Well, the brothers are at it again! The two sons of Abraham were half-brothers, as they had different mothers. The way they were raised produced an animosity between them that exists to this day and may have a bearing on events shortly ahead of us.
Abram, as he then was called, was told by God that he would be taken to a land where his descendants would be as numerous as the dust of the earth (Genesis 13:15-16). So, Abram anticipated having children — and a son — as the fulfillment of this promise from God. The promise was confirmed by a covenant, so Abram had reason to believe it.
After about a decade, Sarai had not become pregnant and she could see the window of opportunity closing in physical terms. So, she took matters into her own hands and encouraged Abram to have children by her handmaid, Hagar. After Hagar conceived, the women began to despise each other, and the deteriorating situation culminated with Hagar fleeing into the wilderness to escape Sarai’s harsh treatment.
There, an angel of the Lord informed her that, “Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael (meaning God hears) 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” (Genesis 16:11-12). Abram was 86 years old when Ishmael was born.
Ishmael was raised in a household where the expectation was that he would be Abram’s heir — the son of promise. When Ishmael was 13 years of age, God informed Abraham (his name changed at 99 years of age) that Ishmael was not the son of promise but that Sarah would in fact produce a son who was to be called Isaac and he would be the inheritor of the promises. This must have been a severe disappointment for Hagar and Ishmael and no doubt, created a deep animosity toward Isaac when he was born a year later.
This rift showed itself as Isaac grew. “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing” (Genesis 21:9). As a result, Sarah demanded that Hagar and Ishmael be “cast out”. The Apostle Paul noted that, “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so is now” (Galatians 4:28-29). According to Paul, the animosity was current at his time.
God had also told Abraham that Ishmael would have 12 sons and they would be 12 princes of 12 nations. “These were the sons of Ishmael and these were their names, by their towns and their settlements, twelve princes according to their nations” (Genesis 25:16). This area was the country of the east. It is possible that these 12 nations intermingled with others in that area, but we know them primarily as the Muslim Arabs. The Arabs themselves claim Ishmael as their “father.”
The turmoil of hatred and anger in the Middle East is not going away any time soon. It has very deep roots. God stated that the hand of Ishmael’s descendants would be against every man and every man’s hand against him. This produces a very unstable environment.
The volatility of the area is enhanced by God’s promise to Isaac’s seed that He would take away strong leadership. He will allow capricious ones – babes – to rule over them (Isaiah 3:4). In an environment of hostility, it would take very little to inflame the situation.
The world desperately needs a Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace to order judgment and justice over the earth.