Are Arabs and Muslims “wild men” because the Bible says they are?

racism copy

I recently got into a big debate on Facebook with a Bishop in the Church of God in Christ, who also happens to be an old friend and former pastor of mine.

My old friend was posting about Muslims, Arabs, and was relating present day crimes of terror in the Middle East to Genesis 16 by deeming all Arabs and Muslims “wild men” due to a wrongheaded, deterministic, misinterpreted “fulfillment” of a supposed “prophecy” found in Genesis 16:11-12.

I explained to him — over and over — that the words of the angel to Hagar regarding Ishmael referred to Ishamel only, and not to his descendants; and I also pointed out to him that he was being a racist by saying all Arabs and Muslims, because they are the descendants of Ishamel, are determined and destined to be “wild men”, as he was alleging them to be.

He would not listen to me, and he defriended me once he had had enough of my criticism of his piss poor (and racist) excuse for “biblical hermeneutics”.

Below is some of the research I did on this subject, and my friend is hardly the only so-called “Christian” who believes this wrongheaded and racist interpretation of the Bible:

Here is Alan West on Arabs:

“Genesis Chapter 16, verses 11-12 states, “And the Angel of the Lord said to her (Hagar): Behold you are with child, and you shall bear a son, you shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has heard your affliction. He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against everyman, and every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”

“Ishmael of course became the beginning of the Arab people….and God’s word is immutable truth.

“In closing, there are battle lines clearly drawn, I know where I stand, and that is to support the State of Israel.”

Source: Christian Supremacist Allen West Likely Winner in Florida – http://www.loonwatch.com/2010/11/christian-supremacist-allen-west-likely-winner-in-florida/

onager copy

Was Ishmael a ‘Wild Ass’ Man?

“I have written a number of articles about the hatred of Muslims, and also of everything Arabic, which seems to be prevalent in ‘Western’ nations these days. Most people automatically think ‘Arab’ when then think of Muslims, it seems – though when pressed they’ll have to admit that Arabs probably constitute a minority of the Muslim population in the world. Jews and Christians of the conservative or ‘orthodox’ variety believe they have Biblical support for this antipathy toward Arabs and Muslims in the above quoted verse from Genesis. Doesn’t it specifically say that Ishmael will be a “wild ass” man (taken as a seemingly obvious term of derision), who will be constantly at warfare with everyone else? Supposedly it’s the ‘fate’ of Ishmaelites to forever be the enemies of the rest of the world; God has predestined it! Fundamentalist and Evangelical preachers seem to love to expound on this passage. I did a search on Yahoo under “Ishmael a wild ass man” and found that there are 100 pages of links; almost every one of them seemed to be something derogatory about Arabs and Muslims based on this text. (I of course did not look at every link on every page. I went through about the first 10 pages, and then just looked at random links on the rest of the pages). An “e-friend” recently told me that his pastor had just preached on this passage, which “proves” that the Arabic people (and therefore Muslims) will always be the enemies of Israel and all Israel’s ‘friends’ – if not all non Muslim people.

“There was one site, though, which gave a very different viewpoint on this verse in Genesis, and that site was actually the first one in the Yahoo search list. It can be found here. According to the author of this article, there is really only one problem with all of the commentaries on this Bible verse: they’re all based on a mistranslation of the text! He (or she) defends the idea that the correct translation of verse 12 is:  “… he will be a fruitful man: his hand shall be with everyone, and every man’s hand shall be with him…“(!! ) I have come to believe the author is correct; and since this understanding of the verse seems to be known by so few, I have decided to do my small part to spread it.”

Read More: Was Ishmael a ‘Wild Ass’ Man? – http://mystic444.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/was-ishmael-a-wild-ass-man/

Sons of Ishmael : Muslims through European Eyes in the Middle Ages

“Sons of Ishmael” is the epithet that many Christian writers of the Middle Ages gave to Muslims. This book focuses on the history of conflict and convergence between Latin Christendom and the Arab Muslim world during this period. These eleven essays explore, in greater depth than the author’s previous books, a wide variety of topics. The Bible and Qur’an agree that Arabs were the descendants of Ishmael, son of Abraham and Hagar. Ishmael is described in Genesis as “a wild man; his hand will be against every man and every man’s hand against him.” To many medieval Christians, this was a prophecy of the violence and enmity between Ishmael’s progeny and the Christians—spiritual descendants of his half-brother Isaac. Yet the author also discusses areas of convergence between Christendom and Islam such as the devotion to the Virgin Mary in twelfth-century Syria and Egypt and the chivalrous myths surrounding Muslim princes, especially Saladin. By providing a closer look at the ways Europeans perceived Islam and Muslims in the Middle Ages, the author opens a window into understanding the roots of current stereotypes of Muslims and Arabs in Western culture.”

Source: Sons of Ishmael : Muslims through European Eyes in the Middle Ages – http://www.universitypressscholarship.com/search?f_0=keywords&q_0=Ishmael

countryman copy

BOOK – Sons of Ishmael : Muslims through European Eyes in the Middle Ages – http://www.amazon.com/Sons-Ishmael-Muslims-through-European/dp/0813032229

Rescuing the Oppressed Doesn’t Just Spoil War

“Bereshit (Genesis) 16 discusses the story of Ishmael, progeny of Abraham and ancestor of the Quraish in Makkah and of Muhammed. At verse 12 it provides a description of Ishmael, often translated as saying he will be a wild ass of a man, in constant conflict with his brothers. The verse is frequently used today to provide a justification that Ishmael, and by extension the Arabs and Islam, are inherently unruly, hostile, and harbour a disposition towards war and conflict. We find this use all the way from the earliest Byzantine reactions to the spread of Islam,[2] to current discourse. The modern political applications are that the Middle East is not a region that can be dealt with using diplomacy, but requires military interventions (and even pre-emptive regime changes) that would be inappropriate in other parts of the world. It is also used to justify a fatalist approach towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by saying that it is biblically ordained. This conclusion not only leads to stereotypical racism, it is historically and theologically flawed.”

Source: Rescuing the Oppressed Doesn’t Just Spoil War – http://jsr.lib.virginia.edu/issues/volume8/number1/ssr08_01_r01.html

Is Ishmael really a “wild ass”? A Critical Analysis of Genesis 16:12 – http://www.ark-of-salvation.org/wild_ass_2003.htm#is_ishmael

Does the Bible Teach That the Arabs Are Sworn Enemies of the Jews? – http://questions.org/attq/does-the-bible-teach-that-the-arabs-are-sworn-enemies-of-the-jews/

Ishmael and Isaac: the Birth of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict? – http://www.musalaha.org/articleview.asp?ID=7

“The Role of Abraham in Judaism, Christianity and Islam”

“In the Hebrew scriptures, Ishmael is the product of a “forced” attempt to produce a sire for Abraham and the text designates him as a “wild-ass of a man” who will be in conflict with everyone, and so will his lineage (Genesis 16:12 NRSV).  Therefore, when certain modern day groups of people think about Ishmael and the people genealogically attributed to him, they [also] use the descriptive term of “wild-ass” to explain the violence and unrest seemingly found in the Arab world heavily accompanied by Islam.”

Source: “The Role of Abraham in Judaism, Christianity and Islam” – http://www.cgu.edu/pages/9542.asp

See: ISHMAEL – http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8251-ishmael

See: Ishmael – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishmael

See: The Wild Man in the Bible and the Ancient near East – http://www.academicroom.com/article/wild-man-bible-and-ancient-near-east

See: The Wild Man in the Bible and the Ancient near East (.pdf) – http://tinyurl.com/paxvy2j

wild man and the bible 1 copy

“And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.

“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.

“And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?” (Genesis 16:11-13)

The terms: “a son”, “his name”, “a wild man”, “his hand”, “him”, “he”, “his”, are all singular, not plural. There is no mention of “his descendants” anywhere in this passage proclaiming Ishmael’s descendants will be “wild ass men” and some people wrongly assert there is. The only way one can find  such nonsense in this passage is for one to import this nonsense into it from one’s own preconceived prejudicial, determinist, racist beliefs about Arabs and Muslims, using this passage as a wrongly interpreted, cherry-picked, and supposed biblical proof text without any support coming from the text itself.

Regarding Hagar and her son Ishmael, I see nothing in this passage that indicates “his seed” or “his offspring” will be “wild men” (plural). I see only that Ishmael himself will be “a wild man”, “a wild donkey”, or better: “an independent outdoorsman” as opposed to his being “a city dweller”.

In fact, as Paul says, since “Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children,” the spiritual children of Hagar are in fact all unbelieving Jews and Gentiles, and not simply Arab Muslims.

There is certainly no racial determinism to be found in Genesis 16:11-13, since no offspring of Ishmael are said in this passage to be (from henceforth and forever) “wild men”.

To add such a notion to this passage — with no textual support — and to proclaim all Arab Muslims as having been predetermined by God and biblical prophecy to being always “wild men”, some of whom are guilty of murder even today, smacks of racism, racial determinism, and is the eisegesis of scripture in order to suit one’s own preconceived beliefs (=Muslims are evil)… meaning it is to force the scriptures to say what one wants them to say by adding to the scripture words — such as “all of Ishmael’s descendants will be wild men” — that are not found in this passage of scripture.

Eisegesis is not exegesis: http://www.gotquestions.org/exegesis-eisegesis.html

9/11 in Historical Perspective: Flawed Assumptions

In short, the al Qaeda terror network accused of the 9/11 attacks was supported and expanded by U.S. intelligence programs and covert operations, both during and after the Soviet Afghan War. Congress should rethink their decision to grant still greater powers and budget to the agencies responsible for fostering this enemy in the first place.

Sane voices clamor from the Muslim world that the best answer to terrorism is not war but justice. We should listen to them. By using its energies to reduce the injustices tormenting Islam, the United States will do more to diminish terrorism than by creating any number of new directorates in Washington.

See: 9/11 in Historical Perspective: Flawed Assumptions – http://www.globalresearch.ca/9-11-in-historical-perspective-flawed-assumptions/759

See: CAIR Report:  Legislating Fear: Islamophobia and its Impact in the United States” – http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/cair-report-legislating-fear-islamophobia-and-its-impact-in-the-united-stat/0020049

See: CAIR Report:  Legislating Fear: Islamophobia and its Impact in the United States” (.pdf) – http://www.cair.com/images/islamophobia/Legislating-Fear.pdf

See: Recasting the Tribe of Ishmael: The Role of Indianapolis’s Nineteenth-Century Poor in Twentieth-Century Eugenics – https://scholarworks.iupui.edu/bitstream/handle/1805/1932/tribe%20of%20ishmael.pdf

See: The Tribe of Ishmael: A Study in Social Degradation – https://scholarworks.iupui.edu/handle/1805/1048

“ISHMAEL: A PEACE MAKER: GENESIS 16:10 –12”

By enlarging the lexicons of standard Biblical (Judean) Hebrew through a study of Arabic cognates, it becomes a little easier to understand just what the angel said to Hagar and what it was that the narrator actually said about Ishmael. Far  from being negative, derogatory, or inflammatory, the words about Ishmael and the Ishmaelites in Genesis were laudatory and compatible with the divine promise to Abraham that, through his progeny, “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3).

Source: “ISHMAEL: A PEACE MAKER: GENESIS 16:10 –12” (.pdf) – http://tmcdaniel.palmerseminary.edu/CBBP_Chapter_3.pdf

ishmael peacemaker copy

About ajmacdonaldjr

writer, author, blogger
This entry was posted in Bible, Church, Crime, Ethics, Literary Theory, Politics, propaganda, Psychology, Religion, Society, Terrorism and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Are Arabs and Muslims “wild men” because the Bible says they are?

  1. I disagree with your article completely. Racism is a completely different thing than what you are inferring. Racism encompasses man’s skewed and fallible view of others. God’s views are never skewed, and his proclamations are the same as prophesy straight from the horses mouth. What he said about these people is TRUTH, not racism, nor is believing in any of God’s words ever wrong.

    • As I said, God never said the descendants of Ishmael would be wild men. To consider all Arabs wild men is both bad Bible reading and racism. Sad to say. God has nothing to do with this bad Bible reading and racism. It’s people who have invented the wrong interpretation. Probably a bad interpretation invented by someone with a hatred of Arabs… now passed along by those so-called Christian who support Jews against Arabs. Jesus has nothing to do with this conflict. And a Christian with have no part in it, seeking only peace between these two parties and the conversion of Jews and Arabs to Christ.

      • Anonymous says:

        Your biggest problem is that way you speak is very confrontational and attack oriented. You’re not going to make progress that way.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you believe Genesis-16:12 as transcribed in English, Greek or Aramaic+Hebrew? You do understand that translation of any work from one language to another can render differences in figures-of-speech, expressions, idioms concepts? If you neglect to consider the contemporary culture and its metaphors then the translations can be *skewed*. So yes you’re right, God’s Words, Message is not skewed. But God’s Message can easily be skewed by humans who inherently have predisposed biases. But humans can free themselves of these biases if they make an effort toward *critical thinking*. I believe the article above makes an attempt toward critical thinking in believing the truth in it’s original form and not in its regurgitated translation form.
      If you do not understand what I am trying to say, then please do an internet search on: “Bible mark of Cain”. You will find the same controversy. It is not fashionable any more to regard dark-skinned humans as predisposed to commit crime.
      We humans are amazing at believing in whatever makes us feel secure/superior. There was a time when humans who questioned the idea of the earth being at the centre of the universe as unworthy of intelligence or heretics.
      In the end, even if you are not an expert in theology or the Bible, you have enough intelligence to think critically, even if it requires you to think *against* your own preconceived ideas. All it takes is sincerity/honesty and courage.

  2. Simon, New Jersey. USA says:

    Ishmael and Isaac; represents two kinds of people in the world, the saved and the lost ones, and God didnot come to earth to create a religion for himself, but He came to save, that is why the Lord God Jesus allowed men that He created to crucified His own human body on the cross; all men, or people are separated from their creator, so Ishmael and Isaac are a picture of the human race from one heavenly Father God, just like Abraham one earthly father for these two sons, Ishmael and Isaac; the fallen angels and their master Satan are the ones that are in the business of creating religion so that men will miss heaven; so the best way for anyone who wants to know the creator of heaven and earth is to ask God the creator of heaven and earth to reveal himself to you, because he appeared to Abraham, Moses, Isaiah and to many people in the Bible, even till today He is still appears to people, even in the Arab world, I saw so many of them given their experiences, the Lord Jesus Christ always appears to them, saying he is the creator and Savior, because so many people and pastors divided God into three persons; but our God is one personality. James 2:19, Isaiah 9:6, 1st Timothy 3:16, Revelation 1:8, John 1:1-14, 14:6-14, etc. Also, remember these words are not names; God, Father, Holy Spirit, Son of God, Son of man, but titles, and all belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Deuteronomy 6:4, John 13:13, Matthew 28:19-20, and Acts 2:38, here water baptism must be done in His name, after a sinner has repented, he or she will be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. From; Simon, New Jersey, US. Thanks.

  3. Phyllis Scott says:

    Ismael children are the same as he. As the fsther so is the son.

  4. Dennis S. says:

    The author relies on one person’s translation, rather than the overwhelming majority who read that Ishmael was a wild ass. Since a lot of his descendants are behaving like wild asses, this conclusion is based on fact, not racism.

  5. Dr.T says:

    I respectfully disagree with your assumption that Ishmael becoming as a wild man refers exclusively to him. Just as Jacob refers to all Jews, so does Ishmael to all who follow any of the counterfeit gods invented by Satan, who understandably wishes for no one to believe he exists. The term wild includes the idea of ungodly, however assuming the form. So savage are wild Muslims that they would have been expelled by the Nazis for excessive cruelty.

    One must read the Bible in its entirety, and only with an open heart to God’s truth, before the position you so diligently defend becomes evidently myopic. I admire your diligence, and am sorry your ex-pastor failed to serve God sufficiently by “defending” you.

  6. Mark says:

    I have to disagree because people have not put galatians 5: 28-31 and I quote 28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was,are the children of promise. 29 But as then he that was born after the flesh ( Ishmael ) persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, (Isaac) even so it is now. 30 Nevertheless what saith the scriptures? Cat out the bondwoman (Hagar) and her son: (Ishmael) for the son of the bondwoman (Hagar) shall not be heir with the son (Isaac) of the free woman. (Sarai) 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, (Hagar) but if the free. (Sarai) verse 29 is clear the Ishmael descendants are wild and we persecuting Christians then as they are now! And this racist rhetoric is a cop out from the truth. And the truth is the whole religion of islam teaches to kill and to lie in the name of allah. The ones committing jihad are true believers and followers of islam. The ones that do not commit violence are not true followers. Because as God says we must belive in ALL of His Word or none of it! We can’t pick and chose what to belive out of the Bible. Otherwise we are not true followers of His Word. And neither are those muslims that preach peace and not war. Because that is not what mohamad has written in HIS teachings. Think about it. And God bless.

  7. Hwey Kim says:

    Genesis 16:11-12
    11 And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction. 12 He shall be a WILD DONKEY of a man,

    Job 11:5-13

    5 But oh, that GOD WOULD SPEAK AND OPEN HIS LIPS TO YOU, 6 and that he would TELL YOU THE SECRETS OF WISDOM! For he is manifold in understanding. Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves. 7 “Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? 8 It is higher than heaven–what can you do? Deeper than Sheol–what can you know? 9 Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea. 10 If he passes through and imprisons and summons the court, who can turn him back? 11 For he knows worthless men; when he sees iniquity, will he not consider it? 12 But a stupid man will get UNDERSTANDING WHEN A WILD DONKEY’S COLT IS BORN A MAN! 13 “IF YOU PREPARE YOUR HEART, YOU WILL STRETCH OUT YOUR HANDS TOWARD HIM.

  8. Anonymous says:

    In truth, it is prophetic. Ishmael are the Arabs, and they are in hostility with Jews (their relatives through Abraham). And all nations.
    We have all been cursed for disobedience and distrust. Ishmael was the product of that, and like Adam’s disobedience, we all pay a price (cursed is the ground) for distrusting the Lord. Genesis 16.

    The truth is that God said it. And truth may hurt all of us. However….

    Christ is the way for ALL PEOPLE. Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Arab, Gentile, Asian, African, Euro, Afro-asiatic, there is no end. Christ is the only way to break from the curse and be reborn again.

  9. h87111 says:

    Maybe you are “the bad Bible reader… ”
    So you find one willing apologist and accept the PC version?
    Why don’t you believe God, and your own eyes and ears?
    Watch the world in its downward spiral due to all men’s constant evil inclinations of the heart.

  10. Gem says:

    You think the verse refers only to him.

    Others think the verse refers to his progeny.

    Who is right? Well look at the world. There are many examples of long range prophecies like this in the bible and an ancestor being referred to in terms of all their descendants (beginning with Adam).

    Racism? Xenophobia? Or reality?

    I would call your mind to the command for Moab and Ammon, to remember what they did and not allow any to enter the congregation of Israel (FYI, Ruth converted to Judaism).

    If this is a long range prophecy then so also are Sarah’s actions and this is the way Judaism sees it: Sarah the “seer” was right to say to send him away, and it is on her merit that in the end the descendants of Ishmael will see the truth. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is be firm.

    Note in this testimony, how the Christian woman behaved to this Muslim woman and the fruit it yielded:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s