Genesis 17:20 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 17:20, NIV: "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."

Genesis 17:20, ESV: "As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation."

Genesis 17:20, KJV: "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."

Genesis 17:20, NASB: "As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation."

Genesis 17:20, NLT: "As for Ishmael, I will bless him also, just as you have asked. I will make him extremely fruitful and multiply his descendants. He will become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation."

Genesis 17:20, CSB: "As for Ishmael, I have heard you. I will certainly bless him; I will make him fruitful and will multiply him greatly. He will father twelve tribal leaders, and I will make him into a great nation."

What does Genesis 17:20 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

This verse is God's "yes" to Abraham's apparently anguished request. Abraham desires that his son Ishmael might live under God's blessing. Abraham may have meant he wanted Ishmael to be the son of God's covenant promise. This certainly seems to be what he expected. God made clear in the previous verse that was not to be; Isaac would receive that blessing.

However, God acknowledges that He has heard Abraham's request for Ishmael, whose name means "God hears." God repeats what had been promised to Hagar (Genesis 16:10–12), that Ishmael's offspring would be numerous. God adds that Ishmael will father 12 princes and become a great nation. Ishmael, then, is to be greatly blessed, though in merely human terms. His offspring, divided into 12 princes, will become a great nation, but they will not become the covenant people of God. Isaac's offspring, also destined to be divided into 12 tribes, will become God's own nation.