Ishmael’s Bitterness

12 This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Ishmael, whom Sarah’s slave, Hagar the Egyptian, bore to Abraham.

13 These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 14 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, 15 Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. 16 These were the sons of Ishmael, and these are the names of the twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps. 17 Ishmael lived a hundred and thirty-seven years. He breathed his last and died, and he was gathered to his people. 18 His descendants settled in the area from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt, as you go toward Ashur. And they lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them. Genesis 25:12-18

The last sentence in this passage is indicative of the trouble Ishmael’s tribe would cause throughout its lineage. The bitterness and hostility came from the top down. Ishmael had every right to be bitter towards his brother and father, well, for a bit. Therein lies the problem. When you harbor bitterness, it doesn’t hurt the people you’re bitter towards, it harms you.

Now, in Ishmael’s case, his family was hostile all the way around. His bitterness got the best of him and it turned into violence.

We can learn at least two things from this bitterness.

First, your bitterness can most certainly affect others. In this case it affected all his sons and their families. Secondly, bitterness will destroy you and your relationships if not dealt with.

As we noted earlier in this chapter, life is unfair and people will do things to you that could cause bitterness.

What we do with that bitterness is entirely up to us. You can certainly blame others for your unhappiness or you can give your bitterness over to God (multiple times if necessary) to have Him help you deal with it. The longer it’s inside you to grow, the harder it is to get rid of.

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