Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentEZEKIEL 38--39
GOG AND MAGOG
It is agreed by all scholars that these two chapters are a single oracle regarding Gog and Magog, only a short paragraph at the end of Ezek. 39 having any reference to anything else.
We are a little embarrassed at the prevailing ignorance of scholars concerning who Gog is and who are the nations associated with him. There are many assertions of how difficult this chapter is, several referring to it as the most difficult in the Old Testament. We are repeatedly told that Gog is unknown, as are most of the other places mentioned in this oracle.
Adam Clarke's comment is typical: "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 people intended by it: but I am satisfied they were well known in the times when the prophet wrote."F1
Our embarrassment comes from the certainty we feel with regard to their identification; but we claim no originality whatever in the knowledge. The Lord has told us exactly who Gog and Magog actually are. After the thousand years reign of Christ has ended, after Satan has been loosed for a little while, prior to the Judgment of the Great Day, Satan will go forth to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war; the number of whom is as the sand of the sea (Revelation 20:7-10).
The New Testament is very specific about this. Gog and Magog are the heathen nations far out on the perimeter of the known world of that era, referred to here as "the uttermost parts of the earth."
And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall come forth to deceive the nations that are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up over the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved City: and fire come down out of heaven and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:7-10).
The identification of Gog and Magog here is certain. They are categorically stated to be the nations that dwell in the four corners of the earth, at the time of the end. The names here mean nothing at all except as symbols of that last company of heathen nations that, under the deception of Satan shall oppose God's people and be destroyed in the great holocaust that shall come at the end of time and the onset of the Day of Judgment.
As Plumptre noted, "All of the nations mentioned in these chapters are depicted as coming from the four quarters of the globe. Persia is from the extreme east; Ethiopia or Cush is from the south; Libya or Put represent the extreme west; and the house of Togarmah was in the extreme north."F2 Tarshish is also mentioned, and that city lay on the southwest coast of Spain on the extreme west. In fact, all of the places here fall into the category of being from the uttermost parts of the earth, or the four-corners of the earth.
The very great number of this host is another mark of its identification. Ezekiel's chapters here mentioned that they were so numerous that it took seven months to bury them and that their weapons left by their sudden death were enough to keep Israel in firewood for seven years! All of this is only another way of saying that, "The number of them was as the sand of the sea."
Notice also the instantaneous manner of the death of this vast host. Ezekiel mentioned no battle, no military engagement at all. God simply liquidated the whole multitude. The Revelation indicated that fire from heaven came down and devoured them. The fire and brimstone are even mentioned in both passages (Rev. 20:10; Ezek. 38:22).
According to the passage in Revelation, the total and final destruction of Satan followed immediately upon the destruction of Gog and Magog. According to our understanding of this, as extensively outlined in my commentary on Revelation (Vol, 12, of the New Testament Series), false religion, called the False Prophet, false and oppressive government, called The Beast, and Satan himself called the Dragon, are all prophesied to be destroyed simultaneously at the end of the Millennium (which is nothing more nor less than the age of the reign of Christ, which has been in progress since the Day of Pentecost).
In Revelation, there are three other symbols under which these ancient enemies of God and his people are depicted. The Great Whore of Rev. 17 is false religion; the scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns upon which the Whore rides is false and oppressive government; and the mighty Dragon which was cast out of heaven, drawing a multitude of stars with his tail, is none other than Satan himself. In the Apocalypse of the apostle John, these enemies are introduced as (1) the Dragon; (2) the scarlet Beast (the Sea Beast); and (3) the Great Harlot, (the Land Beast) (Revelation 12:13); and then the destruction of these continual enemies of God and his people is prophesied in the reverse order of their introduction! The Great Harlot is destroyed in Rev. 17--18; the Sea Beast, false and oppressive government was destroyed in Rev. 19; and Satan, the Old Serpent, the Dragon, the Accuser, the devil, met his doom in Rev. 20, his very last act, as depicted in these two chapters of Ezekiel, being an assault upon the people of God.
In analyzing what Ezekiel has here written about it, we must remember that there were many things, when Ezekiel received this prophecy, that God had not yet revealed. Ezekiel knew nothing about the New Israel that would replace the Old Israel, nor the New Jerusalem that in the future would be the true "Mother of all God's people" (Galatians 4:26), nor of the final apostasy of even the New Israel and of all mankind that would motivate God's leading Gog and Magog, under Satan, to attack God's sinful Israel, an attack that would precipitate the final end of the Christian dispensation. However, nothing that Ezekiel here wrote is in the slightest disagreement with any of this.
GOG'S PREPARATION TO ATTACK ISRAEL (Ezekiel 38:1-9)
And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal: and I will turn thee about, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in full armor, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them handling swords; Persia, Cush, and Put with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer, and all his hordes; the house of Togarmah in the uttermost parts of the north, and all his hordes; even many peoples with thee.
The personification of Gog here as the leader of all those terminal nations of mankind suggests his identification with Satan, in the same way that Jesus said to Peter, on an occasion, "Get thee behind me, Satan." Also, back in Ezek. 28, Ezekiel referred to Satan as the "king of Tyre," despite the ruling monarch's identification as a human being. Certainly the whole campaign of Gog was instigated and motivated by the Evil One.
Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal
(Ezekiel 38:2). There is no evidence that a country named Rosh ever existed.F3 This is no problem at all. We believe all of these place-names are symbolical representatives of the the terminal nations of the human race at a time just prior to the Eternal Judgment; and it would appear that the true names of those nations at that time are not known to any one. The names of them, after all, are of no importance whatever.
Plumptre is one of very few scholars whom we have consulted who referred us to Rev. 20:8 as the place to seek light on this chapter.F4
Beasley-Murray thought the time of this uprising and overthrow of God was "just prior to the Millennium";F5 but this cannot be true because the Lord has revealed that it will be after the thousand years reign of Christ (Revelation 20:7). On the contrary, it will occur as the terminal action of Satan's opposition to God and just prior to his overthrow in hell.
Keil called attention to the fact that, "Ezekiel gives prominence to the leading of God in causing the nations to come against God's people, whereas in Rev. 20:7-10, Satan is mentioned as the seducer of the nations."F6 This is no problem, because in the final hardening of all mankind that will be taking place at that very time, there are three sources of the hardening, (1) the willful sins of the people hardened, (2) God's `giving them up' to a reprobate mind. (3) and the active `blinding' by Satan, `the god of this world.'
Jamieson's comment on this was: "Satan thought to have his own way; but his will was bent by a superior power to turn upon a course that would end in his destruction. Satan, by an overruling providence, was permitted to deceive the nations unto their min."F7 Although none of this appears in Ezekiel's prophecy, the nations whom Satan deceived were by no means blameless but fully deserved the destruction that came upon them.
Feinberg enumerated half a dozen positions which various scholars have taken as to the time of which these chapters in Ezekiel prophesy. But Rev. 20:7-10 clearly places the time just prior to the terminal Judgment of the Great Day. As Keil put it, "It will be in the end of the days, the last time, not the future generally, but the final future, the Messianic time of the completion of God's kingdom."F8
This mighty onslaught against the people of God will occur "after many years" at a time long, long after the return of racial Israel to Canaan, after their final hardening, after their rejection of the Saviour, after the formation of the New Israel, and after God's judgment and scattering of racial Israel a final time, and after the progressive hardening, blinding, and apostasy even of . the New Israel; and in that time of which Jesus asked, "When the Son of man cometh shall he find faith on the earth (Luke 18:8)?" At that time Gog inspired by Satan would make the final move against God.
Be thou prepared, yea, prepare thyself, thou, and all thy companies that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them. After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, that is gathered out of many peoples, upon the mountains of Israel, which have been a continual waste; but it is brought forth out of the peoples, and they shall dwell securely, all of them. And thou shalt ascend, thou shalt come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy hordes, and many peoples with thee.
Thou shalt come into the land
(Ezekiel 38:18) This speaks of the time when Satan shall enter the land itself, arriving like a great storm cloud and covering the whole land (Ezekiel 38:9). This will not happen soon.
After many days. in the latter years ..
(Ezekiel 38:8). It will be at the time spoken of a few paragraphs above, when the complacency, indifference, unbelief and apostasy of the New Israel shall give Satan the opportunity to enter the holy Church itself. Gog (in whom Satan dwelt) is said to enter the land, which in the language of Ezekiel, meant God's people. Note the land was covered, an indication that the true faith was almost extinguished. That was the appropriate time for The End to come; and this prophecy indicates that that is indeed when it will come (Ezekiel 38:16).
Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: It shall come to pass in that day, that things shall come into thy mind, and thou shalt devise an evil device: 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 securely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates; to take the spoil and to take the prey; to turn thy hand against the waste places that are [now] inhabited, and against the people that are gathered out of the nations, that have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the middle of the earth. Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take the spoil? hast thou assembled thy company to take the prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take great spoil? Therefore, son of man, prophesy, and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: In that day when my people Israel dwelleth securely, shalt thou not know it? And thou shalt come from thy place out of the uttermost parts of the north, thou, and many peoples with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company and a mighty army; and thou shalt come up against my people Israel, as a cloud to cover the land: it shall come to pass in the latter days, that I will bring thee against my land, that the nations may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes.
THE MOTIVATION FOR GOG'S ATTACK (Ezekiel 38:10-16)
At this point, we should inquire as to the reason why God desired that Satan through Gog and associates should come up against his people; and the reasons are clear enough as stated in this paragraph. God's people had allowed themselves to become defenseless. They were without walls, gates, bars, or any other means of protection. This has no reference whatever to earthly fortifications. What is meant is that the church has left off the whole armor of God, They have forsaken the holy doctrines of the Church of Christ; worldliness, licentiousness, drunkenness, and the works of the flesh are freely indulged by them. They no longer believe in a personal God; they do not accept the Holy Bible as God's Word; they have accepted a New Morality; they propose to be saved by Faith alone; and they have abandoned doing any work at all in the kingdom of God.
I will go to them that are at rest
(Ezekiel 38:11). Is resting the work of God's church on earth? No! His people are not fighting the good fight of faith; they are not working in the vineyard of the Lord; they are not preaching the gospel to the whole creation; they have forgotten the admonition of the Lord who said, Work for the night is coming when no man can work. On no! They are at rest!
The spoil. silver, gold ... cattle and goods ... the prey ... the great spoil ..
(Ezekiel 38:12-13). Notice the abundant use of this type of terminology in this paragraph. It is not hard to see what has aroused the cupidity, the avarice, and the jealous greed of the heathen. The so-called Christian world is the most affluent, the richest, wealthiest and most blessed of all the inhabited earth; but the Christians have lavished it all upon their own comforts, convenience, and luxurious preferences instead of evangelizing the world with it, as God commanded.
Thus, the three reasons why God announced in this prophecy that he would bring upon them Gog and Magog are: (1) they have forsaken God's Word which alone was their defense; (2) they are doing nothing for God, but merely resting in ease and luxury, and (3) they have grown wealthy and complacent. Anyone who is familiar with the religious picture in America today can hardly miss seeing this.
That dwell in the middle of the earth
(Ezekiel 38:12). The literal Hebrew here has the navel of the earth. The ancients thought that the middle part of the earth was naturally the best part of it. Not merely Israel, but other nations also claimed the same location for their land.
Things shall come into thy mind
(Ezekiel 38:10). We learn in Ezek. 38:12,13 what those evil designs were.F9 Gog would behold the defenseless church, their incomparable wealth, their idleness and complacency in God's service; and he proposed to go into the land (a metaphor for entering the Church), to rob and plunder it; and did he do it!
Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Art thou he of whom I spake in old time by my servants the prophets of Israel, that prophesied in those days for [many] years that I would bring thee against them? And it shall come to pass in that day, when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord Jehovah, that my wrath shall come up into my nostrils. 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; so that the fishes of the sea, and the birds of the heavens, 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. And I will call for a sword against him unto all my mountains, saith the Lord Jehovah: every man's sword shall be against his brother. And with pestilence and with blood will I enter into judgment with him; and I will rain upon him, and upon his hordes, and upon the many peoples that are with him, an overflowing shower, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. And I will magnify myself, and sanctify myself, and I will make myself known in the eyes of many nations; and they shall know that I am Jehovah.
GOD ANNOUNCES THE OVERTHROW OF GOG (Ezekiel 38:17-23)
Art thou he of whom I spoke in old time by my servants the prophets of Israel
(Ezekiel 38:17). Note that this verse teaches that the prophets of Israel spoke, not their own words, but the Word of God.
That prophesied that I would bring thee (Gog) against them (Israel)
(Ezekiel 38:17). Some believe this is a reference to prophecies that may have been lost;F10 but Keil stated that, It is evident enough that there is no reference here to lost prophecies about Gog and Magog, but to general prophecies that are met with throughout the Old Testament.F11 Moses, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets specifically prophesied of the overthrow of Israel in case of their apostasy (Deut. 28); and there are many other examples of God's prophecies to bring the heathen against Israel in case of their disobedience. Among these are the following cited by Alexander: Deut. 30:7; Isa. 26:20-21, and Jer. 30:18-24.F12 Cooke has stated concerning this prophecy of Gog's overthrow that the writer may have been thinking of Zeph. 1:3.F13 Such a comment points up the difference in thinking between the authors of the International Critical Commentary and those of this writer. We believe that God is the one who had Zephaniah in mind here; and it is by no means certain that Ezekiel fully understood exactly what God was saying. The apostle Peter states categorically in 1 Pet. 10-12 that such prophets did not understand the full meaning of their prophecies; and we feel certain this applies especially to Ezekiel in this chapter.
Yes indeed, Zephaniah is a prophecy of the final judgment day; and that passage is supplementary and parallel to this prophecy through Ezekiel in Ezek. 38--39. If there had been any doubt of it, Ezek. 38:17-23 make it obvious.
There shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel
(Ezekiel 38:19). Of course, this refers to an actual earthquake,F14 often referred to in both the Old Testament and the New Testament as an invariable accompaniment of the Final Judgment Day (Revelation 6:12-17).
The fishes. the birds ... the beasts ..
(Ezekiel 38:20). The prophet Zephaniah spoke of the destruction of all of these, along with mankind as a feature of The Day of Jehovah, that is the Great and Final Day of God's judgment of the rebellious and apostate race of Adam (Zephaniah 1:3-5).
The mountains shall be thrown down, etc.
(Ezekiel 38:21). See again the passage in Rev. 6:12-17.
With pestilence and with blood will I enter into judgment with him
(Ezekiel 38:22). This is one of several ways in which God will destroy the whole heathen world (Gog and Magog) at the end of probation for the human family, at which time God will execute his wrath upon evil; and there will be fulfilled and carried out the sentence against Adam and Eve, the parents of all living, which God passed upon them in consequence of their eating of the forbidden tree in Eden. That sentence shall be executed upon Adam and Eve in the same day they sinned, namely, the seventh day of Creation, the day that is still going on and has not ended yet. The sentence shall result in the death of Adam and Eve in the person of their total posterity, the sole exceptions being the redeemed of all ages and dispensations in Jesus Christ.
Every man's sword shall be against his brother
(Ezekiel 38:21). As Cooke noted, This refers to a situation as in a panic, such as that in Judg. 7:22.F15 The panic mentioned there, it will be remembered, resulted in the victory of Gideon over the Midianites.
With pestilence and with blood will I enter into judgment with him
(Ezekiel 38:22). Medical scientists are striving constantly to deliver mankind from the scourge of all kinds of diseases; but, as any medical doctor knows, there are hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of potential diseases, any one of which could develop in epidemic proportions at any time. Back in the middle of this century, Dr. Hans Victor Reisser, writing in An American Doctor's Odyssey, very convincingly stressed this potential development of diseases. As soon as Medical science triumphs over one disease, another suddenly appears, as, for example, in the development of AIDS in our own generation. At the proper time, God will call forth just the correct disease for destroying Gog and Magog.
Hailstones, fire, and brimstone
(Ezekiel 38:22). These also are usually cited in scripture as appearing in connection with the Final Judgment of Adam's race (Revelation 16:20-21).
And I shall make myself known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am Jehovah
(Ezekiel 38:23). This also fits into the Final Judgment scene. See Rev. 6:12-17, where the kings, the princes, the chief captains, the rich and the poor, every bondman and every freeman cried for the rocks and the mountains to fall upon them and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb. Thirty seconds after the onset of the Eternal Judgment Day, there will remain no more in the whole world, either an agnostic or an infidel.
Footnotes for Ezekiel 38
1: Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary on the Bible (New York: T. Mason and G. Lane, 1837), Vol. 5, p. 527.
2: E. H. Plumptre in the Pulpit Commentary, p. 285.
3: RHA, p. 930.
4: E. H. Plumptre in the Pulpit Commentary, p. 283.
5: G. R. Beasley-Murray in the New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 682.
6: Carl Friedrich Keil, Keil-Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) Vol. 2, p. 162.
7: Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary, p. 612.
8: Carl Friedrich Keil, Keil-Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) Vol. 2, p. 163.
9: Ibid., p. 165.
10: Anton T. Pearson in Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), p. 757.
11: Ibid., p. 169.
12: RHA, p. 931.
13: International Critical Commentary, p. 414.
14: J. R. Dummelow's Commentary, p. 516.
15: International Critical Commentary, p. 415.
16: John Skinner in the Expositor's Bible Commentary, p. 379.
17: Carl Friedrich Keil, Keil-Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 174.
18: WE, p. 518.
19: George Barlow, The Preacher's Complete Homiletic Commentary (New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1891), p. 415.
20: Carl Friedrich Keil, Keil-Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 176.
21: Charles Lee Feinberg in Ezekiel (Moody Press), p. 230.
22: E. H. Plumptre in the Pulpit Commentary, p. 305.
23: Anton T. Pearson in Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), p. 757.
24: J. B. Thompson, p. 249.
25: E. H. Plumptre in the Pulpit Commentary, p. 306.
26: Carl Friedrich Keil, Keil-Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 180.