In this context, the invading hostile force against God’s people is described in detail. Regardless of the strength of forces against God, He, with a simple strike, dismantles their power. They are laid bare to be devoured by birds and beasts. Because the evil forces are so easily defeated, God’s people conclude that only He could have been the source of their defeat.
After the defeat, the people of Israel go out to pick up the pieces. They are able to use Gog’s weapons for fires which will last for 7 years. Note the weapons are spears, shields, bows and arrows, etc. The people are also given the job of burying the dead. The coastal plain, of Palestine, is given as a burial ground, and it takes them 7 months to bury all the bodies of Gog’s defeated army.
Though God used invading forces to punish Israel for their iniquity, He sacrificed, set apart, the invading forces in order to restore and spare His people. Assyria and Babylon were used as His proxy judgment against Israel. Assyria and Babylon, however, were conquered in order to restore the people to the land. Both Assyria and Babylon were evil forces against God’s people.
However, they arrogantly marched against the people of God. Because of their arrogance, they were sacrificed for the benefit of the restoration of the people of God. Israel’s deliverance from the evil forces that were against her is the occasion for belief among the nations.
Every living thing from smallest to greatest will see that God has done all this and will glorify his name. That will be the response of all people. The nations thought it was the end of Israel when she was taken into captivity. But when the powers that took her into captivity were terminated, she was restored to her land.
The historical miracle of her restoration became the opportunity for the honest historian to conclude that God was still working through His people.
The section ends with a promise of restoration and one of protection for the people of God once they are back in the land God would give to them. Leave my people alone or suffer the consequences.
This clear historical conclusion to the apocalyptic revelation of Ezekiel 38-39 places the setting of the events at the time of Israel’s captivity and restoration. Evil forces symbolized by Gog and Magog were brought against God’s people. They were defeated by God once He had used them for His purpose.
That purpose was concluded with the fall of the Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C. to the Medo-Persian Empire. Cyrus, king of the Medo-Persian Empire released the captives, and thus the faithful in Israel concluded that there was only one God.
All their false gods and their false prophets had been proven wrong. God’s prophets had been proven true. And thus, Israel knew that God caused both their captivity and return. They knew that God did what He said He would do if they forsook His covenant with them.
1. The Identity of Gog.
There are about as many interpretations of this as there are men to write about it. I list only a few.
Gog means the Russians in a yet future invasion of a restored Israel during, or before the 1000 literal years reign of Christ in Jerusalem.
This is based on several things but certainly on a belief that the term ‘rosh’ in Ezekiel 38:2, is a root of the word Russia. This however is not necessarily so. The word literally means head or topmost, hence the RSV and others say, chief prince. Lindsay and most Premillennialists.
Gog means the Seleucids led by Antiochus IV Epiphanies.
This Greek was the last great oppression suffered by restored Israel before the end of the Old Covenant. W. Hendriksen.
Gog means a past invasion by the Sythians, supposedly called Magogites, which would serve as an illustration of God’s protection for the future. Josephus, Barnes.
Gog means the Antichrist.
Gog is simply another name for, and these events describe how he will oppose God sometime in the future. Lang.
Gog means a figurative army of immense and non-literal dimensions which shows Israel restored that if Jehovah can beat this size of the opposition, they need fear nothing. McGuiggan.
Gog means all armies of Israel’s enemies from Ezekiel’s time, or the return of the remnant, to the time of the establishment of the kingdom of Jesus. Hailey.
2. The Purpose of these chapters.
Having already ruled out any possible reference to the yet future and believing that this had a direct relevance for the remnant we narrow down the purpose.
What was Ezekiel trying to tell them? Is this a literal section or not?
The size of the army, the use of the number 7 in relation to the burning of the weapons and the burying of the dead, would seem to suggest not. In Hebrew, seven is, shevah. It is from the root word, savah, and means to be full or satisfied, have enough of. Bullinger.
Here is indeed a complete army, if these cannot beat Israel and remove them from the land, no one can. Babylon did, these cannot. Security is promised by God for the remnant from 539 B.C. to A.D. 33 and from A.D. 33 onward.
Satan changes the tactics that he used earlier, working through one great imperial power, backing a crass form of worship such as emperor worship. But he does use one of the means that has helped him have control from the beginning, deceit.
Both Satan and the false prophets are portrayed in Revelation as deceivers, Revelation 12:9 / Revelation 20:3 / Revelation 13 / Revelation 14 / Revelation 19:20. It comes as no surprise that upon Satan’s release from the abyss he returns to his nefarious activity. Satan shall come forth to deceive the nations for the purpose of gathering them together to war.
It is important to note here that Satan deceives these nations into waging war with him. He gathers his forces by deceit, the nations which fall prey to Satan’s propaganda are said to be in ‘the four corners of the earth’.
This figure of speech is not intended to stress some ancient cosmology but to emphasize universality. Isaiah 11:12 / Ezekiel 7:2 / Revelation 7:1.
His battle may be another HarMaggedon, a decisive battle, but it is not the battle of Revelation 16:14-16, that one had long since been fought, Revelation 19:19-21. This is a continuation of the same war that has been raging through the centuries, but it is a new battle.
The evangelist here has a literal dependency on the names employed by the earlier prophet. Gog and Magog stand for the great host of the nations and their leaders who would break forth into uncalled for hostility against the people of the Lord.
It must be remembered that the imagery is derived from the history of Israel. Jerusalem the beloved city of the true Israel of God, looks upon her foes. They are Babylon, Egypt or they may come from the far northern regions, the abode of Gog and Magog, whence the wild and relentless invaders had poured upon the land.
Gog and Magog are thus used as typical names. Under the auspices of such, the great gathering of turbulent and reckless enemies of the faith would take place. The hosts of the foes of Jerusalem are described as innumerable as the sand of the sea. This great concourse of countless hosts is moved by hostility to the faith of Christ.
John has in mind the last great attack of evil on the things of God. Satan will gather all his henchmen. He will assemble the greatest possible number to oppose God, the number of whom is the sand of the sea. This is the decisive moment, the final battle.
As in Ezekiel, the use of the term can be stated as such, Gog and Magog are enemies of God and His people. But eventual in both cases God is triumphant over them.
Hailey says that the battle will be a moral and spiritual one, in revelation, and he goes on to say that, ‘Satan’s Gog and Magog symbolise such forces and agencies as atheism, humanism, communism, materialism, anarchy, corruption etc.’
In other words, all the things that Satan will use in an effort to destroy the church.
In Ezekiel, as in Revelation, Gog made his appearance after the vindication and glorification of God’s people. In that place as in this the size of the host is staggering, Ezekiel 39:12-13. In that, as in this the defeat is total and takes place without the people of God having to do anything.
Magog according to Ezekiel 38:6, is a territory located in ‘the uttermost parts of the north’.
In Revelation, however, both Gog and Magog are symbolic figures representing the nations of the world that band together for a final assault upon God and his people. No specific geographical locations are intended. They are simply hostile nations from all across the world.