Ezekiel 38 & 39 (Part 6)

Dr. Thomas Ice

"Son of man, set your face towardGog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesyagainst him, and say, Thussays the Lord God, 'Behold, I amagainst you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. And I will turn you about, and puthooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses andhorsemen, all of them splendidly attired, a great company with buckler andshield, all of them wielding swords;'"

-Ezekiel 38:2-4

Now that theparticipants have been identified in verse 2, I now will look at what the Wordof the Lord says about them. Wehave already seen in the first part of the verse that Ezekiel is told to sethis face toward the direction of the coalition nations. Such a statement implies that they area real, historical group of peoples. We learn at the end of verse 2 that Ezekiel is to "prophecy againsthim." The "him" refers back toGog, the leader of the invasion. The Hebrew word for "prophecy" is the usual word and in this contextcarries the notion that Ezekiel will be telling future history about Gog andthe coalition that he will head. The Hebrew preposition "against" tells us that this is not a positiveprophecy benefiting to Gog and his associates. Instead, the prophecy is against Gog because God is opposedto him, as we shall see as the passage unfolds.

God Against Gog

The Lord Godtells Ezekiel to announce that He (God) is against Gog in verse 3. The preposition "against" in verse 3 isdifferent than the one used in verse 2. Here in verse 3 "against" has the idea of motion, thus, the action ofthe prophecy by God is against Gog. The two prepositions are very similar and it would appear that the twoare used to emphasize the obvious fact that God is against Gog. As we will learn later in the passage,Gog may think that he is getting together the coalition to attack Israel, butit is God who ultimately is the cause of this great event (see verses 4,8). God's disposition being setagainst Gog in verses 2 and 3 paves the way nicely for His clear declaration inverse 4.

Hooks Into Your Jaws

The first phrasein verse 4 says, "I will turn you about." The Hebrew word for "turn" is sub. Its basicmeaning is "to move in an opposite direction from that toward which onepreviously moved. . . . turn around, turn."[1] In theological contexts it is theclassic word in the Old Testament for "repent," as used so often byJeremiah. "The verb, with over1,050 occurrences, ranks twelfth in frequency among words in the OT."[2] The sense in which this word is used sooften in the Old Testament has the notion of repentance, as in Israel repentingand turning from their sin to the Lord. This is the same way in which repentance is used by preachers like Johnthe Baptist in the New Testament. In fact, today in Orthodox Judaism when a non-observant Jew begins topractice their religion, this is called "doing subah," or repenting. However, in the context of Ezekiel 38, this use of an intensive form of sub (the polel stem) in relation to Gog does not refer toreligious repentance, but rather to a change in ones plans. "Here and in ch. xxxix. 2," notes C. F.Keil, "it means to lead or bring away from his previous attitude, i.e. to mislead or seduce, in the sense of enticing to adangerous enterprise."[3] What more dangerous enterprise couldthere ever be than warring against God or His people-Israel?

Since the Lordwants to move Gog in the direction of coming down to attack Israel, the verb natan is used to explain the means that God willemploy. The Lord will "place" or"put" hooks into the jaws of Gog. Keil tells us, "Gog is represented as an unmanageable beast, which iscompelled to follow its leader (cf. Isa. xxxvii. 29); and the thought isthereby expressed, that Gog is compelled to obey the power of God against hiswill."[4] Lawson Younger explains the meaning anduse of the Hebrew word for "hook" as follows:

While the literal meaning of hah is "thorn," in the OT it is used metaphoricallyfor a hook. In the majority ofoccurrences, hah is employedin military contexts for a hook put through the nose or cheek of captives: ofSennacherib, in whose nose God will put a hook (2 Kgs 19:28; Isa. 37:29); ofJehoahaz taken to Egypt by hook (Ezek 19:4); of Zedekiah taken to Babylon byhook (19:9); of Pharaoh, in whose jaw God will put a hook (29:4; and of Gog, inwhose jaw God will also put hooks (28:4).[5]

Just as a wholehost of Israel's enemies down through history have not wanted to do what Godhas asked them to do, so will Gog, like Pharaoh be made to follow His will,even though their intentions are 180 degrees in the opposite direction, whichdemonstrates the use of the hook imagery by God. "Like a ring in the nose of a captive or a great hook in thejaws of a crocodile, God will pull Gog and his allies out for this invasionwhen he is ready for them," notes Mark Hitchcock. "God will do God's bidding and will act according to God'stimetable."[6] Arnold Fruchtenbaum summarizes thissection by reminding us:

It is God Who is incontrol; it is He who is bringing the invasion about. Thus, while studying this passage, one should note thesovereignty of God in this invasion. This will be the means by which God will punish Russia for hersins. The key sin is her long historyof anti-Semitism, a problem that persists in Russia to this day.[7]

Stage Setting inRussia and Iran

How are some ofthe issues from the first few verses of Ezekiel 38 setting the stage today forfuture fulfillment? While othernations in the Gog coalition have been in the news at one time or another,right now Russia and Iran are making a lot of noise on the geo-politicalscene. Also, for those who are notwatching Turkey, they are on the verge of being taken over by radical wing ofMuslims in their Parliament. Ifthey succeed, they will return Turkey to Muslim rule, which will result intheir dismissal of democracy.

Mart Zuckerman, editor ofU. S. News & World Report has said,"Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an interview several years ago,criticized America's decision to go to war against Iraq and told me, "Thereal threat is Iran." He wasright. But Russia has become partof the problem, not the solution."[8] It is no secret that Russia has playeda role of enabler to Iran, which has risen to the top of the list of roguestates that threaten to bring great destabilization to the current worldorder. "And Russia has made thethreat more real. It sold thenuclear power plant at Bushehr to Iran and contracted to sell even more tobring cash into its nuclear industry. As one American diplomat put it, this businessis a 'giant hook in Russia's jaw.'"[9] What? Could you repeat that last statement? The American diplomat said, "thisbusiness is a 'giant hook in Russia's jaw.'" That's right, the diplomat used a phrase right out of Bibleprophecy to describe Russia's current role with Iran.

Some detractorsof our view of Bible prophecy have said that with the fall of the Soviet Empirea Russian led invasion seems very unlikely from a geo-politicalstandpoint. It has always been thecase that this prophecy speaks of a Russian led, not a Soviet led, attackagainst Israel. Ever since thefall of the Soviet Empire Russian has continued to maintain close relationswith most of the Islamic nations, especially those in the Middle East. It would not be surprising from ageo-political perspective to see Russia join with Islamic states like Iran in asurprise attack against Israel.

Forover fifteen years I have speculated that the "hook in the jaw" of Gog that Godcould use to bring a reluctant Russia down upon the land of Israel could besome thing like the following scenario that I articulated to Hal Lindsey on aNational television show[10]in 1991 on the day the first Gulf War ended: I could see the Muslimsapproaching the Russians and telling them that America has set a precedent foran outside power coming into the Middle East to right a perceived wrong. (America has done it again in recentyears by going into Afghanistan and Iraq.) On that basis, Russia should help her Muslim friends byleading them in an overwhelming invasion of Israel in order to solve the MiddleEast Conflict in favor of the Islamic nations. Will this be the "hook in the Jaw" of Gog? Only time will tell. But something is up in the Middle Eastand Russia appears to have her fingerprints all over things. We know that the Bible predicts justsuch an alignment and invasion to take place "in the latter years" (Ezek.38:8).

(ToBe Continued . . .)


[1] G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, &Heinz-Josef Fabry, editors, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, vol. XIV (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), p. 464.

[2] Botterweck, Ringgren, & Fabry, TDOT, vol. XIV, p. 472.

[3] C. F. Keil, Ezekiel, Daniel, Commentary on theOld Testament, trans. JamesMartin (Reprint; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), p. 161.

[4] Keil, Ezekiel, Daniel, p. 161.

[5] Willem A. VanGemeren, gen. editor, NewInternational Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, 5 vols., (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), vol.2, p. 44.

[6] Mark Hitchcock, After The Empire: BibleProphecy in Light of the Fall of the Soviet Union (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1994), p.104.

[7] Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps of the Messiah:A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events (Tustin, CA: Ariel Press, [1982] 2003), p. 109.

[8] Mortimer B. Zuckerman,"Moscow's Mad Gamble," U. S. News & World Report, Internet Edition (Jan. 30, 2006), p. 1.

[9] Zuckerman, "Moscow's Mad Gamble," p. 1.

[10] On "The Praise the Lord" show on TrinityBroadcasting Network.