Notes on Ezekiel 39:1-16

Ezekiel 39:1‑16  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 9
This chapter resumes the divine denunciation of the great northern enemy. There is no concealment of his formidable numbers and resources; but, whatever these may be, they will but enhance the victory Jehovah gains for His people by his utter destruction.
“And thou, son of man, prophesy against Gog and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal; and I will turn thee back and lead thee [? astray1], and cause thee to come up from the sides of the north, and bring thee upon the mountains of Israel. And I will strike thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand. Upon the mountains of Israel shalt thou fall, thou and all thine armies, and the people that are with thee: I have given thee for food to the ravenous bird, the bird of every wing, and to the beast of the field. Upon the open field shalt thou fall; for I have spoken it, saith the Lord Jehovah” (vss. 1-5).
The judgments of God are as usual in keeping with the sin and the people that come under His displeasure. Thus the doom of the beast and the false prophet is beyond all experience appalling; the solemn and final adjudication without further process to the lake of fire. And so, it would seem, will it be with the little horn of Daniel 8 (or king of the north in Daniel 11). They had meddled with the things of God against His people, having a character of apostate contempt for His truth or perverting it to their destructive ends. Gog is judged as a more vulgar aggressor, actuated as he will be with greed of territorial acquisition and relying on brute force. So he is confronted with a power mightier than his own, which beats him down ignominiously without relenting.
Nor is this all. God will deal with the land whence Gog came as well as with those isles which contributed their contingents to his host. “And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles: and they shall know that I am Jehovah. So will I make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel; and I will not let them pollute My holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am Jehovah, the Holy One in Israel” (vss. 6-7). No distance nor isolation shall screen from consuming judgment in that day; for the Lord is awaking to call the quick to account, as one out of sleep, like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine. Then at length shall the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. Can argument be wanted by the believer to prove that these solemn dealings ending in so blessed a result have never yet been fulfilled? Magog is not Rome or spiritual Edom or any other than the Scythia of the ancients.
“Behold, it is come, and it is done, saith the Lord. Jehovah; this is the day whereof I have spoken. And they that dwell in the cities of Israel shall go forth, and shall set on fire and burn the weapons, both the shields and the bucklers, the bows and the arrows, and the handstaves, and the spears, and they shall burn them with fire seven years: so that they shall take no wood out of the field, neither cut down any out of the forests; for they shall burn the weapons with fire: and they shall spoil those that spoiled them, and rob those that robbed them, saith the Lord Jehovah” (vss. 8-10). It is no vague warning of the foe where and whenever he may be; it is no general principle reproducing itself often in divine providence. The Holy Spirit takes pains here to make it precise and specific, the judgment of a distinct enemy, long suspended, and falling as the last of Jehovah's blows on the most overwhelming force that shall ever have mustered against Israel, immediately before His glory returns in more pristine splendor and peace to dwell in the midst of His people in their land. Hence the minutely graphic detail of their going forth from the cities in Palestine and burning the arms defensive and offensive of their foe; and this not only as a witness of his total destruction, but as their provision of firewood so as to dispense with all other store for seven years.
But there is another and still more permanent result as the trophy of that great victory. “And it shall come to pass in that day I will give unto Gog a place there, a grave in Israel, the valley of the passengers on the east of the sea; and it shall stop the passengers; and there shall they bury Gog, and all his multitude; and they shall call it the valley of the multitude of Gog. And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying of them, that they may cleanse the land. Yea, all the people of the land shall bury them; and it shall be to them a renown the day that I shall be glorified, saith the Lord Jehovah. And they shall sever out men of continual employment, passing through the land to bury with the passengers those that remain upon the face of the earth, to cleanse it: after the end of seven months shall they search. And the passengers that pass through the land, when any seeth a man's bone, then shall he set up a sign by it, till the buriers have buried it in the valley of Hamon-Gog. And also the name of the city shall be Hamonah. Thus shall they cleanse the land” (vss. 11-16).
Did Gog think to take the land for a possession? Jehovah will give him there a grave; and this in no obscure spot but in the direct pathway of many passers by. The idea is not, as our translators fancied, that people would stop their noses because of the bad smell, but that the barrows of so many buried men would stay all who pass that way and lead them to think of the vengeance poured out on them. The LXX seem here confused (“the burial-place of all that approach the sea"); but there is no countenance given to the notion already mentioned. No calculation of unbelieving believers who would evaporate the prediction need embarrass the Christian. Has Jehovah spoken and will He not perform?
The care to purify the land from the sight of a man's bone is remarkable, but natural if glory is to dwell there. People in general if they were but going through are to help those formally told off for the work, “men of continuance” (v. 14), whose task is to bury every relic of the prodigious slaughter of the enemy, all the dwellers in the land also taking part in the work. The multitude thus slain and buried will give its name to a city in the land. But it is the day when all impurity disappears from the land which Jehovah recognizes as His own, when He is then and there glorified. Can there be a legitimate doubt of the epoch when these conditions meet? It is plain to see that it is a question of God's judging the last leader of the Russias in the Holy Land when Israel have been brought back from the lands of their dispersion. But preoccupation with our own place as Christians hinders here as elsewhere—hinders not only our seeing the faithfulness of God to Israel and His mercy to them yet, but also our discernment of the church's peculiar blessedness. If we are to appreciate either, we must distinguish them, and see the connection of each with Christ. The mystical interpretation gives its due place to neither, and hence envelops all in fog.
1. שׄשֵׄאתּיךָ is understood by our English translators to mean “leave the sixth part of thee,” and no doubt the connection of this rare word with ׄשֵשׄ which is the Hebrew for six is tempting. But the LXX give καθοδηγήσω σε (or with the Complutensian editors κατάζω σε). I have given the sense understood in the Targum, though with a query. The ancient versions in general express little more than Jehovah's leading Gog.