Will the sons of Ishmael and of Isaac ever make peace?
| For thousands of years, the Middle East has always been a violent place. Israel’s modern history is full of violent conflict and threats of extinction by its Muslim Arab neighbors, which all unceasingly continue. Lebanon, Syria, Iran (not Arab but still Muslim) and others all desire, and strive for, the total annihilation of Israel.
The question, therefore, is: will the Arabs and Jews finally make peace? The answer is a resounding “yes.” I will prove my point by using Scripture.
I find the whole situation rather interesting. In fact, it never would have begun if one man (and his wife) had not helped God and had simply let God perform His miracles and promises by Himself.
I am speaking, of course, of Abram and Sarai mentioned in the Tanakh (the Old Testament), the Jewish Scriptures, also called the Hebrew Bible. Abram was living in modern-day Iraq in the city of Ur when God called him to leave everything behind and go with his wife Sarai and relocate to an unknown land that God would show him. What a step of faith! God is telling him, “Leave everything you know and love behind, and follow Me. You don’t where you are going, but follow Me.” Of course, along the way, Abram made many mistakes, yet God chose this man specifically to be part of a greater purpose and plan, re-establishing a relationship with people, and ultimately bringing about the birth of Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah and Savior of the world.
Let us examine the history.
Some time later the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid. I am your protector, and your reward will be great.” Abram replied, “Lord God, what good will your gifts be to me if I remain childless, and Eliezer from Damascus inherits my possessions? You have not given me any children, so someone born in my house will be my heir.” The word of the Lord came to him: “That man will not be your heir. Your heir will be a child from your own body.” Then He brought him outside and said, “Look up at the sky, and count the stars. Your descendants will be that many!” He believed in the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
The only family Abram had was his wife Sarai and his servant Eliezer, so he wondered how he would have descendants. However, God still promised Abram an heir and many more to come.
I am certain that Abram must have told Sarai what the Lord had promised. Let me clarify one thing - Abram and Sarai are getting quite elderly by this point. Genesis 16:16 says, “Abram was eighty-six years old ...” Sarai was ten years younger than Abram, still well beyond the age of bearing children. So, Sarai decided to help God fulfill His promise.
Genesis 16 (1-16)
Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not yet borne him a child. But she had an Egyptian slave-girl named Hagar; so Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children; so go in and sleep with my slave-girl. Maybe I will be able to have children through her.” Abram listened to what she said.
It was after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan that Sarai Abram’s wife
took Hagar the Egyptian, her slave-girl, and gave her to Abram her husband to be his wife. Abram had relations with Hagar, and she conceived. But when she became aware that she was pregnant, she looked on her mistress and contempt. Sarai said to Abram, “This outrage is your fault! It is true, I gave my slave-girl to sleep with you; but when she saw that she was pregnant, she began holding me in contempt. May the Lord decide who is right - I or you!” Abram answered her, “She is your slave-girl. Deal with her as you see fit.” Then Sarai treated her so severely that Hagar ran away.
The angel of the Lord found Hagar by a spring in the desert, and said, “Hagar! Sarai’s slave girl! From where do you come, and to where are you going?” She answered, “I am running away from my mistress Sarai.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority. I will greatly increase your descendants; there will be so many that it will be impossible to count them. Look, you are pregnant, and you will give birth to a son. You are to call him Ishmael (“God pays attention”) because the Lord has paid attention to your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man, with his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, living his life at odds with his kinsmen.”
So she named the Lord who had spoken with her El Ro’i (“God of seeing”) because she said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” This is why the well has been called “Well of the One who lives and sees” (“Be’er Lachai Ro’i”); it lies between Kadesh and Bered.
Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called him Ishmael. Abram was 86 years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.
It is obvious that Sarai had zero faith, even though she knew God was going to perform a miracle for she. She could not see it happening because she looked through her natural eyes (“I am too old”). So she took matters into her own hands.
Both Arab Muslims and Jews consider Ishmael to be the father of the Arab race. If Sarai had not helped God, the Middle East would not be a violent place, and most of the events that have happened throughout history in the Middle East also would never have happened.
The promises mentioned above have been fulfilled:
1. I will greatly increase your descendants.
There are over a billion Muslims in the world today, making up fifty-two Muslim states, twenty-two of those being Arab.
2. You are to call him Ishmael (“God pays attention”) because the Lord has paid attention to your misery.
God sees and cares for his entire creation. This is one of the reasons how God will bring peace between Arabs and Jews. I will discuss more of the blessings given to Ishmael later.
3. He will be a wild donkey of a man, with his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, living his life at odds with his kinsmen.
Islam was spread throughout the world by force, and anyone who resisted the waves of invading Arab armies were slaughtered. Even today, There are what are called “Radical Muslims,” whose sole purpose is to stir strife and terror and conflict in the world, and we currently are fighting a global war on terror perpetuated by Islam as a result.
All this is a powerful testimony to the power of God - what He says will happen actually happens! Everything He said about Ishmael has happened.
The story continues.
Abram fell on his face, and God continued speaking to him: “This is my covenant with you: you will be the father of many nations. Your name will no longer be Abram (“Exalted Father”) but Abraham (“Father of many”) because I have made you the father of many nations. I will cause you to be very fruitful. I will make nations of you, kings will descend from you.”
This also has happened, through not only five thousand years of Jewish history and almost twelve hundred years of Islamic history, but also two thousand years of Messianic/Christian history since Yeshua (Jesus) came. Anyone who accepted Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah and Savior entered into the covenant. Rabbi Shaul (also known as the Apostle Paul) said,
If you belong to the Messiah, you are part of the seed of Abraham and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:2).
To what promise is he referring? The promise made to Abraham, the promise about being the father of many nations. We being born again by the blood of Yeshua are members of this very same covenant, with Abraham as our father also.
God continued speaking to Abraham.
... This is to be the sign of the covenant between me and you. Generation after generation, every male born among you who is eight days old is to be circumcised...
Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, and Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised, both circumcised on the same day, as were all the men in the household, both slaves born in his house and those bought with money from a foreigner.
So, immediately, Abraham fulfilled his part of the covenant. Circumcision at the age of eight days has been Jewish tradition ever since. The question raised is - what about Muslim tradition? The answer is clear - Ishmael was thirteen years old. Everything goes back to Ishmael - he was thirteen, therefore Muslim boys are circumcised at thirteen years of age.
Let me go back a bit to those inbetween verses. More promises are made for Ishmael, and this also makes very clear the difference between Ishmael and Isaac, and subsequently, their descendants.
God said to Abram, “You are not to call her Sarai (“mockery”); her name is to be Sarah (“princess”). I will bless her; I will give you a son by her. I will bless her: she will be a mother of nations; kings will come from her.” At this Abram fell on his face and laughed. Abram thought to himself, “Will a child be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah give birth at ninety?” Abram said to God, “If only Ishmael could live in your presence!” God answered, “No, but Sarah will give you a son, and you are to call him Isaac (“laughter”). I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you. I have blessed him. I will make him fruitful and give him many descendants. He will father twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this time next year.” With that God finished speaking to Abraham and went up from him.
Sarai also underwent a name-change as part of the covenant that God was making, from mocking God’s promises to being the mother of the Jewish world and later the Messianic/Christian world.
I am sure that Abraham must have been wondering about what to do with Ishmael. “But, Lord, I already have a son!” Yes, he already had a son, but that son was not to be the promise. Very likely Abraham instantly must have been filled with regret about getting ahead of God.
Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah, as mentioned in Genesis 21. He was circumcised on the eighth day of his life, just as God had prescribed. Isaac was weaned from his mother, and on that day Abraham decided to hold a banquet to celebrate.
But Sarah saw the son of Hagar, whom Hagar had borne to Abraham, making fun of Isaac; so Sarah said to Abraham, “Throw out this slave-girl and her son! I will not have her son as your heir along with my son Isaac!”
Abraham became very distressed over this matter. But God said to Abraham, “Don’t be distressed because of the boy and your slave-girl. Listen to everything Sarah says to you, because it is your descendants through Isaac who will be counted. But I will make a nation from the son of the slave-girl, since he is descended from you.”
Just how bad this sibling rivalry was we will never know, but it must have been bad for Sarah to have Abraham to evict Ishmael and Hagar. Talk about a dysfunctional family! However, God’s greatest works and miracles came from dysfunctional and absolutely humble people. King David’s great-grandmother was Ruth, a Gentile from Moab (Moab, at that time, was an archenemy of Israel). The ultimate was Yeshua Himself, born to a family in complete poverty learning a trade that was near the bottom of society.
We are now beginning to see the differences between Isaac and Ishmael - the son of the promise and the son who is not the promise. One interesting point is Muslims consider Abraham their father also because of Ishmael. They even go as far as to believe that Abraham was the first Muslim. That is completely false because Muhammad was the first Muslim, he created Islam in 700 A.D. Abraham actually was the first Jew. But that is another story.
The story of Ishmael does not end happily, but it ends with a final blessing.
Abraham awoke early in the morning, took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child; then he sent her away. After leaving, she wandered in the desert around Be’er-Sheva. When the water in the water-skin was gone, she left the child under a bush, and went and sat, looking the other way, about a bow-shot’s distance from him, because she said, “I cannot bear to watch my child die.” So she sat there looking the other way, crying out and weeping. God heard the boy’s voice, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is wrong, Hagar? Do not be afraid, because God has heard the voice of the boy in his present situation. Get up, lift up the boy, and hold him tightly in your hand, because I am going to make him a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. So she went, filled the skin with water, and gave the boy water to drink.
God was with the boy, and he grew. He lived in the desert and became an archer. He lived in the Paran Desert, and his mother chose a wife for him from the land of Egypt.
No doubt Hagar was aware of the rivalry between Ishmael and Isaac. She still must have been surprised that she was being evicted into the desert, possibly to die without hope.
God’s love and provision are so amazing and miraculous; whenever we think all is lost, He appears (at the last possible second) and rescues us from the dire circumstance. Even though the Arabs and the Jews became enemies, God was always with Ishmael and his promised descendants, and He always will be.
There is hope at the end of all this. Even though people messed up, He foresaw that and already had a solution - His Son Yeshua as Saviour and Redeemer of the world.
Even though many people accepted Him, the Jewish people as a whole rejected Yeshua as Messiah, so He was proclaimed to the rest of the world. Yeshua Himself told His own people, “You will not see me again until you say: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:39). So, Rabbi Shaul (the Apostle Paul) even said, “...A stoniness has come upon Israel until the Gentile world enters in its fullness” (Romans 11:25). The Gentile world includes the Muslim and the Arab Muslim world; this means that even the sons of Ishmael will receive Yeshua. Further proof is in Isaiah 17:3 -
Efraim will have no defenses, Damascus will cease to rule, and Syria’s survivors will share the fate of Israel’s finest sons.
This verse is referring to something else that will happen later in the future, but the end of this verse says that a remnant of Muslim Syria will receive Yeshua. When the Arab Middle East is destroyed in a major war that will happen, not only will there be a remnant in Syria, but many other Arab countries will have a select group that will turn to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the Messiah Yeshua. God will destroy Israel’s enemies very violently, and the neighboring Arab countries will witness it and will know that it was performed by the God of Israel.
I also find it interesting, since Arabs track themselves back to Ishmael, that the Arabic rendering of Ishmael is Isma’iil. This name is not an originally Arabic name, it is merely the Arabic form of a Hebrew name; but how many Arabs know that?