🔼The name Ishmael: Summary
- God Hears
- From (1) the verb שמע (shama'), to hear, and (2) the word אל ('el), God.
🔼The name Ishmael in the Bible
There are a surprising six men named Ishmael in the Bible:
- The most famous Ishmael is the son of Abraham with Hagar. Because of rivalry between Hagar and Abraham's wife Sarah, Hagar and Ishmael were sent away and they ended up in the Sinai desert where Ishmael became an archer. He also married an Egyptian wife whom his mother has chosen for him (Genesis 21:20-21) and thus Ishmael became the father of a nation that existed of twelve tribes, just like Israel (Genesis 25:16). The Ishmaelites are known collectively as ישמעאלי (Genesis 37:25)
- A descendant of Jonathan (1 Chronicles 8:38).
- The father of Zebadiah (2 Chronicles 19:11).
- An officer under Joash (2 Chronicles 23:3).
- The murderer of Gedaliah, the Babylonian governor over the remnant in Judah (2 Kings 25:25).
- A priest who divorced his foreign wife (Ezra 10:22).
Note that the proper ethnonym ישמעאלי (Ishmaelite) occurs only once (1 Chronicles 2:17), and comes with a shorter version ישמעלי, which occurs just once too (1 Chronicles 27:30). The collective plural (ישמעאלים) occurs six times (Genesis 37:25, 37:27, 37:28, 39:1, Judges 8:24 and Psalm 83:6).
🔼Etymology of the name Ishmael
The name Ishmael consists of two elements. The first part comes from the verb שמע (shama'), meaning to hear:
The verb שמע (shama') means to hear and may also mean to understand or obey. Noun שמע (shema') means sound. Nouns שמע (shoma') and שמועה (shemu'a) mean tidings, report or mentions. Noun השמעות (hashma'ut) describes that which is caused to be heard. Noun משמע (mishma') means rumor or a thing heard. Noun משמעת (mishma'at) refers to a group or listeners.
In names אל ('el) usually refers to אלהים ('elohim), that is Elohim, or God, also known as אלה ('eloah). In English, the words 'God' and 'god' exclusively refer to the deity but in Hebrew the words אל ('l) and אלה ('lh) are far more common and may express approach and negation, acts of wailing and pointing, and may even mean oak or terebinth.
The name Ishmael means He Will Hear God (Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) or God Hears (NOBSE Study Bible Name List). BDB Theological Dictionary lists a stylish El Heareth.