The Bible Says What? Ishmael and Isaac buried their father together

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

The Bible Says What? Ishmael and Isaac buried their father together

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith takes a controversial topic from the Torah and applies a progressive Jewish response

 On face value, the relationship between Patriarch Abraham and his sons Ishmael and Isaac was pretty terrible.

The last Ishmael saw of his father was when he and his mother Hagar were thrown out of the family camp to find their own way through the wilderness, as described in the episode we read on first day Rosh Hashanah, in Genesis Chapter 21.

The Torah does not record another word spoken between Ishmael and Abraham, who took his other son, Isaac, up Mount Moriah, ready to sacrifice him to God, in Genesis chapter 22, the episode we read on second day Rosh Hashanah.

We hear that God told him not to go through with it. Who knows how Isaac felt about his father after this.

What we do know is that again the Torah does not record another word spoken between Isaac and Abraham.   

We also have no record in the Torah of stepbrothers Isaac and Ishmael making contact with each other,
independent of their father, during his lifetime. Yet there is a time when they do come together.  It is at Abraham’s funeral, recorded in Genesis chapter 25 Verse 9.

We hear that Isaac has found he has inherited all of his father’s property on his death, maybe adding insult to Ishmael’s injury.

Yet the two bury their father as brothers. They give an example to all of us as we approach Yom Kippur.   

This day cannot atone for sins between person and person unless we work to gain each other’s forgiveness (Mishnah Yoma 8:9).

To be able to be together at the end of Abraham’s life we can paint a picture of two stepbrothers, both hurt in a different way, deciding it was down to them as the next generation to find, forgive and support each other.

  •  Rabbi Goldsmith serves Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue
Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: