Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 38 The invasion of Gog, and his destruction
(I) Ezekiel 38:1-9. Gog’s enterprise regarded as the purpose and operation of Jehovah. The Lord will bring Gog forth with all his allies. He is commanded to hold himself in readiness to go up against Israel.
(2) Ezekiel 38:10-13. Gog’s enterprise regarded as due to his own evil purposes. Evil thoughts shall come into his mind, and he will resolve to invade Israel, to spoil a spoil and to get him much prey. The merchant nations shall follow his camp intent on gain.
(3) Ezekiel 38:14-19. Gog’s coming up and his bringing up have the same result or purpose eventually: Jehovah shall be “sanctified” in (through) him, and the nations shall know that he is God.
(4) Ezekiel 38:17-23. Gog’s attack had long been predicted by former prophets. On that day Jehovah will reveal himself in all his majesty and shake terribly the earth. All creation shall be terror-stricken before him, and all that is lofty on the earth shall be thrown down (Isaiah 2, 3). He will bring destruction on Gog, causing a supernatural panic in his host and turning the sword of the confederates against one another, and overwhelming them in tempests of hail and fire from heaven. Thus will the nations fear his holy name.
And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,1–6. The great array of Gog which Jehovah shall lead forth
2. set thy face against Gog] Cf. Ezekiel 35:2-3. The meaning of the word Gog is obscure. Schrader (KAT. on the passage) refers to the name of the Lydian king Gyges, given as Gu-gu in the Assyr. inscriptions, on the one hand, and on the other to Gagi, name of the ruler of a country in the east, the situation of which is uncertain. This land apparently lay north of Assyria (Frd. Del. Par. p. 246–7).
Gog, the land of Magog] i.e. in sense: Gog in (of) the land of Magog. Gog is the prince and Magog his country (Ezekiel 39:6). (In construction Magog is acc. of direction or in loose apposition to Gog, hardly gen. after the proper name).
the chief prince] More probably: the prince of Rosh, Meshech &c., although a people or country Rosh may be impossible to identify. Of course any connexion between the name and Russian is to be rejected. Frd. Del. (Par. p. 322) refers to the land of Râsh (mât Ra-a-shi) of the inscriptions, situated on the borders of Elam on the Tigris. The geography of the prophet is no doubt vague and general, but this position as well as that of Gagi referred to above appears to lie too far east. The rendering “chief prince” would imply an unusual construction (chief-priest is different), and it is difficult to guess what chief prince or over-lord could mean. On Meshech, Tubal, cf. Ezekiel 27:13, Ezekiel 32:26.
Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him,
And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal:3. chief prince] Cf. on Ezekiel 38:2.
And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords:4. I will turn thee back] Either: I will turn thee about, or, I will lead thee. The sense entice or “decoy” (Ew.) has scarcely evidence (Isaiah 47:10). The clause “and I will turn … jaws” is wanting in LXX. Putting hooks into the jaws suggests unwillingness and compulsion (ch. Ezekiel 29:4; 2 Kings 19:28), whereas Gog comes up of his own accord. This, however, is not quite conclusive, as Jehovah is leading him on to his destruction.
with all sorts of armour] Rather: clothed gorgeously (cf. Ezekiel 23:12), or, in full armour (R.V.). The host of Gog is probably not exclusively cavalry, though these are specially mentioned; and besides their vast numbers their splendid uniforms and heavy armour are vividly pictured.
Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet:5. Cf. on Ezekiel 27:10, Ezekiel 30:5.
Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee.6. Cf. Ezekiel 27:14; Genesis 10:2. His “bands,” Ezekiel 12:14.
north quarters] lit. sides of the north, i.e. the furthest north, Isaiah 14:13. Gomer, Assyr. Gimir, is usually identified in name with the Kimmerians. Schrader (KAT. in loc.) and others understand Cappadocia.
Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them.7–9. Injunction to Gog to be in readiness for the latter days when Jehovah shall lead him forth
7. a guard unto them] The term means something to be kept or observed, a rallying point; Gog shall be the leader of the people—though the word hardly means strictly “standard” (Ew.). For “unto them” LXX. reads “unto me,” giving the meaning that Gog shall be kept “in reserve” by Jehovah for his future operations (Ezekiel 38:8).
After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.8. thou shalt be visited] Not in the frequent sense of visited with punishment, but in the sense of recalled to mind in order to be employed (cf. usage Ezekiel 23:21). Others: mustered, which is not very natural; and the meaning “thou shalt receive orders” (from Jehovah) can hardly be supported from usage. From the position of the prophet the invasion of Gog seems to belong to the far-distant future, to a time after the people have been restored and have enjoyed long peace and great felicity. For many people, peoples, and so Ezekiel 38:9; Ezekiel 38:15; Ezekiel 38:22.
always waste] i.e. long time waste, cf. Isaiah 42:14; Isaiah 58:12. “Always” is a natural exaggeration for the exile period, which seemed endless, see Ezekiel 36:2, cf. Ezekiel 35:9.
dwell safely] Or, in confidence. The term always expresses the feeling of security.
Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee.9. like a storm] Cf. on the figure Isaiah 21:1; Isaiah 28:2; Jeremiah 4:13. The rapidity of the movements of Gog (Hosea 8:1), and their destructiveness, as well as the infinite masses of his host (Numbers 22:5; Jdg 6:5) are expressed by the comparison with the storm and cloud.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought:10–13. Gog’s invasion prompted by his own evil purposes
10. It shall also come to pass] Read: It shall come to pass at that time that things shall come &c. The “also” of A.V. suggests an additional thing to Ezekiel 38:1-9, whereas it is only the same thing from another point of view. Ezekiel 38:10 seq. are parallel to Ezekiel 38:1-9, not a consequence e.g. of Ezekiel 38:4.
shall things come] lit., words, i.e. purposes. Isaiah 8:10 “speak a word and it shall not stand.” Cf. Ezekiel 14:3.
think an evil thought] As marg. conceive an evil purpose.
And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates,11. Cf. Deuteronomy 3:5; 1 Samuel 6:18; Jdg 18:27. “Safely,” i.e. in confidence, Ezekiel 38:8.
To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.12. On “take a spoil” cf. Ezekiel 29:19; Isaiah 10:6. The phrase “turn the hand upon” is always used in a hostile sense (Isaiah 1:25). Ezekiel 38:11-12 give the prophet’s idea of the condition of the restored community and of the state of the world in those days which permits it. He does not furnish details, but previous prophecies (ch. 25–32) describe how all the nations formerly hostile to Israel are humbled or taken out of the way. The period of Israel’s restoration is a time of universal peace. Only distant nations on the outskirts of the world, that have never entered upon the stage of history, remain unaware of the fame and glory of the God of Israel (Isaiah 66:19). The same circle of ideas appears in the passage relating to the period of a thousand years in the Apocalypse: outside the historical world there remain distant nations unaffected by the kingdom of Christ.
midst of the land] of the earth, lit. the navel of the earth, i.e. the mountain—land of Israel, the centre of the earth, cf. Ezekiel 38:5. The prophet speaks of the world as known in his day.
Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?13. The merchant peoples are roused to excitement by the enterprise of Gog; probably it is the hope of gain by trafficking with him for his spoil that excites them—hardly envy at the rich harvest lying before him. On Sheba Ezekiel 27:22; Dedan Ezekiel 27:20; Tarshish Ezekiel 27:12.
all the young lions] Cf. Ezekiel 19:3; Ezekiel 19:5, Ezekiel 32:2. The term might be thought not very suitable to a troop of camp followers intent merely on traffic. The term is probably used generally to describe the eminence of these merchant people—hardly to represent them as thirsting for gain, as lions for prey!
Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know it?14–16. The purpose and issue of Gog’s invasion: that the nations may know Jehovah, when he is sanctified in Gog
14. shalt thou not know it] It is the peaceful and unprotected condition of the people, along with their wealth, that tempts Gog to invade them. LXX., however, reads: shalt thou not stir thyself up, or, arise, which gives a more vigorous sense (Isaiah 41:25; Jeremiah 6:22), though the Heb. is quite good. “Safely,” in confidence.
And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army:15. Cf. Ezekiel 38:4; Ezekiel 38:6, Ezekiel 39:2. For many people, peoples.
And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes.16. Cf. Ezekiel 38:9.
shall be sanctified] Or, get me sanctifying, i.e. recognition as “holy”—“holy” having the meaning of all that which God alone is. The rendering “shew myself holy” is less natural, though the meaning is virtually the same. Jehovah shews his great deeds in the sight of the nations, and thus they recognise his Godhead, cf. Ezekiel 38:23. He gets him sanctifying “in” or through Gog, as the object on whom his great operations of power are manifested.
In these verses Jehovah is represented on the one hand as bringing up Gog in order that he may be sanctified in him in the sight of the nations; and on the other hand Gog is represented as coming up of his own will, prompted by evil purposes, by the hope of an easy conquest and by lust of spoil. The first representation must not be pressed as if this case of Gog were something special, as if Jehovah for no object but to shew his power brought up against his people a leader and nation from the ends of the earth, who otherwise would have remained in peace in their distant abodes. Because such a view of the episode of Gog forgets in the first place the other side of the representation, viz. that Gog comes up of his own will, and with evil intent. It is the hope of an easy conquest and lust of spoil that animates him as well as the merchant peoples who follow in his train. This spirit of irreligious traffic on the part of these peoples is reprobated by the prophet and represented as antagonistic to the religion of Jehovah, just as it is in the case of Tyre (26–28). And secondly the view forgets the general teaching of the prophet, to the effect that Jehovah is in truth the author of all the great movements in the world, and that his operations have one great end in view, to reveal himself as that which he is to the nations of the world. His raising up Gog with this view is not a special thing, but one among many other similar things. To signalize it as something distinct and lift it out of the general current of the prophet’s conceptions creates an untrue impression of his teaching.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Art thou he of whom I have spoken in old time by my servants the prophets of Israel, which prophesied in those days many years that I would bring thee against them?17. The question gives vividness to the fact of Gog’s invasion having been long predicted, and identifies him with the subject of these predictions. These former prophecies had not named Gog; the identification is matter of inference.
those days many years] The construction is peculiar, but this is probably the sense. Gog, though not by name, had formed the subject of repeated predictions by many prophets. The prophecies referred to are probably such as Zephaniah 1 (Ezekiel 3:8), which agrees with Ezek. Ezekiel 38:20 in mentioning the fishes of the sea (again only Hosea 4:3), and Jeremiah 3-6 (Isaiah 17:12 seq.). The age of Joel may be later than Ezek., and passages like Joel 3, Zechariah 14, possibly repose rather on him, or at all events shew the continued prevalence of the same ideas, which indeed passed as current conceptions into the Apocalyptic prophecy dating from this age. The passage Micah 4:11 seq. is also of uncertain date. It is possible that the invasion of the Scythians may have suggested the prophecies of Zeph. and Jer., though the supposition is less necessary in the case of the latter prophet. It is not likely, however, that Ezekiel’s renewal of the prophecy was occasioned by any fresh movements among these northern nations occurring in his time (Sm. Kuen.), because he regards the inroad of Gog as an event to happen in the far distant future.
17–23. This invasion of Gog has been long predicted. It shall be the occasion of a final manifestation of himself by Jehovah to creation and the nations, which shall inspire universal awe, and leave in the minds of all mankind the knowledge of Jehovah, and that which he is.
And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, that my fury shall come up in my face.18. come to pass at the same time] Rather: come to pass in that day, in the day when Gog &c.
come up in my face] lit. in my nostril. The idea is not that of the inflammation of the face from anger, but that of a fiery breath appearing in the nostrils. Deuteronomy 32:22; Psalm 18:8.
For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel;19. have I spoken] i.e. do I speak; cf. Ezek. 21:36, Ezekiel 36:5, Ezekiel 39:25. The word “shaking” is the usual one for earthquake, but the general term is better here, Ezekiel 38:20, cf. Haggai 2:6-7.
So that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.20. The terror of creation before the majesty of Jehovah shall be universal, and all that is high shall be brought down. The passage agrees with the usual prophetic descriptions of the day of the Lord, cf. Zephaniah 1:1 seq.; Isaiah 2-3; Jeremiah 4:23-26. It describes Jehovah’s final manifestation of himself in his fury and jealousy. In the earlier prophets this manifestation of his majesty by Jehovah usually precedes or accompanies the final restoration of his people, here it is postponed until long after they have entered upon the rest of God in their own land. In other words that which earlier writers view as one scene, comprising Jehovah’s revelation of himself and the final restoration of his people, is resolved into two, one of which takes place long after the other. The same difference is observable in the New Test. between the representation of the Apocalyptist and that of the other writers.
the steep places] the clefts of the hills. In Song of Solomon 2:14 the term is rendered “stairs,” but it is parallel to “clefts of the rock,” and has the same general meaning.
And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord GOD: every man's sword shall be against his brother.21. every man’s sword] sign of a supernatural panic caused by Jehovah, Jdg 7:22; 1 Samuel 14:20. LXX. has read first clause: I will summon against him all terrors (i.e. a panic).
And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.22. I will plead] i.e. contend. Jehovah’s pleadings are often great acts of judgment, Isaiah 66:16; Jeremiah 25:31. Cf. Ezekiel 5:17; Ezekiel 14:19; Isaiah 29:6; Isaiah 30:30; Psalm 11:6, for similar judgments.
Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD.23. Thus will Jehovah magnify himself—manifest his greatness and power; and sanctify himself—shew himself to be “holy,” i.e. one who is God, Ezekiel 36:23. Then shall he be known as that which he is by all the nations of the earth.