Ever wonder why the Middle East is always such a powder-keg of conflict? What the roots of the conflict are between the Jews and all her “neighbors”? I got this question recently from a visitor to my book’s website, so I thought I would post my reply for all to read and comment.
Let’s begin with Abraham, the patriarch
of the world’s three major monotheistic religions. Abraham left his homeland (Haran) along with his wife, Sarah, to journey to the land God was to “show him” (Genesis 12:1). God’s promise to Abraham was to “make [him] a great nation,” and “bless all the families of the earth” through his obedience (12:2-3). Fast forward to the 16th chapter of Genesis. Sarah, Abraham’s wife was unable to have children (Genesis 16:1-2). So, Sarah took things into her own hands, and gave Abraham her Egyptian slave, Hagar, to wed. Sarah’s plan was simple: any children born to Abraham and Hagar would be Sarah’s (16:2); after all, Hagar was her slave. Abraham was “happy” to oblige. In fact, he never asked God for His thoughts on the matter, even though in the preceding chapter, God had told Abraham that he would have a son (15:5-6). Abraham and Hagar conceived a child, Ishmael (16:4), but Hagar became prideful and “despised her mistress” (16:4). Sarah demanded that Abraham send Hagar away. Once again, Abraham consents to his wife’s demands, but it is Sarah who drives Hagar away. She runs away by way of a desert road to her homeland in Egypt, only to be visited by the angel of the Lord when she is near death. The angel directs her to return to her mistress, Sarah, and to submit to her hand (16:9). Hagar does return, but before she begins her journey back home, the angel of the Lord gives a prophecy about the son, Ishmael:
Genesis 16:12 “He will be a wild donkey of a man, 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.”
In Genesis 17, God appears, again, to Abraham and tells him that the very next year, Sarah, his wife will bear him a son. Abraham does not believe God, and laughs to himself (17:17). Abraham is 99 and Sarah is 90 years old. God tells Abraham that the son is to be named “Isaac” (literally, “he laughs” in Hebrew); and God will establish his everlasting covenant with him, and his descendants. Abraham “suggests” that God accept Ishmael, instead, as the son of promise; but God rejects Abraham’s idea (17:19). God then makes this promise to Abraham about his son, Ishmael:
Genesis 17:20-21 “As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.”But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.”
The following year, Isaac is born to Abraham and Sarah just as God promised. Forty years later and just after the death of his mother, Sarah, Isaac marries Rebekah. Isaac and Rebekah have twin sons, Jacob and Esau. Esau is the first-born, and Jacob the second. God’s prophecy is that the “older will serve the younger” (25:23). The prophecy is made before the sons breathe their first breath. The New Testament repeats the prophecy in Romans 9:12-13, “The older will serve the younger. Just as it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” God chooses Jacob, the second-born twin, as the continuation of the Abrahamic promise. Jacob, the younger, will later deceive his father to receive the “blessing” culturally given to the first-born, Esau (27:27-29; 36); for man cannot break God’s promises. Jacob, after deceiving his father, flees for his life to Haran, the homeland of his mother. There he meets Rebekah’s brother, Laban (29:13), and for the next twenty years, he lives and serves Laban. He marries Laban’s two daughters, Leah and Rachel (29:26-27), and between his two wives (and their two slaves, Zilpah and Bilhah), Jacob has twelve sons. These twelve sons become the twelve tribes of Israel, the chosen people of the Lord. They are the modern-day Jews whose homeland is Israel, and whose city is Jerusalem, the “center of the earth” (Ezekiel 5:5).
Esau, the first-born son of Isaac, married a daughter of Ishmael, Mahalath (28:9). The descendants of Esau and Mahalath are the “Edomites” who locate in modern-day Jordan.
Because of God’s earlier promise to Abraham (12:2-3, 17:4), God blessed Ishmael by making him the father of a “great nation”; and, the father of “twelve princes” (17:20). Those twelve sons are named in Genesis 25:12-16. They do not appear again in Scripture, but for the Arab towns/cities named after several of them. The cities are “east of Israel,” geographically, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Genesis 16:12. They are the lands of the Arabs. Abraham had other sons by his concubines (25:6). These sons (not named) were “sent away from Isaac” (to protect Isaac’s inheritance just as Ishmael had been sent away (21:10)). They were sent “eastward,” the land of the Arabs (25:6).
Ishmael lived to be 137 (25:17). Here is the concluding prophecy about Ishmael and his descendants: “And they settled from Havilah [north-central Arabia] to Shur [between Beersheba and Egypt] which is east of Egypt as one goes toward Assyria; he settled in defiance of all his relatives.” (Emphasis added). The concluding Genesis prophecy for the Ishmaelites continues the original prophecy for Ishmael but not through his descendants, “… he settled in defiance of all his relatives.” Same story, different chapter. In other words, “once a man of the sword, always a family of the sword.”
Psalm 83 is an important prophecy relevant to the modern-day powder-keg that in the Middle East. It prophesies (approximately 9th – 10th century BC) that the sons of Ishmael and the sons of Esau (along with the Assyrians) will attempt to “wipe [Israel] out as a nation.” It is the view of this writer that Psalm 83 is a continuation of the prophecy that originated with Ishmael and his descendants in Genesis 16:12 (see also Galatians 4:29). (Some Bible students interpret this prophecy to relate to an end-time conflict against Israel similar to that prophesied in Ezekiel 38-39):
Psalm 83:1-8 (NASB) 1 O God, do not remain quiet; Do not be silent and, O God, do not be still. 2 For behold, Your enemies make an uproar, And those who hate You have exalted themselves. 3 They make shrewd plans against Your people, And conspire together against Your treasured ones. 4 They have said, “Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation, That the name of Israel be remembered no more.” 5 For they have conspired together with one mind; Against You they make a covenant: 6 The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagrites; 7 Gebal and Ammon and Amalek, Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; 8 Assyria also has joined with them; They have become a help to the children of Lot. (Emphasis added).
In fact, this specific prophecy, “Come, and let us wipe them out [Israel] as a nation,” is the mission statement for many of the Muslim peoples that surround Israel. For example, HAMAS is the Palestinian political organization located on the Gaza Strip. HAMAS is considered a “terrorist organization” by the United States. HAMAS was founded in 1987 as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt). HAMAS’ mission is to liberate Palestine from Israeli occupation and to establish an Islamic state in the area that is now Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. HAMAS’ charter includes the following slogan: “God [Allah] is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Qur’an its constitution; Jihad is its path, and death for the sake of God [Allah] is the loftiest of its wishes.”
Another Muslim Brotherhood organization (and independent of HAMAS) is the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt which recently obtained a voting majority in the Egyptian Parliament through the “Arab Spring” “democracy movement.” The central messages of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood are contained in a document entitled “Jihad is the Way,” written by a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mustafa Mashhur. The document has been translated from Arabic to English by Palestinian Media Watch. The opening page of “Part 5” of the translated document summarizes the central messages of the Jihad is the Way as follows (italics supplied in original source):
- Muslims are “masters of the world”
- Islamic nation’s “rightful position [is to be]… the teachers of humanity”
- There is no other option but Jihad for Allah
- Fighting Israel is “Jihad against the criminal, thieving gangs of Zion”
- Has the [Muslim] Brotherhood grown weary of the challenges, thrown down their guns and abandoned Jihad?!! No!”
In the book Jihad is the Way, the fundamental concepts of the Muslim Brotherhood ideology are explained, including, the Muslim Brotherhood’s goal of establishing an Islamic state, world domination under Islam, the public and personal religious duty of military Jihad, and the necessity of timing the ultimate Jihad properly. The book warns Muslims not to rush to Jihad until Jihad is prepared and timed fully for maximum benefit. The current period is seen by the Muslim Brotherhood as one of obligatory preparation for that coming Jihad.
My point? The central elements of these two Muslim organizations reflect the fulfillment of the prophecy of Ishmael — “he will be a wild donkey of a man… whose hand is against everyone and everyone’s hand is against him” (Genesis 16:12). This is particularly seen, not only in the statement about Israel, “Fighting Israel is “Jihad against the criminal, thieving gangs of Zion,” but also, in the Muslim Brotherhood’s goal of “establishing an Islamic state, world domination under Islam.” The prophecy of Psalm 83 is likewise fulfilled; in fact, it is as if the writer, Mustafa Mashhur, took the wording directly from Psalm 83. Perhaps you are thinking that Mustafa Mashhur and his book, Jihad is the Way, is the exception. Not so. Look at Islam the Cloak of Antichrist (pages 151-153) for two more Muslim Brotherhood theologians (Seyyid Qutb and Sayyid Maududi) who take the same message and just spin it in different words, all having the same impact on non-Muslim society.
Islam claims that Muhammad is a descendant of Ishmael (see Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, by Cyril Glasse’, under “Muhammad”). Islam claims that it was Ishmael, the first-born son of Abraham, who was the “son of promise” of Abraham, not Isaac. The Bible declares the opposite. Ishmael, according to the Bible is the “son of flesh,” not the “son of promise” (Galatians 4:23). Galatians 4:30 states, “But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.”
Muhammad’s renown in Islam is
as “prophet of the sword.” The sword is the national emblem of several Muslim countries, and is displayed on their flags. Islam takes pride in being referred to as the “religion of the sword.” Here is what Oxford’s Encyclopedia of the Islamic World describes the religion of the sword (See Khalid Yahya Blankinship, “Sword Verses,” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t236/e0979):
Muslim tradition describes several different verses of the Quran as the “sword verse” (usually given in the Arabic singular “ayat al-sayft”). These include Quran 9:5, the verse most commonly designated the sword verse par excellence, because it is believed to contain the command revealed by God and because it proclaimed at the pilgrimage of the year 631 C.E. that polytheism would henceforth be proscribed and that all Arabian polytheists, at least, would henceforth be required to embrace Islam. Verses 2:191, 193; 4:89, 91; 8:39; 9:29, 36, 73, 123; and 66:9 all likewise appear to mandate an unlimited military struggle until the superiority of Islam is acknowledged, either by submission to a tax in the case of followers of organized scriptural religions (9:29), or by adoption of Islam in the case of the Arabian polytheists.
If you believe the Scripture, it makes sense — Muhammad is a descendant of Ishmael, a man prophesied to be violent; and so Muhammad’s renown is that of violence, not of peace. He is the “prophet of the sword,” and Islam is the “religion of the sword.” The “wild donkey of a man” whose “hand is against everyone” is still persecuting the “sons of promise,” the Jews; and, now in Christ, the “promise” has been extended to Christians as heirs of Abraham by faith in Christ (Galatians 3:26, 29; 4:6).
If you want to know why the Middle East is a powder-keg of violence — just read the prophecies of Genesis 16:12 and Psalm 83. They are being fulfilled right before our very eyes!