knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles." (Romans 1:18-23 NIV)
However, not everyone chose to forget about the true God, the Creator of heaven and earth. Some continued to worship the true God. In the line of descent from Noah's son Shem there was eventually born a man named Abram. God spoke to Abram, and he listened obediently, even though God's instructions were to leave his relatives behind and move his own household to a foreign land he had never seen before.
God told Abram, "Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee." (Genesis 17:5-7 KJV)
Abraham was to be a father of "many nations," not just of the Jews. Through his wife Sarah, Abraham begat Isaac, the father of Jacob, whose name was later changed to Israel. But, through Sarah's Egyptian maid Hagar (a practice considered acceptable in that culture), Abraham fathered Ishmael, and Ishmael became the progenitor of many of the peoples inhabiting the Middle East:
"This is the account of Abraham's son Ishmael, whom Sarah's maidservant, Hagar the Egyptian, bore to Abraham. These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. These were the sons of Ishmael, and these are the names of the twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps. Altogether, Ishmael lived a hundred and thirty-seven years. He breathed his last and died, and he was gathered to his people. His descendants settled in the area from Havilah to Shur, near the border of Egypt,
as you go toward Asshur. And they lived in hostility toward all their brothers." (Genesis 25:12-18 NIV)
This "hostility" has continued into our day, in the form of Arab opposition to the Jews and the state of Israel.
Later in life, after the death of his wife Sarah, Abraham took another wife, who bore him additional sons, the progenitors of other Arab tribes:
"Abraham took 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 Asshurites, the Letushites and the Leummites. The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida and Eldaah. All these were descendants of Keturah." (Genesis 25:1-4 NIV) These, too, settled areas and towns of the Middle East that came to bear their names.
Abraham's son Isaac became father to twins: Jacob and Esau.
Esau became father to the Edomites, who inhabited land surrounding Canaan:
"These were the chiefs descended from Esau, by name, according to their clans and regions: Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, Magdiel and Iram. These were the chiefs of Edom, according to their settlements in the land they occupied. This was Esau the father of the Edomites." (Genesis 36:40-43 NIV)
Meanwhile, "Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan." (Genesis 37:1 NIV) There he fathered twelve sons by his two wives and two concubines. These sons, in turn, became the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel. But, first, due to a famine in the land of Canaan the whole family went to live in Egypt, where vast amounts of food had been put into storage ahead of time by Jacob's son Joseph who had been appointed prime minister of Egypt. (The whole story is fascinating and is found in the Bible book of Genesis.)
While living in Egypt for hundreds of years, Jacob's descendents grew into twelve populous tribes, so populous that the king of Egypt began to fear them and put them into slavery to keep them under control. (Exodus 1:9-11) God spoke to an Israelite named