Many christians have developed a racist view and built-in hatred towards Arabs and muslims for centuries since the spread of Islam, through the middle ages until modern day phenomenon known as Islamophobia, this attitude are based on their understanding of some passages in the Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh).
In the part I of this series of post analysing propt Ishmael (p) in the Tanakh we have examined a brief philological analysis on the term “wild ass of a man” (Heb: פֶּ֣רֶא אָדָ֔ם pere’āḏām) in Genesis 16:12, and conclude that the translation should be a “fruitful man” which makes much more sense of another way of stating what appears unambiguously in Genesis 17:20, Ishmael (ص) will be blessed by God him and be made fruitful (to humankind).
Abrahamic Everlasting Covenant
The most important and foundational element in the semitic revelation is the Abrahamic covenant. It governs God’s unique relationship with Abraham and his offsprings and thus God relationship with all the nations of the world as a direct result.
A proper understanding of the Abrahamic Covenant based on the text of the Tanakh is key to understanding God’s purpose for Ishmael, Isaac (ص) and eventually all humankind.
The first time we read about the Abrahamic Covenant in the Tanakh is in Genesis 12:1-3:
וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ׃
Now the LORD said unto Abram: ‘Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee.
וְאֶֽעֶשְׂךָ֙ לְג֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל וַאֲבָ֣רֶכְךָ֔ וַאֲגַדְּלָ֖ה שְׁמֶ֑ךָ וֶהְיֵ֖ה בְּרָכָֽה׃
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing.
’וַאֲבָֽרֲכָה֙ מְבָ֣רְכֶ֔יךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ֖ אָאֹ֑ר וְנִבְרְכ֣וּ בְךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל מִשְׁפְּחֹ֥ת הָאֲדָמָֽה׃
And I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
In this passages, God ratified the Abrahamic Covenant with Abraham (ص)
From the introductory passage in Genesis 12:1-3 here I am outlining salient clauses for the understanding of the Abrahamic Covenant:
- Abraham (ص) was to be the father of a great nation, and that is of course, the nation of Israel (Gen 15:5).
- He was promised a Land for his nation; specifically, the land from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates this is amazingly the land of the sons of prophet Ishmael (ص) i.e. the Muslim lands (Gen. 12:1, 7; 15:18-21; 17:8).
- God call himself as El Shaddai, the Al Mighty (Genesis 17:1-2)
- God reconfirms the eternal covenant with Abraham (ص) (Genesis 17:2-4)
Very clear that the Circumcision (Heb: בְּרִית מִילָה brit milah) was to be the SEAL of the covenant (Gen. 17:9-14).
The Promised Seeds
It is very important to note that in 17:10 we read:
זֹ֣את בְּרִיתִ֞י אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּשְׁמְר֗וּ בֵּינִי֙ וּבֵ֣ינֵיכֶ֔ם וּבֵ֥יןזַרְעֲךָ֖ אַחֲרֶ֑יךָ הִמּ֥וֹל לָכֶ֖ם כָּל־זָכָֽר
This is My covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed זֶרַע (Heb:zera’)after thee: every male among you shall be circumcised.
It is very important to note that after that event God then mandated Abraham (ص) to perform the first ritual of Circumcision and subsequently to his seed (Heb: זֶרַע zera’ ).
Out of all Abraham sons only through Sarah and Hagar (ie. Ishmael and Isaac (ص)) were called “Seeds of Abraham” (Heb: זַרְעֲךָ֖ zera’kha-hu), No other Abraham (ص) sons were called by this term in the Tanakh. → (Genesis 21:12-13)
CONTEXT , CONTEXT
Who were at that time the first zera’ of Abraham (ص) to perform this Circumcision along with Abraham (ص)? At that time ONLY Ishmael (ص) who lived, ..as Isaac (ص) had not been born yet.
This really put Abraham (ص) in dilemma , he has only one son from Hagar, he was happy to have this covenant but anxious whether his other seed zera’ through Sarah would also be part of this covenant (Heb: בנ ה ברית ben ha-brit).
He asked God a very important question, we read in Genesis 17: 18
אֶל הָאֱלֹהִים לוּ יִשְׁמָעֵאל יִחְיֶה לְפָנֶיךָ
“If only Ishmael will live before You!” (Gen 17:18)
then God unequivocally said to Abraham in Genesis 17:19
וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים אֲבָל֙ שָׂרָ֣ה אִשְׁתְּךָ֗ יֹלֶ֤דֶת לְךָ֙ בֵּ֔ןוְקָרָ֥אתָ אֶת־שְׁמ֖וֹ יִצְחָ֑ק וַהֲקִמֹתִ֨י אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֥יאִתּ֛וֹ לִבְרִ֥ית עוֹלָ֖ם לְזַרְע֥וֹ אַחֲרָֽיו׃
Some jewish and christian render this passage to:
God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. (NIV)
And God said: ‘‘Nay, but Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son; and thou shalt call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his seed after him. (JPS 1917)
The correct translation should be:
Then God said, “ Yes indeed (Heb: אֲבָל abal), your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.
I will (also) establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.
Here the hebrew word אֲבָל abal is translated as “Yes indeed”
Some jews and christians attempted to twist the hebrew word אֲבָל abal into something which looks as if a rejection of Ishmael (ص) as the covenant son.
That is far from the truth, on the contrary אֲבָל abal is intended not to negate Ishmael (ص) covenant as the seed of Abraham (ص) the previous statement from Abraham:
“If only Ishmael will live before You!” (Gen 17:18)
But instead it re-emphasis that not only Ishmael (ص) was part of this covenant but also for other not yet born of Abraham (ص) seed through Sarah that is Isaac (ص).
It is clear, the context was God assured Abraham (ص) to establish a covenant to his not-yet-born-son Isaac the same way it was with Ishmael (ص) as his first born legitimate son.
How do we know this? God said emphatically in the proceeding verse: Genesis 17:20
וּֽלְיִשְׁמָעֵ֘אל שְׁמַעְתִּיךָ֒ הִנֵּ֣ה ׀ בֵּרַ֣כְתִּי אֹת֗וֹוְהִפְרֵיתִ֥י אֹת֛וֹ וְהִרְבֵּיתִ֥י אֹת֖וֹ בִּמְאֹ֣ד מְאֹ֑דשְׁנֵים־עָשָׂ֤ר נְשִׂיאִם֙ יוֹלִ֔יד וּנְתַתִּ֖יו לְג֥וֹי גָּדֽוֹל׃
Ishmael, I have heard thee; behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful (Heb: wehiphreithi), and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.
Note that jewish and christian translation inserted the word “and” before the word וּֽלְיִשְׁמָעֵ֘אל Yishmael, this is also dishonest translation as if it make it to appear that it was Isaac (ص) who were first given the covenant, while in fact it was not the case.
God then make another stunning revelation to Abraham in verse 21 that:
וְאֶת בְּרִיתִי אָקִים אֶת יִצְחָק אֲשֶׁר תֵּלֵד לְךָ שָׂרָה לַמּוֹעֵד הַזֶּה בַּשָּׁנָה הָאַחֶרֶת
Together (with Ishmael) my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this time next year. (Gen 17:21)
Here the hebrew used is וְאֶת ve-et which should be translated as “AND” or “TOGETHER” .
Note jewish christian translation render the verse in Gen 17:21 as “but”, this is another sign of deliberate attempt to hide true meaning of the text.
But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” (NIV)
But My covenant will I establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.’ (JPS 1917)
Genesis 17:21 begins with the letter וְ vav it simply means “and”… so the proper translation must be “together” and it shows God included the covenant for both Ishmael and Isaac (ص) at all, not exclusive to Ishmael (ص) as Abraham (ص) first born.
Son of the Covenant בנ ה ברית Ben Ha-Brit
We read in Genesis 17 25-26
וְאַ֨בְרָהָ֔ם בֶּן־תִּשְׁעִ֥ים וָתֵ֖שַׁע שָׁנָ֑ה בְּהִמֹּל֖וֹ בְּשַׂ֥רעָרְלָתֽוֹ׃
25 And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
וְיִשְׁמָעֵ֣אל בְּנ֔וֹ בֶּן־שְׁלֹ֥שׁ עֶשְׂרֵ֖ה שָׁנָ֑ה בְּהִ֨מֹּל֔וֹאֵ֖ת בְּשַׂ֥ר עָרְלָתֽוֹ׃
26 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
Here Abaraham (ص) and Ishmael (ص) were the first to perform their circumcision brit milah then one year later after this event it was Isaac (ص) who were circumcised when he was 8 days old (see Gen 17:26)
Nevertheless both Ishmael and Isaac (ص) were sons of covenant or ben ha-brit in Hebrew.
The promised seed (Heb: זֶרַע zera‘) of Abraham (ص) was always meant for Ishmael (ص) right from the beginning and was established before Isaac (ص) was born.
Genesis 21 deal with the fact that Isaac (ص) as the 2nd born but then God assured Abraham (ص) that he was also included in the covenant.
The Prophecy of the Two Seeds
When we look at the Genesis 21:12-13 it is clear that God promise to Abraham two seeds through which all the nations of the word shall be blessed.
Now look at Genesis 21 verse 12-13 as a whole, when God soothe Abraham (ص) when his wife Sarah went mad and shouted to him to expel his other wife Hagar from his house out of jealousy (see Gen 21:10) :
׃ ־ ־ ־ ־
’ ־ ־
My Literal translation is the following:
And God said unto Abraham: ‘Let it not be grievous in your eyes because of the boy, and because of your woman; in all that Sarah said to you, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall be called your seed,
and also (Heb: וְגַ֥ם wegam) with the son of the woman for a (great) gentiles nation (Heb: לְג֣וֹי le-goy) I will make him your seed he is.
Clearly there are two prophesied seeds being mentioned here: one for Isaac (ص) (through Sarah) and the latter for Ishmael (ص) (through Hagar).
While the first seed through Isaac (v12) naturally refer to prophet Jesus as he was the promised messiah for the jews …we then left for the other prophesied seed, the one who were passed down from the bloodline of Ishmael. The one through him the gentiles (Heb: גויים goyim) are also included in the covenant: He is no other than prophet Muhammad (ص), the promised seed God has promised to Abraham (ص), the foundational to God’s dealing with the gentile nations.
So for those who treat the scriptures with fairness and sincerity will see that prophet Ishmael (ص) were included from God’s covenant with Abraham from the beginning and God made a special promise to Abraham to bless Isaac along with Ishmael. The very foundation of God’s eternal and unconditional covenant with the jewish nation (Heb: יהודים Yehudim) and the gentile nations (Heb: גויים Goyim):
- While prophet Jesus(ص) was the promised seed through Isaac(ص) and this covenant was meant for the jews as his descendants.
- Inevitably through prophet Ishmael (ص), the promised seed God has promised can only refer to the final and messenger of God: prophet Muhammad (Ar: محمد Heb. cognate: מחמד come from the same semitic root word H-M-D, see Song of Songs 5:16) (peace be upon him) through him all the believer (the Muslims) are included in the covenant as the fulfilment of the entire Abrahamic Covenant to make it universally binding (see Genesis 12:3 at the beginning).