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A Vast Northern Confederacy Of Israel’s Enemies
Chapters 38 and 39 really form one complete prophecy and have to do with a vast confederation of nations from north of the Black and Caspian Seas, extending down to Persia on the east, and to North Africa on the southwest, who in the latter days will be leagued together in a great offensive against the Jewish nation after its return to the land of Palestine. There has been much attention directed to these chapters during recent years and many idle speculations as to the exact time when these northern powers will make an onslaught upon the land of Palestine. Some consider that the complete fulfilment of the prophecy may take place at any time, even while the Church is still here on earth and the Jews are gathering back to their ancient land in unbelief. Others who have a clearer conception of the prophetic plan and recognize the fact that many Old Testament predictions of judgment have not yet been fulfilled, believe these chapters have to do largely with conditions that will prevail during the last seventieth week of Daniel’s great time-prophecy, as given in his ninth chapter. To these it seems unthinkable that this prophecy should have its fulfilment during the present age, in the great parenthesis between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks. Some indeed whose deep insight into the prophetic Word cannot be denied, have held and taught that it would be after the Lord had actually returned and set up His kingdom in Palestine, possibly between the close of the 1290 days and the end of the 1335 days of Daniel 12:0, that this onslaught would take place. This seems incongruous, as the words of the Holy Spirit, “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him” (Revelation 1:7), would seem to teach us very definitely that the Lord’s second advent will be visible, not only in Palestine but also in some remarkable sense throughout the whole world: therefore, one can scarcely imagine vast populations unaware that He has actually returned and set up the throne of David in Jerusalem, and their venturing to attempt to subjugate Israel’s land subsequent to this glorious event.
In Zechariah 14:1-4 we are told of the gathering of all nations against Jerusalem, an event which certainly takes place just prior to the manifestation of Christ as King, when His feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives. It would seem, therefore, that these northern and eastern hordes must be included among the armies that will then invade Palestine, and therefore the onslaught depicted in this chapter will take place toward the close of the great tribulation.
It is well to remember, however, that there are doubtless many details of unfulfilled prophecy concerning which we may not have an absolutely clear understanding at the present time, but which will all become plain after the Church has been caught away from this scene and God is dealing with the remnant of Israel, whose eyes will be opened to understand their own Scriptures in a way that we perhaps cannot.
“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Bosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Eehold, I am against thee, O Gog, prince of Bosh, Meshech, and Tubal: and I will turn thee about, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in full armor, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them handling swords: Persia, Cush, and Put with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer, and all his hordes; the house of Togarmah in the uttermost parts of the north, and all his hordes; even many peoples with thee”-vers. 1-6.
Gog is said to mean “extension,” and Magog “expansion.” The two terms might well indicate the ruler of a vast territory, greater perhaps than that over which anyone else holds authority. Gog is designated as the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.
The word “Rosh” admittedly is used again and again in Scripture for head or chief; but the construction of the text here has led the revisers as well as many other translators, even one so conservative in some respects as James Moffatt, to take the word “Rosh” as indicating a country. Remembering that there are no vowels in the Hebrew, it seems that Rosh then is really that land which we know as Russia. Meshech and Tubal-names found in the book of Genesis-have been identified as the progenitors of Scythian tribes located in the region of the Black and Caspian Seas. There seems to be little reason to doubt but that these tribes were the progenitors of the peoples in both Europe and Asia, who eventually were welded into the vast Russian empire.
Russia has been dominated in late years, as we know, by a thoroughly atheistic group of leaders opposed to everything in the way of divine revelation and the recognition of spiritual realities. While the Russian people are incurably religious even to superstition, yet their leaders have, ever since the Revolution, been committed to an anti-religious program.
In the last days the final head of the Russian people will look with covetous eyes upon the great developments going on in the land of Palestine, and will determine that Russia must have her part of the wealth there produced. Consequently, we have the picture which the prophet brings before us-that of a vast army augmented by warriors from Persia, Cush, and Put, marching down toward Palestine.
Cush seems to refer to Ethiopia, but there was also a Cush in the Arabian Peninsula; it may be impossible to identify the exact people referred to until the prophecy is actually being fulfilled.
Put, or Phut, as it is in the Hebrew, seems to be identical with Libya in North Africa. These allied nations with all the hordes of the Cimmerians-or as the Authorized Version renders it, Gomer, which is generally supposed to refer to the tribes that dwelt along the Danube and the Rhine, later forming the German empire-and with the house of Togarmah, or Armenia, will become a formidable host indeed as they move on toward the mountains of Israel. To them it will seem as though the taking of that land will be an easy accomplishment, but they are to know eventually that it is not the Jews with whom they have to do but the Eternal One, the God of Israel.
In verses 7 to 9 we note the spirit that actuates them.
“Be thou prepared, yea, prepare thyself, thou, and all thy companies that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them. After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, that is gathered out of many peoples, upon the mountains of Israel, which have been a continual waste; but it is brought forth out of the peoples, and they shall dwell securely, all of them. And thou shalt ascend, thou shalt come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy hordes, and many peoples with thee”-vers. 7-9.
It is after many days that this great confederation will be formed, in the latter years after Israel returns to the land-that is, brought back from the sword. That country which has been so long a continual waste will become prosperous because of its productive or« chards, vineyards, and dairy farms, its chemical plants, on the shores of the Dead Sea, and great manufacturing concerns, which will be developed there through Jewish ingenuity. All this will stir the cupidity of Gog and his confederates so that they shall come down like a great cloud to cover the land, determined to subject it to their own authority, but they will find soon who it is with whom they have to do.
“Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: It shall come to pass in that day, that things shall come into thy mind, and thou shalt devise an evil device: and thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of un-walled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell securely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither “bars nor gates; to take the spoil and to take the prey; to turn thy hand against the waste places that are now inhabited, and against the people that are gathered out of the nations, that have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the middle of 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 the spoil? Hast thou assembled thy company to take the prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take great spoil?”-vers. 10-13.
Thinking that it will be an easy thing to subdue a people practically unarmed and dwelling in a land of unwalled villages, this great army sets forth with boldness and self-assurance, determined to enrich themselves by the spoils of Israel: however, they are to find themselves antagonized by a group of peoples who have befriended the Jew. Sheba, Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish will be aroused and alarmed, and will prepare to come to the defense of Israel.
Sheba and Dedan doubtless refer to Arab peoples, but Tarshish is generally identified with the lands of the far west of Europe, including perhaps a part of Spain but very definitely Great Britain. It was from Tarshish of old that the Phoenicians obtained tin, and the word Britannia means “the land of tin,” as we have noted before. Britain has for many centuries been a friend of the Jews, and possibly with the help of other nations, she will prepare to defy the armies of Gog; but that help will not be needed, for God Himself is going to deal with this vast atheistic power.
In the verses that follow we see the hosts of Gog moving on in their might, knowing not that they are simply going to their doom.
“Therefore, son of man, prophesy, and say unto Gog, Thus salth the Lord Jehovah: In that day when My people Israel dwelleth securely, shalt thou not know it? And thou shalt come from thy place out of the uttermost parts of the north, thou, and many peoples with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company and a mighty army; and thou shalt come up against My people Israel, as a cloud to cover the land: it shall come to pass in the latter days, that I will bring thee against My land, that the nations may know Me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes”-vers. 14-16.
Having returned to Palestine the Jews will engage in building up their interests in that country. They will be alarmed as word reaches them concerning the many peoples and the mighty army coming against them: but their alarm will be needless, for they are to learn that it is God Himself who, in the latter days, will bring Gog against the land in order that He may deal with him in judgment, and thus be sanctified in the eyes of those who have boldly declared, “There is no God.”
The form which that judgment will take comes out clearly in the closing section of the chapter.
“Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Art thou he of whom I spake in old time by My servants the prophets of Israel, that prophesied in those days for many years that I would bring thee against them? And it shall come to pass in that day, when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord Jehovah, that My wrath shall come up into My nostrils. For in My jealousy and in the fire of My wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall he a great shaking in the land of Israel; so that the fishes of the sea, and the birds of the heavens, 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 unto all My mountains, saith the Lord Jehovah: every man’s sword shall be against his brother. And with pestilence and with blood will I enter into judgment with him; and I will rain upon him, and upon his hordes, and upon the many peoples that are with him, an overflowing shower, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. And I will magnify Myself, and sanctify Myself, and I will make Myself known in the eyes of many nations; and they shall know that I am Jehovah”-vers. 17-23.
When it will seem as though Palestine’s doom is sealed and Israel will be unable to escape the power of these selfish and vindictive enemies, Jehovah Himself will deal with them: He will speak in His indignation, and the nations shall learn that He is concerned about the deliverance of His people. First will come a mighty-earthquake that will wreak havoc upon the enemies of Israel, filling the hearts of their followers with fear and dread as well as destroying many of them. This will be followed by anarchy, and pestilence will break out among the hosts led by Gog, and great natural calamities, hailstones, fire, and brimstone falling from the skies, will literally annihilate the over-confident armies led by the prince of Kosh.
The details of their destruction are given us in the next chapter.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Ezekiel 38". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany