1 Nephi 7:1-5 — LeGrand Baker — Who was Ishmael?

1 Nephi 7:1-5

1. And now I would that ye might know, that after my father, Lehi, had made an end of prophesying concerning his seed, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto him again, saying that it was not meet for him, Lehi, that he should take his family into the wilderness alone; but that his sons should take daughters to wife, that they might raise up seed unto the Lord in the land of promise.
2 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded him that I, Nephi, and my brethren, should again return unto the land of Jerusalem, and bring down Ishmael and his family into the wilderness.
3 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did again, with my brethren, go forth into the wilderness to go up to Jerusalem.
4 And it came to pass that we went up unto the house of Ishmael, and we did gain favor in the sight of Ishmael, insomuch that we did speak unto him the words of the Lord.
5 And it came to pass that the Lord did soften the heart of Ishmael, and also his household, insomuch that they took their journey with us down into the wilderness to the tent of our father (1 Nephi 7:2-7).

We know almost nothing about Ishmael except what Nephi tells us here.

The tradition that Ishmael was descended from Ephraim is based on a discourse by Apostle Erastus Snow. He said, “

The Prophet Joseph Smith informed us that the record of Lehi was contained on the 116 pages that were first translated and subsequently stolen, and of which an abridgment is given us in the First Book of Nephi, which is the record of Nephi individually, he himself being of lineage of Menasseh; but that Ishmael was of the lineage of Ephraim, and that his sons married into Lehi’s family, and Lehi’s sons married Ishmael’s daughters, thus fulfilling the words of Jacob upon and Manasseh in the 48th chapter of Genesis.{1}

The thing that seems to have been most impressive to the boy was that Ishmael would give them an audience. He says, “We did gain favor in the sight of Ishmael, insomuch that we did speak unto him the words of the Lord.” The implication seems to be that Ishmael was a man of such dignity and high standing that it was a privilege to even talk with him.

He was older than Lehi. We can know that because he had at least two sons who were old enough to be married. and Lehi’s oldest son had not yet come of age. We surmise that he had a large estate from the fact that as soon as he died his sons wanted to return home and reclaim their inheritance. We may also surmise that he and Lehi were good friends, and it is possible that they had already agreed that Lehi’s sons would marry Ishmael’s daughters.

However, this we do know: he was a man of great faith in the Lord. It is likely that he was one of the “many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed” (1 Nephi 1:4). If so, his life may have been in danger for the same reasons that the Jews sought to kill Lehi.
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FOOTNOTE

{1} Journal of Discourses, 23:184).

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