A question about Ismael, Muslims, and 'hostility'...


I got this question: Hi, So glad you're out there. I was wondering if perhaps you could answer this question regarding Ishmael, Abraham's other son. In Genesis 16:12 the angel of the Lord said to Hagar when she was running away from her mistress Sarai, that "this son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives." Later, after Hagar and Ishmael are sent away because Sarah does not want Ishmael to share in the inheritance of Isaac, the angel of the Lord again comes to Hagar and tells her "Hagar what's wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants." So....are the Muslims the descendants of Ishmael? As the Christians are descendants of Isaac. Thank you so much, in advance for your thoughts on this. In the present time with things happening as they are in the world, I'm sure you can see the reason I am wondering..... ...................................................
I replied: I will put this in queue, but let me make a couple of quick comments to help you 'start safe' in this thing, friend:
  1. Ishmael is the progenitor of many Arabs, INCLUDING ARAB Christians.
  2. Isaac is the progenitor of all Jews, INCLUDING Jewish atheists and Jewish Christians.
  3. Most Christians (non-Jewish, non-Arabian, plus a few other groups--e.g. Esau) are NOT physical descendants of Abraham at all (only descendants by faith, as are Arab Christians and Chinese Christians and African Christians.
  4. Not all Muslims are Arabs (obviously--since there are Jewish Muslims, English Muslims and TONS of African and Maylasian Muslims).
  5. Some Muslims are descendents of Isaac (e.g. Edom/Esau is in the ancestry of Jordan).
  6. The "his hands will be against this brothers" was a prophecy just about Ismael (and presumably his household, as with most such statements), with no mention of his remote decendants in the text. Genesis leaves him (with no further mention) dwelling in the Arabian peninsula in 'independence' (not 'military defiance', btw). Unlike Esau, Ishmael is never made into the 'figurehead of opposition'. Modern antagonism on the part of a small subset of today's Muslims would be difficult to trace back to this prophecy (e.g., if it WERE a prophecy of all of Ishmael's descendants, then ALL/MOST them--muslim or not-- would be 'at hostility' with all OTHER Arabs--"their brothers", see?).
  7. God never stated anything negative about Ismael's remote 'descendents'--only that He would BLESS Ishmael (not curse him!!!) and make him a 'great nation'-- as an answered prayer to Abraham (who loved Ishmael). They (as inhabitants of Sheba/Seba), will honor the Millenial king with gold--Psalm 72.10,15. [This is important: God BLESSED Ishmael; He never BLESSED Esau. Blessing is special.]
  8. Strictly speaking, MOST of the original Arabs (from the Arabian peninsula) were NOT descendants of Israel: "In the Table of Nations (Gen. 10) a number of Arabian tribes are mentioned: among the descendants of Joktan (of the line of Shem), Hazermaveth, Sheba, Havilah, and others (10:26–29); and among the descendants of Cush (of the line of Ham), Seba, Havilah, and others (10:7). If Cush is to be taken to mean Ethiopia, then the relationship of the south Arabian peoples and the Ethiopic peoples (or some of them), which is clearly indicated linguistically, may lie behind the dual reference in the Semite and Hamite genealogies. We also find northern Arabian tribes mentioned among the descendants of Abraham by Keturah (Gen. 25:1–4) and by Hagar (25:12–15), and among the descendants of Esau (Gen. 36). At the time of Solomon, contacts with the Arabian peninsula are indicated, both in the visit of the Queen of Sheba (1 K. 9:26ff, etc.) and in the tribute from the “kings of (the) Arab” (2 Ch. 9:14)." Bromiley, G. W. (1988; 2002). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 1, Page 220). Wm. B. Eerdmans.

That being said, there is a huge religious contention between Judaism and Islam over the Abrahamic passage (e.g. which son was offered on the altar by Abraham), and over some of the 'shared' religious sites. But it doesn’t have anything to do with today's contention--as far as I can tell. Most of the extremist Muslim-subset polemic against Israel (and allies) has to do with the 1967 war, apparently, although tensions have always run high since Israel was given back the Land after WW2.

But, in context, Christian-Muslim tensions were so much higher than Jewish-Muslim tensions for centuries and centuries longer.

The OT hostilities were mostly between Israel and Egypt (non-Ishmael), Israel and Moab/Ammon (descendents of Lot, Abraham's nephew), Israel and Canaan/Philistia (no relation to Abraham), Israel and Amalek (descendants of Esau), and Israel and Esau/Edom (descendant of Isaac). The major wars with Assyria and Babylon would have involved SOME Ishmaelites, but those nations were pre-Abrahamic in origin and of mixed nationalities by the time of the wars with Judah and Israel. Some of the Midianites are associated with Ishmaelites (as Bedouins) in the OT [they were decendents of Abraham by Keturah, so they would be 'brethern' of Ishmael also], so there is SOME hositily (e.g, the Midianites that Gideon fought were said to be Ishmaelites and Psalm 83 lists them as being in league with all the other enemies of Israel (long before there was Islam, obviously!), but it is minute in comparison to other peoples...smile. The Midianites are not all bad, either, since Moses' father-in-law was one (also called a Kenite), and the Kenites are probably also Ishmael-related (as were the dutiful Rechabites). They gave gifts of gold and flocks to Solomon and Jehoshaphat (2 Chr 9.14; 17.11).

[Note Glenne: Muslims MIGHT affirm that they are 'descendants of Ishmael'--spiritual or otherwise-- (just as they affirm that Abraham offered Ishmael instead of Isaac), but that doesn't mean (a) that it is true; (b) that it is relevant; or (c) that it has anything to do with God's prophecy in the bible! We might also note that Ishmael is used as a 'analogical type' for law-trusting Judaizers in Galatians 4!]

I hope this gets you starting in your thinking, friend--thanks for the question!

Glenn


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