As I began to take on this section, I was reminded how far too many times that Bible teachings, in general, have been fraught with tradition, a lack of logic, and bereft of truth. This is what I grew up on. I am not trying to shove some new doctrine down your throats, this should be fairly obvious as I point out the multiple meanings of some word and how a different word fits the context better than what has been the standard religious choice for years.
A brief example of what I am talking about comes out of pulpit rants about Paul’s thorn in the flesh. I have heard this called a physical ailment; bad eyes, and a multitude of other things. While few have ever mentioned the strong possibility that Paul was an angry man with a hair trigger. We see evidence of that anger in his interactions with Barnabas concerning John Mark; a young man who later became valuable to Paul. Passages concerning John Mark are below. And then, there was Paul, confronting Peter face to face over an event that had happened quite probably over 15 years prior, and Paul only received the information second hand (Gal 2:11-13).
So, if I was going to understand who Paul was, and what he was talking about, then I have to consider his education and usage of words. In Acts 23:6 Paul tells us that he too was a Pharisee; the book of Acts (8:1-3,) in speaking about the death of Stephen says that, Saul approved of his murder, and that Saul tried to destroy the church; going from house to house, he dragged out the believers. Acts 12: 25 Tells of the association of Saul/Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark; and how in a relatively short period of time any good feelings they had quickly dissipated as Paul and Barnabas parted company over what Paul perceives as John Mark’s irresponsible actions. This story is detailed in Acts 15:36-39 there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another. Paul informed us in 2 Corinthians 12:7 of his understanding of why his thorn keeps hanging on, when he said, “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, …!” This verse is where this insipid teaching on Paul’s thorn in the flesh comes from.
Paul, the Pharisee, was exquisitely skilled in the law and the prophets, and therefore able to stand his ground against anyone who contended with him when it came to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, when speaking to Jews, he used vernacular that they were accustomed to, and “thorn in the flesh” was one of those subjects. Even in its original form, the phrase had a context. So let’s examine that for a moment.
Numbers 33:55 NASB ‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come about that those whom you let remain of them will become as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they will trouble you in the land in which you live.
The inhabitants of the land of Canaan, were, in this case, what would become the thorns if not taken care of appropriately. Is it possible that the thorns in our life could then be thought of as problems, just as these inhabitants were? Certainly. So, it is easy to see that Paul also had a problem that lingered. If it was anger, as I suspect it was, then it was the very thing that kept him humble. In my own life, anger seems to be my reminder that God is in control, not me.
So, what do I know of Paul so far: That Saul, the Pharisee, was willing to kill for something he thought was a kingdom duty. I also can ascertain that Paul was an orator that knew what he was talking about, and he had a temper.
With that in mind, let’s pursue the next section of Ezekiel, and do it with a non-traditional mind.
Ezekiel 39:14 NASB “They will set apart men who will constantly pass through the land, burying those who were passing through, even those left on the surface of the ground, in order to cleanse it. At the end of seven months, they will make a search.
Set apart is the word bâdal and means to divide (in various senses literally or figuratively, separate, distinguish, differ, select. The word bâdal is used twice in the passage to convey the idea that decision-makers will separate and distinguish among the people those that will specifically take care of the bodies.
Once again, I bring up Dr. Chuck Missler, an engineer who felt strongly that the fire and the effects are nuclear. Dr. Missler, however, would leave you with the urging, you decide as to how you will perceive and deal with this event.
“for the continual duty of going through the land and burying with the travelers the corpses still lying out on the ground.” Here I use the Complete Jewish Bible version as it translates this passage with an added clarity.
Take note of how it says, “and burying with the travelers the corpses still lying on the ground. As you can imagine, ‘a nuclear type weapon, is not particularly selective. In other words, it does not merely kill the enemy; it kills everything within range.
As I remember, there is a circumference of total devastation, and then varying degrees of prolonged death the farther away you get.
Something odd about this, as this burial place is called the travelers’ valley. There is a logical reason for this as it is heavily used for movement in and out of the southern regions of Israel. This is not the valley of Armageddon, that we are accustomed to hearing about. The travelers, in this case, could be mixed with non-combatants. Telling us that there are dead civilians, here in the South East, leaves the door open for us to understand that there was an attack with many fronts. And, this is exactly what we see in Psalm 83.
The usage of the phrase, “ in order to cleanse it,” puts the designated cleaners into another category altogether.
This is talking about Jewish ceremonial cleansing. I will leave you to read the whole of the passage from Numbers; but, take note of how Israel sees these dead bodies.
Numbers 19:11-15 BBE 13) Anyone touching the body of a dead man without making himself clean in this way, makes the House of the Lord unclean; and that man will be cut off from Israel:
Following the law and keeping yourself from not being cut-off from Israel would be a vital thing, especially in the midst of all this chaos.
Ezekiel 39:15 BBE And while they go through the land, if anyone sees a man’s bone, he is to put up a sign by the place till those who are doing the work have put it in the earth in the valley of Hamon-Gog.
“special crews will be appointed to give a proper burial to the bodies of the dead enemies in order for the land to be cleansed. The land would have been defiled by unburied corpses. Those who would come in contact with the corpses out in the open would become ceremonially unclean (according to Num_19:14-16). There will be so many bodies that all kinds of birds will be called in order to help dispose of them (Eze_39:17-20)” LASB
This last statement, “There will be so many bodies that all kinds of birds will be called in order to help dispose of them,” shows up in verse 17, but we also find this same wording in Revelation 19:17-18. The context of the passages in Revelation, is in part, an invitation to the wedding supper of the Lamb. There is a particular gore to that scenario, which I find very unappealing. I was also told recently, that a certain Bible teacher that I admire, claims that what we see coming in Ezekiel 39:17-20 is the exact same battle we see in Revelation 19. Either I did not understand what my friend said, or this teacher is wrong, because, in Ezekiel 38 and 39, we do not Jesus coming as the Messiah, as we do in the Revelation.
“the name of the city will be Hamonah.”
What city are we talking about, and does it really matter? Probably not, but then we, as students of the Bible, should see nothing as insignificant.
Ezekiel 39:16 NASB “And even the name of the city will be Hamonah. So they will cleanse the land.”‘
hămônâh Hebrew word meaning multitude. Considering the numbers of people now dead, it makes sense.
It is anybody’s guess as to which city Ezekiel is speaking of.
I am including a map of the area so you can begin to get a feel for where this Valley of the Travelers would be. The roads come in from the South East and pass above and slightly right of the Dead Sea.
I would not presume this area to be the only place one would find dead bodies after this onslaught, and, as I might have said, nuclear weapons are not very selective. Gog’s armies will cause many to die and so will God’s retaliation.
As a friend of mine pointed out to me after a recent post, that God is in control. Perhaps it is time we learned that.