Ezekiel 38 & 39 (Part 16)

Dr. Thomas Ice


"Sheba, and Dedan, and themerchants of Tarshish, with all its villages, will say to you, 'Have you cometo capture spoil? Have youassembled your company to seize plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to takeaway cattle and goods, to capture great spoil?' Therefore, prophesy, son of man, and say to Gog, 'Thus saysthe Lord God, "On that day when Mypeople Israel are living securely, will you not know it? And you will come from your place outof the remote parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of themriding on horses, a great assembly and a mighty army; and you will come upagainst My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land. It will come about inthe last days that I shall bring you against My land, in order that the nationsmay know Me when I shall be sanctified through you before their eyes, O Gog."'

—Ezekiel38:13–16

Itappears that Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish are clearly atrading community that is not involved in the invasion and from the sidelinesask the motives of the invaders. "Have you come to capture spoil?" "Have you assembled your company to seize plunder, to carry away silverand gold, to take away cattle and goods, to capture great spoil?" Even though these are questions, theyalso clearly reveal in them the intent of the invaders, which were also statedin verse 12.

Purpose Of The Invaders

Sincemost of the terminology of the invaders is stated in verse 12, it is clear thatthe human motive of the invaders is to steal the wealth of Israel. Many expositors have speculated overthe years what it is about Israel that the invaders have their eye on. Some have said that it is the mineralwealth of the Dead Sea, which is the richest on earth. However, as Arnold Fruchtenbaum notes,"Russia could also obtain the Dead Sea by invading Jordan."[1] Whatever the specifics, the cumulativedescription of verses 12 and 13 make it clear that Israel has wealth and theyinvade her in order to gain that wealth.

Thereis no doubt that Israel is by far the richest country in the region. Today she has developed a productiveeconomy via research and development in the area of technology. Also, she is perhaps the mostproductive country per capita in the world agriculturally. Israel has long controlled the diamondbusiness and is the world leader in generic pharmaceuticals. Wikipedia says, "Israel is considered one of the most advanced countries in the Southwest Asia in economic andindustrial development. . . . Ithas the second-largest number of startup companies in the world (afterthe United States) and the largest number of NASDAQ-listed companies outside North America."[2] Regardless of thespecific enticements, this passage is clear that Israel is invaded for thepurpose of stealing her wealth.

Prophecy Against Gog

Anew section begins with verses 14–16. "Son of man" is a common term used 93 times by God in thisbook to refer to Ezekiel.[3] As C. F. Keil says, it "denotes manaccording to his natural condition . . . denoting the weakness and fragility ofman in opposition to God."[4] The rest of this verse is a repeat ofphrases already analyzed, except the last one: "will you not know it?" This phrase in the English translatestwo Hebrew words. The word for"not" appears at the beginning of the phrase "On that day when My people . .." Even though "not" appears inthe middle of the passage, it relates grammatically to and negates the finalword in the verse, which is the Hebrew verb "to know." Keil rightly explains: "thou wilt know,or perceive, sc. that Israel dwells securely, notexpecting any hostile invasion."[5] Rabbi Fisch echoes Keil and says, "thestate of Israel's peace and confidence which has led to his unpreparedness, sothat thou wilt choose him for thy victim."[6] Charles Feinberg notes Israel's"imagined security" and says, "The question is doubtless a rhetorical one. The Lord knew full well that Gog willhave already acquainted himself with the fact of Israel's political condition inorder to be sure of his attack."[7]

TheLord continues to speak to Gog and says, "you will come from your place." Where is Gog's place? Gog's place is said, as in verse 6, tobe "the remote parts of the north." This phrase was dealt with in verse 6 and is the exact same Hebrewexpression in both places, except verse 15 has the prepositional stem "from,"while it is implied in verse 6. This phrase will also be used again in 39:2. So three times the text emphasizes that Gog will come fromthe remotest parts of the North. "It is intriguing that a tribe of 'Mescherians,' whose territoryincluded the area of the modern city of Moscow," observes Jon Ruthven, "thecapital of the traditional 'Rus',' lies due north of Israel."[8] If one draws a line from Jerusalemnorth to the North Pole, it will come very close to modern Moscow. In fact, the only possible country thatis to the extreme north of Israel is Russia. The country of Russia begins north of the Black Sea inSouthern Russia and is the only country north of the Black Sea. Since we do not have many choices, oneout of one, it is clear that Gog is Russia, which fits the other informationgleaned thus far from Ezekiel 38.

Therest of verse 15 speaks of the fact that Gog will come with a huge army,including many allies with her. Ihave dealt with this terminology already in earlier verses in the passage.

Why Me Lord?

Verse16 concludes the section in which God explains "why" He will sovereignly workin history to bring about Gog's invasion of Israel. This verse makes it clear that the Lord God of Israel seesthe Gog lead invasion as a direct attack upon Him. Gog will "come up against My peopleIsrael;" "I shall bring you against My land;"and "that the nations may know Me" (italicsadded). Gog will descend uponGod's real estate "like a cloud to cover the land." Charles Dyer suggests, "This awesome army will overrun allobstacles as effortlessly as a cloud sailing across the sky."[9] This is true, until God decides tointervene on behalf of His people and land.

Regardlessof what the world thinks and the news media will say about Israel in that day,the Lord God says that that the people who will be invaded are "My peopleIsrael." As Paul says of Israel inthe New Testament, "God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew" (Rom.11:2). On what basis can Paul saythis? He can say it because "thegifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (Rom. 11:28). Yet, too many in our day suffer underthe false illusion of replacement theology that God has replace "My peopleIsrael" with the church. It istrue that the church made up of elect Jews and Gentiles during the current ageare also the people of God. However, God is not finished with national or ethnic Israel and willfocus upon them after the rapture.

TheLord also calls the land of Israel "My land." In other words, His people Israel are living in His land,which is also called Israel, in the last days when Gog and his hordes come downto attack them. Thus, this passagemakes it very clear that an attack on God's people and land is an attack uponGod Himself. This is why, eventhough Israel is not ready for this attack God will step in to defend her. Why will He defend His people and land? He will defend them "in order that thenations may know Me when I shall be sanctified through you before their eyes, OGog" (38:16).

Thissection concludes with God's purpose, which is the ultimate and overridingpurpose, for bringing Gog against His people "in the lastdays" (38:14). Gog's purposefrom the human perspective was noted earlier (38:10–13), but the utmostpurpose is to teach the nations to acknowledge the Lord. They would do this when God used Gog todemonstrate His holiness before them as the whole world watches. God will mobilize Gog as He had raisedup Pharaoh at the Exodus to demonstrate His power and holiness when Hesubsequently puts him down. "Though the purpose of Gog's campaign is said to be lust for destructionand spoil," declares Fisch, "it is an act designed inGod's wisdom to bring mankind to the realization that He is King of theuniverse."[10] Thus, God's intent through all of thisis to demonstrate who He is and what He values in this world. He is a holy God who has given Israelher land and He knows how to protect His people. O, that we would all learn this lesson. Maranatha!

(ToBe Continued . . .)

ENDNOTES

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[1] Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps of the Messiah:A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events (Tustin, CA: Ariel Press, [1982] 2003), p. 111.



[2] Wikipedia, accessed May13, 2008.



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



[4] C. F. Keil, Ezekiel, Daniel, Commentary on theOld Testament, trans. JamesMartin (Reprint; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), p. 47.



[5] Keil, Ezekiel, p. 167.



[6] S. Fisch, Ezekiel: Hebrew Text & Englishtranslation with an Introduction and Commentary (London: The Soncino Press, 1950), p. 256.



[7] Charles Lee Feinberg, The Prophecy of Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), p. 224.



[8] Jon Mark Ruthven, The Prophecy That Is ShapingHistory: New Research on Ezekiel's Vision of the End (Fairfax, VA: Xulon Press, 2003), p. 39.



[9] Charles H. Dyer, "Ezekiel," in The BibleKnowledge Commentary: Old Testament,ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor Books,1985), p. 1301.



[10] Fisch, Ezekiel, p. 257.