God lets Abraham know that He has not forgotten Ishmael: "And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation." (Genesis 17:20-21 NIV)
This passage reminds me of the account in Genesis 16, where the angel of the Lord appears to Ishmael's mother, Hagar, while she is still pregnant with Ishmael. Hagar had run away from her mistress, Sarai. The angel of the Lord tells Hagar to return to her mistress, and promises that "I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count." (Genesis 16:10 NIV)The angel also says,
- "You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery." (Genesis 16.11 NIV) (Ishmael's name means 'God Hears'.)
- "He will be a wild donkey of a man;..." (Genesis 16:12 NIV) This reference meant that Ishmael would roam the desert like the wild donkey.
- "...his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand will be against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers." (Genesis 16:12 NIV) That one is fairly obvious. Ishmael will not be the easiest 'neighbor' to have. In fact, it sounds like he won't get along with anyone (including his brothers), and that everyone will not be able to get along with him very well, either.