An Oracle Concerning Arabia Isaiah 21:13-17

Shipwreck in the Desert by Carl Haag (1820-1915)

Shipwreck in the Desert
by Carl Haag (1820-1915)

The oracle concerning Arabia. In the thickets in Arabia you will lodge, O caravans of Dedanites.  14 To the thirsty bring water, meet the fugitive with bread, O inhabitants of the land of Tema.  15 For they have fled from the swords, from the drawn sword, from the bent bow, and from the press of battle.  16 For thus the Lord said to me, “Within a year, according to the years of a hireling, all the glory of Kedar will come to an end;  17 and the remainder of the archers of the mighty men of the sons of Kedar will be few; for the LORD, the God of Israel, has spoken.” 

The Biblical commentaries on this passage are all making observation with lots of probables, maybes, and mights on this one.  No one is quite sure as to who or when this prophecy is about. In this Isaiah passage we find that there are in fact two peoples called Dedans in the Bible.

Genesis 10 is referred to as the Table of Nations, and is where all the beginnings of the nations are listed. Noah’s three sons formed a new family tree after the flood. Ham was the pro-generator of all the negroid peoples, Shem the orientals, and Japheth all the caucazoids.

  1. The son of Raamah, identified by scripture as a Dedan [Gen 10:7]  This son is from the line of Cush, who was the son of Ham; a people from Africa.
  2. The son of Jokshan, also identified as a Dedan [1Chron. 1:32 c.f. Gen 25:1-3] This son is from the line of Abraham, a descendant of Japeth, by his other wife, Keturah.

The son’s of Abraham by Keturah are considered Arab peoples. They settled around what is now northern Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Because this is addressed to Arabia, the Dedan who was the son of Keturah is the favored interpretation.

In this passage Tema is named as a place. Tema was a son of Ishmael, Abraham and Hagar’s son.  It is also the name of an oasis town in northern Saudi Arabia.

Kedar is also a son of Ishmael. According to the Islamist (traditional teachings) Mohammed was a descendant of Kedar. As the RamBam a.k.a. Maimonides, a twelve century Jewish philosopher put it “for the Madman and imbecile is of the lineage of the children of Kedar as they readily admit.” Maimonides, “Letter to Yemen”. (The RamBam wrote in Hebrew so the word “Madman” would have been “Meshugana”.)

There is some disagreement as to the fulfillment of this passage. Some feel that it was fulfilled shortly after it was written. That it is about a small war or attack on a caravan that sought refuge and water at Tema.

Others feel it refers to something yet future, having to do with a small conflict in northern Saudi Arabia. Kedar being the progenitor of Mohammed makes some commentators believe that this is about the final colllaps of Islam. No actual fighting is expected to happen, as the glory of Kedar flees. If this is true, then it corresponds with Daniel 8 which states that Islam passes away without a hand. [Dan 8:25]

See Also: The Tents of Kedar

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