by Robert Brow   (web site - www.brow.on.ca) Kingston, Ontario, December, 2005


The Jewish people are from the twelve sons of Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, who was renamed Israel (Genesis 32:28). Genesis also records the origins of the five groups of Arabs descended from Abraham and his close relatives. All of these groups felt excluded from Abraham’s family inheritance, and the Old Testament records the continuing wars that occurred.

Abraham’s oldest son Ishmael was driven away when Abraham’s second son Isaac was born (21:8-13). Ishmael had twelve sons who had pride of place among the Arab princes, and later became leaders of the children of Ishmael (Bene Ishmael) or Arab nation.

The Moabites and Ammomnites, to the east of the River Jordan, were the children of Abraham’s nephew Lot (13:8-14; 19:30-38). The Ammonite capital Rabbah (2 Samuel 11:1) was renamed Amman and it is the capital of modern Jordan.

The children of Abraham’s concubine Keturah (Genesis 25:1-4) were given gifts, but they were sent away "eastward to the east country" of Arabia and were not included in Abraham’s inheritance (25:5).

When Abraham’s grandson Jacob obtained the inheritance from his brother (Genesis 27:1-41) Esau moved to western Arabia to the south of the Dead Sea. He married Mahalath (also called Basemath) the daughter of Ishmael (28:3; 36:3), and became the ancestor of the kings who reigned in Edom before a monarchy was established among the Jews (36:1-43).

A fifth group of Arabs were descended from Abraham’s brother Nahor (11:29; 22:20-24). They had settled in the area of Haran, which had been occupied by their Aramean cousins (10:22). One branch of these became the Arameans of Damascus (22:21). The other relatives were absorbed into the Babylonian empire (2 Kings 24:7). When Jacob secretly took his family away from the tyranny of Laban (31:17-55) he and his children were never forgiven by their Aramean Arab cousins.

In the land of Canaan, Abraham had learned to speak Canaanite, which has been resurrected as modern Hebrew. Ishmael also took the Canaanite language into Arabia, where it became Arabic. In Damascus, the Aramaic language (also called Syriac) became the dominant language of trade and diplomacy. It belonged to the same family of languages as Canaanite (Phoenician) and Accadian, and also of Egyptian (Mizraim) and the early language of Crete and the Philistines (see 10:6-10). This explains why there seemed only minor problems of communication (as between Italian, French, and Spanish) throughout the Middle Eastern areas described in the Bible.

It was into this world that Saul of Tarsus (also known as Paul, Acts 13:9) was born. He studied in Jerusalem, and was converted to faith in Jesus as the Old Testament King of kings (Messiah) on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-25). The Church in Damascus has continued to the present day but it lost its influence after the city was taken over by an Arab army in 635 AD.

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