Ezekiel 38 & 39 (Part 17)

Dr. Thomas Ice


Thus says the Lord God, "Are you the one of whom I spoke informer days through My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in thosedays for many years that I would bring you against them? And it will come about on that day,when Gog comes against the land of Israel," declares the Lord God, "that My fury will mount up in Myanger. And in My zeal and in Myblazing wrath I declare that on that day there will surely be a greatearthquake in the land of Israel."

—Ezekiel 38:17–19

Aswe move into a new section in the prophecy, the Lord once again speaks toEzekiel about God's future victory over Gog and his allies(38:17–23). For the fifthand final time in chapter 38, the prophecy is said to be the word of theLord. "Seven times in Ezekiel38—39 we read the same words, 'Thus says the Lord God' (38:2, 10, 14, 17;39:1, 17, 25)," notes Mark Hitchcock. "Another eight times the refrain, 'declares the Lord God,' appears. Obviously, God doesn't want us to miss thepoint—this is His Word."[1] This prophecy begins with the Lordasking a question to Gog. Thisquestion stems from the previous verse (38:16) and is about how God willsanctify Himself in the eyes of Gog and the nations.

What's The Question?

Itis as if God is taunting Gog with this question that reveals God's absoluteconfidence in the outcome of this encounter. In this section (38:17–23), God answers the questionsof "what" and "how." First, thequestion "what" is answered in verses 17 and 18, while the question of "how" inverses 19 through 23. The questionthat God confronts Gog with is as follows: "Are you the one of whom I spoke informer days through My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in thosedays for many years that I would bring you against them?" The Hebrew grammar causes the reader toexpect an affirmative answer.[2] So where are the other Old Testamentprophecies that the Lord is referring to in this passage? Randall Price answers that question asfollows:

The opening statement ofthis defeat (verse 17) seems to imply a there has been prior prediction inother prophets of Gog's invasion. However, the ambiguity in the expression "are you the one" (even thoughGog is understood from verse 16) spoken of by God in the distant past revealsthat the reference is open to representative "Gogs" whose actions againstIsrael have invited a divine demonstration. Gog's army will be a multi-national force and some of thesenations have had prophecies specifically directed against them by formerIsraelite prophets: Cush/Ethiopia (Isaiah 18:1-7), Arabia (Isaiah21:13-17). However, no directreference to Gog in any of the former prophets is necessary, since all previousinvaders have been types leading to Gog and his allies as the antitype.[3]

TheLord continues the "what" in verse 18 in relation to Gog's invasion of the landof Israel, by noting that His "fury will mount up in My anger." The Lord uses three Hebrew words todescribe His reaction to Gog's invasion of the land of Israel. In the order in which they appear inthe Hebrew text, the first word is the common verb 'alah,which occurs over 1,200 times in the Hebrew Old Testament[4]and means to "go up, ascend, or climb,"[5]is translated "will mount up."

Second,the Hebrew noun chemah, which means "heat, poison or venom(of animals), rage, wrath,"[6]is translated "fury" in this passage. This word is used 120 times in the Hebrew Bible and most of the usagerelates to human or Divine wrath (110 times).[7] The use of chemahto refer to human wrath only occurs 25 times, while it is used 85 times toreference Divine wrath with the most occurrences found in Ezekiel (31 times).[8] Thus, we see the righteous anger of theLord that builds up and is released as His wrath in history.

Third,the final Hebrew word is the noun 'af,which means "nose, anger, nostrils"[9]is used 155 times in the Hebrew Old Testament[10]and is translated in the passage as "My anger." Hebrew nouns not only occur in the singular and pluralmodes, but also have a dual use. "Whenthe reference is to the nose, the singular form is used, while the dual form isused for either the face or nostrils."[11] Here the Lord's anger is expressed within the dual mode, thus, emphasizing the nostrils, which is seen in some animalswhen they get upset they start breathing through the nostrils like a snortinganger. Then chemahand 'af are grouped together in reference toGod, as occurs here, the expression denotes the strongest kind of anger by Godthat leads to action. Keildescribes this as an "anthropopathetic expression, 'my wrath ascends in mynose,' . . . The outburst of wrathshows itself in the vehement breath which the wrathful man inhales and exhalesthrough his nose."[12] The clear message of the passage isthat God has reached the limit of His patience and He will now spring forth inwrathful action against Gog and his allies.

How It Will Happen?

Thefinal section in chapter 38 (verses 19–23) begins with the Lord revealingHis attitude with which He will defend His people Israel. The first part of verse 19 says, "And inMy zeal and in My blazing wrath . . ." Once again, this phrase contains three important Hebrew wordsdemonstrating that the lexicon was not exhausted in the previous verse when itcomes to describing God's great anger toward Gog and the other invaders. First, the noun translated "zeal" is qinah,which occurs 17 times in the Hebrew Old Testament and it is found the mosttimes in Ezekiel (7 times).[13] The basic meaning is that of "zeal" forsomething (in this case God's zeal for His prized earthly possession Israel)and the "jealousy" and "wrath" that is exhibited when another attempts to movein and take away that possession.[14] We gain insight into the Lord'sattitude toward His people and His land—the land of Israel—twochapters earlier in Ezekiel that reads as follows:

Therefore, thus says theLord God, "Surely in the fire ofMy jealousy I have spoken against the rest of the nations, andagainst all Edom, who appropriated My land for themselves as a possession withwholehearted joy and with scorn of soul, to drive it out for a prey." Therefore, prophesy concerning the landof Israel, and say to the mountains and to the hills, to the ravines and to thevalleys, "Thus says the Lord God,'Behold, I have spoken in My jealousy and in My wrathbecause you have endured the insults of the nations.'" (Ezek. 36:5–6,italics added)

Thesame jealousy that God expressed in chapter 36 is carried into 38:19 concerningthe wife of Jehovah—Israel. "God'spatience would be exhausted with the repeated attempts of Israel's enemies toannihilate her," declares Charles Feinberg. "The Lord Himself will undertake the destruction of Israel'senemies, choosing to use no secondary agent, for this is to be a final andirrecoverable judgment."[15]

Thesecond noun we find in this passage is the Hebrew word 'esh,which means "fire" and in this verse is translated as "blazing."[16] The third word in the Hebrew text is 'evra,which is translated "wrath"[17]in verse 19 and in construct relationship to blazing. Taken together they produce the strongest possible statementabout the wrath of God—it is blazing, it is on fire. "These words express theintensity of God's display of vengeance against the invaders of His Land ('Mymountains,' 38:21)."[18]

Sowhat does the burning zeal of the Lord cause Him to declare? God will "declare that on that daythere will surely be a great earthquake in the land of Israel." "That day" refers to the day in whichGog and his gang will invade the land of Israel. Then God will counterstrike the outsiders by inflicting agreat earthquake upon the land of Israel. Price tells us:

According to verses 19b-21a divinely appointed earthquake will be so severe as to disorient Gog'smulti-national forces and cause them in the confusion to fight each other. Theearthquake will apparently set off volcanic deposits in the region, bringingdown on Gog's army a hail of molten rock and burning sulfur (volcanic ash) withthe result that the enemy troops are utterly destroyed before they can strike ablow against Israel (verse 22).[19]

Maranatha!

(ToBe Continued . . .)

ENDNOTES

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[1] Mark Hitchcock, After The Empire: Bible Prophecy in Light of the Fall ofthe Soviet Union (Wheaton, IL:Tyndale House Publishers 1994), p. 174.



[2] C. F. Keil, Ezekiel, Daniel, Commentary on theOld Testament, trans. JamesMartin (Reprint; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), p. 168.



[3] Randall Price, Unpublished Notes on TheProphecies of Ezekiel, (2007), p.42.



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



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



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



[7] G. Johannes Botterweck, & Helmer Ringgren,editors, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, vol. IV (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), p. 462.



[8] Botterweck & Ringgren, TheologicalDictionary, vol. IV, p. 464.



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



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



[11] Willem A. VanGemeren, gen. editor, NewInternational Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, 5 vols., (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), vol.1, p. 463.



[12] Keil, Ezekiel, p. 169.



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



[14] Definition derived from Koehler and Baumgartner, HebrewLexicon, electronic version.



[15] Charles Lee Feinberg, The Prophecy of Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), p. 225.



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



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



[18] Randall Price, "Ezekiel" in Tim LaHaye & EdHindson, editors, The Popular Bible Prophecy Commentary (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2007), p.193.



[19] Price, Unpublished Notes on Ezekiel, p. 42.