Conflict: Israel vs. Arab World

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The Bible states that the last great battle will put Israel against the rest of the Middle East and its allies. How did it all begin and why have they remained mortal enemies for thousands of years?

Conflict between the two sons of Abraham began from the very start. In Genesis, chapter 21:9, it says the conflict began just after Isaac was weaned: "Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking."

Ishmael, now a teenager, was mocking the infant Isaac, the Bible tells us. Ishmael had been "born according to the flesh" and Isaac had been "born according to the promiseí (Galatians: 4). Ishmael was replaced by Isaac as the favored son and heir. This made him jealous and bitter. As a result, he mocked and disdained his half-brother. Eventually the situation became so intolerable that Sarah demanded that Ishmael and his Egyptian concubine mother, Hagar, be expelled permanently from Abrahamís family.

But the Lord loved Hagar and her son and had mercy upon them. God promised her son would beget twelve princes who would become a great nation. Ishmael went to live in the wilderness region of Hejaz in what became known as the Arabian Peninsula. He indeed had twelve patriarchal sons who became associated with the peoples known as Midianites, Edomites, Egyptians and Assyrians. Here the Bible and Islamic tradition both agree that Ishmael became the leader of all the great desert peoples of the Middle East.

Obviously God provided many opportunities in this story for redemption of bad situations created mostly out of disobedience and lack of faith. Abraham agreed to impregnate Hagar at the request of his wife Sarah. To be fair to Ishmael, God provided him a great kingdom of his own to the east of his brother, but it was never enough. Ishmaelís descendants have always been jealous that Isaacís descendants and Isaacís descendants alone--faithful men like Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon and David--were able to claim the full inheritance of Abraham.

It is this jealously and resentment that have created a hate that has no parallel in history. This hatred has continuously set off wars and atrocities for four thousand years. And it is that title deed to the land of Israel, which God promised to Abrahamís lineage, that has been the source of the friction between the Jews and the Arabs right up to this very moment.

Muslims believe the Jews changed and distorted the Bible in order to establish themselves as the heirs of Abrahamís Covenant blessings. However, they fail to explain how the New Testament, written by Christians who had no motive for following Jewish falsifications, clearly teaches that the Covenants were made to Isaac and his descendants.

According to Islamic tradition, Abraham had eight sons rather than two. They say they were reared in Mecca not Hebron. They say it was Ishmael, not Isaac, whom Abraham was about to sacrifice on Mount Moriah when an angel stopped him. According to the Koran, the Abrahamic covenant, with its promises-including the title deed to the land of Israel-was passed down to the Arabs through Ishmael, rather than to the Jews through Isaac.

But, if you believe the Old and New Testaments were written under the inspiration of the Spirit of God as they claim, then there is no question that Israel is the Promised Land of the Jews. And Godís words to Abraham in Genesis are some 2,500 years older than the creation of Islam.

"Sarah your wife shall bear you a son," God tells Abraham in Genesis I7: I9-2I. "And you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And 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. . . ."

God fulfilled His promise to Abraham. He fulfilled His promise to Isaac. And He fulfilled His promise to Ishmael. In fact, God gave much more land to Ishmael than He did to Isaac. He also made salvation available to his descendants. But they were never satisfied with Godís blessings and few accepted His salvation.

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