God’s promised blessing for all the families of the earth was to and through Abraham. And God continued the promise specifically through his son, Isaac, leading to the promised Messiah. Sounds like a pretty neat and tidy plan, until you dig deeper into Abraham’s life and progeny and realize all the outliers that Abraham introduced during his lifetime. He possibly felt abandoned by God because, by his count, things were taking too long, so he decided to hatch his own plan to protect the promises of God. Abraham may have felt that God’s good plan might be spoiled and that he needed to step in and change a few things to help.

  • When have you thought of moving on from waiting for God to fulfill his promises with you? Where have you replaced his plan with your plan?


25 Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. Jokshan fathered Sheba and Dedan. The sons of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim. The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah. Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, and while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country.

These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, 175 years. Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, east of Mamre, 10 the field that Abraham purchased from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried, with Sarah his wife. 11 After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son. And Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi.

12 These are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s servant, bore to Abraham. 13 These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, named in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the firstborn of Ishmael; and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 14 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, 15 Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. 16 These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages and by their encampments, twelve princes according to their tribes. 17 (These are the years of the life of Ishmael: 137 years. He breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people.) 18 They settled from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria. He settled over against all his kinsmen.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. Who were the sons of Abraham (vss. 1-2, 9)? Did Abraham treat/handle all of his sons the same (vss. 5-6)?
  2. Before Isaac was even born, God promised his covenant with and through Isaac by name (Gen. 17:21, 21:12). How did God uniquely deal with Isaac, distinct from all of his brothers (vs. 11)?
  3. Although only Isaac had any share in the promised covenant blessing, God also promised to bless Ishmael and make him fruitful and multiply him and father twelve princes and make him into a great nation (Gen 17:20). How did God fulfill this promise to Ishmael (vs. 16)?
  4. What facts are recorded about Abraham (vss. 7-8)? One of the promises that God made to Abraham is found in Gen 15:15, “As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age.” How did God fulfill this promise to Abraham (vs. 8)?
  5. How did God show his goodness to Abraham and his relations even amidst the disorder created by Abraham? Do you wait for God to fulfill his sovereign plans or do you step in to help speed them up yourself?


Abraham had many sons. The list of relationships to Abraham in this narrative is daunting (36 actually). There is no applause here for Abraham. The response is more like, “Yikes!” since only one wife and one son were part of God’s promised blessing for all the families of the earth.1 God consistently defined the line through which the divine blessing would come as part of his announced plan. God made that distinction without denigrating or discounting any other particular persons. Only God is able to set a plan that no one can spoil.

  • Pray: Overwhelm me, Lord, with your ability to complete your marvelous plan that benefits me and those around me. Transform my anxiety in waiting into rejoicing in your promises.

1 Genesis 21:12, Romans 9:7, Hebrews 11:18, Joshua 24:3.