His first son was Ishmael born through his wife's maidservant, Hagar, when Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were struggling with infertility (Genesis 16). Abraham was 86 when Ishmael was born (Genesis 16:16).
Abraham's second son, Isaac, was birthed when Abraham was 100 years old through his wife, Sarah, who was 90 years old (Genesis 21:2–7). Isaac was the son that God had promised to Abraham (Genesis 12; 15; 17). God told Abraham, "I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God" (Genesis 17:6–8). God made clear that He would establish this covenant with Isaac, the son God would give to Abraham through Sarah (Genesis 17:16, 19).
After Sarah's death, Abraham married Keturah, who bore six sons: Zimram, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah (Genesis 25:1–4). Many commentators describe Keturah as a concubine or as a wife with a lesser rank than Sarah would have had.
Because Isaac was the only son born to Abraham's wife, Sarah, Isaac was considered the firstborn son and the sole heir to his father's estate. Genesis 25:5–6 explains, "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." Thus, the other sons became the heads of the tribes who lived east of Israel.
Isaac was the son of promise and considered to be a miracle straight from the hand of God (Genesis 17:4–8, 15–21). Genesis 21 says, "And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him…And she said, 'Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age'" (Genesis 21:2, 7). Hebrews 11:11–12 says, "By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore." Isaac is the son through whom God would continue His promise to Abraham to make him a great nation and to bless all the families on the earth (Genesis 12:2–3; 17:15–21). Ultimately this blessing for "all the families on the earth" is speaking of the Messiah who would be born through Isaac's line of descendants—Jesus Christ (see Galatians 3; Matthew 1:1–2; Luke 3:34). Isaac holds a place of importance unlike any of his half-brothers mentioned in the Bible. In fact, God referred to Isaac as "your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love" (Genesis 22:2).
In a spiritual sense, Abraham has even more sons. Paul explains, "Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham" (Galatians 3:7). Anyone who places their faith in God and the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, is adopted into Abraham's family and is now considered a son of Abraham. Effectively, in this spiritual sense, Abraham now has innumerable "sons" who have followed his example of faith by trusting God and the promises in His Word (see Romans 4).
Abraham's journey of fatherhood is a good example of how God's Word can be trusted without clambering to fulfill His promises in our own time by our own efforts, like Abraham and Sarah's scheme to birth Ishmael through Hagar in order to secure a descendant. Instead, in God's timing and by His miraculous hand, Sarah herself was able to bear Isaac, the son who would carry on the promise God had made. Additionally, in God's graciousness, after Sarah's death Abraham was further blessed with six more sons. Now, anyone who places their faith in God is considered a son of Abraham. Thus, God's promise "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing" has come true (Genesis 12:2).
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