The Arabs Family

Dr. John Hoole




For the past couple of weeks, we have been discussing the place Israel plays in End-time prophecy.  We have discussed how God looks at the land of Israel as the “center of the earth” (Ezekiel 5:5). And we are told that land will flourish only when its rightful inhabitants are living in the land (Isaiah 35:1). We have taken a look at the covenant God made with Abraham (Gen 12:2-3), and that many nations would come from him (Genesis 17:4).


Because the Bible focuses so much on God’s chosen people, Israel, we might think that the Bible has little to say about the Arabs.


Why is there so much unrest in the Middle East?  Why is there constant strife between the Israelis and Palestinians?


The answers to these questions didn't begin with the formation of the state of Israel in 1948.  The history of these conflicts goes back nearly 4,000 years and is recorded in a place many people would never think to look - the Bible!


For students of biblical prophecy these events aren't a complete surprise.  The Middle East is the focal point of all biblical prophecy. Jerusalem is where Jesus the Messiah delivered the gospel of the Kingdom of God and it is where He promises to return to set up that Kingdom.


The Bible also contains a great amount of information concerning the roots of the bad blood between Israeli and Arab.


The problems between Arabs and Israelis, which we are seeing nearly every day on the news reports, ll began when Sarai attempted to bring about God's promise through human means.


Since it seemed physically impossible for Sarai to bear children, she gave an Egyptian servant girl (her handmaid) to Abram as a surrogate mother named Hagar. The child of this union was named Ishmael.


And for the next 13 years Ishmael was probably told that he was the son of promise, the recipient of God's promises. Abraham believed for many years that Ishmael was the son of promise.


And when Abrham was 99 years old, he implores God to let Ishmael be the son of promise.


Genesis 17:18-19 NKJV


18    And Abraham said to God, "If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!"

19  Then God said, "Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.


Here is what God continued to say when Abraham tried to get God to accept Ishmael as the promised child.


Gen 17:20-21 NIV


20    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.

21    But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year."


The next year, when Ishmael was 14 years old, just as God had promised, Sarah miraculously had a child, and his name was Isaac. You can imagine the hurt felt by Ishmael.


The result is, both Arabs and Jews are descendants of Abraham.    But Ishmael was not to the be the promised child, nor heir to God’s covenant with Abraham.


However, Scriptures make it clear that the Arab people do not just have a passing role in the end-times events.  The Arabs have a prophetic future, as do also the Israelis.


For instance:    When referring to the Arab people, the Bible speaks not only of judgment but also of blessing. There are whole sections of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel that concern themselves with the Arab people.


Almost the entirety of Obadiah and Nahum are concerned with Arab nations. There are 740 references with regard to Egypt, and 180 about Moab, 115 about Ammon, Ammonites, 120 about Edom and Edomites, 38 about Ismael and Ishmaelite, 14 about Arab and Arabian, 71 about Midian


The biblical story doesn't end with Ishmael and Isaac. One generation later there was competition between the sons of Isaac, Jacob and Esau. Genesis records how the eldest, Esau, sold his birthright to his twin Jacob.


Esau's hatred for what he perceived as a theft of his birthright drove him to plot Jacob's murder.  Jacob fled for his life, living estranged from his family for many years.


Esau’s name was later chang3ed to Edom, and he became the father of the people the Bible calls the Edomites or Idumeans. The relationship between these two peoples has at times been peaceful and at other times bordered on genocide.


The first time the Bible refers to the Arabians is in 2 Chron. 17:11, where we are told the Arabs gave tribute, along with the Philistines and others, to the highly honored Jewish King Jehoshaphat, .who ruled in the 9th century B.C.


Later on, we find the Arabs joining the Philistines in an attack against Jehoshaphat's son Jehoram (2 Chron.21:16)


Later still, we see how God helps the youthful king Uzziah defeat the Arabians and the Philistines in the 8th century B.C..


Most of the Arabs are descendants of Abraham’s firstborn, Ishmael. Ishmael had twelve sons, just like Jacob.  But he is not the only father of the Arabs.  As the chart shows, others are descendants of Esau, Isaacs older son.


As we mentioned last week, after Sarah dies, Abraham marries again.  He promotes one of his concubines to be his wife. Sarah was 127 years old when she died  (Gen. 23:1). Abraham would live another 38 years.  The name of Abraham’s second wife is Keturah  (Gen. 25:1)


Genesis 25:1 NIV


1   Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah.


How many children dis Keturah birth.




Genesis 25:2 NIV


2   She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah.


These become part of the many Arab tribes.




     This is how many people view Arabs:


1.   They are Muslim by faith.

2.   They are wealthy because of oil.

3.   They are fanatical in their hatred of Israel and America.


I believe it can be shown that none of these are true for all Arabs.  Some define an Arab simply as “anyone who speaks Arabic.”  Others narrow the scope slightly, by saying an Arab is “anyone who speaks Arabic, who is also a descendant of Abraham.


It doesn’t all fit so neat and tidy as that.  Over the last 3,800 years, there has been considerable mixing of some of these families.


We have already noted the mixing of Ishmael and Esau. Esau married a daughter of Ishmael.


While the various Arab nations have descended from Ishmael, Esau and Keturah, there are a number of countries existing today that we usually lump into the Arab camp, but who, in a technical sense, may not be Arabic.


Take Syria, for instance.  Who did they descend from? From Abraham’s brother, Nahor, through his grandson Aram. In Hebrew, the land was called Aram. When translated into Greek, it was called Syria.


You will find the word Syria, or Syrian in the King James, New King James, and A.S.V in several references from the Old Testament. Most translations, like NIV, NAS, TLB, RSV, use the word Aram, or Aramean.


By the way, small portions of both the Old and New Testaments are written in Aramaic, a language akin to Hebrew.


We can see from Genesis that the Syrians, or Arameans, are not technically descended from Abraham, but from Abraham’s brother.


But today 90% of the people in Syria speak Arabic. And, today we usually view Syria as an Arabic country.


Before we leave Syria, here is another side note.  DO THE JEWS HAVE ANY SYRIAN-ARAMEAN BLOOD IN THEM?  Where did Isaac get his wife Rebekah? Abraham’s servant, Eliezer, went to Padan-Aram, where he found Rebekah. The name, PADAN-ARAM, means the "plains of Aram."


Genesis 25:20 NKJV


20    Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah as wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Syrian.


The NIV uses the word Aramean.


Rebekah was the grand-daughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor. And she was Syrian (Aramean)


That same verse should indicate to you another link between Syria and Israel.  Jacob worked for 14 years for Laban, the brother of Rebekah, .for his two wives, Leah and Rachel. So, Leah and Rachel were Syrian.


Now let’s get back to the subject of how to identify an Arab. A popular misconception is that Arab identity is determined by religion      -- that if you are a Muslim, then you are an Arab. That is not true.


About 90% of all Arabs are Muslims, while only 15% of all Muslims are Arabs


Although Islam was born in Arabia, more than half the world’s Muslims live in South and Southeast Asia.  The countries with the largest Muslim populations are Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. For instance, Indonesia is an island nation in Southeast Asia.  Indonesians are not Arab. They are Malays.


The nation of Iran is composed mostly of Muslims, but they also are not Arabs. They are Persians. Neither is Arabic their national language – “Farsi" is.


Additionally, Egypt is not Arab per-se. Both Egypt and Persia were in existence prior to the time of Abraham.


As we learned in an earlier lesson, Ishmael’s mother, Hagar, was Egyptians.  (Gen. 16:3;  25:12).  Ishmael also married an Egyptian woman selected by his mother (Gen. 21:21). Esau married an Egyptian daughter of Ishmael (Gen. 28:6-9)    --- so we see a definite alliance between Ishmael and Esau.  These facts tell us that most Arabs have some Egyptian blood in them.




This is an area I find fascinating.  One of their crowning contributions to modern man is the simple system of Arabic numbers and the Zero along with its cousin, the decimal system. As a mathematician, who has studied various number systems, this is one of the greatest of all contributions to the study of mathematics.


Ancient Arabs made significant advances in mathematics and astronomy. Fully 600 years before Columbus, a group of Arab scholars determined that the earth was round, and calculated the earth’s circumference at the equator. They missed by only 822 miles.


Many Arab words have become commonplace in the English language. The word “Alphabet” is an Arabic word.


So is:   Algebra












 God has fulfilled the promise made to Abraham to bless Ishmael. But let’s take a closer look at those prophecies concerning Ishmael. One of the reasons Ishmael is most recognized as the father of the Arab people, is because of the careful account given of Ishmael’s birth and the promises of God concerning him as recorded in the Bible.


Earlier in our lesson, we read the promise made by God to Abraham concerning Ishmael. But before God makes this promise with Abraham, one chapter earlier, we find God speaking with Hagar, who is pregnant with Ishmael.


Genesis 16:10-12 NIV


10    The angel added, "I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count."

11    The angel of the LORD also said to her: "You are now with child, and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery.

12    He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers."


When you couple these promises with what was said to Abraham, you cannot help but be impressed with their detailed fulfillment, even to the present day.


There are a number of Jews in Scripture that had an Arab connection. Let me tell you of only a few.


Arabian connection of Moses


The name “Moses” is actually Egyptian in origin, akin to the famous kings Ramses and Thutmose (i.e., Ra-moses and Tut-moses).  Moses really needs no introduction.  His wife, on the other hand, needs to be reintroduced – particularly because she was a non-Jewish Arab.


Moses helped take care of the sheep of a Midian priest. Eventually married into the family. He took a Midianite woman, Zipporah, to be his wife (verse 21). Where was Midian in Moses’ day? Arabia. Moses married an Arab.


Ruth’s Arabian Connections


The outbreak of famine in Judah precipitated a certain Jewish family’s decision to leave the ancestral Israelite homeland and reside in the East, in Moab (Ruth 1:1). Moab is located in modern Jordan.


Hospitable Moabites not only welcomed the impoverished Jewish family, but they allowed them to inter-marry with their own. The Bible informs that two daughters-in-law married young men in the Jewish family: Ruth and Orpah (verse 4).


Wealthy Boaz became her protector and subsequently married her. Ruth the Midianite became great0grand-mother to King David – and, ultimately, direct ancestor of Jesus (Ruth 4:13–18).


David’s Arabian connection


King David, as we shall see, was very Arab-friendly. One of King David’s sisters – Abigail (not the same Abigail as his wife) was given in marriage to Jether the Ishmaelite, one of the descendants of Ishmael. He was an Arab.


In 1 Chronicles 27:30, “Obil the Ishmaelite” was placed in charge of the camel herds, while “Jaziz the Hagrite” was placed in charge of the flocks (1 Chronicles 27:31).


Jesus’ Arabian Connection


Jesus is referred to as the Son of David in the New Testament (cf., Matthew 1:1).  Matthew notes that Jesus descended from Ruth, in Matthew 1:5.


Paul’s Arabian Connection


In his Acts of the Apostle, Luke tells us how a man named Saul, later to be Paul, was enroute to Damascus, Syria, when he had a very radical and lifechanging encounter with the Lord (Acts 9:2–6). Luke says Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus. After word of a consequential plot to kill Paul was made known, he was taken out of the Syrian city by night (Acts 9:23–25) and made his way south to the Nabateans.


Paul took refuge with his Nabataean cousins. He recalled his plight and flight from Damascus in 2 Corinthians 11:32–33,  much as he reflected upon it when waxing autobiographical in his Galatians correspondence.


It was in the latter document that he said “When it pleased God… to reveal His Son to me… I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus” (Galatians 1:15–17).


God’s promises are:


1.   He would bless him and make him fruitful.

     2.   He would bring forth 12 princes or nations.

     3.   He would make of him a great nation.

     4.   The Arab people would be independent.


We will discuss this further in our next lesson