Ezekiel 38 - Outline of Ezekiel (MENU page)
In the preceding chapters (ch. 36-37), the LORD has declared that He would (1) Regather the people of Israel to their land, (2) Regenerate them spiritually, and (3) Restore their nation politically under one King. God's purposes are sure and unfailing. The Kingdom which He has promised will come, and will displace the kingdoms of this world.
     However, recognizing that his end is near, Satan will move ungodly nations in opposition to God's purposes. Chapters 38-39 depict the battles which will open and close the Great Tribulation period, the time of Jacob's Trouble.
     The editor suggests that you read through these two Bible chapters, before considering the notes, below. The outline followed, in the notes below, is more detailed than the points shown for this section in the overall outline of Ezekiel.
6. The War of Gog and Magog (ch. 38-39)
a. First Campaign, 38:1-23
  1. The Time and Circumstances, v.1-13
  2. The Purpose and Power of Gog, v.14-16
  3. The Purpose and Power of God, v.17-23
1. And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
2 Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog,
the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him,
3 And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD;
Behold, I [am] against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal:
4 And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws,
and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen,
all of them clothed with all sorts [of armour, even] a great company [with] bucklers and shields,
all of them handling swords:
5 Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet:
6 Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands:
[and] many people with thee.
7 Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee,
and be thou a guard unto them.
Chapters 38-39, foretell invasion of the land of Israel, by an alliance of nations which approach from the north.
The leader of this alliance is "Gog" from the land of Magog.
'Gog' is believed to mean 'top' or 'mountain.' He is the unquestioned ruler, the 'chief prince' over Magog, Meshech and Tubal. These are regions which were originally populated by the descendants of Noah's son Japheth, who settled around and to the north of the Black Sea (Gen 10:2).
     The names Meshech and Tubal are reflected in the cities, named Moscow and Tubalsk. The word translated 'chief' {HB=rosh, head, first, chief} sounds like 'Russia.' Therefore, several Bible translations render v.2 as: "Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him..." [eg., Darby, YLT, NASB. These also have "the prince of Rosh..." in v.3.]
     These lands are located in "the north quarters" or "the north parts." (v.6,15; 39:2). The word translated 'quarters' or 'parts' refers to 'borders, flanks, extremes.' In the Bible, directional reference is relative to Israel. The nation in the northern extremes, from Israel, is Russia.
This lead nation will be allied with Persia {ie., Iran}, Ethiopia {ie., Sudan}, Libya, Gomer {another son of Japheth} and Togarmah {a son of Gomer, Gen 10:2,3}. Gomer and Togarmah populated large portions of modern day Turkey.
As these notes are being written, this alliance is already in place. (Such an alliance, which has no precedent in prior history, began to form following the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979.) None of these nations are friendly toward Israel. Some of these nations are strongly opposed to Israel's existence. Sudan and Libya are the only African nations which have not recognized Israel.
...Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I am against thee, O Gog...
In ch. 25-32, the LORD said He was against several nations, because they had treated Israel with arrogant hatred. Therefore, He had judged those countries severely. Here, the LORD, foreseeing their crime, announces judgment upon a nation, which had no prior recorded interaction with Israel. However, subsequent to the biblical record, secular history reveals that Russia and these allied nations have not shown kindness to the Jews, during their long dispersion among them.
...I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth...
The LORD Himself will arrange for Gog and his allies to take action against Israel. Although Russia has had a military presence in Syria for several years, thus far they have avoided any incursion into Israel. Some event, which alters the world's balance of power, will appear to these nations as an opportunity which they cannot afford to miss.
...prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them.
As indicated in v.4-6, Gog and Magog and their allied nations will be fully equipped with weapons of every kind, and with armies of overwhelming numbers. Before taking any action, they will have laid their plans and mapped their strategies. They will be absolutely confident of military victory.
     As previously mentioned, Russia and the listed allies have already assembled a substantial array of armaments in Syria, due to an extended conflict there. In the summer of 2018, Russia held joint excercises with China, to display its military power and preparedness. Russia's current superpower status, and intelligence capabilities, already provide a 'guard' {ie., watch, security} for the joint operations of these nations.
When will this alliance form to invade Israel?
It is clear, from v.8, that this will occur in the time of the end, the Day of the LORD, after Israel has been regathered to their land and is enjoying a measure of peace. Several other clues are provided in the text and in other scripture passages.
Common suggestions include:
  1. The battle which opens the Tribulation.
    Following the defeat of Gog, the rider on the white horse (the antichrist, as he appears early in the Tribulation, in Rev 6:2) receives greater power, as the supposed savior of the world and protector of Israel.
    According to this view, the 'feast of the birds' Eze 39:4,17-20), the long process of burying dead soldiers, and Israel's burning of the invader's weapons for seven years (Eze 39:9-12) all begin early in the seven year Tribulation period.
  2. The final Battle of Armageddon, at the end of the Tribulation, as the Lord returns from heaven.
    The 'feast of the birds' is presented as a unique feature of the battle of Armageddon (Eze 39:4,17-20; cp. Rev 19:17-19). (Should we expect two such events in the space of seven years?)
    Some of the language, in these chapters, suggests the final phase of the prophesied judgment, rather than the beginning of the Time of Jacob's Trouble (eg., Eze 39:8).
    However, near the end of that Tribulation, Israel will hardly be dwelling at peace (as in 38:8,11, prior to the sudden advance of Gog and his allies).
    Several other dissimilar features, in ch. 38-39, seem to describe more than one invasion of Israel's land.
  3. The War of Armageddon {or, the War of Gog and Magog}, consisting of at least two battles,
    one just before or during the opening half of the Tribulation, the other at its close (ie., the battle of Armageddon, as above).
    This view satisfies the dissimilar features within these chapters, and also corresponds to certain passages which foretell more than one battle during the Tribulation.
    This view will be developed more fully in the following notes. [It is the view of the editor.]
  4. The rebellion led by Satan, after 1000 years of Christ's reign in the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation ch. 20, which is the only other scriptural reference to 'Gog and Magog').
    However, the actions of Gog and Magog, in Ezekiel 38-39, are distinct from those described in Revelation.
    The names and primary people group are the same, but the time and circumstances are very different.
    The chart below provides a brief comparison of some points of difference.
    Most of these points will be discussed more completely as our study of Ezekiel 38-39 progresses.
In Ezekiel 38-39, Gog & Magog...In Revelation 20:7-10, Gog & Magog...
...are led by Gog, the 'chief prince' of Meshech & Tubal (38:2)....are led by Satan, following his release from prison.
...approach Israel, from the north (38:15)....approach the Holy City, from the four quarters of the earth.
...are allied with Persia, Ethiopia, Libya, Gomer and Togarmah (38:5,6), but their actions will be questioned, by nations outside of this alliance (38:13)....is allied with the nations from the four quarters of the earth. The implication is that all nations, outside of the Holy City, will participate, at the instigation of Satan.
...will attack "in the latter years," against the people of Israel, who have recently been brought back to their land (38:8); ie., prior to Armageddon (39:17-20) and prior to the establishment of Christ's Millennial Kingdom (39:21)....will attack "the camp of the saints," following 1000 years of Christ's reign, in His Millennial Kingdom, during which the Glory of God dwells in the midst of His people, in the Person of the King.
...will attack while Israel dwells safely, in unwalled cities (38:8,11). Israel will feel secure, due to their own military might combined with the protections promised by the antichrist's covenant with them....will attack during a time of unprecedented peace. During Christ's Millennial Kingdom, swords will have been beaten into plowshares.
...will fall by the sword. The bodies of their soldiers will either be eaten by birds, or buried by Israel (39:4,11)....will be consumed by fire from heaven. Disposal of dead bodies will be irrelevent, since the next events are the Great White Throne judgment (Rev 20:11-15) and the establishment of the eternal Kingdom in the New Heaven and New Earth (Rev ch. 21).
The outcome: Israel will know the LORD their God, and the nations will understand His purpose for Israel (39:22-29), as the Millennial Kingdom is established.The outcome: Satan will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Unsaved men will suffer a similar fate, following the final judgment. The eternal Kingdom, of Christ and His saints, will commence.
8 After many days thou shalt be visited:
in the latter years thou shalt come into the land [that is] brought back from the sword,
[and is] gathered out of many people,
against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste:
{Eze 34:13; 36:1-8}
but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.
9 Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land,
thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee.
10 Thus saith the Lord GOD; It shall also come to pass,
[that] at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought:
11 And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages;
I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely,
all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates,
12 To take a spoil, and to take a prey;
to turn thine hand upon the desolate places [that are now] inhabited,
and upon the people [that are] gathered out of the nations,
which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.
13 Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee,
Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey?
to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?
...after many days thou shalt be visited {ie., appointed}: in the latter years {ie., in the latter end of years}...
...thou shalt come into the land... brought back from the sword... gathered out... they shall dwell safely...
At the time which God has predetermined, Gog & Magog will appear at the end of the age, in the Day of the LORD. They will invade Israel, not long after the LORD has regathered the people to their land, and the nation has attained economic and military muscle (eg., Eze 37:7,8).
     As these notes are being written (in 2018 AD), this scenario sounds like the present situation. But can it be said that Israel "dwells safely" (as in v.8,11)?
     Even today, despite threats and actual terrorism from unfriendly neighbors, the cities of Israel are safer than most cities in the USA. The continued existence, of the modern state of Israel, was in question during the early years, when their military strength was minimal. With the aid of God's unseen hand, Israel defeated enemies intent on their destruction, in the wars of 1948 (Egypt, Jordan and Syria invaded, in response to Israel's Declaration of Independence), 1967 (the Six Day War, started by the same agressors), and 1973 (the Yom Kippur War, when Egypt and Syria launched surprise attacks on Israel's High Holy Day). Today, Israel's military might is a strong deterrant to aggression. But can it stand against the combined forces of the Prince of Rosh and his allies?
     Biblical prophecy declares that Israel will indeed be victorious over all enemies, at the time of their spiritual regeneration and political restoration, when they recognize and receive Jesus Christ, their Messiah and King. Under His reign, Israel will indeed dwell safely, in true peace (Jer 23:6; 33:16, Rom 11:26,27).
     However, biblical prophecy also indecates that prior to Christ's return, Israel will place their confidence in a false messiah and his confirmed {ie., strong} covenant, by which he will guarantee their security (Joh 5:43; Dan 9:27). This covenant 'with many' will be a peace agreement between Israel and some Arab neighbors, which will be secured by its guarantor. Its seven year duration corresponds to the length of "Daniel's Seventieth Week," which is the Tribulation period. (See the Book Notes at Daniel 9:24-27.) The guaranty of peace will evaporate when the false messiah breaks his covenant with Israel in the middle of its term. (Thereafter, the false messiah will be seen for what he is: the antichrist.)
     Thus, this incursion, of Gog and Magog into Israel, at a time of "peace and safety," occurs during the first half of the Tribulation period (cp. 1The 5:3).
...thou shalt ascend... like a storm... like a cloud to cover the land... and all thy bands... many people... (v.9)
The invasion will be with overwhelming force, both in the air and on the ground.
We are told that the chief prince, Gog, will be motivated by 'things that come into his mind' and that he will "think an evil thought" {ie., "devise an evil plan" [NASB]}. But the purpose behind his evil {ie., wicked, wrong, malicious} thoughts is not revealed to us.
     Perhaps, he will see a window of opportunity, due to some weakness in the false messiah's ability to protect Israel. The false messiah, referred to as "the prince that shall come" (in Dan 9:26) will be a world leader in the Roman form of governance (for, it was the people of Rome which destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD). (Therefore, he will probably arise from the U.S.A. or Europe.) Perhaps, at some critical moment, this leader will suffer economic or political reversals, in his home country (perhaps an assassination attempt, Rev 13:3,12). [Perhaps the rapture of the true church, and the subsequent absence of personnel from critical industrial, governmental and military roles, will force the U.S.A. (which, of all countries, has the highest percentage of believers) into months of recovery and reorganization.]
     This false savior, who guarantees Israel's security, is depicted as the 'willful king,' in Dan 11:36-39. The 'king of the north' will come against him on two occasions. The first instance (Dan 11:40-43) corresponds to Ezekiel ch. 38. The false savior, whose peace plan involves dividing the land of Israel "for gain {ie., as a price, or payment (of peace)}" (Dan 11:39), will be Israel's ally and protector. Therefore, he will consider the invasion by Gog and Magog against Israel, as against himself, and will respond by coming to the aid of Israel, with his military power. Note that in Dan 11:36-45, every occurrence of the pronouns 'he, him or his' refers to this man.
     Sometime after Gog and Magog have been turned back, and near the midpoint of the seven year Tribulation period, this false savior will be revealed as the antichrist, when he installs himself in the Temple in Jerusalem, to be worshipped as God, and to persecute all who worship the true God and His Christ (Dan 11:45a; Mat 24:15; 2The 2:3,4; Rev 13:4-9).
     Near the end of the last half of the Tribulation period, another invasion from the north and east, will cause the antichrist to respond with force (Dan 11:44,45). But signs, in the heavens indicating the true Savior's return, will cause the antichrist to join forces, with the rest of the world's armies, against the King of kings (Mat 24:29,30; Rev 19:11-21). Ezekiel ch. 39 depicts that final battle at Armageddon.
     See the Book Notes on Daniel 11:36-45
...Art thou come to take a spoil... and a prey? (v.13)
The observing nations will express uncertainty concerning the motive of Gog and his allies, for their invasion of Israel.
     Sheba and Dedan are regions of the Arabian peninsula, which, today, are within Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The merchants of Tarshish and her 'young lions' represent the western world (consisting of dominant and lesser nations) and its commercial interests. At the time these notes are being written, Saudi Arabia has distanced itself from Iran, Turkey and Russia. It is presently allied with the western nations (eg., the USA and Europe), and cooperating with Israel on regional issues.
     Commentators have long speculated regarding the prize which these invaders will be seeking. In recent years, Israel has discovered large natural gas deposits in the Levant Basin, in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It may be that Russia's interests will be threatened, by Israel's development of these resources, for delivery to Europe, via an under sea pipeline. However, for Russia's Islamic allies, especially Iran, the prize would be the land itself, and the extermination of the Jewish nation. Some of Israel's neighbors (eg., Iran) will strongly disagree with the false messiah's covenant, by which Israel will obtain the right to build a Temple on a portion of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (Rev 11:1,2). Their long stated desire and purpose is to drive the Jews into the sea and 'liberate' their land in the name of Islam. The "spoil and prey" which they seek is certainly much greater than "silver and gold... cattle and goods." It is possible that Israel's pre-emptive actions, to inhibit the military preparations of such enemies, could provide Russia with an excuse for extending their own domain, by pushing the cause of their Islamic friends. Psa 83:3-5
a. First Campaign, 38:1-23
2. The Purpose and Power of Gog, v.14-16
14. Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog,
Thus saith the Lord GOD;
In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know [it]?
15 And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee,
all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army:
16 And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land;
it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me,
when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes.
Here, the LORD addresses Gog and his allies.
They will think that they are pursuing their own self-advancing purposes, in the day that they come against Israel.
Their militaries will be well prepared and equipped to great advantage. (In Ezekiel's day soldiers 'riding on horses' held superiority over foot soldiers, much like modern mechanized divisions do today.) Their armies will be like a 'cloud covering the land' (depicting great superiority in numbers, and also overwhelming air power). Remembering the previous effectiveness of Israel's defenses, the invaders will take extraordinary measures to ensure success.
- - But in reality, the LORD will bring them against "My land" to accomplish His purpose...
...that the heathen {ie., nations} may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee... before their eyes.
The destruction of this formidable invading force, backed by a world superpower, will demonstrate the LORD's supernatural power to fulfill His purposes, including the keeping of His covenant with Abraham, by which He gave the land to his descendants for an everlasting possession (Gen 17:8; 48:4). The LORD's hand, which moved behind the scenes to preserve Israel in her previous existential wars, will be undeniably evident in the defeat of these invaders. cp. Mic 7:15-20
a. First Campaign, 38:1-23
3. The Purpose and Power of God, v.17-23
17 Thus saith the Lord GOD;
[Art] thou he of whom I have spoken in old time by my servants the prophets of Israel,
which prophesied in those days [many] years that I would bring thee against them?
18 And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel,
saith the Lord GOD, [that] my fury shall come up in my face.
19 For in my jealousy [and] in the fire of my wrath have I spoken,
Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel;
20 So that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field,
and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that [are] upon the face of the earth,
shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down,
and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.
21 And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord GOD:
every man's sword shall be against his brother.
22 And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood;
and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that [are] with him,
an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.
23 Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself;
and I will be known in the eyes of many nations,
and they shall know that I [am] the LORD.
...Art thou he of whom I have spoken... by my... prophets of Israel... that I would bring thee against them?
The former prophets foretold, that during the Day of the LORD, a great army assembled from many distant nations would invade Israel, from the north. eg., Joel 2:1-2,20; 3:9-14; Isa 13:1-15 (where there is a dual foreview, of the destruction of the armies of 'Babylon' {meaning 'confusion'}, referring first to the historic nation {destroyed by the Medes}, and also to the final form of Gentile world dominion, which will fall at the end of the Tribulation period, eg., Rev 14:8; 18:2)
     However, the former prophets did not identify this enemy by name (other than characterizing it as Babylon {'confusion'}). Therefore, as the events begin to take place, those who are watching should be asking, 'Are you... Is this the entity which was foretold?'
     Ezekiel has identified the invader as Gog and Magog and their allies. We have concluded that this corresponds with Russia, Iran, Turkey and other modern nations. But we cannot be certain that 'Gog' is the current leader of Russia. As noted previously, the present alignment of powers looks like what is described in this chapter. However, it is possible that such an alignment might persist for some time, or even crumble to coalesce at a later time, before that day comes. When it does come, those who are watching will know.
     [Are you watching and ready? The events foretold here will occur around the time of the Rapture of the true church. There are no prophetic prerequisites for the Rapture. The Lord's coming for His own has been "imminent" since the day of His ascension. Today, that day is not only nearer than when we first believed (Rom 13:11,12), but apparently very near as prophetic signs, of the end of the age, come into focus.]
...It shall come to pass at the same time {HB=yom, day} when {HB=yom, day} Gog shall come against the land of Israel...
Note that the the word 'day' is doubled. Several translations reflect this... eg., "And it shall come to pass in that day, in the day when Gog shall come against the land of Israel..." [Darby, also YLT, ESV]
     As mentioned previously, it appears that Gog and Magog and their allies will make two incursions into Israel: First, during the first half of the Tribulation period (before the false messiah establishes himself as the antichrist), and Second, at the close of the Tribulation, when Gog and Magog, in company with the armies of all nations, will gather against Israel (as the true Christ returns to earth). On either day, the LORD's response will combine natural and human forces with His direct supernatural intervention. Some of these elements may be more prominent on one occasion versus the other.
...My fury shall come up in my face...
The LORD will deal with Israel's enemies, with...
  • hot jealous fury, for it is His purpose to restore the nation of Israel, which her enemies seek to destroy.
    Eze 36:5-7; Isa 42:13-16; Joel 2:18
  • a great 'shaking' {'rushing' [YLT]; 'earthquake' [ESV]} -
    - A great 'rushing' of forces would describe the noise and confusion of battle, at either time.
    - An earthquake of unprecedented magnitude will coincide with the final battle. Joel 3:14-16; Rev 16:18-21
    - The ungodly world order will be overturned, in preparation for the coming King. Hag 2:6-7,21-23 (where the future Davidic king is symbolically represented by Zerubbabel); Heb 12:26,27
  • I will call for a sword... everyman's sword against his brother...
    The invaders will turn their swords against their comrades in the confusion of battle (which may be compounded by the confusion of communication between armies of multiple nations and languages). Hag 2:22
  • I will plead {ie., judge, render sentence against} him {ie., Gog and his forces} with pestilence {or, plague} and bloodshed -
    Isa 66:16; Jer 25:31; Zech 14:12-15
  • I will rain... overflowing rain... great hailstones... fire and brimstone...
    cp. Psa 11:6; Isa 30:27-33 (where 'the Assyrian' represents the antichrist); Rev 16:21
...Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself... in the eyes of all the nations... cp. v.16
The nations will see that the LORD, the God of Israel, is exceedingly great in power, and totally distinct from all other 'gods.'
Psa 9:16; Eze 39:7,27-28; Rev 15:3,4; 19:1-6
... and they shall know that I am the LORD {the everliving One}. - for He is the only true and living God.

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