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Abraham had taken another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. Jokshan was the father of Sheba and Dedan; the descendants of Dedan were the Ashurites, the Letushites and the Leummites. The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanok, Abida and Eldaah. All these were descendants of Keturah. ~ Genesis 25:1-4, NIV


Most people think that Arabs only are Ishmael’s descendants. Not true. Yes, because Ishmael is the son of Abraham and Hagar, some Arabs are Ishmael’s descendants; however, because Midian is the son of Abraham and Keturah, countless Arabs also are Midian’s descendants. Moreover, Abraham and Keturah had a total of six sons! The Word of God supports these statements, as Moses writes:

Abraham had taken another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. Jokshan was the father of Sheba and Dedan; the descendants of Dedan were the Ashurites, the Letushites and the Leummites. The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanok, Abida and Eldaah. All these were descendants of Keturah. ~ Genesis 25:1-4, NIV; see also 1 Chronicles 1:32-33

Now while many Jewish scholars say that Hagar and Keturah are the same person, many other Jewish scholars say that Hagar is not Keturah. Indeed, some translations of the Scriptures not only refer to the sons of Abraham’s other wives (cf. Genesis 25:6) but also some translations of the Scriptures make a distinction between Hagar and her son’s descendants, and Keturah and her sons’ descendants (cf. Genesis 25:1-4; 1 Chronicles 1:29-33).

Concerning whether or not Abraham married Hagar too, based on the Jewish Midrash (the last and final word given as “explanation” of the Holy Scriptures), in this case, the Midrash on Genesis, many Jewish scholars conclude that the later mentioning of Beer Lahai Roi in Genesis 24:62 clearly suggests that Isaac was a matchmaker who actually had just returned from the Negev desert region, near Beer Lahai Roi. He was near Beer Lahai Roi because, while Abraham was looking for a bride for Isaac, Isaac was looking for Hagar so that he could bring her back to Abraham, for the two of them to marry, now that his mother, Sarah, was dead. In essence, Isaac, who also is a type of Christ, wanted to readmit Hagar and Ishmael (exiled individuals) back into Abraham’s family.

The first reference to Beer Lahai Roi, which is mentioned in the Holy Bible and the Targum Onkelos (the official Babylonian translation of the Torah), was when Hagar was there. Beer Lahai Roi, which is translated as the “well of the Living One that seeth me,” is the place where Hagar not only saw the angel of the Lord but also where the angel of the Lord commanded a fleeing Hagar to return back to Sarah and submit to her (cf. Genesis 16:7-14; see also Genesis 21:14-20). Based on Genesis 24:62 and Genesis 16:14 references to Beer Lahai Roi, many biblical scholars believe that Beer Lahai Roi is in Hagar’s native country.

The abovementioned information is why many Jewish scholars also believe that Genesis 25:1 is speaking about Abraham’s marriage to yet another woman (Keturah; his third wife), with whom Abraham has six sons. Their sons inhabited the areas known today as western Saudi Arabia, Yemen, southern parts of Egypt, and parts of eastern Africa, such as Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, and even Libya. Abraham’s sons with Keturah also settled in Syria, southern Jordan (Moab), and western Assyria, too.

Of Abraham and Keturah’s six sons, Midian (their fourth son) is the most noteworthy, because Midian’s descendants are mentioned in several verses of the Holy Bible, in some Surahs of the Qur’an, and in numerous secular writings. For sure, Midian’s offspring are more often in said works than any of the rest of Midian’s brothers and their descendants. In fact, it is in the reference to Moses’ father-in-law Jethro, a priest or prince of Midian, that this Midianite tribe is portrayed as being the closest Arabs to Israel and thus the ones who have the most important roles in Israel’s ancient history.

Concerning Abraham’s Ishmaelite descendants, most of them claim that they are the true seed of Abraham. Again, their claim is based on Hagar, who, while pregnant with Ishmael, received many promises from God’s messenger. For example, God promises Hagar that He would give her many “…descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count” ~ Genesis 16:10, NIV, and this promise unequivocally echoes one of the promises God makes to Abraham. God promises Abraham that:

I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me. ~ Genesis 22:17-18, NIV

Be that as it may, there are many biblical scholars who believe it is through Keturah’s offspring that Abraham actually becomes “…a father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5, NIV).

Now there can be no doubt that God foreknew the Arab Midianites, and other Arab nations, would become Israel’s enemies and therefore God’s enemies. In fact, it even is easy to understand why Arabs, as a whole, honestly would believe they are the true seed of Abraham that is as countless as the “grains of sand on the seashore” (Judges 7:12b, NCV), because this is exactly how they are described in the Old Testament. In fact, in the book of Judges, marauding masses of Midianite Arabs were seeking to destroy Israel. Their invasion of Israel was the primary reason why God’s Spirit came upon Gideon so that Gideon would be God’s chosen deliverer/savior for the Israelites. In the book of Judges, these plundering masses of Midianite Arabs are described as follows:

The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore. ~ Judges 7:12, NIV

The argument here not only can be made about the sheer number of Midianite Arabs but also made about the fact that the Midianites and other Arabs were wealthy nomadic tribes who were desert dwellers, many of whom lived to the east and south of Canaan (Israel). Of course, in the case of the Arab Midianites, some of their prosperity comes from raiding other tribes/nations, including the Israelites. Other Arab Midianites earned their wealth as merchants or traders (cf. Genesis 37:28a); they even sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar (cf. Genesis 37:36). Moreover, many biblical scholars explain that one of the crimes the Arab Midianites committed was their deceitful business practices, for they used two different kinds of weights and measures—they bought by one weight and sold by the other.

Most important, however, is the fact that the Arab Midianites became God and the Israelites’ enemies, because they conspired with the Moabites to curse Israel (cf. Numbers 22:1-7). When the conspiracy failed, because God turned the curse into a blessing (see Numbers 24:10-11), both the Midianite and Moabite women agreed that they would seduce the Israelite men and lure them into serving their idols, in particular their local deity, Baal of Peor (cf. Numbers 31:1-18; see also Numbers 25:1-9; Numbers 25:17-18; Revelation 2:14). Now Baal was a major god of the many gods in the Canaanite pantheon, and while God did not tolerate His chosen people’s idolatry, because to do so would mean God was going against His own Laws, God loathed Baal.

So, because the Midianite and Moabite women were seducing the Israelite men for the purpose of causing them to fall into idolatry (the false worship of Baal of Peor), God commanded Moses to carry out His vengeance on the Arab Midianites—to kill all of them. The point here is that God’s war against the Midianite Arabs was a Holy war, and yet in spite of the fact that in a Holy war EVERY one of God’s enemies should have been killed (cf. Deuteronomy 20:16), the Israelite soldiers blatantly disobeyed God’s command, as apparently only the  Midianite males who were in the battlefield area were killed, because some two centuries later here is Gideon fighting the Arab Midianites!

Moreover, the Israelite soldiers also spared the Midianite women and children. Needless to say, this disobedience to God’s command angered Moses, because he sent the Israelite soldiers back out to kill the male children and every woman who slept with a man. However, even Moses made a concession, as he decided to spare all the virgins who were taken captive (cf. Numbers 31:17-18).

No doubt, since this war with the Arab Midianites was a holy war, yet virgin Midianite women were taken captive, this fact must be why God never gave the Israelites permission to rape or to have consensual intercourse with these virgin Midianite women. Indeed, to have given His permission to rape and/or to have consensual sex would have meant that God too had gone against His own established Laws, as well as gone against His own clear after the fact command to purify themselves (cf. Numbers 31:19; see also Deuteronomy 22:25-27; Leviticus 15:16-18). In other words, any kind of sex would have defiled both the virgin Midianite women and the Israelite soldiers.

For these reasons, after they all were purified, this is when God gave the Israelite men permission to marry their captives. However, in keeping with His own Laws regarding the treatment of Israelites’ wives and His Laws regarding the mistreatment of Israelites’ female servants, which any female captive who did not marry would have become, there is no doubt that God also would have commanded the Israelite husbands to treat their new wives and their new female servants with respect (see the following Scriptures on the treatment of wives and female servants; Exodus 21:2-11, 20-21, 26-27, 32; Exodus 22:1-3; Exodus 23:12; Leviticus 19:20-22; Leviticus 25:39-55; Deuteronomy 5:14; Deuteronomy 15:12-18; Deuteronomy 21:10-14; Deuteronomy 23:15-17; Deuteronomy 24:7).

The bottom line is that although the Arab Midianites are Abraham’s descendants, the promised lineage through which the Messiah would come is through Abraham and Isaac’s offspring—not through Abraham and Midian nor Abraham and Ishmael’s descendants. Furthermore, while there are many people, Christians included, who find the Midianite massacre an unloving act, they evidently fail to understand that God not only had to punish the Arab Midianites according to His established Laws (the ten commandments, et al.,) but also God had to keep His promise to His Jewish people—the promise of a Messiah coming through the lineage of King David.

In order to keep His Laws and His promise of a Messiah, God could not sanction intermarriages with non-Hebrews, and He also could not sanction any idol worship! These kinds of pollution would have destroyed the Messianic line, through which Christ Jesus would be born, as well as made Father God’s promise null and void.  

For additional information about the Arab Midianites, please read my blog entry: Gideon Is a Type of Christ.