Ezekiel 38 & 39 (Part 12)

Dr. Thomas Ice


Aftermany days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the landthat is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from manynations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but itspeople were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all ofthem.

-Ezekiel38:8

Verse 8 is one ofthe longest verses in Ezekiel 38-39 and describes when this invasion of theland of Israel will take place. There are a total of seven descriptive phrases used in verse 8 to tellus when this event will occur. Wehave already examined the first three and have seen that the invasion will takeplace "after many days," "in the latter years," and when the land of Israel "isrestored from the sword." We mustkeep in mind that this event will unfold when all seven indicators are in placeat the same time.

Fulfilled In The Daysof Esther?

Preterist GaryDeMar proposes a bizarre interpretation of when the invasion of Gog would betake place. He contends that thebattle described in Ezekiel 38-39 has already been fulfilled through the eventsof Esther 9 in about 473 b.c. inthe days of Queen Esther of Persia.[1] DeMar states that the parallels betweenthe battles in Ezekiel 38-39 and Esther are "unmistakable."[2] There are a multitude of problems withsuch a view, the least of which is not the seven phrases provided in Ezekiel38:8. It is not the couple ofsimilarities that are determinative when comparing the prophecy with Esther butthe multitude of differences that render DeMar's view as impossible. The only possible motive for advocatingsuch a view appears to be DeMar's obsessive desire to avoid any future prophecyrelating to the nation of Israel. Such an obsession blinds him to the clear meaning of the text.

Here are a few ofthe more apparent and problematic inconsistencies.

Ezekiel 38-39 Esther9The land of Israel isinvaded (38:16) by multiple armies. The enemies fall on the mountains of Israel (39:4). Gog, the leader of the invasion, isburied in Israel (39:11).

The Jews bury the deadbodies over a period of seven months to cleanse the land of Israel (39:12).

The invaders aredestroyed by a massive earthquake in the land of Israel, infighting, plagues,and fire from heaven (38:19-22). God destroys the enemies supernaturally.

Invaders are from asfar west as ancient Put (modern Libya) (Ezek. 38:5) and as far north asMagog, the land of the Scythians.

God even sends fireupon Magog and those who inhabit the coastlands (39:6).

Jews are attacked incities throughout the Persian empire (127 provinces, 9:30) by apparent gangsof people, not armies, and defend themselves (9:2). The enemies die throughout the Persian empire.

No need to cleanse theland because the dead bodies aren't in Israel.

Attackers are killedby the Jewish people themselves, assisted by local government leaders(9:3-5).

The Persian empire didnot include these areas. It onlyextended as far west as Cush (modern Sudan) (Esther 8:9) and a far north asthe bottom part of the Black and Caspian Seas.

There is nothing evenclose to this in Esther 9.

One importantquestion we might ask at this point is the following: If Ezekiel 38-39 wasliterally fulfilled in the events of Esther 9, why did this escape the noticeof everyone in Esther's day? Whyisn't there any mention in Esther of this great fulfillment of Ezekiel'sprophecy? The answer is quiteclear. Esther 9 did not fulfillEzekiel 38-39. In fact, animportant Jewish holiday developed out of the Esther event called Purim(9:20-32). This is a joyous annualholiday to celebrate God's deliverance from the hand of Israel's enemies. Purim's celebration includes the publicreading of the book of Esther, but no tradition has developed or even beenheard of in which the Jews read Ezekiel 38-39 in connection with thisobservance. If Ezekiel 38-39 hadbeen a fulfillment of Esther, then no doubt a tradition of reading that passagewould have arisen in conjunction with the celebration.

Further, whyaren't there any Jewish scholars down through history that have recognized thisfulfillment? The consensus ofJewish commentators has always seen the Gog prophecy as an end of days event. In fact, this battle is the focus oftheir view of end-times prophecy that will be fulfilled right before the comingof Messiah. Contemporary RabbiRafael Eisenberg summarizes Jewish tradition on the battle of Ezekiel's Gog asfollows:

Our prophets and sages haveforetold that prior to the arrival of the Messiah, the Wicked Empire, Rome(which as we have already shown, is modern Russia), will regain its formergreatness. In those pre-Messianicdays, Russia will expand over and conquer the entire globe, and her ruler, "whowill be as wicked as Haman," will arise and lead the nations of the world toJerusalem in order to exterminate Yisrael. . . . At that time, the overt miracles which will bring about thegreat retribution against Yisrael's enemies and the final destruction of theWicked Empire, will convince the world that God, alone, is the Judge and Rulerof the Universe.[3]

Another simplereason we can know that this invasion is still future is because nothing evenremotely similar to the events in Ezekiel 38-39 have ever occurred in thepast. Just think about it! When has Israel ever been invaded byall these nations listed in Ezekiel 38:1-6? Or when did God ever destroy an invading army like this withfire and brimstone from heaven, plagues, earthquakes, and infighting among theinvaders (Ezek. 38:19-22)?

The answer? Never. That's because Ezekiel is describing an invasion that isstill future even in our day. Nowwe will investigate the final four indicators of verse 8.

GatheredFrom Many Nations

Thefourth phrase says, "whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations tothe mountains of Israel." Thephrase "whose inhabitants have been gathered" is a rendering of the singleHebrew verb for "gather." Thisverb is the common word for collecting something like agricultural products atharvest time. "Gather" is used inthis passage as a pual[4]participle, which implies by ellipsis in this context that the ones gatheredare the "inhabitants" of the mountains of Israel. The implication of the pual participle in this context isthat God is the One who has gathered the inhabitants back to the land ofIsrael. From where has He gatheredthem?

Godhas gathered them from many nations. The word translated "nations" is simply the common Hebrew word am that is used almost 3,000 times[5]in the Old Testament and simply means "people, peoples, nation, or nations."[6] This gathering is not from just a fewnations, but said to be from "many" nations. "This cannot refer to the Babylonian captivity but toworldwide dispersion,"[7]notes Charles Feinberg. C. F. Keilagrees and says, "gathered out of many peoples, points also beyond theBabylonian captivity to the dispersion of Israel in all the world, which didnot take place till the second destruction of Jerusalem."[8] These returnees will come "to themountains of Israel." Jerusalem isa city set within the mountains of Israel. Thus, since 1967 the modern state of Israel has been incontrol of the old city known as Jerusalem.

AContinual Waste

Thefifth phrase says, "which had been a continual waste." What had been a continual waste? This phrase speaks of the land ofIsrael which had been a continual waste." The Hebrew noun for "waste" is used 50 times in the Old Testament,[9]primarily in the prophets to speak of the ruins of Jerusalem, Israel andsometimes Egypt as a result of God's judgment. The adverbial participle "continual" modifies the noun"waste," and speaks "of going on without interruption, continuously."[10] Rabbi Fisch says that "continual" "heresignifies 'for a long time,' meaning the period of the exile."[11] But which exile? Does it refer to the 70 year Babylonianexile or the almost 2,000 year global exile that much of modern Jewry is stillexperiencing? Feinberg says, "Thishad in view a period of time longer than that of the seventy year in Babylon."[12] Keil also notes that "continual" inthis text "denotes a much long devastation of the land than the Chaldeandevastation was."[13]

(ToBe Continued . . .)

ENDNOTES
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[1] Gary DeMar, End Times Fiction: A BiblicalConsideration of The Left Behind Theology (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), pp. 12-15.



[2] DeMar, End Times Fiction, p. 13.



[3] Rafael Eisenberg, A Matter of Return: APenetrating Analysis of Yisrael's Afflictions and Their Alternatives (Jerusalem: Feldheim Publishers, 1980), p. 155,as cited in Randall Price, The Temple and Bible Prophecy: A Definitive Lookat Its Past, Present, and Future(Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2005), p. 459. For an overview of Jewish beliefs about the Gog's invasionof Israel in Ezekiel 38-39 see Price, The Temple and Bible Prophecy, pp. 458-61.



[4] The pual verb stem in Hebrew denotes an intensivepassive form of a verb.



[5] Based upon a search conducted by the computerprogram Accordance, version7.4.2.



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



[7] Charles Lee Feinberg, The Prophecy of Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), p. 222.



[8] C. F. Keil, Ezekiel, Daniel, Commentary on theOld Testament, trans. JamesMartin (Reprint; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), p. 164.



[9] Based upon a search conducted by the computerprogram Accordance, version7.4.2.



[10] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs, Hebrewand English Lexicon of the Old Testament (London: Oxford, 1907), electronic edition.



[11] Rabbi Dr. S. Fisch, Ezekiel: Hebrew Text &English Translation With An Introduction and Commentary (London: The Soncino Press, 1950), p. 254.



[12] Feinberg, Ezekiel, p. 222.



[13] Keil, Ezekiel, p. 164.



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