The Abraham Accords
“As for Ishmael, 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. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac” (Genesis 17:20, 21).
On August 13, 2020, President Trump announced the “Israel-United Arab Emirates” peace agreement, under which those countries would normalize diplomatic relations. This was followed in rapid succession on September 11 by an announcement that Bahrain and Israel had similarly agreed to establish full diplomatic relations.
All such developments focus our attention, because the Kingdom of Christ will be established at Israel, and spread thereafter. One consideration gave us pause, namely mention that any plan of Israel to annex the disputed West Bank of the Jordan River would be put on hold. These are lands properly included in any Biblical description of the land promised to Israel. However, Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel clarified that the subject is not foreclosed, only for the time delayed.
United Arab Emirates
This country is on the eastern Arabian Peninsula, on the west side of the Persian Gulf, projecting into the Gulf where it narrows to about 40 miles from Iran, on the other side. It is less than an area equivalent to 50 x 50 miles (and shaped differently).
The country is an association of seven “emirates,” each under the jurisdiction of an emir, or local ruler. The country hosts 5000 US military personnel in an airbase at Dhafra, and a small navy base in Fujairah. France also has a navy base nearby, in Abu Dhabi.
The “Kingdom of Bahrain” is an island state within the Persian Gulf, less than 15 miles off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia. The island is less than 50 square miles in size, thus many times smaller even than the relatively small UAE. However, as both states are within the sphere of influence of the much larger Saudi Arabia, their agreements with Israel indicate an agreeable spirit from their larger neighbor.
Saudi Arabia is a Sunni Muslim state, while their major rival, Iran, is a Shiite Muslim state, and the two are at odds with each other. This expresses itself in the conflict in Yemen — one side allied with Sunni Saudi Arabia, another allied with Shiite Iran.
Saudi Arabia has no legitimate worry about Israel, who prefers peace with her neighbors. But they do have worries about the influence of Shiite and motivated Iran. This naturally pushes Saudi Arabia toward a cooperative spirit with Israel, expressed in this case by the reconciliation between Israel and Saudi Arabia’s ally states, UAE and Bahrain.
The Arab peoples come from an array of backgrounds. Some are descendants of Abraham by Hagar, some from Keturah, others are from Ammon or Moab who were sons of Lot, and some are from other Semitic backgrounds. Egyptian descent is from Ham, but the official name of the country is the Arab Republic of Egypt.
One thing uniting most of the Arab world is their Muslim faith, and all Muslims respect Abraham as a godly man, as do Christians and Israelites. Thus the expression “Abraham Accords” is a delightful one to refer to the recent agreements. It expresses an inherent cultural connection between Arabs and Israelis, and brings into public view the name of Abraham,
whose covenant given him by God will fill the world with blessings in time to come. How wonderful that the name Abraham becomes integrated into public awareness. The very expression “The Abraham Accords” stirs something resonant and deep within the heart of brethren longing for the Kingdom.
What divides Muslims from Christians and Israelis, of course, is the perception about who was the favored seed of Abraham through whom the promised blessings would flow. The Old Testament is clear that the promised seed was Isaac — that Jacob secured the blessed birthright from Isaac — and that the 12 tribes of Israel are the natural seed of Abraham with special blessings promised to them.
However, as our opening text shows, Ishmael, the older half brother of Isaac, is not forgotten. The literal descendants of Ishmael are part of the Arab world, but the blessing of this son of Hagar perhaps extends in spirit to the remainder of the Arab world who express appreciation for Abraham, whom they consider to be a spiritual father to them all.
Shaping Toward Ezekiel 38
In Ezekiel 38, the allies of the invader Gog from the north are Iran (Persia), Turkey (Togarmah), Cush (perhaps Yemen, see “Cush (Bible)” at Wikipedia), Libya (Phut), and Gomer (perhaps Western Europe, compare Revelation 17:14).1 Another coalition, not in sympathy with this invasion, includes Saudi Arabia (Sheba and Dedan), the merchants of Tarshish and their young lions (perhaps England, America, Canada, Australia). In this case a reconciliation of Arab countries in the sphere of Saudi Arabia, with Israel, seems to be building in the right direction.
Notice that Turkey (Togarmah) is in league with Gog and Iran. This seems odd, for Turkey is Sunni, and another major ally of Gog is Iran, Shiite. However, compare the “News and Views” item at the end of page 19, in this issue. Turkey seems increasingly estranged from the “budding alliance of Greece, Israel, Cyprus, and Egypt” because of gas riches in the Eastern Mediterranean. They might therefore have a separate motivation to side against Israel.
Israel’s Past Conflicts
When Israel declared independence in 1948, they were invaded by surrounding Arab countries, but survived by God’s grace. Nineteen years later God provided a stunning victory in the six day war of 1967.
Six years further on, in 1973, Israel almost lost, but was spared by God. Perhaps that conflict provides a token of the experience still looming, when Gog attacks with his allies. Then also Israel will be sorely pressed — but delivered through prayer.
In Isaiah chapters 36-38 there is a lengthy account of a large attack against Jerusalem in the days of Hezekiah by Sennacherib, King of Assyria. That attack is widely considered a picture of the impending deliverance of Israel anticipated at the close of the present Harvest of the Gospel Age.
Then things did not go well for Judah at first. They lost city after city to advancing Assyria. But God promised through Isaiah that Jerusalem would be miraculously delivered. And so it will be in our day.
Joel and Micah were contemporaries of Isaiah, living in the time of the Assyrian threat. We see the experience of Hezekiah reflected also in Joel 2 and Micah 5:5,6, which are often considered respecting Israel’s future deliverance.
The End Result
We observe current developments with interest, knowing that whatever arises, God is directing affairs to the establishment of the promised Kingdom of Christ. At the hour of crisis Israel will appeal to Jehovah. Joel advises them in their emergency, “rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto Jehovah your God … Then will Jehovah be jealous for his land, and … remove far off from you the northern army” (Joel 2:13-20 excerpts). God will raise the Ancient Worthies (Micah 5:5) to point Israel to their Messiah, a national repentance will ensue (Zechariah 12:10), and the blessing of all the families of the earth will unfold — as God promised to Abraham.
(1) Another editor favors Black Africa for Cush, and Ger‑
manic and Slavic countries for Gomer.