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1 Chronicles 1:28-34 Abraham’s eight sons

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, September 19, 2023

28 The sons of Abraham were Isaac and Ishmael.

The line of Abraham is given in three parts. First, these two sons were his only children while he was married to Sarah. Isaac was the only son that Sarah carried, and Ishmael was the son of Sarah’s servant girl Hagar. If you remember, Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham because she did not trust the Lord’s promise to produce an heir through her, since she was getting on in years. But when Sarah did indeed have a baby when she was 89, Hagar and her son thought it was funny to see such an elderly woman nursing a little baby, and their mocking drove Sarah to distraction. She had her husband send the woman away, but the Lord looked after Hagar and Ishmael.

(The line of Hagar)
29 These are their lineages: The firstborn of Ishmael was Nebaioth. Then Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 30 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, 31 Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. These are the sons of Ishmael.

Ishmael had twelve sons, and Moses calls them “twelve chiefs, each with his own tribe” (Genesis 25:13). This was in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham about him: “I have blessed him. I will make him fruitful and will multiply him very greatly. He will become the father of twelve chiefs, and I will make him into a great nation” (Genesis 17:20). Ishmael did not only have these twelve children, but most of his daughters are not named. After Jacob’s brother Esau realized that his parents hated his Hittite and Hivite wives, he went to Ishmael and married one of them, Mahalath. Since she is said to be the sister of Nebaioth and not simply the daughter of Ishmael, it seems likely that Ishmael had more than one wife.

These names become more well-known as tribes later on. The tribe of Nebaioth produced sheep and fine rams (Isaiah 60:7). Kedar’s dark tents are mentioned in the Song of Solomon 1:5, and Kedar’s flocks, lambs, rams, and goats were also well-known (Ezekiel 27:21). Kedar was attacked and almost entirely destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (Jeremiah 2:10, 49:28).

The Dumah of Isaiah 21:11 might not refer to this Dumah or his tribe, but to Edom in general, since Esau lived in “Seir, the land of Edom” (Genesis 32:3), and Isaiah parallels Dumah with Seir.

In Job, Tema is a tribe of caravans (Job 6:19). Although Job’s friend Eliphaz is a Temanite, we should understand that he is not from this tribe of Tema, but from Teman (1 Chronicles 1:36).

The tribes of Jetur and Naphish fought against the coalition of Reuben, Gad and the eastern tribe of Manasseh during the conquest of Canaan. Although Joshua does not mention this war, we will hear about it in chapter 5 of this book. The people of Jetur and Naphish were wiped out in that war, along with a tribe known as the Hagrites.

(The line of Keturah)
32 These are the sons of Keturah, Abraham’s concubine. She gave birth to Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. The sons of Jokshan were Sheba and Dedan. 33 These are the sons of Midian: Ephah, Epher, Hanok, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the sons of Keturah.

After Sarah died, Abraham married again. This was Keturah. We don’t know where she came from; perhaps like Sarah she was a relative and a believer, but since she was young enough to bear children without a miraculous promise from God, we can imagine that she was a much younger woman. They had six sons together. Of these, two are important for our study. Midian is the father of the Midianites; some Midianites bought and sold Joseph into Egyptian slavery. Moses married a Midianite woman, and the Midianites were later regarded as special enemies of Israel. They were attacked by the Israelites even before they entered the Promised Land (Numbers 25:27; Numbers 31:1-12).

Shuah is known to us from the book of Job. Job’s friend Bildad is a Shuhite; perhaps a grandson of Shuah since Job lived at about this time. Bildad’s three speeches are filled with natural wisdom and common sense (Job chapters 8, 18 and 25).

(The line of Sarah)
34 Abraham was the father of Isaac. The sons of Isaac were Esau and Israel.

The special child is saved for last. This is usually how Moses presents his lists, and the Chronicler follows Moses’ pattern here, even down to presenting Esau’s name first, and then the other son. We know him as Jacob, of course, but God gave him another name, and this is what the Chronicler writes, for the promise came through Abraham, through Isaac, and then through Israel.

Here is the gospel recorded in the middle of long lists of names. Long lists, perhaps, but each one a reminder of God’s hand among mankind, preserving and watching over his people, so dear to him, so beloved. For he knew our names in eternity. For the Lord, those everlasting moments of his loving and careful planning of all mankind was very much like a grandfather sitting in his room, looking through a book of photos and mementos of his family. There are his children; there are his grandchildren. And there are many others, the one who gathered for the weddings and anniversaries. He knows all their names. He can tell stories about each and every one. But the Lord was not looking back at the past. He was doing the same thing but down the long strands of the future of his creation. There were Adam and Eve, and their children, and more, and more, and more. There were tribes and folk, some of whom still loved him and worshiped him, and some who sadly turned away to their own ideas and false gods. But he knew, in that eternal moment of planning and caring and loving, what each one of us would need to hear the gospel and perhaps seek for him and be saved through faith in his promises and by the blood of his Son, Jesus our Lord.

Most of us today do not remember that Abraham had eight sons. We remember two, Isaac and Ishmael, and some remember that he took another wife after Sarah died, but their names?

But God knows. God remembers. And just as a century from now you yourself may be forgotten except to a small few, you will be remembered for all eternity by your Saving God, who will call you by name from your grave, and raise you to everlasting life.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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