagar, his wife’s servant), then came Isaac—the promised son (through Sarah, Abraham’s wife), then came Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah (through Keturah, Abraham’s second wife).
As the patriarch of the nation of Israel, Abraham’s journey of faith stands out and is celebrated to this day. Let’s take a look at how God fulfilled His promise to Abraham and some of the lesser-known facts about his eight sons.
The Sons of Abraham
Most of the men in the Bible became fathers. So what makes Abraham so special? Abraham was called out by God when he was 75 years old (Gen 12:4) and given a unique set of promises that together form the Abrahamic covenant (binding promise). What Did God Promise Abraham? God promised Abraham he would be great and the father of a great nation through which the whole world would be blessed (Gen 12:1-3)!
These are the sons of Abraham.
You may also be interested in knowing who the Father of Abraham was.
Ishmael, The Son of Abraham and Hagar
God didn’t provide a timeline of when He would fulfill His promise to Abram (later Abraham). And so Abram and Sarai (later Sarah) had to wait on The LORD (or tarry). Sadly, after 11 years of barrenness, Sarai grew more and more desperate. So while Abraham was living in Canaan, she decided to “help” the sovereign God along and take matters into her own hands .
Sarai convinced Abram, who went along with the plan, to bear a child through Sarai’s servant, Hagar (Gen 16:1-4). A choice that led to pain, suffering and abandonment (Gen 16:5-6). Ishmael was born and was Abraham’s first son, though not the son of God’s promise.
Despite Abram and Sarai’s sinful choice to do things their way, God is faithful, and He still blessed Ishmael and made him into a different great nation (Gen 17:20). It is generally accepted that Ishmael is the father of the Arab nation.
Isaac, The Promised Son of Abraham and Sarah
When it seemed like an impossible dream, the impossible happened because God is sovereign! Sarai conceived Abram’s son (the promised one!) when Abram was 100 years old and Sarai was 90! This was God’s plan all along, and by waiting so long (25 years), it was clear to Abraham and Sarah (their new names) that God deserved all the glory! He is faithful to keep His promises.
Genesis 17:19 (ESV) God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.
Through Isaac, the Nation of Israel (the Jews) would come—God’s chosen people. God would be with them and bless them.
The Sons of Abraham and Keturah
Many people aren’t aware that Abraham had more sons after Sarah died (37 years after the birth of Isaac (Gen 23:1)), before he himself died in his old age.
Genesis 25:1-2 (ESV) Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.
The Bible clearly states that Isaac was Abraham’s heir who received all that Abraham had. But Abraham did offer gifts to his other children before sending them away from the area to prevent them from becoming a threat to Isaac’s descendants (Gen 25:5-6).
A Question of Freedom or Slavery
The Old Testament describes the true story of Abraham’s sons, but the New Testament mentions Ishmael and Isaac to illustrate a fundamental truth.
Galatians 4:22-23 (ESV) For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise.
The focus of these verses isn’t a census on the number of sons Abraham had (we know he had 8). The difference in how Ishmael and Isaac were conceived is used to describe:
- Those who try to earn their salvation; taking matters into their own hands (living according to the flesh), thinking they are able to earn salvation on their own (like Ishmael’s conception).
- Those who understand Why Jesus Had to Die. They trust that God alone can save and He is faithful to keep His promises (like Isaac’s conception).
Are you living in freedom according to the promise of God that Christ’s life, death, and resurrection alone are sufficient to get you into Heaven, or are you living in slavery, scrambling to be good enough for God?
There is only one way to the Father, and that is through being united with His Son, Jesus Christ.
John 14:6 (ESV) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.