Genesis 21:20 And God was with the boy, and he grew, and lived in the wilderness, and became an archer.
At least on a personal level, archery is almost exclusively an offensive art. You can’t effectively defend yourself with a bow the way you can with a shield or even a pike. So it fits with Ishmael’s character and God’s prophecy about him that he would be an accomplished archer.
Like other shady characters in the Bible, Ishmael was a predator by nature. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; God needs hunters too. They can put food on the table (or the spit, as the case may be) and can take down the enemy’s king from a distance in the heat of battle. But a man who is a predator by nature may not be suitable for certain roles, such as carrying on God’s promise to send a Messiah who would take away the sins of the world.
Of course, this does not mean that Isaac was chosen for that role because of his superior character. He was only an infant. He had no character yet. Isaac was chosen to inherit the blessing of Abraham because that’s what God had promised to do. Nothing more or less. There was nothing Isaac could have done to merit God’s grace.
We all have our roles to play in God’s plan. Some of us are hunters and some shepherds; some are doctors, janitors, soldiers, or millwrights. The important thing is to be who you were called to be and not to be jealous of other parts of the body of Messiah.
(Edited and relocated from “Soil and Stone” where it was originally published on 2/16/2013.)