Ezekiel 38 & 39 (Part 11)

Dr. Thomas Ice

Beprepared, and prepare yourself, you and all your companies that are assembledabout you, and be a guard for them. After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will comeinto the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have beengathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been acontinual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they areliving securely, all of them.


The first sixverses of Ezekiel's prophecy in chapter 38 outlined "who" would be involved inan invasion of Israel, while verses 7-9 tell us "where" and "when" these eventswill take place. This new section(verses 7-9) begins with a taunt from God for Gog and his coalition to makesure that they are really ready for their invasion of Israel.

God Taunts Gog

Verse 7 beginswith the same verb used two times, back-to-back. The reason why the verb "prepare" is arranged this way is tointensify their meaning. In otherwords, God is telling Gog and his allies that they better make sure that theyare prepared to the utmost for their attack on Israel, because in essence it isan attack on God, which is something that humans can never really prepare for. "With consummate and telling irony,"notes Charles Feinberg, "Ezekiel urged Gog to be fully prepared for theencounter, and to see to it that all was in readiness as far as hisconfederates were concerned."[1]

The final phraseof verse 7 says, "be a guard for them." The Hebrew noun for "guard" means "watch" or"lookout" and in this context has the connotation of "to maintain vigilance,post a strong watch" and "to stand at the ready."[2] The Lord is further taunting Gog as Hechallenges him, as the leader of the coalition, to make sure that he guards orwatches over this assembled company so that he may protect them against anyevil that could befall them. Thisis a sarcastic warning to Gog and his group that even though their gathering isfor the purpose of wiping out Israel, it is their company that will bedestroyed.

After ManyDays

The sovereigntyof God continues to be a major theme of this prophecy as Ezekiel begins verse 8by saying, "After many days you will be summoned." This entire operation is ultimately God's idea and He will"put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out," (verse 4) againstIsrael. Now Ezekiel says that Godis summoning Gog and his coalition to attack Israel to accomplish the Lord'spurpose. "The mind of man planshis way, but the Lord directs hissteps" (Prov. 16:9).

The exact Hebrewphrase "after many days" is found only one other place in the OldTestament. "Now it came aboutafter many days, when the Lord hadgiven rest to Israel from all their enemies on every side, and Joshua was old,advanced in years," (Josh. 23:1). Since context governs the length of time intended for a temporal phrase,it is clear in Joshua that many days referred to a few years because "manydays" all took place within the lifetime of Joshua. A similar Hebrew phrase is used four times in the OldTestament (1 Kings 18:1; Eccl. 11:1; Isa. 24:22; Jer. 13:6). Three of these four occurrences aresimilar to the Joshua 23:1 uses, however, Isaiah 24:22 is used in aneschatological context. "So itwill happen in that day, that the Lordwill punish the host of heaven, on high, and the kings of the earth, onearth. And they will be gatheredtogether like prisoners in the dungeon, and will be confined in prison; andafter many days they will be punished. Then the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed, for the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zionand in Jerusalem, and His glory will be before His elders" (Isa.24:21-23). C. F. Keil, writing inthe nineteenth century says, "The first clause reminds so strongly of Isa.xxiv. 22, that the play upon this passage cannot possibly be mistaken; so thatEzekiel uses the words in the same sense as Isaiah."[3] This context is clearly referencingsomething that is future and has not yet occurred. "After many days" in verse 22 is likely a reference to thethousand-year time period revealed in Revelation 20:2-7.

The length oftime indicated by the phrase "after many days" is determined by factors in thecontext, which are clearly longer than the lifespan of a human. We will soon see as I examine the othertime statements in this context that "the text is emphatic that the invasionand its consequences have been foreseen long before."[4] Keil says, "after many days, i.e.,after a long time . . . signifies merely the lapse of a lengthened period; . .. is the end of day, the last time, not the future generally, but the finalfuture, the Messianic time of the completing of the kingdom of God."[5] Feinberg declares, "the notion of timeindicated that the attack of the enemy would not take place for a longtime. The events here predictedwere not to be expected in the lifetime of Ezekiel or his contemporaries."[6]

In The Latter Years

"After many days"is not the only time indicator of when this invasion will take place. "After many days" is immediatelyfollowed in the Hebrew text by the phrase "in the latter years." These two phrases must refer to thesame time period. Like theprevious phrase, since it is not qualified by something like the latter yearsof a person's life, etc., it is an absolute phrase referring to the span ofhistory. An almost identicalphrase is used in verse 16 and says, "It will come about in the last day that Ishall bring you against My land." The term "latter years" is only used in this passage in the entire OldTestament, however, since "last days" is used in verse 16 describing the sameevent, it is safe to conclude that the more frequently used phrase "last days"is synonymous with "latter years." Such a conclusion is supported by the fact that "after many days" and"in the latter years" are used in tandem in verse 8. Feinberg says, "the time element was distinctly stated as'in the latter years,' which is equivalent to 'the latter days' of verse 16."[7]

When we searchthe Old Testament for the use of terminology similar to "the latter years" ofEzekiel 38:8 we find three other phrases that are parallel.[8] I have selected only the uses of thesethree phrases that have a future, prophetic meaning. The first term is "latter days" (Deut. 4:30; 31:29; Jer.30:24; 48:47; Dan. 2:28; 10:14), the second is "last days" (Isa. 2:2; Jer.23:20; 49:39; Eze. 38:16; Hosea 3:5; Mic. 4:1), while the final phrase is "the time of the end" (Dan. 8:17, 19;11:27, 35, 40; 12:4, 9, 13). Thefact that Ezekiel uses three phrases ("after many days," "in the latter years,"and "in the last days) provides strong support that this battle will take placeduring a yet future time. RandallPrice tells us, "while the expression "latter days" may refer to theTribulation period, it is not a technical term for such, since its contextualsettings and varieties of usages allow it to be employed in different ways."[9] Thus, references to the latter daysphrases include the 70th week of Daniel or the tribulation period,the millennial kingdom and could also include some events that might take placeshortly before the tribulation, like the Gog and Magog invasion. Mark Hitchcock notes, "These phrasesare used a total of fifteen times in the Old Testament. They are always used to refer to eitherthe Tribulation period (Deut. 4:30; 31:29) or the Millennium (Isa. 2:2; Mic.4:1). While these phrases do notspecifically identify the time of the invasion, they do clearly indicate thatthe general time period is future even from our day."[10]

Restored From TheSword

The next phrasetells us, "you will come into the land that is restored from the sword." The land into which Gog will lead hiscoalition of invaders is without a doubt the land of Israel. Interestingly the land of Israel isdescribed as a land that has been restored from the sword. The Hebrew word for "restored" is thecommon word meaning "to turn around" or "repent."[11] Therefore, the sense in which "repent"is used here is of a people who once were in the land of Israel, then they wereremoved from the land, and now they have been brought back to the land fromwhich they originated. Thus, theywere turned or returned to the land of Israel. The Jews are said to be the only group of people in theknown history of the world who were removed from their homeland, dispersedamong most all of the nations, and have returned to their originalhomeland. This explains why myEnglish translation (NASB) renders this Hebrew word with a meaning of restore. In other words, the Jews are returningto their land when this event happened. Maranatha!

(ToBe Continued . . .)



[1] Charles Lee Feinberg, The Prophecy of Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), p. 221.

[2] Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, TheHebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, electronic version (Leiden, The Netherlands:Koninklijke Brill, 2000).

[3] C. F. Keil, Ezekiel, Daniel, Commentary on theOld Testament, trans. JamesMartin (Reprint; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), p. 162.

[4] Jon Mark Ruthven, The Prophecy That Is ShapingHistory: New Research on Ezekiel's Vision of the End (Fairfax, VA: Xulon Press, 2003), p. 123.

[5] Keil, Ezekiel, p. 163.

[6] Feinberg, Ezekiel, p. 221.

[7] Feinberg, Ezekiel, p. 221.

[8] Based upon a search conducted by the computerprogram Accordance, version7.3.

[9] Randall Price, Unpublished Notes on TheProphecies of Ezekiel, (2007), p.40.

[10] Mark Hitchcock, After The Empire: BibleProphecy in Light of the Fall of the Soviet Union (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1994), p.126.

[11] Koehler and Baumgartner, Hebrew Lexicon, electronic version.