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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Ezekiel 38

Verses 1-9

Introduction

The section of Ezekiel 33-37 gives a nice overview of the restoration of Israel in the end times, culminating in the Messianic realm of peace (Ezekiel 37:24-Hosea :). From other prophecies we know that the Lord Jesus, at His return to earth to deliver His people from their enemies, defeated several enemies. These include at least:
1. The armies of the restored Western Roman Empire, which is the united Europe. They are crushingly defeated by the Lord at Har-Magedon (Revelation 16:13-Nehemiah :; Revelation 19:17-Psalms :).
2. Nations gathered in Edom, the greatest hater of God’s people. They are crushingly defeated by the Lord in Edom (Isaiah 63:1-Joshua :).
3. The king of the north and his allies. They are crushingly defeated by the Lord between Jerusalem and the Mediterranean Sea (Daniel 11:40-Romans :).

These enemies in particular severely oppressed Israel during the great tribulation. Ezekiel does not speak of that great tribulation. He speaks primarily of God’s work to bring Israel into the promised blessing. That blessing has come with the coming of the Messiah to His people. He has made from the two nations and kingdoms they were – the ten and the two tribes – again “one nation …, on the mountains of Israel” with “one King”, which is He Himself (Ezekiel 37:22).

At this point we have arrived in this book. But there is another enemy that must be defeated before the realm of peace can be fully established. That enemy is described in this and the next chapter (Ezekiel 38-39).

That this enemy is special is evident from the detailed description to make clear why, where and how God is dealing with this enemy. In seven prophecies, introduced each time with “thus says the Lord GOD”, the picture of the extermination of this mysterious enemy is drawn: (Ezekiel 38:1-1 Samuel :; Ezekiel 38:10-1 Chronicles :Ezekiel 38:14-Nehemiah :; Ezekiel 38:17-Isaiah :Ezekiel 39:1-Nehemiah :; Ezekiel 39:17-Jeremiah :Ezekiel 39:25-Joel :).

Prophecy About Gog

The word of the LORD comes to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 38:1). He is to set his face toward Gog (Ezekiel 38:2). Gog is in the land of Magog and is prince of Rosh [or: chief prince of], Meshech and Tubal. Magog, Meshech and Tubal are nations descended from the sons of Japheth, the son of Noah (Genesis 10:2; 1 Chronicles 1:5). Who Gog himself is is not clear from Scripture. He dwells in “remote parts of the north”, i.e. the uttermost north (Ezekiel 38:6; Ezekiel 38:15). Gog is not the king of the north of Daniel 11, for that one is associated with Assyria or great Syria. The king of the north will not attack Israel when it is at rest in its unprotected land, but rather earlier. Gog is a power so audacious, after all that has happened, to attack Israel.

Nor should these Gog and Magog be confused with the Gog and Magog mentioned in Revelation 20. There they are powers that organize the rebellion after the realm of peace (Revelation 20:7-1 Samuel :), whereas here in Ezekiel it is an attack at the beginning of the realm of peace. The rebellion in Revelation 20 also comes not only from the uttermost north, as here in Ezekiel, but from all corners of the earth and across its breadth. The names Gog and Magog are used in Revelation 20 because that rebellion is similar to the attack that Ezekiel describes. Ezekiel describes a rebellion that takes place when the Lord Jesus is already present on earth and Israel is living peacefully and unconcerned, while there are still some enemies who must also be subdued.

The most plausible explanation – found in several commentaries – is that by the enemy Ezekiel describes, Russia is meant. In my view, several details in the description support this explanation, although certainly some details remain unclear. As we reflect on these chapters, these details are discussed.

Regarding the names Meshech and Tubal, Roger Liebi says the following in his explanation of this chapter: ‘Meshech and Tubal mean the Muscovites and Tobolskites. These are the primordial peoples of today’s Russians, who populated the area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea 2,000 years ago.’

It is remarkable that the LORD Himself initiates Gog’s attack on Israel, because He wants to judge that prince (Ezekiel 38:3). He will do so by pulling him by hooks in his jaws like a beast in an irresistible way to Israel (cf. Ezekiel 19:4; Ezekiel 19:9Ezekiel 29:4). This does not alter the fact that this power itself intends to advance. Here we see that the LORD makes use of the evil plans of this power, just as He makes use of the evil plans of Satan (cf. 2 Samuel 24:1; 1 Chronicles 21:1; Isaiah 10:5-Psalms :; Habakkuk 1:5-1 Kings :).

The major difference from the other enemies of God’s people in the past is that Gog is not an instrument in God’s hand to discipline His people. That is the case with, for example, the Assyrians in Isaiah and the Babylonians in Jeremiah. Those nations were used by God as His disciplinary rod for His people. What we see with Gog, however, is that God wants and will judge this enemy in His land because of all that this enemy has done to His people and because of their opposition and enmity to Him.

That the initiative comes from the LORD is clear (Ezekiel 38:4). Gog is forced, as it were, into this expedition by force. A mighty army is formed, with horses and horsemen, wearing impressive uniforms. The soldiers are armed to the teeth and skilled in the handling of the sword. This army also includes soldiers from other nations (Ezekiel 38:5-Joshua :). But the overall responsibility lies with Gog, who is appointed by the LORD as a guard over this vast army (Ezekiel 38:7).

The preparation of the expedition will take considerable time, “many days”, but when the time comes, Gog will be punished. This will happen when he finally arrives in restored Israel with the intention seize its chance there (Ezekiel 38:8). After their wanderings Israel has been gathered “in the latter years” from many nations and then lives on the mountains of its land, which have been so destroyed by its previous enemies that it seems to be a permanent devastation. Now that the people have returned to their land, the hostile powers have been judged, and the Messiah is protecting them, they live there unconcerned. Ezekiel uses the phrase “living securely” (Ezekiel 38:11; Ezekiel 38:14; Ezekiel 39:26; cf. Leviticus 25:18; Leviticus 25:19Leviticus 26:5; 1 Kings 4:25) to describe the Messianic security and safety of God’s new Israel.

This situation is the perfect opportunity for Gog and his armies to launch a ruthless attack (Ezekiel 38:9). They imagine they can overrun the land with their throngs of soldiers and destroy it once again. Their attack targets a land that has suffered indescribably for centuries and now finally has peace. Gog’s whole attitude shows his insidious cunning and ruthlessness.

Verses 10-13

Deliberations of Gog

For the second time the words “thus says the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 38:10) are heard. The LORD says that He knows the deliberations of the heart of Gog. Nothing is hidden from Him, not even the deepest hidden thoughts. He knows exactly what Gog will say about going against His people (Ezekiel 38:11). Gog is perfectly aware of the situation in Israel, how the people live there completely unprotected and unconcerned (cf. Ezekiel 39:26; Jeremiah 49:31; Zechariah 2:1-Deuteronomy :). He just doesn’t pay attention to the fact that the LORD is the Protector of His people.

Therefore, he makes haughty plans for a raid (Ezekiel 38:12). He is guided by greed. It is conceivable that Israel, through its victories over its enemies after the great tribulation, is a tremendously wealthy people, having acquired cattle and goods. That the people “live at the center of the world” is literally: “they live at the navel of the earth” (Ezekiel 5:5; cf. Deuteronomy 32:8). The land is the center of the earth, from which all blessing for the whole earth emanates. The land is geographically, globally speaking, the intersection of three continents: Europe, Asia, and Africa.

There are other nations who do see profit in Gog’s enterprise (Ezekiel 38:13). They ask questions that show where their interest lies. These nations have escaped the judgments that have come on the earth and they have been spared without it having brought an inner change in them.

Verses 14-16

Gog and His Allies

Gog’s evil deliberations, but known to the LORD, are reason for commanding Ezekiel again to prophesy against Gog (Ezekiel 38:14). Serious sounds for the third time “thus says the Lord GOD” to Gog. He tells Gog that on the day he will be in Israel, he will come to know that the LORD knows and governs all things.

Then the LORD will make it known to him that He knows and has known everything and that this enemy has come from the uttermost north with a huge army to cover His people and the land like a cloud (Ezekiel 38:15-Nehemiah :). The time is also known to the LORD. The time is not only known by Him, but it is determined by Him. He controls everything so that He uses Gog to make Himself known to the nations through him and to sanctify Himself before their eyes.

The Divine intention is above all else. In carrying out His intention, God also uses the low motives of man. We see the same thing in what Isaiah says about the invasion by Assyria (Isaiah 10:5-2 Kings :) and in what Habakkuk says about Babylon (Habakkuk 1:5-1 Kings :). God does not activate man’s sinful will, but He uses man’s active sinful will. What Gog intends as a victory for Himself is made by God into an opportunity to glorify Himself.

Verses 17-23

Gog Judged by the LORD

For the fourth time the words “thus says the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 38:17) are heard. Gog is reminded of an earlier speaking of the LORD. We have no record in Scripture of those prophecies; at least the name Gog is not mentioned anywhere in the prophecies or by prophets. It may mean that this refers to statements of the prophets about the north as the direction from which judgment is coming. We can take the reference to what the prophets have said about Russia in this way that what the LORD has said about and against Assyria (Isaiah 10:5-Nahum :) also applies to Russia.

We can compare this to what the Lord Jesus says about John. The Lord calls him “Elijah who would come” (Matthew 11:14). Malachi announced Elijah (Malachi 4:5). That announcement is fulfilled with the coming of John, for he is Elijah in a spiritual sense. He preached repentance to make the people ready to receive the Messiah. But the people have not repented. Therefore, Elijah must come again. This happens at the coming of the two witnesses in Jerusalem in the end times of whom he is one (Revelation 11:3-Joshua :). Elijah is not one of those witnesses as a person, but one of those witnesses exhibits his characteristics.

We see this with Russia which has the characteristics of Assyria. There is a strong connection between Russia and Assyria. In fact, Russia is the driving force behind Assyria’s actions. We read this in Daniel 8 (Daniel 8:21-:), specifically in the phrase, “His power will be mighty, but not by his [own] power” (Daniel 8:24). By “his power” is meant the power of Assyria, and by “not by his own power” is meant that he is helped by the power of Russia.

There is a distinction, however, already pointed out above, and it is well to repeat it in this context. Other nations, especially Assyria, that have gone up against Israel have triumphed because God has used them as a disciplinary tool for His people. That the LORD brings Magog or Russia upon His land does not happen as a threat to His people because they have departed from Him, for all deviation has come to an end. They are now living in rest in the land under the blessing and protection of their Messiah. Gog is not used as a disciplinary tool, but is judged because of his rapacious desires, particularly targeting God’s people.

In the day that Gog comes into God’s land, the LORD’s fury will mount up in His anger against him (Ezekiel 38:18; Psalms 18:9; Psalms 18:16). In His anger, He will shake the land of Israel by a severe earthquake, so that the mounted armies will not know where to go and what to do (Ezekiel 38:19). All nature will tremble, not only the land animals and all people, but also the fish of the sea and the birds of the air (Ezekiel 38:20). Every place where the enemies might seek shelter will be thrown down. It will be so, that the land will tremble only in the places where the enemies are, while the rest of His people will not be disturbed. We see something similar in the plagues that God brings upon Egypt, while He exempts His people living there from those plagues (Exodus 8:22; Exodus 9:4Exodus 9:26; Exodus 11:7).

On all the mountains, which the LORD calls “My mountains”, where the enemies are unjustly located, He will call the sword against them (Ezekiel 38:21). That will be their own sword. He will make the sword do its deadly work, in that the enemies, dazed and blinded by terror, will kill one another (cf. Judges 7:22; 1 Samuel 14:20). The pestilence will also break out (Ezekiel 38:22). Through this and through the blood that the sword makes flow, God will carry out His justice against Gog.

Also, God Himself will actively participate in the battle by sending down from heaven “a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire and brimstone” on him. And not only on him, but also on all his troops and the many nations that accompany him on this expedition.

With the judgment on Gog, God gives a final proof of His greatness and holiness in the sight of many nations (Ezekiel 38:23). By this they will all know that He is the LORD.

This battle and this judgment of the LORD take place when the Lord Jesus is already in Jerusalem. A comparison with the governments of David and Solomon can help understand this situation. David and Solomon together are a picture of the Lord Jesus. David is a picture of the Lord Jesus as the suffering and also ruling King and Solomon is a picture of Him as the Prince of peace. With both David and Solomon we see that not everything is immediately peace when they are kings. Even then there are opponents who must be overcome before there is true peace in the kingdom.

Another consideration is that Gog has never cared about God and His Christ. He has always denied the existence of God and Christ and will continue to do so. Therefore, he will be totally unimpressed that Christ has established His throne in Jerusalem. God said something similar about Edom a few chapters back. He knows that Edom is boldly claiming: “’We will possess them,’ although the LORD was there” (Ezekiel 35:10). Thus Gog foolishly does not believe in His supremacy. To him, only a man rules there, though a man of enormous power. Directed and blinded by Satan, he carries out his own wicked intentions.

What God is doing with Russia is reminiscent of what He once did through Elisha with the army of the king of Syria (2 Kings 6:8-Isaiah :). It is a similar history with a completely opposite ending. The king of Syria sends a large army to capture one man, Elisha. At Elisha’s prayer, God strikes that great army with blindness. Then Elisha brings this army “in the midst of Samaria” (2 Kings 6:20). The king of Israel wants to kill the enemies, but Elisha wants them to have food and be able to return to their lord.

In the time of Elisha, there is grace for the Syrians. There is no such grace for Russia in the time of which Ezekiel speaks. They are brought by God “on the mountains of Israel” (Ezekiel 39:1-Exodus :), which is in the middle of the land, which includes Samaria. It is in that area that they are put to death by God.

Syria and Russia are closely linked in the time of which Ezekiel speaks. We see in our days that this close connection is revealing itself more and more clearly in the political field of forces. The fulfillment of the prophecy of Ezekiel 38-39 is casting its shadow.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ezekiel 38". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/ezekiel-38.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.