Most Christians are unaware that the birth of the Arab nations is discussed in the book of Genesis, primarily chapters 16,17,21, and 25. It’s important to do a short history lesson in today’s blog. Hagar, Abram, and their son Ishmael got it all going in the first place.
With what is going on in the world, it’s appropriate that we review this.
Remember that today, most Arabs are Islamic (Muslim), with a small minority adhering to other faiths, largely Christianity, but also Druze and Baha’i. Arabs are generally Sunni, Shia or Sufi Muslims, but currently, 7.1 percent of Arabs are Arab Christians. Obviously, the majority of the Arabs in the world live in Asia, Middle East, and North Africa.
Back to Genesis. It that time in history, Abram (God later changed his name to Abraham) a descendent of Shem (one of Noah’s three sons), was part of the small handful of people who tried to follow God’s principles. See Genesis chapter 12. God appeared to Abraham and promised to make his descendants into a great nation. Abraham’s part of the agreement was to obey God. Abraham married Sarai, but they had difficulty getting pregnant.
We see in Genesis 16:12 that Sarai couldn’t wait any longer about having children. They were inpatient, like all couples who can’t get pregnant. Abraham listened to her and impregnated Hagar, Sarai’s “maidservant.” Hagar gave birth to Ishmael, and the Arab nations were thought to be born from his seed. However, in Genesis 17:19, it says– Isaac was later born to Sarah (had been Sarai) and Abraham (had been Abram) to establish the Lord’s covenant. So you see that the heritage of the Arab peoples also begins with Abram about 2000 BC. Genesis 16 records this event in Genesis 16:2. Hagar was Egyptian, who had served Abram for 10 years in the land of Canaan. Although Sarai’s conduct in offering Abram her maidservant as a secondary wife was wrong and sinful, Sarai was acting in accord with the customs of her day. In her day, marriage contracts stated that it was the responsibility of the wife to bear children. If she did not do so, she was obligated to provide a maidservant. When Hagar realized she was going to have a child by Abram, her and Sarai’s relationship became strained. Sarai dealt hard with her-Genesis 16:6. Because of this, Hagar fled into the wilderness.
God’s Promise– It was then that the angel of the Lord appeared to Hagar and made a promise for her seed–the Arab people. The angel first directed Hagar to return to her mistress, Sarai, and then the Angel of the Lord said, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count“-Genesis 16:10. Genesis 16:11 is the first time that God named a person before his birth. The angel of the Lord said to Hagar, “Behold, you are with child, and you will bear a son, and shall name him Ishmael; because the Lord has heard your affliction.” Ishmael means, “God hears.” The angel of the Lord makes a further promise to Hagar in Genesis 16:12…..he (Ishmael) will be a wild
Here in verses 10 and 12 we have FOUR PROMISES: 1) Hagar’s seed (the Arab seed) would be multiplied to the point where it could not be counted. So, the future population of the Arab peoples would be huge. 2) The Arab peoples will be roving. They would be mobile and move a lot. 3) The sin of Arab people would be their tendency to be engaging in wars and uprisings. Seems to be true. 4) The punishment that Arab nations would experience was that many would be against them.
Abraham’s Concern for Ishmael– Even after God had promised him a son through Sarai, Abraham’s concern for Ishmael was so great he said to God: “Oh, that Ishmael might live before thee”—Genesis 17:18. He didn’t want Ishmael to be abandoned and forsaken. God promised Abraham that Ishmael (representing the Arab peoples) would not be forgotten. Here are the promises from Genesis 17:20–a) I have blessed him (Ishmael) and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly b) twelve princes shall he beget… c) I will make him a great nation.
Promise in the wilderness– When Ishmael was about 15 years old he was playfully teasing Isaac. This was the spark that aroused Sarai’s anger and she demanded of Abraham that he expel Hagar and Ishmael from the household–Genesis 21:9-11. God promises to Hagar that He will make “Ishmael a great nation”–Genesis 21:18.
Ishmael’s Heritage– Ishmael grew up and became famous as an archer. He married an Egyptian wife. He became the father of 12 sons and a daughter, whom Esau took for his wife. He died at the age of 137. The 12 sons are described in Genesis 25:12-15. Three of the 12 sons (see vs. 14) are Mishma, Dumah, and Massa. These names mean hear, keep silence and bear. Interestingly, these appear in the same order in James 1:19 which says, “let every man be swift to hear (mishma), slow to speak (dumah), and slow to wrath (massa).
Promises fulfilled- Today, these 12 sons of Ishmael could possibly be considered the people of Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Iraq. These Arab countries have 2/3s of the world’s proven oil resources, and the Arabs control 3 million square miles of territory. God’s promise that the Arab’s hand will be against every man. And every man’s hand against him… this is also being fulfilled—Genesis 16:12.
For a summary of the Islamic faith and other religions, go to: