by Epiphany Bible Students

No. 416

It All Began With Abraham, Father Of Ishmael And Isaac, Father Of Esau And Jacob, Father Of The Twelve Sons Of Israel.

UNITED NATIONS – The ongoing debates in the Security Council and the General Assembly on the  troublesome question of Palestinian rights in the administered areas including Jerusalem have once again, as in ancient times, focused the attention of the world on the strategic Middle East crescent and on reborn Israel which, by an act of the Knesset, has proclaimed the Holy City its capital.

As this writer sees it, what is happening here at the UN in the struggle between cousins, the Jews and the  Arabs, seems clearly to be a continuation of the conflict that bedeviled their progenitors in the biblical period.

History does repeat itself. Once again, they are all here; the Syrians, the Ammonites, the Moebites, the  Egyptians, the Philistines in modern garb, vying with the Israelites for the rights and possession of the Land of  Prophets and for the City of G–d. Assyria-Babylon, seemingly, is also present as one of the superpowers aligning  itself, as in the past, with Israel’s antagonists.

To date, whatever is attempted here in this world organization, whatever positions the U.S. or the USSR may take, no matter what resolutions are adopted, there appears to be no solution in sight. Despite efforts on the part of some nations to reconcile the differences between the parties, the road remains closed and the gap widens.

Thus, while the UN stands deadlocked in a hopeless political struggle, surely, there must be some explanation and even an answer to this dilemma facing mankind. This writer, who had closely followed events here at the UN almost since its inception and having given his special attention the Palestine question before and after the Partition vote of 29 November 1947, holds the view that there exists only one source which can give both the explanation and the answer to this perplexing problem. That source is the Bible, the one document which both the Moslems and the Jews as well as the Christians accept or profess to accept as authoritative.

Two diplomats, one, Dr. Charles Malik, a former Foreign Minister of Lebanon, the other, Dr. Gunnar Jarring, a UN mediator for the Middle East, had agreed with this writer that “a Biblical-Koranic approach to the Middle East problem” may prove to be the sole avenue towards a genuine settlement.

Let’s see, then, what the Bible and the Koran say. It all began with Abraham, father of Ishmael and Isaac,  father of Esau and Jacob, father of the twelve sons who founded the house of Israel.

As we stated, to understand fully what is currently happening in the Mideast – in the life and death struggle  between the Arabs and the Jewish people – it is necessary to go back in history to biblical days.

Actually, the whole issue involves a family feud which, originating in Genesis, struck a high point in Abraham’s time when his herdsmen quarreled bitterly with Lot’s shepherds over territorial rights. The conflict was satisfactorily adjudicated by the wise father of the Semites. Said Abraham to his nephew Lot:

“Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee; if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or it thou wilt take the right hand, then I will go to the left.”

The Bible then tells us that “Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of the Jordan, that it was well-watered... So Lot chose him all the plain of the Jordan; and Lot journeyed east; and they separated themselves one from the other. Abraham dwelt in the Land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the Plain.”

In this event the world witnessed the first movement for partition. Although the Abraham-Lot feud appeared to be settled amicably, the real trouble in the family conflict had its origin in the age-old problem of sex.

Abraham’s wife, Sarah, who was barren and who wanted a child to perpetuate the line, beseeched her husband to take her Egyptian handmaiden, Hagar, to bear seed in her behalf. Abraham acceded to her appeal and Hagar soon conceived.

Thus blessed, Hagar the handmaiden, took on a new posture of superiority vis-a-vis her former mistress who, in distress, demanded her expulsion.

Reluctantly, Abraham heeded Sarah and sent Hagar away. As the time of pregnancy passed, Hagar bore a son and named him Ishmael who became one of the progenitors of the Arabs.

Fate, however, blessed Sarah and she, too, in her old age, bore a son whom she named Isaac. Remaining within the family lineage, Isaac married Rebecca, grand-daughter of Abraham’s brother Nachor.

It was at this juncture in biblical history that we are confronted with another basic and much more serious cause of family division.

When Rebecca conceived, she complained that “the children were struggling within her.” Making inquiries about this strange predicament, which greatly troubled her, she was told:

“Two nations are in thy womb, and two peoples shall be separated from thy bowels, and one shall be stronger than the other; and the elder shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:22-23)

When time for delivery came, Rebecca gave birth to twins. The first emerging ruddy and hairy, was named Esau (red); the second, holding fast on the heel of his brother, as if by instinct still in a struggle, was named Jacob (Jacob, from the word heel).

In appearance and in demeanor, the twins were diametrically opposed to and different from each other. All through their lives, Esau, in jealous hatred, sought to kill his brother who was favored by his mother. Esau, to spite his parents, married a Hittite named Judith, and the Bible tells us that both Esau and Judith “were a bitterness of spirit to Isaac and Rebecca.”

One of the strangest and most misunderstood episodes in the whole Bible concerns the question of the birthright’s of the twins who, while Esau emerged first, were born seconds apart. It is usually thought that Jacob and his mother Rebecca had, by ‘trickery,’ conspired to claim the ‘birthright’ so as to win the blessing of the firstborn. Actually, there was no trickery or fraud involved. For the Bible tells us clearly that Esau had sold his birthright to Jacob for a plate of “lentils.” “And Jacob said [to Esau]: ‘Swear to me first’; and he swore unto him, and he sold his birthright unto Jacob...” (Genesis 25:29-34)

Thus, Rebecca was fully justified in maneuvering Jacob into receiving her husband’s blessing for the firstborn, a blessing which carried this promise: “Let peoples serve thee; be lord of thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee. Cursed be everyone that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.” (Genesis 27:29)

When Esau got wind of what had happened – although he had sold his birthright and in the knowledge that his own mother had gone against him – he came crying bitterly to his father. “Hast thou but one blessing my father?” he frantically cried. Isaac, fully aware of the situation, and refusing to go back on the blessing he had given to Jacob, told Esau: “The fat places of the earth shall be your dwelling... but by the sword shalt thou live, and thou shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt break loose, that thou shalt shake his yoke from off thy neck.” (Genesis 27:39-40)

Esau, dejected, bitter and downcast, hated his brother all the more. As time passed, the split widened. Esau, following in the footsteps of Ishmael, married into a Canaanite family related to Ishmael, while Jacob married into the family of Laban, his mother’s brother.

It goes without saying that here, in these early beginnings of family divisions, we have the basic cause of the conflict we are witnessing today at the United Nations and in the selfsame region between the Jews and the Arabs, between the descendants of Jacob, surnamed Israel, and the offspring of Ishmael and Esau, both sides of which laying claim to the possession of the land of Canaan from which region they sprung.

It is now understandable why all Moslems, like the Jewish people, venerate not only Abraham, Abrahim to them, but also Moses (Nebi Musa) and David (Dahood).

From the foregoing facts, it may well appear that the Arabs, being descendants of Abraham and Isaac, have an equal claim with the children of Israel to the possession of the Land of Canaan. It is hard to believe that the Bible, which stresses justice, righteousness and equality, would overlook or infringe upon the territorial right of any people.

The Scriptures are explicit on this issue. The children of Esau and Ishmael were allotted vast territories to the east and south of the land of Canaan, territories which the Bible holds inviolate – so much so that it even warns the Children of Israel against coveting any of them.

When Moses and the Israelites came out of Egypt and began their wanderings, they were told:

“Ye are to pass through the border of your brethren, the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir... I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as for the sole of the foot to tread on; because I have given Mount Seir unto Esau for a possession.” (Deuteronomy 2:3-5)

“And when thou comest nigh over against the children of Ammon, harass them not, nor contend with them; for I will not give thee of the land of the children of Ammon for a possession.” (Deuteronomy 2:19)

Again, when Abraham pleaded with G–d “that Ishmael might live before Thee,” he was told: “I have heard thee; behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.”

This promise, however, was immediately followed by the statement: “But My Covenant will I establish with Isaac,” and preceded by: “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.” (Genesis 17)

The promise “for his seed after him” would, it seems, also include Esau who was Jacob’s twin brother and therefore the seed of Isaac. On that basis, the Arab’s claim to Palestine may appear valid since, according to the Bible, G–d told Isaac – and previously to Abraham – “unto thee and thy seed will I give the Land of Canaan as an everlasting possession.”

This view does not altogether obtain, because the biblical promises relative to the deed to Palestine as an everlasting possession narrowed down from Abraham to Isaac and then only to Jacob-Israel.

This is something that must not be overlooked.

In Genesis, chapter 21, “G–d said to Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad [Ishmael], for in Isaac shall thy seed be called... And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.”

And take note further. In Genesis 28, G–d told Jacob, “The land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it and to thy seed... that thou mayest inherit the land that G–d gave to Abraham.”

The question now arises: What exactly constitutes actual borders of the Land of Canaan, of Palestine, as promised to the children of Israel as an everlasting possession?

Chapter I of Joshua provides us with an answer: “Now therefore, [Joshua], arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, to you have I given it, as I spoke to Moses. From the Wilderness, and this Lebanon, even unto the Great River, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your border.” (Verses 2-3, 6)

And in Exodus 23, verses 31, we find this promise: “And I will set thy border from the Red Sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the Wilderness [of Sinai] unto the River [Euphrates].”

Moreover, Ezekiel the Prophet, whose closing chapters deal entirely with the future, gives us this picture of the territory which is to comprise the historic State of Israel in Messianic times:

“And this shall be the border of the land: on the north side – from the Great Sea, by the way of Hetlon, unto the entrance of Zedad; Hamath, Berothah, Sibraim, which is between the border of Damascus and the border of Hamath; Hazorhaticon, which is by the border of Hauran. And the border from the sea shall be Hazer–enon at the border of Damascus, and on the north northward is the border of Hamath. This is the north side. And the east side, between Hauran and Damascus and Gilead, and the land of Israel, by the Jordan, from the border unto the sea shall ye measure. This is the east side. And the south side southward shall be from Tamar as far as the waters of Meriboth-kadesh, to the Brook, unto the Great Sea. This is the south side southward. And the west side shall be the Great Sea, from the border as far as over against the entrance of Hamath. This is the west side.” (Ezekiel 47:15-20)

It may be worth while noting as we conclude this essay relating to the origins of the current conflict between the Jewish people and the Arabs – cousins in the full sense of the word – that the Holy Koran of Islam has recognized the validity of the Hebrew Scriptures. In Sura 87 we find: “This truly is in the books of old, the books of Abraham and Moses.” And Sura 2, followers of Mohammed are admonished to say:

“We believe in G–d, and that which hath been sent down to us, and that which hath been sent down to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes; and that which hath been given to Moses and Jesus, and that which was given from the Prophets from the Lord... No difference do we make between them, and to G–d are we resigned.”

Thus, on this basis, we must conclude that no true Moslem who believes in the Koran can honestly object to the promises contained in the Scriptures in relation to the children of Israel including those cited above concerning the boundaries Allah had allotted to the children of Israel as well as to the children of Esau and Ishmael.

What we are witnessing here at the United Nations and the world scene today, constitutes nothing but a further chapter in the history of the age-long family feud that began with Abraham, which struck a critical note in the strange births of the twins Esau and Jacob, and reached a new climax in the miraculous rebirth of the State of Israel.

(By David Horowitz, News Reporter at the UN – Sephardic Views International, Feb. 1990)

NOTE – Re Egypt and the Arabs, they have a common hatred for the Jews. Egypt was toppled from world leadership when their entire army was destroyed in the Red Sea as they pursued the fleeing Jews from their country; and they have not forgotten that. However, the reason they now negotiate with the Jews is because the U.S. Government is largely Jewish; and Egypt needs our friendship.

Hagar was an Egyptian and her son, Ishmael, was a half-brother to Isaac; both had Abraham as their father. Gen. 16:12 says of Ishmael, “He will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand will be against him.” Thus, the Jews and Arabs have hated one another for 4,000 years. In the first war the Arabs joined the Germans, and English General Allenby kicked them out of Jerusalem in December 1917. Although the Arabs had lived in Jerusalem for almost 2,000 years, they did nothing to improve the country. Now that the Jews have done something, they want it; but the Jews won’t give it to them. The details of the origin of this are to be found in Genesis 21:9-11. (Excerpts from our paper No. 287, p. 8)



Dear Brethren: Grace and peace!

You have asked for excerpts of my April 27, 1990 talk to the Jews at their Bethyam Synagogue on Hilton Head Island. Following are some of the comments made:

“Some friends are sure I’m a Jew who got switched at birth, but I’m a Gentile and a Christian – though I trust different from what you might expect of most Goyim. I feel a little like I’ve come to Newcastle to explain about coal and I hope you will forgive me for telling you what you already know better than I know.

“That my simple and innocent letter to the editor of the Island Packet (local daily newspaper – Editor) created such response, is astonishing. It appeared in the November 15, 1989 issue and I am still getting mail. Not only from islanders but from all over California, Memphis, Washington, D.C., New York City and even Israel.

“No, the circulation of the Packet is not that wide. Someone showed a copy of it with my letter to David Horowitz, editor of the World-Union Press, who is also a syndicated newspaper writer. He wrote a column about it which appeared in several English language Jewish newspapers.

“However, the extent of approval of the letter even by professed Christians is truly amazing! I never realized Israel has so many supporters; I thought I was in a minority. Out of several dozen responses that came to me, there was only one truly negative one. It came from an (former?) employee of the U.S. State Department who is a part-time resident of the island. For three years he was American Consul and Principal Officer at Jerusalem and seemed to consider himself an authority on the Middle East.

“I tried to answer all the mail I got, but never replied to this man. He was far too anti-Israel for me. I made some inquiries, though, and learned he is part of an anti-Israel clique in the State Department. This clique ought to be happy, as we now have the most anti-Israel administration since Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948.

“Since writing the letter to the editor, I’ve come to the conclusion that Israel has been too fearful of world opinion since their stunning victory of the six-days war. It is as if they are frightened by their own success.

“Isaiah 43:1 reads like this:

‘But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.’

“Then verses 5 and 6:

‘Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.’

“Because Israel fears what the world might think, she has acted with considerable restraint in handling the Intifada. Aside from the loss of life, it has cost an enormous amount of money.

“In the last paragraph of my letter to the editor, I wrote:

‘Arabs living under the democratic state of Israel are far better off than they are in many of the countries mentioned above. The vast majority of Arabs living in Israel know this, have good jobs and are good citizens. As a matter of fact, the relationship with their Jewish neighbors is quite good.’

“I still think this is true, so far as it goes. Though perhaps I should have pointed out that those good Arab-Israeli citizens do not carry that citizenship with pride. These people are led to believe that, in time, they will be able to build another Arab state within the sovereign territory of the Jewish nation. They are waiting for the day when they can turn in their Israeli citizenship for membership in a sovereign state of Palestine.

“That’s fine, so long as their Palestinian state is located some other place than the ancient homeland of the Jews.

“Jewish leaders have been wrong to recognize a ‘legitimate Palestinian people.’ There is no basis for such recognition, which implies that Arabs have legitimate rights to Jewish land.

“During the insurrections of the Jewish people which lasted for nearly a hundred years from about AD 35, the Romans destroyed the Temple, and renamed Jerusalem ‘Aelia Capitolina.’ They made it a pagan city off-limits to the Jews.

“The Romans also changed the name of Judea to ‘Palaestina’ after the Philistines, a long time enemy of the Jews. They dispersed the Jewish people because they gave the Roman Empire more trouble than all the rest of the conquered people combined.

“You probably don’t know this but the Jews are a stiff-necked, rebellious people. Even the Creator had to contend with that.

“The Romans were determined to eliminate the Jewish people once and for all. The ‘Christian’ crusaders nearly 1,000 years later had essentially the same idea. So did Hitler 1,800 years later. You’ll be happy to learn that none of them succeeded.

“Without going any further into the complicated history of Israel, Rome became ‘Christianized’ a couple of centuries after the dispersion, and the name Palestine was institutionalized and came to be synonymous with the Holy Land. However, there never was a State of Palestine, and I hate to hear the name applied to any part of Israel.

“All the years since the dispersion, the land of Israel has been under a succession of foreign nations. When the surrounding Arab nations attacked the day after the Israeli declaration of independence, the attackers warned Arabs living in Israel to leave because the Jews would torture and kill them and rape their women and children.

“The Israelis didn’t force the Arabs out of Israel, or bother them in any way. They invited them to stay in their homes and on their jobs and declared ‘Let no citizen dare lay a hand on Arab property.’

“When Israel was attacked, the Arab nations increased the already high level of persecution of their native Jews, who then fled. 600,000 Arabs left Israel for Arab lands and 600,000 Jews left Arab lands for Israel. It was an even swap. Israel absorbed the Arab Jews. On the other hand, the Arabs who left Israel were interned in squalid refugee camps by their host countries.

“Because of their oil, those Arab countries are far wealthier than Israel, and could afford to absorb their people better than Israel could afford to absorb the Arab Jews.

“No money from the United Nations went to Israel to defray costs of absorbing Arab Jews, but Arab refugee camps are supported by the UN. These camps are maintained for propaganda to get world sympathy for the poor suffering ‘Palestinian refugees’ who were forced off their land and are persecuted by those terrible Jews. Although some of the camps are training bases for Terrorists, they still get UN money.

“Since there never has been a State of Palestine, there are no legitimate Palestinian people. The land of Israel, including those parts of Judea and Samaria now known as ‘Occupied Territories,’ plus other parts not now in Israel’s possession, belong to the Jews.

“Since the dispersion, the population of the land of Israel has always contained some Jews. Some of them hid in caves and such like to avoid the dispersion. Others through the years kept sneaking back to the promised land, frequently under threat of death if caught.

“The Jews would turn the desert into lush farmland and then the Arabs would claim it. Whenever Arabs occupied the land, it reverted to sand and rock in less than a decade and then the Arabs moved on. Ishmael was never as smart as Isaac and always has been jealous.

“Farming in Israel made one of the biggest impressions on me. I had never seen oranges, apples and bananas growing simultaneously almost side by side. It was astonishing! Israel, if it isn’t already, will become the bread basket of Europe. The desert in Israel certainly is ‘blossoming like a rose’ (Isa. 35:1) as prophesied. When I was there you could buy the most beautiful roses for $1.50 a dozen. Can you imagine!

“The second biggest impression Israel made on me was the energy, intelligence and beauty of its youth. I saw lots of children, even visited one of the ‘Youth Towns’ for children with disadvantaged backgrounds. I had lunch with about three hundred of them 11 to 15 years old.

“I kidded with them and found they were bright and quick witted, but respectful without subservience. They have an ‘I can do it’ attitude which is even more attractive than their physical beauty. Israel will be in good hands when these young people take over.

“If you get some spare money, the Youth Towns in Israel are a good place to put it. See me later and I’ll give you an address.

“Jeremiah 16:14, 15 read like this: ‘Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but, the Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.’

“I’m a student of the writings of Charles Taze Russell, better known as Pastor Russell, and wrongfully known as the founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Pastor Russell was an early Zionist, even before Herzl. Pastor Russell spoke and wrote over a hundred years ago that the Jews would return to the promised land after 1914 and form the Jewish State of Israel.

“He died in 1916, leaving an extensive body of writing including six volumes of the Studies in the Scriptures, countless articles, sermons and Bible study helps. His books, pamphlets, etc., were translated into almost every language on earth, with a distribution second only to the Bible itself.

“He never coined the phrase ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ – a sectarian name – nor had anything to do with the formation of that sect. In fact, he spoke and wrote much criticizing sectarianism.

“At his death he left countless followers and adherents who still distribute his books to this day. His headquarters, which were in Brooklyn, NY, and London, England, came under control of a group who abandoned his teachings. They adopted the name ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ in the 1930s.

“Pastor Russell was widely known as a friend of the Jews. In 1910 when he was invited by Jewish leaders to speak to them at the famed Hippodrome theater in New York City, over 4,000 Jews showed up to hear him. He received standing ovations.

“Pastor Russell taught, and still teaches through his writings, that the Kingdom of God on earth, when established, will be represented by the Jews in Jerusalem in the State of Israel. The nature of the Kingdom will be Israelitish.

“‘And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.’ (Isa. 2:3)

“Here is a small book about Pastor Russell written by David Horowitz, the newspaper man I mentioned earlier. Mr. Horowitz is the Dean of the Press Corps at the United Nations. He also publishes the ‘United Israel Bulletin.’ Anyone who would like to have this book, see me later and I will get you a free copy.

“Now I’ve told you all this to explain why I wanted to visit Israel. Of course, I wanted to see the Holy Places mentioned in the Bible. And I must say it irritated me that most of these are under control of some religious sect or other and maintained as their own little Disney Worlds.

“However, I loved my trip to Israel, all three weeks of it. It’s vibrant and exciting, and I love the Jewish people even if they are ‘stiff-necked, stubborn, querulous and rebellious.’

“They don’t know a stranger and you should be careful about asking a taxi driver in Jerusalem to take you to the best place to eat, or you might wind up at his mother’s house.

“After all I’ve said, maybe it won’t surprise you when I say, ‘Don’t convert to any Christian denomination no matter what the temptation; don’t assimilate, cherish the Torah, cherish your Jewish heritage and, of course, support Israel.’

“If you’ve never visited Israel – do so. If you have visited Israel – go again. I’ll guarantee it has changed since you were there. I’m going again as soon as I can afford it. It’s a painless way to support Israel. Regardless of what you read in the newspaper and see on television, you are as safe there as you are here – maybe safer. [This was given to the synagogue April 27, 1990, but things have changed in the Middle East considerably since then.]

“And speaking of safe, fly El Al. Israel needs all the money she can get – and El Al is the world’s safest airline. Invest in Israel. Buy Israeli government bonds. The return is good and they also are safe. After all, Israel is backed by the ‘God of Abraham and Moses.”’

The Bethyam Synagogue building is only a year old, though the congregation of some 80 families was formed a number of years ago. They have a Rabbi who comes once a month and all other services are conducted by their Elders. About 85 Jews and a few nominal Christians attended the meeting and the reception was excellent. A question and answer period followed which lasted longer than the talk.

With warm Christian love to all and may the Lord continue to bless you.

            Your brother, W. D. Dunnagan (HILTON HEAD, SC)