Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Destruction of Gog with His Great Army of Nations - Ezekiel 38 and 39
Gog, in the land of Magog, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, will invade the restored land of Israel from the far distant northern land by the appointment of God in the last times, and with a powerful army of numerous nations (Eze 38:1-9), with the intention of plundering Israel, now dwelling in security, that the Lord may sanctify Himself upon him before all the world (Eze 38:10-16). But when Gog, of whom earlier prophets have already prophesied, shall fall upon Israel, he is to be destroyed by a wrathful judgment from the Lord, that the nations may know that God is the Lord (Eze 38:17-23). On the mountains of Israel will Gog with all his hosts and nations succumb to the judgment of God (Eze 39:1-8). The inhabitants of the cities of Israel will spend seven years in burning the weapons of the fallen foe, and seven months in burying the corpses in a valley, which will receive its name from this, so as to purify the land (Eze 38:9-16); whilst in the meantime all the birds and wild beasts will satiate themselves with the flesh and blood of the fallen (Eze 38:17-20). By this judgment will all the nations as well as Israel know that it was on account of its sins that the Lord formerly gave up Israel into the power of the heathen, but that now He will no more forsake His redeemed people, because He has poured out His Spirit upon it (Eze 38:21 -29).
Preparation of Gog and his army for the invasion of the restored land of Israel. - Eze 38:1. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Eze 38:2. Son of man, set thy face toward Gog in the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, Eze 38:3. And say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will deal with thee, Gog, thou prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, Eze 38:4. And will mislead thee, and will put rings in thy jaws, and lead thee out, and all thine army, horses, and riders, all clothed in perfect beauty, a great assembly, with buckler and shield, all wielding swords; Eze 38:5. Persian, Ethiopian, and Libyan with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Eze 38:6. Gomer and all his hosts, the house of Togarmah in the uttermost north with all his hosts; many peoples with thee. Eze 38:7. Be prepared and make ready, thou and all thine assembly, who have assembled together to thee, and be thou their guard. Eze 38:8. After many days shalt thou be visited, at the end of the years shalt thou come into the land, which is brought back from the sword, gathered out of many peoples, upon the mountains of Israel, which were constantly laid waste, but now it is brought out of the nations, and they dwell together in safety; Eze 38:9. And thou shalt come up, come like a storm, like a cloud to cover the land, thou and all thy hosts and many peoples with thee. - Eze 38:1 and Eze 38:2. Command to prophesy against God. גּוג, Gog, the name of the prince against whom the prophecy is directed, is probably a name which Ezekiel has arbitrarily formed from the name of the country, Magog; although Gog does occur in Ch1 5:4 as the name of a Reubenite, of whom nothing further is known. The construction גּוג ארץ מגוג, Gog of the land of Magog, is an abbreviated expression for "Gog from the land of Magog;" and 'ארץ מג is not to be taken in connection with שׂים פּניך, as the local object ("toward Gog, to the land of Magog"), as Ewald and Hvernick would render it; since it would be very difficult in that case to explain the fact that גּוג is afterwards resumed in the apposition 'נשׂיא וגו.
מגוג, Magog, is the name of a people mentioned in Gen 10:2 as descended from Japhet, according to the early Jewish and traditional explanation, the great Scythian people; and here also it is the name of a people, and is written with the article (המגוג), to mark the people as one well known from the time of Genesis, and therefore properly the land of the Magog (-people). Gog is still further described as the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. It is true that Ewald follows Aquila, the Targum, and Jerome, and connects ראשׁ with נשׂיא as an appellative in the sense of princeps capitis, chief prince. But the argument used in support of this explanation, namely, that there is no people of the name of Rosh mentioned either in the Old Testament or by Josephus, is a very weak one; whilst, on the other hand, the appellative rendering, though possible, no doubt, after the analogy of הכּהן ראשׁ in Ch1 27:5, is by no means probable, for the simple reason that the נשׂיא occurs again in Eze 38:3 and Eze 39:1, and in such repetitions circumstantial titles are generally abbreviated. The Byzantine and Arabic writers frequently mention a people called ̔Ρῶς, Arab. Ru=s, dwelling in the country of the Taurus, and reckoned among the Scythian tribes (for the passages, see Ges. Thesaurus, p. 1253), so that there is no reason to question the existence of a people known by the name of Rosh; even though the attempt of Bochart to find a trace of such a people in the ̔Ρωξαλᾶνοι (Ptol. iii. 5) and Roxalani (Plin. h. n. iv. 12), by explaining this name as formed from a combination of Rhos (Rhox) and Alani, is just as doubtful as the conjecture, founded upon the investigations of Frhn (Ibn Foszlan, u. a. Araber Berichte ber die Russen lterer Zeit, St. Petersburg 1823), that the name of the Russians is connected with this ̔Ρῶς, Arab. ru=s, and our ראשׁ. Meshech and Tubal (as in Eze 27:13 and Eze 32:26), the Moschi and Tibareni of classical writers (see the comm. on Gen 10:2), dwelt, according to the passage before us, in the neighbourhood of Magog. There were also found in the army of Gog, according to Eze 38:5, Pharas (Persians), Cush, and Phut (Ethiopians and Libyans, see the comm. on Eze 30:5 and Eze 27:10), and, according to Eze 38:6, Gomer and the house of Togarmah. From a comparison of this list with Gen 10:2, Kliefoth draws the conclusion that Ezekiel omits all the peoples mentioned in Gen 10:2 as belonging to the family of Japhet, who had come into historical notice in his time, or have done so since, namely, the Medes, Greeks, and Thracians; whilst, on the other hand, he mentions all the peoples enumerated, who have never yet appeared upon the stage of history. But this remark is out of place, for the simple reason that Ezekiel also omits the Japhetic tribes of Ashkenaz and Riphath (Gen 10:3), and still more from the fact that he notices not only the פּרס, or Persians, who were probably related to the מדי, but also the Hamitic peoples Cush and Phut, two African families. Consequently the army of Gog consisted not only of wild Japhetic tribes, who had not yet attained historical importance, but of Hamitic tribes also, that is to say, of peoples living at the extreme north (ירכּתי צפון, Eze 38:6) and east (Persians) and south (Ethiopians), i.e., on the borders of the then known world. These are all summoned by Gog, and gathered together for an attack upon the people of God. This points to a time when their former foes, Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistines, and Syrians, and the old imperial powers, Egypt, Asshur, Babel, Javan, will all have passed away from the stage of history, and the people of God will stand in the centre of the historical life of the world, and will have spread so widely over the earth, that its foes will only be found on the borders of the civilised world (compare Rev 20:8).
Eze 38:3-9 contain in general terms the determinate counsel of God concerning Gog. - Eze 38:3-6. Jehovah is about to mislead Gog to a crusade against His people Israel, and summons him to prepare for the invasion of the restored land of Israel. The announcement of the purpose for which Jehovah will make use of Gog and his army, and the summons addressed to him to make ready, form two strophes, which are clearly marked by the similarity of the conclusion in Eze 38:6 and Eze 38:9. - Eze 38:3. God will deal with Gog, to sanctify Himself upon him by means of judgment (cf. Eze 38:10). He therefore misleads him to an attack upon the people of Israel. שׁובב, an intensive form from שׁוּב, may signify, as vox media, to cause to return (Eze 39:27), and to cause to turn away, to lead away from the right road or goal, to lead astray (Isa 47:10). Here and in Eze 39:2 it means to lead or bring away from his previous attitude, i.e., to mislead or seduce, in the sense of enticing to a dangerous enterprise; according to which the Chaldee has rendered it correctly, so far as the actual sense is concerned, אשׁדלנּך, alliciam te. In the words, "I place rings in thy jaws" (cf. Eze 29:4), Gog is represented as an unmanageable beast, which is compelled to follow its leader (cf. Isa 37:29); and the thought is thereby expressed, that Gog is compelled to obey the power of God against his will. הוציא, to lead him away from his land, or natural soil. The passage in Rev 20:8, "to deceive the nations (πλανῆσαι τὰ ἔθνη), Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle," corresponds to these words so far as the material sense is concerned; with this exception, that Satan is mentioned as the seducer of the nations in the Apocalypse, whereas Ezekiel gives prominence to the leading of God, which controls the manifestations even of evil, "so that these two passages stand in the same relation to one another as Sa2 24:1 and Ch1 21:1" (Hv.). In Eze 38:4-6 the army is depicted as one splendidly equipped and very numerous. For לבשׁי מכלול, see the comm. on Eze 23:12, where the Assyrian satraps are so described. קהל , as in Eze 17:17. The words buckler and shield are loosely appended in the heat of the discourse, without any logical subordination to what precedes. Besides the defensive arms, the greater and smaller shield, they carried swords as weapons of offence. In the case of the nations in Eze 38:5, only the shield and helmet are mentioned as their equipment, for the sake of variation, as in Eze 27:10; and in Eze 38:6 two other nations of the extreme north with their hosts are added. Gomer: the Cimmerians; and the house of Togarmah: the Armenians (see the comm. on Eze 27:14). For אגפּים, see the comm. on Eze 12:14. The description is finally rounded off with עמּים רבּים . In Eze 38:7, the infin. abs. Niphal הכּון, which occurs nowhere else except in Amo 4:12, is used emphatically in the place of the imperative. The repetition of the same verb, though in the imperative Hiphil, equip, i.e., make ready, sc. everything necessary (cf. Eze 7:14), also serves to strengthen the thought. Be thou to them למשׁמר, for heed, or watch, i.e., as abstr. pro concr., one who gives heed to them, keeps watch over them (cf. Job 7:12 and Neh 4:3, Neh 4:16), in actual fact their leader.
Eze 38:8 and Eze 38:9 indicate for what Gog was to hold himself ready. The first clause reminds so strongly of מרוב ימים in Isa 24:22, that the play upon this passage cannot possibly be mistaken; so that Ezekiel uses the words in the same sense as Isaiah, though Hvernick is wrong in supposing that הפּקד is used in the sense of being missed or wanting, i.e., of perishing. The word never has the latter meaning; and to be missed does not suit the context either here or in Isaiah, where יפּקד means to be visited, i.e., brought to punishment. And here also this meaning, visitari (Vulg.), is to be retained, and that in the sense of a penal visitation. The objection raised, namely, that there is no reference to punishment here, but that this is first mentioned in Eze 38:16 or 18, loses all its force if we bear in mind that visiting is a more general idea than punishing; and the visitation consisted in the fact of God's leading Gog to invade the land of Israel, that He might sanctify Himself upon him by judgment. This might very fittingly be here announced, and it also applies to the parallel clause which follows: thou wilt come into the land, etc., with which the explanation commences of the way in which God would visit him. The only other meaning which could also answer to the parallelism of the clauses, viz., to be commanded, to receive command (Hitzig and Kliefoth), is neither sustained by the usage of the language, nor in accordance with the context. In the passages quoted in support of this, viz., Neh 7:1 and Neh 12:44, נפקד merely signifies to be charged with the oversight of a thing; and it never means only to receive command to do anything. Moreover, Gog has already been appointed leader of the army in v.7, and therefore is not "to be placed in the supreme command" for the first time after many days. מיּמים רבּים, after many days, i.e., after a long time (cf. Jos 23:1), is not indeed equivalent in itself to בּאחרית השּׁנים, but signifies merely the lapse of a lengthened period; yet this is defined here as occurring in the אחרית השּׁנים. - אחרית השּׁנים, equivalent to אחרית היּמים (Eze 38:16), is the end of days, the last time, not the future generally, but the final future, the Messianic time of the completing of the kingdom of God (see the comm. on Gen 49:1). This meaning is also applicable here. For Gog is to come up to the mountains of Israel, which have been laid waste תּמיד, continually, i.e., for a long time, but are now inhabited again. Although, for example, תּמיד signifies a period of time relatively long, it evidently indicates a longer period than the seventy or fifty years' desolation of the land during the Babylonian captivity; more especially if we take it in connection with the preceding ad following statements, to the effect that Gog will come into the land, which has been brought back from the sword and gathered out of many peoples. These predicates show that in ארץ the idea of the population of the land is the predominant one; for this alone could be gathered out of many nations, and also brought back from the sword, i.e., not from the consequences of the calamity of war, viz., exile (Rosenmller), but restored from being slain and exiled by the sword of the enemy. משׁובבת, passive participle of the Pilel שׁובב, to restore (cf. Isa 58:12); not turned away from the sword, i.e., in no expectation of war (Hitzig), which does not answer to the parallel clause, and cannot be sustained by Mic 2:8. מעמּים , gathered out of many peoples, points also beyond the Babylonian captivity to the dispersion of Israel in all the world, which did not take place till the second destruction of Jerusalem, and shows that תּמיד denotes a much longer devastation of the land than the Chaldean devastation was. והיא introduces a circumstantial clause; and היא points back to ארץ, i.e., to the inhabitants of the land. These are now brought out of the nations, i.e., at the time when Gog invades the land, and are dwelling in their own land upon the mountains of Israel in untroubled security. עלה signifies the advance of an enemy, as in Isa 7:1, etc. שׁואה, a tempest, as in Pro 1:27, from שׁאה, to roar. The comparison to a cloud is limited to the covering; but this does not alter the signification of the cloud as a figurative representation of severe calamity.
Account of the motive by which Gog was induced to undertake his warlike expedition, and incurred guilt, notwithstanding the fact that he was led by God, and in consequence of which he brought upon himself the judgment of destruction that was about to fall upon him. - Eze 38:10. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, It shall come to pass in that day, that things will come up in thy heart, and thou wilt devise an evil design, Eze 38:11. And say, I will go up into the open country, I will come upon the peaceful ones, who are all dwelling in safety, who dwell without walls, and have not bars and gates, Eze 38:12. To take plunder and to gather spoil, to bring back thy hand against the ruins that are inhabited again, and against a people gathered out of the nations, carrying on trade and commerce, who dwell on the navel of the earth. Eze 38:13. Sabaea and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, and all her young lions, will say to thee, Dost thou come to take plunder? Hast thou gathered thy multitude of people to take spoil? Is it to carry away gold and silver, to take possession and gain, to plunder a great spoil? Eze 38:14. Therefore prophesy, son of man, and say to Gog, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Is it not so? On that day, when my people Israel dwelleth in security, thou wilt observe it, Eze 38:15. And come from thy place from the extreme north, thou and many peoples with thee, all riding upon horses, a great crowd and a numerous army, Eze 38:16. And wilt march against my people Israel, to cover the land like a cloud; at the end of the days it will take place; then shall I lead thee against my land, that the nations may know me, when I sanctify myself upon thee before their eyes, O Gog. - In Eze 38:10 דּברים are not words, but things which come into his mind. What things these are, we learn from Eze 38:11 and Eze 38:12; but first of all, these things are described as evil thoughts or designs. Gog resolves to fall upon Israel, now living in peace and security, and dwelling in open unfortified places, and to rob and plunder it. ארץ , literally, land of plains, i.e., a land which has no fortified towns, but only places lying quite exposed (see the comm. on Zac 2:8); because its inhabitants are living in undisturbed peace and safe repose, and therefore dwell in places that have no walls with gates and bars (cf. Jdg 18:7; Jer 49:31). This description of Israel's mode of life also points beyond the times succeeding the Babylonian captivity to the Messianic days, when the Lord will have destroyed the horses and war-chariots and fortresses (Mic 5:9), and Jerusalem will be inhabited as an open country because of the multitude of the men and cattle, and the Lord will be a wall of fire round about her (Zac 2:8-9). For Eze 38:12, compare Isa 10:6. להשׁיב ידך is not dependent upon אעלה, like the preceding infinitives, but is subordinate to אמרתּ אעלה וגו: "thou sayest, I will go up...to turn thy hand." השׁיב, to bring back, is to be explained from the fact that the heathen had already at an earlier period turned their hand against the towns of Israel, and plundered their possessions and goods. חרבות נושׁבות in this connection are desolate places which are inhabited again, and therefore have been rebuilt (cf. Eze 12:20; Eze 26:19). מקנה and קנין are synonyms; and מקנה does not mean flocks or herds, but gain, possession (cf. Gen 36:6; Gen 31:18; Gen 34:23). One motive of Gog for making the attack was to be found in the possessions of Israel; a second is given in the words: who dwell upon the navel of the earth. This figurative expression is to be explained from Eze 5:5 : "Jerusalem in the midst of the nations." This navel is not a figure denoting the high land, but signifies the land situated in the middle of the earth, and therefore the land most glorious and most richly blessed; so that they who dwell there occupy the most exalted position among the nations. A covetous desire for the possessions of the people of God, and envy at his exalted position in the centre of the world, are therefore the motives by which Gog is impelled to enter upon his predatory expedition against the people living in the depth of peace. This covetousness is so great, that even the rich trading populations of Sabaea, Dedan, and Tarshish (cf. Eze 27:22, Eze 27:20, and Eze 27:12) perceive it, and declare that it is this alone which has determined Gog to undertake his expedition. The words of these peoples (Eze 38:13) are not to be taken as expressing their sympathies (Kliefoth), but serve to give prominence to the obvious thirst for booty which characterizes the multitude led by Gog. כּפיריה, their young lions, are the rapacious rulers of these trading communities, according to Eze 19:3 and Eze 32:2. - Eze 38:14 introduces the announcement of the punishment, which consists of another summary account of the daring enterprise of Gog and his hosts (cf. Eze 38:14, Eze 38:15, and Eze 38:16 with Eze 38:4-9), and a clear statement of the design of God in leading him against His people and land. תּדע (Eze 38:14, close), of which different renderings have been given, does not mean, thou wilt experience, or be aware of, the punishment; but the object is to be taken from the context: thou wilt know, or perceive, sc. that Israel dwells securely, not expecting any hostile invasion. The rendering of the lxx (ἐγερθήσῃ) does not furnish any satisfactory ground for altering תּדע into תער = תּעור (Ewald, Hitzig). With the words 'והביאותיך וגו (Eze 38:16) the opening thought of the whole picture (Eze 38:4) is resumed and defined with greater precision, for the purpose of attaching to it the declaration of the design of the Lord in bringing Gog, namely, to sanctify Himself upon him before the eyes of the nations (cf. Eze 38:23 and Eze 36:23).
Announcement of the Wrathful Judgment upon Gog, as a Proof of the Holiness of the Lord
Eze 38:17. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Art thou he of whom I spoke in the former days through my servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied for years in those days, that I would bring thee over them? Eze 38:18. And it cometh to pass in that day, in the day when Gog cometh into the land of Israel, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, that my wrath will ascend into my nose. Eze 38:19. And in my jealousy, in the fire of my anger, have I spoken, Truly in that day will a great trembling come over the land of Israel; Eze 38:20. The fishes of the sea, and the birds of heaven, and the beasts of the field, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the ground, and all the men that are upon the ground, will tremble before me; and the mountains will be destroyed, and the rocky heights fall, and every wall will fall to the ground. Eze 38:21. I will call the sword against him to all my holy mountains, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah: the sword of the one will be against the other. Eze 38:22. And I will strive with him by pestilence and by blood, and overflowing rain-torrents and hailstones; fire and brimstone will I rain upon him and all his hosts, and upon the many peoples that are with him; Eze 38:23. And will prove myself great and holy, and will make myself known before the eyes of many nations, that they may know that I am Jehovah. - The announcement of the way in which the Lord will sanctify Himself upon Gog (Eze 38:16) commences with the statement in Eze 38:17, that Gog is he of whom God has already spoken by the earlier prophets. This assertion is clothed in the form of a question: האתּה, not הלא אתּה, which is the interrogative form used for an emphatic assurance; whereas האתּה does not set down the point in question as indisputably certain, but suggests the inquiry for the purpose of giving a definite answer. The affirmative reply to the question asked is contained in the last clause of the verse: "to bring thee upon them;" so that האתּה הוּא really means, thou art truly he. The statement, that Gog is he of whom God had already spoken by the earlier prophets, does not mean that those prophets had actually mentioned Gog, but simply that Gog was the enemy of whose rising up against the people of God the prophets of the former time had prophesied, as well as of his destruction by a wrathful judgment of the Lord. שׁנים (for years, or years long) is an accusative of measure, not asyndeton to baבּיּמים, as the lxx and many of the commentators down to Hvernick have taken it to be. The design of this remark is not to accredit the prophecy by referring to the utterances of earlier prophets, but to show that the attack of the peoples gathered together by Gog, upon the land and people of the Lord, is not an unexpected event, or one at variance with the promise of the restoration of Israel as a kingdom of peace. To what utterances of the older prophets these words refer is a question difficult to answer. Zechariah (Zac 12:2-3; Zac 14:2-3) is of course not to be thought of, as Zechariah himself did not prophesy till after the captivity, and therefore not till after Ezekiel. But we may recall Joel 4:2 and 11ff.; Isa 25:5, Isa 25:10., Eze 26:21; Jer 30:23 and 25; and, in fact, all the earlier prophets who prophesied of Jehovah's day of judgment upon all the heathen.
(Note: Aug. Kueper (Jeremias librr. sacrr., interpr. atque vindex, p. 82) has correctly observed concerning this verse, that "it is evident enough that there is no reference here to prophecies concerning Gog and Magog, which have been lost; but those general prophecies, which are met with on every hand directed against the enemies of the church, are here referred to Gog." And before him, J. F. Starck had already said: "In my opinion, we are to understand all those passages in the prophets which treat of the enemies of the church and its persecutions...these afflictions were preludes and shadows of the bloody persecution of Gog.")
Eze 38:18 and Eze 38:19 do not contain words which Jehovah spoke through the ancient prophets, and which Ezekiel now transfers to Gog and the time of his appearing (Hitzig and Kliefoth). The perfect דּבּרתּי in Eze 38:19 by no means warrants such an assumption; for this is purely prophetic, expressing the certainty of the divine determination as a thing clearly proved. Still less can 'נאם אד in Eze 38:18 be taken as a preterite, as Kliefoth supposes; nor can Eze 38:18 and Eze 38:19 be regarded as a thing long predicted, and so be separated from Eze 38:20-23 as a word of God which is now for the first time uttered. For the anthropopathetic expression, "my wrath ascends in my nose," compare Psa 18:9, "smoke ascends in His nose." The outburst of wrath shows itself in the vehement breath which the wrathful man inhales and exhales through his nose (see the comm. on the Psalm, l.c.). The bursting out of the wrath of God is literally explained in Eze 38:19. In the jealousy of His wrath God has spoken, i.e., determined, to inflict a great trembling upon the land of Israel. בּקנאתי (cf. Eze 5:13) is strengthened by בּאשׁ עברתי (cf. Ezekiel 21:36; Eze 22:21). The trembling which will come upon the land of Israel, so that all creatures in the sea, in the air, and upon the ground, tremble before Jehovah (מפּני), who appears to judgment, will rise in nature into an actual earthquake, which overthrows mountains, hills, and walls. מדרגות are steep heights, which can only be ascended by steps (Sol 2:14). This picture of the trembling of the whole world, with all the creatures, before the Lord who is coming to judgment, both here and in Joel 4:16, Zac 14:4-5, rests upon the fact which actually occurred in connection with the revelation of God upon Sinai, when the whole mountain was made to quake (Exo 19:16.). The inhabitants of the land of Israel tremble at the terrible phenomena attending the revelation of the wrath of God, although the wrathful judgment does not apply to them, but to their enemies, Gog and his hosts. The Lord calls the sword against Gog, that his hosts may wound and slay one another. This feature of the destruction of the enemy by wounds inflicted by itself, which we meet with again in Zac 14:13, has its typical exemplar in the defeat of the Midianites in the time of Gideon (Jdg 7:22), and also in that of the enemy invading Judah in the reign of Jehoshaphat (Ch2 20:23). In לכל־הרי the ל is not distributive, but indicates the direction: "to all my mountains." The overthrow of the enemy is intensified by marvellous plagues inflicted by God - pestilence and blood (cf. Eze 28:23), torrents of rain and hailstones (cf. Eze 13:11), and the raining of fire and brimstone upon Gog, as formerly upon Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:24). - Thus will Jehovah prove Himself to be the almighty God by judgment upon His enemies, and sanctify Himself before all the nations (Eze 38:23, compare Eze 38:16 and Eze 36:23).