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is all hell.

Genesis 25:12-18 (ESV)

These are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham's son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah's servant, bore to Abraham. These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, named in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the firstborn of Ishmael; and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages and by their encampments, twelve princes according to their tribes. (These are the years of the life of Ishmael: 137 years. He breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people.) They settled from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria. He settled over against all his kinsmen.

The sons of Ishmael settled from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria. Shur is Sinai; Havilah probably means the northern Arabian Peninsula. With both an Egyptian mother and grandmother, they are now “settled over against all his kinsmen.

That last sentence is translated charitably in the ESV. The Hebrew word translated as “settled” is literally “fell,” and can indicate conflict. The NIV renders this as, “And they lived in hostility toward all their brothers.

Ishmael’s line still rates being referred to as Abraham’s descendants—something Keturah’s sons don’t get—but it’s all downhill from there. In Genesis 37:25-36, when Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery, the slave traders are called both Ishmaelites and Midianites. Midian was one of the sons of Keturah.

“Ishmaelites” seems to be the generic label for all of Abraham’s non-covenantal descendants, while Midianites is a specific reference to who these traders are.

This passage lifts the lid on the Pandora’s Box of ethnic warfare. We’ve seen some wars already, such as Abraham rescuing Lot, but they ended. This is the dawn of a war that’s still going on. This manifestation of sin would qualify as the most unfortunate ever, except that it is such an airtight example of something that can’t be explained using secular reasoning (such as evolution). As horrible as it is, it’s useful because it’s such a perfect illustration of the doctrine of sin.

As Sherman said, “War is all hell.” But at least war about money or land or resources or some other valuable thing makes sense. People are just being violently selfish. That’s evil, but it’s not crazy.

But ethnic war is often costly with no prospect for gain. It’s stupid in the way robbing a gorilla is stupid; even if you succeed, he has no money. There’s no way to explain this in terms of people just being evil and selfish. It’s not rationally evil or selfish; it’s just nuts.

That’s sin.

Ethnic warfare and genocide go hand in hand. We all know the examples, and they are nauseating. Pray for an end to these horrors. It seems too far-fetched to even ask, but we are called to pray for such things.

Ask God to give mercy to the afflicted and to open the eyes of those duped by the forces of evil.

To forward this devotional, see the link in green below.

These weekday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. Saturdays' by Matt Richardson. Subscribe here:

The weekly study guides, which include questions for discussion or meditation, are here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NASB stands for the New American Standard Bible. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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