The National Character of the Arabs Foretold
Genesis 16:12
And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him…

I. THESE WORDS CONTAIN NOT A MERE CONTINGENT PROMISE, BUT A SPECIFIC PREDICTION OF FUTURE EVENTS. A bare announcement of what would be the physical, moral, and social condition of the person or persons to whom the passage refers.

II. THESE WORDS ARE INTENDED TO APPLY, NOT MERELY TO THE PERSONAL HISTORY AND CHARACTER OF ISHMAEL, BUT TO THE HISTORY AND CHARACTER OF HIS OFFSPRING. Some of the terms employed and some of the things affirmed are not only unintelligible, but absurd, if they are to be understood of Ishmael rather than of his offspring; for in what sense can it be affirmed, that "his hand was against every man, and every man's hand against him"? Individually, that strife at all events would very soon be brought to an end. How, either, could it be affirmed that he should "dwell in the presence of all his brethren," if a single dwelling, and that a tent in the wilderness, were the only thing intended to be set forth?


IV. THE ARABIANS HAVE EXEMPLIFIED IN THEIR WHOLE HISTORY AND CHARACTER ALL THE PECULIARITIES MENTIONED IN THIS PASSAGE. The term here employed is singularly strong in relation to the first part of the subject. That subject is divided into three particulars: the first, declarative of their freedom; the second, of their hostile dispositions; the third, of their numbers and their power.

1. Here, I say, you have a declaration concerning their freedom: "He will be a wild man." The language is peculiarly strong; and literally, the affirmation is, that Ishmael should be the same as the animal described in the thirty-ninth chapter of the Book of Job. There the word is literally rendered "the wild ass": and we read, "Who hath sent out the wild ass free? or who has loosed the hands of the wild ass? whose house I have made the wilderness, and the barren land his dwellings; 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." No terms could have been employed, more fitly or more vividly describing the roaming liberty, or, if you will, licentiousness of the entire Arab nation, whether you regard their internal condition or their external relation.

2. Secondly, we are assured not only of their freedom, but also of the singular hostility of their disposition: "His hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him." During the lapse of three thousand years, they have by turns assaulted all their neighbours, and been assaulted by them. At this present moment they seek not the alliance of the great or the small, the rich or the poor; they care not who wins or who loses in the strife of the world, if they can remain — the hated of the whole family of mankind besides. What is sacrificed or what is gained is to them matter of perfect indifference if still they may frown upon a world they deem their foe. This has been the case, while all other nations have passed through the phases of slavery and of freedom, of poverty and of wealth, of luxury and of hardihood, of disaster and of danger. Still the Arab is the same.

3. Thirdly, these words exhibit to us their numbers and their power. "I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren." Not an easy thing this, to affirm concerning any individual, in the early period of time to which reference is made. Few, indeed, could ever have attained to such distinction, because there are but few nations who ever arrive to any great degree of honour; much less to such a state of renown, as to secure observation in the pages of inspired truth, or in the general history of the world. Yet if you have been called upon, at all events, to point out those individuals, perhaps the very last you would have fixed upon would have been the son of that poor outcast slave, without a father, without a friend, without a prospect excepting the wilderness for his home. Yet these wanderers in the desert and amongst the rocks were the objects and the sources of surprise and of terror to their early neighbours. It was they who first gave to commerce its gold, its spices, its gems. It was they who furnished to the navies of Tyre that for which they were renowned. It was they who gave to monarchs that by which they decorated their halls and their palaces. It was they who gave to arms honour and renown, while with one hand they seized on the fertile plains of Egypt and with the other laid hold on the mountains of Assyria. Thus during successive ages did they continue dwelling in the presence of all their brethren; whether the Babylonian or the Macedonian, whether the Persian or the Roman swayed the destinies of the world, the Arab occupied the same position, and exerted to a great extent the same power. In later days, however, they came forth under another form, and their course was followed by far deadlier consequences. They lifted up in one hand the Koran, which they regarded as at once the product and the instrument of their great prophet, who said he came from God; with the other they brandished the sword, while nations trembled and fell. They passed off to the east — rushed through the turbid and impetuous waters of the Euphrates and the Tigris — and laid prostrate the millions of India, even to the walls of China. They passed to the north, swept the sacred shrines and hollow mummeries of Palestine; laid prostrate the cities and temples and towers of Greece — rushed through the Bosphorus — reared the tokens of their power, and at length became consolidated into a mighty empire, in the eastern part of Europe. They passed to the west — overflowed the plains of Egypt with more resistlessness than the waters of the Nile — dashed along the coast of Barbary — rolled away to Central and Western Africa — overleaped the pillars of Hercules and the barriers of Spain — planted the crescent on the walls of Grenada — illumined darkened Europe with a ray of science — and then returned, leaving the marks of their science and their power in arithmetical characters, used in every one of our schools. And so their history, so unique and so marvellous, has been interwoven with the history of all people, to gather from them all some increasing attestation of the truth of this book, the pillar on which our hopes rest; and resting where we can defy the dashing of every wave, assured that we are in the truth of Him, "in whose hand our breath is, and whose are all our ways."

(J. Aldis.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: He will be like a wild donkey among men. His hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him. He will live opposite all of his brothers."

God Pleading with Wanderers
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