Ezekiel 38 & 39 (Part 13)

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. And you will go up, you willcome like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all yourtroops, and many peoples with you.

—Ezekiel38:8–9

Thefinal two of seven descriptive phrases in verse 8 will now be examined. These phrases provide a framework fordetermining when this invasion will take place.

Gathered From The Nations

Thesixth descriptive phrase of verse 8 says, "but its people were brought out fromthe nations." The disjunctive waw at the beginning of this construction indicates thatthis phrase stands in contrast and is related to the previous phrase: "whoseinhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israelwhich had been a continual waste." The subject "it" "is feminine in the Hebrew, can only refer to theland."[1] The sense is as follows: the land ofIsrael's people (i.e., the Jews). Such a sense provides a strong polemic that the people God believesbelong in the land of Israel are the Jews.

TheHebrew verb yasah is used over athousand times in the Old Testament and means to "come out" or "go forth."[2] However, in this instance it is in thehophal stem, which gives it a causative passive sense and means that the Jewishpeople "were brought out" from the nations by someone other thanthemselves. Who would that"someone" reference? The implicationcan only refer to God as the One who will cause the Jews to be brought back tothe land of Israel. The verb"brought out" in this instance serves to support the overall notion of God'ssovereign control over all nations—Israel and the Gentiles. The Gentiles were noted at thebeginning of verse 8 as they are "summoned" to invade Israel. Israel is emphasized in this phrasesince it is God who is in reality bringing them back to their Promised Land.

Thereare only three Hebrew words in this phrase and it literally says, "but it isbrought forth out of the peoples."[3] Reading this in context, as shouldalways be done with any passage, the "it" refers to the last half of thepreceding phrase "the mountains of Israel which had been a continualwaste." Thus, how can the land ofIsrael be brought back from the peoples or nations? This can only occur if the people are brought back to theland, which explains why most translators add "people" in an effort to clarifythe sense of the Hebrew.

Living Securely

The finalconstruct says, "and they are living securely, all of them." This phrase is also composed of threeHebrew words and completes this long sentence. The verb jasab isused over a thousand times in the Old Testament and has the general meaning of"sit, remain, or dwell."[4] Therefore, it is translated "living" inmany English translations since that is the nuance of what one does when theystay for a period of time on a certain piece of land, as opposed to one who isjust visiting.

The next Hebrewword is the noun betah that istranslated "securely." There hasbeen a lot of discussion about just what this word means in this context. The Hebrew lexicons tell us that thegeneral meaning is "security" or "confidence" and is similar to our Englishword "trust" in range of meaning.[5] It is often used in construct form withthe verb "to dwell," as is the case here and occurs 160 times in the HebrewBible.[6] It is used in Leviticus and Deuteronomyas a promise from the Lord that He will cause the nation to dwell securely inthe Land if they obey his law (Lev. 25:18, 19; 26:5; Deut. 12:10). This term is used throughout thehistorical and prophetic Old Testament books as a comment whether or not Israelis dwelling securely in the land. In fact, this phrase is used in Jeremiah 49:31 in a similar invasioncontext as we see in Ezekiel 38. It says: "'Arise, go up against a nation which is at ease, which livessecurely,' declares the Lord. 'It has no gates or bars; they dwellalone.'" This is how it is used inEzekiel 38:8. "However, quiteoften this general meaning has a negative ring . . . to indicate a falsesecurity."[7] The context supports the false securityconnotation in this instance, because of the impending invasion. On the other hand, since Godmiraculously delivers the nation, maybe it is not misplaced after all.

Somehave tried to equate the notion of "living securely" with the "livingpeacefully." It is said that whatis described in this passage is a situation where Israel is at peace with alltheir neighbors and no one is a treat to them. This is not supported by the word betah or the context. "Nowhere in the entire text does it speak of Israel asliving in peace. Rather, Israel ismerely living in security, which means 'confidence,' regardless of whether itis during a state of war or peace," notes Arnold Fruchtenbaum. "There is nothing in the variousdescriptions of Israel given in this passage that is not true of Israel today."[8]

Thefinal Hebrew word is translated by the English phrase "all of them." To whom does this refer? It can only refer to all of thoseliving securely in the land of Israel. All of those who have returned to the mountains of Israel are dwellingin security. Charles Feinbergconcludes, "Finally, they were viewed as living securely, all of them, withoutfear of invasion or deportation."[9] This sets the stage for the comments inthe next verse where God again addresses God and his invading force.

Gog Goes Up

We see that theaction of verse 9 will take place when the conditions of verse 8 are all inplace. "Just when least expectedand without the slightest warning, the enemy will swoop down on the returnedexiles, as an unheralded storm."[10] The Hebrew verb "go up" is very commonand becomes idiomatic when used in a military context where one goes up tobattle or in reference to the land of Israel, one goes up, regardless of thedirection of one's movement.

A Cloudy Storm

A couple ofsimiles are used to describe how Gog's invasion will take place. The first one "will come like astorm." One Hebrew lexicon saidthat the use of "storm" in this passage "really means 'a storm that breaks outviolently and suddenly.'"[11] Thus, the Gog invasion of Israel willbe suddenly and unexpected like a thunderstorm that gathers quickly and thenunleashes its fury with an outburst that catches many unprepared.

The second similedescribes the extent and vastness of the size of the invading army. The Hebrew verb kassot is only used eleven times in the Hebrew Bible and has theconnotation of not just "to cover," but to cover some thing for the purpose ofconcealing it.[12] So we see that the Gog invading forceswill be so massive in number that their troops will cover the land socompletely that one will not be able to see the land upon which they move.

The final phraseof the verse says, "you and all your troops, and many peoples with you." "You" is a reference to Goghimself. Gog will be coming withall of his troops as described earlier in the chapter. Gog will not be alone, he will with himthe many different people groups as mentioned above as their alliance invadesGod's land of Israel. Rabbi Fischnotes that the same description is used in Jeremiah 4:13, which says, "Behold,he goes up like clouds, and his chariots like the whirlwind; His horses areswifter than eagles. Woe to us, for we are ruined!" Fisch concludes that the Ezekiel passage is "a figure forthe strength and terrifying appearance of Gog's approaching armies."[13] "The land will be covered and smotheredby the vast multitude of Gog's followers, just as a cloud blankets a land belowit," says Feinberg. "Gog will seeto it that he has plenty of allies and enough mercenaries to carry through hissatanic scheme."[14] Israel may be caught off guard but notthe Lord God of Israel Who never sleeps nor slumbers. He is standing guard and will fight for Israel when thisgreat northern invasion suddenly breaks forth in history. After all, the Lord God of Israel isthe one who initiates these yet future events. Maranatha!

(ToBe Continued . . .)

ENDNOTES

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[1] (italics original) Rabbi Dr. S. Fisch, Ezekiel:Hebrew Text & English Translation With An Introduction and Commentary (London: The Soncino Press, 1950), pp.254–55.



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



[3] Fisch, Ezekiel, p. 254.



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



[5] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew Lexicon, electronic edition; and Koehler and Baumgartner,Hebrew Lexicon, electronicversion.



[6] From a search conducted by the computer program Accordance, version 7.4.2.



[7] G. Johannes Botterweck, & Helmer Ringgren,editors, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, vol. II (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), p. 89.



[8] Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps of the Messiah:A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events (Tustin, CA: Ariel Press, [1982] 2003), p. 117.



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



[10] Feinberg, Ezekiel, p. 222.



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



[12] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew Lexicon, electronic edition; and Koehler and Baumgartner,Hebrew Lexicon, electronicversion.



[13] Fisch, Ezekiel, p. 255.



[14] Feinberg, Ezekiel, p. 222.

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