Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Ezekiel 38

Verse 2

2.Gog, the land of Magog — R.V., “Gog, of the land of Magog.” Dr. Adam Clarke says: “This is allowed to be the most difficult prophecy in the Old Testament. It is difficult to us because we know not the king nor the people intended by it.” He mentions numerous queer explanations, such as that Gog was a hidden name for the Americans, and Meshech and Tubal for the Turks or Christians, but approves the view that Gog stood for Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria, which country is called Magog by Pliny (Natural History). Every commentator since Clarke has risen from the study of this passage with a sense of defeat. Every attempted suggestion has been a guess. As Cornill says, “No other chapter in Ezekiel is so shrouded in mystery.” Since the discovery in the Assyrian inscriptions of an unknown land — Mat-Gahi — and of the cuneiform name of the well-known Gyges, king of Lydia, written Ga-gi-Gugu, the most usual explanation has been that Gyges was the original king of Gog, and that Magog (“land of Gog”) means Lydia. The great invasion of the Scythians, who carried the scalps of their foes at their bridle reins for napkins and drank fresh blood out of cups made from the skulls of their enemies, must have been one of the most vivid reminiscences of the prophet’s youth, and these barbarian hordes were closely associated with Gyges; for it was the savage Kimmerians, known to the Assyrians as Gi-mirre (Bib., Gomer, Ezekiel 38:6) — whose king Esar-haddon calls a “Manda [Scythian] warrior” — who swooped down upon Lydia and carried off with them the head of Gyges himself.

Yet the historic Gyges, who had been headless for over half a century, seems very unlike this “prince” of the northern barbarians, who had Persia, Cush, and Put as his subordinates (Ezekiel 38:5, R.V.), and who in the far-away future (Ezekiel 38:14-16) — as had been long predicted (Ezekiel 38:17) — should invade Israel with such a multitude of warriors that after their destruction by supernatural agencies (Ezekiel 38:20-22) their weapons could furnish the sole fuel for all the cities of Israel for a period of seven years (Ezekiel 39:10). Even if it were conclusively proved that Gog (Og) had been a well-known name among the northern barbarians from very ancient times (Haupt, American Oriental Society, April, 1899), its use in this connection would still require explanation. Many of the most acute commentators of modern times have taken this term as “a poetical representation of the heathen powers of the world who shall meet death in opposing the new theocracy” (Wellhausen, New Review, 1893), or as, perhaps, a secret reference to the Babylonian empire, the only great power whose destruction Ezekiel had not previously prophesied (25-32), which power is alluded to under this invented name of Gog not probably for fear of the Chaldean police, but in order not to stir up false hopes and lead the people to revolt (Cornill) — though against this latter suggestion Kuenen has urged the decisive objection, “that this is a picture of a time when Israel shall have returned to her own land; which of itself presupposes the overthrow of the Chaldean monarchy” (Onderzoek).

Objections could also be made to Wellhausen’s view (which is not greatly different from John Wesley’s), yet with our present knowledge it seems, with some modifications, the most probable. Possibly these names of northern tribes are intended to symbolize the outlying nations of heathendom, which are not included in the prophecies of destruction against the seven great monarchies previously mentioned: Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon, and Egypt. Gog (Hebrews, hidden, covered) is a personification rather than a real person. He appears as the typical incarnation of universal world power, which can marshal the Scythians from the extreme north, the Persians from the east, and the Ethiopians from the south, in that “‘terrible’ day of the end” of which the prophets so often speak, when Israel shall have one last struggle with her enemies and come forth victorious. Evil will not have been fully conquered even after the people return to their own land. A decisive moment will some day come when a supreme attempt will be made, more fearful than any in the past, to overthrow God’s kingdom, but the right will finally prevail. Before, when such a catastrophe had occurred under Nebuchadnezzar, Israel had succumbed; but the nation will be true to its omnipotent God the next time, and therefore will successfully oppose any coalition. No enemy can prevail against the new Israel because it will be faithful to Jehovah.

This mysterious prophecy was never fulfilled literally. It can never be fulfilled other than spiritually. (Compare the New Testament “antichrist,” and see Gautier, pp. 318, 323, etc.)


Verse 2-3

2, 3.The chief prince of Meshech and Tubal — The nasi rosh (chief prince) named here has often been connected with the kohen rosh (priest-chief) of 1 Chronicles 27:5, and this translation finds some support from a somewhat similar use of the word rosh on Persian coins, yet probably the R.V. is better, “the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.” (For Meshech and Tubal, see notes Ezekiel 27:13.) Hommel has recently connected Meshech with “the Mosks of Asia Minor” (Hastings’s Dictionary, 1900). Where the land of Rosh was is not certain. Schroder refers to the cuneiform inscriptions which mention a land, Mat Ra-a-si, situated on the Tigris, at the frontier of Elam; but notices that the position does not harmonize with its close connection here with two peoples of Asia Minor. Perhaps this may be the land which was occupied by the Scythian people, whom Byzantine and Arabian writers have called , and who dwelt on the shores of the Black Sea and on the banks of the Volga (Pulpit Commentary). Rosh has no connection with Russia. The mention of these unknown lands and people only shows that Ezekiel had a better knowledge of the barbarian tribes lying on the frontier of civilization in his day than even the best archaeologists of our time.


Verse 4

4.Put hooks into thy jaws — So the Pharaonic “dragon” was pulled out of the Nile (Ezekiel 29:4). On the Assyrian monuments the king of Tyre (Baal) and the king of Egypt (Tirhakah) are represented as led by the great king Esar-haddon by cords attached to rings or hooks through their lips or jaws. (Compare Isaiah 37:29.) The figure represents control by a superior power.

With all sorts of armor — Rather, “in full armor” (R.V.), or, “gorgeously” (Ezekiel 23:12).


Verse 5

5.See notes Ezekiel 27:10; Ezekiel 30:5. Toy thinks, perhaps, Paras should not be translated Persia; but refers to the insignificant province of Parsua mentioned in the inscriptions.


Verse 6

6.For Gomer see note Ezekiel 38:2; for Togarmah, Ezekiel 27:14; for people read “peoples,” as also Ezekiel 38:8-9; Ezekiel 38:15; Ezekiel 38:22.


Verse 7

7.A guard — Kautzsch, sign, or ensign. Rather, R.V., margin, “a commander.”


Verses 7-12

7-12.Let the enemy of Israel thoroughly prepare himself (Ezekiel 38:7) for “at the end of the years” (Isaiah 2:2; Daniel 10:14) his sins shall be remembered (compare Ezekiel 23:21), and he shall be “visited” (Ezekiel 38:8), or “commissioned.” (Compare Ezekiel 38:16.) He shall have thoughts of an easy victory over an unprotected and peaceful country (Ezekiel 38:10-11), and shall come like a storm-cloud against Israel (Ezekiel 38:9; compare Isaiah 21:1; Isaiah 28:2, and Iliad, 6:275), a land which, in the new conditions of the new Israel, shall be “brought back” (Ezekiel 38:8, A.V.) or “restored” (R.V., margin) from the sword (compare Ezekiel 5:17; Ezekiel 6:3; Ezekiel 6:13; Ezekiel 36:13; with Ezekiel 34:28; Ezekiel 37:26; Ezekiel 39:26), and whose mountains, which in the past had been “a continual waste” (Ezekiel 38:8, R.V., Ezekiel 35:9) shall now be covered with cattle (Ezekiel 38:12). But his plans shall fail.


Verse 12

12.In the midst of the land — The R.V., margin, gives “in the navel of the earth.” Palestine was really the center of the ancient civilized world. Winckler sees a reference here to the Mount of the Gods. (See note Ezekiel 28:14.) Cheyne (Expository Times, 1899), by a slight change of text, translates “on the high places of the land.” (Compare Deuteronomy 32:13.)


Verse 13

13.For Sheba, Dedan, and Tarshish see notes Ezekiel 27:20; Ezekiel 27:22; Ezekiel 27:25. The prominent and prosperous condition of the new Israel (Ezekiel 38:12) and the terrific attack of Gog upon it draw the attention of these states and the young lions thereof. If the text is correct, compare Ezekiel 29:3; Ezekiel 29:6. Cornill reads, “traffickers thereof.” Slave dealers and other traders always hang upon the heels of an oriental army. (Compare Isaiah 23:8.)


Verses 14-16

14-16.Knowing that Israel “dwelleth securely” (Ezekiel 38:14, R.V.), Gog comes against her (Ezekiel 38:15), but knows not that he is really being brought thither by Jehovah himself, who rules and overrules all (Ezekiel 25:4; Ezekiel 25:7; Ezekiel 26:3; Ezekiel 30:25), in order that through his destruction the God of Israel may be sanctified, or “set apart” from all other deities in the eyes of the heathen, because of his holiness and power (Ezekiel 38:16; Ezekiel 28:22; Ezekiel 28:25; Ezekiel 36:23).




Verse 17

17.Of whom I have spoken — No extant ancient prophecy names Gog. Doubtless the predictions referred to are all such as represent the hostility of the world powers concentrating itself in one last tremendous attack (for example, Zephaniah 3:8; Zechariah 12:7; Zechariah 14; Joel 3:2; Joel 3:4-17; Isaiah 54:15; Isaiah 54:17; compare Revelation 20:7-10).


Verses 18-23

18-23.“In that day, when Gog shall come against the land” (Ezekiel 38:18, R.V.), Jehovah’s fury shall come into his “nostrils” (Psalms 18:8). He shall breathe hard, and in his hot and “jealous” anger (see Ezekiel 21:31; note Ezekiel 5:13) he declares that the whole of Israel shall be shaken as with an earthquake (Ezekiel 38:19), and all nature, sea and land, shall be terrified (Ezekiel 38:20; compare Zephaniah 1:14; Jeremiah 4:23-26) when he appears in judgment against the enemy (Ezekiel 38:21), turning each man’s sword against his brother and pleading with the foes of his people no longer with words, but with bolts from heaven (Ezekiel 38:22; Genesis 19:24; Genesis 13:13; Psalms 11:6) until the nations shall acknowledge him for what he is: the holy, the merciful, the mighty Jehovah (Ezekiel 38:16). This is a most graphic and fearful description, full of the symbolism which is so characteristic of Ezekiel.


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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ezekiel 38". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.