in Bible prophecy
The Arab nations are descended from
Ishmael, the son of Abraham, who lived about four thousand years
ago in the Middle East. The Jews are descended from Isaac, another
son of Abraham. Thus these two peoples, Arab and Jew, so often at
loggerheads, have Abraham as their common ancestor.
Also reckoned among the Arab nations
are those who occupy Jordan, Syria and Iraq. These nations are descended
from Lot, Abraham's nephew and Esau Abraham's grandson and brother
of Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes (the nation) of Israel.
There was bitter hostility between Esau and Jacob and this has persisted
among their descendants down to the present day.
Ishmael's mother was an Egyptian
called Hagar and an angel spoke to her about the character of her
son before he was born. It was the first prophecy about the Arabs.
"Behold, thou art with child,
and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Ishmael...and he will
be a wild man; his hand will be against every man and every man's
hand against him" (Genesis 16:11-12).
Wildness and inter-tribal conflict
have characterised the Arabs throughout their history. Many of them,
like the Bedouins, have lived nomadic lives. Attempts to unite the
Arab world have always been frustrated by their own fiercely independent
behaviour and their propensity to engage in long and bloody feuds.
The rise of Islam
Disunity, however, has not prevented
the Arabs from making their impact on the world. Islam has changed
the course of history and its rise was prophesied in the Bible.
The book of Revelation (the last
book of the Bible) is a book of symbol in which the conflict between
two spiritual cities, Rome and Jerusalem, is portrayed. Rome, the
Catholic system, was to grow very powerful in the earth but its
growth was to be checked by various agencies raised up by God for
Mahomet, the founder of Islam, was
one such agent whose rise to prominence was foreseen in Revelation
chapter 9 verse 1 as "a star fallen from heaven unto the earth".
"To him was given (by God)
the keys of the bottomless pit (Arabia) out of which "arose
a smoke" (the militant followers of Mahomet) who "darkened"
the Roman "sun" by afflicting her rulers (verse 2).
"It was commanded them that
they should not hurt the grass of the earth neither any green thing
neither any tree" (almost word for word the instructions of
Abubeker, Mahomet's successor, to his troops), "but only those
who have not the seal of God in their foreheads" (ie. did not
believe in the unity of God, as Moslems do). (verse 4).
"They had hair as the hair
of women" (the long, flowing hair of the Saracens)..."and
their breastplates were of iron" (the famous Arab warrior cuirasses".
"And they had a king over them"
(as Abubeker, the first of the Caliphs).
The prophecy shows that the power
to torment and hurt their enemies would be limited to a certain
time. Thus the power of the Caliphs was limited to 300 years between
about 630 AD and 930 AD. During this period Arab domination grew.
Within fifty years of Mahomet's death they had spread to Constantinople
and Gibraltar, annexing the countries in their path and compelling
their peoples to accept Mahomet as a prophet and the Koran as their
guide. Passing over the straits of Gibraltar, the Saracens overran
much of Spain and were only stopped from taking France by the successful
opposition of Charles Martel, the king of the Franks, at Poitier
in 732 AD. Their influence was strongly anti-Catholic and served
to allow freedom of thought and to lay the foundation for an education
system which in later centuries was to facilitate the translation
and study of the scriptures by the common people. The world was
thus saved from total subjugation by superstition and idolatry.
This was the hand of God and the Arabs were his agents.
Opposition to Israel
However, the Bible shows that the
Arab nations, though disunited, see a common enemy in Israel and
plot for her downfall. This is clearly seen in Psalm 83.
"They have taken crafty counsel
against thy (God's) people...They have said, come, and let us cut
them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no
more in remembrance. For they have consulted together with one consent;
they are confederate against thee". Who? -- "The tabernacle
of Edom (Esau) and the Ishmaelites, of Moab (Lot's son) and the
Hagarenes..." (Psalm 83:3-6).
The Arab nations have consistently
sought to "cut Israel off from being a nation". Gamul
Abdul Nassar speaking as head of the United Arab Republic vowed
to "drive Israel into the sea". However, Nassar is now
no more, but Israel is still there. This is because God purposes
to establish "his people" and to make her enemies like
"the stubble before the wind" (Psalm 83:13).
Although God plans to completely crush Israel's
enemies, there is envisaged a time when Arab and Jew will co-exist
peaceably - but the conditions are given in Isaiah:
"The sons also of them that
afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee: and all that despise
thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they
shall call thee the city of the LORD, the Zion of the Holy One of
Israel" (Isaiah 60:14).
This is the condition for all nations
to enjoy peace and prosperity in the new order to be established
in the earth when Jesus, Israel's messiah returns to the earth to
establish God's kingdom in Israel.