A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
I first began studying Ezekiel 38 in the 1980’s and have watched with great interest as our changing world conforms more and more to Ezekiel’s words. As the time of the end draws nearer the insights we gain from the changes around us give us a better understanding of Bible prophecy in general and Ezekiel 38 in particular. In this update of our study we’ll apply these insights to Ezekiel’s 2600 year old prophecy.
What Time Is It?
First of all, let’s get some kind of time frame settled. Ezekiel’s prophecies are chronological. Falling between the prophecies of Israel’s modern re-birth (Ezekiel 36-37) and the Millennium (Ezekiel 40-48), the battle of Ezekiel 38-39 has to take place during a time of peace after 1948 but before the 2nd coming, and all agree it hasn’t happened yet. This has led some to see the passage as a description of Armageddon, but as we’ll see there are many prominent nations missing from this battle whereas Zechariah 14:2 prophecies that every nation will join the battle of Armageddon. That being the case, the time frame narrows to sometime between 1948 and the beginning of the Great Tribulation, after which no place in the world will be at peace, especially Israel.
Ezekiel prophesied that the Lord would use this battle to turn Israel back to Him and to complete the return of Jews from all over the world to Israel, not leaving any behind (Ezekiel 39:28). This leads us to believe that the battle of Ezekiel 38-39 is the event that re-starts the clock on the 490-year period of time spoken of by Daniel, the famous 70 weeks of Daniel 9:24-27. 69 of those weeks (483 years) had come when the Messiah was crucified and the Temple destroyed, stopping the clock one week (seven years) short of fulfillment. I believe the dramatic victory the Lord wins over Israel’s enemies in Ezekiel’s battle will convince them to officially re-instate their Old Covenant relationship with Him to fulfill the remaining seven years of Daniel’s prophecy. This will require two things to happen. First they’ll need a Temple for worship. It’s this Temple that’s later desecrated by the anti-Christ, kicking off the Great Tribulation.
And second, the Church will have to disappear. Paul wrote that Israel had been hardened in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in (Romans 11:25). That means as long as the Church is around Israel won’t be able to recognize God’s involvement in their national life. But the Battle of Ezekiel 38 will be such a miraculous victory that it will re-awaken Israel to God’s presence. This means the Dispensation of Grace will have come to an end and the Church will be gone by the time this battle comes to an end.
With all this in mind, let’s begin a careful study of Ezekiel 38-39, to prepare us for these events should they become reality soon.
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 Meshech and Tubal; prophesy against him and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech 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. (Ezek. 38:1-6)
In another study, I made the claim that Gog is a supernatural figure (perhaps Satan’s counterpart to the Archangel Michael) and the behind the scenes commander of this event, while Magog is listed in Genesis 10 as one of Noah’s grandsons, a son of Japeth. Over 130 historical references demonstrate that Magog is the father of today’s Russian people. (For a more detailed treatment on the modern names of all the nations mentioned in this passage, click here.)
The phrase “hooks in the jaw” comes from the equestrian world where a special bridle is used to make a rebellious horse obedient to its rider’s commands. It symbolizes God forcing Russia to become involved in this battle to assure that His will is done. Persia is the ancient name for Iran, Cush and Put represent the North African nations, Gomer was Magog’s brother and settled along the Danube River in what would become Eastern Europe, and Togarmah, a son of Gomer, inhabited what’s now known as Turkey. The characteristic all these nations have in common today is their religion. They’re all Moslem.
“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. (Ezek. 38:7-9)
The fact that Israel is the target in this passage is self evident, but a controversy has developed around the Hebrew word “betach” translated “in safety” in verse 8. A secondary meaning, “carelessly” could mean that they’re not really safe but just think they are and so their guard is down. To achieve either of the conditions this word implies would require a truly miraculous change in Israel’s current situation and for many years scholars were uncertain as to how this could ever happen.
But a little known prophecy in the Psalms might have the answer. According to Psalm 83 all of Israel’s next door neighbors will unite in an effort to wipe Israel completely off the map. But Israel will soundly defeat them and capture their lands as well. Enemies like Hezbollah, Lebanon, the Palestinians, Hamas, etc. will cease to exist, and the lands they now occupy will once again belong to Israel. (Many people don’t realize that even the land of Lebanon was originally given to Israel and will belong to Israel again in the Millennium.)
From events currently unfolding in Syria, it’s also beginning to look like the Isaiah 17 prophecy of the destruction of Damascus could be fulfilled at the same time. Israel has officially declared that they’ll hold Syria responsible for any attack by Hezbollah, and will retaliate accordingly.
If the fulfillment of Psalm 83 and Isaiah 17 precede the Battle Ezekiel 38, it helps explain how Israel could be taken by surprise when the Moslem coalition attacks and why none of Israel’s next door neighbors are mentioned in Ezekiel’s line up.
Next time we’ll look at the other nations that are not involved in this battle and you’ll see why it can’t be referring to Armageddon. We’ll also see how the Lord chooses to reveal Himself to the nations. See you then.