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

Ezekiel 38 and 39 (Part 1)


The next several days I will post some very interesting articles in my blog, articulating in-depth Ezekiel 38 & 39.

Dr. Thomas Ice

The battle of Gogand Magog in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is one of the most debated items in the area ofbiblical prophecy. CommentatorRalph Alexander said, "One of the perennial enigmas of Biblical prophecy hasbeen the Gog and Magog event described in Ezekiel 38 and 39."[1] Almost every aspect of this ancientprophecy has been disputed, including whether it was fulfilled in the past oris still a future prophecy. Whoare the peoples involved and do they relate to modern nations? How should we understand the weaponsthat are described? If a futureevent, when does it take place on the prophetic timeline? This is why I want to attempt anin-depth analysis of this important passage.

Real or Only Imagined?

One of the firstthings to handle when dealing with this or any Biblical prophecy is whether ornot the God and Ezekiel intended to communicate a message that would befulfilled in history. Since Ibelieve that all Biblical prophecy intends historical fulfillment, there isnothing in this passage that would suggest differently. However, there is a school ofinterpretation, primarily among liberal scholars, that does not believe thatthe Ezekiel passage (or most prophetic Scripture) was meant to give a prophecythat would be fulfilled in history. This view is often known as idealism. The idealistdoes not believe either that the Bible indicates the timing of events or thatwe can determine their timing in advance. Therefore, idealists see prophetic passages as a teacher of great truthsabout God to be applied to our present lives. Idealists believe that the Bible uses prophetic passages topresent principles between "a message that is universal and abiding. That message is not bound to anyparticular time or place even though these terms and expressions representscenes taken from countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and other placesin the Middle East."[2]

One who advocatesa non-historical, idealist approach to Bible prophecy is Brent Sandy in his Plowshares& Pruning Hooks.[3] Typical of those under the spell oftoday's postmodern influence, Sandy exalts the interpretative process at theexpense of arriving at a definite theology. Sandy's doublespeak is evident in the following:

The limitations of prophecyas a source of information for the future were demonstrated with examples fromvarious prophetic parts of Scripture. It became evident that the predicative element of prophecy is moretranslucent than transparent. Prophecy is always accurate in what it intends to reveal, but rarelydoes it reveal information so that we may know the future in advance. Figures of speech function to describenot the details of what is going to happen but the seriousness of what is goingto happen.[4]

So typical ofthose evangelicals who want to assign to biblical prophecy some specialcategory or literary genre they call "apocalyptic," Sandy says, "interpretersmust withhold judgment on many particulars of prophecy, unambiguous propheticthemes abound throughout Scripture, centering on the second coming of Jesus theMessiah."[5] Sandy concludes, "if my conclusionsabout the language of prophecy and apocalyptic are correct, all systems ofeschatology are subject to reconsideration."[6] It should not be surprising, sinceSandy is beholden to a postmodern mindset that he believes that the correctunderstanding of the Bible's eschatological message will be composed of a blendof all the different prophetic views.[7]

One thing isclear about Sandy and the emerging evangelical "scholarly" view is thatprophecy should not be taken literally, as has been done bydispensationalists. And they saywe know this, primarily, because the prophetic portions of the Bible areapocalyptic, which were not intended to be taken literally. They may not be able to tell you whatthese sections of Scripture actually mean, but this one thing they know: prophecy should not be interpretedliterally (that is according to the historical, grammatical approach) and prophecyis primarily about ideas and principles, not future historical events. "The 'mythical' understanding of thesenations and the prophecy that involves them fails to convey to us," notes JonRuthven, "the sense of a concrete, literal event that seems justified by whatis described in Ezekiel-especially to chapters 38-39."[8]

Various Timing Views

Prophecy expert,Mark Hitchcock notes: "By far, the most controversial issue in Ezekiel 38-39 isthe setting or timing of the invasion. The specific time of the invasion in Ezekiel 38 is difficult to determine."[9] There is no doubt that this is thegreatest problem to overcome in our understanding of this passage. In fact, the various positions arelabeled according to one's view concerning when these events will be fulfilled.

Among those whobelieve that the Gog-led invasion is historical, some believe that it hasalready occurred. For example,preterist Gary says, "The battle in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is clearly an ancient one. . ."[10] When does he believe that this battletook place? Amazingly, DeMar and onlya handful of commentators insist that Ezekiel 38 and 39 was fulfilled by theevents described in Esther 9, occurring in about 473 b.c. in the days of Queen Esther of Persia.[11] The other views that take this invasionas a historical event place its occurrence in a time future to our day.

Tim LaHaye andJerry Jenkins in their best-selling novel Left Behind,[12]place this invasion of Israel right before the rapture of the church. The strength of this position is thatit accounts for the burning of the weapons of war for seven years as mentionedin Ezekiel 39:9. However, TimLaHaye has told me personally that even though they represented a pre-raptureposition on Ezekiel 38 and 39 in their novel, he tends to place it after therapture but before the tribulation.

The next view,which is the one I hold at this time, is that it will happen after the rapturebut before the tribulation. Itwill be during the interval of days, weeks, months or years between the raptureand the start of the seven-year tribulation.[13] This view also accounts for the sevenyears of Ezekiel 39:9. I havealways thought that one of the strengths of this view is the way in which itcould set the stage for the Biblical scenario of the tribulation. If the tribulation is closely precededby a failed regional invasion of Israel, in other words Russia and her Muslimallies, then this would remove much of the Russian and Muslim influencecurrently in the world today and allow a Euro-centric orientation to arise. So the tribulation is preceded by afailed regional attack on Israel and this is why the tribulation ends with allthe peoples of the world attacking Israel at Armageddon. It could also set the stage for therebuilding of the Temple as a result of Islamic humiliation.

Perhaps the mostwidely held view put forth within dispensational literature is that thisinvasion will take place around the middle of the seven-year tribulation. This view often identifies Ezekiel 38and 39 with an invasion of the king of the north in Daniel 11:40. Another major argument is based upon thestatement that Israel will be "living securely, all of them" (Ezek. 38:8),which is the result of the false peace brought by the anti-Christ in the firsthalf of the tribulation. This viewhas a lot in its favor.

A significantnumber of Bible teachers believe that the Gog and Magog event is synonymouswith what the Book of Revelation calls the Campaign of Armageddon (Rev. 16:16).[14] Since Armageddon is a huge invasion ofIsrael around the time of the second coming and the invasion of Israeldescribed in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is said to be in "the latter years" (Ezek. 38:8)and "in the last days" (Ezek. 38:16), then they must be the same event. A similar, but slightly different viewis that the invasion occurs after the second coming of Christ, during theinterlude between the tribulation and the start of the millennium. The main argument for this view is thatIsrael would be dwelling in peace (Ezek. 38:8).

The last majorview is that the battle of Ezekiel 38 and 39 will occur at the end of themillennium. The basis for thisview is significant since Revelation 20:7-9 speaks of a conflict at the end ofthe millennium when Satan is released. Verse 8 says, "(Satan) will come out to deceive the nations which are inthe four corner of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for thewar . . ." The strength of thisview is obvious, Gog and Magog are specifically mentioned in the text.

In our nextinstallment I will begin a systematic study of Ezekiel 38 and 39 as we examinethe issue that will help us understand our Lord's intended meaning of thisgreat prophecy. Maranatha!

(ToBe Continued . . .)



[1] Ralph H. Alexander, "A Fresh Look At Ezekiel 38and 39," Journal of The Evangelical Theological Society, vol. 17 (Summer, 1974), p. 157.

[2] Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary,Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), p. 43.

[3] D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares & PruningHooks: Rethinking the Language ofBiblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsityPress, 2002).

[4] Sandy, Plowshares, p. 197.

[5] Sandy, Plowshares, p. 203.

[6] Sandy, Plowshares, p. 206.

[7] Sandy, Plowshares, p. 250, f.n. 14.

[8] Jon Mark Ruthven, The Prophecy That Is ShapingHistory: New Research on Ezekiel's Vision of the End (Fairfax, VA: Xulon Press, 2003), p. 30.

[9] Mark Hitchcock, Iran The Coming Crisis:Radical Islam, Oil, And The Nuclear Threat (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2006), p. 178.

[10] Gary DeMar, "Ezekiel's Magog Invasion: Future orFulfilled?" Biblical Worldview Magazine, vol. 22 (December, 2006), p. 5.

[11] Gary DeMar, End Times Fiction: A BiblicalConsideration of the Left Behind Theology (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001), pp. 12-15.

[12] Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Left Behind: ANovel of the Earth's Last Days(Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1995), pp. 9-15.

[13] Arnold Fruchtenbaum defends this view in TheFootsteps of the Messiah: A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), pp. 106-25.

[14] This view is held by Dave Hunt, How Close AreWe? (Eugene, OR: Harvest House,1992).

Ezekiel 38

From Joel C. Rosenberg book Epicenter, everything in quotes are his words.


"Page 83, The first thing we need to understand is that Gog is probably not actually a personal name, but more likely a title, like czar or pharaoh.
Thus, we are not looking for the rise of a specific person whose first or last name is Gog so much as a "prince" who will arise in "the land of Magog" (Ezekiel 38:15 NASB). In The Ezekiel Option, Dr. Eliezer Mordechai (a fictional former head of the Mossad, Israel's foreign intelligence agency) explains to Jon Bennett (a fictional senior White House advisor) that this means Gog is a political leader from a country due north of Israel. A quick check of any world map reveals that there are only five such countries today: Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, and Russia. The one farthest north, of course is Russia."


"Voltaire in his Philosophical Dictionary, noting that "it is incontestable that the inhabitant of Gaul and Spain are descended from Gomer, and the Russians from Magog, his younger brother." Interestingly enough, the genealogical tree to which he referred actually finds its origin in the very Bible for which he had so little regard. Magog is first mentioned in Genesis 10-Magog was a son of Japheth, who was a son of Noah (he of Noah's-ark fame)."

"Here the Roman historian Josephus can offer us another clue. In The Antiquities of the Jews, his twenty-volume classic written in the first century after Christ, Josephus wrote of the descendants of Noah: "After [attempting to build the tower of Babel-see Genesis 11] they were dispersed abroad, on account of their languages, and went out by colonies everywhere; and each colony took possession of that land which they lighy upon and unto which God led them.... Magog founded those that from him were named Magogites, but who are by the Greeks called Scythians."

"The Scythians, genetically were Aryans. Geographically, they lived in the areas now known as Russia, the former Soviet republics, and central Asia. One referece work describes a Scythian as a "member of a nomadic people orginally of Iranian stock who migrated from Central Asia to southern Russia in the 8th and 7th centuries B.C.... Scthians founded a rich, powerful empire that survived for several centuries."

Rosh, Meshech, And Tubal:

"This brings us to the next big question: where are "Rosh, Meshech and Tubal," of which Gog is prince"? A study of ancient Hebrew, ancient history, and modern-day geography points us to Russia, Moscow, and Tobolsk (in Siberia), respectively. The word Rosh in Hebrew can mean "head" or "cheif," leading some scholars to the conclusion that Gog is the "cheif prince" of Meshech and Tubal. But both the Septuagint and the Masretic Text, two of the oldest and most reliable copies of the Holy Scriptures, translate Rosh as the proper name of a geological place. The Septuagint is the oldest Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures."

"In his seminal work Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, William Gesenius- the father of modern Hebrew lexicography (the science behind compiling dictionaries)-concluded that the Rosh to which Ezekiel refers is a proper name. He also concluded that Rosh is "undoubtedly the Russians, who are mentioned by the Byzantine writers of the tenth century, under the name of Ros, dwelling to the north of Taurus [in Turkey]."