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Answering The Atheist
November 23, 2003 / Volume 3, Issue 47

How many sons did Abraham have? In Hebrews 11:17 and Genesis 22:2, Isaac is spoken of as Abraham's only begotten son. Yet in Genesis 16:15, Hagar bore a son (Ishmael) to Abraham, and afterwards, Keturah (Genesis 25:1-2) bore him 6 more sons. Is there a contradiction?

When God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his "only son", none of the children of Keturah were yet born. However, Ishmael had been born to him prior to Isaac. Why then does God call Isaac Abraham's "only son"?

Certainly, God was aware of Ishamel. He promised Abraham that Ishmael would be blessed (Genesis 17:20), but Ishmael was not the son which God had promised to give Abraham (Genesis 15:4, 17:15-16, 21). Both Ishmael and those who followed were sent away from Isaac (Genesis 21:10-14; 25:6), for he alone was the son of promise. After receiving the promises, and having no son with him but Isaac, "...he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called'..."

None of the other children born to Abraham could fill the position of Isaac. He was the only one begotten to fulfill the promises made to Abraham.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible