What does Genesis 16:12 mean?
ESV: He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”
NIV: He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.'
NASB: But he will be a wild donkey of a man; His hand will be against everyone, And everyone’s hand will be against him; And he will live in defiance of all his brothers.'
CSB: This man will be like a wild donkey. His hand will be against everyone, and everyone's hand will be against him; he will settle near all his relatives."
NLT: This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.'
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.
NKJV: He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, And every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”
Verse Commentary:
In the previous verse, the angel of the Lord--perhaps Christ Himself, given the phrasing used (Genesis 16:10; Genesis 16:13)—began a prophecy or "birth oracle" about the baby Hagar is carrying. It is a boy and she is to call him Ishmael, a name referring to this moment when God has heard and helped her.

The rest of the oracle is less favorable. Even though Ishmael will be the first son born to Abram, he is not the promised child which God has guaranteed. This was not the way God intended to fulfill His vows to Abram. And so, this firstborn boy of Abram will become a wild donkey of a man. He won't be a people person. His hand will be against everyone and everyone will be against him. He will live in hostility to his kinsmen.

Eventually, we will learn that Ishmael's descendants become the Arabic people. These cultures have been at odds with the Jewish people for millennia. The descendants of Ishmael soon take on a bedouin lifestyle, on the fringes of society, committed to their personal freedom above the need to be accepted by others.
Verse Context:
Genesis 16:1–16 demonstrates that God hears and sees and cares, but that He won't be rushed or manipulated into keeping His promises. Sarai and Abram attempt to receive God's promised child through their own scheme. In this case, by marrying Abram to an Egyptian servant girl. The resulting pregnancy, though, leads to harsh conflict and a surprising revelation from the Lord to Hagar. Her son Ishmael will not be the child of the promise, though he will become a great nation, and his people will live in conflict with everyone. Abram and Sarai will continue to wait for the arrival of their own son.
Chapter Summary:
Sarai, tired of waiting for a child, convinces Abram to go to plan B. She gives her Egyptian slave girl to Abram as a wife, with the understanding that any children will belong to Sarai. Once Hagar is pregnant, however, conflict sets in. Sarai deals harshly with Hagar, and she flees alone into the wilderness. The Lord finds her there and commands her to return and submit to Sarai. However, the Lord also reveals that Hagar's son will have an uncountable number of offspring and that they will live in conflict with everyone. Hagar praises God as the one who sees, returns to Abram and Sarai, and Ishmael is soon born.
Chapter Context:
After formally establishing His covenant promises with Abram in the previous chapter, the Lord still has not given Abram and Sarai a child. Sarai convinces Abram to take her slave girl as a wife in hopes of getting a child that way. Abram agrees. Pregnancy and conflict soon follow. Sarai treats Hagar so harshly that the girl runs off alone into the wilderness. The Lord finds her and commands her to return and submit. He also reveals, however, that Hagar's child Ishmael will become the father of a great people who will live in conflict with everyone.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
Accessed 4/23/2024 7:09:45 PM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV, NKJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.
www.BibleRef.com