Book Notes: Arabs in the Shadow of Israel by Tony Maalouf

Sally Hinzie, UBA Church Consultant, is an avid reader and a practical thinker. She condenses selected books into a quick, easy to read set of “Book Notes” that offers you the opportunity to determine if this is a topic that you’d like to study further. This week's edition reviews Tony Maalouf's Arabs in the Shadow of Israel: The Unfolding of God’s Prophetic Plan for Ishmael’s Line.

This book has given me great insight as it traces the other descendants of Abraham—those other than Isaac—through the Old and New Testaments. As I read, I saw the biblical tribes of Midian, Sheba, Ishmael, Kedar, Qedar, Edom, and others in a new light. Their lives were intertwined with their Hebrew cousins, and they followed similar paths in their obedience to God and their eventual rebellion against God.  


I discovered that the first recorded conversation with a woman was with Hagar, a slave woman (Genesis 16). God’s promise that “He will be a wild donkey of a man” gives Hagar, the slave, the assurance that her son would live free. As I ready, I was reminded that, although Ishmael was not the child of the covenant, he and his descendants were recipients of the blessings of God through his obedience to circumcision. The fact that Isaac AND Ishmael buried Abraham (Genesis 25:8) affirms his place as a son.


I learned that the phrase “in the East” and Arabia refers to the location of the descendants of Abraham through Hagar and Keturah. This brought new clarity to familiar passages. In the book of Job, Job is described as “the greatest man among all the people of the East.” The author believes Job is a descendant of Esau and Basma—daughter of Ishmael (Genesis 36:9-33). As I read Job and saw his intimate relationship with God in light of this possible ancestry, I found a new perspective and an even richer experience.


Dr. Maalouf devotes two chapters defending his belief that the magi bringing gifts to Jesus as recorded in Matthew 2 are descendants of Abraham and Ishmael. Their starting point (from the east); their gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh; and their understanding of the King of the Jews all point to the that these magi were coming from Arabia. A full quarter of the book is “End Notes,” with documentation from ancient historians and the records from early church fathers.  


“A common misconception among Christians today is to infer that non-election for the administration of God’s purposes in history means spiritual alienation,” Dr. Maalouf writes. Arabs in the Shadow of Israel proves this is not true. This read gives me a renewed passion for reaching out to Arabs as I understand their history and God’s promises to them.