A challenge for all of us, is seeking a point of view in Christ the Lord for all things, and certainly these things. Here are a few thoughts.
The conflict between Jew and Arab will end when the Messiah, Jesus, returns to make peace. But, in the interim, a much greater degree of peace could be achieved if all involved -- Jews, Arabs, Palestinian Arabs, Christians praying for peace, quasiChristians praying for war, and even the secular foreign governments dealing with the situation -- would recognize that, when Messiah makes peace, that peace will include both Isaac AND Ishmael. Both of these half-brothers were sons of Abraham and each was given his own eternal promises which God will never change. Only God may know the details of how the conflict will ultimately be resolved, but we know that it will be with the full restoration and reconciliation of both brothers' descendants. It will not end with the eradication of either group.
The promises of God to Abraham concerning Isaac, and the later promises to Isaac, to Israel and to David and his descendants are well known among readers of the Word of God, and need not be repeated here in detail. Abraham was promised the land and the blessing of God -- to the extent that anyone who blesses him will be blessed and anyone who curses him will be cursed. Genesis 12:1-3, 7. God extended these same promises through Abraham to his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob. Genesis 17:19-21; Genesis 35:9-12; I Chronicles 16:13-18. David and his descendants were promised the throne (1). It was promised that Messiah, God's anointed ruler who will establish peace for ever, would come from David's descendants (2).
However, the divine promises concerning Ishmael are less well known, but just as valid. The first such promise was given to Hagar, Ishmael's mother, in Genesis 16:10. God there promised Hagar, speaking directly to her, that he would greatly multiply her descendants and make them too numerous to count. Likewise, in Genesis 17:20, immediately after promising Abraham that Sarah would bear him a son, Isaac, with whom He would make an everlasting covenant, God promised Abraham that he would also "bless" Ishmael, make him fruitful, multiply him exceedingly and make him the father of twelve princes. In Genesis 17:25-26, special note is made that Abraham and "Ishmael his son" were circumcised at God's command, some time before Isaac was born. Thus, Ishmael was included in the covenant of circumcision before Isaac's birth.
In Genesis 21:13, after telling Abraham to drive Hagar and Ishmael out of his camp as Sarah told him to do, God promised Abraham that he would make a nation of Ishmael too, because he was also Abraham's son. Moreover, looking back from the New Testament, we know that Sarah's jealousy and the casting of Hagar and Ishmael out of the camp occurred, not as an eternal judgment against Ishmael, but as a picture to teach the then-future Church that we cannot simultaneously live by grace and by the law, because the promise and the law cannot co-exist (see Galatians 4:21-31). Finally, after Ishmael was cast out of Abraham's camp, God again promised Hagar that he would make a great nation of Ishmael. Genesis 21:18. All of these are promises God will not break when He restores Israel to his proper place. To simultaneously fulfil his promises concerning Israel and Ishmael, God will have to reconcile these brothers.
Moreover, the outworking of this reconciliation is foreseen in at least one little-quoted prophecy. In Isaiah 19, God first predicts that he will bring a stinging judgment on Egypt -- but not a judgment that will forever destroy that land or its people. Instead, after bringing great destruction on Egypt for their idols and for their distortion of truth, "the land of Judah will become a terror to Egypt." Isaiah 19:17. But then something truly remarkable will happen. Egypt will repent and turn to the true God, and God will send them a savior to deliver them (Isaiah 19:19-21). The Lord will smite Egypt, and then heal her, and they will return to Him (verse 21). Then, from verses 23-25:
In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria; and the Egyptians shall worship with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth; for that Jehovah of hosts hath blessed them, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.
This is about the clearest imaginable prediction of ultimate reconciliation and restoration (3). It is, however, not alone. While Israel and her Arab neighbors were subjected in centuries past to a common judgment as a result of pursuing their idols and their own way, rather than seeking God, it is clear that they are also to be restored together. Jeremiah 9:23-26 and 12:14-17. Indeed, of those of Israel's neighbors who will truly "learn the ways of My people, to swear by My name" God declares "they will be built up in the midst of My people." Jeremiah 12:16; compare Ezekiel 47:22-23 (4). Thus, while Arabs are never promised that they will hold the power of government in restored Israel, as this is promised to the Jews and, specifically, to the house of David, they do have promises of reconciliation and of peace living among the Jews in their land. Those praying for the peace of Jerusalem should carefully consider this.
See Zionism and its Impact compiled by Ann Lesch for the Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs, for a carefully written pro-Palestinian view of the last 100 years of the history of this conflict.
See Myths & facts online: A guide to the Arab-Israeli conflict, written by Mitchell Bard for the Jewish Virtual Library, for a carefully written pro-Israeli view of the same historical period.
In reading these sites, be aware that neither author is lying to you, in the sense of reporting false facts as true or inventing historical occurrences which never happened. Both authors are reporting only easily verifiable facts. But both authors are reporting only a small part of a much larger universe of facts. Indeed, each author is reporting only that subset of the available facts which supports that author's position, and is reporting it as if it were the whole truth. One corner of the big picture is being presented as if it were the whole picture. What's more, each author earnestly believes that his or her corner of the picture really is the whole picture, so neither author is willfully lying to you. This use of a slanted subset of real facts presented as all of the facts that matter is normal in modern propaganda (for more discussion of this, read the book Propaganda by the late French institutional historian Jacques Ellul).
If you read both of the above sites and attempt to reconcile the sets of facts presented in them, you will have something approaching a complete picture of the modern conflict. Then consider all of this with the scriptures stated above, and you will see the situation much better.
(1) Partial list of scriptures reflecting a promise that David and his descendants would occupy the throne of Israel forever: 2 Samuel 7:8-15;2 Samuel 22:51; 1 Kings 11:36-39; I Chronicles 17:11-14; II Chronicles 6:5-6; Psalm 18:50; Psalm 89:3-4; Psalm 122:1-5; Psalm 132:10-18; Jeremiah 33:14-26; Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24-28; Hosea 3:5; Amos 9:11-12; Zechariah 12:6-9.
(2) Scriptures speaking of a singular descendant of David who will sit on the throne and establish Israel in their land , establishing peace forever: Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 16:5; Jeremiah 23:5-8; Jeremiah 30:8-11; Zechariah 12:10.
(3) I am aware that neither Egypt nor Assyria describes an originally Arab people group. Mizraim (Egypt) was a descendant of Ham and his descendants were in Egypt long before Abraham. The children of Asshur also were in Assyria before Abraham (indeed, Abraham was in the eighth generation of the children of Asshur's brother Arphaxad). The Assyrians were, and still are, a culturally distinct group among the Semitic people of the Middle East. Moreover, Christianity is much stronger among both the Egyptians and the Assyrians than it is among the Arabs. The Coptic Church, which has its roots in the First Century, is still relatively strong in Egypt, considering the many centuries of Islamic rule in Egypt since its founding. It is limited primarily to those of ancient Egyptian descent. The Assyrian Church also was started in the First Century, and the modern Assyrians are, as a group, still Christians. However, in order to work together all of the promises discussed in this article, including those regarding Ishmael himself, God will necessarily reconcile the descendants of Israel and Ishmael to each other. This conclusion is logically unavoidable.
(4) It is also interesting that Jeremiah prophecies the ultimate restoration of Ammon and Moab, and divine protection for the widows and orphans of Edom. See Jeremiah 48:47, 49:6 and 49:11. There is also an interesting, if somewhat obscure, reference in Zechariah 9:6-7 to the apparent ultimately peaceful incorporation of the remnant of Gaza and Ekron of the Philistines into the Jewish people.
Ian Johnson & Jonathan Brickman
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© 2002, 2016, 2017 Ian B. Johnson and Jonathan E. Brickman
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