Blog 10: Understanding Ezekiel 38-39
Ezekiel 38-39 has intrigued “prophecy hunters” for hundreds of years in an attempt to identify the massive armies headed for a collision at the Battle of Armageddon. Unfortunately many of these prophecy fanatics have made the leap from fact to speculation by postulating the current nations and peoples represented through Ezekiel’s prophecy concerning Gog and Magog. This month’s blog is my humble attempt to unravel some of the confusion.
Basically, Ezekiel 38-39 tells us that at a future time, Gog will lead a coalition against the nation of Israel, but God will destroy their armies and their weapons, and wild animals will feast on their carnage. Let’s begin by identifying the two antagonists. Gog originally was a reference to a political leader known as Gyges, King of Lysia, from the seventh century B.C. But prophetically, the name transcends those historical circumstances to refer to a leader who will oppose Israel in the future. Magog is a name that occurs elsewhere in the Bible, (Genesis 10:2; 1 Chronicles 1:5). Because Gog and Magog have a similar root name, most scholars have pointed out that the combination of “gog” with the Semitic noun matu (“land”), probably points to a singular leader governing a specific geographic location, Magog.
Ezekiel prophetically shares that after many days, a term often applied to the end times (Daniel 8:26), an invasion of Israel will take place. The attack will be so massive that the invading troops will appear to be like a cloud that covers the land. The outcome of this strategy is defeat as God actually alters the terrain with a huge earthquake and confuses the coalition of Gog. On this we can all agree. However, linking Gog and Magog to the Soviet Union and China, merely because they both have capacity to mount such an attack is poor exegesis.
Because the Hebrew word for “chief” (Ro’sh) is similar in sound to the national name “Russia,” some prophecy students have identified Russia with Ezekiel 38:2, a proposition I do not agree with. “Rosh” never appears as a nation in any other biblical list of place names while all other names mentioned in this passage are well documented. And besides, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union as a world superpower, the connection is lost.
If Ezekiel’s prophecy is fulfilled in Revelation 20, as I believe it is, I cannot seek the linkage between the text and any historical and identifiable persons or places. I believe a more realistic proposal would be the culmination of the battle for the small piece of land known as Israel through a final Jihad where large, oil-hungry nations are drawn into an alliance fulfilling this prophecy.
And by the way, it is important to note that Ezekiel 39 does not represent a second battle and defeat. Chapter 39 merely examines the contents of the prophecy against Gog from another perspective and with greater detail.