letters to surfers

What does the Bible say about the Arab claims to the land now occupied by the Jews?
by Robert Brow   (www.brow.on.ca)

Arabs call themselves the children of Abraham's firstborn son Ishmael. He was Abraham’s firstborn son through Hagar, Sarai’s Egyptian slave girl. According to the custom of the day he became Abraham’s legal heir and was counted as Sarai’s own son (Genesis 16:1-3). He was named Ishmael, and God promised Hagar that "I will so multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude" (16:10). But Abraham was told Sarah would conceive her own child, and Ishmael would not be his heir.(17:15-19). When he prayed "O that Ishmael might live in your sight" God answered "As for Ishmael, I will bless him and make him fruitful and exceeding numerous; he shall be the father of twelve princes , and I will make him a great nation." (17:15-20) These twelve tribes descended from Ishmael are carefully listed with their location in the Arabian peninsula between Egypt and Assyria (25:12-18).

In the process of time other tribes related to Abraham merged with the Ishmaelite tribes by marriage, wars, and alliances, to become the Arab peoples. -> From Abraham’s nephew Lot there were the Moabites and Ammonites in what is now Jordan (19:37-38). The tribes descended from Abraham’s second wife Keturah moved "eastward to the east country" (25:6). Then another group of tribes descended from Esau are listed with their clans and the names of their first kings (36:1-43). They lived south-east of the Dead Sea in Western Arabia east of Egypt. There were also Abraham’s relatives to the north who became the Syrian Arabs (29:1-6, see 11:27-31).

These Abrahamic tribes all spoke Arabic (the Canaanite language from which modern Hebrew is derived) and practiced circumcision according to the Abrahamic covenant (17:9-14). Though there were constant wars with their Jewish cousins, none of these Arab tribes ever settled to the west of the Jordan. They were finally united into one Islamic nation in 640 AD by Muhammad (604-642), himself a pure Ishmaelite. The first Arab occupation of Palestine by the Arabs was in 638 AD, which was 24 centuries after Abraham. The land was ruled by the Ottoman Turks (who were not Arabs) from 1516 to 1918. Then it came under the British mandate till the state of Israel was established in 1948.

Note An imaginative account of Ishmaelite origins based on the genealogies and stories given in Genesis is given in a book called Ishmael the Arab on this web site.  There are apparently no other Arab sources for this period.

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