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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ezekiel 38


The army and malice of Gog: God's judgment against him.

Before Christ 587.

Verses 2-3

Ezekiel 38:2-3. Set thy face, &c.— "This (says Calmet) is one of the most difficult prophesies of the Old Testament. There are very few which have more divided both ancient and modern interpreters. Not to embarrass my commentary too much, (continues he,) I have treated of it in a particular dissertation. Gog appears to me to be Cambyses king of Persia, who, upon his return from the war against Egypt, came into the land of Israel, and died there. According to this hypothesis, we may, I think, very aptly explain every part of the prophesy;" and accordingly Calmet's commentary and dissertation wholly proceed upon this supposition. Gog and Magog are mentioned in Rev 20:8 and these, says Bishop Newton, seem to have been formerly the general names of the northern nations of Europe and Asia, as the Assyrians have been since, and the Tartars are at present. The prophesy in the Revelation alludes to this of Ezekiel in many particulars; both the one and the other remain yet to be fulfilled; and therefore we cannot be absolutely certain that they may not both relate to the same event. But it seems more probable, that they relate to different events: the one is expected to take effect before, but the other will not take effect till after the millennium. Gog and Magog in Ezekiel are said expressly, Ezekiel 38:6; Eze 38:15 and chap. Ezekiel 39:2, to come from the north quarters, and the north parts; but in St. John they come from the four corners, or quarters of the earth. Gog and Magog in Ezekiel bend their forces against the Jews, resettled in their own land; but in St. John they march up against the saints and church of God in general. It may therefore be concluded, that Gog and Magog, as well as Sodom, and Egypt, and Babylon, are mystic names in the book of Revelation; and that the last enemies in the Christian church are so denominated, because Gog and Magog appear to be the last enemies of the Jewish nation: who they shall be, we cannot pretend to say with the least degree of certainty. See Bishop Newton's Dissert. vol. 3: p. 328. Houbigant says, that the prophet here means the Scythians, who are the descendants of Magog, the son of Japheth; and whose neighbours were the people of Rosh,

Meshech, and Tubal; that is to say, the Russians, Muscovites, and Tibareni, or Cappadocians; and thus Theodoret, Josephus, &c. understand it. Instead of, The chief prince, Houbigant reads, The prince of Rosh. It seems most probable, that this very difficult prophesy refers to a future event, and consequently every interpretation of it must be precarious and conjectural.

Verse 4

Ezekiel 38:4. And I will turn And I will turn thee about, and put hooks into thy jaws, after I have brought thee forth, &c.

Verse 5

Ezekiel 38:5. Persia The Persians are here mentioned among the auxiliary forces of Gog, which seems to subvert the opinion of Calmet; for it appears by no means probable, that the Persians should be mentioned as auxiliaries in the army of a king of Persia. See Houbigant, and the next verse.

Verse 6

Ezekiel 38:6. Gomer, &c.— Or, according to some, Phrygia, and all her bands; the Cappadocians of the north quarters, and all their bands. See Genesis 10:2.

Verse 7

Ezekiel 38:7. Be thou prepared Come, make thy preparations, thou and all, &c. meaning the warlike preparations. But Cambyses made no warlike preparations against Judaea, nor entered that country before he had lost his army in Egypt. These preparations, therefore, cannot properly refer to him. See Houbigant.

Verse 8

Ezekiel 38:8. The land that is brought back, &c.— That is, from the sword of the Chaldeans. Houbigant renders the next clause, And gathered out of many nations to the mountains of Israel, which have been long waste, when all of the people who go forth shall dwell safely.

Verse 12

Ezekiel 38:12. Upon the desolate places Judaea is here described as a land which lay desolate before the Jews returned to it. The Jews after the captivity were a people gathered out of the nations, for they were very much mixed with other people.

Verse 13

Ezekiel 38:13. Tarshish Houbigant reads, Tartessus, with all the villages. Ezekiel 38:14. Shalt thou not know it?] Thou shalt be raised up. Houbigant, after the LXX, and very agreeably to the context.

Verse 17

Ezekiel 38:17. Of whom I have spoken in old time? It is doubtful by what prophets God foretold the irruption of Magog; but though nothing of this kind is found in the prophets that remain, it is clear, that Ezekiel was not the first who foretold these things. Many of the sacred pages are lost, which might probably be extant when Ezekiel delivered this prophesy. Houbigant; who renders the last clause thus, That I would bring thee against them in those days and years.

Verse 18

Ezekiel 38:18. That my fury shall come, &c.— My anger and my fury shall increase. Houbigant.

Verse 20

Ezekiel 38:20. So that the fishes, &c.— There is nothing hyperbolical in this; for the prophet describes a terrible earthquake, whereby the mountains are shaken, and great fragments of rocks precipitated from their tops, to the great terror and astonishment of every part of the creation. See Houbigant. Instead of shake, we may read tremble.

Verse 21

Ezekiel 38:21. I will call for a sword Calmet himself confesses upon this verse, that we do not read in the history of Cambyses of any war which he maintained on the mountains of Israel. The Hebrews indeed, says he, were in no condition to resist him; and he farther allows ingenuously, that there is nothing in the history of this prince which can justify the execution of that part of the prediction which is at the end of the next verse.

Verse 22

Ezekiel 38:22. Fire, &c.— ואשׁ vacish. 3 MSS. Syr. According to this reading we may translate, "And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood: and an overflowing shower, and great hailstones, and fire, and brimstone, will I rain upon him." Compare Rev 20:8-9 where see Lowman, that the event may be literally fulfilled by a combination of enemies to the Christian name. It is plain, that the extraordinary circumstances mentioned Eze 38:19-22 remain to be accomplished on the future enemies of the Jews, when his people are as a nation reinstated in God's favour.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Various have been the conjectures concerning Gog and Magog; the former the king, the latter probably the kingdom: and as uncertain are the countries of Meshech and Tubal. Some suppose that they have a particular reference to the ravages of Antiochus, and other enemies of Israel, after their return from their captivity, &c. whilst others interpret them of the later enemies of God's church, particularly of the Turks and Tartars: (see the Annotations.) Whoever they are, their attempts shall issue in their own confusion, and God will glorify himself in judgment upon them.

1. God resolves to blast their enterprizes, great as their forces are, and terrible as their armament appears; and therefore his people need not fear, however threatening the danger. Note; They who have an omnipotent God for them, need not be concerned who are against them.

2. The confederacy against God's Israel is strong, and the army furnished with every weapon of war. Persia, Ethiopia, Lybia, Gomer, are auxiliaries; and under the conduct of Gog, their mighty general, as their guard and leader, are bidden, ironically, to prepare for the battle. The armament is directed against the land of Israel, against those who are brought back from the sword, recovered from their dispersion, and now dwelling safely, without fear of evil, without walls or gates, and therefore seem to be an easy prey to the invaders. Not doubting of his success, the neighbouring nations of Sheba and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish shall congratulate Gog on his certain victory, or it may be envying him the spoil that he is about to seize; or, as young lions, desirous to share it with him. Like a rising storm, he threatens to sweep all before him, and, sure of his prey, thinks of nothing but reducing the land to the former desolations from which it has now recovered. Such are the evil thoughts of this proud enemy, which God takes notice of, and for which he will punish him severely. Note; (1.) The beginning of all evil is from within; out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, and they produce wicked works. (2.) They who are most confident of success, are often most fearfully disappointed.

3. Whatever success may at first seem to follow the enemy, the issue will be fatal: after many days thou shalt be visited. Thus Antiochus, though he prevailed far, was at last brought low; and the Ottoman empire, which has arisen to such a height of power, but now begins to totter, will also soon be destroyed.

2nd, The prophesy is repeated to shew the certainty of the event.
1. The enemy shall hear of the peace and plenty that God's Israel enjoy, and how securely they dwell; and that shall induce him to come up, as secure of success; or, it may signify the vanity of his attempt: God will make him know that no foe can disturb those whom he causeth to dwell in safety. When God therefore brings him up, it is not for spoil, but to be himself for a prey; that the heathen may know the jealousy of the Lord over his people, and be confounded: and in judgment he will be glorified in the destruction of his enemies and theirs. Note; (1.) All must contribute to advance the glory of the divine perfections; even the wicked shall cause his righteousness to be exalted in their sufferings. (2.) He who touches God's believing people, touches the apple of his eye; and he will avenge their wrongs,

2. God hath of old time foretold the invasion, that his people might not count it strange when it should come in the latter days. Many things, probably, the prophet spoke by divine inspiration, which are not recorded: and by another name the same enemy here spoken of may have been intended, as Deuteronomy 32:42.Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 27:1.Joel 3:1; Joel 3:1. Note; Into whatever troubles the church may fall, there is effectual security given in the prophetic word for the continuation of the work of God to the end of time.

3. The enemy shall be utterly destroyed: and terrible is the scene of havock here described. God's indignation rises at this insolent invader of his people, and flames of wrath flash from his eyes; in terrors at his frown the earth trembles; even the birds and beasts, as well as men, affrighted, quake; the mountains and precipices fall, and every fortress is laid in the dust: the swords of this terrible host shall be turned against each other, pestilence shall devour them, and blood in rivers flow; a storm of vengeance shall descend from heaven upon them, as upon Sodom; hailstones, fire and brimstone, and ruin, utter and fearful, shall overtake them. Note; (1.) They who have been a terror to others, God can easily make a terror to themselves. (2.) God cannot want instruments of vengeance: the very sword of his enemies shall turn its point against them when he so ordains, and they shall become their own executioners.

4. God will be glorified in the execution of these his judgments, and will display his power, justice, and truth, to the conviction of many nations, who shall be brought, by what they behold, to acknowledge him the only true God, and to ascribe to him the glory due unto his name.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezekiel 38". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.