Ezekiel 38 & 39 (Part 2)

Dr. Thomas Ice

And the word of the Lordcame to me saying, "Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog,the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him."

 -Ezekiel 38:1-2

   "This was thefinal message in this series of six night oracles delivered by Ezekiel," notesRalph Alexander. "A centralconcern throughout all these night messages had been the possession of the landof Israel." "This series of nightoracles was given to encourage the exiles that ultimately God would removethese invaders and restore this land to Israel."[1] A wonderful message indeed to whichthose who love Israel still look forward to today!

    This prophecy isdivided into two major sections. In the first section Ezekiel reveals the invasion by Gog with his allies(38:1-16). The second sectionreveals to us God's judgment that will befall Gog and his associates (38:17-39:16). This great prophecy begins with Ezekielnoting that it was not his idea to deal with the matter of Gog's invasion ofIsrael instead it was God who imitated and communicated this prophecy throughverbal revelation, "the word of the Lordcame to me saying."

Son Of Man

   Ezekiel is called"son of man" throughout the book. "Son of man" is used 93 times in Ezekiel to refer to the prophet, withthe first use found in 2:1. Why isEzekiel so often addressed by God as "son of man" when he is about to receiverevelation from the Lord? Itappears that "son of man" underscores his humanity in relation to God. In other words, God is the One who isthe Revealer while Ezekiel, as a human, is the recipient of the Divine messagethat he is to pass on to other human beings. Thus, Ezekiel is passing on to us the infallible prophecy ofthese two chapters, which will surly come to pass.

Set Your Face TowardGog

   Ezekiel is toldto set his face "toward" or "against" Gog. The Brown, Driver, and Briggs (BDB) Hebrew Lexicon says, theHebrew word translated "toward" is a preposition that denotes "motion to or direction towards (whether physical ormental)."[2] BDB also tells us that when "the motion or direction implied appears from thecontext to be of a hostile character," then it has a negative connotation andwould be translated "against." Ezekiel is told to turn his face in the direction of the nation Gog,because the Lord is against him. Later in the sentence the text says for Ezekiel to "prophesy againsthim," that is Gog. The sense ofthis passage is that God is initiating the attack by Gog against Israel and theLord is against or opposed to Gog and his allies. But just who is Gog? The identification of Gog has been a greatly debated issue.

   TheHebrew proper noun "Gog" occurs 12 times in the Hebrew Old Testament.[3] All but one use occurs in Ezekiel 38and 39 (Ezek. 8:2, 3, 14, 16, 18; 39:1 [2x], 11 [3x], 15). The only non-Ezekiel occurrence is in 1Chronicles 5:4 and says, "The sons of Joel were Shemaiah his son, Gog his son,Shimei his son." Other thandemonstrating it was a real, proper name, the 1 Chronicles referencecontributes nothing to our study of its use in Ezekiel and is not related tothe Gog of Ezekiel's prophecy. Whoever he is, Gog appears in this context to be a person, leader andruler that God has told Ezekiel to prophesy against. Because of the frequent use of Gog in this passage, "weconclude, therefore, that Gog is the most important person or nation in thiscoalition,"[4]declare Mark Hitchcock.

   Thepassage says that Gog is from the land of Magog. Some have said that Gog is a reference to the Antichrist. Charles Feinberg is right when he says,"but for this there is not a shred of biblical or nonbiblical evidence."[5] Some have suggested that Gog is a name"arbitrarily derived from the name of the country, Magog, but this is not validbecause Gog appears in 1 Chronicles 5:4."[6] "The name Gog means 'high, supreme, aheight, or a high mountain.'"[7] The only references to the Gog ofEzekiel's prophecy appear in the passage itself and there is virtually noinformation about Gog outside the Bible in history. However, when Gog leads his invasion of Israel he is said tocome "from the remote parts of the north" (Ezek. 38:6). Louis Bauman tells us that "L. Sale-Harrisonsays in his booklet, The Coming Great Northern Confederacy: 'It is interesting to note that thevery word 'Caucasus' means 'Gog's Fort.' 'Gog' and 'Chasan' (Fort) are two Oriental words from which it isderived.'"[8] So there does appear to be a faintreference to Gog in the general area of Russia that Gog is likely to be from.

   Whothen is Gog? Bauman says, "Withoutdoubt, Russia will furnish the man-not the Antichrist-who will head up that which is knownto most Bible students as 'the great northeastern confederacy' of nations andlead it to its doom upon the hills of Israel's land."[9] Hitchcock believes "the reason Gog issingled out eleven times by God in these two chapters is because God is thegeneral over this coalition of nations in its great military campaign againstIsrael."[10] Hal Lindsey tells us, "Gog is thesymbolic name of the nation's leader and Magog is his land. He is also the prince of the ancientpeople who were called Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal."[11] Arnold Fruchtenbaum informs us: "WhoGog will be can only be determined at the time of the invasion, for 'Gog' isnot a proper name but a title for the rule of Magog, just as the terms'pharaoh,' 'kaiser,' and 'czar' were titles for rulers and not proper names."[12]

   The LandOf Magog

   Gogthe leader of the invasion of the land of Israel is said to be "of the land ofMagog." The proper noun Magog isused four times in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament.[13] Magog is used twice in the passage weare investigating (38:2; 39:6) and twice in genealogies (Gen. 10:2; 1 Chron.1:5). Genesis 10:2 says, "The sonsof Japheth were Gomer and Magog and Madai and Javan and Tubal and Meshech andTiras." 1 Chronicles 1:5 isbasically a repeat of the genealogical information from Genesis 10:2. The fact that Magog is used in thetable of nations (Genesis 10)[14]provides a basis for tracing the movement of one of the earliest post-flooddescendants of Noah.

   Itappears that Ezekiel is using the names of peoples, primarily from the table ofnations, and where they lived at the time of the giving of this prophecy in thesixth century b.c. Therefore, if we are able to find outwhere these people and places were in the sixth century b.c. then we will be able to trace figure out who would betheir modern antecedents today. Ibelieve we will be able to accomplish this task and be able to know who will beinvolved in this battle if it were to come to pass in our own day.

   Itis probably fair to say that most scholars and experts would trace Magog'sdescendants to the ancient people that we know as the Scythians. Chuck Missler notes that a widecollection of ancient historians "identified Magog with the Scythians andsouthern Russia in the 7th century b.c."[15] These ancients include: Hesiod,Josephus, Philo, and Herodotus.[16]Josephus lived in the first century a.d.and said, "Magog founded the Magogians, thus named after him but who by theGreeks are called Scythians."[17] Bauman tells us that Magog and hisdescendants must have immigrated north after the Flood and that "the Magogiteswere divided into two distinct races, one Japhetic, or European, and the otherTuranian, or Asiatic."[18]

   Who are theScythians? Edwin Yamauchi tells usthat the Scythians were divided into two groups, a narrow and broadgrouping. "In the narrow sense,the Scythians were the tribes who lived in the area which Herodotus designatedas Scythia (i.e., the territory north of the Black Sea)," notes Yamauchi. "In the broad sense the word Scythiancan designate some of the many other tribes in the vast steppes of Russia,stretching from the Ukraine in the west to the region of Siberia in the east."[19]

(ToBe Continued . . .)



[1] Ralph Alexander, Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press, 1976), p. 118.

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

[3] Based upon a search conducted by the computerprogram Accordance, version6.4.

[4] Mark Hitchcock, After The Empire: BibleProphecy in Light of the Fall of the Soviet Union (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1994), p.16.

[5] Charles Lee Feinberg, The Prophecy of Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), p. 220.

[6] Feinberg, Ezekiel, p. 220.

[7] Hitchcock, After The Empire, p. 17

[8] Louis S. Bauman, Russian Events in the Lightof Bible Prophecy (New York:Fleming H. Revell, 1942), p. 23.

[9] Bauman, Russian Events, p. 26.

[10] Hitchcock, After The Empire, p. 17

[11] Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970),p. 63.

[12] Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps of the Messiah:A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events (Tustin, CA: Ariel Press, [1982] 2003), p. 106.

[13] Based upon a search conducted by the computerprogram Accordance, version6.4.

[14] The table of nations is a term used for therecords of the descendants Noah and his three sons: Ham, Shem and Japheth. Every human being on planet earth is adescendant of Noah and his three sons. If we could trace our genealogies far enough back we would find that weall descend from Noah through either Ham, Shem or Japheth.

[15] Chuck Missler, The Magog Invasion (Palos Verdes, CA: Western Front, 1995), p. 29.

[16] Missler, Magog Invasion, pp. 29-31.

[17] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, vol. 1, vi, i as cited in Hitchcock, AfterThe Empire, p. 19.

[18] Bauman, Russian Events, p. 23.

[19] Edwin M. Yamauchi, Foes from the NorthernFrontier (Grand Rapids: Baker,1982), p. 62