Biblical texts

Breishit/Genesis 16, 17, 21:1-21, 25, 28:8-9, 36:1-3, 37:25-28


(א) פרא אדם אוֹהֵב מִדְבָּרוֹת לָצוּד חַיוֹת כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב וַיֵּשֶׁב בַּמִּדְבָּר וַיְהִי רוֹבֶה קַשָּׁת (בראשית כ"א):

(1) פרא אדם A WILD MAN — One who loves the wildernesses to hunt wild animals, as it is written (Genesis 21:20) “And he dwelt in the wilderness and became an archer.”

2) ידו בכל HIS HAND SHALL BE AGAINST EVERY ONE — a highwayman.

(3) ויד כל בו AND EVERYONE’S HAND AGAINST HIM — everyone will hate him and attack him.

(4) ועל פני כל אחיו ישכון AND HE SHALL DWELL IN THE PRESENCE OF ALL HIS BRETHREN — his progeny will be numerous, (so that his territory must extend over that which his brethren have; cf. Genesis 25:18).


“and concerning Ishmael, I have heard (your prayer).” G-d meant that He would bless Ishmael because Avraham had offered a prayer on his behalf but not on account of G-d’s covenant with Avraham which included only Yitzchak.

שנים עשר נשיאים יוליד, “he will sire twelve princes.” Ishmael had twelve sons and they have been listed by their names at the end of Parshat Chayei Sarah. We read there: בכור ישמעאל נבוית, וקדר, ואדבאל, ומבשם, ומשמע, ודומה, ומשא, חדר, ותימה, יטור, נפיש, וקדמה. This gives you a total of 12. As to the reason the Torah speaks of twelve princes and not of twelve nations, this is to inform us that their distinction lay in their being so extraordinarily fruitful and numerous, far more so than other nations. The word נשיא then reflects their numerical “superiority.” This is precisely what G-d predicted when He said: “Here I have blessed him and made him fruitful and greatly increased his numbers very much indeed. “

The expression נשיאים also implies that these people will disappear from the world after having attained great stature The word is related to Proverbs 25,14נשיאים ורוח וגשם אין, ”Clouds, wind and rain are as naught.” Solomon uses this term to describe people or phenomena who achieve a brief moment of glory which soon disintegrates into nothingness. Job 7,9 speaks of כלה ענן וילך, “a cloud fades away and disappears.” You will note that the word נשיאם when used to describe the leaders of the Ishmaelites lacks the customary letterי in the plural ending (25,16). This shows that the kingdom of the Ishmaelites, while beginning with great fanfare, will gradually fade away into weakness. This is the deeper meaning of what the angel said to Hagar when he described the child she carried in her womb as והוא יהיה פרא אדם. “He will be an undisciplined person.” This meant that he will be like a wild person who initially vanquishes everybody. However, the angel added the words יד כל בו, eventually, “everybody will be against him.”

ונתתיו לגוי גדול, “and I will make him into a great nation.” Rabbeinu Chananel wrote: we note that this prophecy was fulfilled for them only after 2333 years. [Rabbi Chavell writes that this is an accurate number seeing that Avraham was circumcised in the year 2047 after the creation. The Islamic religion was founded in the year 4374 after the creation. Allow for another ten years until it started spreading throughout the world and you will arrive at the number 2333 after Avraham was circumcised, the date of this prediction.]This delay was not due to their sins as they had been looking forward to fulfillment of the prophecy during all those years. Once the prophecy came true Islam conquered the civilized world like a whirlwind. We, the Jewish people, lost our position of pre-eminence in the world due to our sins. Seeing that at the time of writing we have yearned for the fulfillment of the prophecy that we will be redeemed for a mere 1330 years, we certainly have no reason to abandon hope that it will be fulfilled.


(ד) וְכִי תַּעֲלֶה עַל דַּעְתְּךָ, שֶׁאַבְרָהָם שֶׁכָּתוּב בּוֹ וְאַבְרָהָם כָּבֵד בַּמִּקְנֶה בַּכֶּסֶף וּבַזָּהָב (בראשית יג, ב), הָיָה מְשַׁלֵּחַ אִשְׁתּוֹ וּבְנוֹ מִבֵּיתוֹ רֵיקָם בְּלֹא כְּסוּת, בְּלֹא מָזוֹן, בְּלֹא כֶּסֶף, בְּלֹא בְּהֵמָה? אֶלָּא לְלַמֶּדְךָ, כֵּיוָן שֶׁיָּצָא לְתַרְבּוּת רָעָה, לֹא נִפְנָה אֵלָיו. אִם כֵּן, מַהוּ וַיֵּרַע הַדָּבָר מְאֹד בְּעֵינֵי אַבְרָהָם עַל אוֹדֹת בְּנוֹ (בראשית כא, יא) ? שֶׁיָּצָא לְתַרְבּוּת רָעָה. אַתָּה מוֹצֵא, כְּשֶׁגָּדַל יִשְׁמָעֵאל, יָשַׁב בְּפָרָשַׁת דְּרָכִים וְהָיָה מְלַסְטֵם אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וְהוּא יִהְיֶה פֶּרֶא אָדָם יָדוֹ בַכֹּל. (בראשית טז, יב).

(4) And how could it come into your mind that Abraham, of whom it is written: And Abraham was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold (Gen. 13:2), would have sent out his wife and son from his home, empty-handed, without clothes or food, silver or cattle? But rather, this comes to teach you that after Ishmael fell into depravity, [Abraham] no longer turned his mind toward him. But if this is so, what is meant by And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight on account of his son? [It was grievous to him] that [Ishmael] fell into depravity. You find that when Ishmael grew up, he would wait at the crossroads to murder and rob the human beings, as it is said: And he shall be a wild ass of a man; and his hand shall be against every man (Gen. 16:12).


(ב) את בשר ערלתו פרש״‎י ישמעאל שהיה ילד הוזקק לחתוך הערלה ולפרוע המילה לכך נאמר בו את ...

(2) את בשר ערלתו, the flesh of his foreskin; according to Rashi, Ishmael, although still a child, had to proceed and perform the circumcision on himself...


Bereishit Rabbah 53:11


R. Simeon b. Yohai said: R. Akiba used to interpret this to his [Ishmael’s] shame. Thus R. Akiba lectured: AND SARAH SAW THE SON OF HAGAR THE EGYPTIAN, WHOM SHE HAD BORNE UNTO ABRAHAM, MAKING SPORT. NOW MAKING SPORT refers to nought else but immorality, as in the verse, The Hebrew servant, whom thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to make sport of me. (Gen.)Thus this teaches that Sarah saw Ishmael ravish maidens, seduce married women and dishonour them.

R. Ishmael taught: This term SPORT refers to idolatry, as in the verse, And rose up to make sport. This teaches that Sarah saw Ishmael build altars, catch locusts, and sacrifice them. R. Eleazar said: The term sport refers to bloodshed, as in the verse, Let the young men, I pray thee, arise and sport before us. R. ‘Azariah said in R. Levi’s name: Ishmael said to Isaac’s direction, whilst pretending to be playing. Thus it is written, As a madman who casteth fire-brands, arrows, and death; so is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and said: Am not I in sport?


Sforno on Genesis 16:12:1

פרא אדם. The word פרא describes a wild donkey, an animal that has not been domesticated. The angel told Hagar that the son she would bear would be genetically very similar in his character to a wild donkey. This would be due to his having part of the genes of his Egyptian mother. The prophet Ezekiel already described the Egyptians as being physically not much different from wild donkeys (Ezekiel 23,20) These characteristics would manifest themselves in the fact that he would make his home in the desert, a region not imposing restrictions on him. The Torah testifies to this in Genesis 21,20. The reason that the word אדם is added by the angel in describing Ishmael, was that he would inherit any human traits from his father Avram. The fact that he did possess such traits is confirmed by the Midrash which claims that he became a penitent before his father Avraham's death. (Baba Batra 16).


Tur HaAroch, Genesis 16:12:3

ויד כל בו, “and everyone’s hand will be against him.” They would hate him and provoke strife with him. Nachmanides writes that in the expression פרא אדם the word פרא is in the construct mode to the word אדם, meaning that he will be more like a mule than a human being in character. He will constantly look for someone or something to attack and destroy, whereas people, as a result, would constantly be looking for him to neutralize him. The prediction of the angel was to characterize not so much Yishmael himself but the descendants, the Muslim nations and their method of spreading their religion with the fire and the sword. Ibn Ezra understands the word פרא as an alternate for the word חפשי, “free,” in the sense of “unable to submit to anyone’s authority.” The words ועל פני כל אחיו ישכון, Ibn Ezra understands to mean that Yishmael will dwell wherever his brothers, the sons of Keturah will dwell. Some commentators understand the term פרא אדם to mean that Yishamel will be a merchant forever in search of merchandise to buy or sell. Indeed we find that most of the Ishmaelites during the period of Yaakov already engaged in long distance trade, traveling in caravans with camels etc. (compare Genesis 37,25-27).


(א) מצחק לְשׁוֹן עֲ"זָ, כְּמוֹ שֶׁנֶאֱמַר וַיָקוּמוּ לְצַחֵק (שמות ל"ב) דָּ"אַ לְשׁוֹן גִּלּוּי עֲרָיוֹת, כְּמָה דְתֵימָא לְצַחֶק בִּי (בראשית ל"ב) דָּ"אַ לְשׁוֹן רְצִיחָה, כְּמוֹ יָקוּמוּ נָא הַנְּעָרִים וְיִשַׂחַקוּ לְפָנֵינוּ וְגוֹ' (שמואל ב ב'), שֶׁהָיָה מֵרִיב עִם יִצְחָק עַל הַיְּרוּשָׁה וְאוֹמֵר אֲנִי בְּכוֹר וְנוֹטֵל פִּי שְׁנַיִם, וְיוֹצְאִים בַשָׂדֶה וְנוֹטֵל קַשְׁתּוֹ וְיוֹרֶה בוֹ חִצִּים, כְּמָה דְתֵימָא כְּמִתְלַהְלֵהַּ הַיוֹרֶה זִקִּים וְגוֹ' וְאָמַר הֲלֹא מְשַׂחֵק אָנִי (משלי כ"ו):

(1) מצחק MAKING SPORT — A term for worshipping idols, as it is said (Exodus 32:6) “And they rose up to make merry (לצחק).” Another explanation: a term for immoral conduct, just as you say (Genesis 39:17) “To mock (לצחק) at me.” Another explanation: a term for murder, as (2 Samuel 2:14) “Let the young men, I pray thee, arise and make sport (וישחקו) before us”. He (Ishmael) was quarrelling with Isaac about the inheritance, saying, “I am the first-born and will, therefore, take a double portion”. They would go into the field and he (Ishmael) would take up his bow and shoot arrows at him (Isaac), just as you say (Proverbs 26:18-19) “As a madman who casteth firebrands, [arrows and death] and says: I am only מצחק mocking” (Genesis Rabbah 53:11).


Genesis 25:13-14

(13) These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the first-born of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, (14)Mishma, Dumah, Massa,

Targum Jonathan on Genesis 25:14

(14) --Hearing, Silence, Patience,

Iggerot HaRambam, Iggeret Teiman 13

And like our rabbis warned us to tolerate the evil of Yishmael and their lies and to be silent; and they supported their view with the verse that is written about [Yishmael's] sons "and Mishma and Duma and Masa", that we should listen, be silent and carry it. And we all already agreed, young and old, to tolerate their oppression...and with all this we cannot be saved from their great evil and instability at all times, and whenever we pursue their peace, they chase after us with destruction and war.


hemot Rabbah 1:1

(1) And these are the names of the Sons of Israel that came into Egypt with Yaakov, every man came with his household – There it is written (Mishlei 13, 24): “He who spares the rod hates his son; but he who loves him discipline shim in his youth.” Ordinarily in the world, if a person says to his friend: “So-and-so hit your son”, he would be ready to reduce his livelihood. And why is it taught “ He who spares the rod hates his son”?!

In order to teach you, that anyone who refrains from disciplining his son in the end causes him to fall into evil ways and will hate him. This is what we have found with Yishmael, who behaved wickedly on Avraham his father but did not rebuke him, with the result that he fell into evil ways and he hated him and he left from his house with nothing. What did Yishmael do when he was fifteen years old? He started to bring idols from the market and he would play with them and worship them as he had seen others do, immediately (Bereishit 21, 9) “And Sarah saw the son of the Egyptian Hagar that she had given birth for Avraham was fooling around etc…” And there is no fooling except for idol worship, like that it says (Shemot 32,6): And they rose up to fool around. Immediately (Bereishit 21,10): And she said to Avraham , Send out this maid-servant and her son, perhaps my son will learn from him. Immediately, (Bereishit 21,11) And this thing was very bad in the eyes of Avraham etc...on account of his son because he had become evil. (Bereshit 21,12) And G-d said to Avraham, do not let it be evil in your eyes etc...

From here you can learn, that Avraham was secondary to Sarah in prophecy, following on, (Bereishit 21,14): And Avraham got up in the morning and he took bread and a bottle of water, to teach you, that he hated Yishmael because of his evil ways, and sent him and his mother Hagar empty-handed and expelled them from his house because of this. Do you really think that Avraham, of whom it is written (Bereishit 13,2): And Avraham was very rich in cattle etc... that he would send his wife and his son from his house empty-handed, without clothes or means of a livelihood?! Rather, this is to teach you, since he turned evil, he stopped thinking about him. What was his end? After he had been expelled, he sat at the cross-roads and was a bandit, as it says (Bereishit 16,12): And he was a wild man.


Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 31:5

(5) Isaac was thirty-seven years old when he went to Mount Moriah, and Ishmael was fifty years old. Contention arose between Eliezer and Ishmael. Ishmael said to Eliezer: Now that Abraham will offer Isaac his son for a burnt offering, kindled upon the altar, and I am his first-born son, I will inherit (the possessions of) Abraham. Eliezer replied to him, saying: He has already driven thee out like a woman divorced from her husband, and he has sent thee away to the wilderness, but I am his servant, serving him by day and by night, and I shall be the heir of Abraham. The Holy Spirit answered them, saying to them: Neither this one nor that one shall inherit.


Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 31:6

(6) On the third day they reached Zophim, and when they reached Zophim they saw the glory of the Shekhinah resting upon the top of the mountain, as it is said, "On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off" (Gen. xxii. 4). What did he see? (He saw) a pillar of fire standing from the earth to the heavens. Abraham understood that the lad had been accepted for the perfect burnt offering. He said to Ishmael and Eliezer: Do ye see anything upon one of those mountains? || They said to him: No. He considered them (as dull) as an ass. He told them: Since ye do not see anything, "Abide ye here with the ass" (ibid. 5), with such who are similar to the ass.


Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 30:6-7

“And he [Ishmael] dwelt in the wilderness of Paran” (Gen 21:21). 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 for 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 pities his sons” (Psalm 103:13). 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 25:1). 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.


(ד) וְאֵלֶּה תֹּלְדֹת יִשְׁמָעֵאל בֶּן אַבְרָהָם (בראשית כה, יב), רַבִּי חָמָא בַּר עוּקְבָא וְרַבָּנָן הֲווֹ יָתְבִין וּמִתְקַשִּׁין מַה רָאָה הַכָּתוּב לְיַחֵס תּוֹלְדוֹתָיו שֶׁל רָשָׁע כָּאן, עָבַר רַבִּי לֵוִי, אָמְרֵי הָא אֲתָא מָרָה דִּשְׁמַעְתָּה נִשְׁאֲלוּנֵיהּ, אָמַר רַבִּי לֵוִי בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי חָמָא לְהוֹדִיעֲךָ בֶּן כַּמָּה שְׁנִין נִתְבָּרֵךְ זְקֵנֶךָ. (בראשית כה, יז): וְאֵלֶּה שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל, מָה רָאָה הַכָּתוּב לְיַחֵס שָׁנָיו שֶׁל רָשָׁע כָּאן, עַל יְדֵי שֶׁבָּא מִקָּדְקָדָהּ שֶׁל מִדְבָּר לִגְמֹל חֶסֶד לְאָבִיו. (בראשית כה, יח):

...And these are the generations of Ishmael son of Abraham (Breishit 25:12). R. Khama bar Uqva and the rabbis were sitting and questioning: how did the text see fit to relate the generations of this evildoer here? R. Levi passed by and they said: He is the master of traditions, let us ask him. R. Levi said in the name of R. Khama: To let you know at what age your ancestor [Jacob] was blessed (Breishit 25:17). And these are the years of Ishmael's life. How did the text see fit to relate the years of this evildoer here? Because he came from the extremes of the wilderness to enact kindness for his father (Breishit 25:18).


Bereishit Rabbah 68:11

(11) ...And he took stones of the place - R. Judah and R. Nehemiah , and the Rabbis. Rabbi Yehuda said he took 12 Stones. God decreed that he establish twelve tribes. Jacob said; Abraham did not establish them , Isaac did not establish them, if the twelve stones join together, I know that I will merit twelve tribes. Once they did he knew he was going to merit establishing the twelve tribes . Rabbi Nehemiah said he took 3 stones. Jacob took three stones and said : God placed his name on Abraham, and on Isaac. I, if the stones join together, I know that God is the unifying name for me. And since joined, he knew that God would unify his names with Jacob. The Rabbis said that the minimum of the plural of stones is 2. Abraham produced negative attributes/waste- Ishmael and the sons of Keturah . And Isaac produced Esau and his generals. I, if you join these 2 stones together, I know that I will not produce any negative attributes in my descendants.