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/
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
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, 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
“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