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God's Promise to Ishmael

Apr 30, 2008

The crisis that arose in the 1900's in the Middle East is largely a crisis between Ishmael and Esau, not between Jacob and Esau, nor even Isaac and Ishmael.

I recall the year 1979 when Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin made their historic peace agreement. One prominent radio preacher, Dr. Benjamin Morris, began to proclaim loudly that this was a repeat of the biblical story of Jacob and Esau embracing in Genesis 33:4. Of course, he meant the Israelis were "Jacob" and the Egyptians were "Esau."

I challenged him on this the following day, since he had a call-in radio program. My question was this: "Why is that for all these years you called the Arabic nations "Ishmael," and now you say that they are "Esau"??

There was a long and painful pause. Then he answered rather meekly, "Did I say they were Esau?"

"Yes, you did. You are saying that president Sadat is Esau, and prime minister Begin is Jacob."

To his credit, Dr. Morris backed down faster than a cat caught on the kitchen table. This began a 57-minute conversation live on the radio.

It is too easy for prophecy teachers to misidentify the characters in modern prophecy. First of all, not every Muslim nation is Arabic. Turkey is Muslim, but they are Turks, not Arabs. Iranians are Persian Muslims, but not Arabs. Egyptians and Sudanese are not Arabs either. Though they generally have Islam in common, they are not at all unified and, at times, they really hate each other. Their tribalism and disunity have long prevented them from dominating the world.

Having said that, the heart of Islam centers around their holy city, Mecca, which is in Saudi Arabia. In effect, these non-Arab countries have joined an Arab religion. So from a religious perspective, they are Arab in the same sense that they can become Christian and thereby share in the inheritance of the promises of Christ.

Ishmael is the primary source of Arab identity, biblically speaking. So a study of Ishmael, his biblical conflicts, and the promises of God to him prophesy of the present-day conflict as well as the future Kingdom of God when this conflict is resolved.

This issue has become important, because Christian Zionism has taken the side of the Israelis in virtually all matters and often manifest the same hatred for Arabs found among non-Christian Israelis. They do this because they have lost sight of God's promises to Ishmael. We need to understand these things in order to know how to conduct ourselves today as well as to know how the story will end.

Ishmael was the son of Abram and Hagar, the young Egyptian princess that Pharaoh had given to Sarah as restitution for taking Sarah into his harem for a time (Gen. 12:15). The book of Jasher tells us that Hagar was Pharaoh's daughter by a concubine. Ten years later, after Sarah went through menopause, they decided that the promises of God would have to be fulfilled through Hagar. The law in those days allowed proxy parenting through one's bondservants. Gen. 16:3 says,

"And after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram's wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife."

Hagar was no mere concubine. She was Abram's second WIFE. Nonetheless, she was a bondwoman. The Bible recognizes two kinds of marriage--bondwoman wife and freewoman wife. Each had its place, and so Hagar and Sarah became prophetic types of Old and New Covenant marriages (Gal. 4:24). Both covenants were valid and good in their own ways, but only the New Covenant could bring forth the ultimate promises of God.

One of the fundamental differences between the Bible and the Koran is that the roles of Ishmael and Isaac are reversed in each. The Koran says that Abraham offered Ishmael on Mount Moriah, whereas Gen. 22 says it was Isaac. There is, therefore, a religious disagreement about who is actually called to bring forth the promises of the Kingdom of God on the earth. This is part of the present world conflict as well, for Muslims believe that their religion will prevail upon the whole earth, Jews and Christian Zionists think that Judaism will prevail, and Christians believe that Christ's Kingdom will prevail.

The matter will be decided finally when Scripture is fulfilled, saying, "Cast out the bondwoman and her son" (Gen. 21:10; Gal. 4:30). This is a word not only to physical Ishmaelites (Arabs) and Islam in general, but also to legal Ishmaelites (Jews) and to spiritual Ishmaelites (Christians under Pentecost).

Each is a manifestation of Ishmael in a little different manner. Paul tells us that physical Jerusalem is "Hagar" (Gal. 4:25), and "is in bondage with her children." Who are those "children"? He is telling us that the adherents of Judaism are the "children" (Ishmaelites) of Hagar-Jerusalem. This makes Jews legal Ishmaelites. I say "legal," for the following reason:

Hagar is the Old Covenant, given at Sinai IN ARABIA (Gal. 4:25). Arabia is the inheritance given to Ishmael. That is why Islam is an Old Covenant religion. But so is Judaism. Though the two religions are in conflict, they are, in fact, two manifestations of the same prophetic type--Ishmael. Judaism had opportunity to progress from Old Covenant to the New, but they rejected the Mediator of that New Covenant, Jesus Christ. In deciding to remain under the jurisdiction of Mount Sinai, they effectively put Jerusalem under the spiritual authority of Ishmael.

In later years, God hired the Roman army to drive out the Jewish inhabitants of the land (Matt. 22:7), and some centuries later, God gave the city and the land to Islamic people known today as Palestinians. This happened because the Jews had inadvertently given their city and territory to Ishmael by putting it under the jurisdiction of Mount Sinai in Arabia. Of course, they did not know what they were doing, but God knew, and so He showed them through history the result of their legal decision.

By the law of tribulation (Lev. 26 and Deut. 28), the Jews were unable to return to that old land as a whole until such time as they would acknowledge their offense and hostility to Yahweh-Jesus (Lev. 26:41). But, as I showed in my book, The Struggle for the Birthright, they took advantage of a loophole in the law. The Jews had conquered and forcibly converted the Edomites (Idumea) in 126 B.C. Josephus tells us that "they were hereafter no other than Jews" (Antiquities of the Jews, XIII, ix, 1). Virtually all Jewish historians agree with this historic fact, and it can be found in any study of Idumea (the Greek form of Edom).

The Jews of Jesus' day, then, included both Judeans and Idumeans in a single nation. The Romans set up Herod as their king, primarily because he was half Judean and half Idumean. They figured he would be acceptable to both sides.

The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and the subsequent Jewish dispersion did not put an end to this Judeo-Idumean alliance. There are many Bible prophecies about Edom-Idumea in the last days, and there is only one people through whom these prophecies may be fulfilled. It is not Egypt. Anwar Sadat was not an Idumean. Sadat was representing Ishmael, and Begin was representing Esau-Edom-Idumea.

The present conflict in the Middle East is not between Jacob and Esau, but between Ishmael and Esau. Esau has a temporary claim to the land in order to fulfill Isaac's prophecy to him in Gen. 27:40, after Jacob had taken the birthright by deceit and lies. Mal. 1:4 says they will "build" but eventually God will destroy what they build.

Ishmael has the overall claim to the land on a more permanent basis, for the Old Covenant is their inheritance.


This is the first part of a series titled "God's Promise to Ishmael." To view all parts, click the link below.

God's Promise to Ishmael


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Category: Teachings

Dr. Stephen Jones


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