Did God give the Arabs a covenant?
As descendants of Abraham’s son, Ishmael, they too have a promise, but it is not a promise of land like God gave to Abraham (Genesis 17:8) and to his descendants through Isaac (Genesis 26:2-5) and Jacob (Genesis 28:1-4,13-14). The covenant God made with Ishmael had to do with the number of his descendants. Ishmael was promised that his descendants would be “multiplied exceedingly” (Genesis 17:20).
God has faithfully kept His promise to the descendants of Ishmael. Today there are 21 Arab states with a combined population of 175 million Arabs. There is only one Jewish state with a population of 5 million. The Arab states contain 5.3 million square miles of oil rich land. Israel has only 8 thousand square miles of land with no major oil reserves that have been discovered. That’s a population ratio of 43 to 1 and a land ratio of 662 to 1!
Not All Muslims Are Arabs
A popular misconception is that Arab identity is determined by religion — that if you are a Muslim, then you are an Arab. That is not true.
One of the most populous Muslim nations in the world is Indonesia, an island nation in Southeast Asia. Indonesians are not Arabs. They are Malays. Likewise, the nation of Iran is composed of Muslims, but they are not Arabs. They are Persians.
Arab identity is not determined by religion. Most Arabs are Muslims, but not all; and all Muslims are certainly not Arabs.
Arab identity is determined by ethnic heritage. And the amazing thing is that all Arabs — like all Jews — are descended from the family of Abraham! That means the Arab-Israeli conflict is a family dispute — the longest running and most intense family squabble in history.
The Bible has made a number of prophesies for the Arab peoples. First, it says they will claim the land of Israel which God gave to their brothers, the Jews. The prophet Ezekiel says this claim will be made in the end times (Ezekiel 35:5,10; 36:2,5).
This prophecy has been fulfilled in our time! For 2,000 years the Jews were dispersed from the land which God gave them, and during that long period of time there was never an Arab state in the area that the world called Palestine. The Arabs who lived in the land considered themselves Syrians. They had no consciousness as Palestinians, and no effort was ever made to create a Palestinian state.
When the Jews began returning in this century, the Arabs gleefully sold them the land at inflated prices because it was considered worthless. It was World War I that changed the Arab viewpoint. The war resulted in the land of Palestine being transferred from the Turks to the British, and the British immediately proclaimed it to be a homeland for the Jews. Suddenly, the Arabs were confronted with the prospect of a Jewish state, and they began to dig in their heels, claiming the land as their own.
The British gave in to Arab pressure, and in 1922 they gave two-thirds of Palestine to the Arabs, creating the state of Jordan. This was land that they had promised to the Jews. But this action did not satisfy the Arab appetite. They wanted all the land God had given to the Jews, and they still covet it to this day, just as prophesied.
The Bible further prophesies that God will pour out judgment upon the Arab nations in the end times for their hostility toward the Jews and their attempt to claim the Jewish homeland as their own.
Consider Joel 3:19, for example. This passage has a clear end time context, and in that context it says, “Egypt will become a waste, and Edom will become a desolate wilderness, because of the violence done to the sons of Judah, in whose land they have shed innocent blood.”
Keep in mind that Edom is often used as a symbolic term for all the Arab peoples, just as Israel is used as a term for all the Jewish tribes. Ezekiel says that “all Edom” will be dealt with in the end times because of its hatred against the Jews, and the result will be desolation (Ezekiel 35:10-11,15). The book of Obadiah prophesies a similar fate for Edom in “the day of the Lord” (Obadiah 15-18).
But the future for the Arabs is not all bleak. They must suffer for their sins just as the Jewish people will suffer during the Tribulation. And, like the Jews, a remnant of the Arabs will emerge from their suffering with their hearts turned to the one and only true God (Jeremiah 12:14-17).
The most remarkable prophecy concerning the future salvation of an Arab remnant is contained in Isaiah 19:16-25. Isaiah says that when the Lord strikes Egypt and Assyria, they will turn to Him and He will have compassion on them and “heal them.” Isaiah then presents an incredible picture of Egypt, Assyria and Israel living together in peace, worshiping the same God!
Another remarkable prophecy concerns the Arabs who will be living in the land of Israel after the Lord returns. This prophecy relates to the fact that the territory of Israel will be greatly expanded when Jesus returns, incorporating many of the Arab nations that exist today. (The considerably expanded borders of Israel during the Millennium are detailed in Ezekiel 47:15-20.) Amazingly, Ezekiel says that the Arabs living in Israel at that time will be “allotted an inheritance” of the land together with the tribes of Israel! (See Ezekiel 47:21-23 and Isaiah 14:1-2.)
An Impartial God
There is no partiality with God (Romans 2:11). He chose the Jews, not to be a repository of His blessings, but to be a vehicle through whom He would bless all the nations of the world, including the Arabs. But the fundamental requirement to receive God’s blessings — for both Jew and Arab, as well as all people — is to accept God’s gift of love in Jesus by receiving Him as Messiah.
When I consider God’s grace toward the Arab peoples, I am reminded of what Paul wrote when he considered God’s grace toward his Jewish brethren: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Romans 11:33).
Keep in mind that the amazing grace which God is displaying toward the Arabs and the Jews is available to you. The message of God’s dealings with the physical descendents of Abraham is that there is no sin so great and dark that it can separate you from the love of God which He has expressed in Jesus.
The key to experiencing that grace is repentance. As Paul put it in his sermon in Athens: “God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent” (Acts 17:30).