Did Abraham see his son Ishmael again, after he had sent him away?
Several non-biblical sources contain stories about encounters between Abraham and Ishmael. A well-known one is found in the Book of Jasher, a source which is referred to in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18.
According to that book Abraham visited his son Ishmael twice while Sarah was still alive. On both occasions Ishmael was not home and each time Abraham left a message with his wife. Although this story fits within the culture of the Middle East in general, several reasons make it unlikely these events actually took place.
• Abraham would not make a long trip and then return empty-handed. He would have waited a few days until Ishmael was at home, especially the first time. If the story took place after a first meeting, Ishmael’s wife would have recognized him.
• It would be strange for Abraham to be talking to his son while Sarah was still alive. She would have fiercely resisted the plans of her husband and made sure he didn’t go.
• Abraham was an old man and would not go out on a search. He had plenty of servants to search for Ishmael and prepare a visit.
The most reliable source, the Bible, hints at a meeting between Abraham and Ishmael in Genesis 25: 6. There it says that Abraham gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away. Who were these concubines?
Abraham’s seed is described in 1 Chronicles 1: 28-34. The opening sentence mentions Ishmael and Isaac as Abraham’s sons, without naming their mothers. In verse 32, Keturah, Abraham’s concubine is mentioned by name, followed by her sons. No other concubines or sons of Abraham are specified, either here or elsewhere in the Scriptures.
By comparison, the progeny of another important person in the history of Israel is described in 1 Chronicles 3: 1-9. After listing many sons, the last verse clearly states that David still had more sons of concubines. Therefore, the plural reference “concubines” in Genesis 25 must refer to Hagar and Keturah. That means that shortly before his death Abraham had an encounter with Ishmael. Had he sent his son away empty-handed in the past, now he showered Ishmael with gifts.
Abraham dearly loved his firstborn son, and never wanted to send him away. How much his heart must have been longing to see him again after the death of Sarah.
Although no story in the Bible mentions their reunion after the expulsion, it is likely that they renewed their relationship after the death of Sara.
For insight into when this relationship was possible, see the Chronology of Ishmaels life.