What in the world is going on? I’ve often heard this expression used but now, more than ever, it has a special meaning. On September 11, 2001, our country was rocked by terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and our military. We are still involved in an ongoing war in Iraq. Iran is rattling it’s nuclear sword for the attention of the world’s media, and the recent clash in the Middle East between the Arabs and the Jews compel most Americans to ask, “What in the world is going on?” Well, the source of it goes all the way back to a prophecy found in Genesis 12:1-3.
“Now the Lord had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
The Birth of Ishmael
In order to fulfill this promise, God had to give Abraham and Sarah a son. Years went by and still no son. Sarah was barren. Barrenness and age created severe anxiety in the couple who lived in a land where barrenness is viewed as a social stigma. Out of frustration, Sarah sought to “help God” out. She encouraged her husband to have a child by her Egyptian maid, Hagar. Sarah felt that maybe God would alter His promise and give Abram the son through this slave girl. Abram listened to the voice of his wife and fathered a son from Hagar. This fleshly relationship produced a boy named Ishmael (Genesis 16:1-15). No event in history has been beyond God’s control!
“Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.’” (Isaiah 46:9-10)
The birth of Ishmael did not sidetrack God’s plan to bless Abraham. He had a plan, and He would work His plan perfectly.
A Miracle Son
In contrast to Ishmael and in His own time God amazingly gave Abraham and Sarah a miraculously born son named Isaac (laughter). I say miraculous because Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90.
“Then the LORD took note of Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had promised. So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac.” (Genesis 21:1-3)
Ultimately Ishmael became the father of a branch of Arabs called Ishmaelites. Isaac’s family led to the Jews. Ishmael was the product of Sarah and Abraham’s human scheme. Isaac was given based on God’s promise. The divine architect of history determined that their futures were going to be quite different. Speaking of Ishmael, God spoke these words to Hagar:
“He will be a wild donkey of a man.” (Genesis 16:12a)
Wild donkey of a man is a Hebrew idiom meaning that Ishmael and the people who would come from him would be a continuous source of conflict. Job says that a wild donkey has to eat, but he does not work for his food. He steals it, and then he destroys those who produce food. Then everyone starves (Job 24:5-10). The people who came from Ishmael became desert terrorists robbing and looting the camel caravans. Jeremiah says that a wild donkey sniffs the wind in her passion (Jeremiah 2:24). This means that the Arabs would not recognize marriage boundaries. They would be unable to sustain long-term relationships with one woman and would take for themselves many wives.
“His hand shall be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him.” (Genesis 16:12b)
There are no verbs in the original Hebrew, which strengthens the force of the passage. This means that the people who come from Ishmael will be completely anti-establishment and anti-authority. They will be hostile and filled with unrestrained, unregulated, and undisciplined competition toward everyone. Their competitive spirit will bring out the worst in everyone with whom they come in contact.
“He shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” (Genesis 16:12c)
Ishmael’s descendants will always dwell near the Jews as a constant source of antagonism. Ishmael’s hostile attitude was quickly demonstrated toward Isaac.
“Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking.” (Genesis 21:9)
The Hebrew word mocking is “to pick on or to ridicule.” The wild donkey was quickly coming out of Ishmael. Sarah eventually told Abram to “cast out the bond woman and her son” (Genesis 21:8-11). Though this seemed cruel and probably hurt Abraham, God told him to listen to his wife and do what she said. God made it plain that His promise would be fulfilled to Abraham through “Isaac” (Genesis 21:12-13).
Ishmael’s animosity toward young Isaac was a preview of coming attractions. This jealousy and antagonism went on throughout their family history. It has been going on for 1400 years and will continue until the second coming of Jesus Christ.
God never does anything without a purpose. He has used the Arabs as His disciplining rod toward Israel because of their rejection of their Messiah. God will continue to use them to so pressure the Jews that they will ultimately cry out for their Messiah to come. This cry will be well justified because the Jews will be pushed to the brink of extermination.
God gave Abraham the original title deed to Canaan (Palestine) and it was clearly marked with the words “I give.”
“And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: ‘Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.” (Genesis 13:14-15)
The original creator and deed holder of all the earth willed the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants forever. The Jews hold an everlasting title deed to the land of Palestine. God then extended His promise to Isaac.
“Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 26:3-4)
God’s promise then passed to Jacob.
“The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land.” (Genesis 35:12)
Then the promise passed from Jacob to Moses.
“And God spoke to Moses and said to him: ‘I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name LORD I was not known to them. And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the LORD.” (Exodus 6:2-3; 8)
Following the death of Moses, the promise was extended to Joshua.
“Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory.” (Joshua 1:2-4)
This is the very land that is still in dispute today. Amazing! The name “Palestine” comes from the Greek word “Palaistina.” The Greek word comes from the Hebrew word “Pleshet” (land of the Philistines).
The exact geographic boundary of this land of promise is found in Genesis 15:12-18. The land is to stretch from the Nile River on the south (a part of modern day Egypt) all the way up to the Euphrates River (Genesis 15:12-18). It involves Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. It is interesting that the Jews have never in history possessed the exact area that God promised them.
What happened to Ishmael? Mohammed, a great grandson of Ishmael, became the founder of the religion of Islam (570-632). He was born in the Middle East town of Mecca and spent his youth traveling with the camel caravans. One day while meditating in a cave in Mount Hira, it is said that Mohammed beheld the angel Jabril (Gabrial). Gabrial declared him to be the only prophet of Allah, the monotheistic God of Islam.
With the angel’s guidance, Mohammed dictated the Koran, the Islamic holy book. The built in hatred for the Jews came out of Mohammed and onto the pages of the Koran. The Koran calls for the destruction of both Jews and Christians (both groups called infidels). Read these quotes.
The Cow: 2.113: And the Jews say: The Christians do not follow anything (good) and the Christians say: The Jews do not follow anything (good) while they recite the (same) Book. Even thus say those who have no knowledge, like to what they say; so Allah shall judge between them on the day of resurrection in what they differ.
The Dinner Table: 5.51: O you who believe! Do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.
The Immunity: 9.30: And the Jews say: Uzair (Isaiah) is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!
The Koran also calls Muslims to make Islamic “converts” of both Jews and Christians. If Jews and Christians will convert to Islam they will have nothing to fear from Islam. The Dinner Table: 5.69: Surely those who believe and those who are Jews and the Sabians and the Christians, whoever believes in Allah and the last day and does good — they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve. But if the infidels do not convert to Islam, they must die by the sword. That is Islam’s evangelistic policy.
Islam has become the means that the Arabs needed to carry out their hatred of the Jews. Nothing motivates them more than the phrase, “God told me to kill the Jews.” It is the religious goal of Islam to conquer the world for Allah. Their highest goal of conquering the world is the extermination of the Jews.
Israel and the Edomites
Isaac married a cousin named Rebekah (Genesis 24:15). Rebekah had twin sons named Jacob and Esau. These two sons are said to have struggled in her womb. God explained the phenomenon this way.
“Now Isaac pleaded with the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, ‘If all is well, why am I like this?’ So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her: ‘Two nations are in your womb. Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:21-23)
Esau became a group of Arabs called “Edomites,” or Red Earth (Genesis 25:30)
“So Esau dwelt in Mount Seir. Esau is Edom.” (Genesis 36:8)
Esau eventually married into the Canaanite line and had many children (Genesis 36:1-5). The marriages were not with the blessing of Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 25:34).
Like the Ishmaelite Arabs, the Edomites also were in conflict with the Jews. As Jacob and Esau had struggled in the womb, they would struggle with each other in life. The Edomite Arabs refused to allow the Hebrews to pass through their land during the Exodus (around 1440 B.C.)
“Then Edom said to him, ‘You shall not pass through my land, lest I come out against you with the sword.’ So the children of Israel said to him, ‘We will go by the highway, and if I or my livestock drink any of your water, then I will pay for it; let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.’ Then he said, ‘You shall not pass through.’ So Edom came out against them with many men and with a strong hand. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory; so Israel turned away from him.” (Numbers 20:18-21)
As recently as a few months ago, Israel was involved in an all out war with Arab terrorists. My wife and I watched much of the conflict on the Fox News Channel and CNN. Let’s go back several hundred years and take a short glimpse at what was happening in Israel then.
The Arab families of Ammalek, Moab, and Ammon tried to prevent Israel from moving into the land of Canaan during the Exodus (Numbers 22: 4-6; Joshua 13:25). Later God commanded King Saul to destroy all of the families and livestock of Ammalek (1 Samuel 14: 47). David defeated Edom and annihilated most of their male population (1 Kings 11:15-17).
The little child, Hadad, became the leading Arab sheik. He escaped from David and tried to entice the Egyptians against David. He went into exile into Syria and became the greatest enemy of Solomon (1 Kings 11:17-25). The Edomite Arabs were successful against Jehoram in Judah (2 Chronicles 21:8-10). Amaziah, king of Judah, carried out successful campaigns against the Edomites (2 Kings 14:7).
Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem in 586 B.C. and carried Judah into Babylon for seventy years. The Edomite Arabs joined Nebuchadnezzar in the slaughter of the Jews. They cried out to him to completely destroy the city of Jerusalem.
The Psalmist reminds us that God does not forget (Psalm 137:7). Because of this hatred of Israel and this treachery, Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesied against the Edomite Arabs. (Jeremiah 27:3; Lamentations 4:21; Ezekiel 25:13-14). Amos and Obadiah also voiced God’s disapproval of the Edomites (Amos 1:11-12; Obadiah 1:8-21).
As a reward for helping him, Nebuchadnezzar gave the Edomite Arabs all the land of Judah, from Egypt to the Northern part of the land. Esau’s children at one time had all the land. For 400 years the Edomite Arabs continued in control of Judah until the Maccabee’s (a Jewish family) subdued them and forced them into Judaism. The Edomites changed their name to Idumeans. However, this was conversion by coercion, and that has never worked. The Arabs did not forget.
The majority of the Old Testament history of Israel is a record of the continuous conflict between the Jews and the Arabs. The Jews were never able to successfully subjugate the Arabs (2 Chronicles 28:16-17).
Now enter Herod the Great, an Edomite, and Herod Antipas, who was also an Arab. The Edomite Arabs took the land back again from the Jews politically. Herod became the third in power in the Roman Empire behind Caesar Augustus and Agrippa.
When Jesus Christ was born, Herod (the Edomite) was standing ready to kill Israel’s newborn king (Matthew 2:13).
Just before the siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., 20,000 Arabs said they wanted to help Jerusalem so they were allowed inside the city walls. But just before Romans arrived, the Arabs began to rape and pillage, rob and murder the Jews. They killed thousands before Titus the Roman was ready for his work.
The point is clear! Throughout history nothing changed. And the same conflict rages on today.
In 70 A.D., the Romans destroyed both Jerusalem and the Jewish temple. The Jews then dispersed throughout the world.
“My God will cast them away, because they did not obey Him; and they shall be wanderers among the nations.” (Hosea 9:17; Deuteronomy 29:27-29)
For hundreds of years the Jews had no homeland. But on November 2, 1917, the British set in motion a plan that would lead to the forming of a Jewish homeland. Their decisions led to what is now called the Balfour Agreement. A part of this agreement reads:
“His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use its best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” (October 31, 1917)
At the time of this agreement, the Ottoman Turks (Mongolians) inhabited much of the land now called Palestine. They had been on this land since 1516. Many Jewish families and Christians went back and attempted to liberate Jerusalem. Because of this, many today blame British Colonialism for the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. But why did the British choose the land of Palestine as a potential homeland for Israel? Did they just pick a spot out of the air? No, they chose that spot for the Jews because the Jews had occupied it long before the Ottoman Turks or anyone else. God had given them an everlasting title deed to that small piece of real estate. Several Jewish families moved in and occupied a small portion of the land that the United Nations had legally given them. There was little organization and obviously much conflict.
It is amazing that with the passing of hundreds of years, despite their dispersion throughout the world and the rampant anti-Semitism including the holocaust, the Jews have not forgotten their unique identity. Nor have they forgotten God’s promise to give them the land of Canaan. The Jews lasting hope for that special land today is called “Zionism.”
On November 29, 1947, a two-thirds majority of the United Nations voted to establish a Jewish-Arab state in Palestine. The Jews were given a small portion of the land that at that time was 75% desert. Desperate to find their own place following the holocaust, the Jews accepted the plan and began to move back. Once in the land, they soon turned the desert into a beautiful homeland. They used state of the art land management and the desert began to blossom.
To those peering through the grid of the Bible, it was no surprise at all that some U.N. members would not be in agreement. The Arabs not only disagreed, they walked out of the meetings in disgust. United Nations representatives from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, all voted against the proposal. When the declaration passed, this Arab delegation angrily declared the whole process invalid. Thus the conflict continued. This historical event is recorded in The New York Times (December 1-2, 1947).
On May 14, 1948, the Arabs attacked the new state of Israel from all sides. They declared a jihad (a holy war) against Israel. The intent of the war was to exterminate the Jews. During the war, the Arabs expelled all Jews from the old city of Jerusalem and a large portion of the west side of the Jordan River, which is now called “the West Bank.” But the Jews dug in and miraculously hung on to a small area. During the 1967 war, Israel regained part of the old city of Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank. This is a portion of the land that is in dispute today. The Jews want to possess the entire city of Jerusalem especially the Temple Mount. The Arabs control it now. On the site is the Mosque of Omar, a Muslim holy place.
Though the Jews are determined to remain in and to regain the land that has been legally awarded to them by the United Nations, the Arabs are just as determined never to recognize Israel’s right to be there.
Friends and Enemies
No nation on the earth has been more supportive of Israel than the United States. We do this, from the human view, because Israel has the same values and ideals that we hold and because they are the only democratic voice in the Middle East. We have become a fertile ground for many Jewish families to prosper financially and educationally. But from the divine view, God has raised up this nation to help His chosen nation.
There are many Christians in this country who realize that we owe our spiritual roots to the Jews. They gave us our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are forever tied to Abraham through Him (Galatians 3:29). We must continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for the coming of our Savior and their Messiah. This nation has been used of God to be a blessing to His chosen people. I personally believe that this is why God has blessed America and made us to prosper. This is precisely why we are hated by most of the Arab states. It seems reasonable that they would curse anyone who would attempt to stand with Israel. God’s words to Abraham have never changed.
“And I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses you I will curse” (Genesis 12:3a).
The word bless means “to extend goodness toward.” God says He will extend good toward those who are good to His chosen people. However, God also promises that He will curse those who curse His people. This means that the world’s entire political system is permanently tied to the tiny little nation of Israel. When any country supports in any way the Jews, they are in agreement with the God of Israel. The contrast becomes painfully clear. To be in conflict with Israel is to be in conflict with the living God of history. To be a friend of Israel places the U.S.A. in the cross hairs of many Islamic militants within the Arab block. So if you asked yourself during the 9/11 attacks, “What in the world is going on?” now you know! They hate us because we stand with Israel.
Jews Regathered and Restored
I have heard it all – fair reporting, rhetoric, rationalization, political spin, and propaganda – from the world’s news media concerning the Middle East conflict. The question seems always to be “Will there ever be peace in the Middle East?” Will anyone ever be able to mediate the conflict and bring about a permanent resolution? How much money will be spent and how many lives will it take to bring peace? It is safe to say that there is no power on earth that will be able to make it happen. The Bible says clearly that there is coming a time when God will miraculously move the Jews back into the land that He has promised them.
“Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God drives you, and you return to the LORD your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that the LORD your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you. If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:1-6)
Whether or not the current Zionist movement in the Middle East is a beginning of this fulfillment, I really do not know. But I do know what God says that it will take to finally bring peace to the Middle East.
The Armageddon Campaign
The Arab block is not the real power behind the hatred of the Jews. Satan and all the hosts of hell are attempting to exterminate Israel. This evil power will stand behind the attempt to push Jews to the brink of annihilation. Most Jews today are atheists. Many practice a form of Judaism, but the nation does not believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah.
What is it going to take to motivate them to believe in Jesus Christ? There is coming a time called the Great Tribulation when God will bring unbearable pressure on the Jews. And this time will end when Satan causes two charismatic leaders called the antichrist and the false prophet to amass a huge army outside of Israel. The best book that I have read concerning this subject is entitled Footsteps of the Messiah by Arnold Fruchtenbaum, of Ariel Ministries (www.ariel.org).
Jerusalem will be attacked and most Jews killed. Some Jews will escape to the area of Bozrah in Edom. The antichrist will then move south to finally remove all the Jews from their land. But God gave them the land as an everlasting possession (Genesis 17:8; 48:4).
The Jewish leaders will finally encourage the Jews to receive their rejected Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. They finally will do so and the world will then witness the greatest rescue mission on the planet.
“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11-16)