Ishmael, Pharaoh, Moses – and Esau

[73:15] We have sent to you a messenger, just as we sent to Pharaoh a messenger.

[73:19] This is a reminder; whoever wills, let him choose the path to his Lord.


Based on these verses, what is the Qur’an really saying about the path to God?

Apparently there are choices to be made.


 Christians and Jews should all know the story of Moses.  But there’s a few things we saw before that I’d like to remind you of – just in case you’ve forgotten.  The Israelites were in Egypt because of the famine that took place hundreds of years earlier.  Shortly before the drought began that caused the famine, Joseph had been sold, by his brothers, into slavery.  They sold him to Ishmaelites.  Those Ishmaelites took him to Egypt, where he rose from being a slave to being the number two person in all of Egypt.  All this because of a band of Ishmaelites.

Fast forward about 400 years, and we have Moses being sent by God to confront Pharaoh and set the Israelites free.  Then comes the plagues.  And finally – freedom for the Israelites.  If you’d like to read the previous post to get more details on this, see God, The Father – Friend or Foe? A look at Pharaoh.  The thing to notice from that article – it really wasn’t God that kept Pharaoh from releasing the Israelites.  Each time when the Bible says that God hardened Pharaohs heart – it had to do with whether the punishment would take place – not whether or not the people would be set free.  Pharaoh did that part all on his own.  It also shows that hardening a heart in Old Testament times had to do with whether or not a person was teachable by God.  It’s not the way we think of it today.  We saw that Pharaoh was plenty evil, wicked, mean and nasty enough without God doing anything to him.

So – now we come to these verses in Qur’an Sura 73 –

[73:15] We have sent to you a messenger, just as we sent to Pharaoh a messenger.

[73:16] Pharaoh disobeyed the messenger and, consequently, we punished him severely.

[73:17] If you disbelieve, how can you evade a day so terrible that it makes the infants gray-haired?

[73:18] The heaven will shatter therefrom. His promise is true.

[73:19] This is a reminder; whoever wills, let him choose the path to his Lord.

This version calls Moses a messenger.  Other translation, including the one I have from CAIR – calls Moses an Apostle.

Think about this.  What it means.

These are the only verses about Moses in this Sura.  And – it’s the first time Moses comes up in a revelation to Muhammad.  So – at this time – there is no choice, once again, except to go to the Jewish Torah to see what this means.  Again – as we’ve seen before – the Jewish Torah (the first five books of Old Testament) is exactly the same today as it was during the time of Muhammad.  Therefore – what we see today about Moses is exactly what Muslims were reading as what we read today.  Think about the implications of that!

[73:15] We have sent to you a messenger, just as we sent to Pharaoh a messenger.

Moses – a man that The Old Testament says very clearly was sent by God to free His people from slavery under Pharaoh – is claimed by Islam as one of their Apostles.  And there is no disclaimer as to what he was doing at that time.  The revelations to Muhammad – and the verbal telling of what was to become the Qur’an – agreed that Moses was in Egypt to free the Israelites!  And the same God that sent Moses is the God that Muhammad and his followers believed in – at that time.  Amazing, isn’t it?

[73:16] Pharaoh disobeyed the messenger and, consequently, we punished him severely.

[73:17] If you disbelieve, how can you evade a day so terrible that it makes the infants gray-haired?

[73:18] The heaven will shatter therefrom. His promise is true.

[73:19] This is a reminder; whoever wills, let him choose the path to his Lord.

Note what the verses above say.  

Pharaoh disobeyed – and he was punished.  The next two verses speak to that thought.

But look at the last one –

[73:19] This is a reminder; whoever wills, let him choose the path to his Lord.

let him choose the path to his Lord.

Wow.  Think about that one.  There is a choice.

The first verses talk about Pharaoh – his choice to fight against God.  And the punishment he received for making that choice.  And that’s as far as the Islamic commentaries seem to go.  But there appears to me more – that they don’t mention.

So – what were the other alternatives?  After all – if there was something to choose from, there had to be other alternatives!  And – what the Qur’an is saying is that these alternatives were not just for the Israelites.  They were also available to Pharaoh and his people!  

Don’t believe it?  Go back and read the article I mentioned above – God, The Father – Friend or Foe? A look at Pharaoh.  You’ll see very clearly that not only were choices given to the Egyptians on some of the later plagues.  And some of them took advantage of that choice and were spared the destruction from that plague when they took the option to believe the God of Moses.  The God the Qur’an is talking about.

That has to be what the Qur’an is saying here – since we are left to go back and interpret the meaning of these verses from the Hebrew Old Testament.


The possibility of choices really isn’t out of line, based on history either.

Look at the conflicts and disagreement we encountered in the last article over issues of who was to take over leadership after Muhammad’s death.  That is still an issue – even today.  Some think it should be via an election of sorts, by the leaders.  Other feel it should be based on being a descendant of Muhammad – staying in the family line.  Different sects of Islam have very different beliefs – and often consider the others to be apostates, worthy of death.  Yes – choices are very much in line.

And then let’s add one more ingredient to think about here.


We read this in Genesis –

Jacob and Esau

Ge 25:19 This is the account of Abraham’s son Isaac.

Abraham became the father of Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean.
Ge 25:21 Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. 22 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD.
Ge 25:23 The LORD said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger. ”
Ge 25:24 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 25 The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. 26 After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.
Ge 25:27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Ge 25:29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom. )
Ge 25:31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright. ”
Ge 25:32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”
Ge 25:33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.
Ge 25:34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.
So Esau despised his birthright.

Another conflict between brothers.  Reminds one a bit of Ishmael and Isaac.

At least one difference though, has to do with choice.  In the case of Ishmael and Isaac – there was no choice to be made between the brothers.  God made his promises to Abraham – and the brothers each got what came from those promises.

But with Jacob and Esau – there’s a bit of a difference.  Esau gave up his birthright because he thought he was famished.  Really?  If he didn’t have food immediately, he was going to die on the spot?  So he chose to give up his birthright for that stew.  He chose to assume that he was going to die without immediate food – he chose to believe that no other human could save him – and he chose to believe that God was going to let him die as well.  Yes – those were all choices.

Later – when it came time for the blessing from Isaac – their mother helped trick Isaac into giving the blessing to Jacob.  And here it is –

Ge 27:38 Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud.
Ge 27:39 His father Isaac answered him,
“Your dwelling will be
away from the earth’s richness,
away from the dew of heaven above.
Ge 27:40 You will live by the sword
and you will serve your brother.
But when you grow restless,
you will throw his yoke
from off your neck.”

Not a really good blessing.  But none of that was under his control.  No choices involved.

And finally –

Ge 28:6 Now Esau learned that Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram to take a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he commanded him, “Do not marry a Canaanite woman,” 7 and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram. 8 Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; 9 so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had.

 Esau chose to go to Ishmael to find another wife – because he knew it would be very displeasing to Isaac.

Let’s fast forward now to the last book in the Old Testament – Malachi –

Mal 1:1 An oracle: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.

Jacob Loved, Esau Hated

Mal 1:2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD.
“But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’
“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” the LORD says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, 3 but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”
Mal 1:4 Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.”
But this is what the LORD Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD. 5 You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD—even beyond the borders of Israel!’

Think about all of this now.

We have Ishmael – who God promised Abraham He would make into a great nation.  We also saw God protect Ishmael.

Then we have Esau – who God told Rebekah would be a nation – although not a great nation.  God also said Esau would be separated from Jacob.  Esau also chose to do things to intentionally make matters worse.

Through these activities – there’s an intertwining of the offspring of Ishmael and Esau.

But what we see in Malachi is condemnation of Esau (father of the Edomites).  But not of Ishmael.  So it’s reasonable, I believe, to think this applies to only some of the descendant of Ishmael.  Interesting, if this is a reasonable conclusion.  Remember – we’re still going through this.  But this is where we seem to be at right now.


Muslims look at their religion coming from Abraham via Ishmael.  God’s promises were to Abraham and Hagar about Ishmael.  Esau, who is going to live by the sword, chooses to enter into the picture.  And not for good reasons – but to upset Isaac – the other son of Abraham.

Does that sound vaguely familiar to what’s happening on the historical side of what we’ve seen just in the first 3 Suras of the Qur’an?  

At first – Muhammad has no issues with Jews or Christians, who follow the path through Abraham and Isaac.  He will, in time, have major issues with both.  But the first problems are with other descendants of Ishmael.  We’ve already seen them.  And even today – part of Islam claims it is a peaceful religion.  And part claims the Qur’an tells them to kill all infidels, including apostate Muslims.

Does this all follow from the Old Testament prophecies regarding Abraham, Hagar, Ishmael and Esau?

And was Moses not only freeing the Israelites, but also showing the descendants of Ishmael that they had a choice even while under Pharaoh – to follow God or to submit to Pharaoh?

And is the Qur’an – in this Sura – pointing out that choice?

Conclusion (sort of)

No conclusion yet. As I said – we’re still going through this.  But there does seem to be a pattern developing.

Do you think this is possible?

Some will say no – because that’s not what they were taught.

Some will say no – because it’s not what they want to believe.

But with the latter – is that being like Jonah?  
The lesson in the Old Testament is to not be like Jonah – because God wanted the exact opposite of what Jonah wanted.  God cared about the Ninevites.
The original lesson in the Qur’an was to not be like Jonah.
But then those verses were replaced by the sword verse.

And so – for Muslims – with the Qur’an – are you left with a choice?
Are you left with a choice between Ishmael – and God’s original promise regarding him –
versus Esau – and his ultimate condemnation by God because of the choices he made?

And for Christians – what are the implications, if the choices above are true?

Pray about these things –
as I’ve said – not with your mind, but with your heart.

Pray to the God of Abraham,
the God who heard Hagar –
the God who heard Ishmael –
the God who said He would make Ishmael a great nation.

Pray that He will show you the path to Himself.

I’ll be praying with you – and for you.

<To be continued…>





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