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Misconceptions and False Perceptions
Tuesday, 02 June 2009 00:00

Ishmael's blessing/Our curse

old man and son

I taught two Sunday's in a row recently about Ishmael in the Bible. Tracing his story starting in Genesis 16 it's a quick read through to 25 where the trail cools. His story, and that of his descendants are of many firsts in the Bible.

The highlights are these:
  1. The mysterious Angel of the Lord (possibly Christ himself), first appeared to Hagar while she was pregnant with Ishmael... Hagar knew God by some of the first names he is noted for in the Bible as 'The God who Sees' and 'The God who Hears'
  2. Ishmael was blessed by God, and the first to receive a blessing of lineage and offspring. Ishmael was the first born son of Abram, and God honored Abram's prayer 'Oh that Ishmael might live before you!' by giving him land, 12 princes, and a promise he would never be conquered.
  3. In IS 42 it is prophesied that the tribes of Kedar and Sheba will worship God with acceptance. It is rare for tribes to be pointed out in this manner... Kedar is the ancestor of the Muslim prophet Mohammad.
  4. First to worship - It has been discussed in other places that descendants of Ishmael were likely the first to come and give gifts from the East.  Matthew 1 describes wise men from the East, fulfilling prophecy by bringing gold, frankincense and myrrh, all specialties of Arabia.
  5. First to hear - Acts indicates that the Arabs were there on Pentecost, hearing the gospel with many other nations.  It may be that God has some kind of priority for Ishmael's line for Paul spent his first 3 years in ministry in Arabia (see Gal 1:17), the city of the Nabateans, who were descendants of Ishmael.
  6. Many other biblical charaters paint the descendats of Ishmael in a very positive light, Job, chief among peoples of the East, was an Arab, Agar and Lemuel, writers of proverbs were likely Arabs, and some of David and Solomon's soldiers and key advisors were descendants of Ishmael.

It is my contention that given the biblical firsts and all the significant events surrounding Ishmael, that God has taken special care of Ishmael and his descendants.  Shouldn't we as Christians be more attentive to his descendants today? Instead we believe myths like God cursed Ishmael, or that all the trouble in the Middle East today is because of Ishmael... this is not found in the Bible. We have likely formed these negative impressions primarily due to recent events of the last 50 years. 

Even certain modern Bible versions translate the prophecy about Ishmael in Gen 16 wrongly when they say 'he shall live in hostility towards his brothers' (NIV)... the original language is talking about geography (to the East). Other versions indicate 'over against' (ESV), or 'in the presence of' (KJV) which is better, but, best and most literally the NASB renders it 'to the East of his brothers'.

The hatred of Muslims today, especially Arabs has got to stop if we are to get in line with the Bible, and God's plan for Ishmael's descendants. God loves all nations, especially the descendants of Abraham, Issac AND Ishmael.  You can read a more thorough treatment of this subject in the chapter 'Ishmael's Blessing' here.