Arabs in the Shadow of Israel: The Unfolding of God's Prophetic Plan for Ishmael's Line

By Borger, J. Todd | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, March 2005 | Go to article overview
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Arabs in the Shadow of Israel: The Unfolding of God's Prophetic Plan for Ishmael's Line


Borger, J. Todd, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


Arabs in the Shadow of Israel: The Unfolding of God's Prophetic Plan for Ishmael's Line. By Tony Maalouf. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2003, 368 pp., $14.99 paper.

The conversation between Islam and Christianity has heated greatly in the past few years because of the terrorist tactics of militant Islamic groups and the response by the West. An innocent victim in this battle is the Arab culture. Although many have employed the terms "Arab" and "Muslim" synonymously, the truth is that many Arabs are not Muslims and the vast majority of Muslims are not Arabs. This unfortunate identification of the two cultures has confused the relationship between westerners and the non-Muslim Arabs of the Middle East. Tony Maalouf has tried in his book Arabs in the Shadow of Israel to contribute to the conversation between Arabs and Christians by noting the prophetic promises made to Ishmael, how those promises unfolded throughout biblical history, and the eschatological implications of those promises.

After an historical introduction that briefly surveys the history of the Arab people, Maalouf presents his case concerning God's promises to Ishmael's descendants. His presentation is organized in four categories drawn from different periods of Israelite and Christian history, which serve as a framework to show the relationship of the Arab people to the history of God's chosen people Israel. Part 1, "Biblical Foundations," explores the history of Ishmael through the stories of Hagar and Ishmael in Genesis 16, 17, and 21. He includes a chapter on Paul's interpretation of those stories in Galatians 4. Part 2, "Arabs in the Light of Israel," explains the contribution of Arabs and their theology to the biblical witness during the time of the united monarchy, chiefly through the wisdom literature of Job and Proverbs. Part 3, "Arabs in the Darkness of Israel," describes the history of the Arabs in the post-exilic period. Finally, part 4, "Arabs in the Light of Christ," links the Arabs to the Jewish messianic expectations, and makes a particular connection between the Arabs and the Magi worshipers of the child Jesus.

Maalouf makes several important contributions in his book. To begin with, this book will benefit anyone doing exegetical work on the Ishmael passages of the OT. He comments on Arabic sources perhaps otherwise unknown to the reader; see particularly the endnotes for the Introduction (pp. 225-31). Also, his discussion of the work of God outside of Israel is a controversial and important subject. The most significant theological contribution of the book, however, is the placement of the Arabs in God's eschatological plan (pp. 219-24). Maalouf contends the promises to Ishmael's descendants made to Hagar have placed Arabs in a special place in the economy of God's salvation. They occupy, in a sense, a middle ground between God's elect, Israel, and the surrounding nations (pp.

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