The names Arab and Arabian in the Scriptures are used chiefly in a broad sense as applying to an inhabitant of Arabia, that immense land to the E and S of Palestine. At times the context and use imply a specific tribe or ethnic group.—1Ki 10:15; 2Ch 9:14; 21:16.
A number of Arabian tribes were Semitic, descending from Shem through Joktan; others were Hamitic, descending through Ham’s son Cush. (Ge 10:6, 7, 26-30) Some of Abraham’s descendants by Hagar and Keturah also came to dwell in Arabia, as the sons of Ishmael who “took up tabernacling from Havilah near Shur, which is in front of Egypt, as far as Assyria.” (Ge 25:1-4, 12-18) Esau’s offspring, dwelling in the mountainous region of Seir, also came within the general classification of Arabian.—Ge 36:1-43.
For the most part the Arabians were a wandering people who led a pastoral life, dwelling in tents. (Isa 13:20; Jer 3:2) Others, however, were traders, and some are mentioned as merchants for Tyre. (Eze 27:21) God’s servants had numerous contacts with them. The Midianite merchants on their way to Egypt to whom Joseph was sold were Arabian, as were the Sabeans from S Arabia who raided Job’s cattle and she-asses. (Ge 37:28; Job 1:1, 15) During their 40-year trek in the wilderness the Israelites came into calamitous contact with the Baal-worshiping Midianites (Nu 25:6, 14-18), and during the period of the Judges, hordes of camel-riding Arabians regularly raided Israel for seven years, until Judge Gideon severely defeated them.—Jg 6:1-6; 7:12-25.
Rulers of Arabian kingdoms paid tribute to King Solomon. (1Ki 10:15; 2Ch 9:14) The Arabs paid Jehoshaphat a tribute of 7,700 rams and an equal number of he-goats, but they later allied themselves with the Philistines against Jehoshaphat’s son and successor Jehoram, their marauder bands killing many of his sons. (2Ch 17:11; 21:16; 22:1) Uzziah waged successful warfare against them during his reign. (2Ch 26:1, 7) Arabian opposers were among those causing difficulty to Nehemiah during the restoration of Jerusalem’s walls.—Ne 2:19; 4:7, 8; 6:1.
Though nomadic, generally independent, and often quite isolated from the mainstream of activity of those times, the Arabs came in for prophetic attention and judgment by God. (Isa 21:13; Jer 25:17-24) Centuries later, some Arabians were perhaps among those becoming members of the early Christian congregation at Pentecost.—Ac 2:11, 41; see ARABIA.