Notes on Ezekiel 38:10-23

Ezekiel 38:10‑23  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 12
The prophecy then supposes the return of the people as a whole to their land, not of a remnant only, as after the Babylonish captivity. But there is more. It supposes a condition of unsuspected quiet such as differs from any period of Israel's history in the past. Of this Gog is to take advantage, but to his own ruin. He has no faith in God's love for His people, and never thinks of His taking His place in their midst for their defense against their foes.
“Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, It shall also come to pass in that day that things shall come into thy mind, and thou shalt devise a wicked device, and thou wilt say, I will go up to the land of villages, I will invade those who are at ease, that dwell securely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates to take spoil and to take prey, to turn thy hand against the wastes that are inhabited and against a people gathered out of the nations, gathering cattle and goods, dwelling in the midst [or on the height] of the land” (vss. 10-12).
If the day is come for Israel to be blessed in the mercy of God, it is no less the day for the judgment of the nations. Of these we have here the last in order, and perhaps the widest in extent, the awfully impressive lesson at the final confederacy before the reign of peace and righteousness. Nothing can exceed the graphic force with which the prophet describes all. Gog calculates on finding an easy prey in a people apparently so exposed and powerless. He little thinks that on those heights of Israel he and his immense host are about to perish at the hand of Jehovah, if not by one another. Nor is it only that the actual combatants are thus taken in their own snare, but those who look on have to learn that He whose name alone is Jehovah is the Most High over all the earth. “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?” (v. 13). They may be eager to treat with the spoiler, and profit by the purchase of the expected booty, but they too shall soon say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous; verily He is a God that judgeth in the earth.
“Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; In that day when My people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know it? 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” (vss. 14-16). It will be noticed that the downfall of Gog is here expressly set down to “the latter days,” as well as to “that day when My people Israel dwell safely.” Not only was none of this true in the days of Zerubbabel, as Theodoret imagines, or when Antiochus persecuted the returned remnant, but the scale of destruction is wholly inapplicable. In no case whatever since Ezekiel's time is there so much as a point of contact. The prediction therefore, beyond just question, awaits its fulfillment in days to come.
“Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: 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? And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord Jehovah, that My fury shall come up in My face. 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; 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. And I will call for a sword against him throughout all My mountains, saith the Lord Jehovah; every man's sword shall be against his brother. 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. 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” (vss. 17-23).
It is the notion of not a few authors that Gog must be the great western antagonist of the Jews as in Daniel, etc. But this is to mistake the scope of our prophet who never enters on the system of the four imperial powers that were to tread down Jerusalem till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. Even Nebuchadnezzar is viewed as Jehovah's servant for accomplishing His work: as head of the image he does not appear. Gog belongs to another character of enemy and perishes afterward when, blinded by the lust of territorial aggrandizement, he sees not that he is assailing Jehovah in seeking to plunder and destroy Israel. Isaiah speaks of him in chapter 33 as the rest do in more general terms. Here attention is drawn to the longstanding predictions of this final effort (v. 17). But after all God alone governs, whatever the pride or greed or will of Gog: Jehovah brought him against Israel for his own destruction. Yet when he does come, “My fury,” says the Lord Jehovah in verse 18, “shall come up in My face” (literally, nose). No more fears for the land of Israel, no need of fresh blows on the Gentiles, at least till the muster of the nations a thousand years afterward to which this invasion lends its name, the one at the beginning, the other at the end, of Messiah's reign.
That this is none other than the last destruction of Israel's foes before the millennium should be plain enough from the words that follow, not to speak of the chapter after this, and all the rest of the prophecy. To take the words as merely symbols of political revolution is quite uncalled for, yea, contrary to the context. There is no change of government whatever in Israel, nor do they suffer more, but these distant enemies who are congregated on their hills are to perish forever. The mighty concussion in Canaan adds to the solemnity of the scene, land and sea, heaven and earth, thus owning the presence of Him who made all things espousing the cause of Israel, not mutual slaughter only in the ranks of the foe, but pestilence and blood, overflowing rains and great hailstones, fire and brimstone. No wonder that the rationalistic Rosenmüller is forced to own how plain it is on the strongest evidence that Antiochus Epiphanes cannot be meant here. There is no difficulty whatever to the believer who looks for the future dealings of God in behalf of Israel. The efforts to apply it to the church would be ridiculous, if they were not flagrant and sinful unbelief, falsifying every right thought of our place as called to suffer on earth and to reign in resurrection glory with Christ at His coming.
I may add that the thought of some that the Turks are meant is evidently unfounded; for they on the contrary have been for ages allowed by God to possess the land in insulting defiance over a Christendom as guilty and idolatrous as the Jews were before Babylon carried them captive. Here, on the contrary, it is the mighty leader of the north in the latter days, followed by his myriads from the east down to the south of Asia, who perishes with all his host under the most signal judgment of God when essaying to possess himself of the land of Israel brought back from their long dispersion.