A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
We have now come to Ezekiel 38, the battle between Israel and a coalition of Moslem nations that comes on the threshold of Daniel’s 70th Week and will kick off the End Times in earnest. We’ll review the 2600 year old prophecy in light of recent world events.
What Time Is It?
First of all, let’s get some kind of time frame started. Although Ezekiel’s prophecies aren’t consecutive they are chronological. In other words, he didn’t include every event of the End Times, but those he did include are in the proper sequence according to time. Falling between Israel’s modern re-birth, prophesied in Ezekiel 36-37, and the Millennium, covered in Ezekiel 40-48, the battle of Ezekiel 38-39 has to take place 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 several prominent nations missing from this battle whereas Zech. 14:2 prophecies that all the nations will join the battle on that day. Even if you take the phrase “all the nations” to mean only Israel’s neighbors, you’ve still got a problem because Ezekiel’s list of attackers leaves out some that you’d expect to be involved.
Also, 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. (Ezek. 39:28) This leads me 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. The 483rd year of that prophecy had come when the Messiah was crucified and the Temple destroyed, stopping the clock seven years short of complete fulfillment.
And there it’s remained. But I believe the dramatic victory the Lord wins over Israel’s enemies in Ezekiel’s battle will start the clock again. It will convince them to officially re-instate their national Old Covenant relationship and demand a Temple for worship. It’s this Temple that’s later desecrated by the anti-Christ, kicking off the Great Tribulation. That makes Daniel’s remaining seven years the last ones before the 2nd Coming, so Ezekiel’s battle will be a dramatic sign that the Lord’s return is very near, on a par with the re-birth of the nation.
With all this in mind, let’s begin a careful study of Ezekiel 38, to prepare us for these events now because many believe that they’ll 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)
Who Are These People?
I believe that Gog is a supernatural being, leading both the battle of Ezekiel 38 and the final battle at the end of the Millennium 1000 yrs later. (Rev. 20:8) Perhaps he’s Satan’s counter part to Michael the Archangel.
For what it’s worth, there’s an obscure reference in the Septuagint translation of Amos 7:1 to Gog, The King of the Locusts. The identification of Gog as the locusts’ king is revealing since Proverbs 30:27 states that locusts have no king. This hints that the “locusts” of Amos 7 are not intended to be natural beings, but symbolic of something else.
Then there’s a similar reference in Revelation 9:11 where locusts from the Abyss are described as having a king, and are clearly demonic. Are these two references giving us a clue to Gog’s supernatural nature as well? I think so.
You won’t find any hint of this in translations of Amos 7:1 rendered into English from Hebrew. You can only get there from the Greek translation. But with no connection to any physical territory or people as there is with Magog and the others named in Ezekiel 38, and with Biblical appearances so far apart in time, there’s good reason to believe that Gog is a non-human character, one of Satan’s own.
In contrast, there are over 130 historical references tying Magog to the ancient Scythians (they defeated Saul at the battle of Beth Shean and nailed his body to the gate of the city). They include Josephus and Herodotus, called the father of history. The Great Wall of China was known as the “Ramparts of Magog” in ancient times and was built to protect China from Magog. Some see a striking similarity between what’s known about the Scythians and the Mongol Hordes of Genghis Kahn. Magog was a son of Japeth and inhabited central Asia. His children, the Scythians, are the ancestors of today’s Russian people.
Meshech and Tubal were brothers of Magog and are linked to the same general area, but more likely with the Turkic people. Josephus associated Meshech with Cappodocia, home of the ancient Hittite Empire in Eastern Turkey.
There are many opinions on what the “hooks in the jaw” phrase describes, but I think it’s becoming clear that Vladimir Putin is determined to make Russia a world power again, with dominating influence in the Middle East, and that’s what will drive him into this battle. I think Gog is whispering in Putin’s ear right now, persuading him to do this. And the Lord is encouraging it because it’s the only way to get Israel’s attention.
Persia is the ancient name for Iran. Cush and Put were sons of Ham and brothers to Mizraim (which means “two Egypts”) and Canaan. Narrowly they are called Ethiopia (Cush) and Lybia (Put) but both were in possession of much larger territory in the past. The word Cush has a Hebrew root meaning black, and can be representative of the black races of Africa, while Put can represent the north part of the continent; Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania, etc. Note that all are sons of Ham and therefore not Semitic. The common denominator among African nations is religion (Islam) not race.
Gomer was Magog’s brother and settled along the Danube River in what would become Eastern Europe. Beth means house in Hebrew. Togarmah was a son of Gomer. The Armenians of today call themselves the House of Togarmah. The Turks (but not the Kurds, who are the ancient Medes of Media-Persia fame) are also included. As with the African nations, The characteristic all these nations have in common 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 rages around the Heberew 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. From outward appearances it looks like it would take a truly miraculous change in Israel’s current situation to achieve either of the conditions this word implies.
As I mentioned last time, some are beginning to think that a fulfillment of Psalm 83 and Isaiah 17 are needed to create the climate in which Israel would be living in a false sense of peace without walls and gates. The idea is that if Israel took off the gloves and went bare knuckle against the terrorists who live next door, they’d win hands down. There’d be no more Palestinian problem, no Hamas and no Hizbollah. Israel would wind up with more territory, something that would bring greater security, and the country’s reputation of invincibility would be restored, and along with it their confidence.
They’d also have the room they’ll need to accommodate the return of Jews from all over the world who’ll stream into Israel after Ezekiel 38.
In Isaiah 49:19-21 the prophet foretold of this return that began as a trickle with Israel’s re-birth and will expand into a flowing river and then a mighty torrent.
“Though you were ruined and made desolate and your land laid waste, now you will be too small for your people, and those who devoured you will be far away.
The children born during your bereavement will yet say in your hearing, ‘This place is too small for us; give us more space to live in.’
Then you will say in your heart, ‘Who bore me these? I was bereaved and barren; I was exiled and rejected. Who brought these up? I was left all alone, but these—where have they come from?’ “
The prior fulfillment of Psalm 83 and Isaiah 17 also helps explain why Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt won’t be participating in Ezekiel 38.
” ‘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?” ‘ (Ezek. 38:10-13)
What Are You Guys Doing?
Israel is described here as a country at peace in the idiom of Ezekiel’s day, a land of unwalled villages, when this enemy coalition attacks, and other countries not mentioned before take notice. Again we see that something significant will have happened to change Israel’s perception of the surrounding nations.
Sheba and Dedan are first mentioned as grandsons of Cush in Genesis 10:7. Later, in Genesis 25:3, we read of grandsons of Abraham named Sheba and Dedan as well, born to Jokshan, a son of Abraham and his 2nd wife, Keturah. From the passage it’s not clear which pair of grandsons is being referenced, but commentaries none-the-less identify these two as representing the nations of the Arabian Peninsula, notably Saudi Arabia.
According to archaeologists W. F. Albright and Wendell Phillips, Sheba was on the southwestern edge of the Arabian Peninsula across the Red Sea from present-day Ethiopia. Sheba is known in history as Saba in Southern Arabia, home to the Sabaeans of classical geography, who traded in spices with the other peoples of the ancient world. Dedan was probably the habitat of the Arabs in the northern part of the Arabian Desert, which is modern-day Saudi Arabia. The ancient capital of Saudi Arabia is still called Dedan on many maps today.
Tarshish was a son of Javan, who settled the area of Southern Greece. There are three schools of thought where Tarshish is concerned. One view locates Tarshish to the East, accessible from Solomon’s great seaport at Ezion Geber on the Red Sea. But since Javan and his family traveled north and west from Babel at the confusion of tongues, it seems unlikely. Large sea going vessels were often nicknamed “Ships of Tarshish” and more likely this is how Tarshish came to be linked with Ezion Geber, since both Solomon and Hezekiah built such vessels there. Others see this as a reference to ancient Tartessus, a seaport in southern Spain, near Gibraltar. They recall the sea going navies of the Phoenicians, who operated “Ships of Tarshish” out of nearby Cadiz. They sailed as far north as England for tin, a metal used in the making of bronze and other alloys, which they mined in Cornwall. Some believe that the name Britannia is actually derived from a Phoenician word meaning “source of tin.” If so, since the ships of Tarshish brought tin to the ancient world, this reference could be to Great Britain making the “lions” (KJV) or “villages”(NIV) of Tarshish Great Britain’s colonies, of which the US is most prominent today. The fact that the lion is a symbol of the British Empire lends support to this view.
All that being said, the most provocative point here is that the very coalition of western nations that freed Kuwait and deposed Saddam Hussein are not engaged here, but instead question the invaders’ intentions from the sidelines.
“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, O Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me when I show myself holy through you before their eyes. (Ezek. 38:14-16)
Here the Lord makes His intent unmistakably clear. He’s orchestrating this event to reveal Himself to the world once again. The years and years of debate over God’s existence, begun with the German School of Higher Criticism in the 1800’s and continued in the modern rationalism of the 1950’s will be put to naught as God uses this battle to poke His head through the fabric of the sky and shout, “I’m still here!”
” ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Are you not 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. (Ezekiel 38:17)
The absence of any specific reference to Gog in any other prophetic writings (except the Greek version of Amos 7:1) lends credence to my theory that he’s a supernatural figure who has influenced various nations to rise up against Israel. Gog is not a traditional enemy like Edom or Philistia. He has no human descendants who’ve grown into an historic nation opposed to the Lord’s people. Nor is there a geographic location on Earth we can point to as his homeland. He’s a supernatural enemy who the Lord will deal with in a supernatural way.
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 of the sea, the birds of the air, 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 upon 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.’ (Ezek. 38:18-23)
With signs reminiscent of all the Heaven-fought wars of the past, the Lord is aroused in anger to execute judgment against the invaders of His land and enemies of His people. And as He has done before, He sows confusion in the hearts of Israel’s enemies so that they commence attacking themselves while He unleashes the classic weapons of divine intervention. Earthquakes, plagues, bloodshed, rain, hailstones, and burning sulfur; these are His signature signs. Neither Israel, nor the enemy coalition, nor those watching from afar will fail to interpret them correctly.
So ends chapter 38. Next time we’ll see why some think this battle goes nuclear and get another good reason why it’s not the last battle of the Age of Man. See you then. 02-02-08