Most of us do not pay much attention to these four children: Abraham’s Ishmael, Isaac’s Esau, Lot’s Moab and Ben-Ammi.
First, let us consider Abraham’s firstborn son. When Abraham was 86, he had a son named Ishmael by his wife Sarah’s Egyptian handmaid Hagar (Genesis 16:16). That was Sarah’s idea (Genesis 16:2). Any children born would be counted as the children of the wife. Then, Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 (Genesis 21:1-5). When Isaac was weaned, Ishmael mocked the child at the celebration, Sarah demanded that her husband to send Hagar and Ishmael away (Genesis 21:10). Later, God promised to make Ishmael into a great nation (Genesis 21:18).
Upon Abraham’s death, he left everything to Isaac, but Ishmael did help his half-brother bury their father (Genesis 25:9). Ishmael had twelve sons (Genesis 25:13-16), and these became the rulers of twelve peoples who settled in northern Arabia along the main caravan route between Egypt and Assyria (Genesis 25:18). Later, others settled in the Arabian Peninsula as well, including the descendants of Keturah’s sons (I Chronicles 1:32-33) and some of Esau’s descendants, among them the Amalekites (Genesis 36:12). Thus, it is unlikely that all of those in Arabia are descendants of Ishmael. However, many Arabs living in many parts of today’s world are descended from Ishmael.
Second, let us consider Isaac’s Esau. Esau was Abraham’s grandson, the older twin born to Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 25:25). Esau gave up his birthright when his twin brother Jacob asked for it (Genesis 25:29-34). When Isaac neared the end of his life and was blind, Jacob pretended to be Esau to get Esau’s blessing from Isaac (Genesis 27:29). When Isaac realized Jacob had deceived him, he could not do anything, except saying that Esau would eventually “throw (Jacob’s) yoke from off your neck” (Genesis 27:40). This prophecy was fulfilled when Esau’s descendants revolted against Jacob’s descendants (II Kings 8:20).
Esau wanted to kill his brother, but Jacob escaped (Genesis 28:5). Ironically, Esau married Ishmael’s daughter Mahalath, in addition to the wives he already had (Genesis 28:9). Twenty years later, Esau and Jacob made peace (Genesis 33:4). But Esau’s descendants, the Edomites (also called Idumeans), never got along with Jacob’s descendants, the Israelites.
Third, let us consider Lot’s Moab. Lot was the nephew of Abraham and he went to Canaan with his uncle. When they came to Bethel, they parted company. Lot settled his family near the sinful city of Sodom (Genesis 13:12). Fast forward to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot had lost everything when Sodom was destroyed. He lived in a cave in the mountains with his two daughters (Genesis 19:30). It was here that the daughters devised a plan to continue the family line: they got Lot so drunk to have sex with him (Genesis 19:31-32). Both women became pregnant. The older daughter gave birth to Moab. Moab would become the father of the Moabites (Genesis 19:37).
Fourth, let us consider Lot’s Ben-Ammi. When God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness, Lot and his two daughters fled to the hill country on the southern end of the Dead Sea. Then, the daughters had sex with the drunken father. The younger daughter gave birth to Ben-Ammi. Ben-Ammi would become the father of the Ammonites (Genesis 19:38). Under King Saul’s leadership, Israel made the Ammonites vassals. After the split of Israel and Judah, the Ammonites began to ally themselves with the enemies of Israel. Sometime during the Roman period, the Ammonites seem to have been absorbed into Arab society.
The God, who sees the past, the present, and the future at a single moment, chose Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, but not Ishmael, Esau, Moab and Ben-Ammi. It was of grace and not of works that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph were chosen. Salvation is due entirely to God’s grace, so that it depends on nothing in humans. Please note that we are still responsible to God for what we do. We are responsible for a proper use of the life and gifts God gives us.
God can bless all peoples through Abraham. But all people including the descendants of Abraham, Ishmael, Esau, Moab and Ben-Ammi need to hear the message of hope and salvation through Jesus.