In the translations on biblehub, many have Ishmael as a "wild-ass man" or "donkey of a man" or a "wild man". Even the old JPS has "wild-ass man".

How can I know which is correct as it seems important at present? And I don't really know if I can rely on a Septuagint as a person has said it was only the first 5 books of the Torah and altered later for the rest?

  • Be glad it doesn't say "Texan" – user33515 Mar 28 '20 at 23:42
  • " ... a person has said it was only the first 5 books of the Torah and altered later for the rest." This person is rather ill-informed. See How was the Bible canon formalized – user33515 Mar 28 '20 at 23:44

The operative word here in Gen 16:12 is פֶרֶא which means "wild donkey" or "wild ass". Brown-Driver-Briggs lexicon offers the following definition:

noun masculineJob 39:5 (masculine and feminine Jeremiah 2:24, but feminine probably erroneous, compare KöSynt. 157 AlbrZAW xvi (1896), 68) wild ass (probably from swiftness); — ׳פ absolute Hosea 8:9 + (so Jeremiah 2:24 Gi; van d. H. Baer מֶּרֶךְ), construct Genesis 16:12; plural מְּרָאִים Jeremiah 14:6 +; — wild ass Jeremiah 14:6; Job 6:5; Job 39:5; Isaiah 32:14; Psalm 104:11; ׳עַיִר פ Job 11:12 wild ass's colt; אָדָם ׳פ Genesis 16:12 (J) a wild ass of a man (Ishmael as a free nomad); figurative of wilfulness Hosea 8:9 (see I. בָּדַד); of lust Jeremiah 2:24 (i.e. Israel's love of idolatry); of poor desert-dwellers Job 24:5.

This word occurs 10 times in the OT and always means "wild donkey" or equivalent: Gen 16:12, Job 6:5, 11:12, 24:5, 39:5, Ps 104:11, Isa 32:14, Jer 2:24, 14:6, Hos 8:9.

For completeness, the LXX translates this word as ἄγροικος (agroikos) meaning "wild" or "untamed".

  • Is there a particular reason that the KJV only changed this word for this one time? Any language reason in Hebrew at all, or KJV references of ntes of translation? – dave44 Mar 30 '20 at 20:30
  • All I can suggest is that the KJV (and its descendants) elected here to provide an interpretive translation rather than a straight translation. There is no marginal note in the 1611 KJV edition about this. – Dottard Mar 30 '20 at 23:52

Very interesting observation!

In KJV we read

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.

The English for And he will be a wild comes from



which can be read in more detail in H6501.

The KJV translates H6501 (which appears 10x) in the following manner: wild ass (9x), wild (1x, in Genesis 16:12).

NLT mentions

This son of yours will be a wild man,

According to Strong's Definition, KJV and NLT's take is backed up

פֶּרֶא pereʼ, peh'-reh; or פֶּרֶה pereh; (Jeremiah 2:24), from H6500 in the secondary sense of running wild; the onager:—wild (ass).

If I use my portuguese bible BPT

12 Será como um animal selvagem, sempre em luta com os outros e os outros em luta com ele. Mas conseguirá viver na presença de todos os seus irmãos e vizinhos.»

It mentions "animal selvagem" (wild animal). Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon also points to wild ass being the only viable take.

Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee pere'

So, if any lack wisdom, ask God (James 1:5). That's what ended up doing and, in this case, I would go with wild man.

  • 1
    darn, thought I had something important in a study confirmed in a way, but it has to be "ass" for it to be so. Nevermind, it seems no one has a secure answer as the above answer from Dottard offers the alternative view. – dave44 Mar 30 '20 at 19:12
  • doesn't donkey = ass? – Walter S Mar 31 '20 at 20:09

And the Angel of Jehovah said to her, You have now conceived, and will bear a son, and you shall call his name Ishmael, because Jehovah has heard of your affliction. And he will be a wild ass of a man; his hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand, against him; and he will settle down opposite all his brothers. And she called the name of Jehovah who spoke to her, You are a God who reveals Himself, for she said, Do I even remain here after He has revealed Himself to me?

  • Thank you for your reply, but it does not answer the question as I already know there are different versions of the same text verses as mentioned. – dave44 Mar 27 '20 at 21:43
  • cool. don't they all mean the same thing, give the same impression? It seems then it's just a matter of the most common, natural, or elegant English. I was curious what you mean that "it's important at present"? Do you mean personally, to you? Thanks – Walter S Mar 27 '20 at 21:52
  • It's important biblically in a study. – dave44 Mar 30 '20 at 19:03

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