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.

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.