Ezekiel 38


Yahweh’s final triumph over the nations, the destruction of Gog with his great army of nations. Ezekiel 38-39


The army of Gog prepares for an expedition. The defeat of Gog. The responses to the defeat. The climax of Ezekiel’s prophecies takes his hearers not only to the new kingdom of the good shepherd, but apparently to a time when the forces of evil will be destroyed forever.

The language is apocalyptical, that is symbolically predictive of future events and challenging to interpret. The forces of evil are represented by Gog, ruler of a land called Magog, and by Meshech and Tubal. These names correspond to the sons of the Patriarch Japheth, who have been associated with the warlike Goths, Cretans and Sythians.

God’s vision to Ezekiel is that of a great battle on a wide panorama of the universe in which the death and destruction are cataclysmic, far beyond anything that either Judah or Israel had experienced. But the reasons for the destruction are the same, rebellion and wickedness. The other difference is that the punishment will be eternal in nature. At that time there will be no restoration of the wicked, only everlasting peace and joy for the righteous.

The summary gives us an outline of the events in these two chapters. Let us follow the events, and then try to decide the purpose of these chapters.

‘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 Meshek and Tubal; prophesy against him and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, Gog, chief prince of Meshek 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.’ Ezekiel 38:1-6

The Coming of Gog

This figure, Gog, is seen amassing an army of his own and making alliances with others to assemble a huge force to come against Israel. Persia, Cush (Ethiopia), Put and Gomer are said to be with him. These four nations appear in the east, south, west and north of Israel respectively. So, they are coming on Israel from all sides.

Magog was a land to the north of Palestine. It included the regions of Meshech and Tubal. Some have assumed that Gog was Gyges, 690-657 B.C., king of Lydia in Asia Minor. Others have assumed that Gog was Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonian Empire. Some have suggested that the reference is to Alexander the Great who took control of Palestine in the latter part of the 4th century. Still, others have suggested that Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria, is pictured, for he was the one who defiled Israel’s sacrificial ceremonies in the early part of the 2nd century.

However, if this context is apocalyptic, then the identity of Gog as a specific person is meaningless. He simply represents any force that would set himself or itself against the people of God. In view of the statements in Ezekiel 39:25-29, reference in the prophecy of these two chapters is to a time after the return of the captives from Babylonian captivity.

The historical events look forward from the return to the coming of Jesus for His earthly ministry. This is an apocalyptic picture of any attack against God’s people, and thus an encouragement to the returnees that they should never again fear a force that would destroy them.

Others would come, but they would not defeat and scatter them as in the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. The prophecy was not only against Gog to the north of Palestine but also against Persia to the east and Ethiopia and Libya to the south. All the nations surrounding Israel after the return are here warned not to trouble God’s people, for He will bring judgment on them for harming His people.

‘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.’ Ezekiel 38:7-9

Hordes of evil

It is obviously a huge army as it is described as ‘many peoples’ and ‘hordes’, ‘covering the land’. In the prophecy, Gog is representative of all enemies who would set themselves against Israel. Since Israel was restored to Palestine, the major trading route of the time, then the trading nations to the north and south of Israel are judged for the trouble that they would bring to God’s people.

‘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 centre 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?’ Ezekiel 38:10-13

Evil covets the righteous

The desire of Gog is to kill, plunder and spoil. God says to Gog however, that He, Jehovah, will be vindicated through Gog. It is difficult in the prophecy to determine exactly what nation would be represented by Gog. Though we may not understand the specific identity of Gog, and the country of Magog, the central meaning of the prophecy is clear.

Gog would represent any king who would set himself against God’s people. Magog would be representative of any kingdom that would seek to again assimilate God’s people to the loss of their identity. All such kings and kingdoms would fail in their attempt to annihilate God’s people.

‘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, Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me when I am proved holy through you before their eyes. Ezekiel 38:14-16

The battle to be the sign

From the time of the return of the remnant to Palestine, which began in 539 B.C., to the time of the coming of Jesus, the land of Palestine was occupied by the Medo-Persians, Greeks and Romans. All these empires subdued the people of God. However, the attack of Gog, who represented all enemies of the people of God, would come to no avail. God’s people would continue to maintain their identity as Jews until the coming of the Messiah.

The fact that they maintained their identity as a culture of people, proved that God had set them apart, sanctified, as His people through whom the Saviour would be brought into the world. Every effort to terminate Israel from history, therefore, would fail.

‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: You are 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 in the sea, the birds in the sky, 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 on him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulphur 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.’ Ezekiel 38:17-23

The Defeat of Gog

This defeat is carried out by Jehovah, not by the people of Israel. They are defeated by earthquake, Ezekiel 38:1920, by making them kill each other, Ezekiel 38:20, pestilence, Ezekiel 38:22, and various things falling from heaven, Ezekiel 38:22.

The meaning of the prophecy was that God works for His people. In the case of any attack upon God’s people, it is not stated that it would be His people who would take up arms and defend themselves against the attacker. It is stated that God would raise up all that would be necessary in order to thwart the plans of the attacker of His people.

Thus, God would work nation against nation in order that no nation ever again conquer His people. God would do all this in order to exalt His name among the nations.

Go To Ezekiel 39



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