Israel: Covenants & Kingdom (16) – Chapter 3 – The Sons of Abraham

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By Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer.. From the book “Israel: Covenants & Kingdom”

Genesis 17:15-16: “…God also said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her’…” The sheer impossibility of this was utterly laughable. Abraham did not, however, dare to laugh into God’s face, so he fell facedown and laughed at the ridiculous idea that God did not realise he was a hundred years old and Sarai ninety, long past the age of child-bearing. In his mind he may have said: “But, LORD, this is not just impossible – it is also unnecessary! Don’t you know that I already have a son? His name is Ishmael! Let him be the one! Accept him as the promised seed!” [Photo top right: Hagar and Ishmael Saved by the Angel – Sebastiano Ricci | Wikimedia Commons] Genesis 17:15-18: “…Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, ‘Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!’…”

Genesis 17:19-22: “…Then God said, ‘No/Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish My Covenant with him as an everlasting Covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But My Covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.’ When He had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him…” The NIV translation uses the word ‘Yes’ in the above passage, but it is not found in the Hebrew original. From the response that God gives, it seems that He means ‘No’ in one sense, and ‘Yes’ in another. The Covenants will be made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the twelve sons of Jacob – the twelve tribes of Israel – and a great blessing is given to Ishmael. And so it happened. Abraham and Sarah both laughed and Sarah laughed – and yet next year Isaac was born, as a miracle of God, called by Him ‘My firstborn son’.

Israel literally is Gods firstborn son. Hosea 11:1: “…When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son…” Exodus 4:22- 23: “…Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: “Israel is My firstborn son, and I told you, Let My son go, so he may worship Me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son’…” And that happened during the tenth plague of Egypt. Because they did not release God’s firstborn son, it did cost them their firstborn sons. Genesis 21:1-7: “…Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what He had promised. Sa- rah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him [Isaac means: he laughs, WJJG]. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’ And she added, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age’…”

Isaiah 43:6-7: “…Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by My Name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made.”

The Covenant with Isaac – and blessings for Ishmael
When one looks at the heartbreaking conflict in the Middle East today, one cannot help but think about the Biblical background. Can one find some solutions and understanding there? What has the Bible to say about the conflict between these two brothers with the same father Abraham, but with different mothers? Ishmael, who is considered to be the forefather of the Arab nations, was born to the Egyptian Hagar, who was a maidservant to Abraham’s wife Sarah. Isaac was born by Abraham’s wife, Sarah, and is the forefather of the Jewish people, Israel.

What are the positions and the rights of these two half-brothers, from a Biblical perspective? God promised Ishmael and his descendants that He would bless them. “…And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will great- ly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation…” So Ishmael, the forefather of the Arabs, has the promise of the blessing of God, and that he would fruitful and would produce great nations. Today there are between 200 and 300 million Arabs, living in over twenty different, independent nations in the Middle East, occupying a vast area of very oil-rich land. So God has kept His promise and He has blessed Ishmael tremendously. They are so powerful that they can choke the economy of the world, if they like.

After all the slaughter throughout the centuries, there are only about fifteen million Jews left in the world. Israel, which is smaller than tiny Holland, is home to about six million Jews in a land with no oil. Incidentally, we can praise God that recently the Israelis detected shale-oil and natural gas deep in the Mediterranean Sea! Another five million Jews live in the USA, about two million in the for- mer Soviet Union, and the rest are still scattered around the globe. A Jewish friend once told me, “It is not fun to be the Chosen People of God. I wished He chose someone else! When you are the Chosen one, the world will hate you. Because the darkness hates the light. I wish it had been the other way around! That we had been given the Blessing, and they [the Arabs] would have been given the Covenant!” To be the Chosen One means that you will suffer, and no people have suffered so much as the people of Israel. No man has suffered so much as the Chosen One from Israel, Jesus Christ, God’s only be- gotten Son. And also the Church, chosen from the gentile world has suffered through persecutions and martyrdoms over the centuries. Thus the Chosen One suffers, although he also has blessings.

So it was blessings for Ishmael, but God’s everlasting Covenant with Abraham. This was confirmed to Isaac, and later to Jacob. “…But My Covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year…”

To be continued.. with: Chapter 3 – The Sons of Abraham – The Covenant about the Promised Land

The book “Israel: Covenants & Kingdom” and other books from Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer can be ordered from the webshop of Christians for Israel International.


Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer
President Christians for Israel International


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