In today’s reading, along with several prior passages, we see the root of the everlasting animosity between the Jews and Arabs. Jacob with the help of his mother Rebekah deceived his father Isaac to receive the first-son blessings in place of his brother Esau (Genesis 27:36). Previously Jacob had negotiated with Esau and stolen his birthright (Genesis 25:33). Now in Genesis 28:8-9, the ultimate basis for Esau losing what his blessings and birthright should have been is repeated from earlier verses:
“So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please his father, Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife beside the wives he had…”
What wives did Esau have already? He had once before in Genesis 26:34-35 shown his true colors – his rebellious nature – in his choice of mates:
“When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.”
Rather than choosing Israelite women, Esau took Hittites as his wives. In the story of his parents’ union, Esau had certainly seen God’s intent and learned the lesson: His people were not to intermarry with pagan peoples. Esau disregarded this for his own desires.
This wasn’t the first instance of disobedience to the will of Yahweh. After God had told Abraham and Sarah that they would have a child even in their old age (Genesis 15:5), they thought they had to help Him along to fulfill His promise. Sarah gave her servant Hagar to Abraham to be her surrogate in order to bring forth a child (Genesis 16:3). That resulted in the birth of Ishmael.
Ishmael was not the son of the promise, but of the flesh. He was the son that came to Abraham and Sarah when they didn’t believe God. He was a son of disobedience.
Ishmael’s descendants were numerous. God blessed him with twelve sons, but like their father, whom the Angel of the Lord had decreed to Hagar, their hand would be against everyone and everyone’s’ hand was against them (Genesis 16:12). In other words, with Ishmael and his descendants, there would always be conflict.
Some years later, Esau came along. What did he do? He joined in the line of Ishmael by marrying his daughter. Disobedience and rebellion multiplied. The loss of favor and blessings from God increased. Seeing how first Isaac then Jacob had God’s approval, it’s easy to see how hatred grew. Yet this loathing originated because of unbelief, because of disobedience, because of rebellion against God’s will.
This hostile attitude of the Arab nations arising from Ishmael and Esau has continued to this day. If you were to ask one of their descendants why they despise Israel, they likely couldn’t tell you. It’s almost as though it’s ingrained in their DNA.
Despite that, God loves the children of Ishmael and Esau who comprise the Arab nations and who are largely Muslim in their beliefs. He has been showing Himself to them in recent years through dreams and visions. He has been drawing them to Himself, even as He wants the direct descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be His true children in Christ.
God is no respecter of persons. He wants none to perish, but all to have eternal life through Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:9). Some will indeed follow Him; others will not. But a day is coming when everyone will bow before Him and confess that He is Lord (Romans 14:11).