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Israel vs. Hamas: 4,000 Years in the Making

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Israel vs. Hamas: 4,000 Years in the Making

The Bible reveals the driving force behind today’s conflict in Gaza and what its ultimate outcome will be.

Learn the why behind the headlines.

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The dawn attack on October 7 by Hamas militants took Israel by surprise. Yet continued violence between the Jewish nation and Palestinian extremists should be anything but surprising.

Over the decades, Israel and the Palestinians have been involved in regular wars, barrages of rocket fire, vigilante killings and political clashes. The writing was on the wall in 2022, which the United Nations Security Council called “the deadliest year in the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

Then came 2023. The Hamas surprise attack killed at least 1,405 Israelis and injured around 5,431. As of this writing, Israel’s counteroffensive bombings have killed at least 6,546 Gazans and injured more than 17,000.

Yet the start of this violent conflict goes back much further than when modern Israel became a state in 1948. It goes back past the Crusades when Jerusalem passed hands from Muslims to Christian Crusaders and back again. It goes back thousands of years further, past when Muhammad founded the Islamic religion, beyond the life of Jesus Christ—all the way back to Abraham, circa 2000 BC.

The connection to Abraham is not lost on world leaders. These ties influenced the name for 2020’s “Abraham Accords,” the U.S.-brokered process to normalize relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and other Arab nations.

The Accords declaration states: “We encourage efforts to promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue to advance a culture of peace among the three Abrahamic religions and all humanity.

“We believe that the best way to address challenges is through cooperation and dialogue and that developing friendly relations among States advances the interests of lasting peace in the Middle East and around the world.”

In Gaza, 99 percent of the population adheres to Islam. The nation of Israel is majority Jewish. Both religions have ties to Abraham of the Old Testament. Christianity is the third religion with a link to the patriarch.

While world leaders hope the Abraham connection will bring them together, the Bible reveals something different. It makes clear what has fueled the historical and violent rivalry between Muslims and Jews—and what continues to drive world events today.

Family Rivalry

Nations are families grown large. The personalities and character traits of those families then impacted their descendants throughout the centuries. While many skip over the genealogies of the Bible, they often contain crucial information to understand both ancient and modern nations.

The same is true for Arabs and Jews today.

Abraham’s first two sons were Ishmael and Isaac—the respective fathers of Arabs and Israelites. The two boys had different mothers, one was Hagar and the other Sarah.

Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was infertile and unable to produce an heir. So she decided to offer her handmaid Hagar to her husband. The servant quickly became pregnant.

While Sarah thought this arrangement would make her happy, it quickly did the opposite. Genesis 16:4 shows Sarah “despised” Hagar and she drove the pregnant woman away.

God delivered a message to Hagar in the wilderness, which begins to explain the demographic troubles in the Holy Land today.

The angel of the Lord told her, “I will multiply your seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude” (Gen. 16:10). He also promised: “Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Ishmael; because the Lord has heard your affliction” (vs. 11).

Ishmael’s descendants truly have become a multitude. The Arab world—stretching from Morocco in the west to Iraq and Oman in the east—has a population of 475 million.

Verse 12 adds to that promise: “And he [Ishamel] will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”

His hand against every man and every man’s hand against him sums up much of Arab history. It certainly describes the situation in Israel today!

Other translations help make clear what “shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren” means…

Christian Standard Bible: “He will settle near all his relatives.”

Revised Standard Version: “He shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”

New Living Translation: “Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”

Legacy Standard Bible: “And he will dwell in the face of all his brothers.”

Look at any map of modern Israel. Arabs certainly dwell “near,” “over against,” and “in the face of” the Jewish peoples. Not to mention the Arab nations of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, all of which surround Israel.

Ishmael’s descendants also dwell in all the other nations that are descended from Isaac and his son Israel. There are about 6 million in France, 3.7 million in the U.S., and 500,000 apiece in the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Australia.

Make no mistake: This mixing among brethren certainly does bring times of “open hostility” and times where every man’s hand is against one another—going both ways!

Ishmael’s 12 sons (Gen. 25:16) went on to form major Arab nations, not insignificant nomadic tribes as some believe. These peoples intermarried primarily with the Egyptians and were located southeast of Canaan, in the region of Arabia.

What Is Hamas?The group was founded in 1987 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a Palestinian refugee living in Gaza, during the first intifada, or uprising, which was marked by widespread protests against Israel’s occupation.

The name Hamas comes from the Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement, and a recognition of the group’s roots and early ties to one of the Sunni world’s most prominent groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in the 1920s.

The group has vowed to annihilate Israel and has been responsible for many suicide bombings and other deadly attacks on civilians and Israeli soldiers.

The U.S. State Department designated Hamas a terrorist group in 1997. The European Union and other Western countries also consider it a terrorist organization.

Hamas won 2006 parliamentary elections and in 2007 violently seized control of the Gaza Strip from the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority, dominated by the rival Fatah movement, administers semi-autonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israel responded to the Hamas takeover with a blockade on Gaza, restricting movement of people and goods in and out of the territory in a step it says is needed to keep the group from developing weapons. The blockade has ravaged Gaza’s economy, and Palestinians accuse Israel of collective punishment.

Over the years, Hamas received backing from Arab countries, such as Qatar and Turkey. Recently, it has moved closer to Iran and its allies.

Hamas founder and spiritual leader Yassin—a paralyzed man who used a wheelchair—spent years in Israeli prisons and oversaw the establishment of Hamas’ military wing, which carried out its first suicide attack in 1993.

Israeli forces have targeted Hamas leaders throughout the years, killing Yassin in 2004. Khaled Mashaal, an exiled Hamas member who survived an earlier Israeli assassination attempt, became the group’s leader soon after.

Yehia Sinwar, in Gaza, and Ismail Haniyeh, who lives in exile, are Hamas’ current leaders. They realigned the group’s leadership with Iran and its allies, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Since then, many of the group’s leaders relocated to Beirut.

Hamas has carried out suicide bombings and over the years fired tens of thousands of increasingly powerful rockets from Gaza into Israel. It also established a network of tunnels running from Gaza to Egypt to smuggle in weapons, as well as attack tunnels burrowing into Israel.

The group has always espoused violence as a means to liberate occupied Palestinian territories and has called for the annihilation of Israel.

It is important to note that the aims of Hamas do not represent those of all Palestinians. Yet, while they vary on the tactics to achieve it, one thing is plain: Palestinians want statehood.

Isaac’s Influence

The descendants of the second of Abraham’s sons, Isaac, also remain major players in world affairs. Although Ishmael was the firstborn, Isaac was the one selected to receive the birthright blessings from his father.

God further blessed Abraham when he was willing to sacrifice Isaac—although He famously intervened. In Genesis 22, God said, “By Myself have I sworn, says the Lord, for because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son: that in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because you have obeyed My voice” (vs. 16-18).

Isaac’s wife Rebekah had twins: Esau was the eldest, and Jacob the younger. However, Esau lost his birthright to Jacob.

Jacob was renamed Israel, whose 12 sons gave rise to nations in Western Europe, the UK and its former colonies, and the U.S. While certainly not perfect, they have poured out monetary blessings across the globe.

One of Israel’s sons was Judah, of whom many descendants live in Israel today.

Esau’s sons also add to the Arab-Israeli conflict. He married Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael (28:9). The house of Esau, also known as the Edomites and Amalekites, gave rise millennia later to the Ottoman Turks, as well as the Seljuk Turks, who conquered and held most of Asia Minor, and the Caucasian Osmanli Turks, who controlled the Holy Land from AD 1070 until they surrendered it to the British in 1917.

Both Ishmael and Esau remained bitter for not getting the birthright blessing. Their jealousy continues to impact world affairs today.

What Does God Want?

While God promised to pour out blessings upon the nations through Isaac’s descendants, He also points out character flaws in them. In Exodus 33, God calls them “stiffnecked” three times and echoes this throughout the Old Testament.

Further, Isaiah 1 describes the state of Judah and Jerusalem today (vs. 1). This is what God sees in modern Israel: “The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel does not know, My people do not consider. Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward” (vs. 3-4).

God says that all of Israel’s descendants—Judah in particular—do not know Him and are weighed down by sin. Look at the conduct of the modern peoples descended from Ishmael and Isaac. Both are laden with wickedness and violence. Yet He does not want it to remain this way!

Notice in Isaiah 40 what God will soon say to Judah: “Comfort you, comfort you My people, says your God. Speak you comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished” (vs. 1-2). May that time come soon!

What about the Arabs?

Notice Genesis 17:18: “Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before You!” Clearly, Abraham yearned for Ishmael and his descendants to worship and follow the true God.

The patriarch loved all his sons and wanted them and their descendants to succeed. God feels the same. In fact, God feels this way about all His children: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise…but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Pet. 3:9).

Despite the grim picture in today’s news, the future is bright for those on both sides of the conflict. Everyone involved will receive a full opportunity for salvation. The apostle Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek [meaning gentile—non-Israelites]” (Rom. 1:16).

Think of the modern conflict in Israel. Jerusalem is a major sticking point—with both Muslims and Jews laying claim to it. That bitter feud will soon be a thing of the past.

Psalm 87 describes what God wants for the city: “On the holy mountain stands the city founded by the Lord. He loves the city of Jerusalem more than any other city in Israel. O city of God, what glorious things are said of you! I will count Egypt and Babylon among those who know Me—also Philistia and Tyre, and even distant Ethiopia” (vs. 1-4, New Living Translation).

“Philistia” is an ancient term for Palestine. Modern Israelites and Ishmaelites will all know and obey the God of Abraham.

The end of verse 4 continues: “They have all become citizens of Jerusalem! Regarding Jerusalem it will be said, ‘Everyone enjoys the rights of citizenship there.’ And the Most High will personally bless this city. When the Lord registers the nations, He will say, ‘They have all become citizens of Jerusalem.’”

God uses the Bible to help us understand what is driving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. He also shows what will soon come to pass when He establishes the Kingdom of God on Earth. To learn more about the wonderful conditions of peace and prosperity during this soon-coming time, read Tomorrow’s Wonderful World – An Inside View!

This article contains information from The Associated Press.

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