The Latter Major Prophets – Ezekiel 38-39

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshek and Tubal; prophesy against him and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, Gog, chief prince of Meshek and Tubal.  I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army—your horses, your horsemen fully armed, and a great horde with large and small shields, all of them brandishing their swords.  Persia, Cush and Put will be with them, all with shields and helmets, also Gomer with all its troops, and Beth Togarmah from the far north with all its troops—the many nations with you.
“‘Get ready; be prepared, you and all the hordes gathered about you, and take command of them.  After many days you will be called to arms. In future years you will invade a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate.  They had been brought out from the nations, and now all of them live in safety.  You and all your troops and the many nations with you will go up, advancing like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land.
“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: On that day thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil scheme.  You will say, “I will invade a land of unwalled villages; I will attack a peaceful and unsuspecting people—all of them living without walls and without gates and bars.  I will plunder and loot and turn my hand against the resettled ruins and the people gathered from the nations, rich in livestock and goods, living at the center of the land.”  Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish and all her villages will say to you, “Have you come to plunder? Have you gathered your hordes to loot, to carry off silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods and to seize much plunder?”’
“Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say to Gog: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: In that day, when my people Israel are living in safety, will you not take notice of it?  You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army.  You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land.  In days to come, Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.
“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You are the one I spoke of in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel. At that time they prophesied for years that I would bring you against them.  This is what will happen in that day: When Gog attacks the land of Israel, my hot anger will be aroused, declares the Sovereign Lord.  In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel.  The fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence. The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble and every wall will fall to the ground.  I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Sovereign Lord.  Every man’s sword will be against his brother.  I will execute judgment on him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him.  And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.’

  • Ezekiel 38:1-23

“Son of man, prophesy against Gog and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, Gog, chief prince of Meshek and Tubal.  I will turn you around and drag you along. I will bring you from the far north and send you against the mountains of Israel.  Then I will strike your bow from your left hand and make your arrows drop from your right hand.  On the mountains of Israel you will fall, you and all your troops and the nations with you. I will give you as food to all kinds of carrion birds and to the wild animals.  You will fall in the open field, for I have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord.  I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in safety in the coastlands, and they will know that I am the Lord.
“‘I will make known my holy name among my people Israel. I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the Lord am the Holy One in Israel.  It is coming! It will surely take place, declares the Sovereign Lord. This is the day I have spoken of.
“‘Then those who live in the towns of Israel will go out and use the weapons for fuel and burn them up—the small and large shields, the bows and arrows, the war clubs and spears. For seven years they will use them for fuel.  They will not need to gather wood from the fields or cut it from the forests, because they will use the weapons for fuel. And they will plunder those who plundered them and loot those who looted them, declares the Sovereign Lord.
“‘On that day I will give Gog a burial place in Israel, in the valley of those who travel east of the Sea. It will block the way of travelers, because Gog and all his hordes will be buried there. So it will be called the Valley of Hamon Gog.
“‘For seven months the Israelites will be burying them in order to cleanse the land.  All the people of the land will bury them, and the day I display my glory will be a memorable day for them, declares the Sovereign Lord.  People will be continually employed in cleansing the land. They will spread out across the land and, along with others, they will bury any bodies that are lying on the ground.
“‘After the seven months they will carry out a more detailed search.  As they go through the land, anyone who sees a human bone will leave a marker beside it until the gravediggers bury it in the Valley of Hamon Gog, near a town called Hamonah.  And so they will cleanse the land.’
“Son of man, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Call out to every kind of bird and all the wild animals: ‘Assemble and come together from all around to the sacrifice I am preparing for you, the great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel. There you will eat flesh and drink blood.  You will eat the flesh of mighty men and drink the blood of the princes of the earth as if they were rams and lambs, goats and bulls—all of them fattened animals from Bashan.  At the sacrifice I am preparing for you, you will eat fat till you are glutted and drink blood till you are drunk.  At my table you will eat your fill of horses and riders, mighty men and soldiers of every kind,’ declares the Sovereign Lord.
“I will display my glory among the nations, and all the nations will see the punishment I inflict and the hand I lay on them.  From that day forward the people of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God.  And the nations will know that the people of Israel went into exile for their sin, because they were unfaithful to me. So I hid my face from them and handed them over to their enemies, and they all fell by the sword.  I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their offenses, and I hid my face from them.
“Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will now restore the fortunes of Jacob and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name.  They will forget their shame and all the unfaithfulness they showed toward me when they lived in safety in their land with no one to make them afraid.  When I have brought them back from the nations and have gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will be proved holy through them in the sight of many nations.  Then they will know that I am the Lord their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind.  I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the people of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

  • Ezekiel 39:1-29

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Ezekiel 38-39 ‘Israel’s Rescue from Gog and Magog’: “The prophecy of Israel’s rescue by God (chapters 38-39) may be divided into three sections: the invasion of Gog (38:1-16), the defeat and disposal of Gog (38:17-39:20), and the deliverance and devotion of Israel (39:21-29).  At first glance this account seems to be an intrusion into the prophetic discourse concerning the temple begun in 37:26-28, with chapters 40-48 announcing the temple’s return and the explanation of its design and function.  On closer examination, however, its placement between these two temple texts may imply that this event has some relationship to the eschatological temple.  Certainly its theological purpose is to fortify the promise that the restoration is secure, its conditions of blessing are irreversible, and no future invasion of Israel will succeed once Israel has been regathered to her land. This would have been of great concern to Ezekiel’s exilic audience, which had already experienced such an invasion and suffered the loss of the temple. It would be of even greater concern to postexilic readers who, after having rebuilt the temple, were still surrounded by hostile nations (as well as hostile neighbors within their own land) and who would suffer repeated invasions of their land and the eventual destruction of the second temple. Only a prophetic guarantee that Israel’s enemies would be unable to affect its future would serve to assure the nation that the promise of restoration had indeed been fulfilled.
“In terms of the future, the reason this concern needs to be addressed is that before Israel will inherit these promises and experience the restoration and the millennial temple, it will go through the Tribulation. During the first half of the Tribulation Israel will see the rebuilding of the temple and probably experience a time of national revival and regathering of Jews from among the nations.  If the temple is rebuilt through the covenant made with the Antichrist (Daniel 9:27), who will be a global Gentile ruler, Israel may indeed experience an unparalleled period of international Gentile respect. Since these conditions would appear to fulfill the restoration expectations of the prophets, many Jews will undoubtedly be deceived into believing that the era of redemption has finally arrived. However, at the midpoint of the Tribulation, the temple will be desecrated and the Jewish people persecuted, ending the illusion of restoration. Therefore, before they come to this time of trouble in which all the promises of God could be called into question, thus rendering the Jewish remnant susceptible to the worldwide delusion by the Antichrist and his false prophet (see Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12; Revelation 13:3, 13-14), God will leave His people with a lesson confirming His power and purpose (in the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38-39).”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy from Genesis to Revelation (quoted Greek without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 38 ‘introduction’: “We will finish … with another mind-boggling prophecy. I don’t’ think anyone has come to a completely accurate understanding of the events [in Ezekiel 38-39], and we probably won ’t either. But we will see the Lord in His power and glory, and that’s good enough for me. The Lord seems to want to keep some things mysterious. He has the right to do so.
“The names of the places that you will read about are first mentioned in Genesis 10:2 in the genealogy of Japheth son of Noah: ‘The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog. Madia, Javan, Tubal, Meschech, and Tiras.’  The geographical locations were named according to Japheth‘s sons who established communities there.
“Gog — the one to whom the prophecy is spoken against, the prince of the land o/’Magog. The title was probably a common one of the kings of the country, like “Pharoah in Egypt.’ Gog was also the prince over the lands of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.
“Magog – the land to the north of Israel from which the army comes
“Rash — probably modern day Russia
“Meshech and Tubal — geographical areas in eastern Asia Minor (modern day Turkey)
“Persia -— modern Iran
“Ethiopia – in Hebrew called Cush, this is ancient Ethiopia, modern Sudan and Ethiopia
“Libya — in Hebrew called Put; this is modern Libya
“Gomer and Togarmah – located in eastern Asia Minor (modern day Turkey)”

  • Elizabeth Bagwell Ficken, that you may know the Lord, an in-depth study of Ezekiel
  • For more information go to https://elizabethficken.com

Ezekiel 38:2 ‘against Gog’: “[A] chief prince, who is the enemy of God’s people, will lead a coalition of nations against Jerusalem.  The details of this enemy force and its destruction are given by Ezekiel in the rest of chapters 38 and 39.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 38:10-13 ‘War and Peace’: “Peace in Israel. Can you imagine it? According to Daniel 9:27, there will come a day when the nation of Israel will enter into a covenant with a world leader, ‘that covenant will guarantee peace, safety, and protection. It is during this time that Gog’s army will plan to attack Israel.
“After reading through the rest of Ezekiel 38 and 39, we will compare this battle to the battle of Armageddon. There are many differences which seem to indicate two separate large scale military operations.”

  • Elizabeth Bagwell Ficken, that you may know the Lord, an in-depth study of Ezekiel
  • For more information go to https://elizabethficken.com

Ezekiel 38:9 ‘You will ascend’: “The time of this invasion is best understood as the end of the future Tribulation period of seven years. Israel will have been under a false peace in treaty with the Antichrist (Dan. 9:27; 11:22, 24), before he turns on them in the ‘abomination of desolation’ (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15). The false peace will end in hostility lasting to the completion of the seven years (Zech. 14:1~3). When this final war occurs (cf. Rev. 16:12—16), Christ will ultimately conquer the beast, the false prophet, and all the ungodly forces (Rev. 19:11-21) in order to establish His millennial kingdom (Rev. 20:1-10).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 38:10-13 ‘subject of “I will”’: “In verses 10-13 Gog shifts from being a passive instrument to a belligerent, plundering aggressor. The subject of “I will” in verses 1-9 is God. The subject of “I will” in verses 10-13 is Gog.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Ezekiel 38:14-16 ‘’: “In verses 14-16 God is the subject again.  There is no inconsistency or contradiction in this, any more than there is in the statements ‘God/Satan said to David, number the people’ (cf. 2 Sam. 24:1 with 1 Chron. 21:1). The Bible, in explaining phenomena, often distinguishes between a primary cause and a secondary cause. Here it is not a case of God or Gog, but God and Gog. One is the primary cause of invasion; one is the secondary cause.
“Nothing in chapter 38 indicates the attack takes place or has taken place. It is all future. When Gog does attack Israel he will have God to deal with. The judgment he will receive will be akin to that on Sodom and Gomorrah, or on Egypt in Moses’ day. With the exception of the reference to a sword (v. 21) all of the other judgments are in nature (earthquake, plague, rain, hailstones, burning sulfur). How all these disturbances will miss Israel is not clear.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Ezekiel 39:17-20 ‘Three End Time Wars – Battles’: “Let’s take a little time now and compare this battle to the battles described in Revelation.  Did you realize that there are three major end-time world wars? The attack from Gog during a time of peace, the battle at Armageddon, and the final rebellion after the millennial reign of Christ.  There are similarities between these three battles, but there are obvious contrasts as well I summarize Ezekiel ’s description
Regarding the leader of the army; Attack from Gog [Ezekiel 38:7, 12] – Gog leads the coalition to attack Israel.
Battle at Armageddon (Revelation 19:19)
Final Rebellion (Revelation 20:7,8)
Regarding the members of the army; Attack from Gog [Ezekiel 38:6,1 5;3 9:2] – A coalition of at least eight nations surrounding Israel invading from the north.
Battle at Armageddon (Revelation 16:14,16; Rev. 19:19)
Final Rebellion (Revelation 20:7-8)
Regarding how the army is destroyed; Attack from Gog [Ezekiel 39:17-23] – Gog’s armies are attacked with pestilence, hailstones, brimstone, and the armies fight each other
Battle at Armageddon (Revelation 19:19-2)
Final Rebellion (Revelation 20:9)”

  • Elizabeth Bagwell Ficken, that you may know the Lord, an in-depth study of Ezekiel
  • For more information go to https://elizabethficken.com

Ezekiel 38:18-23 ‘My fury will show’: “.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 38-39 ‘overview’: “In chapters 38 and 39, the prophet looks into the far-distant future, to the last attack upon Israel. In that battle, Israel’s enemies will be met by heavenly forces. There, on the mountains of Israel, the godless nations will be judged, destroyed, and buried for all time.”

  • Ray C. Stedman, Adventuring through the Bible

Ezekiel 39:1-10 ‘I am against you’: “This scene of the army’s ruin adds detail to 38:18-23 such as: (1) the disarming of soldiers (v. 3); (2) their fall in death (vv. 4, 5); (3) the gorging of birds and beasts on the corpses (v. 4); (4) fire sent also on others besides the army (v. 6); and (5) the burning of weapons by Israelites (vv. 9, 10).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 39:11-16 ‘give Gog a burial place’: “Israelites moving east from the Mediterranean Sea, with the sea to their backs and the Jezreel Valley before them, bury bodies. Further, people in the whole land help in the massive interment, which takes seven months. The description fits the time after Christ’s Second Advent extending into the millennial era as those who go into His kingdom do the work (cf. Rev. 20:1-10).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 39:21-29 ‘I will set My glory’: “God vanquishes Israel’s foes to show His glory so that His enemies and Israel will all know that He is the Lord (vv. 6, 22). This is Israel’s salvation spoken of in Zechariah 12:10-13:9; Romans 11:25-27.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 39 ‘summary’: “Well, what do you think? I mentioned at the beginning of this lesson that there is not a consensus on the correct interpretation of these passages. I obviously see Scriptures which lead me to think that there are three extraordinary end-time wars. Perhaps there are only two. We can speculate but still trust that the Lord knows exactly what the future holds. And what is most important is that He is the victor of each battle, whether there is one or two or three.
“Read Ezekiel 39 21-29 This is a beautiful conclusion to the prophecy regarding the attack from Gog.
“The Lord once again gives the reason for the judgment against Israel and reviews the promises that He has made to them. …
“These promises are magnificent.   I hope that you are recognizing that when the Lord has a plan, He sticks to it. He keeps His promises.  And He makes it very clear why He does so.”

  • Elizabeth Bagwell Ficken, that you may know the Lord, an in-depth study of Ezekiel
  • For more information go to https://elizabethficken.com

My Thoughts

As Elizabeth Ficken wrote, the interpretation of this prophecy is uncertain, or at least it is argued on many different points.

Today, as armies fight with more sophisticated weaponry than swords and shields, are those references used to convey the only weapons of the time?  Many prophecies have a short-term meaning, a meaning for the next generation or two and then a long-term meaning.  Some of this may have occurred when you consider that the Greeks and Romans both conquered the land of Israel, but none of these armies was laid to waste by God.

The scholars do not know how the Israelites would not be wiped out by the natural disasters mentioned, but God spared them from some of the plagues.  Lake effect snow can dump feet of snow in one spot and then no snow at all a few miles away.  There may develop a hail equivalent.  And that is just methodology, instead of simply a miracle.

What struck me was that they would scavenge the weapons and use them instead of gathering wood to cook their food.  The Scriptures state “weapons” as opposed to the wood in the weapons.  There is very little wood used anymore in weapons, but the fuel in the tanks and trucks could be used.  If electric vehicles, the batteries could drive a cook stove.  There are ways to reinterpret this prophecy for modern times.

And who are the members of this evil horde?  Much speculation is made about who these nations really are.

And another of my many questions is the suggestion of cannibalism and the drinking of blood, which is forbidden by Levitical Law.  Is this simply to show that the defeat will be that catastrophic.  It does give pause.  The modern depictions of a post-Apocalyptic world often shows barren land and people foraging for food and no modern creature comforts.  Prophecies like this could lead to that type of thinking, but is the prophecy literal or symbolic or which elements are one or the other?

Regardless, there will be a definite finality.  God will raise His hand against these warriors in defense of what looks like a defenseless people.

And then there will be peace.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. How does the idea that God will ultimately destroy all evil make you feel? Sorry for those who are punished? Relieved? Vindicated? Scared? Expectant? Confident? Something else? All of the above?
“2. In the real world, does good always triumph over evil? Can we humans eliminate evil, or is that something only God can do? Why is it taking so long?
“3. Do you think prophecies concerning Israel in the ‘last days’ refer to the Jewish people or the Christian church? How do you take them: (a) Literally, complete with horses, shields and swords? (b) Allegorically, with Gog and Magog representing actual countries? (c) Symbolically, reflecting spiritual realities in Christian lives?
“4. Do you feel that God is in control of your life? This country? World destiny? How much depends on our human choices?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

Oddly, I write how many sets of questions there are, but even though there are two chapters, there is one set of questions regrading the keys points of these chapters.

The first question needs a “why?” added.  I could probably go with the “all of the above” answer, and it would be soul searching in considering how, here in my human body, I could feel each of these things.  If so, are any of these responses in question one necessarily an incorrect response (morally incorrect rather than the honest way you might feel)?

Question 3 might benefit from another multiple choice answer that could be intriguing.  (d) a mixture of the above answers, with which aspects the answer could be literal, allegorical, or symbolic?  You may not wish to go there in that it might get to be a deep discussion, all of it speculative.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: