(32) What is the meaning of the statement, “The angel said to her, Behold, thou hast conceived, and thou shalt bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has heard the voice of thy affliction?” (#Ge 16:11). The literal sense of the words admits of no question except this allegorical explanation. Erudition, which is acquired and trained by the dispensation of virtue as a mistress, is found not to be barren, but it has conceived the seed of wisdom; and when it has conceived it brings forth; but it brings forth a work which is not perfect but imperfect, like an infant which has need of care, and ailment, and nourishment; for in truth, it is quite plain that the offspring of a perfect soul is perfect, that is to say, its words and works; but that of the soul of the second class, which is still lying in servitude and subordination, is more imperfect. On which account it has a certain name given to it, Ishmael, which is interpreted “the hearing of God.” But hearing is honoured with the second dignity among the outward senses, being next to sight; for nature has arranged a succession of ranks in the contests of the senses, giving the first place to the eyes, the second to the ears, the third to the nostrils, and the fourth to that sense by which we taste.
(33) What is the meaning of the statement, “He shall be a wild man; his hand shall be upon every one, and every one’s hand shall be upon him, and he shall dwell over against all his brethren?” (#Ge 16:12). If we look to the letter of the statement, up to this time Ishmael has not any brothers, for he was the first child of his parents. But the sacred writer is here figuring a certain nature, too secret to be thoroughly investigated; for he has set forth the figure of his future character. And such a figure evidently represents the sophist whose mother is erudition or wisdom. But the sophist himself is a man of wild opinions; since the wise man as being civilized is fitted for living in cities, and for urbanity, or for statesmanlike and political companionship; but he who is wild and a man of wild opinions is immediately also quarrelsome. And it is on this account that the sacred writer makes an addition, saying, “His hand shall be upon every one, and every one’s hand shall be upon him;” for the abundance of science and the use of erudition is able to contradict all men. As those men of the present day who are called academicians and inquirers, consistently setting no bounds to the determinations of their will and resolution, and among the different opinions which they investigate preferring neither this nor that one, admit those men to be philosophers who attack the opinions of every sect; and those whom it has been usual to call opposers of will, as if they called them theleµmachoi or theleµmamachoi, because they in the first place raise contentions and declare themselves the champions of their national sect, not to be convinced or put down by those who oppose them. But they are all kinsmen, and as it were brothers of the same womb, being the offspring of one mother, namely, of philosophy. And it is on this account that he says, “And he shall dwell over against all his brethren;” for in good truth the academician and the inquirer are diametrically opposed to sects, finding fault in each of them with their certain limitation of the resolution.