Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Ezekiel 38

Verse 2

Since the two former chapters had assured so great and wonderful blessings to the Jews, after the return out of Babylon, and the gathering them together in their own land; it is more than probable the Jews would expect a full accomplishment of all these things quickly after their return, and if troubles should, as they did, intervene, and prove long, would be discouraged, and quarrel with Providence; God doth in this 38th and the 39th chapters forewarn them, by telling what enemies and troubles would interpose themselves, to the great losses and dangers of the Jews, ere they should overcome them, and God should fully and finally deliver them.

Set thy face against: see Ezekiel 20:46 21:2 25:2.

Gog: this cannot be one single person, or one only prince, though like enough it points out some one by whom the troubles foretold were begun, yet the successors of this one, whoever he was, are included and designed by this Gog; nor is he to be limited to one certain nation that he was king of, nor yet confined to one age, or (it may be) to two or three. Some will fix the beginnings of this Gog among the Seleucidae, and take in the others who divided the Grecian empire among themselves, and who did much hurt to the Jews. The history of which in part you meet with in the Books of the Maccabees. But if we must account why these are called Gog, perhaps this may suffice: Gyges, who gave name to the land, predecessor to Creesus, (for he was grandson to Gyges,) was conquered by Cyrus, and deprived of the kingdom; and this was made and continued tributary to the Persians, till taken from them by the Grecians; and when that kingdom was divided, it fell among the successors of Alexander in Seleucus’s line, and so the Seleucid may, not without some ground, be thought pointed at by Gog, whose country fell into the hand of Seleucus by the successes he had against Antigonus. And of all the Seleucidae, the sixth from Seleucus stands fairest for it; this was Antiochus Epiphanes, type of antichrist, and a fierce enemy of the Jews. Others judge this war, in which Gog is prince and leader, refers to times much later, and there are several particulars that do not well suit with the times of Antiochus Epiphanes. They will therefore rather refer it to some Scythian king or kings, and that the time is still to come wherein this prophecy is to be fulfilled; and that it must intend those enemies of God’s church who descended from the Scythians, and are now masters of Cappadocia, Iberia, Armenia, or are in confederacy with the Tartars, and those northern heathens. Now the arms and equipage here mentioned well suit with these Scythians, and they with the Turks, as like to make up part of this army. But others think that all the enemies of Israel in all quarters, both open and secret enemies, are here intended, and that the antichristian forces and combinations are what the prophet foretells; and if from a conjunction of affairs now, or lately on foot in the world, we might make our guess, the invasions of the Turks on one side, and the contrivance of others on this side Christendom, to extirpate the northern heresy, as some have called our religion, we might be excused, if we err, saying, The Constantinopolitan antichrist, and the Roman antichrist, with all their associates and helpers, are this Gog.

Magog is at least part of Scythia, and comprehends Syria, in which was Hierapolis, taken by the Scythians, and called of them Scythopolis. It is then that country which now is in subjection to the Turks, and may be extended through Asia Minor, the countries of Sarmatia, &c., from those parts under more than one in succession of time, and in the last times under some one particular active, undertaking, and daring prince, enemy of Israel; all their power will be stirred up against Christ and Christians.

The chief; or prince who is supreme in authority, most violent in opposition to the church of Christ, and most active to attempt its ruin.

Prince; what we render prince may well be the proper name of Araxes in Arabic, the principal river of Armenia, and so that the first country mentioned under the command of Gog, or the Scythians of Mount Taurus, which were called Rhos.

Tubal: see Ezekiel 27:13.

Verse 4

I will turn thee back: the words seem to imply a diverting him from some other enterprise, or else intimate to us, when that mighty power come out, that they are still under God’s control, and he will turn them back from what they intended, that they shall not effect it.

Hooks: see this expression Ezekiel 29:4.

I will bring thee forth; so dispose affairs, thou shalt leave thine own country to invade, and spoil, and destroy.

All thy army; the whole power thou canst make.

Horses; those nations, Sarmatee, or Scythians, Cappadocians, &c., or which comprise all the Turks and Tartars, are to this day strong in horse, and their armies consist much of horsemen.

All of them clothed; their leaders both rich and gaudy, yet well armed, and their soldiers well provided too, and we know how they and other antichristian soldiers march with all warlike provisions.

A great company; in vast armies, far greater than any of their neighbours can bring out against them.

Bucklers for their foot, and

shields for their horsemen, as Servius observes the difference between the two Latin words scutum and clypeus, if not misreported. I doubt whether the Hebrew words do so differ; however, these were for defence of those that bear them, and to this day the Tartars use oblong shields for defence on horseback, as the figures represent them to our eye.

Handling swords; that is, very ready, expert, and strong in using the sword; this to slay the enemies, as the other to save themselves.

Verse 5

Persia; the land for the people who a Mahometans, and enemies to the name of Christ.

Ethiopia; not the African, which is Abyssinia, or Nubia, or both the old Macrobii, but the Asiatic or Arabian Ethiopia, posterity of Cush, Mahometans too. Libya; a people of Africa, either now subjects of, or confederates with, the Turks, and who are near enough to join, when the effect shall demonstrate this Gog who he is.

With shield and helmet; prepared to save themselves what they can, though they slay their enemies. Now some of all these were in the armies of Antiochus against the Jews, and many more will serve in the last army of Gog.

Verse 6

Gomer; inhabitants of Galatia, called formerly Gallograeci, Phrygians, and Bithynians, also these descended of Gomer.

Togarmah; Paphlagonia and Cappadocia: see Ezekiel 27:14.

Of the north quarters: it might be read in apposition, and leave out

of, so it will bring in many more to assist Gog; beside all those mentioned, the more northern people, the numerous Tartars, shall with all their bands fight for Gag.

Many people; great, and mighty of stature, and strength, and courage, as well as many in numbers.

Verse 7

Be thou prepared: it is an irony; God, the prophet, and the church deride this mighty preparation, as once the daughter of Zion laughed Sennacherib, that proud Assyrian, to scorn, and the scoff is doubled.

Prepare for thyself; such a mighty army will need great magazines and granaries, and good watches and guards for their marching in safety, therefore awaken thy diligence, let nothing be wanting, for, O Gog, thou wilt find I am against thee, saith the Lord.

Verse 8

After many days: some refer this to the time of the Maccabees; about two hundred years after their return, and finishing the repairs of the city wall; others say after the expiring of the thousand years spoken of Revelation 20:7. But certainly the full accomplished days are yet to come, when Gog and Magog shall be destroyed, and so these days are the latter days of the Messiah’s kingdom among men. Be visited; be called to account, judged and punished for thy violence, and possibly convinced by thy overthrow; it may prove a visitation in mercy for conversion.

The latter years: these must be contemporary with the many days already mentioned, so that where those are to be fixed, there these also are.

Thou shalt come, Gog with all thy numbers, into the land; the land of the Jews, who were under this character in the Maccabees’ time, and will be under the same in these latter days, a people of God recovered from slavery and captivity, into which the sword of their enemy brought them, but God had now gathered out of the countries.

Against the mountains of Israel: if it refer to Gog, it was against the mountains; but if it doth, as it may, refer to the people gathered, it should be to, not against the mountains.

Which have been always waste; either designed to desolation by the rage and malice of enemies, or else because so long waste that it is beyond the memory of many living. It was four hundred years and upwards from this prophecy to Antiochus Epiphanes’ death, if he were Gog; but if the ten tribes, gathered to the two and made one kingdom, be this people, and the wasted mountains refer to them, they may well be called mountains always waste; for it is already two thousand four hundred years since the ten tribes were carried away by Shalmaneser.

It is brought forth; the land of Canaan, i.e. the people of it,

land being, as often before, put for people.

Out of the nations, among whom they were scattered. Though we can give account of those nations to whom the two tribes were in captivity, we cannot so of them to whom the ten tribes are to this day servants; but if this prediction do as much concern them as some confidently believe, these dry bones shall revive and come together.

They shall dwell safely: this began at least to be fulfilled, when, for some three hundred and eighty years after their return, they lived tolerably quiet; afterwards Antiochus vexed them, and did them much damage. What remains of longer and fuller quiet and prosperity after the slaying of Gog time will discover to the people of God, whose lot it will be to stand up in those days.

Verse 9

Thou shalt: sometimes such phrase declares duty and is perceptive, but here it declares the event and is predictive, Gog will, though he should not. The Hebrew might be read thus,

Thou shalt ascend as a storm, thou shalt come as a cloud. This storm is violent, with confused, tumultuous noises, and with devastation, as the word implieth; and come as a cloud, that is, as dark, as large, and as inevitable, and which continueth the violent waving storm.

To cover the land; Gog and his bands shall be a storm that overspreads the whole land.

All thy bands; troops, or wings.

Many people; many in number, great in courage and strength.

Verse 10

At the same time that the people are gathered together, settling in peace, before they have secured themselves, much like the dragon waiting on the child-bearing woman with purpose to devour her child.

Things come into thy mind; projects or designs for mischief, as appears Ezekiel 38:11.

Thou shalt think an evil thought; and these mischievous thoughts thou shalt so manage, as to forecast how they may, and to set on the execution till they do, take effect. If Antiochus Epiphanes be this Gag, Daniel, in Ezekiel 11:24,25, foretells the like thing of him against Egypt.

Verse 11

Thou shalt say; thou wilt resolve in thyself, and declare it to thy council.

Go up; invade with all thy puissance.

Of unwalled villages; weak, and without any considerable defences: a scattered people, that dwell in villages, can make little if any resistance.

That are at rest; who would willingly be quiet.

That dwell safely; suspecting as little evil from others, as they intend little against others, and trusting in the protection of their God, who hath promised they shall dwell safely.

Without walls that may resist and be too strong for my forces and engines; though they have walls, bars, and gates, yet Gog accounts as none against his mighty armies.

Verse 12

To take a spoil: the Scythians, and those other nations in this army, were from their original a violent, unjust, and thievish people, addicted to robberies; and they now, under this Gog, follow the old trade.

To take a prey; the same repeated. To turn thine hand: either it speaks the ease with which Gog presumeth he shall do what he intendeth, or the sad desolation which he would cause to return upon the Jews.

The desolate places; made so by the Babylonians, and continued so till of late years past.

Now inhabited; newly repeopled and rebuilt upon their return out of Babylon.

Which have gotten cattle and goods; or which are now by their husbandry and diligence getting somewhat of estate and riches; or, as we read it,

have gotten; for it was to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes from their return near three hundred and fifty years, and from the finishing the walls of Jerusalem by Nehemiah to the time of Antiochus two hundred years, so that in that time the Jews might be grown rich enough to be accounted a great prey to him, if he were this Gog. However, such the Jews will be thought, when Gog attempts this enterprise.

Verse 13

Sheba: see Ezekiel 27:22: this Sheba was southward, and contains all of that coast which assisted Gog.

Dedan; Idumeans, or the most easterly parts of Arabia Deserta: by these are noted the eastern nations that assisted, say some.

The merchants of Tarshish; the inhabitants of the sea-coast westward, and Magog north. Robbers by land on three sides, pirates by sea on the fourth, in a confederacy to spoil the church of God.

The young lions; young men thirsty of blood, but more of spoil, flock to Gog, resolved to join, if they may rob and spoil for themselves.

Art thou come to take a spoil? this repeated inquiry made by these, I suppose, is not so much to sound the intentions of Gog, as it is a capitulation and agreement to come to his assistance; and on condition they might have, possess, and carry away what they seize, they are for him; and they mention particulars,

silver, gold, cattle, goods. They are thus exact, out of foresight what little part they might have without such a compact.

Verse 14

In that day: see Ezekiel 38:8.

Dwelleth safely: see Ezekiel 38:11 34:25.

Shalt thou not know it? thou wilt be informed how weak, yet how rich, how easy it is to make them a prey, and thou wilt believe and try it.

Verse 15

Thou shalt: see Ezekiel 38:9.

From thy place; out of thine own land.

Out of the north parts; from Scythia, from the Euxine and Caspian seas, and countries thereabouts.

Thou; the leader and chieftain.

Many people; mighty and numerous, as Ezekiel 38:6,9.

Riding upon horses: see Ezekiel 38:4.

A great company: see Ezekiel 38:9.

Verse 16

On the first part of the verse, see Ezekiel 38:9.

In the latter days: see Ezekiel 38:8.

I will bring thee: see Ezekiel 38:4.

That the heathen may know me: Gog gathers all from all quarters to be with him to take the spoil, God brings them together to do that among them which may make he heathen see and own his hand. They do it in proud contempt of God and his people, but God doth it to glorify his own name, and to vindicate his people.

Sanctified; confessed to be a great God over all, a gracious and faithful God to his people, and a just though dreadful enemy and avenger against the wicked and proud tyrants.

Before their eyes; in the sight of all the heathen that are with Gog in his expedition and much more in the sight of God’s own wonderfully delivered people.

Verse 17

Art thou he? either by way of contempt from God, upon him and all his preparations, or by way of monition: All these enterprises I foresaw, have spoken of them, and I will as well defeat as I did foretell them.

Of whom I have spoken: it is not said it is written, though that be true also, but it was more spoken of.

In old time; in the days of those years past, or of their years, in the times when those prophets lived.

The prophets of Israel; not by prognostication or soothsayers, but by true prophets, my servants whom I sent, Da 11 Zec 14. Now, though they had not foretold this when Ezekiel did, yet when the question shall be asked by the church, it will be so many hundreds of years past, it may well refer to these two prophets; beside Isaiah 26:20,21, with Isaiah 27:1 Jeremiah 30:23,24 Joe 3:1,15,16; and Micah 5:5,6, are prophets cited, as those who spake of this mighty enemy and his coming, and from which an understanding reader may soon collect that this foe was intended as well as others in those places.

Verse 18

Gog cometh up in fury against Israel, and God’s fury, i.e. hot yet just displeasure, comes up in his face against both the attempt and the attempters, against Gog and all his power, who think to find a weak people, but they shall meet with an angry God.

Verse 19

In my jealousy for my own people, that I may preserve them, and for mine own glory, to vindicate that, as Ezekiel 39:25 Zechariah 1:14.

In the fire of my wrath against mine enemies, Gog and all his herds.

Surely: it is in the Hebrew after the form of an oath, as Ezekiel 36:5.

A great shaking; to be sure a very great disturbance and tumult, like an earthquake, as the word signifies, for such an army, such threats, such assaults, and sieges will shake cities, towns, and the hearts of the stoutest.

In the land of Israel; or against the land of Israel, which, for aught I know, will make the sense more obvious; the mighty preparations and the proud threats of Gog against Israel will make many hearts to quake, as well as foundations of cities.

Verse 20

Here is a lofty strain indeed, giving us the description of the tokens of God’s presence against his enemies; the effects of his displeasure against them are seen on all the creatures, sensible that their Maker is angry, though they know not with whom or for what. If to be interpreted literally, we shall find some parallels: when our God. marched before Israel through the Red Sea, as the waters, so the fishes, saw, trembled, and fled, Psalms 77:16,19. When he breaketh the cedars, Psalms 29:5, and discovers the forests, the birds that make their nests there shake at his presence and power. When Sinai trembled, Lebanon and Sirion skipped like a young unicorn, the creeping things in them no doubt shook, and the beasts feeding on them did no less, Psalms 29:6. But men, apprehensive of God’s displeasure, and shaken with their own guilt, shall much more shake. But I think it is a very elegant allusive description of those strange troubles and consternation of men’s minds at that day, and so metaphorically to be understood. Mountains may be great ones. Or, possibly, when God comes to judge Gog, he will by his mighty power give the world so great a shake, that it shall be a preface to his dreadful judgment day.

Verse 21

Call; summon and awaken.

A sword; my army, the people of Israel. Against him; Gog and his powers.

Throughout all my mountains; from all parts of the land, called here mountains, because it was full of mountains.

Verse 22

I will plead, as judge and avenger, and in most dreadful manner, whether you take the words figuratively or literally. I slew others, Sennacherib’s army, by pestilence, probably this was the angel’s sword; others, as Ammon, Moab, Mount Seir, with blood by their own swords; the Amorites with hailstones, Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone, the old world with an overflowing flood. Each single was dreadful, but all meet in the destruction of Gog to make it most terrible. Whether these things are enigmatical or literal, I will not determine, but I am sure they tell us how great the final ruin of the enemies of God and his church shall be.

Verse 23

Thus, in this most dreadful manner, will I magnify myself; undeniably prove that I am the mighty, just, faithful, wise, holy, and merciful God toward my people, and that I am the great, just, and terrible One against mine and my church’s enemies.

Sanctify myself; declare I am holy and true to my word.

Many nations; many heathen nations shall see this in the execution of my judgments, and own it to my praise, that I am, and none else is, the Lord.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Ezekiel 38". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.