It is generally best to begin the study of a passage of Scripture by producing an overall outline in order to determine both the structure and the greater message. In this case, while there are many details and subtexts providing valuable teaching points, these chapters are organized into a series of seven oracles each beginning with a variation of, “This is what the Lord GOD says”:
(38:1-9) God will bring Gog and his allies against Israel.
(38:10-13) Gog’s evil thoughts and intentions will lead him to invade Israel.
(38:14-16) Gog will advance against Israel from the north.
(38:17-23) God will display his awesome judgment against Gog when he so acts.
(39:1-16) It will take seven years to plunder and seven months to bury Gog’s fallen army.
(39:17-24) The birds of the air and beasts of the field will be invited to a great feast at which Gog is the meal.
(39:25-29) Through this deliverance God will conclude the salvation and restoration of Israel as foreseen in Ezekiel 33-37.
One other main theme maintained in this study is that this is not a prophetic call to repentance, but a prophetic call to God’s judgment in wrath. And as the prophetic portions of God’s Word are often more about a repeating historical pattern culminating in a final, ultimate fulfillment, Ezekiel’s Gog and Magog is most likely a forerunner teaching us about the ultimate one to come in Revelation.
Q: What might be confusing about the mention here of Gog and Magog?
A: They are also mentioned in Revelation.
When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.
— Revelation 20:7-9
Q: How do we know for sure that Ezekiel and Revelation are speaking of two different events?
Ezekiel limits involvement to a list of 10; Revelation speaks of Gog and Magog as leading “the nations which are in the four corners of the earth”.
Ezekiel places the timing of this event to be when Israel has been “brought out from the nations, and they are living securely” (Eze. 38:8); Revelation’s instance takes place, “When the thousand years are completed”—that is, at the end of the Millennial Reign.
In Ezekiel it is by the action of God that these nations are drawn out and judged; in Revelation it is Satan who gathers and leads them into judgment.
Q: In the overall End Times timeline, when will this first instance in Ezekiel take place?
A: There is no universal agreement and it is one of the most debated issues in Bible prophecy. Opinions generally break down into two main camps, one placing it before the entirety of the final week of years, the other most often assigning it to the first half of Daniel’s 70th Week, and many of those to the red horseman of Revelation 6 3-4. Just to be fair, a smaller third group synchronize it with the end of the 70th Week extending into the Millennial Reign. This will be discussed further in this study because the 7 years mentioned in Ezekiel is at the root of the controversy.
Q: Who/what are “Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal”?
“Gog” has as its root meaning the roof of a house to imply everything falls under it, or the surface of an altar, to imply it serves everything else up for sacrifice, but can also mean “mountain”, a common biblical description for a mighty kingdom or ruler.
“Magog” means “expansion” or “covering”.
“Rosh” means “head” or “chief”.
“Meshach” means “agile”
“Tubal” means “flowing forth”
Together this would seem to describe Gog as a leader of a coalition of modern-day Russia, Turkey and Iran around whom an even greater group coalesces into a combined enemy attacking Israel primarily from the geographical north. The ethnic relationship of these particular people groups is that they are not Semitic and yet descendants of Noah’s son Japheth.
Q: Who rounds out this coalition?
“Persia”, or the Persian Empire, encompassed the northern part of the Middle East from India southward and in modern-day terms is seen as Iran and those Arab nations with it who are aligned against Israel.
“Ethiopia” or “Cush” are those of East Africa ruling the southern areas of the Nile and the descendants of Noah’s son Ham.
“Put” or “Libya” are the nations of North Africa and also descendants of Ham.
“Gomer” is identified with nations around the Black Sea and descends from Japheth.
“Beth-torgarmah” is identified with nations in the vicinity of modern-day Armenia and is also a descendant of Japheth.
This basically mirrors the modern-day geo-political inventory of the enemies drawn together against Israel which have coalesced around Russia, Turkey and Iran. Altogether these ten descendants of Ham and Japheth aid greatly in tracing them from their geo-political resumes in antiquity to their present-day equivalents. Note, however, that the ethnically Arab nations of the Middle East are absent, and are themselves often at odds with Russia, Iran and Turkey.
Q: What other biblical parallels do we have of a coalition of ten?
A: The final kingdom of Antichrist is described as ten kings or kingdoms in the form of a multi-headed beast. (Dan. 7; Rev. 13:1; 17:3-7, 13-14)
Q: What other biblical parallels do we have of a northern enemy?
A: Beside Assyria, Babylon, and Medo-Persia, the greatest remaining never fulfilled passage of Daniel 11:36-45 speaks of Antichrist leading a northern coalition in the End Times whose primary historical type is Antiochus Epiphanes IV in the Inter-Testamental Period fulfilling the verses leading up to 11:35.
Application: The Gog and Magog of Ezekiel foreshadow both the Antichrist’s kingdom in the final week of years and the final Satanic-led rebellion at the end of the Millennial Reign.
Q: How is this enemy coalition described?
(v.7) As having many “companies”. [Note: Although not exclusively, the underlying Hebrew word is often used to describe assemblies for religious purposes, intimating the Gog and Magog gathering has a greater, spiritual purpose.]
(v.9) As coming “like a storm” and “like a cloud covering the land”.
(v.9) As not just coming with just “troops”, but “many peoples with you”.
Q: How is Israel described in v.8 at the time this will take place?
“…the land that is restored from the sword…”
“…the land…whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations…”
As “the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste” before the people’s return but are now “living securely”.
Q: What is the timing when this event will take place?
A: “After many days…in the latter years…” (v.8)
Point: Just as there is a gap in Daniel’s 69th and 70th weeks so that what was begun does not come to a complete fulfillment until after a gap of time, it may be that what is begun here is interrupted by the gap of the Millennial Reign before resuming to complete fulfillment in the final battle of Gog and Magog.
Application: In the End Times there will be a coordinated invasion of Israel which comes after a return of the people to the land.
Q: How has the focus of this second oracle dramatically changed from the first?
A: Whereas the first expresses God’s will, the second looks at the evil intentions of man.
Q: What are the characteristics of these evil intentions? Who are they really aimed at?
A: They all describe actions against the individual people of Israel.
(v.11) “…I will go up against the land of unwalled villages.”
(v.11) “I will go against those at rest, that live securely…”
(v.12) “I will go…to capture spoil and to seize plunder…”
(v.12) “I will go…against the waste places which are now inhabited…”
(v.12) “I will go…against the people who are gathered from the nations…”
Point: As with many Old Testament prophecies, God often shows that rejection of loving Him personally is most often expressed in the failure to love one’s neighbor.
Q: What may be important about the things verbalized by Sheba, Dedan, and Tarshish?
A: The evil intentions first characterized as thoughts in an evil mind have become so obviously apparent that outside observers see them for what they are.
Q: What do these three additional geo-political entities represent?
A: Great and successful economic forces of the ancient world which are present within every historical period. That which Gog and company would seize and carry away, these three would make deals to trade and transport. [Note: They may be worried that Gog’s actions will cause personal economic loss.]
Application: The typical wrong motives of greed and power will animate this End Times coalition’s actions.
Q: How does God view this group?
A: He twice calls them simply “Gog”. (v.14, 16)
Observation: Kingdoms are synonymous with their kings; all of the group’s policies, agenda and intentions are those of Gog its leader.
Q: What is the point of the rhetorical question in v.14?
A: Gog will be conscious it is acting upon its evil thoughts and intentions—it is committing willful sin.
Q: Why is the content of v.15-16 familiar?
A: They recap the main points God described in the previous verses to this point.
Q: But what is God’s greater purpose as revealed in v.16?
“…so that the nations will know Me…”
“…so that…I am sanctified before their eyes…”
Q: What does it mean for God to be “sanctified” before the eyes of the nations?
A: To finally be seen from the spiritual perspective as separate and unique in His holiness.
Application: Divine purpose overrides human motive; the judgment of Gog will be turned into God’s glory.
Q: This fourth oracle opens with a rhetorical question from God for Gog. What is it essentially saying?
A: That God’s Word always comes true no matter how long the final fulfillment may linger. God begins by reminding Gog and company that they should not at all be surprised at experiencing God’s judgment because they have been warned prophetically for a very long time before the judgment has come.
Q: When, exactly, will God take action against Gog?
A: “…when Gog comes against the land of Israel.” (v.18)
Q: How is this overall response from God characterized in v.18-19?
“My blazing wrath”
Point: This is not merely judgment, but God’s wrath.
Q: How intense is this earthquake of God’s wrath?
It shakes all of nature in the land, air, and sea. (v.20) (“fish of the sea”, “birds of the heavens”, “beasts of the field”, “all the creeping things”)
It shakes all mankind on the whole earth. (v.20)
It shakes “the mountains”, “the steep pathways”, and “every wall”.
It mirrors in the physical realm the intensity of what is being shaken spiritually.
Q: What multiplies the effects of this devastating worldwide earthquake?
A: “…a sword”, “pestilence”. “blood”, and “a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire and brimstone”.
Q: How do we know for sure that these are working for a greater spiritual purpose where God is concerned?
“I will magnify Myself”
“I will…sanctify Myself”
“I will…make Myself known”
“They will know that I am God”
Application: Unprecedented physical calamity will reflect the greater spiritual phenomenon of the wrath of God.
Q: Why does it appear that God is repeating or at least summarizing what He has already promised to do to Gog and company?
In 38:17 God says Gog is without excuse because of all He spoke concerning Gog through His prophets, and now supplements that with His own direct word to Gog.
A principle of Scripture is that everything God says is, of course, important, but anything He states twice even more so.
Point: As God is about to go into even more specific detail of the tangible effects of His wrath against Gog and company, He first summarizes that which He has revealed to this point.
Q: On what two features will Gog fall?
A: “…on the mountains of Israel” (v.4) and “on the open field”. (v.5) These combine into a complete picture of failure of Gog to accomplish his intentions. Military operations historically favor taking the high ground as well as exploiting avenues of easy access.
Q: But how is Gog’s destruction extended beyond just its endeavors in Israel?
A: God’s ultimate judgment of fire is sent upon Magog the geographical home of Gog, as well as his allies. God’s wrath will not be limited to just those involved in the invasion, but the sources which have produced them.
Application: Everyone who follows Gog will share in the wrath of his judgment both in their efforts to overtake Israel and as a source producing such evil behavior. The fire of God experienced in this life reflects the even greater fire of final judgment to come.
Q: How does this contrast with what was just stated in v.6?
A: In v.6 it is speaking of how God will be revealed to all through that which He works in Gog, whereas here it is what He is working through Israel.
Q: What is God’s primary purpose as twice stated here?
“My holy name I will make known in the midst of My people Israel…” (v.7)
“…I will not let My holy name be profaned anymore”. (v.7)
Q: Is God’s purpose simply to get all people, believer and non-believer alike, to believe that He is real and exists?
A: A time will come when everyone will personally recognize that He is “holy”—that is, unable to bear sin in His presence. It is not a moral character He wants recognized, but the divine spiritual qualities which set Him apart from all others.
Application: Within those who are God’s people He reinforces a work of conviction, within those rejecting Him a work of judgment.
Q: How do we know that God uses no earthly means or agency to strike down Gog?
A: Israel finds both Gog’s weapons and plunder abandoned and just lying on the ground.
Q: What is the greater message being conveyed about it taking seven years to dispose of the weapons?
A: It not only speaks of the complete destruction and Gog and his allies, but the enormity of God’s wrath upon them.
Q: What may be indicated by this inventory of weaponry?
A: These are weapons employed by different parts of an ancient military. (e.g., infantry, cavalry, etc.) It speaks of a total annihilation, not just destroying some and turning the rest back.
Application: Both of Gog’s primary motivations, power and greed, are supernaturally handled and in turn Gog’s plunder becomes Israel’s spoils.
Observation: This seven-year period of cleaning up is one of the main sources for a sharp disagreement as to when this event will take place relative to the End Times. These seven years do not fit neatly with the final seven years and may either extend into the 70th Week or beyond it into the Millennial Reign. Both notions have problems providing a conflict-free scenario with parallel Scriptures and do not have a clear parallel in God’s Word which might provide a definitive answer.
Q: What is ironic about that which Gog intended and that which Gog ultimately achieved?
A: Having originally intended to take to itself the land of Israel, Gog instead only gets a burial ground.
Q: How do the names “Hamon-gog” and “Hamonah” mirror the enormity of this seven-month process?
A: “Hamon-gog” means “the multitude of Gog” and “Hamonah” means “multitude”.
Point: There has been much speculation and no clear consensus as to where this is located in Israel, and it is the author’s opinion that because the text states these names will be assigned when these events come to pass that it is fruitless to speculate in advance.
Q: What is the greater purpose of this involved process?
A: To cleanse the land.
Q: Will Israel merely bury the corpses of the invader?
A: They will meticulously follow up with even a single fragment.
Observation: Coming into contact with the dead is a specific issue in the Torah, and one in which modern Judaism has greatly expanded upon in the non-biblical Talmud. In this case, God explains what the months-long procedure which will be in this particular case.
Application: Israel’s chief role will come after the failed invasion with an enormous work to cleanse the land.
Q: How does this “feast” make the previously described seven-month burial process seem even more incredible and of an even greater magnitude than we originally envisioned?
A: That burial task is actually the corpses left over who are not consumed in this supernatural feast.
Q: How is this feast actually described?
A: As “My sacrifice” (v.17), “a great sacrifice” (v.17), and again as “My sacrifice”. (v.19)
Q: How is this confirmed by the list in v.18?
A: By likening Gog to “rams, lambs, goats and bulls” which are in fact the acceptable sacrifices according to the Torah.
Q: How does v.20 aid in understanding that we are correctly interpreting this passage’s use of simile and metaphor?
A: It plainly specifies the identity of those literary devices so that we know for sure it is speaking about the invaders.
Application: End Times believers will participate in the marriage supper of the Lamb, whereas the followers of Gog will themselves become dinner.
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.”
— Revelation 19:17-18
Q: What are the parallel purposes of God in v.21-22?
A: “…the nations will see My judgment” and “the house of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God from that day onward.”
Point: As repeatedly taught throughout Scripture, the same sign works to different ends in the hearts of believers vs. non-believers. Hearts already inclined toward God are encouraged and built up by the sign, while hardened hearts will only acknowledge the working of God while continuing in rebellion.
Q: But in this case, what additional lesson will the nations learn?
A: The greater reasons for the consequences experienced by Israel for their own rejection of God.
Q: Why was Israel sent into exile, the punishment for their behavior?
A: “…for their iniquity because they acted treacherously against Me…” (v.23)
Q: Why would it be important to note that it was God who gave Israel “into the hands of their adversaries”? (v.23)
A: To document that God uses earthly agency to carry out His will and that such are not acting entirely for their own purposes.
Point: Scripture repeatedly documents that when He does this, the nation used as the tool of His judgment is supposed to be learning the lesson of those being judged so as to not repeat the same mistakes. But because this is rarely found to be the case, they find themselves eventually judged even harsher.
Q: What was Israel’s specific spiritual condition which warranted God’s treatment of them?
A: “Uncleanness and…transgressions”. (v.24)
Application: Everyone, both the nations and Israel, come to understand God’s standards by which all are held accountable.
Q: Why is Israel referred to as “Jacob” in v.25?
A: Before he wrestled with the angel—that is, an Old Testament Christophany when he finally had an encounter with the Lord, he was named “Jacob”, and going forward renamed “Israel”. The nation is called “Jacob” when they act in the character of the old life, and “Israel” when in the character of the new.
Q: What does it mean, “I will be jealous for My holy name”? (v.25)
A: God will fulfill His unconditional promises to Israel, meaning the restoration spoken of is entirely derived from God’s grace and mercy and not merited by anything Israel has done.
Q: What is this final passage actually summarizing?
A: Ezekiel 33-37, which details Israel’s final and permanent restoration.
Q: What are the “I will/shall” statements in this passage?
(v.25) “I will restore the fortunes of Jacob”
(v.25) “I will…have mercy on the whole house of Israel”
(v.25) “I will be jealous for My holy name”
(v.27) “I [will] bring them back from the peoples”
(v.27) “I [will] gather them from the lands of their enemies”
(v.27) “I shall be sanctified through them in the sight of the many nations”
(v.28) “I will leave none of them there any longer”
(v.29) “I will not hide My face from them any longer”
(v.29) “I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel”
Point: When we study this list, it becomes apparent that while other conflicts in Scripture have shown a temporary spiritual enlightenment that has resulted, this particular milestone is the culmination, or ultimate and final fulfillment, of all those forerunners.
Application: The Gog and Magog scenario provides an earthly event which will definitively trigger the subsequent fulfillment of all of God’s promises to permanently restore Israel both literally and spiritually.
It is interesting to study the as yet never-before-fulfilled prophecies of the King of the North in Daniel 11:40-45, as many similarities to Ezekiel 38-39 seem to present themselves. There are many other parallel prophetic passages which seem to contribute to Ezekiel’s End Times scenario. We need to prayerfully seek the proper way to ultimately allow Scripture to interpret Scripture so that we will properly recognize when this is authentically being fulfilled and the proper fit of each piece. Without a doubt we are already witnessing the early stages of Russia, Iran and Turkey coming together and preparing the way for Antichrist personally and God’s greater purposes corporately.
But what makes the Gog and Magog scenario so interesting is the way in which it is embraced by both modern Judaism and Islam.
Judaism’s primary objection to Jesus as the Messiah is that they insist the Messiah will fulfill every prophecy in Scripture in a single visitation. They are blinded to the concept of “one Messiah, two comings”. While they recognize that the Messiah will both effect salvation and establish His kingdom, they fail to see that is exactly what Jesus accomplishes in the First and Second Coming. One of their predominant beliefs is the Messiah will accomplish both through Ezekiel’s Gog and Magog milestone. They say that while giving His life for Israel alone, He will then establish His earthly kingdom. It sounds a lot like the Beast who comes back to life and is worshiped as God. In other words, their misunderstanding of Ezekiel 38-39 has instilled in them a predisposition to accept Antichrist.
Islam, who copies many portions of the Bible into the Quran, documents a Gog and Magog scenario by which their Messiah, called the Mahdi, will finally appear. Likewise they, too, have a built-in predisposition to accept Antichrist.
But as the authentic Word of God documents, this will not merely bring about the end of Antichrist, but even more importantly reveal to every heart the true purposes and working of God. It is much more important that we understand and study this than continue to lose ourselves in the conjecture of the timing of this milestone.