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Biblical Commentary on Genesis 16:12


King James Bible
And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.

New International Version
He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”

English Revised Version
And he shall be as a wild-ass among men; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers

(12) He will be a wild man.—Heb., he will be a wild-ass man. The wild ass of the Arabian deserts is a very noble creature, and is one of the animals selected in the Book of Job as especially exemplifying the greatness of God (Job 39:5-8). Its characteristics are great speed, love of solitude, and an untamable fondness of liberty. It is thus the very type of the Bedaween Arabs, whose delight is to rove at will over the desert, and who despise the ease and luxury of a settled life.


George Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary

Wild. Hebrew: like a wild ass, not to be tamed or subdued. The Saracens or Arabs, have almost all along maintained their independence. — Over against, ready to fight, without any dread of any one. (Calmet)


Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

 “He will be a wild ass of a man.” The figure of a פּרא, onager, that wild and untameable animal, roaming at its will in the desert, of which so highly poetic a description is given in Job 39:5-8, depicts most aptly “the Bedouin’s boundless love of freedom as he rides about in the desert, spear in hand, upon his camel or his horse, hardy, frugal, revelling in the varied beauty of nature, and despising town life in every form

Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

The image of the wild ass is not chosen in a contemptuous sense. “The figure of the פֶּרֶא, onager, in the desert, free, wild-roving and untamable animal, poetically described in Job 39:5-8, designates, in a striking manner, the Bedouin Arabs with their unrestrained love of freedom, as upon camel (Delûl) or horse, with spear in hand, they ride over the desert, noisy, hardy, frugal, delighting in the varied beauties of nature, and despising life in towns and cities:”

Arthur Peake’s Commentary on the Bible

Genesis 16:12. The author sketches the character of the Bedouin. Ishmael is “a wild ass of a man,” unbroken by servitude, disdaining the yoke of civilisation. What it is among animals Ishmael will be among men.

The Biblical Illustrator and Expositor’s Bible Commentary

“He will be a wild man,” literally, “a wild ass among men,” reminding us of the description of this animal in Job: “Whose house I have made the wilderness, and the barren land his dwelling. He scorneth the multitude of the city, neither regardeth he the crying of the driver. The range of the mountains is his pasture, and he searcheth after every green thing.” Like the zebra that cannot be domesticated, the Arab scorns the comforts of civilised life, and adheres to the primitive dress, food, and mode of life, delighting in the sensation of freedom, scouring the deserts, sufficient with his horse and spear for every emergency.

The Pulpit Commentaries

And he will be a wild man. Literally, a wild ass (of a) man; the פֶּרֶא, snarler, being so called from its swiftness of foot (cf. Job 39:5-8 ), and aptly depicting “the Bedouin’s boundless love of freedom as he rides about in the desert, spear in hand, upon his camel or his horse, hardy, frugal, reveling in the varied beauty of nature, and despising town life in every form” (Keil).

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Genesis 16:12. He will be a wild man— In the original it is, a wild ass man; and the learned Bochart translates it, tam ferus quam onager, as wild as a wild ass. But what is the nature of the animal to which Ishmael is so particularly compared? It cannot be described better than it is in the book of Job 39:5; Job 39:30. Who hath sent out the wild ass free? or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass? whose house I have made the wilderness, and the barren land his dwelling. He scorneth the multitude of the city, neither regardeth he the crying of the driver. The range of the mountains is his pasture, and he searcheth after every green thing. Ishmael, therefore, and his posterity, would be wild, savage, ranging in the desarts, and not easily softened and tamed to society: and whoever hath ever read or known any thing of this people, knows this to be their true and genuine character. It is said of Ishmael, ch. Genesis 21:20. that he dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer: and the same is no less true of his descendants than of himself: he dwelt in the wilderness; and his sons still inhabit the same wilderness, and many of them neither sow nor plant, according to the best accounts, ancient and modern. He became an archer: and such were the Ituraeans, whose bows and arrows are famous in all authors: such were the mighty men of Kedar in Isaiah’s time, Isaiah 21:17 and such the Arabs have been from the beginning, and are at this time; and it was late before they admitted the use of fire-arms among them.


…As the history of Ishmael and his descendants, is one of the standing public evidences of the truth of the sacred Scriptures, the reader will excuse me if I enlarge upon it. Diodorus, one of the great heathen Historians, says of them, that neither the Assyrians, nor the kings of the Medes and Persians, nor yet of the Macedonians, were able to subdue them; nay, though they led many and great forces against them, yet they could not accomplish their attempts. And undoubted history informs us of such remarkable interpositions of Providence to preserve them, when they have been upon the brink of ruin; that when we consider them, we cannot help being struck with admiration at the holy Scriptures, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done.

When Alexander the Great overturned the Persian Empire, and conquered a great part of Asia, the neighbouring princes sent their ambassadors to make their submissions. The Arabs (the descendants of Ishmael) alone disdained to acknowledge the Conqueror, and scorned to send any embassy, or take any notice of him. This contempt so provoked him, that he meditated an expedition against them; and, humanly speaking, considering his vast army, the great assistance he would have received from all the neighbouring princes, and his being in want of nothing which could contribute to his success, we can scarcely suppose but he would have entirely destroyed them: but while he was meditating on these things, God took him away by death, and put an end to all his resentment and designs against them; and again shewed the world, that there was one greater than the greatest. When the Romans subdued the rest of the East, Arabia alone stood out; and when Lucullus, one of their generals, had subdued some of the Arabs, he was recalled, and Pompey sent in his room: this latter most successful general gained some victories, and penetrated into the country; but the word of God was against him, so that when success seemed ready to crown him with an entire subjection of the country, other affairs obliged him to leave it, and by retiring he lost all the advantages he had gained. AElius Gallus, a Roman general in the reign of Augustus, penetrated far into the country; but of a sudden a strange distemper made terrible havoc in his army; and after two years spent in the enterprize, he was glad to escape with the small remainder of his forces. But, at the times they were attacked by the Emperors Trajan and Severus, the interpositions of Providence to save them were still more remarkable.

Dio, who must have been impartial in the present instance, informs us, that when Trajan besieged the city of the Hagarenes (who were descended and denominated from Hagar,) as often as his soldiers attacked the city, the whole heavens shook with thunder, rainbows were seen in the sky, (both considered as terrifying omens by the Romans,) violent storms, hail, and thunderbolts, fell upon them; and all these were repeated, as often as they returned to the assault of the city; and as often as they sat down to refresh themselves with a repast, a multitude of flies alighting both on their eatables and liquors, made all they ate or drank nauseous; so that the emperor was at last compelled by these circumstances to raise the siege. It may be observed here, that when they were attacked by Trajan, the power of the whole world was united in one empire, and the whole power of that empire was in his hands; that he was himself a man of great abilities, remarkably beloved by his soldiers, indefatigable in the toils of war, and greatly experienced in all that belongs to it; so that if it were possible that God’s promise to Ishmael of subsistence in freedom, though at enmity with the rest of the world, could be defeated by human wisdom or mortal might, it must have been at this time. About eight years after, the emperor Severus besieged the same city with a numerous army; and Dio, the historian, who gives an account of this expedition, as well as of that under Trajan, again remarks, that God preserved the city; who, by the Emperor, called back the soldiers, when they could have entered it; and again, by the soldiers, restrained the emperor from taking it, when he was desirous. The whole anecdote is very wonderful: the emperor being at first repulsed with loss, made great preparations for the second assault, in which (after a great loss of his soldiers) he overthrew part of the city-wall, so that an entrance lay open into the city. Just at that time the emperor caused a retreat to be sounded, imagining that the besieged would intreat for peace; and that, to obtain it, they would discover where the vast treasures lay, which were supposed to be concealed in their temple of the sun, and which he thought might be lost, if the city were sacked and the inhabitants destroyed. But the Hagarenes continued resolute the whole day, giving no intimation of their desire of entering into terms of capitulation. On the morrow following, when the emperor would have renewed the attack, the European soldiers, at all other times most resolute, would make no attempt to enter at the breach; and the Syrians, enforced to take the service, met with a grievous repulse. No persuasions, no promises, no threats could engage the Europeans to renew their attacks; so that, though the conquest in martial esteem appeared so easy after the breach in the walls, that one of Severus’s captains confidently undertook to effect it, if he could but have five hundred and fifty European soldiers assigned to the attack, yet the emperor could do no more than reply in a rage, “Where shall I find so many soldiers?” and so departed into Palestine. And yet this very emperor was beloved and revered by his soldiers almost to adoration, but could not now influence them to assault the enemy, when they were almost at their mercy: a fact so extraordinary, that it appears to be manifestly the interposition of that Mighty Being, who at his pleasure poureth contempt upon princes, and bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought. It may be added, that the Hagarenes stood single in this extremity, against the whole Roman power; for Dio expressly says, that not one of their neighbours would assist them. And we may likewise observe, that the spirit of freedom, which was the declared characteristic of Ishmael before he was born, was remarkable at this time in these his descendants; as they seem to have been fully determined, either to live absolutely free, or to die so; disdaining to capitulate, or make any terms, even with the emperor of the world.




  1. Shaad says:

    Hey Abdur-Rahman, i remember a Rabbi searched a really interesting event in the life of Ishmael for me…he it is…


    • Shaad says:

      Excuse me for the typos


    • Thanks ,

      I used google translate, but It didn’t flow properly, lol. Do you have the English?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Shaad says:

        Unfortunately i don’t have the english…i don’t remember which translation is used (definitely not google translate) but i did undertand the story a bit… well it’s pretty much Rabbinal writtings so i don’t tend to it seriously but it’s a very interesting story…so to summarise it, Abraham went to visit Ishmael in the desert (i guess his fatherly love made him do it)…then they talked a bit…family stuff…


        • Thanks, sorry for the late reply. This looks very interesting, I am trying to find an exact quote from Come and Hear, I’ll let you later today or tomorrow morning

          Liked by 1 person

        • Shaad says:

          Wait i’ll quote the stuff for you…


        • Shaad says:

          “And she departed and wandered” (ibid.). The meaning of “and she wandered” is merely idolatry, because it is written, concerning (this root), “They are vanity, a work of delusion” (Jer. x. 15). He went and cast himself beneath the thorns of the wilderness, so that the moisture might be upon him, and he said: O God of my father Abraham ! Thine are the issues of death; take away from me my soul, for I would not die of thirst. And He was entreated of him, as it is said, “For God hath heard the || voice of the lad where he is” (Gen. xxi. 17). The well which was created at twilight was opened for them there, and they went and drank and filled the bottle with water, as it is said, “And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water” (ibid. 19). And there they left the well, and thence they started on their way, and went through all the wilderness until they came to the wilderness of Paran, and they found there streams of water, and they dwelt there, as it is said, “And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran” (ibid. 21). Ishmael sent for a wife from among the daughters of Moab, and ‘Ayeshah was her name. After three years Abraham went to see Ishmael his son, having sworn to Sarah that he would not descend from the camel in the place where Ishmael dwelt. He arrived there at midday and found there the wife of Ishmael. He said to her: Where is Ishmael? She said to him: He has gone with his mother to fetch the fruit of the palms from the wilderness. He said to her: Give me a little bread and a little water, for my soul is faint after the journey in the desert. She said to him: I have neither bread nor water. He said to her: When Ishmael comes (home) tell him this || story, and say to him: A certain old man came from the land of Canaan to see thee, and he said, Exchange the threshold of thy house, for it is not good for thee. When Ishmael came (home) his wife told him the story. A son of a wise man is like half a wise man. Ishmael understood. His mother sent and took for him a wife from her father’s house, and her name was Fatimah.”

          “Again after three years Abraham went to see his son Ishmael, having sworn to Sarah as on the first occasion that he would not descend from the camel in the place where Ishmael dwelt. He came there at midday, and found there Ishmael’s wife. He said to her: Where is Ishmael? She replied to him: He has gone with his mother to feed the camels in the desert. He said to her: Give me a little bread and water, for my soul is faint after the journey of the desert. She fetched it and gave it to him. Abraham arose and prayed before the Holy One, blessed be He, for his son, and (thereupon) Ishmael’s house was filled with all good things of the various blessings. When Ishmael came (home) his wife told him what had happened, and Ishmael knew that his father’s love was still extended to him, as it is said, || “Like as a father pitieth his sons” (Ps. ciii. 13). After the death of Sarah, Abraham again took (Hagar) his divorced (wife), as it is said, “And Abraham again took a wife, and her name was Keturah” (Gen. xxv. 1). Why does it say “And he again”? Because on the first occasion she was his wife, and he again betook himself to her. Her name was Keturah, because she was perfumed with all kinds of scents.”

          Interesting isn’t it?


        • Shaad says:

          Well it seems they weren’t able to meet as Ishmael & his mom went to feed the camels…but Abraham was able to meet his daughter in law…i really don’t know if this story is true or not….funny but the translator that i used in the past almost told a different story lol…jokes apart…interesting though…

          Liked by 1 person

        • Comments getting really squished, lol. See below….

          Liked by 1 person

  2. This story is similar to hadith, in my opinion the work of Pirke De-Ranni Elizer has taken information from Islamic traditions, and incorporated into its own. Allah knows best.

    Here is the hadith:

    …. After Ishmael’s mother had died, Abraham came after Ishmael’s marriage in order to see his family that he had left before, but he did not find Ishmael there. When he asked Ishmael’s wife about him, she replied, ‘He has gone in search of our livelihood.’ Then he asked her about their way of living and their condition, and she replied, ‘We are living in misery; we are living in hardship and destitution,’ complaining to him. He said, ‘When your husband returns, convey my salutation to him and tell him to change the threshold of the gate (of his house).’ When Ishmael came, he seemed to have felt something unusual, so he asked his wife, ‘Has anyone visited you?’ She replied, ‘Yes, an old man of so-and-so description came and asked me about you and I informed him, and he asked about our state of living, and I told him that we were living in a hardship and poverty.’ On that Ishmael said, ‘Did he advise you anything?’ She replied, ‘Yes, he told me to convey his salutation to you and to tell you to change the threshold of your gate.’ Ishmael said, ‘It was my father, and he has ordered me to divorce you. Go back to your family.’ So, Ishmael divorced her and married another woman from amongst them (i.e. Jurhum). Then Abraham stayed away from them for a period as long as Allah wished and called on them again but did not find Ishmael. So he came to Ishmael’s wife and asked her about Ishmael. She said, ‘He has gone in search of our livelihood.’ Abraham asked her, ‘How are you getting on?’ asking her about their sustenance and living. She replied, ‘We are prosperous and well-off (i.e. we have everything in abundance).’ Then she thanked Allah’ Abraham said, ‘What kind of food do you eat?’ She said. ‘Meat.’ He said, ‘What do you drink?’ She said, ‘Water.” He said, “O Allah! Bless their meat and water.” The Prophet added, “At that time they did not have grain, and if they had grain, he would have also invoked Allah to bless it.” The Prophet (ﷺ) added, “If somebody has only these two things as his sustenance, his health and disposition will be badly affected, unless he lives in Mecca.” The Prophet (ﷺ) added,” Then Abraham said Ishmael’s wife, “When your husband comes, give my regards to him and tell him that he should keep firm the threshold of his gate.’ When Ishmael came back, he asked his wife, ‘Did anyone call on you?’ She replied, ‘Yes, a good-looking old man came to me,’ so she praised him and added. ‘He asked about you, and I informed him, and he asked about our livelihood and I told him that we were in a good condition.’ Ishmael asked her, ‘Did he give you any piece of advice?’ She said, ‘Yes, he told me to give his regards to you and ordered that you should keep firm the threshold of your gate.’ On that Ishmael said, ‘It was my father, and you are the threshold (of the gate). He has ordered me to keep you with me.’ ……

    Sahih al-Bukhari 3364

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Shaad says:

    Good lord, that’s very similar…i didn’t know about that to be honest…

    Liked by 1 person

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