Analysis of the cause of the conflict indicated in
this second study we will look at:
account of the origin of the conflict through
Isaac and Ishmael;
Jacob and Esau;
Moab and Ammon; and,
4: Middle East Countries today
Indirectly, the scene set for the conflict begins
after the great Flood. You will recall that only Noah was
saved from destruction, together with his family (Genesis
9:18). That family included three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth.
Genesis 10 contains a record of what happened to the descendants
of each of the sons. Of particular interest is the son, Shem.
These descendants became known as the ĎShemites' a term that
was later modified to ĎSemites' A descendant of Shem was Eber.
At this time (immediately after the Flood) and for some period
afterwards, there was only one language. In what can be seen
as one of the many occasions men disregarded God, the people
decided to build a tower that demonstrated their own prowess
"so that we may make a name for ourselves" (Genesis
11:4). God was displeased and dispersed them to all parts
of the earth, and also punished them by confusing their language.
The tower was called Babel (hence our very appropriate word
Ďbabble'. The term ĎBabylon' had its origins in the word ĎBabel'.
This area now corresponds to Iran/Iraq. Shemís descendents
inhabited the area from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian
Ocean, including the area then called Ur of the Chaldees
again, Iran and Iraq, or the area formerly known as Persia.
Of considerable significance is that the word Eber, the descendant
of Shem (the ĎSemite', gave rise to the word ĎHebrew'.
Part of the dispersal involved the descendants
of Shem, Eber, and later Terah (who had three sons, Abram,
Nahor and Haran), living in Ur of the Chaldees. So, even though
the Semites/Hebrews eventually settled in the land now known
as Israel and the surrounding regions, they initially started
just north of the tip of the Persian Gulf (see Map 6).
way they began to migrate is clearly indicated in Genesis
12. God called Abram (the name by which he was then known)
to travel from Ur of the Chaldees into the land later known
as Canaan. Here we see the directness of God. He chose His
people and placed them in the land in which He wanted them
to live. It is important to note at this stage that this is
a reference to the whole of the Semitic people that included
the Jews and Arabs.
5: Abramís journey
Abram was given
a promise before he left. God said:
He would make Abram and his descendants a great nation;
He would bless them;
He would bless those who blessed Abramís descendants
and curse those who cursed them; and,
that all people of the earth would be blessed through
travelled with Lot his nephew. (Lot was the son of
Haran.) Some time after they arrived in Canaan there was contention
between Abramís and Lotís herdsmen, Abram gave Lot the choice
of land in which he could take his cattle. Lot chose the best-looking
pastures. These were in the land of Jordan, to the east of
the Jordan River. The land included the notorious cities of
Sodom and Gomorrah. It was after Lot left that God reiterated
His promise to Abram. He said that:
all the land he saw would be his; and,
he would have numerous offspring.
changed Abramís name to Abraham. The former meant ĎFriend
of God' and the latter means ĎFather of many nations'. It
is obvious from this that God saw the latter as being of greater
significance for the future population of the earth.)
has shown that Abrahamís descendants included the Jews and
division of the Semitic peoples
Abraham was over 80 years old and he still had
no Ďoffspring'. He was conscious of Godís promise so he took
the matter up with God (Genesis 15:2-6). God again stated
His promise. Unfortunately, Sarah (Abrahamís wife) was unable
to bear children. She suggested that Abraham have a child
by her maidservant, Hagar. Abraham thought that this might
be the way in which God was going to keep His promise.
Hagar became pregnant, she began to despise Sarah. Sarah,
in turn blamed Abraham for the tension: "You are responsible
for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms,
and now she knows she is pregnant, she despises me." (Genesis
16:5) Hagar tried to escape from Sarah but Godís angel intervened
and told her to return. "I will so increase your descendants
that they will be too numerous to count" (Genesis 16: 10).
The angel also said:
Hagar would have a son who would be named Ishmael;
he would be wild and antagonise everyone; and,
he would be hostile to his brothers.
(Genesis 16: 11-12)
was 86 at the time. Thirteen years later, God indicated that
he would have a son by Sarah. Abraham laughed at this because
he was in his hundredth year and Sarah was 90. He said "If
only Ishmael might live under your blessing!"(17:18)
is very pointed and enlightening:
would have a son whose name would be Isaac;
Godís covenant would be established with Isaac and
with his descendants;
Ishmael would be blessed with many descendants and
he would have twelve sons; but,
nevertheless, His covenant would be with Isaac.
did have twelve sons. They populated the area of the northern
Arabian Peninsula and south of the Dead Sea, the region that
now corresponds to western Jordan.
God had made it clear that Isaac was to be chosen
to carry on the line of Godís promises. Isaac prayed to God
because his wife, Rebekah, was also unable to have children.
She became pregnant and the babies struggled within her. She
prayed to God who told her that:
there would be two nations in her womb;
the two would be separated- one would be stronger
then the other; and,
the older would serve the younger.
is quite a remarkable prophecy because, as it happens, Rebekah
had twins, Esau and Jacob born in that order. As they
grew up, Esau, who had the normal birthright being the firstborn,
sold this birthright to Jacob when he desperately wanted food.
The Genesis account records that Esau "despised his birthright."
(25:34) Godís prophecy was fulfilled; Esau, the older, served
problems continued for Esau. Due to some deceit on the part
of Jacob, Isaac blessed Jacob more than he did Esau. Isaacís
blessing of Jacob was - "May nations serve you and peoples
bow down to you". Of Esau, Isaac said, "You will live by the
sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless
you will throw his yoke from off your neck". Genesis records
that Esau held a grudge against Jacob. It is interesting to
note that Esau married a daughter of Ishmael. We have the
line of blessing from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob, whereas the
line of less blessing went from Abraham through Ishmael
to Esauís descendants and through his daughter Mahalath.
of Israel and Arab peoples
Genesis 26 has a detailed description of Esau and
his descendants. The fact that there is such detail indicates
the importance God, through His inspired word, places on the
beginnings of Arab nations. Esau went to Edom. Map 7 (below)
indicates that Edom was to the east of the Jordan and what
is now regarded as Jordanian or Arab territory.
Two other regions on the East side of Jordan
need to be mentioned. Moab and Ammon were descendants
of Lot. These descendants moved into the area near
the Dead Sea. (Archaeological evidence suggests that
the two notorious cites of Sodom and Gomorrah are
now buried under the Dead Sea at the southern end.)
It might be noted that they were Semitic in that they
were descendants of Terah. At the same time they chose
to live in what was then a very fertile area of the
Jordan valley. They were excluded from the congregation
of Israel because they didnít help Israel in their
flight from Egypt, and they hired Balaam to pronounce
a curse on Israel (which God turned into a blessing)
(Deuteronomy 23:3-7). In the same chapter, it should
be noted that Godís instructions were that the Israelites
should not hate an Edomite "because he is your brother".
God always recognised the value of Arab peoples.
Jacob had descendants who became known
as the twelve tribes. Map 6 also shows the settlement
of the tribes in the promised land.
6: Israel at the time of Jacob and the twelve tribes
might be noticed that there is a ring of Arab peoples to the
east of the Jordan River Edom (Esau) in the south,
with Moab and Ammon further north.
of other countries Lebanon, Syria and Egypt
and, in Northern Africa Libya and Ethiopia migrated
at various times south of the Mesopotamian region. They are
now generally known as Arab peoples where their language has
Aramaic origins. Many of these countries have demonstrated
their antagonism to Israel over the years. Lebanon, for example,
was often referred to in the Bible by its chief cities of
Tyre and Sidon. People from these cities were frequently involved
in persecuting the Jews and were eventually destroyed because
of this. Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs persecuted the
Israelites before they came into the Promised Land. Syria
is a Greek term adapted from Assyrian. At the time of its
greatness, the Assyrian empire, that included the area of
Mesopotamia through to the Mediterranean Sea, was a constant
antagonist of Israel, as can be seen, for example, in the
for these antagonistic countries was prophesied in the Old
Testament. In Ezekiel 26 and 28, Tyre and Sidon are singled
out. God, through the prophet, said, "No longer will the people
of Israel have malicious neighbours who are painful briers
and sharp thorns. Then they will know that I am the Lord."
is also made to a number of countries in two other chapters
- Ezekiel 35 and Psalm 83. Ezekiel 35 (1-13) refers to punishment
for Mount Seir, or Edom, or modern day Jordan. God said that
He would be against Mt Seir and make it a desolate waste because:
it had been hostile to Israel for a long time; and,
it had persecuted the Israelites.
also indicated that their history of violence would continue
to stay with them.
Psalm 83 there is a prophecy that clearly indicates that over
a long period of time what we now know as Arab nations have
plotted against Israel and questioned its right to
exist. The Psalmist says:
these nations would form an alliance to destroy Israel;
the nations would include the Ishmaelites, Moab,
Ammon, Philistia, the people of Tyre, and Assyria.
nations surrounding Israel Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran,
Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinians have all persecuted
Israel and sought its territory. And all of this was prophesied
3000 years ago!
Some essential points that emerge from this Biblical
God called Abraham from the original Semite (Shemite) region
to inhabit a land all of which was promised to him forever.
Other Semites (and also descendants of Ham) migrated
south to regions such as Egypt, Syria, Lebanon (Phoenicia)
and were independent of Abrahamís extended family. These
people were linked by ethnicity and language.
Abrahamís descendants, Ishmael and then Esau, became
the Edomites and were born and bred in conflict that had
occasional reconciliation but was usually based on hatred,
a hatred that continued through the years.
Over many years of Biblical history most all of the
Arab nations surrounding Israel, including modern day Palestinians,
have been in conflict with Israel.
The conflicts were born out of jealousies, deceit
and hatred, often on both sides.
In Study 3 we will examine some more detailed prophecies,
some of which relate to the 20th century. While
we are looking at these, let us always keep in focus the fact
that while the Middle East may be a long way from where we
live, the events that take place there are very relevant to
us because they will affect all nations. If we believe
in the truth of the Bible, we can be assured of a lasting
peace national and personal eventually, even
though there will be continued conflict in the meantime.
to Study 3