Bible Question:

My question is about the Middle East conflict. Can you explain how the conflict started?

Bible Answer:

The Middle East conflict started when Abraham’s wife, Sarah, did not follow God’s will. God promised Abraham that he would become the father of a great nation (Genesis 12:2; 15:18). Since Abraham and Sarah had no children at that time, Sarah suggested that Abraham have a child by her handmaid, Hagar (Gen. 16:1-2). Sarah was “helping God out.” She had her own idea as to how Abraham could become the father of a great nation. She had a plan. She had an idea as to how to accomplish God’s will. So she took control and offered Abraham her maid as a concubine. She may have done this because of unbelief (Genesis 18:11-15), but we cannot be sure of her motivation at that time. What we do know is that this was not God’s will. As a result, trouble followed. Yes, her plan worked. Abraham and Hagar had a child. Things looked great. I am sure she believed that God had blessed her plan, but what followed revealed her sin. She became jealous and Hagar fled. The Lord had more compassion than Sarah. Here is what followed between God and Hagar:

Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they shall be too many to count.” The angel of the LORD said to her further, “Behold, you are with child, And you shall bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has given heed to your affliction. “And he will be a wild donkey of a man, His hand will be against everyone, And everyone’s hand will be against him; And he will live to the east of all his brothers.” (NASB) Genesis 16:10-12

Notice God’s statement about the conflict that would follow. The conflict would be between Isaac and Ishmael. God promised to make great nations of both Isaac and Ishmael. Isaac would be the father of Israel and Ishmael the father of the Arabs.

And as for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year. (NASB) Genesis 17:20-21

Sometime after Isaac was born, Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away. They went into the desert to live.

So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave them to Hagar, putting them on her shoulder, and gave her the boy, and sent her away . . . And God was with the lad, and he grew; and he lived in the wilderness, and became an archer. And he lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt. (NASB) Genesis 21:14, 20-21

Later in Genesis 25:12-16 we discover that Ishmael had twelve sons. One of them was Kedar.

Now these are the records of the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s maid, bore to Abraham; and these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the first-born of Ishmael, and Kedar and Adbeel and Mibsam and Mishma and Dumah and Massa, Hadad and Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages, and by their camps; twelve princes according to their tribes. (NASB) Genesis 25:12-16

Kedar’s name occurs a number of times in the Old Testament. The most significant one for this question reveals that Kedar was an Arab. Genesis 16:1 reveals that Hagar, Ishmael’s mother, was an Egyptian.

Arabia and all the princes of Kedar, they were your customers for lambs, rams, and goats; for these they were your customers. (NASB) Ezekiel 27:21

Conclusion:

The Middle East conflict was predicted in the Old Testament. It will continue until Jesus returns. The conflict is the result of Sarah trying to accomplish the Lord’s will her own way. Have you ever asked God to give you leading in your life about His will? Then perhaps you did not receive the answer you wanted, so you did things your own way? May be you ignored the Word of God because you knew God was a God of grace and would forgive you? This is a great lesson for us. We need to remember that on the surface doing things our own way can appear great and yet be the seed of trouble to come.