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The genesis and history of conflicts between the arabs and israelites

My family and I were driving through the countryside, listening to the Bible on tape. Internationally and in this region, people and publications link the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael to the current political situation in the Middle East.

Ishmael and Isaac: the Birth of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

As a result, we wanted to examine the role of theological interpretations, particularly concerning the role of Ishmael. Is it truly the case that the origins of our modern conflict can be found in the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael? Did the patriarchs determine the fate of the Arabs and Jews and their modern nations? It is important for all of us involved in Musalaha and other ministries working among Israelis and Palestinians, to raise these questions.

The issue has long been one that allows people to reject the other side, to resign themselves to a fatalistic and hopeless view of peace, and to be apathetic towards reconciliation and relationships with the other side. Certain myths concerning Ishmael prevail that perpetuate division, and hinder reconciliation and evangelism.

A careful reading of the Hebrew texts on the character and experience of Ishmael, as recently written about by a number of scholars, challenges these suppositions. So often, texts are interpreted in the light of the present conflict and used to justify nationalist or ethnic positions.

As Christians, we can hesitate to deal with the topic of Ishmael because it might be seen as a defense or apologetic for Islam.

Muslims are linked to Ishmael mainly through post-Koranic tradition that draws the roots of Mohammed back to Ishmael. In addition, discussion of Ishmael can be perceived as taking sides in the conversations concerning the theology of the land.

Biblical Roots of the Middle East Conflict

Precisely because this topic has implications concerning very sensitive and relevant issues, it is important to carefully examine what the Hebrew text and its context is communicating about Ishmael. In this short article there is not room to address every issue, and there is no intention to take sides on the issue of theology of the land.

Because interpretations of Ishmael have implications for Israeli and Palestinian believers and for reconciliation in this land, we would like to bring up some points and recommend further exploration of the subject.

One prevailing myth is that Ishmael, because he was not the son of the promise, was cursed and rejected by God. Ishmael was not removed from the blessing of the covenant: It is also important to note that Ishmael and his descendents did not live in a state of constant enmity with their brothers and neighbors. Ishmael was circumcised as part of the Abrahamic covenant, and it is clear that he came together with Isaac to bury their father Gen.

The book of Job uses the same term, in a classic description of the pere-adam as an independent, wilderness survivor, who avoids the sedentary life. The scripture also indicates that Ishmael well dwell al pne with his brothers.

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Certainly someone so fiercely independent will get into disputes with his neighbors and brothers. Such misperceptions can cause a deterministic or fatalistic view of the relationships between Jews and Arabs.

They can also lead to dehumanization of Muslims, to such a degree that they are even considered beyond or outside the redemptive act of Jesus on the cross. It does not even reflect the pattern of Arab-Jewish relationships in post-biblical history.

Biblical Roots of the Middle East Conflict

On the contrary, it reveals a crisis of interpretation of history and theology…. This should create among Christians a desperate burden to refrain from political agendas and invest in the spiritual awakening predicted among both Arabs and Jews. Removing unwarranted biases against Arabs, which neither the Bible nor history sustains, would play a healing role in the Middle East conflict.

In Acts 2, Arabic was one of the languages listed as being spoken on Pentacost. Paul spent three years in the Arabian desert. The Gospel reached the Arab and nomadic peoples very early in church history, mainly due to their geographical proximity. As such, Arab Christianity has been around since the beginning of the formation of the church. Many of the suppositions that are projected on to the Arabs are based in a failure to understand the character and destiny of Ishmael.

The Forgotten Son of Abraham.

Ishmael and Isaac: the Birth of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

Fuller School of World Mission. Walvoord and Roy B. Victor, ,