Jesus Plus Nothing Bible Studies - Ezekiel, Israel and the End Times
Ezekiel 38 Study Lesson- Gog, Magog and the coming storm
by I Gordon
As we have moved along in this series looking at what Ezekiel saw for Israel and the nations in the last days, we've seen that God has some pretty big events in store! One of the main themes that has been mentioned is the emphasis (that we see repeated in Ezekiel 34 - 39) of God making His name known in the last days. He will make His name known to the nation of Israel and the nations of the world. Now that is pretty exciting! The Western nations especially live in a post-modern, post-Christian world. The thought of God is often mocked, ignored or not seen as relevant in this day. Yet God has events in store where He will, on a global stage, make His name known again. One such great event is before us in this study on Ezekiel 38 and 39.
Ezekiel 38 and 39 are well-studied chapters amongst Bible prophecy students. They provide the climax to our little series showing a great supernatural war that is coming. It will be one that threatens the very existence of Israel as a nation. Even before drilling down into some of the details it is interesting to note the placement of these Gog and Magog chapters. Chapter 37, as we saw, speaks of Israel being regathered from their 'graves' in the nations and becoming a nation again in their own land. It was the famous 'dry bones' chapter and its fulfillment began with Israel becoming a nation again in 1948. Ezekiel 40-48 speaks of the Millennial Kingdom when Jesus shall rule and reign from Jerusalem after His return. But squeezed in between these two book ends are Ezekiel 38 and 39. The position of these chapters show us the timing of these events - The Gog and Magog war will occur somewhere between Israel becoming a nation again and the return of Jesus. And, as we shall see, the players involved in this war are seriously moving into position in our day. Let's have a look at the 'who, why, when and what' to help explain these important chapters in the book of Ezekiel!
Who? Identifying the players
Ezekiel 38:1-6 And the word of the LORD came to me saying, (2) "Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him (3) and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. (4) "I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them splendidly attired, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them wielding swords; (5) Persia, Ethiopia and Put with them, all of them with shield and helmet; (6) Gomer with all its troops; Beth-togarmah from the remote parts of the north with all its troops--many peoples with you.
The first few verses names all the players in this coming drama. We have lots of names of countries that will be familiar to you all - Like Magog, Rosh, Meshech, Tubal and that lovely spring retreat, Gomer. Ok, so maybe these are not so familiar names. Let's lay it out in a table providing some clues as to who were are talking about.
Genesis 10:2 The sons of Japheth were Gomer and Magog and Madai and Javan and Tubal and Meshech and Tiras.
||Who is it today?
||A person, the leader of Magog
||Gog is a title for the leader of Magog. Whoever is leading Magog at the time of the invasion will be 'Gog'. He is addressed several times in Ezekiel 38-39 such as 38:2, 38:14, 39:1.
||In the Bible Magog was a son of Japheth (Gen 10:2) who were later known as the Scythians. Confirming this connection the Jewish Historian Josephus said, 'Magog founded the Magogians, called Scythians by the Greeks. Scythians were a nomadic tribe who inhabited the ancient territory from Central Asia across the southern part of ancient Russia.' While there is debate, most scholars identify Magog with southern Russia.
||Mark Hitchcock in his book 'The End' (page 296-296) writes 'Bible Scholars have often identified Rosh with Russia... There is substantial evidence that in Ezekiel's day there was a group of people known variously as Rash, Reshu or Ros who lived in what today is southern Russia.' Arnold Fructenbaum in his book 'Footsteps on the Messiah' (page 107) writes 'Rosh is the basis for the modern name Russia'.
|Meshech & Tubal
||There is debate over the location of Meshech and Tubal. Hitchcock writes (page 298) 'The preferred identification is that Mechech and Tubal are the ancient Moschoi and Tibarenoi in Greek writings or Tabal and Musku in Assyrian inscriptions. These ancient locations are in present day Turkey
||No debate over this one as Persia is well known in the Bible and history. Persia was renamed 'Iran' in 1935.
|Ethiopia / Cush
||Sudan / Ethiopia
||Historically located south of ancient Egypt, scholars believe it to be Ethiopia or Sudan today.
||Libya (possibly Somalia)
||While most believe this to be Libya, Arnold Fructenbaum favours Somalia writing 'Put... is not Libya (for which the name Lubwould be used) but Somaliland or Somalia)
||Central Turkey / Possibly Germany
||The historian Josephus identified the Gomerites with the Galatians who lived in central Turkey. Others believe Gomer is Germany. This was the Jewish view. Fructenbaum writes (Footsteps of the Messiah page 108) 'Gomer is located in present day Germany. This too was the Rabbinic view. The Midrash called Gomer Germania'.
||Eastern Turkey / Armenia
||Normally identified as eastern Turkey or it's neigbour, Armenia.
So to sum it up, Ezekiel 38 and 39 speaks of a coming alliance of Russia, Turkey, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and possibly Germany. Russia and Turkey will descend upon Israel from the north. Iran will come from the east. Libya from the south west. Sudan and Somalia will rush from the south. Israel will be entirely circled by some of the greatest threats and military powers that the world currently knows.
There are some who of late are saying that the Gog and Magog invasion will not involve Russia but only Turkey from the north. This I believe is misguided. To be clear on who is leading this invasion, the scriptures not only give the name but also the geographical location. Addressing 'Gog', the prince or leader of Rosh, the Lord twice says that he will be drawn from the 'remotest parts of the north'. Now while Turkey is north of Israel, it is not the 'remotest parts of the north'. If you get a map and head due north from Israel you will come to Moscow and Russia - this is the remotest parts of the north. There is nothing 'more north' than that!
While addressing the 'players' of this conflict, we should also take note of the final phrase in Ezek 38:6 saying that as well as the nations and areas mentioned, 'many peoples will be with you'. That is, the list given in Ezekiel 38:1-6 is not exhaustive. It is naming the main players but there will be many other nations that join this alliance to invade Israel. Another point to note is that all of the nations mentions form an outer ring of nations. None of Israel's close neighbours are mentioned. There is no mention of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, or those in Edom, Moab, or Philistia. One possible explanation put forth from this to consider is that there has already been a war and victory for Israel over her immediate 'inner circle' of neighbours. Some believe that Psalm 83 presents a war with the 'inner circle' of nations and gives Israel the peaceful conditions seen prior to the Magog invasion. I certainly see merit in this view.
The world today...
So above we have the main players being Russia, Iran and Turkey... It is VERY interesting that these countries are coming together today, strengthening military and financial alliances at the current time. The war in Syria over the last few years have seen Russia and Iran draw closer in a joint effort to control the Middle East. Turkey, while a NATO member and supposedly aligned with the West, has in recent years been moving in the other direction. Under the near dictatorship of President Erdogan, Turkey has been moving from a secular society to an Islamic one. Their alliance with the West has been waning while its ties to Russia deepen.
Now we don't interpret Bible prophecy by current events for things can move quickly and in unexpected directions. But it is interesting to see this Russian - Iranian - Turkish alliance as the Bible predicts. The other nations mentioned such as Libya, Somalia and Sudan are certainly no friends of Israel today either. They are all hotbeds of Islamic fundamentalism and strongly anti-Israel.
When? The timing of the coming storm
Ezekiel 38:7-9 "Be prepared, and prepare yourself, you and all your companies that are assembled about you, and be a guard for them. (8) "After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them. (9) "You will go up, you will come like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your troops, and many peoples with you."
Verse 7 states that there will be many peoples assembled together but that Gog (and his country Magog) will 'be a guard for them'. In other words, Gog and Magog are the powerhouse in this partnership and they protect the other partners. Do we not see that today? It is Russia that is backing Syria with it's military might. Russia is empowering Iran so that the Shite side of Islam prospers in the Middle East. It is the only major power that will sell advanced military equipment to Iran. It is 'guarding them' (for their own ultimate purposes of course).
Having identified the players, scripture then turns to the timing. It says that this invasion will occur 'after many days', 'in the latter years'. We know from the text that Israel had to be dwelling in their land again. Another clue is that Israel has to be living 'securely' (vs 8), a land of 'unwalled villages' (vs 11). There are various thoughts as to exactly when in the last days this occurs. J Vernon McGee sums this up saying:
"When will Russia come down? This is where many expositors disagree. There are those who believe that Russia will invade the land of Palestine at the end of this age, before the church is raptured. Others believe that Russia will come against Israel at the beginning of the Tribulation period, and others believe it will be at the end of the Tribulation. There are some who believe this will take place at the beginning of the Millennium. I am not going to discuss these different viewpoints in detail. My particular viewpoint is this: Russia will come in the "latter days" (v. Eze_38:16); these "latter days" (as we have seen in the other prophets) is a technical term that specifically refers to the Tribulation period. These will be the days when the Antichrist comes to power, and he is going to come to power on a peace platform. As a result there will be a false peace for the first part of the Tribulation period; then in the midst of the seven years, Russia will come down from the north into the land of Israel. Russia will trigger the Great Tribulation by breaking the false peace made by the Antichrist and invading Israel."
I believe that that invasion will occur either just before the tribulation or right at the start of the seven year tribulation period. I agree that Israel will be feeling secure at the start of the tribulation having signed the covenant with the coming world leader (the Antichrist) and the false peace that will temporarily prevail before being used to destroy many (Dan 8:25, Rev 6:2, 1 Thes 5:3) The only point to note against this is that later in Ezekiel 39:9 it says that Israel will continue to burn the weapons for fuel for 7 years after the invasion. I personally don't see this going on into the Millennial reign of Jesus so the Magog invasion would have to come right at the start of the coming 7 year tribulation to accommodate this weapons burning. Another possibility is that the peace spoken of existing in Ezek 38:11 is not due to the peace treaty with the Antichrist but is from Israel becoming an even greater regional power having defeated the 'inner circle' of enemy nations prior to the tribulation. This would mean that the Magog invasion occurs prior to the tribulation. Currently it is hard to think of Israel as 'living in unwalled villages' because they have a 400+ mile security wall that separates them from the West Bank to stop terrorist activity. But either through military victory or a peace treaty, they will be living securely (at least in their own mind) leading up to the days of the invasion.
Before moving on we should also note the scope of this invasion. God Himself describes it as a 'storm', a 'cloud covering the land'. We should not be under any misunderstandings concerning the size of this invasion. It will be epic! You could say it is an invasion of Biblical proportions. It is one that even the might of Israel (and they do have a wonderful military in the IDF having become an exceedingly great army as Ezekiel 37:10 predicts) will not be able to counter. Someone else is going to have to step in as we shall see!
Why? The spoils of war
Ezekiel 38:10-16 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "It will come about on that day, that thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil plan, (11) and you will say, 'I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will go against those who are at rest, that live securely, all of them living without walls and having no bars or gates, (12) to capture spoil and to seize plunder, to turn your hand against the waste places which are now inhabited, and against the people who are gathered from the nations, who have acquired cattle and goods, who live at the center of the world.' (13) "Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish with all its villages will say to you, 'Have you come to capture spoil? Have you assembled your company to seize plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to capture great spoil?'"' (14) "Therefore prophesy, son of man, and say to Gog, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "On that day when My people Israel are living securely, will you not know it? (15) "You will come from your place out of the remote parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great assembly and a mighty army; (16) and you will come up against My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land. It shall come about in the last days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me when I am sanctified through you before their eyes, O Gog."
The next section of Ezekiel focuses on the 'why'. Why are these nations coming against Israel? Given the increasing anti-Semitism in the world today, it is not hard to see these nations wanting to destroy Israel. Iran especially is famous for its constant decrees and threats of destroying the Jewish nation and driving them into the sea. We have seen this 'everlasting hatred' mentioned in previous chapters of Ezekiel. But hatred ISN'T the primary reason given for this invasion in Ezekiel 38 & 39. It is something less spiritual and far more material... MONEY!
Ezekiel prophesied that thoughts would come into Gog's mind and he will device an evil plan. The reason for the invasion is to 'capture spoil' and 'seize plunder'. This will be recognized by other nations. Sheba and Deban (modern day Saudi Arabia) will raise their voice in protest to say that this invasion is simply to take the spoils of war. Tarshish and it's villages will speak up as well. Tarshish is generally thought to speak of either Spain or Britain, with 'its villages' speaking of the nations that came out of these countries. If Spain is meant then the nations meant could involve South and Central America. If Tarshish is speaking of Britain then those protesting could include the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other western nations that Britain helped establish.
So what possibly could the spoils of war be that would attract so many nations?
Some speak of the abundant wealth found in minerals in the dead sea. Others speak of large oil discoveries in the Golan Heights. There are certainly some massive recent gas discoveries. While it is speculation for the scripture doesn't say exactly (apart from using generic terms like gold, silver, livestock, goods) we do know that the recent energy discoveries especially could be game changers and very attractive to other countries. Israel has discovered two massive gas fields in the last 10 years called 'Leviathan' and 'Tamar' that are worth billions of dollars. Many believe the current war in Syria is really over control of gas pipelines (especially controlling the lucrative European needs) which has seen Russia willing to enter Syria and fight on their behalf to maintain its control. So further gas and energy finds within Israel could be a major incentive for Russia to exert its power and control once again to remain the major player in this area.
Concerning these finds, one recent news headline asked 'Will Israel be the next energy superpower?'.1 It goes on to note that 'the classic quip since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 has been that Moses brought his people out of Egypt to the one spot in the Middle East that didn't have oil. 'We proved that joke to be wrong,' says Gideon Tadmor, chairman of the Delek Group, one of a consortium of companies that built the Tamar platform.' The Jerusalem Post also had an article on this same thought.
Wherever the riches come from, it will be a strong enough hook in the jaw of Gog that will draw him out of his own country to invade, destroy and plunder another sovereign nation. There is of course one small problem... The nation that Gog has decided to invade, Israel, will be under the protect of the God of Israel! I think things are not going to go as planned for Mr Gog!
What? The response from God
Ezekiel 38:17-23 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Are you the one of whom I spoke in former days through My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those days for many years that I would bring you against them? (18) "It will come about on that day, when Gog comes against the land of Israel," declares the Lord GOD, "that My fury will mount up in My anger. (19) "In My zeal and in My blazing wrath I declare that on that day there will surely be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. (20) "The fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all the creeping things that creep on the earth, and all the men who are on the face of the earth will shake at My presence; the mountains also will be thrown down, the steep pathways will collapse and every wall will fall to the ground. (21) "I will call for a sword against him on all My mountains," declares the Lord GOD. "Every man's sword will be against his brother. (22) "With pestilence and with blood I will enter into judgment with him; and I will rain on him and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire and brimstone. (23) "I will magnify Myself, sanctify Myself, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the LORD."'
Finally we are left with 'the what?' - What will God do? With the coalition army surrounding Israel, and with no hope in sight for the nation of Israel, Yahweh, the God of Israel will act. Though the enemy will cover the land like a storm, and with certain victory within their grasp, they shall come to the same fate that the Egyptians experienced when the closed in on Israel at the Red Sea. As the scripture says 'Behold He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep'
Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day, Nor the moon by night.
The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul.
The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever.
Ezekiel foresaw four different means by which the invading Magog army will be defeated:
A great earthquake will hit the land
Panic will seize the invading armies and every man's sword will be against his brother
Pestilence will break out upon the invading armies
Finally fire, brimstone and hail will rain down upon them from on high.
The result of this supernatural destruction of the invading armies will be so amazing that people will be left with no other explanation but that the God of Israel has done this. An earthquake doesn't normally occur right at the very point when an army is about to attack another. Fire and brimstone doesn't just fall from the sky. Hail big enough to kill a man doesn't just rain down at such a strategic time as this. No... these things are not a coincidence. They occur because a heavenly being has decreed them to occur. Even the nations, watching on to see the destruction of Israel, will have to acknowledge this. God's summary of the results of this destruction are this: 'I will magnify Myself, sanctify Myself, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the LORD.' God will be glorified and sanctified (set apart as the true God) in the sight of the nations due to this miraculous event!