The Battle of Ezekiel 38-39 Part 3

   Part 1 through 3 was written by Jack Kelly from Rapture Ready.

Part 3 of our study begins with the first verses of chapter 39.

“Son of man, prophesy against Gog and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you around and drag you along. I will bring you from the far north and send you against the mountains of Israel. Then I will strike your bow from your left hand and make your arrows drop from your right hand. On the mountains of Israel you will fall, you and all your troops and the nations with you. I will give you as food to all kinds of carrion birds and to the wild animals. You will fall in the open field, for I have spoken, declares the Sovereign LORD. I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in safety in the coastlands, and they will know that I am the LORD.

” ‘I will make known my holy name among my people Israel. I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the LORD am the Holy One in Israel. It is coming! It will surely take place, declares the Sovereign LORD. This is the day I have spoken of. (Ezek. 39:1-8)

The King James has the more accurate rendering for the beginning of this passage. The phrase translated I will turn you around and drag you along in the NIV and others, literally reads I will turn you around and leave but the sixth part of you which means that 5/6ths of the Moslem armies will be destroyed. The Hebrew concept is roughly equivalent to the one behind the English word “decimate.” Although decimate originally described the punishment requiring that 1 in 10 soldiers in a mutinous Roman Legion be executed, figuratively it has come to mean that something is all but totally destroyed.

Synonyms are “annihilate” or “wipe out.” So it is with the Hebrew. When the Lord brings this Moslem coalition into the mountains of Israel, He will also wipe them out.

And don’t be confused by the reference to bows and arrows. Ezekiel was just using terms he knew. The same Hebrew words could be translated launchers and missiles today.

Some interpret the idea of sending fire on Magog and those who live safely in the coastlands as warning of a nuclear exchange. Magog refers to Russia of course, but the identity of the coastlands is less clear. The Hebrew word implies that they’re a distant land, and in Isaiah the phrase “beyond the sea” is used to help locate them, the sea being the Mediterranean. This reference could easily be pointing to Europe, and some even believe the US is in focus here. But we’ll have to wait and see.

Also the Hebrew word translated in safety is the same one that’s used to describe Israel’s state of mind in Ezek. 38:8. Again it denotes a sense of carelessness, this time on Europe’s part, as if they don’t believe this kind of thing could happen to them and therefore aren’t prepared for what’s coming.

And once more the Lord explains His real purpose. He’s going to use this battle to announce to one and all that He’s Israel’s Protector and Champion. The nations of the world are being told that to get to Israel, they’ll have to go through Him.

” ‘Then those who live in the towns of Israel will go out and use the weapons for fuel and burn them up-the small and large shields, the bows and arrows, the war clubs and spears. For seven years they will use them for fuel. They will not need to gather wood from the fields or cut it from the forests, because they will use the weapons for fuel. And they will plunder those who plundered them and loot those who looted them, declares the Sovereign LORD. (Ezek 39:9-10)

In Ezekiel’s day people burned wood for heat and so that’s the idiom he used to describe the situation. In fact, the passage indicates that all of Israel’s energy needs for 7 years will be met by converting the energy from the weapons the enemy leaves behind to peaceful use. I can’t imagine the enemy carrying in enough wood (or any other conventional fuel for that matter) to supply Israel’s power and heating plants for 7 years, so a more modern application is in order. Many observers say this is a reference to nuclear power. The old Soviet Union converted submarine reactors into power generating plants to provide electricity for whole communities so the notion isn’t that far fetched. And as you’ll see, the clean-up procedures for this battle are remarkably similar to today’s nuclear decontamination process. Why only 7 years then, when a nuclear reactor could theoretically supply energy needs for much longer? If, as I believe, this battle will introduce the 70th week of Daniel, 7 years worth of energy is all they’ll need. After that, the Lord will supply their needs. (Rev. 22:5)

” ‘On that day I will give Gog a burial place in Israel, in the valley of those who travel east toward the Sea. It will block the way of travelers, because Gog and all his hordes will be buried there. So it will be called the Valley of Hamon Gog.

” ‘For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them in order to cleanse the land. All the people of the land will bury them, and the day I am glorified will be a memorable day for them, declares the Sovereign LORD .

” ‘Men will be regularly employed to cleanse the land. Some will go throughout the land and, in addition to them, others will bury those that remain on the ground. At the end of the seven months they will begin their search. As they go through the land and one of them sees a human bone, he will set up a marker beside it until the gravediggers have buried it in the Valley of Hamon Gog. (Also a town called Hamonah will be there.) And so they will cleanse the land’ (Ezek 39:11-16)

The King James version says this valley is east of the Dead Sea. If so it would be in Jordan, not Israel, and even in Ezekiel’s day would have been outside Israel’s borders. Yet verse 11 clearly locates the burial place in Israel. Therefore I believe it’s more likely the one traditionally called the Valley of the Shadow of Death (Psalm 23:4) that was part of Israel during Ezekiel’s time. If so, it’s at the bottom of the old Jericho Road that still connects Jerusalem with Jericho and is on the way to the Dead Sea. And remarkably it’s in territory occupied by the Palestinians today, another hint that due to the fulfillment of Psalm 83 they will have lost any claim to the West Bank before Ezekiel’s Battle begins.

It will require the combined efforts of all Israeli citizens for 7 months to bury the enemy dead. After that they’ll hire professionals, some to decontaminate the land and some to search for any bodies the people may have missed. They won’t touch any bones they find, but will set up markers and call the professionals to come take them away. This approach fits modern Nuclear Biological Chemical Warfare decontamination procedures to a tee. Did the Lord have Ezekiel write this to show us the type of weaponry being used? Between this and the energy reference above, it sure looks that way.

“Son of man, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Call out to every kind of bird and all the wild animals: ‘Assemble and come together from all around to the sacrifice I am preparing for you, the great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel. There you will eat flesh and drink blood. You will eat the flesh of mighty men and drink the blood of the princes of the earth as if they were rams and lambs, goats and bulls-all of them fattened animals from Bashan. At the sacrifice I am preparing for you, you will eat fat till you are glutted and drink blood till you are drunk. At my table you will eat your fill of horses and riders, mighty men and soldiers of every kind,’ declares the Sovereign LORD. (Ezek. 39:17-20)

The carrion birds and scavengers will have a field day due to the carnage left behind on the battlefield. Earlier the enemy force was described as being a great horde, like a cloud covering the land. Now that it’s been decimated there are dead bodies everywhere. This is not unique in Israel’s history. Josephus wrote that after the Battle of the Galilee in 68 AD there were so many dead bodies floating in the Sea that you couldn’t see the water.

“I will display my glory among the nations, and all the nations will see the punishment I inflict and the hand I lay upon them. From that day forward the house of Israel will know that I am the LORD their God. And the nations will know that the people of Israel went into exile for their sin, because they were unfaithful to me. So I hid my face from them and handed them over to their enemies, and they all fell by the sword. I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their offenses, and I hid my face from them.

“Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will now bring Jacob back from captivity and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name. They will forget their shame and all the unfaithfulness they showed toward me when they lived in safety in their land with no one to make them afraid. When I have brought them back from the nations and have gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will show myself holy through them in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind. I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD.” (Ezek 39:21-29)

Following this victory the Lord will complete the return of His people Israel to their land, begun in the early 1900’s and made official in 1948. Though He caused them to be scattered all over the world, He’ll now bring them back, not leaving any behind. Since about 55% of the world’s Jewish people currently live outside of Israel this will be some homecoming. But having witnessed His defeat of their enemies, Jews from all over the world will flock to Israel and to Him, yearning for a reinstatement of their Old Covenant relationship. And after waiting for nearly 2000 years for them to return, He’s not going to refuse them now.

Because of a peace treaty enforced on their behalf by a coming world leader, they’ll soon build a Temple, Old Covenant worship being impossible without one. If they follow the instructions from Ezekiel 40-48 as I believe, they’ll build the Temple in Shiloh, about 12 miles (20km) north of Jerusalem. This is the Temple that will be made desolate by the anti-Christ and later cleansed at the beginning of the Millennium, just as the second Temple was first made desolate and then cleansed in the time of the Maccabees. (Read The Coming Temple for all the details.)

And so this battle will permit the beginning of Daniel’s 70th week, the last 7 years of human history before the Millennium. Having given this prophecy to Israel, Ezekiel doesn’t get into any detail on its aftermath, especially as is relates to the world’s subsequent reactions. But for we who are the Church today, the Battle of Ezekiel 38-39 carries more significance in what Ezekiel didn’t say than in what he did. And that’s the topic of our concluding episode, next time. See you then.

The Battle of Ezekiel 38-39 Part 2

  Conditions are quickly falling into place for the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38-39. Turkey has all but declared itself part of the Moslem coalition after years of being one of Israel’s most reliable allies. As for Israel’s great protector the USA, our current leaders have withdrawn their support to a point where no one can say for sure how we would respond in case of an attack on Israel. Jewish officials suspect our recent pledges of support are just empty words, meant only for public consumption.

If so, all that remains for Ezekiel 38 to happen is for Israel to become confident enough in their military prowess to believe no one would attack them. The fulfillment of prophecies in Psalm 83 and Isaiah 17 could prompt such a careless state of mind, and some informed sources are predicting that these battles could take place as early as this summer. Time will tell. But in the meantime, to freshen our prophetic perspective, we’ll continue our review of Ezekiel 38-39.

” ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On that day thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil scheme. You will say, “I will invade a land of unwalled villages; I will attack a peaceful and unsuspecting people-all of them living without walls and without gates and bars. I will plunder and loot and turn my hand against the resettled ruins and the people gathered from the nations, rich in livestock and goods, living at the center of the land.” Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish and all her villages will say to you, “Have you come to plunder? Have you gathered your hordes to loot, to carry off silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods and to seize much plunder?” ‘ (Ezek. 38:10-13)

Israel is described here as a country at peace in the idiom of Ezekiel’s day, a land of unwalled villages. In Biblical times villages only built protective walls if they were concerned about being attacked. Israel won’t be expecting war. When this enemy coalition suddenly and unexpectedly attacks, other countries not involved will take notice. They won’t know what’s going on either.

Sheba and Dedan are first mentioned as grandsons of Cush in Genesis 10:7. Later, in Genesis 25:3, we read of grandsons of Abraham named Sheba and Dedan as well, born to Jokshan, a son of Abraham and his 2nd wife, Keturah. From the passage it’s not clear which pair of grandsons is being referenced, but commentaries none-the-less identify these two as representing the nations of the Arabian Peninsula, notably Saudi Arabia. According to archaeologists W. F. Albright and Wendell Phillips, Sheba was on the southwestern edge of the Arabian Peninsula across the Red Sea from present-day Ethiopia. Sheba is known in history as Saba in Southern Arabia, home to the Sabaeans of classical geography, who carried on the trade in spices with the other peoples of the ancient world. Dedan was probably the habitat of the Arabs in the northern part of the Arabian Desert, which is modern-day Saudi Arabia. The ancient capital of Saudi Arabia is still called Dedan on many maps today.

Tarshish was a son of Javan, who settled the area of Southern Greece. Some see his name as a reference to ancient Tartessus, a seaport in southern Spain, near Gibraltar. Others recall the sea going navies of the Phoenicians who sailed “the Ships of Tarshish” out of nearby Cadiz as far north as England for tin, a metal used in the making of bronze and other alloys, which they mined in Cornwall. Some believe that the name Britannia is actually derived from a Phoenician word meaning “source of tin.” If so, since the ships of Tarshish brought tin to the ancient world, this reference could be to Great Britain making the “lions” (KJV) or “villages”(NIV) of Tarshish Great Britain’s colonies, of which the US is the most prominent today. The fact that the Lion is a symbol of the British Empire lends support to this view.

This is the main reason I don’t believe this battle is the Armageddon of Revelation 16:16. There are too many significant countries that aren’t involved, when according to Zechariah 14:2 all the nations of the world will be gathered against Jerusalem for the final battle.

“Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say to Gog: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: In that day, when my people Israel are living in safety, will you not take notice of it? You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army. You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land. In days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me when I show myself holy through you before their eyes. (Ezek. 38:14-16)

Here the Lord makes His intent unmistakably clear. He’s orchestrating this event to reveal Himself to the world once again. The years and years of debate over God’s existence, begun with the German School of Higher Criticism in the 1800’s and continued in the modern rationalism of the 1950’s will be put to naught as God uses this battle to poke His head through the fabric of the sky and shout, “I’m still here!”

” ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Are you not the one I spoke of in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel? At that time they prophesied for years that I would bring you against them. This is what will happen in that day: When Gog attacks the land of Israel, my hot anger will be aroused, declares the Sovereign LORD. In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. The fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence. The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble and every wall will fall to the ground. I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Sovereign LORD . Every man’s sword will be against his brother. I will execute judgment upon him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him. And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD.’ (Ezek. 38:17-23)

When the Moslem coalition attacks Israel, God will say, “You’re the ones I had Ezekiel warn my people about so long ago.” With signs reminiscent of all the Heaven-fought wars of the past, the Lord is aroused in anger to execute judgment against the invaders of His land and enemies of His people. And as He has done before, He sews confusion in the hearts of Israel’s enemies so that they commence attacking themselves while He unleashes the classic weapons of divine retribution. Earthquakes, plagues, bloodshed, rain, hailstones, and burning sulfur; these are His signature signs. Neither Israel, nor the enemy coalition, nor those watching from afar will fail to interpret them correctly.

So ends chapter 38. Next time we’ll see why some think this battle goes nuclear and get another good reason why it’s not the last battle of the Age of Man. See you then.

The Battle of Ezekiel 38-39 Part 1

I first began studying Ezekiel 38 in the 1980s and have watched with great interest as our changing world conforms more and more to Ezekiel’s words. As the time of the end draws nearer the insights we gain from the changes around us give us a better understanding of Bible prophecy in general and Ezekiel 38 in particular. In this update of our study we’ll apply these insights to Ezekiel’s 2600 year old prophecy.

What Time Is It?

First of all, let’s get some kind of time frame settled. Ezekiel’s prophecies are chronological. Falling between the prophecies of Israel’s modern re-birth (Ezekiel 36-37) and the Millennium (Ezekiel 40-48), the battle of Ezekiel 38-39 has to take place during a time of peace after 1948 but before the 2nd coming, and all agree it hasn’t happened yet. This has led some to see the passage as a description of Armageddon, but as we’ll see there are many prominent nations missing from this battle whereas Zechariah 14:2 prophecies that every nation will join the battle of Armageddon. That being the case, the time frame narrows to sometime between 1948 and the beginning of the Great Tribulation, after which no place in the world will be at peace, especially Israel.

Ezekiel prophesied that the Lord would use this battle to turn Israel back to Him and to complete the return of Jews from all over the world to Israel, not leaving any behind (Ezekiel 39:28). This leads us to believe that the battle of Ezekiel 38-39 is the event that re-starts the clock on the 490-year period of time spoken of by Daniel, the famous 70 weeks of Daniel 9:24-27. 69 of those weeks (483 years) had come when the Messiah was crucified and the Temple destroyed, stopping the clock one week (seven years) short of fulfillment. I believe the dramatic victory the Lord wins over Israel’s enemies in Ezekiel’s battle will convince them to officially re-instate their Old Covenant relationship with Him to fulfill the remaining seven years of Daniel’s prophecy. This will require two things to happen. First they’ll need a Temple for worship. It’s this Temple that’s later desecrated by the anti-Christ, kicking off the Great Tribulation.

And second, the Church will have to disappear. Paul wrote that Israel had been hardened in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in (Romans 11:25). That means as long as the Church is around Israel won’t be able to recognize God’s involvement in their national life. But the Battle of Ezekiel 38 will be such a miraculous victory that it will re-awaken Israel to God’s presence. This means the Dispensation of Grace will have come to an end and the Church will be gone by the time this battle comes to an end.

With all this in mind, let’s begin a careful study of Ezekiel 38-39, to prepare us for these events should they become reality soon.

The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal; prophesy against him and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army-your horses, your horsemen fully armed, and a great horde with large and small shields, all of them brandishing their swords. Persia, Cush and Put will be with them, all with shields and helmets, also Gomer with all its troops and Beth Togarmah from the far north with all its troops-the many nations with you. (Ezek. 38:1-6)

In another study, I made the claim that Gog is a supernatural figure (perhaps Satan’s counterpart to the Archangel Michael) and the behind the scenes commander of this event, while Magog is listed in Genesis 10 as one of Noah’s grandsons, a son of Japeth. Over 130 historical references demonstrate that Magog is the father of today’s Russian people. (For a more detailed treatment on the modern names of all the nations mentioned in this passage, click here.)

The phrase “hooks in the jaw” comes from the equestrian world where a special bridle is used to make a rebellious horse obedient to its rider’s commands. It symbolizes God forcing Russia to become involved in this battle to assure that His will is done. Persia is the ancient name for Iran, Cush and Put represent the North African nations, Gomer was Magog’s brother and settled along the Danube River in what would become Eastern Europe, and Togarmah, a son of Gomer’s, inhabited what’s now known as Armenia and Turkey. The characteristic all these nations have in common today is their religion. They’re all Moslem.

“Get ready; be prepared, you and all the hordes gathered about you, and take command of them. After many days you will be called to arms. In future years you will invade a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate. They had been brought out from the nations, and now all of them live in safety. You and all your troops and the many nations with you will go up, advancing like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land. (Ezek. 38:7-9)

The fact that Israel is the target in this passage is self evident, but a controversy rages around the Heberew word betach translated “in safety” in verse 8. A secondary meaning, “carelessly” could mean that they’re not really safe but just think they are and so their guard is down. To achieve either of the conditions this word implies would require a truly miraculous change in Israel’s current situation and for many years scholars were uncertain as to how this could ever happen.

But a little known prophecy in the Psalms might have the answer. According to Psalm 83 all of Israel’s next door neighbors will unite in an effort to wipe Israel completely off the map. But Israel will soundly defeat them and capture their lands as well. Enemies like Hezbollah, Lebanon, the Palestinians, Hamas, etc. will cease to exist, and the lands they now occupy will once again belong to Israel. (Many people don’t realize that even the land of Lebanon was originally given to Israel and will belong to Israel again in the Millennium.)

It’s also beginning to look like the Isaiah 17 prophecy of the destruction of Damascus could be fulfilled at the same time. Israel has officially declared that they’ll hold Syria responsible for any attack by Hezbollah, and will retaliate accordingly. High Israeli officials have recently said that the Syrian government will not survive such a retaliation and its infrastructure will be destroyed. This is a direct threat against Damascus.

If the fulfillment of Psalm 83 and Isaiah 17 precede the Battle Ezekiel 38, it helps explain how Israel could be taken by surprise when the Moslem coalition attacks and why none of Israel’s next door neighbors are mentioned in Ezekiel’s line up.

Next time we’ll look at the other nations that are not involved in this battle and you’ll see why it can’t be referring to Armageddon. We’ll also see how the Lord chooses to reveal Himself to the nations. See you then.