Ezekiel 38 & 39 (Part 11)

Dr. Thomas Ice

Beprepared, and prepare yourself, you and all your companies that are assembledabout you, and be a guard for them. After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will comeinto the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have beengathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been acontinual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they areliving securely, all of them.


The first sixverses of Ezekiel's prophecy in chapter 38 outlined "who" would be involved inan invasion of Israel, while verses 7-9 tell us "where" and "when" these eventswill take place. This new section(verses 7-9) begins with a taunt from God for Gog and his coalition to makesure that they are really ready for their invasion of Israel.

God Taunts Gog

Verse 7 beginswith the same verb used two times, back-to-back. The reason why the verb "prepare" is arranged this way is tointensify their meaning. In otherwords, God is telling Gog and his allies that they better make sure that theyare prepared to the utmost for their attack on Israel, because in essence it isan attack on God, which is something that humans can never really prepare for. "With consummate and telling irony,"notes Charles Feinberg, "Ezekiel urged Gog to be fully prepared for theencounter, and to see to it that all was in readiness as far as hisconfederates were concerned."[1]

The final phraseof verse 7 says, "be a guard for them." The Hebrew noun for "guard" means "watch" or"lookout" and in this context has the connotation of "to maintain vigilance,post a strong watch" and "to stand at the ready."[2] The Lord is further taunting Gog as Hechallenges him, as the leader of the coalition, to make sure that he guards orwatches over this assembled company so that he may protect them against anyevil that could befall them. Thisis a sarcastic warning to Gog and his group that even though their gathering isfor the purpose of wiping out Israel, it is their company that will bedestroyed.

After ManyDays

The sovereigntyof God continues to be a major theme of this prophecy as Ezekiel begins verse 8by saying, "After many days you will be summoned." This entire operation is ultimately God's idea and He will"put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out," (verse 4) againstIsrael. Now Ezekiel says that Godis summoning Gog and his coalition to attack Israel to accomplish the Lord'spurpose. "The mind of man planshis way, but the Lord directs hissteps" (Prov. 16:9).

The exact Hebrewphrase "after many days" is found only one other place in the OldTestament. "Now it came aboutafter many days, when the Lord hadgiven rest to Israel from all their enemies on every side, and Joshua was old,advanced in years," (Josh. 23:1). Since context governs the length of time intended for a temporal phrase,it is clear in Joshua that many days referred to a few years because "manydays" all took place within the lifetime of Joshua. A similar Hebrew phrase is used four times in the OldTestament (1 Kings 18:1; Eccl. 11:1; Isa. 24:22; Jer. 13:6). Three of these four occurrences aresimilar to the Joshua 23:1 uses, however, Isaiah 24:22 is used in aneschatological context. "So itwill happen in that day, that the Lordwill punish the host of heaven, on high, and the kings of the earth, onearth. And they will be gatheredtogether like prisoners in the dungeon, and will be confined in prison; andafter many days they will be punished. Then the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed, for the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zionand in Jerusalem, and His glory will be before His elders" (Isa.24:21-23). C. F. Keil, writing inthe nineteenth century says, "The first clause reminds so strongly of Isa.xxiv. 22, that the play upon this passage cannot possibly be mistaken; so thatEzekiel uses the words in the same sense as Isaiah."[3] This context is clearly referencingsomething that is future and has not yet occurred. "After many days" in verse 22 is likely a reference to thethousand-year time period revealed in Revelation 20:2-7.

The length oftime indicated by the phrase "after many days" is determined by factors in thecontext, which are clearly longer than the lifespan of a human. We will soon see as I examine the othertime statements in this context that "the text is emphatic that the invasionand its consequences have been foreseen long before."[4] Keil says, "after many days, i.e.,after a long time . . . signifies merely the lapse of a lengthened period; . .. is the end of day, the last time, not the future generally, but the finalfuture, the Messianic time of the completing of the kingdom of God."[5] Feinberg declares, "the notion of timeindicated that the attack of the enemy would not take place for a longtime. The events here predictedwere not to be expected in the lifetime of Ezekiel or his contemporaries."[6]

In The Latter Years

"After many days"is not the only time indicator of when this invasion will take place. "After many days" is immediatelyfollowed in the Hebrew text by the phrase "in the latter years." These two phrases must refer to thesame time period. Like theprevious phrase, since it is not qualified by something like the latter yearsof a person's life, etc., it is an absolute phrase referring to the span ofhistory. An almost identicalphrase is used in verse 16 and says, "It will come about in the last day that Ishall bring you against My land." The term "latter years" is only used in this passage in the entire OldTestament, however, since "last days" is used in verse 16 describing the sameevent, it is safe to conclude that the more frequently used phrase "last days"is synonymous with "latter years." Such a conclusion is supported by the fact that "after many days" and"in the latter years" are used in tandem in verse 8. Feinberg says, "the time element was distinctly stated as'in the latter years,' which is equivalent to 'the latter days' of verse 16."[7]

When we searchthe Old Testament for the use of terminology similar to "the latter years" ofEzekiel 38:8 we find three other phrases that are parallel.[8] I have selected only the uses of thesethree phrases that have a future, prophetic meaning. The first term is "latter days" (Deut. 4:30; 31:29; Jer.30:24; 48:47; Dan. 2:28; 10:14), the second is "last days" (Isa. 2:2; Jer.23:20; 49:39; Eze. 38:16; Hosea 3:5; Mic. 4:1), while the final phrase is "the time of the end" (Dan. 8:17, 19;11:27, 35, 40; 12:4, 9, 13). Thefact that Ezekiel uses three phrases ("after many days," "in the latter years,"and "in the last days) provides strong support that this battle will take placeduring a yet future time. RandallPrice tells us, "while the expression "latter days" may refer to theTribulation period, it is not a technical term for such, since its contextualsettings and varieties of usages allow it to be employed in different ways."[9] Thus, references to the latter daysphrases include the 70th week of Daniel or the tribulation period,the millennial kingdom and could also include some events that might take placeshortly before the tribulation, like the Gog and Magog invasion. Mark Hitchcock notes, "These phrasesare used a total of fifteen times in the Old Testament. They are always used to refer to eitherthe Tribulation period (Deut. 4:30; 31:29) or the Millennium (Isa. 2:2; Mic.4:1). While these phrases do notspecifically identify the time of the invasion, they do clearly indicate thatthe general time period is future even from our day."[10]

Restored From TheSword

The next phrasetells us, "you will come into the land that is restored from the sword." The land into which Gog will lead hiscoalition of invaders is without a doubt the land of Israel. Interestingly the land of Israel isdescribed as a land that has been restored from the sword. The Hebrew word for "restored" is thecommon word meaning "to turn around" or "repent."[11] Therefore, the sense in which "repent"is used here is of a people who once were in the land of Israel, then they wereremoved from the land, and now they have been brought back to the land fromwhich they originated. Thus, theywere turned or returned to the land of Israel. The Jews are said to be the only group of people in theknown history of the world who were removed from their homeland, dispersedamong most all of the nations, and have returned to their originalhomeland. This explains why myEnglish translation (NASB) renders this Hebrew word with a meaning of restore. In other words, the Jews are returningto their land when this event happened. Maranatha!

(ToBe Continued . . .)



[1] Charles Lee Feinberg, The Prophecy of Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), p. 221.

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

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

[4] Jon Mark Ruthven, The Prophecy That Is ShapingHistory: New Research on Ezekiel's Vision of the End (Fairfax, VA: Xulon Press, 2003), p. 123.

[5] Keil, Ezekiel, p. 163.

[6] Feinberg, Ezekiel, p. 221.

[7] Feinberg, Ezekiel, p. 221.

[8] Based upon a search conducted by the computerprogram Accordance, version7.3.

[9] Randall Price, Unpublished Notes on TheProphecies of Ezekiel, (2007), p.40.

[10] Mark Hitchcock, After The Empire: BibleProphecy in Light of the Fall of the Soviet Union (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1994), p.126.

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

Ezekiel 38 & 39 (Part 10)

Dr. Thomas Ice

Gomerwith all its troops; Beth-togarmah from the remote parts of the north with allits troops-many peoples with you.

-Ezekiel 38:6

There is onefinal entity listed as among those going down to attack Israel with Gog. Beth-togarmah is the last nationlisted.


Beth-togarmah isthe English transliteration of two words from the Hebrew text. Beth is the common Hebrew word for"house" or "place of" that is used over two thousand times in the Hebrew Bible.[1] Togarmah is a noun used four times inthe Hebrew Bible.[2] Twice it is uses in a genealogy inwhich Togarmah is said to be a son of Gomer (Gen. 10:3; 1 Chron. 1:6). The final two occurrences are inEzekiel (27:14; 38:6). The prefix"Beth" occurs only in the two uses in Ezekiel, thus rendering the compound as"house of Togarmah." Ezekiel 27:14refers to their trade and says: "Those from Beth-togarmah gave horses and warhorses and mules for your wares." In fact, "Herodotus mentions [Togarmah] as famed for its horses andmules."[3]

"Most Biblescholars and scholars of ancient history relate biblical Togarmah to theancient Hittite city of Tegarma," notes Mark Hitchcock, "an important city ineastern Cappadocia (modern Turkey)."[4] Jon Mark Ruthven agrees: "elements ofthe 'house of Togarmah" may have been part of the great 2nd and 1stmillennium BCE Japhetic movements far to the north, and assimilated into modernRussia and Turkey."[5] Hitchcock traces the migration ofTogarmah as follows:

Togarmah was both the nameof a district and a city in the border of Tubal in eastern Cappadocia. Togarmahwas known variously in history as Tegarma, Tagarma, and Takarama. The ancient Assyrians referred to thiscity as Til-garimmu. One of themaps of the Cambridge Ancient History locates Til-garimmu on the northeastborder of Tubal in the northeast part of modern Turkey. Gesenius, the Hebrew scholar,identified Togarmah as a northern nation abounding in horses and mules, locatedin ancient Armenia. The ancientarea of Armenia is located in the modern nation of Turkey.[6]

"Butwhile scholars have differed slightly on the exact location of ancientTogarmah," concludes Hitchcock, "it is always associated with a city ordistrict within the boundaries of the modern nation of Turkey."[7]

It is interestingto note that none of the nations that will go down into Israel with Russia areArab nations. However, all of theRussian allies are Islamic nations. Iran is not an Arab nation, but instead they are Persian.

The Remote Parts ofthe North

In this passageBeth-togarmah is said to come from "the remote parts of the north." This Hebrew phrase is composed of twowords. The word for north meanswhat it says, while the word for "remote parts" has the sense of the extreme, "far part," or most distant part of whatever is beingreferred to in the context.[8] When these two words are combined in aphrase, it is used five times in the Hebrew Bible (Psa. 48:3; Isa. 14:13; Ezek.38:6, 15; 39:2). The Isaiah use isfound in one of the five "I wills" uttered by Satan in his revolt againstGod. "But you said in your heart,I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and Iwill sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north." The Psalmist says of Jerusalem:"Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion in the farnorth, the city of the great King." Mount Zion was on the Northern edge of ancient Jerusalem. The other three uses are found inEzekiel 38 and 39. The other tworeferences in Ezekiel 38 and 39 refer to Gog and say: "And you will come fromyour place out of the remote parts of the north, you and many peoples with you,all of them riding on horses, a great assembly and a mighty army" (Ezek.38:15). "And I shall turn you around,drive you on, take you up from the remotest parts of the north, and bring youagainst the mountains of Israel" (Ezek. 39:2). Therefore, Beth-togarmah is said to come from the remoteparts of the north as will Gog who is Russia.

"Doesn't thisstatement mean that Togarmah must come from the former Soviet Union sinceRussia is the farthest geographical point north of Israel," asksHitchcock? He says in his answer:"The answer to this question is no. Forcing a geographical location upon Togarmah that is totallyinconsistent with the clear witness of ancient history would be grosslytwisting the evidence. Moreover,modern Turkey fits the description given because it is clearly to the far northparts of the Promised Land."[9]

With All its Troops

The last part ofverse 6 says that Beth-togarmah will come from the north parts "with all itstroops-many peoples with you." TheHebrew word for "troops" is only used six times in the Hebrew Old Testament andall of them are found in Ezekiel (12:14; 17:21; 38:6, 9, 22; 39:4).[10] All but two uses appear in Ezekiel 38and 39. Some scholars say thatthis word is related to a "wing" or "parameter,"[11]but it clearly is a reference military troops in these contexts. Some suggest that it may connote thetroops on the flank or wings of a military unit and would be a Hebrew idem forall of one's forces. The pointwould be that if one brings his troops on the wing,[12]then those would include all the forces one could muster. The translation of troops (i.e.,military) is the clear meaning of this word.

The final phrasein verse six is clear that the sum total of the house of Togarmah will includemany peoples with him. This phraseis found two other times in the Hebrew Bible, both of them in Ezekiel 38 (verses9 and 15). Verse 9 refers to theentire coalition that will attack Israel, while verse 15 the many peoplesrefers to the coalition members that are led by Gog. The use of "many peoples with you" in verses 9 and 15 differslightly from verse 6 since their constructions are prefaced with the use ofthe "and" conjunction. The use ofthe phrase in verse 6 does not have a conjunction, which means that the phrase"many peoples with you" is in apposition to the preceding phrase "with all itstroops." Thus, the text is sayingthat the "many peoples with you" is descriptive of the troops thatBeth-togarmah will bring with them in their attack on Israel.

Talking Turkey

Having nowcompleted a study of the list of nations that will join the Russian led attackagainst Israel, we see that four of those names refer to descendants that makeup the modern nation of Turkey. Meshech, Tubal, Gomer, and Beth-togarmah all strongly point to modernTurkey as a member of the diabolical coalition. But, does Turkey's involvement seem possible given thealignment of the nations today?

Currently Turkeyis not aliened with Russia and Iran since it technically became a secular statewith a Muslim heritage after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire at the end ofWorld War I. Turkey has long beena member of NATO and has desired to identify with Europe rather than Asia, mostlikely for economic reasons. Turkey is a nation in which a small part of it is in Europe while mostof it is in Asia. Turkey hasapplied for membership in the European Union, however, since membership in theEU would mean that anyone within the Union are able to move freely to any otherpart of it. The rest of the EU isconcerned that if they admit Turkey then it will be a conduit through whichMuslims would be able to flood into the rest of Europe. Even though they are still goingthrough the motions of application, it is certain that the EU will eventuallyreject Turkey's admittance. Oncethey are rejected, Turkey will seek alignment with Russia and their Islamicbrethren.

The last fewyears has seen an Islamic majority emerge in Turkey's Parliament and an IslamicPrime Minister is now in place. The breakup of the former Soviet Union included the independence of fiveIslamic republics: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kirghizia, Turkmenistan, andTajikistan. Hitchcock notes that"Turkey has clearly been drawn to these former Soviet republics for economicreasons, Turkey also shares strong linguistic and ethnic ties with thesenations. All of these nationsspeak Turkic languages with the exception of Tajikistan, where the language issimilar to Iranian Farsi."[13] Turkey sees itself as the economicdeveloper of the vast natural resources like gold, silver, uranium, oil, coal,and natural gas that are found in these five new states. Once Turkey is spurned by Europe, shewill have motive enough to enter into league with Russia and their Islamicbrethren which will set the stage for the fulfillment of this prophecy. Maranatha!

(ToBe Continued . . .)



[1] 2,047 times according to a search conducted bythe computer program Accordance,version 7.3.

[2] Based upon a search conducted by the computerprogram Accordance, version7.3.

[3] S. Fisch, Ezekiel: Hebrew Text & Englishtranslation with an Introduction and Commentary (London: The Soncino Press, 1950), p. 182.

[4] Mark Hitchcock, After The Empire: BibleProphecy in Light of the Fall of the Soviet Union (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1994), p.63.

[5] Jon Mark Ruthven, The Prophecy That Is ShapingHistory: New Research on Ezekiel's Vision of the End (Fairfax, VA: Xulon Press, 2003), p. 102.

[6] Hitchcock, After The Empire, pp. 63-64.

[7] Hitchcock, After The Empire, p. 64.

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

[9] Hitchcock, After The Empire, pp. 64-65.

[10] Based upon a search conducted by the computerprogram Accordance, version7.3.

[11] Koehler and Baumgartner, Hebrew Lexicon.

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

[13] Hitchcock, After The Empire, p. 66.

Ezekiel 38 & 39 (Part 9)

Dr. Thomas Ice

Persia,Ethiopia, and Put with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer with allits troops; Beth-togarmah from the remote parts of the north with all itstroops-many peoples with you.

-Ezekiel 38:5-6

Verses five andsix complete the allies that will attack Israel with their leader Gog. The identity of the first ally appearsto be very clear since its ancient name is widely known down through history,even in our own day. Persia refersto the Persian people who make up a majority of the modern country ofIran. There is consensus amongfuturists that historic Persia clearly refers to modern Iran. "The name Persia, which was written allover the pages of ancient history, was changed to Iran in foreign usage inMarch 1935,"[1] notes MarkHitchcock.

Iran and Russia

Anyone followingthe news headlines the last few years certainly are aware of the warmrelationship between Russia and Iran. Russia has been a supplier of many of the elements Iran wants in order todevelop a nuclear bomb. It isclear that Iran aspires to control the entire Middle East so that they canspread their view of Islam in order to reunite the Muslim world under a singleauthority, an Iranian rule. Wehave all heard that their President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said on multipleoccasions that he aspires to wipe Israel off of the map. For the last fifteen years, everyIsraeli administration has repeatedly said that Iran is Israel's greatest threat. Today many wonder if Israel will bemoved to act preemptively, perhaps with the help of the United States, to takeout Iran's nuclear capability before it is fully realized. We will certainly know the answerbefore President George W. Bush leaves office in January 2009, since it isunlikely that a new President would be involved in such an adventure.

Iran very likelycould be the key ally in the Russian led invasion of Israel in the lastdays. Perhaps Iran will takeadvantage of the new bellicose posture of Russian President Valdimir Putin is reinstallingtoward the West, especially the United States. No matter how these future events unfold there is no doubtthat Russian and Iran are developing the type of relationship that could easilylead to just such an invasion of Israel as the prophet Ezekiel has foretold.[2]


The New AmericanStandard translation which I use translates the Hebrew word Cush as Ethiopia. Many English translations have transliterated it from theHebrew into the English word "Cush." Cush occurs 29 timesin the Hebrew Bible.[3] Genesis 2:13 refers to an antediluvianland named Cush. Three times inthe table of nations it refers to Cush who is a descendant of Ham. Most of the other uses occur in Isaiahand Ezekiel (13 times) and refer to the same region mentioned in Ezekiel28:5. One Hebrew lexicon says thatCush refers to "the lands of the Nile in southernEgypt, meaning Nubia and Northern Sudan, the country bordering the southern RedSea."[4] Another tells us that Cush "refers tothe region immediately south and east of Egypt, including modern Nubia, theSudan, and the Ethiopia of classical writers."[5] Thus, the Bible clearly locates Cushjust south of Egypt in what is the modern nation of Sudan.

TodaySudan is one of the most militant Islamic nations in the world. Hitchcock notes, "that the modern nationof Sudan is one of only three Muslim nation in the world with a militantIslamic government."[6] I was surprised to also learn that"Sudan is the largest nation in territory on the African continent and has apopulation of 26 million." It isinteresting to realize that Iran and Sudan have become the closest of alliesduring the last twenty years. Theyhave entered into trade agreements, militaries alliances, and Iran alsooperates terrorist training bases in Sudan.[7] Sudan also is the place that protectedOsama bin Laden from 1991 to 1996 until he went to Afghanistan.[8] Based upon current alignment of nationsthat we see today it is not at all surprising to think that Sudan will be aSouthern ally that descends upon the land of Israel in the last days withRussia, Iran and others.


Put is anothertransliteration from the Hebrew and occurs only seven times in the OldTestament.[9] Twice it is used in a genealogy thatsays that Put is a descendant of Ham (Gen. 10:6; 1 Chron. 1:8). The other five times it is used in theProphets to refer to Put as a nation, usually in a military context as we havein Ezekiel 38. A Hebrew lexiconsays, "probably not the same as Put but Libya."[10] "From the ancient Babylon Chronicle it appears that Putu was the 'distant' land to the west ofEgypt, which would be modern day Libya."[11] "In the invasion," notes Randall Price,"these countries will be joined by other nations (38:5) that represent theother three directions of the compass: Persia (modern Iran) from the east, Cush(northern Sudan) from the south, and Put (modern Libya) from the west."[12]

Justlike Iran and Sudan, Libya is a radical Islamic nation headed by strong manColonel Mu'ammar al-Gadhafi. LikeIran, Gadhafi has tried to develop nuclear weapons in the past, but claims tohave given up all attempts to produce them. "Ever since the rise of Colonel Mu'ammar al-Gadhafi to powerin 1969," notes Hitchcock. "Thenation of Libya has been a constant source of trouble and terrorism for boththe West and Israel. Libya wouldcertainly jump at the chance to join forces with the Sudan, Iran, Turkey, andthe former Muslim republics of the Soviet Union to crush the Jewish state."[13]

Dressed ToKill

Verse five endswith the statement: "all of them with shield and helmet." We saw in verse four that the Hebrewword for "shield" (sinna)refers to a "large shield covering the whole body."[14] In verse four it said, "a great companywith buckler and shield," however, in verse five it says, "with shieldand helmet." The Hebrew word forhelmet is (koba') and refersto a "helmet," usually made of bronze.[15] All six uses[16]of this word in the Hebrew Old Testament refer to a metal helmet worn by asolider for military conflict. Thus, this passage emphasizes the fact that "all" of the invaders arewell outfitted in military attire for their invasion into the land ofIsrael. Price says that thispassage paints a picture where, "Israel will be defenseless and 'surrounded' onall sides by its enemies."[17]


Thetransliterated name Gomer occurs five times in the Hebrew Old Testament,[18]not counting those that refer to the wayward wife of Hosea. Every use except the one in Ezekieloccurs in a genealogy (Gen. 10:2, 3; 1 Chron. 1:5, 6). Gomer is said to be a son of Japheth inthe table of nations (Gen. 10:2; 1 Chron. 1:5). The issue is where do the modern day descendants of Gomernow reside? "His descendants are usuallyidentified as the Cimmerians who moved onto the stage of history from the areanorth of the Black Sea in the eighth century b.c."[19] Jon Ruthven has a map in which heplaces Gomer and his descendants as having settled in the area north of theBlack and Caspian Seas.[20] However, the descendants of Gomer werepushed out of that area and into "the area of Cappadocia, which today is incentral and north-central Turkey. Josephus identified the people of Galatia with Gomer. He says that the people the Greekscalled the Galatians were the Gomerites."[21] Today these "Gomerites" live in thewest-central part of Turkey. Therefore, the descendants of Gomer along with some other peoples wehave yet to consider indicate that modern Turkey will be part of those whoinvade the land of Israel.

The passage says,"Gomer with all its troops." It isalready clear from prior statements in this prophecy that many nations will becoming down on Israel and the descendants of Gomer will be with them. Maranatha!

(ToBe Continued . . .)


[1] Mark Hitchcock, After The Empire: Bible Prophecyin Light of the Fall of the Soviet Union (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1994), p. 72.

[2] For a couple of more recent books that focus onthe current events of the Gog and Magog invasion see Mark Hitchcock, IranThe Coming Crisis: Radical Islam, Oil, And The Nuclear Threat (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2006), and Joel C.Rosenberg, Epicenter: Why The Current Rumblings in The Middle East WillChange Your Future (Carol Stream,IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006).

[3] Based upon a search conducted by the computerprogram Accordance, version7.3.

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

[5] R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and BruceK. Waltke, editors, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), vol. 1, p.435.

[6] Hitchcock, After The Empire, p. 79. At least that was the case in 1994.

[7] Hitchcock, After The Empire, pp. 79-83.

[8] Hitchcock, Iran The Coming Crisis, p. 185.

[9] Based upon a search conducted by the computerprogram Accordance, version7.3.

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

[11] Hitchcock, Iran The Coming Crisis, p. 185.

[12] Randall Price, "Ezekiel," in Tim LaHaye & EdHindson, editors, The Popular Bible Prophecy Commentary: Understanding theMeaning of Every Prophetic Passage(Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2006), p. 191.

[13] Hitchcock, After The Empire, pp. 85-86.

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

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

[16] Based upon a search conducted by the computerprogram Accordance, version7.3.

[17] Price, "Ezekiel," p. 191.

[18] Based upon a search conducted by the computerprogram Accordance, version7.3.

[19] Harris, Archer, and Waltke, TheologicalWordbook, vol. 1, p. 168.

[20] Jon Mark Ruthven, The Prophecy That Is ShapingHistory: New Research on Ezekiel's Vision of the End (Fairfax, VA: Xulon Press, 2003), p. 81.

[21] Hitchcock, After The Empire, p. 62.

Ezekiel 38 & 39 (Part 8)

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 continue tolook at the description of the weapons and mode of transportation that will beused by Gog and his invading force, we must let the text tell us what itmeans. "A vivid picture is givenof the actual attack of the Russian forces," declares William Hull. "Great tanks, mechanized troopcarriers, huge guns and all the latest in war equipment move as a mighty waveacross the land," he says. Hullconcludes: "Ezekiel describes this as: All of them riding upon horses. Here again Bible students have been lead astray by placing the emphasisupon what they are to be mounted on, rather than the fact that they are to bemounted."[1] Randall Price notes that some, "seethese terms as 'prophetically anachronistic' (or phenomenological), sinceEzekiel had no frame of reference to describe the weapons of this future age."[2] This is a view I once held, as I willnote later.

Gary DeMarcriticizes such an approach when he says, "If someone like Tim LaHaye is trueto his claim of literalism, then the Russian attack he and Jerry Jenkinsdescribe in Left Behindshould be a literal representation of the actual battle events as they aredepicted in Ezekiel 38 and 39."[3] DeMar continues, "How do Hitchcock,Ice, and LaHaye know that thisis what the Holy Spirit really means when the text is clear enough without any modern-dayembellishment?"[4] This may surprise some, but I thinkDeMar is basically right in his criticism of us on this point, even though heis demonstrably wrong about so many other items he addresses in the prophecy ofEzekiel 38 and 39.
Literal Interpretation

Bernard Ramm, whowould not be sympathetic to our view of Bible prophecy quotes Webster anddefines literal as "the natural or usual construction and implication of awriting or expression; following the ordinary and apparent sense of words; notallegorical or metaphorical."[5] Charles Ryrie formulates an extensivedefinition of literal interpretation when he states the following:

This is sometimes calledthe principle of grammatical-historical interpretation since the meaning of each word is determined bygrammatical and historical considerations. The principle might also be called normal interpretation since the literal meaning ofwords is the normal approach to their understanding in all languages. It might also be designated plain interpretation so that no one receives themistaken notion that the literal principle rules out figures of speech. Symbols, figures of speech and typesare all interpreted plainly in this method and they are in no way contrary toliteral interpretation. After all,the very existence of any meaning for a figure of speech depends on the realityof the literal meaning of the terms involved. Figures often make the meaning plainer, but it is theliteral, normal, or plain meaning that they convey to the reader.[6]

"The literalist (so called) is not one who denies that figurative language, that symbols, are used in prophecy," notes commentator E. R.Craven. "Nor does he deny thatgreat spiritual truths areset forth therein; his position is, simply, that the prophecies are to be normally interpreted (i.e., according to received laws oflanguage) as any other utterances are interpreted-that which is manifestlyfigurative being so regarded."[7]

David Cooperprovides a classic statement of the literal hermeneutical principle in his"Golden Rule of Interpretation," which says: "When the plain sense of Scripturemakes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at itsprimary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediatecontext, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamentaltruths, indicate clearly otherwise."[8] In other words, there must be aliterary basis in the text of any statement that a word or phrase should not betaken literally, unless one can explain that a figure of speech or metaphormakes more sense in a given context than the plain, literal meaning. In other words, Cooper's dictum saysthat a word or phrase should be taken literally unless there is a reason in thetext of the passage to take it as a figure of speech or a metaphor. Matthew Waymeyer provides a helpfulrule of thumb when he says: "In order to be considered symbolic, the languagein question must possess (a) some degree of absurdity when taken literally and (b) some degree of clarity when taken symbolically."[9]

The Literal Meaning

Since there doesnot appear to be demonstrable figures of speech or symbols in this passage for"army," "horses and horsemen," "buckler and shield," and "swords," thenconsistency requires that this battle will be fought with these items. These weapons of war cannot be similesfor modern weapons since there are not textual indicators such as "like" or"as." There does not appear to beany figures of speech that sometimes occur without using a "like" or "as." For example, Jesus said, "I am thedoor," "I am the bread of life," etc. While these are not figures of speech in and of themselves, in theircontexts it is clear that Jesus was speaking metaphorically. However, there is nothing in thecontext of Ezekiel 38 which would indicate that Ezekiel is seeing modernweapons yet using known terminology of his day.

As I have thoughtmore critically about literal interpretation and this passage while doing thisseries, I have come to disagree with a statement made by Mark Hitchcock and Iwhere we said: "Ezekiel spoke in language that the people of his day couldunderstand. If he had spoken ofMIG-29s, laser-fired missiles, tanks, and assault rifles, this text would havebeen nonsensical to everyone until the twentieth century."[10] Instead, I have come to agree withDeMar who says: "A lot has to be read into the Bible in order to make Ezekiel38 and 39 fit modern-day military realities that include jet planes,'missiles,' and 'atomic and explosive' weaponry."[11] Even though I think DeMar is right onthis one point, it does not mean that his conclusion is correct. He says, "The weapons are ancientbecause the battle is ancient."[12] True, these were weapons that were usedin ancient times, but some are still used today. Also, DeMar either ignores many textual facts or does nottake literally timing statements like "after many days" (Ezek. 38:8), butespecially "latter years" (Ezek. 38:8) and "last days" (Ezek. 38:16), which Iwill deal with later.

I think futuristPaul Lee Tan has framed the issue well as follows:

Thereare some prophecies which, in describing eschatological warfares, predict thatthe weapons to be used then will be bows and arrows, chariots and horses,spears and shields. Are these tobe taken literally? If we adherestrictly to the proper view of prophetic form, we must consider these weaponsthe same as that which will be used in eschatology. They must not be equated with vastly different modern wardevices, as the H-bomb or the supersonic jet fighter. Interestingly, these prophesied military instruments thoughcenturies old have not been made obsolete. The horse, for instance, is still used in warfare on certainkinds of terrain.[13]

Without intendingto be dogmatic on this issue, the view I think that makes the most sense is oneI heard pastor Charles Clough[14]teach on an audiotape in the late 60s or early 70s. Clough was at the time a trained and experienced meteorologistwho thought the events of the tribulation could likely degrade modern weaponssystems so as to render them unusable. Later, Clough would go on to work for about 25 years as a meteorologistfor the U. S. Army where he studied the impact of weather on weaponssystems. He still holds the sameview today. Price explains asfollows:

However, there is no reasonwhy these basic weapons might not be used in a future battle, if the conditionsor the stage of battle prevent the use of the more advanced technology. Warsfought in certain rugged Middle Eastern terrains such as the mountainous regionof Afghanistan (cf. 39:2-4) have required modern armies to use horses, and bowsand arrows continue to be employed in various combat arenas. In addition, ifthe battle takes place in the Tribulation period, the conditions predicted forthat time, such as seismic activity, meteor showers, increased solar effects,and other cosmic and terrestrial catastrophes (Matthew 24:7; Revelation6:12-14; 8:7-12; 16:8-9, 18-21) would so disrupt the environment that presenttechnology depending on satellite and computer-guided systems as well asmeteorological stability would utterly fail. Under such conditions most of ourmodern weapons would be useless and more basic weapons would have to besubstituted. At any rate, there is no reason to relegate the text to the paston the basis of supposedly anachronistic language.[15]

(ToBe Continued . . .)


[1] William L. Hull, Israel: Key to Prophecy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1957), pp. 35-36.(emphasis original)

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

[3] Gary DeMar, "Ezekiel's Magog Invasion: Future orFulfilled?" Biblical Worldview Magazine, vol. 22 (December, 2006), p. 4.

[4] DeMar, "Ezekiel's Magog Invasion," p. 6. (italicsoriginal)

[5] Bernard Ramm, Protestant BiblicalInterpretation, third edition(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1970), p. 119.

[6] Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody, [1965], 1995), pp. 80-81.(italics original)

[7] E. R. Craven and J. P. Lange, ed., Commentaryon the Holy Scriptures: Revelation(New York: Scribner, 1872), p. 98. (italics original)

[8] David L. Cooper, The World 's Greatest LibraryGraphically Illustrated (LosAngeles: Biblical Research Society, [1942], 1970), p. 11.

[9] Matthew Waymeyer, Revelation 20 and theMillennial Debate (The Woodlands,TX: Kress Christian Publications, 2004), p. 50. (italics original)

[10] Mark Hitchcock and Thomas Ice, The TruthBehind Left Behind: A Biblical View of the End Times (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Press, 2004), p. 47.

[11] DeMar, "Ezekiel's Magog Invasion," p. 4.

[12] DeMar, "Ezekiel's Magog Invasion," p. 6.

[13] Paul Lee Tan, The Interpretation of Prophecy (Winona Lake, IN: Assurance Publishers, 1974), p.223.

[14] At the time, Charles A. Clough was pastor ofLubbock Bible Church in Lubbock, Texas.

[15] Price, Unpublished Notes on Ezekiel, p. 42.