The Three Families of Abraham
A Prophetic Coalition in the Middle East
by: Robert (Bob) Somerville
"In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance." (Isaiah 19:23-25)
Three line of descendants from Abraham, fathered from three women namely Hagar, Sarah and Keturah, overwhelmingly comprise the indigenous peoples of the Middle East. But, who are they, how are they geographically defined and what is Gods prophetic plan for them?
The solution to many territorial boundary disputes among nations can be found in Biblical prophecy. This is particularly true of the Middle East where the debate over borderlines has historically been protracted and bitter, especially where Israel is concerned. In attempting to resolve the existing controversies in that area of the globe from a prophetic standpoint, it may be necessary to cut across some lines of traditional thinking. However, it is a common occurrence for prophetic teaching to be adjusted [perfected] through the process of time and events.
In order to justly determine who should own what in the Middle East, we must begin with the concept of "Divine Right". Divine Right simply mean "privileged by divine authority." The first historical account [assuming the Bible to be authentic history] of land inheritance by "Divine Right" is found in Genesis 15:18:
"In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land,
from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates."
Some Bible expositors hold to the opinion that this promise was made only to the seed of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, namely, the Jewish people. Such a narrow application may well have perpetuated an unnecessary, divisive mistake. The above scripture does not indicate that the Jews alone will own, occupy or control all of the land from the Nile to the Euphrates River, assuming the "river of Egypt" to be the Nile. There are Bible expositors who contend that the reference to the "river of Egypt" actually means the Wadi El Arish River in the Sinai peninsula. But the Hebrew word used in Genesis 15:18 for river is NAHAR, which refers to a constantly flowing river. It contrasts with the Hebrew word, NACHAL, used for river in Numbers 34:5, which means an oasis or a spring fed stream. This would reasonably substantiate that the reference to the "river of Egypt" in Genesis 15:18 is not the Wadi El Arish but in fact the Nile, since it is the only major constantly flowing river in the area. This clarification becomes critical particularly when territorial boundaries are being established.
Again, the prophecy of Genesis 15:18 may tend to give the impression that the Jews are to inherit all of the land between the Nile River and the River Euphrates but a similar prophecy found in Deuteronomy 34:1-6 indicates something quite different. The inference of this prophecy is that it was not intended to be that extensive or exclusive. In fact it strongly implies that the Jews were only promised a small portion of that land. The scriptural basis for suggesting this limited possession is found in Deuteronomy. Here, God is speaking to Moses, not Abraham.
"Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land--from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the LORD said to him, "This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, 'I will give it to your descendants.' I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it. And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said." (Deuteronomy 34:1-6)
This passage of scripture may seem rather paradoxical if not contradictory or at least a bit of compromise to what God had described to Abraham in Genesis 15:18, if indeed one accepts the notion that the River of Egypt to the Euphrates River to be the Jewish "promised land". It would seem quite obvious that the description of what Moses was viewing from Mount Pisgah stood in stark contrast to what God had obviously defined to Abraham. Frankly, it would not have been possible for Moses to see all the way to the Nile River, which was over two hundred and fifty miles away. He certainly could not have seen as far as the Euphrates River in what is now Iraq, a distance of about four hundred miles. Notice the phrase in the foregoing scripture "the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob". Moses was viewing the land that was to be given to Abraham's seed through Isaac and Jacob (the Jewish people). The Lord described the boundaries of those lands that the twelve tribes of Israel were to inherit in even greater detail to Joshua (Joshua chapter 13-18). Although it would have been a challenge, Moses was certainly much more capable of viewing this limited amount of territory (consult map). What accounts for this apparent discrepancy in the two different land inheritance descriptions? It is certain that God is never inconsistent or unfaithful nor prone to compromise His promises. Still, we can be assured that the Nile-Euphrates land mass must in some way be in the possession of Abraham's seed. The answer lies in the fact that the Jews are not the only seed that Abraham produced from his loins. That the Jews are Abraham's seed needs no explanation. However, Isaac was not his only son nor even his firstborn son. There is a mystery in the life of Abraham, which the apostle Paul refers to as an allegory (illustration). That story will shed much light on this subject of land inheritance.
"But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children." (Galatians 4:23-25)
The first two sons of Abraham were Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael was Abraham's first child born to an Egyptian woman whose name was Hagar (Genesis 16:22,24). Ishmael became the father of the modern Arabs. Of this child, God said "And also (as with Isaac) of this son will I make a great nation, because "HE IS THY SEED" (Genesis 21:13)! Since we now understand that Ishmael was also the seed of Abraham and was promised to become a "great nation", he must of necessity be included in the land inheritance to Abraham's seed. Isaac was his second son born to Sarah the Hebrew. Isaac was a child born of covenant promise. He was miraculously born to Sarah who by all account was too old to have children. Therefore, both Isaac (the covenant child born of Sarah the Jewess) and Ishmael who was born of Hagar the Egyptian are the natural SEED OF ABRAHAM. God never said that He would give this Nile-Euphrates land exclusively to Abraham's covenant seed through Sarah. He simply said I will give it to "Your seed" (Genesis 21:13). As I have said, the seed of Abraham through Hagar became what is recognized today as the Arab people. Ishmael's descendants (the Arabs) eventually inhabited much of the lands of Assyria, Moab, Egypt and similar lands that surround the land of Israel. Moab and Assyria were located in much of the area known today as Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The result is that this Nile - Euphrates territory is today by and large in the hands of the Jews and Arabs. It was given to them by divine right. However, the boundaries that were to constitute National Israel (Deuteronomy 34:1-5) should, and ultimately will, be renewed and restored in total to the Jewish people. We find this confirmed by the prophet Ezekiel.
But that's not all! The plot thickens! Abraham had a rather obscure third wife whom he married after the death of Sarah.
"Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan,
and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah." (Genesis 25:1-6)
We now discover that through this third wife Keturah there is created the third family of Abraham. What role did they play in this prophecy? That brings us back to what may be termed the "prophetic coalition" of the Middle East. This story provides the background for the prophecy of Isaiah to be fulfilled which foretells of Israel being a third with Egypt and Assyria, and of the massive interstate highway that shall connect them (Isaiah 19:23-25). All three families of Abraham are represented in this prophecy. Egypt is included in this prophecy because of Ishmael the son born to Abraham by Hagar the Egyptian. Israel is included because of the son born to him of Sarah the Hebrew and Assyria is included because of the children born to him by Katurah. Katurah's children seems to have included such people groups as the Midianites, Babelonians and perhaps the Persians etc. Katurah's children were scattered throughout all the land of Assyria. They still have identity today but it is rather obscure because Abraham sent them all eastward into Trans Jordan and beyond. Only a loose biblical record of them was preserved.
The Middle East is a complex situation, but God (as usual) can always bring order out of chaos. Although very embryonic, the initial stages of this seemingly impossible coalition are in the process of development in our time. This prophecy will be fulfilled! In spite of powerful nations, geopolitical planning and ruthless tyrants, a history defying "peace pact" and indeed a spiritual revival among these mutually hostile nations is predestined.
But there is another prophetic declaration in scripture that must be considered. This prophecy may tend to add further confusion to the Abrahamic landmass inheritance picture.
"Turn you, and take your journey, and go to the mount of the Amorites, and unto all the places nigh thereunto, in the plain, in the hills, and in the vale, and in the south, and by the sea side, to the land of the Canaanites, and unto Lebanon, unto the great river, the river Euphrates. Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the LORD swore unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them." (Deuteronomy 1:7)
This prophecy is interesting since it appears not to entirely harmonize with what God had said on previous occasions to either Abraham or Moses. There is a glaring absence of any reference or even illusion to the Nile River. Again, it may tend to lead us to the conclusion that Israel was to exclusively inherit all of the land to the River Euphrates. However, a close inspection reveals something quite different again. In this prophecy, God does not tell them to posses it all, but only that which had been promised to Isaac and Jacob or more specifically, Moses (Deuteronomy 34:1-4).
History also gives some insight into what the prophetic implications of this scripture might be. It appears that Moses was outlining the extent to which all of the territories could be expanded should the initial boundaries be insufficient for their needs. In fact, this expanded definition did indeed become the territorial dominion of King Solomon. In other words, this scripture no doubt referred to movable lines and borders necessitated by the increase of population, etc. Nevertheless, Israel proper will retain definite boundary lines as outlined by our God through Moses. Since Solomon is a type of Christ, the King of Kings, it might well be that when the Kingdom of God is physically established upon the earth, these flexible lines may be in effect to provide for the "Increase of His government" (Isaiah 9:7). That entire region and perhaps more may be needed to accommodate the central seat of government needed for massive global government under Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). The millennial Reign of Christ will be a practical world, not Star Trek/Disney Land.
The restoration of National Israel to its original, constituted boundaries is a MUST for the will of God to be done, though the process be tumultuous. The West Bank, the Golan Heights and Gaza Strip must be annexed by Israel in order to meet the demands of prophecy. The return of the Sinai to Egypt in 1982 was the proper course of action for Israel. The Sinai was not a part of the original "promised" land.
These geopolitical issues generate much controversy but the prophetically oriented mind will rise above human perspectives and endorse divine initiatives. The responsibility of believers is to declare the will of God on these issues, not the whims of international politics.
Arab Nations Blessed in Prophecy
"And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly;
twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation [the Arabs]." (Genesis 17:20)
Yes, the Arabs are as much the seed of Abraham as are the Jews. By that I mean, both Arabs and Jews are the fleshly descendants of Abraham. They are a Semitic tribe (descendants of Seth and Shem).
A growing number of people, both believers and nonbelievers in Messiah, are becoming fervently pro-Israel. This is as it should be in light of Genesis 12:1-3:
"The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
However, one must not assume that in order to be pro-Israel, one must be anti-Arab! Many make that mistake either directly or indirectly. It is important that we look at both sides of the coin and see it from God's perspective. There can be no doubt that there is no respecter of persons with God [no partiality]. All nations are accepted with Him (Acts 17:26). The Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) was sent to redeem all humankind (John 3:16). As with God, so our love should be extended to all of humanity, which includes the Arabic people, they too are precious in His sight. Beyond that, God has a prophetic plan for the Arab people.
In Genesis, chapters 16 through 21 is recorded the entire story of how the Arabs and the Jews (Ishmael and Isaac), as a separate people, came into existence and the sad circumstance that created the hostility that exists between them. In brief summary of that story, we find that Abraham had received from God the promise of a son even though both he and his wife Sarah were very old. This appeared to be such an impossibility that Sarah actually laughed at the prospects. She immediately began to develop a plan that could actually accomplish this lawfully, according to their traditions. Sarah had a bondmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. Her plan was to give Hagar unto Abraham so that she (Sarah) could obtain children by Abraham through Hagar. This is probably the one and only biblical account of "surrogate mothering", but it was an acceptable concept in their day. Abraham consented to the idea and as a result, Hagar conceived and to them was born Abraham's first child, Ishmael. Abraham's firstborn was to a gentile, not a Jew. He was the first to received the rite of circumcision confirming the linage and promise of blessing to Ishmael (Genesis 17:23-27).
Even the casual reader of the scriptures knows the wonderful story of how God eventually performed a miracle by restoring Sarah's ability to conceive and bring forth a son to Abraham in her old age despite her unbelief. The son was named Isaac. We read wonderful and glorious things concerning Isaac's descendants. To him was born Jacob who fathered the twelve tribes and indeed the whole Israelite nation (the Jews). However, little seems known or even desired to be known by many believers about God's dealing with the Ishmaelite people (the Arabs) and their twelve tribes or what God's heart attitude was and is toward Ishmael.
"And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly;
twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation." (Genesis 17:20)
The New Testament clearly shows and history confirms that Hagar became the mother of the Arab nation as God had promised. The Apostle Paul makes the Hagar/Arabic connection in Galatians 4:25. He informs us that the story is an allegory, which means "a symbolic representation" of the covenants of the law and of grace. As an allegory, however, it reflects much more and is not limited to a demonstration of law and grace. In this story can also be seen the divine strategy for a prophetic work of God among the Arab nations in the latter days. Sarah, after initiating her substitutionary program, became very jealous and offended when Ishmael was born to Hagar by her husband Abraham. After much bitterness had been created between Sarah and Hagar, Sarah's jealousy caused her to cast the child and the mother out of the home, sending them out into the wilderness not caring if they perished. But Abraham loved His half-Egyptian, half-Hebrew son and interceded to God for him saying "Oh that Ishmael might live in thy sight" (Genesis 17:18). The request of Abraham that Ishmael might "Live" before God is quite revealing. Live means more than just survive and not physically die, but to be accepted and receive God's blessing (Isaiah 19:25).
God told Abraham that he never intended for Ishmael to be his "covenant" son. However, He did say in Genesis 17: 20-21:
"And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly;
twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac..."
This was part of the process by which the Jewish people became a "chosen" people through whom God would bless all nations as he had promised Abraham:
"I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." (Genesis 12:3)
Nevertheless, Sarah insisted that Hagar and her son Ishmael (the Arab) be cast out into the wilderness and forgotten. But Abraham's intercession for his son was effective. Ishmael was not forgotten and did not die in the wilderness. He lived because God in his providence provided a well of water for him in an arid land.
"And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction. Wherefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered." (Genesis 16:7,10,11,14)
The well was named "Beerlahairoi" meaning "The well of the living". And live he did, becoming the father of the Arab nations as God had promised. Yet, there developed a deepening hostility between Hagar and Sarah because of the jealousy of Sarah and the spirit of rejection in Hagar. The bitterness that exists between the Arabs and the Jews today is a direct result of that historic event. They may not even realize it but the effect remains.
The principles of this prophetic story are still at work. The circumstances have changed very little. In their beginning, Ishmael the Arab was cast out but God provided him with a well of water for his survival and preservation. Down through the centuries the Arabs have been outcasts to a great extent. They have been regarded by other nations of the world an insignificant people, for the most part Bedouins (nomads) dwelling among the sand dunes of the deserts in the Middle East. They seem stuck in the past, wearing peculiar looking garments and headdresses, riding camels, going from oasis to oasis while being exploited by larger and more powerful nations. Suddenly, in the last couple of decades, something has happened. As did Ishmael their forefather, suddenly they too "woke up by a fountain". Not a fountain of water this time, but a fountain of oil. These wells could again be called Beerlahairoi "The well or spring of the living." Without firing a shot, without airplanes, tanks or bombs, they came into the possession of the worlds most precious commodity, oil! Without which, the great industrialized nations of the world could not survive. In so doing, they have become a people to be reckoned with, having control of the largest energy resources in the world, they have global economics "by the tail". World powers and world leaders who once ignored them and exploited them are now coming to their door step, courting their favor and seeking their consent and advice. Has God blessed Ishmael the Arab? Indeed He has, and international developments confirm it. This is their physical blessing, but there awaits for the Arab a spiritual blessing as well.
Biblical prophecy indicates that concurrent with God's gathering of the outcast of Israel to their homeland, He will also be setting the stage to do a great work among the Arabs. A blessing for both nations was foreseen by Isaiah the prophet:
"Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." (Isaiah 60:1-3)
These prophetic verses speak of the end time restoration of national Israel and also apply in principle to the restoration of all things to the church. However, the sixth verse of this prophecy indicates that the descendants of Katurah (Abraham's third family) are included in the process. Notice the reference to his children:
"The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come:
they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the LORD." (Isaiah 60:6)
The seventh verse contains a special focus on the descendants of Hagar, the Arabs:
"All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee:
they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the house of my glory" (Isaiah 60:7)
This verse is significant in that Kedar and Nabaioth were the first two boys of the twelve sons born to Ishmael. There is some tremendous insight, indeed revelation, to be gleaned from this prophetic picture language. It is a declaration of an incredible event where the Arab nations actually bring blessing and support to national Israel as well as the body of Christ-the Church. This is an outstanding, even a mind boggling prophecy, given the nature of the bitterness and resentment that the Arabs presently feel toward Israel and the Christian Church. The phrase "they shall come up with acceptance on my alter" predicts their conversion to the truth of God. It is a declaration of a spiritual awakening among the Arabs. This points up the power of prayer! It is the answer to a twelve hundred year old request. Abraham prayed "O that Ishmael might live before thee!" (Genesis 17:18). Hallelujah!!
God intends to reach the Arab people with the hope of the gospel. It is a shame that the Christian Church has all but forsaken these precious people. The record shows that there is but one missionary for every ten million Arabs. What a glaring disregard for these souls. Especially so, since Abraham so diligently prayed and sought God's blessing for them. In times of geo-political crisis and conflict, Christians are sometimes heard to say "I hope Israel wins and they blow the Arabs of off the map" but Abraham prayed for their survival - shouldn't we? In this particular scenario, when God's ideas prevail, everybody wins! If we the people of God who are also of the faith of Abraham as the Apostle Paul declared (Romans 4:11), such a statistic of missionary neglect and such attitudes of animosity leaves much to be desired in the Christian value system. Although, as other nations, the Arabs are not God's covenant people of promise as are the Jews, He did make a covenant of blessing with them to include them in his plan of redemption and prophetic participation with Israel.
"In that day shall there be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the LORD. And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the LORD because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them. And the LORD shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the LORD, and perform it. And the LORD shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the LORD, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them. In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance." (Isaiah 19:19-25)
Is God anti Arab? Not in the light of these prophecies and neither should we. Occasionally one is admonished by leadership to "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (Psalm 122:6), and rightly so. But until there is peace in Amman, Damascus and in Cairo, there can be no peace in Jerusalem!
It appears that some in the Christian community are content to turn the Arabs over to the Moslems/Islam. The Moslems say they accept Jesus as a prophet but that is not redemptive, he must be revealed to them as the savior and Lord. We must reach them with this redemptive truth. Nothing is impossible with God. When enlightened of their divine destiny through prophecy It seems well within the realm of possibility that the people of Arab decent could receive Him as the Messiah.
In conclusion: All three national families of Abraham through Sarah, Hagar and Keturah have, by and large, failed to recognize the true Messiah who is Yeshua, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Jews are still looking for their Messiah to appear, while the others do not even realize that they need one. Although they by in large accept Mohammed, and Jesus as prophets, they do not believe that a Messiah is necessary. Still, it is predicted by the prophets that a majority of these descendants of Abraham will accept the true Messiah at a critical point in time as a result of the prophetic plan I have identified. A messenger of a new covenant will be sent to turn away ungodliness from Jacob [a Jewish revival] (Romans 11:26). An alter will be established unto the true God in Egypt for spiritual awakening (Isaiah 19:9). And Assyria will become the work of the Lord's hands (Isaiah 19:25). All of the natural seed of Abraham shall know and understand that Yeshua (Jesus), the Son of David has been sent for their redemption and blessing. Yeshua (Jesus) the true Messiah said it succinctly "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd" (John 10:16). A great spiritual awakening throughout all of the Middle East, from the Nile River to the Euphrates River, is on God's agenda. A tremendous harvest of souls from the seed of Abraham will come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. In the light of History it may be difficult to imagine such an event but the spirit of prophecy leaves no room for doubt (Revelation 19:10).
Blessed be the God of Abraham in the day of the reconciliation of his children!