Many archeological and historical researchers and Bible commentaries have understood for a long time that the Arabs are descendants of Ishmael, son of Abraham and Sarah’s Egyptian maid, Hagar. We read the following prophecy about Ishmael in Genesis 16:7-12:
“Now the Angel of the LORD found [Hagar] by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. And He said, ‘Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?’ She said, ‘I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.’ The Angel of the LORD said to her, ‘Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.’ Then the Angel of the LORD said to her, ‘I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.’ And the Angel of the LORD said to her: ‘Behold, you are with child, And you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has heard your affliction. He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, And every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren’…”
According to this prophecy, Ishmael’s descendants would be greatly and exceedingly multiplied; Ishmael [which means, literally, “God hears”] would be a wild man (literally, a wild ass); he would be against every man’s hand and every man’s hand would be against him (the ensuing conflicts would actually lead to the occupation of Arab tribes through the Turks and later the Europeans); and he would dwell “in the presence of all his brethren.” This last phrase can also be rendered as, “east of all his brethren.”
Genesis 17:20 adds another important prophecy, where God’s promise to Abraham regarding Ishmael is cited as follows:
“And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.”
We see that Ishmael would have twelve sons or princes, and that he would become a great nation—not twelve nations, as some have erroneously concluded.
The Critical and Experimental Commentary by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown says: “… even in dwelling with his brethren, would he maintain his characteristic hostility; and… he shall… dwell in the presence of his brethren, viz, in Arabia.”
We read that subsequently, Abraham sent away his concubines and his sons of his concubines, including Hagar and Ishmael, “eastward… to the country of the east” (Genesis 25:6). It is commonly agreed that Hagar and Ishmael settled in the land which is known today as Saudi Arabia, where Ishmael also died “in the presence” or “east of” all his brethren (Genesis 25:18).
The prophesied twelve sons or princes of Ishmael are listed in Genesis 25:12-16. They include Tema, Dumah and the most prominent son, Kedar (compare Ezekiel 27:21; Psalm 120:5; Isaiah 21:13-17). This means that Arabs are sometimes referred to in Scripture as Arabia; Ishmaelites; Hagrites or Hagarenes in the Authorized Version (descendants of Hagar, Psalm 83:6); or as the tents or princes or people of Kedar. As an aside, Ishmael’s daughter Mahalath or Basemath married Esau, the first-born son of Isaac and twin brother of Jacob (Genesis 28:9; 36:3).
Common names among modern Arabs are Ibrahim for Abraham and Ismail for Ishmael. Funk and Wagnall’s New Encyclopedia states in volume 13 that “Muslims regard themselves as the descendants of Ishmael.” The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary says that “all Arabs claim descent from Ishmael.” The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia says that the “Arabs themselves derive their descent from Ishmael.”
There are indeed many Arabic nations in existence today, but the prophesied predominant or “great nation” in the Middle East is, according to biblical prophecy, Saudi Arabia.
We need to note that originally, Ishmael and his descendants were more or less worshippers of the God of Abraham. They were of course not Muslims, because Islam only began about 600 A.D., in what is modern Saudi Arabia. Islam’s most holy city is Mecca, which is situated in western Saudi Arabia, being the center of the Islamic world. It is the birthplace of Mohammed.
The Plain Truth informed us in its December 1979 edition that from Ishmael’s son Kedar (Qaidar in Arabic), dated approximately 1840 BC, a line of descent can be traced to Adnan (or Qais) (122 BC), and from him (21 generations further on) to Mohammed (AD 570-632) of the Koreish tribe, the founder and prophet of the Islamic faith.
In the above-mentioned article, The Plain Truth also explained that in the 16th century, the majority of Arab lands came under the sway of the Ottoman Turks. During World War I, the Ottoman Empire fought with Germany and Austria/Hungary against Britain. Britain encouraged the Arab tribes to revolt against the Turks, and in 1916, Hussein Ibn Ali proclaimed himself king of the Arabs. In exchange, Britain promised the Arab tribes independence, but after the victory over Germany, Austria/Hungary and Turkey, the British and the French divided the majority of Arab lands amongst themselves. After occupation through the Ottoman Turks, the Arabs were now being ruled by the Europeans. Later, in World War II, they sided with the Germans against the Allies.
The Plain Truth continued: “Eventually, however, various independent Arab states did at last emerge. Iraq became independent in 1932, Syria and Lebanon in 1941, Transjordan in 1946, Egypt in 1951. In Arabia, King Ibn of Nejd (central Arabia), in 1932… formed the soon-to-be oil rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
The website usahajjmission.com sheds additional light on the history and present status of the “great nation” or kingdom of Saudi Arabia:
“The Saudi state was first established in about 1750 when a local ruler Mohammad Bin Saud merged with an Islamic reformer, Mohammad Abd Al-Wahhab. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded by King Abdul Aziz Al Saud (Ibn Saud) and named after the dynastic family of the Sauds. In 1902, Ibn Saud captured Riyadh with his Bedouin followers and gradually, took other major cities and regions including the Hijaz (Mecca and Medina) in 1924.
“Eventually in 1932, Ibn Saud united the disparate regions and proclaimed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Ibn Saud’s belief in a strict Sunni interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism led to the strong religious basis of a governing Saudi Arabian authority. Observing Sharia (Islamic) law, the Holy Quran forms the constitution of the country… In 1938, the discovery of oil transformed the kingdom. One of the wealthiest nations in the Middle East, Saudi’s oil commodities enabled rapid economic progress and now constitutes 75% of the national income.
“Holding the largest oil reserves in the world, Saudi is now the world’s leading oil producer and exporter but for an economy so vulnerable to fluctuating oil prices, various political and economic dilemmas perhaps lie ahead… Now ruled by King Fahd, in 1986 he accorded himself the official title of ‘Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ to express his devotion to Islam and appoint himself the official overseer of the Holy Places on behalf of the Kingdom. Since 1995 King Fahd’s half-brother Crown Prince Abdullah has ruled Saudi Arabia, due to the king’s ill-health.”
In a subsequent Q&A, we will discuss in detail the biblical prophecies pertaining to the “great nation” of the modern descendants of Ishmael–the country and kingdom of modern-day Saudi-Arabia.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link