Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Eze 38:1-23. The Assault of Gog, and God's Judgment on Him.
The objections to a literal interpretation of the prophecy are—(1) The ideal nature of the name Gog, which is the root of Magog, the only kindred name found in Scripture or history. (2) The nations congregated are selected from places most distant from Israel, and from one another, and therefore most unlikely to act in concert (Persians and Libyans, &c.). (3) The whole spoil of Israel could not have given a handful to a tithe of their number, or maintained the myriads of invaders a single day (Eze 38:12, 13). (4) The wood of their invaders' weapons was to serve for fuel to Israel for seven years! And all Israel were to take seven months in burying the dead! Supposing a million of Israelites to bury each two corpses a day, the aggregate buried in the hundred eighty working days of the seven months would be three hundred sixty millions of corpses! Then the pestilential vapors from such masses of victims before they were all buried! What Israelite could live in such an atmosphere? (5) The scene of the Lord's controversy here is different from that in Isa 34:6, Edom, which creates a discrepancy. (But probably a different judgment is alluded to). (6) The gross carnality of the representation of God's dealings with His adversaries is inconsistent with Messianic times. It therefore requires a non-literal interpretation. The prophetical delineations of the divine principles of government are thrown into the familiar forms of Old Testament relations. The final triumph of Messiah's truth over the most distant and barbarous nations is represented as a literal conflict on a gigantic scale, Israel being the battlefield, ending in the complete triumph of Israel's anointed King, the Saviour of the world. It is a prophetical parable [Fairbairn]. However, though the details are not literal, the distinctiveness in this picture, characterizing also parallel descriptions in writers less ideally picturesque than Ezekiel, gives probability to a more definite and generally literal interpretation. The awful desolations caused in Judea by Antiochus Epiphanes, of Syria (1 Maccabees; and Porphyry, quoted by Jerome on Ezekiel), his defilement of Jehovah's temple by sacrificing swine and sprinkling the altar with the broth, and setting up the altar of Jupiter Olympius, seem to be an earnest of the final desolations to be caused by Antichrist in Israel, previous to His overthrow by the Lord Himself, coming to reign (compare Da 8:10-26; 11:21-45; 12:1; Zec 13:9; 14:2, 3). Grotius explains Gog as a name taken from Gyges, king of Lydia; and Magog as Syria, in which was a city called Magog [Pliny, 5.28]. What Ezekiel stated more generally, Re 20:7-9 states more definitely as to the anti-Christian confederacy which is to assail the beloved city.
Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him,
2. Gog—the prince of the land of Magog. The title was probably a common one of the kings of the country, as "Pharaoh" in Egypt. Chakan was the name given by the Northern Asiatics to their king, and is still a title of the Turkish sultan: "Gog" may be a contraction of this. In Ezekiel's time a horde of northern Asiatics, termed by the Greeks "Scythians," and probably including the Moschi and Tibareni, near the Caucasus, here ("Meshech … Tubal") undertook an expedition against Egypt [Herodotus, 1.103-106]. These names might be adopted by Ezekiel from the historical fact familiar to men at the time, as ideal titles for the great last anti-Christian confederacy.
Magog—(Ge 10:2; 1Ch 1:5). The name of a land belonging to Japheth's posterity. Maha, in Sanskrit, means "land." Gog is the ideal political head of the region. In Re 20:8, Gog and Magog are two peoples.
the chief prince—rather, "prince of Rosh," or "Rhos" [Septuagint]. The Scythian Tauri in the Crimea were so called. The Araxes also was called "Rhos." The modern Russians may have hence assumed their name, as Moscow and Tobolsk from Meshech and Tubal, though their proper ancient name was Slavi, or Wends. Hengstenberg supports English Version, as "Rosh" is not found in the Bible. "Magog was Gog's original kingdom, though he acquired also Meshech and Tubal, so as to be called their chief prince."
And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal:
3. His high-sounding titles are repeated to imply the haughty self-confidence of the invader as if invincible.
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. turn thee back—as a refractory wild beast, which thinks to take its own way, but is bent by a superior power to turn on a course which must end in its destruction. Satan shall be, by overruling Providence, permitted to deceive them to their ruin (Re 20:7, 8).
hooks into thy jaws—(Eze 29:4; 2Ki 19:28).
Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet:
5. Persia … Libya—expressly specified by Appian as supplying the ranks of Antiochus' army.
Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee.
6. Gomer—the Celtic Cimmerians of Crim-Tartary.
Togarmah—the Armenians of the Caucasus, south of Iberia.
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. Irony. Prepare thee and all thine with all needful accoutrements for war—that ye may perish together.
be … a guard unto them—that is, if thou canst.
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 shall be visited—in wrath, by God (Isa 29:6). Probably there is allusion to Isa 24:21, 22, "The host of the high ones … shall be gathered … as prisoners … in the pit … and after many days shall they be visited." I therefore prefer English Version to Grotius rendering, "Thou shalt get the command" of the expedition. The "after many days" is defined by "in the latter years," that is, in the times just before the coming of Messiah, namely, under Antiochus, before His first coming; under Antichrist, before His second coming.
the mountains of Israel … always waste—that is, waste during the long period of the captivity, the earnest of the much longer period of Judea's present desolation (to which the language "always waste" more fully applies). This marks the impious atrocity of the act, to assail God's people, who had only begun to recover from their protracted calamities.
but it is brought … and they shall dwell—rather, "And they (the Israelites) were brought … dwelt safely" [Fairbairn]. English Version means, "Against Israel, which has been waste, but which (that is, whose people) is now (at the time of the invasion) brought forth out of the nations where they were dispersed, and shall be found by the invader dwelling securely, so as to seem an easy prey to him."
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. cloud to cover the land—with the multitude of thy forces.
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. an evil thought—as to attacking God's people in their defenseless state.
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. dwell safely—that is, securely, without fear of danger (compare Es 9:19). Antiochus, the type of Antichrist, took Jerusalem without a blow.
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. midst of the land—literally, "the navel" of the land (Jud 9:37, Margin). So, in Eze 5:5, Israel is said to be set "in the midst of the nations"; not physically, but morally, a central position for being a blessing to the world: so (as the favored or "beloved city," Re 20:9) an object of envy. Grotius translates, "In the height of the land" (so Eze 38:8), "the mountains of Israel," Israel being morally elevated above the rest of the world.
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. Sheba, &c.—These mercantile peoples, though not taking an active part against the cause of God, are well pleased to see others do it. Worldliness makes them ready to deal in the ill-gotten spoil of the invaders of God's people. Gain is before godliness with them (1 Maccabees 3:41).
young lions—daring princes and leaders.
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. shalt thou not know it?—to thy cost, being visited with punishment, while Israel dwells safely.
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:
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. I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me—So in Ex 9:16, God tells Pharaoh, "For this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee My power; and that My name may be declared throughout all the earth."
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. thou he of whom I have spoken in old time—Gog, &c. are here identified with the enemies spoken of in other prophecies (Nu 24:17-24; Isa 27:1; compare Isa 26:20, 21; Jer 30:23, 24; Joe 3:1; Mic 5:5, 6; Isa 14:12-14; 59:19). God is represented as addressing Gog at the time of his assault; therefore, the "old time" is the time long prior, when Ezekiel uttered these prophecies; so, he also, as well as Daniel (Da 11:1-45) and Zechariah (Zec 14:1-21) are included among "the prophets of Israel" here.
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. fury shall come up in my face—literally, "nose"; in Hebrew, the idiomatic expression for anger, as men in anger breathe strongly through the nostrils. Anthropopathy: God stooping to human modes of thought (Ps 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. great shaking—an earthquake: physical agitations after accompanying social and moral revolutions. Foretold also in Joe 3:16; (compare Hag 2:6, 7; Mt 24:7, 29; Re 16:18).
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. fishes—disturbed by the fleets which I will bring.
fowls, &c.—frightened at the sight of so many men: an ideal picture.
mountains—that is, the fortresses on the mountains.
steep places—literally, "stairs" (So 2:14); steep terraces for vines on the sides of hills, to prevent the earth being washed down by the rains.
every wall—of towns.
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 … against his brother—I will destroy them partly by My people's sword, partly by their swords being turned against one another (compare 2Ch 20:23).
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. plead—a forensic term; because God in His inflictions acts on the principles of His own immutable justice, not by arbitrary impulse (Isa 66:16; Jer 25:31).
blood … hailstones, fire—(Re 8:7; 16:21). The imagery is taken from the destruction of Sodom and the plagues of Egypt (compare Ps 11:6). Antiochus died by "pestilence" (2 Maccabees 9:5).
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.