FaithRoots of BitternessWorld Events

Roots of Bitterness: Ishmael Asserts His Birthright

In the previous post, we explored the succession of kingdoms that dominated the Middle East and Israel from the time of Daniel and the Israelites’ return from Babylon through their final expulsion in 135 AD.

Despite their turbulent history, the Jewish people never gave up hope, because a remnant always maintained their faith in the promises of God.

After the Jews were dispersed from Jerusalem in 136 AD, history continued to unfold just as Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream depicted.

The Roman Empire lost its iron-fisted grip on the Middle East in 476 AD, but didn’t fully lose control of the remainder of its domain (Byzantine Empire) until Constantinople was overtaken by the Ottoman Empire in 1,453 AD.

Although the Ottoman Empire became a burgeoning world power in 1,299 AD, its history started several centuries earlier.  In fact, it can be traced all the way back to Ishmael.

In the 7th installment of this series, we explored the impact of Ishmael’s disinheritance as Abraham’s firstborn son.  According to tradition, he should have been the rightful heir to Abraham’s family fortune, but that was not God’s plan.

Abraham and Sarah acted presumptuously and impatiently by introducing Hagar into the equation, so Ishmael was sent away in order for Isaac to receive the inheritance promised by God to Abraham.

As we know from the story, however, God also promised to make Ishmael a great nation.

“But God said to Abraham, ‘Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring'” (Genesis 21:12-13 ESV).

The Islamic faith and Ottoman Empire are the ultimate fulfillment of that promise concerning Ishmael.

Genesis 21:21 tells us Ishmael lived in the Wilderness of Paran, which we identified as the region of Eastern Saudi Arabia, as seen below.

Wilderness of ParanIn 610 AD, Muhammed, a direct descendant of Ishmael living in Mecca, began receiving revelations, supposedly from the angel Gabriel.  As a result of those revelations, Muhammed created the religion of Islam.

At its core, Islam claimed to restore the distorted teachings of Judaism and Christianity, acknowledging and incorporating all the prophets of the Old Testament while including Jesus as a prophet, as well.

It was a brilliant move, effectively hijacking both religions in order to offer the new religion legitimacy.  The teachings of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, were not refuted outright.  They were simply tweaked to fit a new agenda.

With Islam, Muhammed replaced the God of the Bible Whose name is YHWH (Jehovah) with a new god, Allah, effectively changing the entire narrative of scripture.

The new narrative traced the heritage of Abraham through Ishmael rather than Isaac and Jacob, nullifying any promise of Israel’s inheritance of the Promised Land.  That is the dynamic fueling much of the controversy we witness today.

Interestingly, until roughly 624 AD, Muslims faced Jerusalem to pray in honor of the Abrahamic traditions, but “new revelations” made Muhammed change to Mecca.

The new religion was not well received when Muhammed started promoting it in 613, so Muhammed moved from Mecca to Medina in 622.  In Medina, Islam matured into a complete religious, political, and legal system.

Shortly thereafter, Muhammed’s conquests began in the name of his new religion, effectively spreading Islam by the edge of the sword.

Muhammed died June 8, 632, and Islam fragmented due to disagreements over who should succeed him.  His longtime friend Abu Bakr was named the first Caliph, or leader of the new Islamic system of religion, politics, and jurisprudence.

Eventually, the Islamic Caliphate grew in strength conquering the entire Middle East, much of Europe, and Northern Africa, and ultimately became the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman Empire was officially dismantled in 1922 as a direct result of the Sykes-Picot agreement and the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in WWI, but its influence had been diminishing for years.  The Islamic Caliphate ceased to exist.

As we’ll explore in our next installment of the series, the current era of Middle East turmoil started in earnest one fateful day in 1948.  Read more here

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