Introduction: We’ve heard people say that since the land of Israel belongs to both the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael and that the solution to the tension in the region is to divide the land between them. But few people realize that the land of the 12 Tribes of Ishmael is far from the land given to the 12 Tribes of Israel.
The introduction to this article on the Abrahamic Covenant and the 12 Tribes of Israel, we outline who are the people and where is the land belonging to the 12 Tribes of Israel [http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-abrahamic-covenant-and-the-12-tribes-of-israel/] .
In this article we outline from Scripture who are the people and where is the land belonging to the descendants of Ishmael.
Abraham was getting old and Sarai was resigned that she wasn’t going to bear a child herself, so she tells Abram to sleep with her handmaiden, Hagar so that he would have an heir to the promise of ‘the land’ and to bring forth ‘a great nation’ (Genesis 16:1-4).
Hagar conceives but Sarai mistreats her so much that Hagar runs away from her (:6). The Angel of the Lord tells her she must go back to Sarai and submit to her and promises her;
“I will greatly multiply your offspring, and they will be too many to count.”
Now, in English this seems like it could be any angel, but in Hebrew it is unmistakable, this Angel is called מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה, that is by God’s actual Name (יְהוָה), the tetragrammaton, YHVH.
In beginning in verse 11, this Angel who bears the very Name of God says to Hagar;
Then the Angel of the Lord said to her:
You have conceived and will have a son.
You will name him Ishmael,
for the Lord has heard your cry of affliction.
This man will be like a wild donkey.
His hand will be against everyone,
and everyone’s hand will be against him;
he will live at odds with all his brothers.
So she called the Lord who spoke to her: The God Who Sees,[h] for she said, “In this place, have I actually seen the One who sees me?”
“So Hagar gave birth to Abram’s son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son Hagar had. Abram was 86 years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him.
We see something about the character of Ishmael here and an understanding that what we see played out in the Middle East was foreseen by God;
“This man will be like a wild donkey.
His hand will be against everyone,
and everyone’s hand will be against him;
he will live at odds with all his brothers”.
The Boundaries of the Land of Israel
The boundaries of the land of Israel is specified in Numbers 34:1-12;
The Lord spoke to Moses, “Command the Israelites and say to them: When you enter the land of Canaan, it will be allotted to you as an inheritance[a] with these borders:
Your southern side will be from the Wilderness of Zin along the boundary of Edom. Your southern border on the east will begin at the east end of the Dead Sea. Your border will turn south of the Ascent of Akrabbim, proceed to Zin, and end south of Kadesh-barnea. It will go to Hazar-addar and proceed to Azmon. The border will turn from Azmon to the Brook of Egypt, where it will end at the Mediterranean Sea.
Your western border will be the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea; this will be your western border.
This will be your northern border: From the Mediterranean Sea draw a line to Mount Hor; from Mount Hor draw a line to the entrance of Hamath, and the border will reach Zedad. Then the border will go to Ziphron and end at Hazar-enan. This will be your northern border.
For your eastern border, draw a line from Hazar-enan to Shepham. The border will go down from Shepham to Riblah east of Ain. It will continue down and reach the eastern slope of the Sea of Chinnereth. Then the border will go down to the Jordan and end at the Dead Sea. This will be your land defined by its borders on all sides.”
So Moses commanded the Israelites, “This is the land you are to receive by lot as an inheritance, which the Lord commanded to be given to the nine and a half tribes. For the tribe of the Reubenites and the tribe of the Gadites have received their inheritance according to their ancestral houses, and half the tribe of Manasseh has received its inheritance. The two and a half tribes have received their inheritance across the Jordan from Jericho, eastward toward the sunrise.”
In Ezekiel 47, God reveals the future boundaries of the 12 tribes of Israel. It is believed this will be the boundaries of the land during the earthly rule of Messiah from Jerusalem.
Distribution of the Land to the 12 Tribes of Israel
Notice that the land on the west side of the Jordan is allocated to nine and half tribes with the other two and a half tribes inheriting land on the east side of the Jordan (half the tribe of Manasseh, Reuben, Gad).
“So Moses commanded the Israelites, “This is the land you are to receive by lot as an inheritance, which the Lord commanded to be given to the nine and a half tribes. For the tribe of the Reubenites and the tribe of the Gadites have received their inheritance according to their ancestral houses, and half the tribe of Manasseh has received its inheritance. The two and a half tribes have received their inheritance across the Jordan from Jericho, eastward toward the sunrise.”
The land God gave to half the tribe of Manasseh (East Manasseh), Gad and Reuben lie where southern Jordan is now.
The People and Land of Ishmael and His Descendants
When Abraham fathered a child with Hagar (Sarah’s handmaiden) Ishmael and his descendants were also given a people and a land.
The people descended from Ishmael became the twelve Ishmaelite tribes (Genesis 17:20; 25:13-18). The Ishmaelites are part of what is today called the Arab nation but there are many Arab nations that are not descendant from Ishmael (or even Abraham, for that matter). More on that below.
Scripture specifies the land of the Ishmaelites;
“from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt, as you go toward Assyria”
This is the area between the Sinai desert, the Great Syrian Desert, the Hejaz and modern Mosul in northern Iraq.
Scripture says that after being put away by Abraham (Genesis 21:10-13), Ishmael and his mother, Hagar settled in the wilderness (or desert) of Paran which is an area near the Sinai Peninsula. When he grew up, Hagar found him a wife from the land of Egypt (Genesis 21:17-21).
“God was with the boy, and he grew; he settled in the wilderness and became an archer. He settled in the Wilderness of Paran, and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.”
Ishmael and his wife had twelve sons who each became the head of one of the Ishmaelite tribes that settled throughout the regions from Havilah to Shur (from Assyria to the border of Egypt).
“These are the family records of Abraham’s son Ishmael, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s slave, bore to Abraham. These are the names of Ishmael’s sons; their names according to the family records are: Nebaioth, Ishmael’s firstborn, then Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. These are Ishmael’s sons, and these are their names by their villages and encampments: 12 leaders of their clans. This is the length of Ishmael’s life: 137 years. He took his last breath and died, and was gathered to his people. And they settled from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt as you go toward Asshur. He lived in opposition to all his brothers.“
The land belonging to the descendants of Ishmael was from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt –from the northern part of Saudi Arabia to the very south-eastern part of Assyria (Iraq)
Looking on a present day map, the land belonging to the tribes of Ishmael include the northern part of Saudi Arabia, south eastern Jordan, southern Assyria (specifically Southern Iraq) and Kuwait.
Neither Jews nor Ishmaelites
There are those that are neither Jews (a descendant of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob) nor Ishamelites (descendants of Abraham through Ishmael) but who live in the region. These people groups do not fall under the blessing of the Abrahamic Covenant.
i. Descendants of Esau: Some people that are called “Arabs” are descended from Esau (and therefore are children of Abraham) but they are not part of the promises to the Jews (through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) nor do they fall under the promises inherited by Ishmael’s descendants (Abraham through Ishmael) .
The descendants of Esau are listed in great detail in Genesis 36. Genesis 36:6 says that Esau moved some distance away from his brother Jacob, to another land called Se’ir (which is southern Jordan today, known as Edom or Idumea is the past).
ii. Descendants of Keturah: The are descendants of Abraham that were born to him after Sarah’s death: In Genesis 25:1-4 other Arab tribes are also mentioned who are not descended from Ishmael, but claim Keturah as their matriarch. Keturah bore Abraham six sons, Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.
iii. No ethnic connection to Abraham: There are many that call themselves Arabs but have no ethnic connection to Abraham. Some of the Arab nation are descendants of Shem, Aram, Eber, Joktan and his progeny and all of them are Arab peoples who lived before Abraham.
* one of Shem’s sons was Aram (perhaps the father of the Arameans) and another was Arphaxad (whose grandson was Eber). Eber had two children – Peleg and Joktan. Joktan is described as the patriarch of many Arab tribes, many of whom can be traced to the Saudi Arabian Hejaz and Hadramaut.
[Note: the section above on the descendants of Esau is from the book, Israel, The Key to World Revival by Avner Boskey)
…so Who are the Arabs?
People often use the term “Arab’ to describe non-Jewish people of Middle Eastern descent, including those that define themselves as ‘Palestinian’. But are they Arabs?
The boundaries of land outlined in Scripture are categorized based on the two physical descendants of Abraham; Ishmael and Isaac, so let’s look at ‘Arab’ in those terms.
Some Arabs are descended from Esau (Jacob’s brother) and therefore don’t fall under either the promises made to Ishmael or to Isaac..
Some Arabs were born to Keturah (Abraham’s wife after Sarah’s death), so while these are ‘descendants of Abraham’ they are not through either Sarah (Abraham’s first wife) or Hagar (Sarah’s handmaiden, mother of Ishmael) as specified in Scripture. As such they do not inherit the land specified to descendants of Abraham though Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) nor to Abraham through Ishmael (the Ishmaelites).
Different Lands for the Descendants of Isaac and Ishmael
Based on Scripture, the land God gave to the Jewish people — to Abraham and his descendant through Isaac and Jacob (Israel) — and to the 12 Tribes of Israel, includes present-day Israel including the so-called “West Bank” of the Jordan River (Judea and Samaria), western Jordan, south-western Syria, the southern tip of Lebanon, and all of the Golan Heights (east Manasseh).
The land of the 12 Tribes of Ishmael is the northern part of Saudi Arabia, south eastern Jordan, southern Assyria (specifically Southern Iraq) and Kuwait.
Based on Scripture, the land of the Jews and the land of the Ishmaelites are entirely different lands.
There isn’t even any overlap.