Nicholas Midrashim: Ishmael

Posted by – November 22, 2006

Nicholas Midrashim: Ishmael

Ishmael means “G-d hears,” because Hashem heard the pleas of Hagar, his mother.

“And G-d was with the lad, and he grew, and he dwelt in the desert, and he became an archer.” (Gen 21:20)

Notice I’ve shown (or tried to show) Ishmael drawing the bow with his thumb, the method of the Medieval Islamic armies, not the European method of the three-fingered draw. I saw a historian on the History Channel saying it was due to this slightly more-powerful thumb draw that gave Muslim armies the slight edge in close battles that led to them defeating the Crusaders and taking back control of the Middle East.

Islam claims (and Jews agree) that Ishmael is the father of the Arab nation, and thus all Muslims.

I’m highlighting when he first left Abraham’s house, and became an archer, surviving in the wild. This stuff is so fascinating to me.

Here’s the passage in context:

Genesis 21

10. And Sarah said to Abraham,”Drive out this handmaid and her son, for the son of this handmaid shall not inherit with my son, with Isaac.”
11. But the matter greatly displeased Abraham, concerning his son.
12. And G-d said to Abraham, “Be not displeased concerning the lad and concerning your handmaid; whatever Sarah tells you, hearken to her voice, for in Isaac will be called your seed.
13. But also the son of the handmaid I will make into a nation, because he is your seed.”
14. And Abraham arose early in the morning, and he took bread and a leather pouch of water, and he gave [them] to Hagar, he placed [them] on her shoulder, and the child, and he sent her away; and she went and wandered in the desert of Beer sheba.
15. And the water was depleted from the leather pouch, and she cast the child under one of the bushes.
16. And she went and sat down from afar, at about the distance of two bowshots, for she said, “Let me not see the child’s death.” And she sat from afar, and she raised her voice and wept.
17. And G-d heard the lad’s voice, and an angel of G-d called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What is troubling you, Hagar? Fear not, for G-d has heard the lad’s voice in the place where he is.
18. Rise, pick up the lad and grasp your hand upon him, for I shall make him into a great nation.”
19. And G-d opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water, and she went and filled the pouch with water and gave the lad to drink.
20. And G-d was with the lad, and he grew, and he dwelt in the desert, and he became an archer.

Yaniv over at the Jew Is Beautiful blog has an excellent post on the subject of Ishmael, and the “Ishmaelites.”
The Ishmaelite Prophecies of Lech Lecha.

He focuses on the prophecy, “the angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Behold, you will conceive and bear a son, and you shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard your affliction. And he will be a wild chamor (donkey, stubborn) of a man; his hand will be upon all, and everyone’s hand upon him, and before all his brothers he will dwell.'” (Genesis 16:11-12)

Yaniv tilts anti-Islam somewhat, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more detailed, intelligent analysis of Ishmael and his unique imprint on Islam. It’s a must-read.

He’s right that like Ishmael, Ishmaelites are aggressive, holy, monotheists.

And I think they have plenty to be proud of.