The Arabs in Prophecy:
Fated for Hope or Despair?
by Dr. David R. Reagan
The Arab peoples often seem to be ignored
in prophecy. This is so because the prophetic Scriptures focus
on the Jewish people since they are the Chosen People of God.
But this does not mean the Arabs are ignored.
God chose the Jews to give the world the
Scriptures, and it was through the Jews that He provided the Messiah.
The Jews also serve as God's prophetic time
clock, for He points to future events in their history as the
key to the timing of other important events. (For example, Jesus
said that He would return at a time when Jerusalem is back in
the hands of the Jews see Luke 21:24.)
The Jews continue to serve today as a chosen
witness of God's grace. This is manifested in their very existence,
for what other god would have tolerated for so long a people so
stubborn and rebellious?
The Bible says that the Jewish people will
continue to serve as the Chosen People in the future, for when
Jesus returns, a remnant of the Jews who have put their faith
in Him will be established as the prime nation of the world (Isaiah
60-62). During the Lord's millennial reign, the Jewish nation
will be a channel of blessings to the whole world (Zechariah 8:23).
Does this mean that God has no blessings
for the multitudinous Arab peoples? Not at all. God has given
them great blessings in the past, and He has great blessings reserved
for them in the future.
But before we look at those blessings, let's
consider first the identity of the Arab peoples. Who are they?
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
There are also Christian Arabs scattered
all across the Middle East. In Israel, the city of Bethlehem is
a Christian Arab town.
Arab identity is not determined by religion.
Most Arabs are Muslims, but not all; and all Muslims are certainly
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.
It all began when Abraham decided to help
God. That's a nice way of saying that he decided to run ahead
of God. I'm referring, of course, to his impatience with God's
promise that he would be given an heir.
As he and Sarah continued to advance in
years without a child, they decided to help out God by having
Abraham conceive a child through Hagar, his wife's Egyptian handmaid.
The child born of that union was named Ishmael. God made it clear
that Ishmael would not be the child of promise through whom all
the world would be blessed (Genesis 17:20-21), but God did make
some great promises to Ishmael's mother.
God promised that He would make Ishmael
fruitful and would multiply his descendants exceedingly, making
of him a "great nation" (Genesis 17:20). He also gave
Ishmael's descendants the land to the east of Canaan (Genesis
God has been faithful to these promises.
Today there are 21 Arab nations with a combined population of
175 million people. The Arabs occupy a total area of 5.3 million
square miles of oil rich land.
By contrast, there is only one Jewish state
with a population of 4 million people who are squeezed into only
8,000 square miles of space. That's a population ratio of 43 to
1 and a land ratio of 662 to 1. The Arabs have truly been blessed.
Ishmael took an Egyptian wife (Genesis 21:21)
and became the father of 12 tribes which are listed in Genesis
25:12-16. These tribes were to become the nucleus of the Arab
peoples, a people with a mixture of Semitic and Egyptian blood.
Other Arab tribes trace their origin to
the six sons of Abraham who were born to him by his second wife,
Keturah. They are listed in Genesis 25:1-4. Finally, some Arab
tribes were to emerge from the descendants of Esau, the twin brother
of Jacob who sired the 12 tribes of Israel.
All the Arab tribes have been characterized
historically by their impulsive and violent nature. They have
been involved in endless wars among themselves and against both
Jews and Christians.
It is interesting to note that their volatile
nature is a fulfillment of prophecy. God told Hagar that her son,
Ishmael, would be "a wild donkey of a man" and that
"his hand will be against everyone" (Genesis 16:12).
Let's look now at what the Bible prophesies
about 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
This prophecy has been fulfilled in this
century. 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).