Take the 2-minute tour ×
Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

So God tells Abraham that he will make Ishmael into a great nation.

Some nations, like China, are great without God having made a bilbical promise to anyone. When Abraham was promised that Ishmael was going to be great, was God promising to "pull strings" in Ishmael's favor to make him great? If so, what is the nature of the string pulling? Is the idea that God nudged Mohammed to create Islam and effect this great nation status compatible with Judaism?

Bereishit 17:20 "And regarding Ishmael, I have heard you; behold I have blessed him, and I will make him fruitful, and I will multiply him exceedingly; he will beget twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation."

share|improve this question
    
The Arabs could have been a great nation without Islam. –  Ypnypn Jul 31 at 16:23
    
possibly, but the way they actually did become a great nation was through Islam. –  Clint Eastwood Jul 31 at 18:53
    
could be their mazalot got more power –  sam Aug 1 at 1:54

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted
+200

The Rambam, in his Igeret Taiman (Epsitle to Yemen) addresses the quote. I realize this doesn't quite answer the question completely, but he does reject Islam as part of the blessing.

(Translation is from http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Epistle_to_Yemen/VIII)

The phrase "a great nation" cited above does not connote a people in possession of prophecy or a Law, but merely one large in numbers just as in reference to idolaters Scripture says "nations greater and mightier than yourselves." (Deuteronomy 11:23). Similarly, the phrase "bimeod meod" simply signifies "exceedingly." Were there any allusion in the verse to Mohammed, then it would have read "and I shall bless him bimeod meod," and whoever likes to hang on to a spider's web might then discover a reference to Mohammed therein. As it is, since Scripture says "I shall increase him bimeod meod," it can only denote an extravagant increment in numbers.

share|improve this answer
    
bimeod meod on its own connotes large numbers, but twelve princes and "great nation" status appear to be separate aspects of the blessing. Rambam doesn't really address the argument but rather dismisses it because Moslems don't actually use it. Your answer, however, is the best (and only answer in several months. –  Clint Eastwood Aug 6 at 18:38
    
Thanks! The paragraph I quoted does mention "great nation" specifically, but you are correct that he focuses more on the "bimeod meod" component. Off topic, but I find it fascinating that people were placing real importance on the gematria "Muhamad == Bimeod Meod" that the Rambam had to specifically argue against that reading. –  Nic Aug 6 at 18:53

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.