Reply to Mohamed Ghounem’s:

Was Isaac or Ishmael to be sacrificed?

Sam Shamoun

Ghounem tries to discredit the biblical teaching that God commanded Isaac to be sacrificed. He does so with the flimsiest evidence. We have already dealt with this issue elsewhere in these articles: [1] and [2].

In fact, this issue became the focus of a debate between Akbarally Meherally and myself and can be found here. (Look for the following section: "Web Site ‘’ adopts DECEPTION/LIE?" [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8], [9])"

Yet, in this paper we respond briefly to some of the claims made by Ghounem in his article.


As you know, Kedar is a descendent of Ishmael {Genesis 25:13}, and Ishmael is the base for the Family Tree of Prophet Muhammad through Kedar.


This is only true if we presume that the recorded genealogies given by Muslims on Muhammad’s descent are valid. However, there is no pre-Islamic evidence to support that Muhammad’s family or his tribe were descendants of Ishmael.

There is also debate over whether Ishmael ever migrated to Mecca, seeing that the Holy Bible clearly denies that Ishmael ever settled in Arabia. The Holy Bible states that Ishmael and his mother settled in Paran near southern Palestine in northeastern Sinai. The proof that Paran is located in the region of Sinai, and not in Mecca, comes from the Holy Bible:

"And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud (of God) rested in the wilderness of Paran." Numbers 10:12

"And afterward the people (Israelites) removed from Hazeroth, and pitched in the wilderness of Paran." Numbers 12:16

"And Moses by the commandment of the Lord sent them from the wilderness of Paran... And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh..." Numbers 13:3, 26

"These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side of Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab." Deuteronomy 1:1

The preceding verses clearly demonstrate that Paran could not possibly be Mecca but a locale near Sinai, since Moses and the Israelites never settled in that part of Arabia.

The final problem with all this is that Ghounem must assume that the Quran claims that it was Ishmael, not Isaac that God commanded to be sacrificed. This ignores the fact that there is not a single place in the Quran where it explicitly mentions Ishmael as the child of sacrifice. The Quran never gives the name of the son to be sacrificed. This led the early Muslim authorities to disagree over whether it was Isaac or Ishmael. For more information in relation to this point, read our articles mentioned above.


An important Fact that I would like you to observe now is how the scribes switched names to illegitimize Ishmael.

The scribes and commentators say that Ishmael is not a legitimate son of Abraham and therefore the covenant was only with Isaac.


First, Ghounem claims that scribes deliberately altered the text in order to illegitimatize Ishmael without giving us a shred of evidence for this assertion. In fact, the Quran itself testifies to the purity and authenticity of the Holy Bible and never once claims that so-called "scribes" had corrupted the text of scripture. (see following article for details.)

Second, it might be true that some scholars have tried to disprove Ishmael's legitimacy by claiming that he was not an legitimate son of Abraham, yet this is not the view of all Christians (or Jews for that matter). The basis in which Ishmael is rejected from the covenant God made with Abraham is due primarily to the biblical witness that God specifically omitted Ishmael from the covenant blessings. This will be made evident below.


Now I will show you in the Scripture that it was Really Ishmael who was to be sacrificed and the covenant was first done with Ishmael and Ishmael was a legitimate son of Abraham even after Abraham's death.

1. The covenant was first made with Abraham and Ishmael;

Genesis 17:10 This [is] my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.

Genesis 17:13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.


First, Ghounem must twist the scriptures out of their intended context in order to arrive at his conclusion. He twists Genesis 17 from its context, since when read in context it actually proves that Ishmael WAS NEVER PART OF THE COVENANT BLESSINGS!:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers." Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God." Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. Th is is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner-those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant." God also said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her." Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, "W ill a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?" And Abraham said to God, "If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!" Then God said, "YES, BUT YOUR WIFE SARAH WILL BEAR YOU A SON, AND YOU WILL CALL HIM ISAAC. I WILL ESTABLISH MY COVENANT WITH HIM AS AN EVERLASTING COVENANT FOR HIS DESCENDANTS AFTER HIM. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. BUT MY COVENANT I WILL ESTABLISH WITH ISAAC, WHOM SARAH WILL BEAR TO YOU BY THIS TIME NEXT YEAR." When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him. Genesis 17:1-22

As we break this passage down, it will become quite evident that none of Ghounem's assertions hold any weight:

"This is the account of Abraham's son Ishmael, whom Sarah's maidservant, Hagar the Egyptian, bore to Abraham. These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. THESE WERE THE SONS OF ISHMAEL, AND THESE ARE THE NAMES OF THE TWELVE TRIBAL RULERS ACCORDING TO THEIR SETTLEMENTS AND CAMPS. Altogether, Ishmael lived a hundred and thirty-seven years. He breathed his last and died, and he was gathered to his people. His descendants settled in the area from Havilah to Shur, near the border of Egypt, as you go toward Asshur. And they lived in hostility toward all their brothers." Genesis 25:12-18

This was the great nation that had been promised to Ishmael, a nation made up collectively of twelve tribes that had descended from his twelve sons. It has absolutely nothing to do with Islam or Muhammad.

The preceding points taken from the passage itself makes it impossible for Ishmael or his descendants to be part of the covenant promises.



2. It was really Ishmael and not Isaac who was going to be sacrificed and the Jewish scribes because of vanity, switched the names;


There is not a single shred of evidence for Ghounem's assertions that Jewish scribes corrupted the text. This is pure sensationalism and hype. Furthermore, it is not simply the Jewish text that affirms that Isaac was the one commanded to be sacrificed, but the inspired Christian text as well:

"By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son…" Hebrews 11:17

"Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?" James 2:21

Hence, the inspired text of scripture affirms the identity of the child of sacrifice as Isaac, not Ishmael. Keeping in mind that the Quran never mentions the name of the child and that the Quran also affirms the authority of the Holy Bible, only serves to discredit Ghounem's points.


Genesis 16:16 "and Abram [is] a son of eighty and six years in Hagar's bearing Ishmael to Abram."

Who's son? Abraham's "son". Now as far as the sacrifice is concerned, Genesis 17:24 "Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin."

That makes Abraham's son Ishmael 13, how old is Isaac at this time? Genesis 21:5 "Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him."

that means during the circumcision/sacrifice, Abraham's only "begotten" son is Ishmael and not Isaac as the Bible says.


Notice the deliberate trick Ghounem plays on his readers. He tries to confuse the issue by alleging that the command to circumcise Ishmael is actually the same command given to sacrifice the child. Yet, he ignores the fact that the command of circumcision has nothing to do with sacrifice since the latter only transpired well after God had given circumcision as the sign of the covenant:

"Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, 'Abraham!' 'Here I am,' he replied. Then God said, 'Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.' Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, 'Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.' Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, 'Father?' 'Yes, my son?' Abraham replied. 'The fire and wood are here,' Isaac said, 'but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?' Abraham answered, 'God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.' And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, 'Abraham! Abraham!' 'Here I am,' he replied. 'Do not lay a hand on the boy,' he said. 'Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.' Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, 'On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.'" Genesis 22:1-14

From this passage we can clearly see that circumcision is mentioned in Genesis 17 when Isaac had not been born, while the command to sacrifice does not appear until Genesis 22 when Isaac was a young lad.

The fact that Ghounem must twist verses in this manner affirms that he has no solid case to support his premises.


KJV Hebrews 11:17 "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,"

Therefore we see that Isaac was not the only son, as a matter of fact, Isaac was not even born yet and Abraham's Only begotten son was Ishmael. Therefore further confirming the Legitimacy of Prophet Muhammad which God says I will make great Nations from Ishmael.

Genesis 17:20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.


Ghounem fails to understand what the term "only son" implies. The term "only" comes from the Hebrew yachid and carries the following meanings:

Strong's #3173 :   yachiyd (yaw-kheed')


1) only, only one, solitary, one

a) only, unique, one
b) solitary
c) (TWOT) only begotten son
2) one
(Source: Blue Letter Bible)

In the Hebrew Greek Study Bible's Lexical Aid to the Old Testament, we are told:

"... this Heb. adj. comes from 3161. It means only, alone, forsaken, soul, life. It appears twelve times in the Heb. O.T. The basic meaning of the word is 'an only child' ... The preciousness of a unique individual is shown in Gen. 22:2-12, 16; Judges 11:34; Jer. 6:26; Amos 8:10; Zech. 12:10. It is very interesting that the Septuagint does not render yachiyd in Gen. 22 with the Gr. word monogenes (3439), but agapetos (27) ... Jesus was especially dear to His Father, just as Isaac was to Abraham (Mt. 3:17, 17:5; Jn. 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 Jn. 4:9). Ps. 22:20 and Ps. 35:17 refer to the uniqueness of the soul. It is quite possible that monogenes does not refer to the derivation of the Son from the Father, but the uniqueness of the love between them. Yachiyd also means solitary or isolated (Prov. 4:3)." (Spiros Zodhiates, Hebrew-Greek Study Bible [AMG Publishers, Chattanooga TN 37422, 1984] p. 1731, n. 3173)

Hence, the term can carry the significance of the unique son, the only one of its kind, and the beloved-agapetos of the Father. This is reinforced by the fact that term for only son used in the Greek New Testament in relation to Isaac is monogenes:

"By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son (monogenes)." Hebrews 11:17

The term monogenes carries the following meanings:

Dr. James R. White notes,

"The key element to remember in deriving the meaning of monogenes is this: it is a compound term, combining monos, meaning only, with a second term. Often it is assumed that the second term is gennasthai/gennao, 'to give birth, to beget.' But note that this family of terms has two nu's, "vv," rather than a single v found in monogenes. This indicates that the second term is not gennasthai but gignesthai/ginmai , and the noun form, genos. G.L. Prestige discusses the differences that arise from these two derivations in God in Patristic Thought (London: SPCK, 1952), 37-51, 135-141, 151-156.

Genos means 'kind or type,' ginomai is a verb of being. Hence the translations 'one of a kind,' 'one and only,' 'of sole descent.' Some scholars see the - genes element as having a minor impact upon the meaning of the term, and hence see monogenes as a strengthened form of monos, thereby translating it 'alone,' 'unique,' 'incomparable.' An example of this usage from the LXX is found in Psalm 25:16, 'turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely (monogenes) and afflicted': (NASB) (White, The Forgotten Trinity [Minneapolis, MN, Bethany House Publishers, 1998], pp. 201-202, fn. 27)

James Hope Moulton and George Milligan, in The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdman's. 1930. pp. 416-417), concur:

"Monogenes is literally 'one of a kind,' 'only,' 'unique' (unicus), not 'only begotten,' which would be monogennetos (unigenitus,) and is common in the LXX in this sense... The emphasis is on the thought that, as the 'only' Son of God, He has no equal and is able to reveal the Father."

George Beasley-Murray in his the Word Biblical Commentary on John (Waco: Word Books, 1987, p. 14) says:

"monogenes, lit., 'the only one of its kind,' unique in its genos, in the LXX frequently translates... (yahid)…"

(Note- The preceding material is adapted from Dr. James R. White's book, The Forgotten Trinity- Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief [Bethany House Pub.; Minneapolis, MN, 1998], pp. 201-203)

The uniqueness of Isaac in relation to his sonship is based on the following points:

It is these reasons that Isaac is called Abraham's only son since God himself reckoned him as the child of promise and blessings. This honor was never bestowed upon Ishmael.


3. Ishmael was a legitimate son even after Abraham died;

Genesis 16:3 "And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife."

Genesis 25:9 "Then his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him (Abraham) in *the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, facing Mamre,"

Genesis 25:12 "Now these are the records of the generations of *Ishmael, Abraham's son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah's maid, bore to Abraham;"


Ghounem presumes that since Ishmael was a legitimate son of Abraham Isaac could not have been Abraham's only son or the favored child. Yet, this ignores one fact, namely that the Holy Bible clearly presents many cases where God sovereignly chose the younger son over the firstborn. One such example is God selecting Jacob over his older brother Esau:

"The LORD said to her (Rebekah, Isaac's wife), 'Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older (Esau) will serve the younger (Jacob).' Gen. 25:23

Or God, prophesying through Jacob, that Joseph's younger son Ephraim would be greater than the firstborn son, Manasseh:

"When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim's head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father's hand to move it from Ephraim's head to Manasseh's head. Joseph said to him, 'No, my father, this is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.' But his father refused and said, 'I know my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.'" Gen. 48:17-19

In conclusion, much like Meherally and Saifullah before him, Ghounem has proven incapable of rebutting the clear biblical witness to the fact that it was Isaac whom God commanded to be sacrificed.

"Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, 'Father?' 'Yes, my son?' Abraham replied. 'The fire and wood are here,' Isaac said, 'but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?' Abraham answered, 'God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.' And the two of them went on together." Genesis 22:7-8

"So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, 'On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.'" Genesis 22:14

"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'" John 1:29

"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." 1 Peter 1:18-19

"Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, 'Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?' But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, 'Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.' Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.' Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: 'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!' Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!' The four living creatures said, 'Amen,' and the elders fell down and worshiped." Revelation 5:1-14

"Then one of the elders asked me, 'These in white robes-who are they, and where did they come from?' I answered, 'Sir, you know.' And he said, 'These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, 'they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7:13-16

"They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." Revelation 12:11

"All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast-all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world." Revelation 13:8


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