Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The sublime prophecy contained in this and the following chapter relates to Israel's victory over Gog, and is very obscure. It begins with representing a prodigious armament of many nations combined together under the conduct of Gog, with the intention of overwhelming the Jews, after having been for some time resettled in their land subsequent to their return from the Babylonish captivity, Eze 38:1-9. These enemies are farther represented as making themselves sure of the spoil, Eze 38:10-13. But in this critical conjuncture when Israel, to all human appearance, was about to be swallowed up by her enemies, God most graciously appears, to execute by terrible judgments the vengeance threatened against these formidable adversaries of his people, Eze 38:14-16. The prophet, in terms borrowed from human passions, describes, with awful emphasis, the fury of Jehovah as coming up to his face; and the effects of it so dreadful, as to make all the animate and inanimate creation tremble, and even to convulse with terror the whole frame of nature, Eze 38:17-23.
Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog - This is allowed to be the most difficult prophecy in the Old Testament. It is difficult to us, because we know not the king nor people intended by it: but I am satisfied they were well known by these names in the time that the prophet wrote.
I have already remarked in the introduction to this book that there are but two opinions on this subject that appear to be at all probable:
1. That which makes Gog Cambyses, king of Persia; and,
2. That which makes him Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria.
And between these two (for one or other is supposed to be the person intended) men are much divided.
Calmet, one of the most judicious commentators that ever wrote on the Bible, declares for Cambyses; and supports his opinion, in opposition to all others, by many arguments.
Mr. Mede supposes the Americans are meant who were originally colonies of the Scythians who were descendants of Magog, son of Japheth. Houbigant declares for the Scythians, whose neighbors were the people of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, that is the Russians, Muscovites, and Tybareni or Cappadocians. Several eminent critics espouse this opinion. Rabbi David Kimchi says the Christians and Turks are meant: and of later opinions there are several, founded in the ocean of conjecture. Calmet says expressly, that Gog is Cambyses, king of Persia, who on his return from the land of Egypt, died in Judea. The Revelation David Martin, pastor of the Waloon church at Utrecht, concludes, after examining all previous opinions, that Antiochus Epiphanes, the great enemy on the Israelites, is alone intended here; and that Gog, which signifies covered, is an allusion to the well-known character of Antiochus, whom historians describe as an artful, cunning, and dissembling man. See Dan 8:23, Dan 8:25; Dan 11:23, Dan 11:27, Dan 11:32. Magog he supposes to mean the country of Syria. Of this opinion the following quotation from Pliny, Hist. Nat., lib. v., c. 23, seems a proof; who, speaking of Coele-Syria, says Coele habet Apamiam Marsyia amne divisam a Nazarinorum Tetrarchia. Bambycem quam alio nomine Hierapolis vocatur, Syris vero Magog. "Coele-Syria has Apamia separated from the tetrarchy of the Nazarenes by the river Marsyia; and Bambyce, otherwise called Hierapolis; but by the Syrians, Magog."
I shall at present examine the text by this latter opinion.
Chief prince of Meshech and Tubal - These probably mean the auxiliary forces, over whom Antiochus was supreme; they were the Muscovites and Cappadocians.
I will turn thee back - Thy enterprise shall fail.
Persia - That a part of this country was tributary to Antiochus, see 1 Maccabees 3:31.
Ethiopia, and Libya - That these were auxiliaries of Antiochus is evident from Dan 11:43 : "The Libyans and Ethiopians shall be at his steps."
Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah - The Cimmerians and Turcomanians, and other northern nations. - Calmet.
In the latter years thou shalt come - This was fulfilled about four hundred years after. - Martin. The expedition of Cambyses against Egypt was about twelve years after the return of the Jews from Babylon. - Calmet.
Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm - It is observable that Antiochus is thus spoken of by Daniel, Dan 11:40 : The king of the north - Antiochus, shall come against him (the king of the south is the king of Egypt) like a whirlwind.
Shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought - Antiochus purposed to invade and destroy Egypt, as well as Judea; see Dan 11:31, Dan 11:32, Dan 11:36. This Calmet interprets of Cambyses, his cruelties in Egypt, and his evil design to destroy the Israelites.
To take a spoil - and a prey - When Antiochus took Jerusalem he gave the pillage of it to his soldiers, and spoiled the temple of its riches, which were immense. See Josephus War, B. 1. C. 1.
Sheba, and Dedan - The Arabians, anciently great plunderers; and Tarshish, the inhabitants of the famous isle of Tartessus, the most noted merchants of the time. They are here represented as coming to Antiochus before he undertook the expedition, and bargaining for the spoils of the Jews. Art thou come to take a spoil, to carry away silver and gold, cattle and goods?
When I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog - By the defeat of his troops under Lysias, his general. 1 Maccabees 3:32, 33, etc., and 6:6.
Art thou he of whom I have spoken in old time - This prophecy concerning Antiochus and the Jews was delivered about four hundred years before the events took place. - Martin. Calmet maintains that Cambyses is spoken of, and refers to ancient prophecies, especially Isaiah 14, Isa 15:1-9, Isa 16:1-14, Isa 20:1-6, 21.
I will call for a sword against him - Meaning Judas Maccabeus, who defeated his army under Lysias, making a horrible carnage. - Martin. Cambyses had no wars in the mountains of Israel.
Great hailstones, fire, and brimstone - These are probably figurative expressions, to signify that the whole tide of the war should be against him, and that his defeat and slaughter should be great. Abp. Newcome supposes all the above prophecy remains yet to be fulfilled. Where such eminent scribes are divided, who shall decide!