Ezekiel 38 & 39 (Part 7)

Dr. Thomas Ice

"And I will turn you about, and put hooks intoyour jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen,all of them splendidly attired, a great company with buckler and shield, all ofthem wielding swords;'"

-Ezekiel 38:4

As we look deeplyat this prophecy we see that God will put hooks into the jaws of Gog, who isthe prince of Rosh, which we have seen is a reference to modern dayRussia. Thus, Gog appears to be aRussian individual who will lead the Russian nation and her allies in an attackon regathered Israel. This is thebasic situation that we see today as we scan the geo-political landscape. The stage is already set for just suchan attack.

A Rod Of Discipline?

Some might arguethat the Gog invasion has already taken place in conjunction with God'sdiscipline of Israel in the sixth century b.c. Randall Price notes the following:

The role of Gog, however,is different than that of past invaders such as the Assyrians and Babylonians whohad been called the "rods of God's wrath" (cf. Isaiah 10:5). On the one hand Gog's willful decisionto invade (verse 11) is based on his own passions (verses 12-13), but on theother hand he is drawn (as with hooks in his jaw, verse 4) in order to makepossible a divine demonstration of God's power and intervention for Israel tothe nations (verses 21, 23; 39:27) and Israel itself (39:28).[1]

Thus,it seems unlikely that this prophecy refers to a past disciplinary action byGod where He uses other nations to chastise Israel, as He did with Assyrianagainst the Northern Kingdom (722 b.c.)and against the Southern Kingdom with the Babylonians (586 b.c.). If such were the case then God would not intervene on behalfof Israel as He does in this passage. When God uses a pagan nation to discipline Israel, He never intervenesto protect Israel during such an invasion.

I Will Bring You Out

As we continue tolook more closely at Ezekiel 38:4 we see that the Lord, after having put hooksin Gog's jaw will bring him out of his place. The Hebrew verb translated "I [God] will bring you [Gog]out" is in a causative stem meaning that God will use the hook in the jaw tobring Gog out of his place.[2] Once again, this is not something thatGog would have instigated had not God intervened to bring him out to theireventual destruction.

Gog's MilitaryResources

When Gog comesdown against Israel it will be with "all your army, horses and horsemen." The Hebrew word for "army" (chayil) has the basic meaning of "strength or power,"[3]depending upon what is referenced in the context. It is the primary word for army in the Old Testament but hasthe abstract idea of "strength," "wealth," or more concretely "militaryforces,"[4]since it takes great wealth to field a strong military. The word is used again to describe Gogand his allies in 38:15, this time with the adjective "mighty." In other words, the chayil is a term that carries the idea of militarymight and the semantic range would not be limited to an ancient army. Since the word "all" is used with army,it means that their entire army, not just part of it, will come in thisinvasion of Israel.

The next textualdescription is that this invading army will have "horses and horsemen." It is obvious what horses mean, whilehorsemen would be those soldiers riding horses for military purposes. Horsemen are often distinguished fromthose riding chariots in the Old Testament. Charles Feinberg concludes: "The mention of horses andhorsemen is not to be taken to mean that the army would consist entirely orprimarily of cavalry."[5] Feinberg's statement is supported bythe fact that previously the text said "all your army," which would include allaspects of an attacker's resources. If this is the case, perhaps cavalry is singled out and mentionedspecifically since it was the most potent offensive force for an invader inEzekiel's day. Also, horses denotea form of military conveyance, while horsemen the military personnel.

The last part ofverse 4 describes how the military personnel are outfitted: "all of themsplendidly attired, a great company with buckler and shield, all of themwielding swords." This is areference to the horsemen, all of which are splendidly attired. The Hebrew word translated "splendidly"(miklol) is an interestingword found only here and in Ezekiel 23:12. It is defined variously as "most gorgeously" or "all sortsof armor." "There is littleagreement over the correct translation of this word," since it is only usedtwice. "In both cases it is used incontexts describing the splendid appearance of military men. A literal translation would seem to be'clothed fully,'" or "all fully equipped."[6] In other words, these attackers willall have the best military equipment available in their day. They will not be ill equipped for thetask they intend. Not only willthe invaders be well equipped, there will be a great number of them who willcome down to Israel.

This greatcompany is said to have both "buckler and shield" to protect themselves. The Hebrew word for "shield" (sinna) refers to a "largeshield covering the whole body."[7] While the Hebrew word for "buckler" (magen) refers to the smaller "shield or buckler carried by awarrior for defense."[8] This military equipment would beexamples of the well-equipped condition of the invaders. "Besides the defensive arms, thegreater and smaller shield," declares Keil, "they carried swords as weapons ofoffense."[9] The Hebrew word "sword" (hereb) "can designate both (1) the two-edged dagger or shortsword (Jgs. 3:16, 21) and (2) the single-edged scimitar or long sword."[10] Since these soldiers are riding onhorses, it would make the most sense to think that the long sword is picturedhere, which has historically been the weapon of choice for cavalry. The shortsword would not be as practical from atop a horse. "The verse explains that Yahweh is bringing out Gog fullyarmed."[11] The greater the opponent then thegreater the possibility that Israel will find herself in an impossiblesituation. An impossible situationcalls for Divine intervention. Thus, there will be greater glory for God when He totally destroys theinvaders.

What About TheWeapons?

Critics of ourfuturist understanding of this passage point to the fact that the text saysthat invaders will be horsemen riding on horses and using weapons like swordsand spears, "indicators of an ancient battle in a pre-industrial age,"[12]insists preterist Gary DeMar. Without dealing with other textual details, DeMar argues primarily onthe basis of weapons described in the passage that it has already beenfulfilled. "The weapons areancient because the Battle is ancient."[13] When in the past was it fulfilled? DeMar, apparently with a straight face,insists it was fulfilled in the days of Esther.[14]

"These, of course,are antiquated weapons from the standpoint of modern warfare," acknowledgesJohn Walvoord. "This certainlyposes a problem."[15] However, without abandoning theprinciples of literal interpretation, Walvoord believers that there is asolution to this problem. He citesthree suggestions that have been made as follows:

One of them is this thatEzekiel is using language with which he was familiar-the weapons that werecommon in his day-to anticipate modern weapons. What he is saying is that when this army comes, it will befully equipped with the weapons of war. Such an interpretation, too, has problems. We are told in the passage that they used the wooden shaftsof the spears and the bow and arrows for kindling wood. If these are symbols, it would bedifficult to burn symbols. . . .

A second solution is that the battleis preceded by a disarmament agreement between nations. If this were the case, it would benecessary to resort to primitive weapons easily and secretly made if a surpriseattack were to be achieved. Thiswould allow a literal interpretation of the passage.

A third solution has been suggestedbased on the premise that modern missile warfare will have been developed inthat day to the point where missiles will seek out any considerable amount ofmetal. Under these circumstances,it would be necessary to abandon the large use of metal weapons and substitutewood such as is indicated in the primitive weapons. Whatever the explanation, the most sensible interpretationis that the passage refers to actual weapons pressed into use because of thepeculiar circumstances of that day.[16]

(ToBe Continued . . .)



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

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

[3] G. Johannes Botterweck, & Helmer Ringgren,editors, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, vol. IV (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), p. 349.

[4] Botterweck, & Ringgren, TDOT, vol. IV, p. 353.

[5] Charles Lee Feinberg, The Prophecy of Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), pp. 220-21.

[6] R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., andBruce K. Waltke, editors, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), vol. I; p.442.

[7] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew Lexicon, electronic edition.

[8] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew Lexicon, electronic edition.

[9] C. F. Keil, Ezekiel, Daniel, Commentary on theOld Testament, trans. JamesMartin (Reprint; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), p. 162.

[10] G. Johannes Botterweck, & Helmer Ringgren,editors, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, vol. V (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), p. 155.

[11] John W. Wevers, The New Century BibleCommentary: Ezekiel (GrandRapids: Eerdmans, 1969), p. 202.

[12] Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1999), p. 367.

[13] Gary DeMar, "Ezekiel's Magog Invasion: Future orFulfilled?" Biblical Worldview Magazine, vol. 22 (December, 2006), p. 6.

[14] DeMar, Last Days Madness, pp. 368-69; see also Gary DeMar, End TimesFiction: A Biblical Consideration of the Left Behind Theology (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001), pp. 12-15.

[15] John F. Walvoord, The Nations in Prophecy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1967), p. 115.

[16] Walvoord, Nations, pp. 115-16.