The Age of Ishmael when Hagar and he left Abraham’s household


The Text:

Gen 21:14  And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. (KJV)

The Challenge:


Was Ishmael and Hagar sent to the desert before or after the birth of Isaac?

If we were to accept the Biblical version, we would encounter a number of inconsistencies and contradictions. It is clear from the story in Gen. 21:14-19 that Ishmael was a

at that time. For example according to Gen. 16:16 Abraham was 86 years old when Ishmael was born. And according to Gen. 21:5 Abraham was one hundred years old when Isaac was born. It follows that Ishmael was already fourteen years old when his younger brother Isaac was born. According to Gen. 21:8-19 the incident took place after Isaac was weaned. Biblical scholars tell us the child was probably weaned at about the age of three. Thus, it follows that when Hagar and Ishmael were taken away Ishmael was a full-grown teenager, seventeen years old.

However, the profile of Ishmael in Gen 21:14-19 is a small baby and not a full-grown teenager. Why?

Genesis 21:14-21 ESV So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar,

putting it on her shoulder, along with the child

, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. (15) When the water in the skin was gone,


My Initial Response:

I did a brief check on your exegesis of Genesis 21:14. Your analysis is rather an eisegesis of this text and is entirely mistaken.

K&D [Keil & Deilitzsch] give the following explanation:

Gen 21:14-16

The next morning Abraham sent Hagar away with Ishmael. The words, “he took bread and a bottle of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it (שָׂם participle, not perfect) upon her shoulder, and the boy, and sent her away,” do not state the Abraham gave her Ishmael also to carry. For וְאֶת־הַיֶּלֶד does not depend upon שָׂם and וַיִּתֵּן because of the copula ו, but upon יִקַּח, the leading verb of the sentence, although it is separated from it by the parenthesis “putting it upon her shoulder.” It does not follow from these words, therefore, that Ishmael is represented as a little child. Nor is this implied in the statement which follows, that Hagar, when wandering about in the desert, “cast the boy under one of the shrubs,” because the water in the bottle was gone. For יֶלֶד like נַעַר does not mean an infant, but a boy, and also a young man (Gen 4:23); – Ishmael must have been 15 or 16 years old, as he was 14 before Isaac was born (cf. Gen 21:5, and Gen 16:16); – and הִשְׁלִיךְ, “to throw,” signifies that she suddenly left hold of the boy, when he fell exhausted from thirst, just as in Mat 15:30 ῥίπτειν is used for laying hastily down. Though despairing of his life, the mother took care that at least he should breathe out his life in the shade, and she sat over against him weeping, “in the distance as archers,” i.e., according to a concise simile very common in Hebrew, as far off as archers are accustomed to place the target. Her maternal love could not bear to see him die, and yet she would not lose sight of him.

In my cross reference study resource, The Ultimate Cross Reference Treasury, I give the following note and cross references at Genesis 21:14,

Gen 21:14 So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.

child. Note: Or, rather, lad or youth, (see Gen_21:12; Gen_21:20) as Ishmael was now 16 or 17 years of age. S# H3206, +*Dan 1:4 note. 2Ki 2:23 note, 2Ki 2:24 h. +*Pro 22:6.


Response to me:

Your ESV is my eisegesis?????????????

All I did was merely quoted your ESV vertatimbly yet you lied and accused me of interpreting it…

Jewish interpretation (RAshi ) is also provided … Rashi tell us that Abraham put Ishmael on Hagar shoulder yet you deny it…


My Definitive Answer:

Abe San Yes, I accused you of eisegesis. Your citation of an English translation (whether the CEV, the ESV, or the KJV) does not answer my charge.

You stated in the Opening Post:

“Ishmael must have been a baby and not a teenager!
The above analysis leads to the inevitable conclusion that while the Bible contains some truths as explained earlier, there is also evidence of human additions, deletions and interpolations which only a subsequent authentic revelation could clear. The Islamic version of the story is fully consistent and coherent from A to Z;”

This is eisegesis because you have failed to tackle the term translated “boy” or “child” in Genesis 21:24.

I presented the evidence from my book, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, and cited it from my digital eSword resource, The Ultimate Cross Reference Treasury, as follows:

child. Note: Or, rather, lad or youth, (see Gen 21:12; Gen 21:20) as Ishmael was now 16 or 17 years of age. S# H3206, +*Dan 1:4 note. 2Ki 2:23 note, 2Ki 2:24 h. +*Pro 22:6.

Here are the Bible references as well as the associated notes I have placed in my resource:

Genesis 21:12
12  And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.
King James Version

Important because this is a related immediate context to Genesis 21:14. Note carefully the statement, “for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.”

Genesis 21:20
20  And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.
King James Version

Important because this is a related immediate context of Genesis 21:14. It also reflects the fact that the Hebrew word underlying “child” in the KJV (H3206) does not necessarily mean a young child for here the age of Ishmael is 16 or 17 years of age. Furthermore, the construction used here does not necessitate that Abraham placed Ishmael upon Hagar’s shoulder!

Daniel 1:4
4  Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
King James Version

Children. Note: The word yeladim, rendered children, is frequently used for lads, or young men (see Gen 21:8; Gen 21:14, 15, 16), νεανισκους, neaniskous, as the LXX. render; and Daniel must have been at this time at least seventeen or eighteen years of age. *S# H3206. Rendered “children” at Dan 1:10; Dan 1:13; Dan 1:15; Dan 1:17, Gen 30:26; Gen 33:1-2; Gen 33:5; Gen 33:5, 6, 7; Gen 33:13, 14, Exo 1:17, 18; Exo 2:6; Exo 21:4, *1Sa 1:2, **2Ki 2:23 note, 2Ki 2:24 h. Ezr 10:1, Neh 12:43, Job 21:11, Isa 2:6; Isa 8:18; Isa 29:23; Isa 57:4. 5, *Lam 4:10, Hos 1:2, Rendered otherwise at Gen 4:23 (young man). Gen 21:8 (child), **Gen 21:14 note, Gen 21:15, 16; Gen 32:22 (sons). Gen 37:30 (child). Gen 42:22; Gen 44:20, Exo 2:3 (child), Exo 2:6, 7, 8, 9; Exo 2:9, 10; Exo 21:22 (fruit). Rth 1:5 (sons). Rth 4:16 (child). 2Sa 6:23 (child). 2Sa 12:15; 2Sa 12:18; 2Sa 12:18; 2Sa 12:18; 2Sa 12:18, 19; 2Sa 12:19; 2Sa 12:21; 2Sa 12:21-22; 2Sa 12:22, 1Ki 3:25; *1Ki 12:8 (young men), 1Ki 12:10; 1Ki 12:14; 1Ki 14:12 (child). 1Ki 17:21; 1Ki 17:21, 22, 23, 2Ki 4:1 (sons), 2Ki 4:18 (child), 2Ki 4:26; 2Ki 4:34; 2Ki 4:34, 2Ch 10:8 (young men), 2Ch 10:10; 2Ch 10:14, Job 38:41 (young ones). Job 39:3, Ecc 4:13 (child), Ecc 4:15, *Isa 9:6; Isa 11:7 (young ones). Jer 31:20 (child). Joe 3:3 (boy). Zec 8:5 (boys).

2 Kings 2:23
23  And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
King James Version

children. S# H5288, naar. Note: The words neurim ketannim not only signify little children, but young men; for katon signifies not only little, but young, in opposition to old; and “naar” signifies not only a child, but a young man, grown to years of maturity: thus Isaac (Gen 22:5) is called “naar” when twenty-eight years old, Joseph (Gen 41:12) when thirty-nine, and Rehoboam (2Ch 13:7) when forty. These idolatrous young men, having heard of the ascension of Elijah, without believing it, blasphemously bade Elisha follow him. The venerable prophet, from a divine impulse, pronounced a curse “in the name of the Lord,” which was immediately followed by the most terrible judgment; thus evincing the Source from which it flowed.

Proverbs 22:6
6  Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
King James Version

The word rendered “child” in Proverbs 22:6 is the same Hebrew word found in 2 Kings 2:23. This verse, often taken as a promise for the future faithfulness of children who have been taught properly during childhood in the home will not depart from that training when they grow older. The general truth stated in this familiar proverb is not restricted to young children, but to young adults who have reached the age of forty years old as seen in the cross references given above.

Therefore, Hagar’s son was not a young child when these events took place but a teenager.

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