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The Bible gives us the origins of nations that have affected their subsequent history, in some cases, for thousands of years. This is a short study of the biblical history of modern Arabic people. I write from a biblical perspective, though not necessarily from a Christian perspective. Christians are often as ignorant of the Bible as are non-Christians. For this reason, many of the things in this study will differ from mainstream Christian thought.
As the author, I am not subject to any particular Christian denomination or church. My loyalty is to Jesus Christ alone. I also believe that as far as is possible, we ought to be at peace with all men. Therefore, while I have opinions that differ from other teachers, I believe it is healthy to exchange ideas and to examine the premises that support our conclusions.
I have not found anything in Christian teachings that explain properly the promises that God made with Hagar, the mother of Ishmael. Almost all the focus has been on Isaac, who was Ishmael’s half-brother. Yet to truly understand the promise to either son, one must know the promise to the other son. Each provides context and contrast to the other.
As I will show in this short book, the Bible (and biblical law itself) shows that the land originally called Canaan was given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, their corruption and worship of false gods caused God to disinherit them and to exile them to Assyria, where they were known by other names, such as Gimirri and Saka. The name changes contributed toward their disappearance from history.
Isaac’s disinheritance meant that the land reverted to the second in line to inherit the land. This was Isaac’s brother, Ishmael, the father of the Arabs. The Zionists who currently occupy the land base their claim on their genealogy back to Judah, but, as we will see, Judah was not allowed to return to that land without first repenting of their hostility to God. They returned under the banner of Edom, which Judah had conquered and absorbed in 126 B.C.
Edom was the nation founded by Esau, Jacob’s brother. They were born in the next generation after Isaac and Ishmael, and hence, Edom stood third in line as the inheritor of the land. The Jews claim to be from Jacob, who had been given the name Israel. But this is not true, as I showed in my book, Origins of Zionism. Zionism is the fulfillment of prophecy regarding Esau, not Jacob.
The bottom line is that Ishmael (Arabs) hold the long-term title deed to the entire land of Palestine. In this short booklet, I will explain in greater detail the promises God gave to Ishmael.
The story of Ishmael properly begins with his father, Abram. In Genesis 12:1-3 we read how God called Abram (later called Abraham) to leave the land of his birth and to go to a place where God would lead him. Though he did not know at first where this would lead him, he obeyed God. The promise is seen in verses 2 and 3,
2 And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great. And so you shall be a blessing; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.
Although there remains a possibility that some will be cursed, in the end, “all the families of the earth will be blessed.” In other words, any such curse will be reversed by the end of the story. This is important to know, because it is the foundation for the restoration of all things. In effect, Abraham’s descendants were not the exclusive recipients of God’s blessings but were instead stewards for the benefit of others. They were not to hoard the blessings for themselves in a self-interested way, but they were to be God’s agents of blessing.
Abram was promised a son through whom these blessings were to flow to other nations. The New Testament tells us that Abraham’s children are those who share Abraham’s faith (belief in God’s promises) to fulfill Abraham’s calling (Galatians 3:7). There are no true children of Abraham apart from those who bless the world, for they must do the works of their father.
When Abram and Sarai, his wife, first moved to Canaan, they arrived during a time of famine. So they continued their journey to Egypt, where there was food. Sarai was beautiful, and when Pharaoh saw her, he took her into his harem, not knowing that she was married to Abram (Genesis 12:14, 15). God then “struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues” (Genesis 12:17), which caused Pharaoh to question Abram.
When Abram told him the truth, Pharaoh returned Sarai to Abraham. The ancient Book of Jasher tells us that Pharaoh gave Abram a gift of silver, and that he gave one of his daughters to Sarai as a servant. Jasher 15:30, 31 tells us,
30 … And Pharaoh took more cattle, men servants and maid servants, and silver and told, to give to Abram, and he returned unto him Sarai his wife. 31 And the king took a maiden whom he begat by his concubines, and he gave her to Sarai for a handmaid.
Hagar was an Egyptian princess. This is helpful to know, because the Bible does not tell us how Sarai obtained Hagar.
The story of Ishmael’s birth is recorded in Genesis 16. Abram and Sarai had no children, and both were getting old. Finally, Sarai suggested that Abram take Hagar as a wife and raise up a son through her. This was a common practice in those days. Years later, Jacob himself married Leah and Rachel, and each of them provided handmaids to Jacob to increase their family size.
Hagar quickly became pregnant, “and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight” (Genesis 16:4). The friction increased between the two women, and “Sarai treated her harshly” (Genesis 16:6). Hagar finally resolved to run away and to return to her father’s house in Egypt. We then read,
7 Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. 8 He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” 9 Then the angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.”
The angel addressed the root problem, which was Hagar’s pride and presumption after conceiving Abram’s first son. The solution was to submit to Sarai’s authority and let God work out the details. The angel then continued with the conversation to let her know the calling that Ishmael had upon his life.
We read the words of the angel to Hagar in Genesis 16:10-12,
10 Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.” 11 The angel of the Lord said to her further, “Behold, you are with child and you will bear a son; and you shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has given heed to your affliction. 12 He will be a wild donkey of a man [pareh awdawm]. His hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him; and he will live to the east of all his brothers.”
The name Ishmael means “God hears.” The root of his name comes from shem, “to hear/obey,” and el, “God.” So he is compared to a donkey, which has big ears and has good hearing. The angel acknowledged the fact that Hagar had been afflicted and mistreated. In fact, this appears to have formed a pattern of abuse that would follow them into the future.
The angel then prophesied that Ishmael’s descendants would “live to the east” of the land of Canaan. And so it is to this day, although they have since spread to other places as well.
Then we see Hagar’s response, which was prophetic as well. Genesis 16:13, 14 says,
13 Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees”; for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?” 14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.
Hagar’s revelation of God was that He was “The God of Vision.” The well’s name means “The Well of Living After Seeing (Him).” In those days it was commonly believed that anyone who saw God would not live to tell about it. (Many years later, the Israelites were afraid to approach God in the Mount for fear that they would die. See Exodus 20:19.)
The Bible makes it clear that the only way to receive life (immortality) is to approach God who is Life itself. Hence, when God talked to Moses face to face, Moses came off the Mount with his face transfigured (Exodus 33:11). Many years later, Jesus ascended Mount Sion (Hermon), where He too was transfigured in the presence of His heavenly Father (Matthew 17:2). The Apostle John was one of three who witnessed this transfiguration. He later wrote about Jesus in his Gospel of John 1:4, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
Essentially, Hagar’s revelation prophesied of the day when her descendants too would see God and live—that is, receive immortal life. The well in this case pointed to the “wells of salvation” from which the people would drink. This well was mentioned in Isaiah 12:2, 3,
2 Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation. 3 Therefore, you will joyously draw water from the springs [or wells] of salvation.
The Hebrew word translated “salvation” is yeshua, which is Jesus’ Hebrew name. The New Testament often makes mention of this. For example, when Joseph and Mary brought the infant Jesus to the temple for dedication, an old man named Simeon (whose name means Hearing) prophesied over Him, saying in Luke 2:30, “my eyes have seen Your salvation.”
Apparently, Simeon had heard revelation from God that the Messiah would be born at the feast of Trumpets, and so he knew that the Boy would be brought to the temple on the 40th day. He also must have had a revelation that the Messiah’s name would be Yeshua, “Salvation.” Hence, he recognized that Jesus was the Messiah.
Years later, when Jesus went to Jerusalem to keep the feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth), He prophesied on the last great day of the feast in John 7:37, 38,
37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said [Isaiah 12:3], ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.”
This was a reference to the prophecy in Isaiah 12:2, 3, where the prophet instructed the people to drink from the wells of yeshua. Jesus/Yeshua took this as a prophecy referring to Himself. All who seek the truth and the Holy Spirit were instructed to come to Him, so that they might become wells of living water that would never run dry.
Jesus also talked to a Samaritan woman at a well, which scandalized the Jews of His time. John 4:9 tells us, “For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” Jesus’ however, was different, for He did not discriminate against non-Jews. We read in John 4:12-14,
12 “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle? 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
This “well of yeshua” was foreshadowed at the well called Beer-lahai-roi, where Hagar received the revelation from the angel. It was the well of living after seeing. The revelation of God and His nature transforms us and springs up within us, bring us into immortal life. Hagar, then, like the Samaritan woman, was promised access to this well of life.
The day comes, then, when the Spirit of God will become a well of life to Hagar and her descendants. This is the promise of God, the hope set before the Arab people in view of the harsh treatment that they have received throughout the centuries.
The angel told Hagar that her son would be a pereh awdawm, “wild-donkey man.” This was not to be taken literally, of course. It was a reference to human nature itself, which is derived from Adam, the first sinner, who passed down mortality to those after Him. Mortality (death) is man’s great weakness which causes him to sin (Romans 5:12).
Yet the Bible provides a way to escape the sentence upon Adam. One must be begotten a second time, not physically, but spiritually by hearing the word of God. This begets a “new man” as we read in Colossians 3:10, existing side by side with the “old man” begotten by our earthly father. The new man reflects the nature of his Father-God, even as the old man reflects the nature of his earthly father.
The divine law depicts this in metaphorical terms. A donkey represents the old man/nature; a lamb represents the new man/nature. According to the law, only a perfect, unspotted lamb was acceptable to God in the laws of sacrifice and offerings. The law instructs men to give God the firstborn of their flocks and herds, but some animals were considered unclean. Unclean animals could not be given to God directly, so they had to substitute a lamb for them.
The same was true of the firstborn sons of men. Exodus 13:11-13 says,
11 Now when the Lord brings you to the land of the Canaanite, as He swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it to you, 12 you shall devote to the Lord the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the Lord. 13 But every first offspring of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck; and every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.
We see here that the firstborn of a donkey had to be redeemed with a lamb—and all firstborn sons of man had to be redeemed. Why? Because they were spiritual donkeys. In order to become “the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:3), they had to be redeemed with a lamb.
How? By the principle of substitution. The lamb was a substitute by the principle of unity through identification. Legally, the law no longer saw a donkey but saw only an acceptable lamb. By this law, donkeys became lambs, and the naturally-born sons of men changed their identity and nature into sons of God, making them acceptable to God.
This principle applied also to the Israelites who left Egypt under Moses. We know this because the law required their firstborn sons to be redeemed. They left Egypt at the time of Passover, because it was then that they were redeemed by the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:3).
All of the Old Testament sacrifices were prophetic patterns of something much greater that was yet to come. Every time a lamb was sacrificed to atone for man’s sin, the principle of substitution was set forth for our learning. Every lamb prophesied of the “Lamb of God” who was yet to come. So John the Baptist, when he saw Jesus, said in John 1:29, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” He did so by offering Himself up as the great Sacrifice for sin. In so doing, donkeys could be turned into lambs, as recognized by the law of God.
This is the provision that the angel prophesied to Hagar by calling Ishmael a wild-donkey man. The prophecy pointed to a law that was later to be revealed through Moses by which Hagar’s children—and all who are descended from Adam—may be saved. Recall that even the Israelites themselves had to redeem their firstborn sons. Why? Because they were all spiritual donkeys, having a nature that was unacceptable to God.