Book Reviews

Arabs in the Shadow of Israel

Tony Maalouf Grand Rapids 2003-11-10

Where did the Arabs originate? Do God’s promises to Israel mean there are no blessings for Arabs? Where are Ishmael’s descendants mentioned in the Bible? Does the Book of Job reflect an Arabian background? Who are the Nabateans? Were the magi from Persia or Arabia? What was the star of Bethlehem?

These and other related questions are discussed in a scholarly but readable way. Maalouf, an evangelical Arab Christian scholar from Lebanon, presents insightful information on the place of Ishmael and his descendants that is often overlooked by Bible students. His perspective helps create a concern for all of Abraham’s descendants.

With careful attention to the Hebrew language of the Old Testament, Maalouf shows that Genesis 16:12c should read, with the King James Version, “he will live in the presence of all his brothers,” not, as in the New International Version, “he will live in hostility toward all his brothers” (pp. 73–77). From other Scriptures he shows that the Arabs are Ishmaelites who have lived in the Syro-Arabian desert to the east of Israel. Job may have lived, Maalouf argues, in the late patriarchal period, possibly a generation or two after Jacob and Esau (pp. 123–24). And Agur and Lemuel in Proverbs 30–31 were no doubt Arabians.

Maalouf amasses strong evidence in support of his view that the magi were Arabians coming from the east of Israel, for if they were Persians or Babylonians they would have come from the north, across the Fertile Crescent. Arabia was known as a place that specialized in spice trade, including gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Biblical references to Arabs in the Old Testament point to a typological pattern that reflects the Arabian involvement in Christ’s birth, as forecast in Isaiah 60:6.

Anyone interested in the Middle East and the Arab world will benefit from this excellent study.

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Roy B. Zuck
Roy B. Zuck, was senior professor emeritus of Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary and editor of Bibliotheca Sacra.
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