Ezekiel 38 & 39 (Part 20)

Dr. Thomas Ice

"You shall fall on the mountains of Israel, you and allyour troops, and the peoples who are with you; I shall give you as food toevery kind of predatory bird and beast of the field. You will fall on the open field; for it is I who havespoken," declares the Lord God. And I shall send fire upon Magog andthose who inhabit the coastlands in safety; and they will know that I am the Lord."

—Ezekiel 39:4–6

Ezekiel38:8 says Gog and his invaders "will come into the land that is restored fromthe sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to themountains of Israel which had been acontinual waste." Instead, in 39:4God will cause Gog to "fall on the mountains of Israel." Gog intends one thing, but God causes atotally different outcome in His defense of His people Israel.


TheHebrew verb for "fall" is a common word that in this context means to fall inbattle. Since it is usedcorporately of the entire invading force, i.e., "you and all your troops, andthe peoples who are with you," it speaks of their defeat.[1] "Troops" and "peoples" were usedearlier in 38:6. It is clear fromthe previous context that this fall is the result of God's miraculousintervention on behalf of Israel. Arnold Fruchtenbaum describes the mountains of Israel asfollows:

They extend the length ofthe center of the country, beginning at the southern point of the Valley ofJezreel at the town of Jenin in Galilee (biblical Ein Ganim), and continuingsouth until they peter out at a point north of Beersheha in the Negev. These mountains contain the famousbiblical cities of Dothan, Shechem, Samaria, Shiloh, Bethel, Ai, Ramah,Bethlehem, Hebron, Debir, and most importantly, Jerusalem, which seems to bethe goal of the invading army.

Here is another example where the SixDay War has set the stage for the fulfillment of prophecy. Up to the Six Day War in 1967 all ofthe mountains of Israel, except for a small corridor of West Jerusalem, wereentirely in the hands of the Jordanian Arabs. Only since 1967 have the mountains of Israel been in Israel, thussetting the stage for the fulfillment of this prophecy.[2]

SinceGod is the one who will bring down the invading force, He will also use thisoccasion to feed His creation with their flesh. "I shall give you as food to every kind of predatory birdand beast of the field." The verb"give" is used here in the sense of to "set, lay, or place" before one.[3] Here we have "the prophetic perfect"tense of the verb,[4] which means that eventhough the text speaks of a future event, it is best translated as havingalready taken place, i.e., "I have given you." The reason for the prophetic perfect is because when theLord prophesizes something, it is so certain to take place that it is spoken ofas having already taken place, though still in the future. Thus, the Lord will provide Israel'senemies as a meal for the animals and birds as a waiter would set a feast upona table to one to eat. Thereferences to birds and beast describe those who will eat dead meat. The phrase "every kind" modifiesspecifically the reference to birds.[5] Charles Feinberg notes:

Because of the amount ofcarnage, burial will not be the order of the day. The Lord has determined that the carcasses will fall to theravenous birds and beasts. Suchabsence of burial was especially abhorrent in the Near East. This picture in verse 4 anticipateswhat is stated at greater length in verses 17–20.[6]

Verse5 expands upon verse 4 and employs a play-on-words with the use of"field." It is the field where thebeasts are said to roam and that is where the Lord God destroys Gog'sarmies—in the open field. The invaders never make into the population centers in which to mount anattack, instead, they die literally "on the face of the field." This is a Hebrew idiom for the "open"field. They fall on the open fieldsimply because the Lord God of Israel says they will. As in creation, God speaks a word and whatever He commandsoccurs. So it is with the LordGod's word of judgment.

FireUpon The Coastlands

Verse6 says, "And I shall send fire upon Magog and those who inhabit the coastlandsin safety; and they will know that I am the Lord." The Hebrew word for "fire" is the mostcommon noun for "fire," used 376 times in the Old Testament.[7] The verb "send" is in the piel stem,noting intensive action by God. The word "fire" is used in a near context along with "torrential rain,with hailstones, . . . and brimstone" (38:22). Since "fire and brimstone" are used in a similar descriptionin 38:22, it follows that the Lord will use fire and brimstone as He did withSodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24).

Someinterpreters see a nuclear exchange occurring as a means to the fulfillment ofthis prophecy. For example, Bibleteacher Chuck Missler commenting on this verse says, "Some analysts see anintercontinental nuclear exchange possible suggested. With the proliferation of nuclear weapons throughout theworld today, such a prospect is disturbingly likely."[8] The problem I have with seeing anuclear exchange in this passage is that the biblical text clearly emphasizesthat it is God Himself that is bringing the fire from heaven. The passage says, "I shall send fireupon Magog and those who inhabit the coastlands in safety." The passage before us clearly presentsGod Himself as the one sending down fire upon judged invaders. Nowhere does the passage indicate thatthe Lord will use segregates as agents to carry out His judgments. Instead, God has demonstratedthroughout history that He is quite capable of implementing this prophecy byHimself.

Ibelieve that when the Bible says that God or an angel is the one implementing ajudgment, then it must be taken as an indication that indeed God is the onedirectly performing the feat. Ithink that such statements in the Bible would not allow for us to interpretthem as possible reference to human activity like a nuclear war, which would beman vs. man. The first five sealjudgments in Revelation 6 would be an example of God using human agents tocarry out a judgment. However, allof the rest of the seal, trumpet and bowl judgments are said by the biblicaltext to be implemented directly by God, often using angels to carry out thesesupernatural events. This is animportant biblical point: that God is the one doing these things since God isclearly using supernatural means to achieve these ends, just as He did withSodom and Gomorrah, at the Exodus, and will do many times during thetribulation (Rev. 4—19). Thepassage says, "I [God] shall send fire upon Magog and those who inhabit thecoastlands in safety." Therefore,the text clearly says that God is doing this directly and it does not mentionhuman agents. Notice the overallemphasis in the passage as a whole that the Lord is the one acting against Gogand on behalf of Israel (Ezek. 39:1–7). Verse one: "Behold, I am against you, O Gog." Verse two: "I shall turn youaround." Verse three: "I shallstrike your bow from your left hand." Verse four: "I shall give you as food." Verse five: "'for it is I who have spoken,' declares theLord God.'" Verse six: "I shall send fire uponMagog" and "they will know that I am the Lord." Verse seven: " My holy name I shallmake known in the midst of My people Israel; and I shall not let My holy namebe profaned anymore. And thenations will know that I am the Lord,the Holy One in Israel." In otherwords, God performs it so that God will get the notoriety and glory.

Thefire of judgment that the Lord will send upon the coastlands most likely refersto the destruction of Gog's homeland, Magog, and the remotehomelands of his allies (the coastlands, cf. 26:15, 18; 27:3, 6-7, 15, 35), whodwell in safety in these places. The overall lesson will be to teach them that He is God. Some think that this refers to adestruction of all of the coastlands or all nations in the world that dwell insafety. This is unlikely since theentire focus of the passage is upon Gog and his confederacy of invaders. The logic of the Lord in this instanceis that Gog and his allies attack Israel who is "living securely" (38:8), sothe Lord responds with an attack on the invaders homeland where they are saidto be dwelling "in safety," (39:6) or so they thought in their arrogance. Fruchtenbaum says, that the defeat ofGog "will cause Russia to cease being a political force in world affairs."[9] Thus, Israel appeared destined fordestruction in the eyes of the world as a result of a powerful coalition, butthe Lord stepped in and defended Israel and turned the table on the invaders bydestroying their homelands, which they thought to be secure. Maranatha!

(ToBe Continued . . .)



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

[2] (italics original) Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Footstepsof the Messiah: A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events (Tustin, CA: Ariel Press, [1982] 2003), p. 114.

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

[4] Rabbi Dr. S. Fisch, Ezekiel: Hebrew Text &English Translation With An Introduction and Commentary (London: The Soncino Press, 1950), p. 259.

[5] C. F. Keil, Ezekiel, Daniel, Commentary on theOld Testament, trans. JamesMartin (Reprint; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), p. 171.

[6] Charles Lee Feinberg, The Prophecy of Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), p. 229.

[7] Based upon a search conducted by the computerprogram Accordance, 7.4.2.

[8] Chuck Missler, The Magog Invasion (Palos Verdes, CA: Western Front, 1995), p. 179.

[9] Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps, p. 115.