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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Ezekiel 38

Gog and Magog (38:1-39:29)

Chronologically these two chapters, the repetitiousness of which suggests a combination of several sources, belong after the restoration of Israel in the land of Palestine in the security and peace of God’s Covenant of peace. Whether or not the section as a whole comes originally from the hand of the prophet Ezekiel is problematical and is a matter of considerable current debate. Its ideas belong to the historical period out of which Ezekiel spoke, and there is a high degree of probability that it is shaped by his spirit and thought, if indeed it was not written by his hand.

A restored people in a physical land of Palestine could never be safe so long as the menace of invasion remained on the horizon. Ezekiel, therefore, foresaw the time when God would win his final, cosmic victory by overcoming those forces from the ends of the earth which would rise up against him and his people Israel.

Obviously the last paragraph of the section (Ezekiel 39:25-29)-which predicts the return of Judah from captivity, an event presupposed in 38:1-39:24 — is out of its proper chronological order. This paragraph should be understood as a separate fragment which the editors of the book placed in this spot for reasons which now elude us.

Verses 1-9

Vision and Prophecy Concerning Gog (38:1-9)

Identification of Gog with a historical figure has been attempted often but with very little success. Neither Gog nor the cryptic land of Magog appears to fit any known historical figure or political power existent at the time. Gog therefore should be understood in symbolic terms as the very epitome of evil in history. Darkness and light are in a tense struggle on the stage of history. Ezekiel pictures the battle now reaching a climax when the final victory is to be won. This immense concept must not be lost because the format for its expression is so literalistic.

Gog comes out of the north whence so many terrors had threatened the land of Palestine. From the north invaders had come with stunning and deadly regularity. The names "Meshech" and ’Tubal," which also appear in Genesis 10, can be identified with two cities in southern Asia Minor. Persia was the horizon of the ancient world looking toward Asia; Cush is to be identified with Ethiopia; and Put is located on the North African shoreline where Libya is today. Gomer means Cimmerians, while Beth-togormah was a location on the Black Sea in the north. All these places are listed in the Genesis table of nations and represent the ends of the earth as Ezekiel knew the earth. These will all be gathered together with Gog from the land of Magog. It goes without saying that the names of these ancient places do not contain any reference to modem nations and states.

Gog and his allied host will descend upon the restored land of Israel, which is living securely in peace (vss. 7-8). The advance of this great multitude from the ends of the earth will be so tremendous that it can be most accurately likened to a storm covering the landscape (vs. 9). So the scene is set and the characters are on stage.

Verses 10-13

Gog’s Plot (38:10-13)

That the opportunity for easy conquest is almost irresistible to the chief culprit is revealed by his words, "I will go up against the land of unwalled villages; I will fall upon the quiet people who dwell securely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having no bars or gates" (vs. 11). Hunger for conquest has seldom been stopped by high motives; it has been deterred by walls and by the threat of defeat. Neither hindrance was a problem for Gog. These peaceful folk stood helpless before his onslaught. With him he now gathers cohorts from Sheba (the southern Arabian peninsula) and Dedan (located on the northern end of the same land mass). Merchants from Tarshish, which is either in Spain or in Sardinia, also join the great army. Their primary motive is the economic one, frequently at the base of conquest whatever its rationalization or justification. Thus in the figure of "Gog" the Lord is meeting head on those forces in history which make for chaos rather than order, for evil rather than good.

Verses 14-23

The Great Battle (38:14-23)

The Lord proclaims that he will bring Gog against the land. The decision has not been made by Gog but by the Lord, who has himself brought on this crisis. The reason for God’s action is the same one that runs through most of the book. By the defeat of Gog, the Lord says, "I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.

Verse 17 makes reference to the fact, which must have been known to the readers, that God’s prophets had long looked forward to this climactic victory over Gog. When the day comes, the Lord himself will take charge. The earth will shake, mountains will be thrown down, and walls will all be flattened. The Lord is opposing Gog not through an army but directly by earthquake (vss. 19-20). In the resulting confusion the forces of Gog will fight among themselves. Pestilence, heavy rains, fire, and brimstone will be used to finish the destruction. By entering thus directly into a final historical cataclysmic event, God makes complete his victory.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezekiel 38". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/ezekiel-38.html.