In the thread below the author demonstrates that Israel’s idea of the Arabian tribes of the time was contradictory, and based on a 7th century BC understanding on how they worked. I’ll copy paste the comment here, but I implore you to read the entire thread. The question was “Where does the idea that Arabs are descended from Ishmael come from?”. And the response:

*“To some extent, there is dependence on biblical traditions (as in other areas of early Islamic religion), as Jews and Jewish Christians were active in the Arabian peninsula in the time of Mohammad; for example Khadija’s cousin Waraqa ibn Naufal ibn Asad ibn ‘abdul ‘Uzza was a Christian familiar with a supposed Hebrew gospel text (Sahih al-Bukhari 1.3).  But also the biblical authors were themselves familiar with the existence of various Arabian tribes and how they were related to each other.  The genealogies in Genesis posit different levels of relatedness of the different tribes to the Israelites. The closest were the offspring of Abraham via his wives Hagar and Keturah; the former giving rise to the Ishmaelites and the the latter originating the Midianites and others.  These were largely peoples of NW Arabia.  More remote are the sons of Joktan (= the Qaḥtani, a group of autochthonous Arabian tribes distinguished from the descendents of Ismā‘īl in Islamic tradition), the great great grandson of Shem, which include tribes further south in the Arabian peninsula including Yemen, and then furthest are the tribes reckoned as offspring of Ham.  Yet there is little consistency and doublets abound; Keturah’s son Jokshan is a variant of the Joktan that was the son of Eber, Sheba and Dedan were both the sons of the Shemite Jokshan and the Hamite Raamah, and Havilah appears both as a son of Cush and a son of Joktan.  So Israelite conceptualizations of how the Arabian tribes were related to each other were contradictory and may reflect varying affiliation and historical groupings.”*
*”The sons of Ishmael in Genesis 25:13-15 correspond to the Shumu’il coalition of Arabian tribes that existed during the period of Assyrian hegemony from the late 8th century to the late 7th century BC. The tribes of Shumu’il mentioned in Assyrian cuneiform texts are identical with the names listed in the biblical text: Nebayot, Qedar, Massa, Teima, etc.  I don’t know however if there was any historical connection between these tribes and the Banu Kinanah and Quraysh of Late Antiquity, who lived further south in western Arabia.  What we do know is that Pliny the Elder in the first century CE mentioned the Qedarites as the Cedræi but located them further south around Al-Ḥijr (Historia Naturalis, 5.12), which is where the ancient kingdoms of Thamud and Dedan existed.  This probably represents the southward push of the Nabatæans in the Roman era, controlling trade routes in the Arabian peninsula (however Pliny also mentions the Nabatæi as a separate people to the adjoining the two other regions).”*
Do you have any way to demonstrate that this is not true? If the biblical account is contradictory and anachronistic, this casts a lot of doubt on the validity of the rest of the text, especially considering that this, the story of the patriarchs, is one of the most important of the entire book. I hope you’re able to answer soon.


I will to admit that the names and locations of different Arab tribes at various times is not my specialty!  However, the fact is that our information about what tribe was where and at what time in the distant past is spotty at best.  You mention other sources, which are, of course, very useful.  But the assumption of this question is that the other sources are more reliable than the Bible.  There is a large body of evidence that supports the conclusion that the Bible is the most accurate and reliable text we have from ancient history.  People who question the Bible’s accuracy (which they have every right to do!), have been proved wrong again and again. 
I am afraid that we will have to accept some ambiguity as to whether it is the names and times in the Bible or in these other sources which is accurate.  Is it possible that some of the names you mention, such as in Genesis 25:13-15, are anachronistic?  An honest person will admit that this is possible.  Is it possible that a later editor of Genesis changed the earlier names in the earliest versions of Genesis? I cannot rule it out.  We will have to accept that this is possible.  However, we will need more solid information than what you have from this thread to prove that the current biblical texts are in error.  I wish that I could definitively say that the Bible is right and these other sources are wrong, but I cannot in good conscience say this.  By the way, it is also possible that groups had more than one name, or that the names and groupings were fluid.  In other words, both could be correct.
In any case, the fact of the inspiration and reliability of the Bible is extremely well established on many other grounds.  I have to say that I do not agree with you that the questions you raise above “cast a lot of doubt on the validity of the rest of the text.”  Given the miracles of Jesus, his resurrection, the general historical reliability of the Bible, the fulfillment of prophecies and so much more, this relatively minor (in my opinion) question is worth investigating, but it does not significantly undermine the vast swathe of evidence for the inspiration and reliability of the Bible. Like Peter said in 2 Peter 1:16-21, “we have the word of the prophets made more certain” because of all the prophecies which the apostles saw right in front of their eyes. A relatively minor issue about the names of Arab tribes would not change Peter’s conclusion, I am sure. That is my view.
John Oakes

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