Who was the offered son of Abraham? Is it Ishmael or Isaac? This has been a point of controversy between Muslims from one side, and from Jews and Christians from the other side. This section is not just showing a Bible difficulty that yielded in an inconsistency, but it can also give a hint on how the Jews intentionally changed the name of the offered son from Ishmael to Isaac. The question to the Bible is: how old was Ishmael when he went to Agar?
How old was Ishmael when he went to Agar?
The Bible tells that Ishmael was about 16 years old when he went with Agar:
Genesis 17:24 And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. Gen 17:25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old,
when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
Then when Abraham begat Isaac, he was 100 years old (Genesis 21:5), then Isaac grew and weaned (Genesis 21:9), this will take about 2 years, this means that Ishmael was about 16 years old when he went with Agar as Genesis 21 tells, the question here is that how could Agar go all that way carrying a 16 year old lad?
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 gave her the child, and sent her away. …and she cast the child under one of the shrubs…Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in your hand. for I will make him a great nation. ….And God was with the lad, and he grew. And he dwelt in the wilderness, and became, as he grew up, an archer (Genesis 21:14-20)
The chapter goes as if Ishmael was a baby whom his mother lifts then puts, and he is silent , which is not the behavior of a teenager, it may be said that in Genesis 21:14, it says ” putting it on her shoulder, and gave her the child”, so it doesn’t mean that she really lifted him up. The Septuagaint answers:
21:14 And Abraam rose up in the morning and took loaves and a skin of water, and gave [them] to Agar, and he put the child on her shoulder, and sent her away, and she having departed wandered in the wilderness near the well of the oath (Source here)
Why did this happen?
It seems that the reason for this difficulty is what is said in the next chapter:
Genesis 22:1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did prove Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham. And he said, Here am I. 2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest , even Isaac , and get you into the land of Moriah. And offer him there for a burnt -offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell you of.
We as Muslims believe that Ishmael was the one offered, and we believe that the
Jews altered the word Ishmael to Isaac, and the above difficulty is the evidence,
since the Genesis 22 begins saying “after these things”, which are supposed to have happened
when Ishmael was a baby, and since it is supposed that Ishmael was the firstborn
son of Abraham, then it will mean that the only son here must be Ishmael not Isaac, who hasn’t been born yet if Ishamael was a baby. So for the Jews to solve of this problem, they rearranged the chapters, and put the event of Isaac’s birth before that chapter, but it yielded that difficulty showing Ishmael acting as a baby.
Actually the Jews were accused of corruption in other issues, as explained above when talking about Christian early church fathers accusing the Jews of Bible intentional corruption. This can be added to the accusations list.