Let's pause for a moment to observe the entrance of the Bible's first, and I believe only, 'Arab.' Arabia is referred to a few times in passing in various books, and anonymous 'Arabians' are mentioned, but Geshem is the single named Arab. (Geshem is king of part of the Arabian Peninsula, according to a footnote in my Bible.) In what can be seen as a darkly humorous divine joke, the only Arab in the Bible turns out to be 1) an enemy of the Jews and 2) at odds with them over who should control Jerusalem. Given the poison between Arabs and Jews today, isn't it appropriate that their relationship was born in strife?
Of course, when can return to Isaac and Ishmael for a preview. And the Koran tells the story differently.
The whole scene is almost too depressing—or too funny—to believe. Consider the first and only conversation between a Jew and an Arab. When Geshem and his cronies heard that Nehemiah is rebuilding the wall, they 'mocked and ridiculed' him. Nehemiah responds by saying: 'The God of heaven is the one who will give us success, and we His servants are going to start building; but you have no share or claim or historic right in Jerusalem' (emphasis added). That's right, 2,500 years have passed, and it's the same argument!