Long time readers know, that its my belief that Esau, first son of Isaac, was unintentionally slandered by Chazal. [In previous posts I have argued/proven that Esav sonei le’Yakov does not mean what nearly everyone says it means and that TobyKatz's reading of those words is dead wrong. I have also shown that the earliest midrashim praise Esav and that he wasn't linked to Rome until after Romans began mistreating Jews in the first century.]
Today, I'd like to offer a few words in defense of Ishmael, first son of Abraham. (thanks to PO) who likewise was not cast as a a badguy until after the rise of the Islamic Empire.
:: The angle promises Hagar that her son will be a perah adom. This is a blessing, not a curse — it means he'll be a successful and resourceful desert-dweller.
:: Bava Basra 16b says "gevi‘a [as a verb describing death] is only used in reference to righteous people. In Bereishis 25:17 this is the word used to describe Ishmael's demise.
:: A prominent Tana was called Yishmael, suggesting the name had no negative connotations in his time and place.
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