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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 38

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3417. B.C. 587.

The prophecy contained in this and the following chapter, concerning Israel’s victory over Gog and Magog, without question, relates to the latter ages of the world, when the whole house of Israel shall return into their own land, chap. Ezekiel 39:25-29 . And the expressions we meet with in this chapter, Ezekiel 38:8 ; Ezekiel 38:16 , that this should come to pass in the latter days, and after many days, are a proof that the event was to happen a great while after the several predictions of the prophets concerning it. So that this must be looked upon as one of those obscure prophecies of Scripture, the fulfilling whereof will best explain the meaning. In this chapter we have,

(1,) The attempt of Gog and Magog on the land of Israel, Ezekiel 38:1-13 .

(2,) The terror occasioned thereby, Ezekiel 38:14-20 .

(3,) Their defeat by the immediate hand of God, Ezekiel 38:21-23 .

Verses 2-3

Ezekiel 38:2-3. Set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog We find, Genesis 10:2, that the second son of Japhet was called Magog, but Ezekiel uses the word here as the name of the country of which Gog was prince: and Michaelis thinks that it denotes those vast regions to the north of India and China, which the Greeks called Scythia, and which we term Tartary. Houbigant also thinks that the prophet here means the Scythians, who are the descendants of Magog, the son of Japhet, and whose neighbours were the people of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal; that is, the Russians, Muscovites, and Tibareni, or Cappadocians; and thus Theodoret and Josephus understand it. The Turks are generally allowed to be of Scythian origin. Scythopolis and Hierapolis, which cities the Scythians took when they overcame Syria, were ever after by the Syrians called Magog: see Plin, 50. 5. c. 23. The Arabs call the Chinese wall Sud Yagog et Magog, that is, the mud wall, or rampart of Gog and Magog. Gog and Magog are mentioned in Revelation 20:8; and these, says Bishop Newton, “seem to have been formerly the general name of the northern nations of Europe and Asia, as the Scythians have been since, and the Tartars are at present. The prophecy in the Revelation alludes to this of Ezekiel in many particulars; both the one and the other remain yet to be fulfilled, and therefore we cannot be absolutely certain that they may not both relate to the same event. But it seems more probable that they relate to different events: the one is expected to take effect before, but the other will not take effect till after the Millennium. Gog and Magog in Ezekiel are said expressly, Ezekiel 38:6; Ezekiel 38:15, and Ezekiel 39:2, to come from the north quarters, and the north parts; but in St. John they come from the four quarters, or corners of the earth. Gog and Magog in Ezekiel bend their forces against the Jews re-settled in their own land; but in St. John they march up against the saints and church of God in general. Gog and Magog in Ezekiel are, with very good reason, supposed to be the Turks, but the Turks are the authors of the second wo; and the second wo, Revelation 11:14, is past before the third wo; and the third wo long precedes the time here treated of. It may therefore be concluded that Gog and Magog, as well as Sodom, and Egypt, and Babylon, are mystic names in the book of Revelation; and the last enemies of the Christian Church are so denominated, because Gog and Magog appear to be the last enemies of the Jewish nation. Who they shall be, we cannot pretend to say with the least degree of certainty.” The chief prince of Meshech and Tubal The king or head of all those northern nations which lie upon the Euxine sea: see note on Ezekiel 27:13. The LXX. take the word Rosh, here translated chief, for a proper name, and render the clause, The prince of Rosh, Meshech, &c. So taken it may signify those inhabitants of Scythia from whom the Russians derive their name and original.

Verses 4-6

Ezekiel 38:4-6. I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws I will disappoint all thy designs, and turn thee about as easily as a fisherman masters a great fish, when he hath once fastened the hook into its jaws: see Ezekiel 29:4. And I will bring thee forth Or, after I have brought thee forth; that is, after I have so disposed matters that thou hast been induced to come forth out of thine own country, to invade, spoil, and destroy other countries. Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them As their allies. Ethiopia and Libya are called Cush and Phut in the Hebrew, and are joined together as allies, Ezekiel 30:5, where see the note. The Persians are in like manner joined with Africans, Ezekiel 27:10. All of them with shield and helmet So the Libyans, or people of Phut, are described, Jeremiah 46:9, as handling the shield, that is, being remarkable for their great and large shields, as Xenophon relates of them, Cyropæd., lib. 6. Gomer and all his bands Gomer is joined with Magog, Genesis 10:2, and probably here signifies Galatia, Phrygia, and Bithynia, which, with Cappadocia, denoted by Togarmah, comprehend all the northern parts of Asia Minor, which border upon the Euxine sea. Concerning Togarmah, see note on Ezekiel 27:14. And many people with thee Those of Cilicia, Pamphylia, and other nations inhabiting Asia Minor.

Verse 7

Ezekiel 38:7. Be thou prepared The prophet, speaking ironically, encourages Gog and his allies to make all warlike preparations, and muster all their forces together, that God might gain the greater honour by their signal defeat: see Ezekiel 38:16. And be thou a guard unto them Let them rely upon thy prowess and conduct as their leader.

Verses 8-9

Ezekiel 38:8-9. After many days thou shalt be visited In the latter days of the Messiah’s kingdom among men, or after a succession of many generations, shall the judgment here mentioned be inflicted by God upon thee. In the latter years Or days, as in the former clause, and Ezekiel 38:16; that is, toward the end of the world: compare Daniel 8:26. Thou Gog, with all thy numbers; shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword The land of the Jews, a people recovered from the countries into which they had been dispersed by the sword of their enemies. The land, it must be observed, is here put for the people of the land, who are said to be brought back from the sword, in the same sense in which they are elsewhere styled a remnant; those being intended that should remain after the various judgments that had fallen upon the nation, and the hardships they had suffered in their several dispersions. And is gathered out of many people Among whom they had been scattered: see note on Ezekiel 34:13. Against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste It is already two thousand five hundred years since the ten tribes were carried away out of their own land by Shalmaneser. Certainly the expression, always, or perpetually waste, denotes a much longer desolation of the country than that which it suffered during the Babylonish captivity. It seems, all the various desolations of Judea are here included, namely, those by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Antiochus Epiphanes, the Romans, and lastly, as at this time, by the Turks. But it The land of Canaan, that is, the people of it, is brought forth out of the nations This is a repetition of what was said just before, namely, that Israel had been wonderfully preserved, and restored to their own land, through the particular providence of God; to which is added, And they shall dwell safely all of them That is, the same divine power that has delivered and restored them will still continue to protect them. Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm Thou shalt come suddenly, and with a mighty and destructive force. Thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land Thy forces shall be so very numerous as to overspread the land like a dark cloud, which makes every thing look melancholy and dismal: see Ezekiel 30:3. The sense of the passage is, that after the return of the Jews and Israelites into their own country, and their having lived there for some time in peace and safety, this enemy will think to take advantage of their security, and fall upon them unexpectedly. “It seems to me,” says Bishop Newcome, “that the prophecy remains to be fulfilled after the future re-establishment of the converted Jews in their own land, when the Mahommedans and pagans will invade them. On this supposition, the subject matter of this and the following chapter is well connected with the promises of distant blessings made toward the close of chap. 37.”

Verses 10-13

Ezekiel 38:10-13. It shall come to pass at the same time The time when my people are gathered together, settled in peace in their own land, and think themselves secure; shall things come into thy mind Mischievous things; and thou shalt think an evil thought Shalt entertain a malicious design for the destruction of my people. And thou shalt say Wilt resolve in thyself; I will go up I will invade with all my forces; the land of unwalled villages A people weak, and destitute of any considerable defences. To them that are at rest Who would willingly be quiet, and suspect as little evil from others as they intend against others, and who trust in the protection of their God, who hath promised they shall dwell safely. Dwelling without walls, &c. That is, having no sufficient fortifications to defend them against the force of an enemy. To take a spoil, &c. With the thoughts of taking a large spoil without any difficulty. To turn thy hand upon the desolate places To go against, or fall upon, a country which had lain a long time desolate, but which has been peopled again, and come into a flourishing condition. Judea is very plainly marked out by this land, which Gog is here represented as designing to attack, because it lay open to be invaded. That dwell in the midst of the land Hebrew, in the navel of the land, that is, in Jerusalem, which stood nearly in the middle of Judea, and was situate upon a rising ground, which the Hebrew metaphorically expresses by the navel. Sheba and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish These were people that traded much, the two former dwelling in the east, and the merchants of Tarshish often sailing from the Spanish coasts into the eastern parts, as having commerce with Tyre, which bordered upon Judea. “These merchants, as soon as they heard of this intended invasion, came into Gog’s camp as to a market, to buy both persons and goods which should come into the conqueror’s power.”

With all the young lions thereof Their kings and princes, as the Targum understands it; or their chief merchants, who are described as so many princes, (Isaiah 23:8,) and are called lions because of the injustice and oppression they too commonly practised in their commerce.

Verses 14-16

Ezekiel 38:14-16. In that day, &c. At that remarkable time, when I shall gather my people from their dispersions and bring them again to their own land, and they shall be established therein and dwell safely, without apprehension of danger from any enemy, and without any defence to prevent their being attacked; shalt thou not know it? Will they not be pointed out to thee as a people thou mayest easily conquer, and with whose spoils thou mayest without difficulty enrich thyself? And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts See on Ezekiel 38:6; thou and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, &c. The character here given of this people may properly be applied to the Turks or Tartars, the strength of whose armies consists principally in their cavalry. As a cloud to cover the land See on Ezekiel 38:9. It shall be in the latter days This is repeated to prevent the application of the prophecy to any event that should take place before the days of the Messiah: see on Ezekiel 38:8. And I will bring thee against my land I will permit thee to come; that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee Shall be confessed to be a great God over all, a gracious and faithful God to my people, and a dreadful enemy and avenger against the wicked. Before their eyes In the sight of all the heathen that are with Gog, and much more in the sight of God’s own people. This signal victory over Gog and his associates shall be a means of bringing infidels to give glory to God.

Verse 17

Ezekiel 38:17. Art thou he? This would be better translated, Art thou not he? a sense which the Hebrew particle of interrogation often imports; of whom I have spoken in old time by my servants the prophets “It is doubtful by what prophets God foretold the irruption of Gog; but though nothing of this kind be found in the prophets that remain, it is enough that Ezekiel did not first foretel these things. Many of the sacred pages are lost, which might probably be extant when Ezekiel delivered this prophecy.” Houbigant. The expressions here used, of old time, and which prophesied in those days, many years, plainly imply that there was to be a succession of many ages between the publishing of these prophecies, and this event foretold by them.

Verses 18-20

Ezekiel 38:18-20. My fury shall come up in my face An expression taken from human passions, which cause the blood to fly up into the face. So Isaiah describes Almighty God as burning with anger, his lips being full of indignation, and his tongue as a consuming fire, Ezekiel 22:31, where see the note. For in my jealousy My zeal for the salvation and happiness of my people, and for my own glory; have I spoken Against my enemy Gog, and his herd. Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking A great commotion, as Dr. Waterland renders the expression; or a great disturbance, tumult, and confusion. Great changes and alterations in kingdoms and governments are often expressed in Scripture by shaking of heaven and earth, the sea and dry land: see the margin. So that the fishes of the sea, &c., shall shake at my presence Every part of the creation shall bear its share of this calamity, as if there were a convulsion of the whole frame of nature. The prophets often describe God’s judgments upon particular countries or persons, as if a dissolution of the whole world took place, because his particular judgments are an earnest of the general judgment: see note on Isaiah 13:10. And the mountains shall be thrown down The strong holds situate on the mountains, and the walls, towers, and other fortifications, shall be beat down and demolished.

Verses 21-22

Ezekiel 38:21-22. And I will call Rather, But I will call, for a sword against him That is, when he has carried all before him for some time, I will at length raise up those who shall withstand him. God’s doing a thing is often expressed in Scripture by his speaking the word, and giving out his command. Thus he is said Psalm ( Psa 105:16 ) to call for a dearth upon the land of Canaan. Throughout all my mountains Throughout all the land of Judea; for, as has been observed before, Judea being very mountainous, it is often in Scripture denominated the mountains of Israel, or, the mountains of the Lord. Every man’s sword shall be against his brother God often destroys his enemies by intestine quarrels among themselves, and making them executioners of his judgments upon each other: see the margin. And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood Or, I will plead with him. God pleads with men by his judgments, which are a manifest token of the vengeance due to their sins. And I will rain upon him, &c., an overflowing rain, &c. I will as plainly show myself in the destruction of these my enemies, as when I discomfited the armies of the Canaanites and Philistines by tempests of thunder and hail, or when I consumed Sodom and Gomorrah by fire and brimstone from heaven. “It is plain that the extraordinary circumstances mentioned in these verses remain to be accomplished on the future enemies of the Jews, when God’s people are reinstated in his favour.” Bishop Newcome.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezekiel 38". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/ezekiel-38.html. 1857.
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