I was asked by my pastor why I study eschatology (end times events.) Ignoring the negativity of a challenge like this, I find that “end times events” are tied in with almost everything I read in scripture. Ezekiel 38 and 39 is such an event, as it speaks of a horrific situation that may happen at any minute.
Try opening a conversation about what you find in Ezekiel 38 and 39 and the eyes of your audience will glaze over and you can watch them begin to look at their watches, wondering if there isn’t somewhere else they need to go. There are reasons behind this lack of interest, and they stem from confusion; a lack of understanding; the inability of the speaker to put flesh and blood on the characters; and, the worst part is that there is a veil over the eyes and ears of the hearer so that they cannot comprehend. Along with those factors, there is a multitude of answers as to who the players are and when this event will take place. Ambiguity plays a role in the disinterest because an honest dissertation of an end-times scenario will typically put you in the ballpark, perhaps even provide the audience with the team name, but at this point, I am not sure we specifically say who the main characters are. Furthermore, two simple sentences can inspire books of commentary. I am going to try and condense but still give you an understanding of this prophecy.
An introduction to Ezekiel:
He was a priest, the son of a priest, and he was taken captive into Babylon. Already, you should be thinking, odds are not in his favor. Ezekiel was one of the few that give us precise dates.
According to Dr. John Gill’s commentary, chapter 38 gives an account of “an enemy of the Jews, under the name of Gog, that shall invade their land, and disturb their peace after they are settled in it;”
J. Vernon McGee, in his commentary, demonstrates some classic old-school thinking as he tells us the theme of Ezekiel 38 is Russia’s invasion of Israel. McGee is making his case for Gog to be Russia.
I happen to think McGee’s assessment is wrong and we should not be focused on the Russian President Putin. You have to keep in mind what was going on in the world that would have inspired the McGee’s particular emphasis on Russia in his commentary. For example, The United States was deeply entrenched in the Korean war; the Vietnam conflict, with the cold war with Russia waiting just around the corner. I too assumed that Russia would be one of the major players (and no doubt they are, but we are trying to think biblically while paying attention to the context.) as we lived with the verified threat of Russian missiles 90 miles off our coast in Cuba – a Russian ally, as children.
The Summarized Bible commentary conveys that “God does not only see those who are now the enemies of His people, but foresees those who will be so in the last days, and lets them know by His Word that He is against them, and will make their movements to serve His own purposes.”
I know, every generation has had those that have said, “we are in the last days,” and I would tell you that they were right.
Now how would I come to the understanding that every generation comprehended that we are in the last days?
Daniel chapter 9, spells out a seventy-week decree against Israel. Sixty-nine of those weeks have been fulfilled. The seventieth week of years (7years) has been on hold for over 2000 years. Therefore, we, the church, have been in the last days for over 2000 years.
Peter, on the day of Pentecost, filled with Holy Spirit, preached to the thousands milling about the streets of Jerusalem that day. An aspect of what Peter said came from Joel chapter 2 which speaks about the time of God’s wrath which the seventieth year portrays. However, within that period, people are acting out in the power of the Holy Spirit as the prophets of old did. Peter said this part of Joel’s prophecy had been fulfilled in your hearing.
What did he say? We are living in the last days.
Since the last days seems to be very focused on the seven-years of wrath, are we, at the moment, living in the seventieth week? No, and that will not come until the church is removed from the earth. 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8
The NASB opens our look into Ezekiel 38 with:
Prophecy Against Gog
Ezekiel 38:1-2 NASB And the word of the LORD came to me saying, 2) “Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him
Note how the passage provided has no appropriate punctuation at the end. That is because the thought continues and we will pursue that shortly. But for the moment let’s dissect the verses.
“Son of man,”
Is there any question as to whom the Lord is talking? The answer is Ezekiel.
“set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him,”
Okay, what just happened? Ezekiel was told to prophesy against two entities:
this person also happens to be the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.
And, the land of Magog;
If Ezekiel is told to prophesy against him, and “him” includes the land, then we should be considering the possibility that this is:
A people group?
A demonic operation that controls a people group?
As I try to understand, I turn my attention to my concordances and look up the word Gog.
BDB Definition: Gog = “mountain” –
A Reubenite, the son of Shemaiah (1 Ch 5:4)
The prophetic prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and Magog (Read Ezekiel 32)
Strong’s concordance merely adds Gog, the name of an Israelite. The KJC keeps us in Ezekiel with one exception:
1 Chronicles 5:1-4 MKJV And the sons of Reuben, the first-born of Israel (for he was the first-born; but since he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel, and the genealogy is not to be counted according to the birthright; 2) For Judah prevailed among his brothers, and from him came the chief ruler, but the birthright was Joseph’s); 3) the sons of Reuben the first-born of Israel: Hanoch, and Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi. 4) The sons of Joel: Shemaiah his son, Gog his son, and Shimei, his son.
The dishonor carried by the family due to Reuben’s indiscretion, which excluded them from any rights of birth, surely plays a role in all of this.
The Word Study Dictionary tells us this about Gog:
He is pictured as a great enemy against God’s people.
Ezekiel 38:9 NASB “You will go up, you will come like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your troops, and many peoples with you.”
He is from the land of Magog or possibly “from the land of Gog.”
Gog. i.e., mountain, in reference to the Caucasus mountains, the chief seat of the Scythian people. Note: Rather, “Gog (the prince) of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.” The Ultimate Cross-Reference Treasury
The Lord sets Himself against Gog (Eze_38:2).
Gog will lead a coalition of nations against God’s people who are then dwelling securely in the land of Israel (Eze_38:14-16).
With the addition of the words, God’s people who are then dwelling securely in …Israel. They have turned this so that we are looking at the church and not Israel, which is incorrect.
But God, in fact, will bring Gog forth and will destroy him and his people.
Ezekiel 39:1-2; Ezekiel 38:19-23
The Lord spoke about this through other prophets (Eze_38:17-18).
Ezekiel 38:17 MKJV So says the Lord Jehovah: Are you he of whom I have spoken in former days, by the hand of My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those days and years that I would bring you against them?
The multitudes of Gog will be buried in the Valley of Hamon Gog, that is, “multitudes of Gog” (Eze_39:11),
Ezekiel 39:11 CJB ” ‘When that day comes, I will give Gog a place there in Isra’el for graves, the Travelers’ Valley, east of the sea; and it will block the travelers’ passage. There they will bury Gog and all his horde, and they will rename it the Valley of Hamon-Gog [horde of Gog].
The Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature informs us that:
They are the name of a mixed race dwelling in the extreme north, comprehended by the Greeks under the name of the Scythians; (2.) to the center and representative of their race, i.e. their king (Ezekiel 38:39). Gog comes forth from the distant north (Eze_38:15-23; Eze_39:2), … And, if you are stickler for history – Interpreters have given very different explanations of the terms Gog and Magog; but they have generally understood them as symbolical expressions for the heathen nations of Asia, or more particularly for the Scythians, a vague knowledge of whom seems to have reached the Jews in Palestine about that period. Thus Josephus (Ant. 1:6, 3) has dropped the Hebrew word Magog, and rendered it by Σκύθαι;
Classic Bible Maps
Of the maps, I looked at to better understand this ancient classic version shows me more and divergent details than any other map, as it points out Gog and Magog, and where they were located. I have also provided a link to Wikipedia which continues to fill in the blanks in understanding and prophecy with highly detailed information about the Scythians. Because of the quantity of information found there, which all seems important, I am only going to suggest that the interested pursue that there. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scythians]
As you read the information, consider where Gog might come from. It may help you to understand more clearly how the Turkish “president” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan might best fill the role of Gog.
Just for the fun of it, I searched the internet to find out if Genghis Khan could have been a Scythian. The Headline read, “Not Just Genghis Khan – Scythians Show Genetic Blending With Europe 2,000 Years Ago.” http://www.science20.com/news_articles/not_just_genghis_khan_scythians_show_genetic_blending_europe_2000_years_ago-96314
Here is was I gather so far.
Gog, from the disinherited family line of Reuben, moves North and becomes a nomadic, mounted, a warring nation known as the Scythians. They ranged into China, Siberia, Egypt, Asia Minor and as far south as the Northern African nations, however, they seem to be centrally located around Turkey and the Caspian Sea. They are heavily influenced and integrated by the surrounding nations such as Persia, Syria, and the Caucasus regions. They conquered Nineveh, the Assyrians, and the Medes. Having relations as violent as Genghis Khan one can assume that slaughter was their general theme. This is the people that God sees as one of Israel’s few remaining thorns in the flesh.