Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 39

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verses 1-5

1-5. The prophecy continues against Gog, who is still represented as the leader of the heathen hordes who occupy “the uttermost parts of the north” (Ezekiel 39:2, R.V.), and who in the far distant future will rise up against the new Israel (see notes Ezekiel 28:2-3). He comes with a vast army (Ezekiel 39:9; Ezekiel 38:15), and supposes himself to be able to fulfill his will against Israel without any reference whatever to an overruling Providence; but Jehovah says, “I will turn thee about, and will lead thee on” (Ezekiel 39:2, R.V.; see notes Ezekiel 38:4; Ezekiel 38:14-16). God never interferes with a man’s free choice of good or evil, but he is able in his wisdom to so “turn” and “lead” the evil-wisher that even the wrath of man is made to serve a divine purpose. He smites the invaders with death (Ezekiel 38:21-22), and the weapons drop from the hands of the fierce warriors (Ezekiel 39:3), and they fall upon the mountains and the open fields which they expected to be such an easy prey (xxxviii, 11, 12), and their dead bodies become the spoil of the vultures and jackals (Ezekiel 39:4-5). As John Wesley says: “Gog came to take possession, and so he shall, but not as he purposed and hoped. He shall possess the house of darkness in the land which he invaded.”

Verses 6-7

6-7. God’s wrath follows the invaders even to their own land, and the rain of fire (Ezekiel 38:22) falls upon those who have remained at home, dwelling “securely” in their distant isles (or, coast lands), in order that they, too, may recognize Jehovah’s holiness and never “profane” his name by supposing that the people who trust in him can be defeated (Ezekiel 39:23; see note Ezekiel 36:20).

Verses 8-10

8-10. Though in reality far in the distance (Ezekiel 38:8), Jehovah already sees the day of Gog’s overthrow, when the weapons of his army and hand staves (or, riding sticks, Numbers 22:27) shall so cover the earth that the villages shall need no other fuel, but “shall make fires of them seven years” (Ezekiel 39:9, R.V., and Ezekiel 39:10). The seven years mentioned like all the other numbers of Ezekiel is symbolical. Seven is the holy number of purification, completion, and perfection. (See Introduction, “Symbolism of Ezekiel.”)

Verse 11

11. The R.V. reads, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will give unto Gog a place for burial in Israel, the valley of them that pass through on the cast of the sea: and it shall stop them that pass through.” Instead of “ east of” the sea, Keil reads, “in front of.” Toy reads, “I will give Gog a place of renown, a grave in Israel.” Instead of “it shall stop them that pass through,” the copies from which the Greek and Syriac translations were taken read, “they shall stop [ build up, wall in ] the mouth of the valley.” The passage is extremely difficult, but the obvious meaning is that the number of the slain, or the impurity and uncleanness of the place (Driver), shall cause the traffic through this valley to cease. “Hamon-gog” merely means “the multitude of Gog,” and in no way assists in discovering the location of this valley. If, with Cornill, instead of “the valley of them that pass through,” we read, as we probably should, “the valley of Abarim” (compare Numbers 27:12; Numbers 33:47), we are led to the frontier mountain of Israel, over against Moab, with the great horrible sulphurous valley of the Dead Sea at its foot, through which ran the ancient road most traveled by invaders from the East. (See G.A. Smith, Historical Geography, pp. 13, 261-278.)

Verses 12-15

12-15. It shall take seven months to gather up all the bones which defile the holy soil (compare Ezekiel 19:11-12; Ezekiel 32:19; Ezekiel 36:33) and bury them, and they shall get for themselves great “renown,” not only because of this victory of Jehovah, but because of their holy zeal in cleansing the land.

Men shall be chosen who shall do nothing else than “to bury them that pass through the land,” that is, probably the invaders (A.V., passengers, Ezekiel 39:14). Modern commentators generally suppose that the special search party (Ezekiel 39:14) was divided into two parts, one to find the bones and the other to bury them; but this is very unnatural and is not suggested by the amended text of Ezekiel 39:14. The search party was authorized also “to bury” the unburied (Ezekiel 39:14), and certainly when “a man’s bone” was found it would have taken longer to set up (Hebrews, build) a sign by it (Ezekiel 39:15)

than to bury the bone! It is easy to see, however, that the ordinary Israelite, who would hesitate to touch one of the bones, but who was now zealous for the land’s purification (Ezekiel 39:13), would be very likely to set up such a sign. “They that pass through the land” (R.V.) may therefore refer to “passengers” (A.V.), who did not belong to the official burial party. Toy repudiates R.V. and translates the passengers (Ezekiel 39:15) as searchers, declaring there were two parties, and that the expression “those who pass through” cannot be understood of the invaders. For Hamon-gog see Ezekiel 39:11.

Verse 16

16. Hamonah (“multitude”) shall be the name of “a city” presumably built near the burial ground.

Verses 17-20

17-20. “Among the Semites the law of the sacrificial feast was open-handed hospitality; no sacrifice was complete without guests, and portions were freely distributed to rich and poor within the circle of a man’s acquaintance.” W.R. Smith, Religion of the Semites, p. 236. The heathen hosts who had come against Israel had been accustomed to such feasts, at which, surrounded by their invited guests, they mocked at Jehovah and praised their idols; but now they themselves are the victims sacrificed (Ezekiel 39:18), and the invited guests (their only friends now) are the unclean and ravenous birds and beasts of prey (Ezekiel 39:17; compare also Zephaniah 1:7-8; Isaiah 34:6; Revelation 19:17-21; and Milligan, Expositor, 6:17, 129). Perhaps the “chariots” upon which the vultures feed (Ezekiel 39:20) is a term used for “riding beasts,” as in Isaiah 31:7; Isaiah 31:9 (Davidson).

Verses 21-24

21-24. This awful judgment shall indubitably prove, both to the heathen in the farthest limits of the south (Ezekiel 39:6; Ezekiel 39:21) and to the Israelites (Ezekiel 39:22), that the former defeats of God’s chosen people were due wholly to their own sin and uncleanness (Ezekiel 39:23-24; compare Ezekiel 39:12; Ezekiel 39:15). They shall know Jehovah as the one who is all powerful, who protects the righteous and punishes the wicked.

Verse 26

26. After that they have borne their shame Rather, with R.V., “And they shall bear their shame,” in the rare sense of being ashamed because of their unworthiness of God’s great mercies (Ezekiel 16:54; Ezekiel 16:61), or, with a very slight change of text, “they shall forget their shame” (Hitzig; compare Isaiah 54:4), which gives a sense peculiarly appropriate here.

Verses 27-29

27-29. When the new Israel shall be brought back from their captivity among the “peoples” (Ezekiel 39:25; Ezekiel 39:27), filled with the new spirit of shame for their past sins and with a joy in God’s presence which makes them forget their dismal past (Ezekiel 39:26), and “shall dwell securely” in their own land, where none “shall make them afraid” (Ezekiel 39:26, R.V.), and thus Jehovah shall have been sanctified in them (Ezekiel 39:27; Ezekiel 20:41; Ezekiel 36:20; Ezekiel 36:23-24) then shall they know as never before “that I am the Lord their God, in that I caused them to go into captivity… and have gathered them… and will leave none of them,… neither will I hide my face [compare Ezekiel 39:23; Isaiah 54:8 ]… for I have poured out my spirit.” (Compare Ezekiel 36:25-31; Ezekiel 37:14; Isaiah 59:21; Joel 2:28.) “No historical Church, Jewish or Gentile, has ever yet realized the picture here sketched by Ezekiel.… Will it ever be realized on earth? or must we only look for it in the heavenly city, whose Builder and Maker is God?” Plumptre. If the conflict (chapter 38) is to be on this earth, as it surely will be, then the victory and the peace which follows must also be looked for here. The promise is to be fulfilled truly, though not literally. (See introduction chapter Ezekiel 40:0) It has already received a partial fulfillment (compare Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17); yet the foes of the new Israel, the true children of Abraham (Luke 3:8; John 8:39; Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:9; Galatians 3:29), are still active, and Gog the Old Testament “Antichrist” if indeed he has yet put on his armor, has certainly not yet been left dead upon the field. It must always be borne in mind that it is not a literal conflict described in this chapter between men armed with bows and arrows who shall be killed by bolts of lightning, but a spiritual battle between God’s people and the powers of evil. Like Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, it depicts figuratively that which is everlastingly true, and what may perhaps be often repeated in different individuals and in different ages.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ezekiel 39". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/ezekiel-39.html. 1874-1909.
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