The Chronicler traces the lineage from Adam to Noah, from Noah to Shem, and then to Abraham, the father of all who trusts God. He reaches the point of his genealogy in 1 Chronicles 1:28. The point is one person: Abraham. This is what he was aiming at from the very beginning. He wants to talk about Abraham’s line through Isaac, but he first chooses to cover Abraham’s line through Ishmael. We read this in 1 Chronicles 1:28-31. It says, “The sons of Abraham: Isaac and Ishmael. These are their genealogies: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebaioth, and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. These are the sons of Ishmael.” Ishmael was Abraham’s first-born son, but it’s not unusual to see Isaac listed first when the two are mentioned. Isaac was the one through whom would come the salvation of the world. But God does not forget his promise to Hagar, Ishmael’s mother. When she fled from the personal abuse of Sarah, God instructed her to return to Sarah’s house and then promised her that He would bless her with so many descendants that she would be unable to count them. God repeats this promise to Hagar later as well. Using this language, we see that the blessing applied to Isaac was also going to apply to Ishmael. But the children of Hagar were slave children, while the children of Sarah were free.

The Muslims claim a right to the promised land because they are descendants of Abraham. Like the ten tribes of the northern Kingdom of Israel, these specific descendants of Abraham have intermarried with the peoples of the land to such an extent that their heritage from Abraham has been lost. Morey says, “The descendants of Ishmael were scattered in Northern Arabia from the wilderness of Shur to the ancient city of Havilah. They were absorbed by the local tribes, such as the Midianites (Gen. 37:25–28; 39:1; Judges 8:24). There is no historical or archaeological evidence that Ishmael went south to Mecca and became the ‘Father’ of the Arab race. Some modern Arab scholars admit that before Muhammad, Qahtan was said to be the ‘Father’ of the Arab people, not Ishmael.”[1] The Arab nations have no legal claim to the land of Palestine. It belongs to the descendants of Isaac.

This seems to be clearly stated by Paul’s interpretation of the account of Hagar’s son, Ishmael, and his descendants. In his letter to the Galatians, he clearly says that the children of Ishmael cannot share in the inheritance of Isaac. In Galatians 4:30, Paul says, “But what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.’” Isaac was the only heir to the promises of Abraham. He was the one born only of divine promise and not by human design as Ishmael was.  Isaac was the one of the supernatural birth when both Sarah and Abraham were well beyond their childbearing years. So Isaac’s descendants are not like the other descendants of Abraham. Their heritage rested on Abraham’s faith in God’s promises, not in the ordinary familial lineage. [2] Sarah and Abraham’s manipulation brought Ishmael into the world. God’s promise brought Isaac. Paul uses this truth to teach Christians that we are saved according to God’s promise of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus alone. We can’t do anything to earn or deserve it. It’s based on acceptance of the gift in Christ. It’s not based on one’s own efforts to keep the law or earn God’s acceptance. It is this promise, fulfilled in Christ, that makes us free from the law. If Abraham and Sarah could bring about God’s promise of an heir through their own efforts, there would be no need for Isaac’s birth. If the Christian could bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation through his own efforts to live a righteous life, there would be no need for Christ. The “sons” of Ishmael are those who, even today, think they can make God’s promises come true through their own efforts. The “sons” of Isaac will be those who trust in Christ.

[1] Morey, Robert A. 2002. “Are the Arabs The Descendants of Ishmael?” Journal of Biblical Apologetics 6: 4.

[2] Pratt, Richard L., Jr. 2006. 1 and 2 Chronicles: A Mentor Commentary. Mentor Commentaries. Fearn, Tain, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor.