If God established the covenant he made with Abraham first with Isaac, and then with Jacob, does that covenant have any effects at all upon the other children in the family of Abraham such as Ishmael or Esau? Do the Rabbis say anything about whether some degree of the blessing still falls upon descendants of Abraham who are not of Jacob?

2 Answers 2


Hi and welcome to the site! Excellent question that doesn't seem to have been directly asked before. We do not need to go to the Rabbis, it says so directly in the Chumash. Firstly, the wording of how the covenant will transmit down the line is from several places, including: Bereshit 13:15:

כִּ֧י אֶת־כׇּל־הָאָ֛רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־אַתָּ֥ה רֹאֶ֖ה לְךָ֣ אֶתְּנֶ֑נָּה וּֽלְזַרְעֲךָ֖ עַד־עוֹלָֽם׃ for I give all the land that you see to you and your offspring forever.


Bereshit 17:7:

וַהֲקִמֹתִ֨י אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֜י בֵּינִ֣י וּבֵינֶ֗ךָ וּבֵ֨ין זַרְעֲךָ֧ אַחֲרֶ֛יךָ לְדֹרֹתָ֖ם לִבְרִ֣ית עוֹלָ֑ם לִהְי֤וֹת לְךָ֙ לֵֽאלֹהִ֔ים וּֽלְזַרְעֲךָ֖ אַחֲרֶֽיךָ I will maintain My covenant between Me and you, and your offspring to come, as an everlasting covenant throughout the ages, to be God to you and to your offspring to come.

Which seed is it talking about? We get clarity in Bereshit 21:12:

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֜ים אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֗ם אַל־יֵרַ֤ע בְּעֵינֶ֙יךָ֙ עַל־הַנַּ֣עַר וְעַל־אֲמָתֶ֔ךָ כֹּל֩ אֲשֶׁ֨ר תֹּאמַ֥ר אֵלֶ֛יךָ שָׂרָ֖ה שְׁמַ֣ע בְּקֹלָ֑הּ כִּ֣י בְיִצְחָ֔ק יִקָּרֵ֥א לְךָ֖ זָֽרַע׃ But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed over the boy or your slave; whatever Sarah tells you, do as she says, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be continued for you.

As you can see, the covenant is through Yitzchak. From where do we learn it continues through Jacob and not Esav? Bereshit 26:3:

גּ֚וּר בָּאָ֣רֶץ הַזֹּ֔את וְאֶֽהְיֶ֥ה עִמְּךָ֖ וַאֲבָרְכֶ֑ךָּ כִּֽי־לְךָ֣ וּֽלְזַרְעֲךָ֗ אֶתֵּן֙ אֶת־כׇּל־הָֽאֲרָצֹ֣ת הָאֵ֔ל וַהֲקִֽמֹתִי֙ אֶת־הַשְּׁבֻעָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר נִשְׁבַּ֖עְתִּי לְאַבְרָהָ֥ם אָבִֽיךָ׃ Reside in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; I will assign all these lands to you and to your heirs, fulfilling the oath that I swore to your father Abraham.


והקמותי את השבועה אין צריך שיבטיח הקב"ה את יצחק שלא יעבור השבועה שנשבע לאביו כי לא אדם הוא להנחם (שמואל א טו כט) ואברהם אין לו זרע אחר בעל ברית לאלהים והשבועה איננה על תנאי כי ביעקב הוצרך מפני עשו אחיו לומר שבו יתקיים הברית ובזרעו (בראשית ל״ה:י״ב) לא בעשו ונראה שזה המאמר "והקמותי את השבועה" יחשב שבועה ולכך תמיד יאמר בתורה (שמות לג א) הארץ אשר נשבעתי לאברהם ליצחק וליעקב אשר נשבעת להם בך (שם לב יג) כי לא מצאנו שבועה ליצחק בלתי זאת ורצה הקב"ה להשבע לכל אחד מן האבות להודיע שראוי כל אחד לכרות עמו ברית ושתהיה זכות כל אחד עומדת לפניו עם זרעם כי אף על פי שהראשונה תספיק תוספת זכות וכבוד הוא להם… AND I WILL FULFILL THE OATH WHICH I SWORE UNTO ABRAHAM THY FATHER. There is no need for the Holy One, blessed be He, to assure Isaac that He will not violate the oath which He swore to his father, for He is not a man, that He should repent. Abraham had no other seed upon whom a covenant had been established with G-d except Isaac. The oath, moreover, was not given on condition. In the case of Jacob, it was necessary that he be given such assurance on account of his brother Esau. He was thus saying that in him [Jacob] and his seed will the covenant be fulfilled, not in Esau…

If that is not clear enough, consider Bereshit 15:13 (which is the passage of the Covenant of the Parts):

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לְאַבְרָ֗ם יָדֹ֨עַ תֵּדַ֜ע כִּי־גֵ֣ר ׀ יִהְיֶ֣ה זַרְעֲךָ֗ בְּאֶ֙רֶץ֙ לֹ֣א לָהֶ֔ם וַעֲבָד֖וּם וְעִנּ֣וּ אֹתָ֑ם אַרְבַּ֥ע מֵא֖וֹת שָׁנָֽה׃ And [God] said to Abram, “Know well that your offspring shall be strangers in a land not theirs, and they shall be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years;

It was only the children of Jacob that went to Egypt and were oppressed, not Esav.

So the answer is no, the covenant has no effect on Ishmael or Esav. They both received their own blessings. As children of Avraham, they are certainly very blessed, and great, and through him have a closeness and special relationship to Hashem, and both will be redeemed in the future.

  • 1
    Great answer! I've edited it, because you referred to Rambam but the commentary was Ramban (Nachmanides) :).
    – Shmuel
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 11:17
  • @Shmuel I have 3 words for you. Thanks, oops, thanks again! (does that count as 4?)
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 11:17
  • 1
    No problem. Thanks for giving this answer! Gute Shabbos in advance!
    – Shmuel
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 11:18
  • 1
    @Rabbi Kaii That was extremely helpful. Thank you for your kind welcome.
    – 1Sam1223
    Commented Nov 20, 2022 at 6:09

There was no covenant with Ismael or Esav but the Mitzvah (and covenant?) of milah was also made with the children of Ketura (Rashi says Ketura was Hagar who Avrhom remarried ).Albeit possibly temporarily. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 59B) says that they are included in the mitzvah of Milah. Rashi explains it to mean the that Avrohom had to circumcise the six children he had with Keturah but not their descendants. The Tosfos H'Rosh says and other Rishonim imply that this obligation continued until Mattan Torah.

OTOH The Rambam Hilcos Melochim 10:8 says the children of Keturah remain obligated in the mitzvah of milah even today. Not only that even the children of Ismael are obligated as well due to their intermarriage with the children of Ketura.

There is plenty of question about the reason and nature of this obligation. The Gemora says they are included because of the posuk of את בריתי הפר includes them. That would put them outside the covenant of milah but give them an independent obligation to circumcise . However many understand the Rambam as meaning that once they were reincluded in the mitzva they were also reincluded in לְזַרְעֲךָ֖.

This is just a few starting points for the discussion and is not definitive in any way.

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