THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL
Lesson 14
Part IV: Oracles of Salvation and Promised Restoration
Chapters 38 and 39: Oracle 7 ~ The Prophecies an Eschatological Battle, and God's Glory Among the Nations

Lord God,
You gave Ezekiel an oracle of a future battle with a future enemy, unveiling the mystery of what was to come. Ezekiel's people could take comfort that the fearful oracle also promised Your ultimate victory over their enemies. In their victory, the nations would come to know, through Your Divine works on behalf of Your covenant people, that You are the One True and Holy God. It is our prayer that the people of Your Kingdom of the Church will be aware that they are in a great struggle against the forces of evil. Our weapons are faith, prayer, and the Eucharist that will carry us to victory over the wicked and the salvation of the righteous as we await the return of the Christ and our final, lasting victory. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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These are the descendants of Noah's sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, to whom sons were born after the flood: Japheth's sons: Gomer, Magog, the Medes, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, Tiras.
Genesis 10:1-2

Why this uproar among the nations, this impotent muttering of the peoples? Kings of the earth take up position, princes plot together against Yahweh and his anointed, "Now let us break their fetters! Now let us throw off bonds!" He who is enthroned in the heavens laughs. Yahweh makes a mockery of them, then in his anger rebukes them, in his rage he strikes them with terror... So now, you kings, come to your senses, you earthly rulers, learn your lesson! In fear be submissive to Yahweh; with trembling kiss his feet least he be angry and your way come to nothing, for his fury flares up in a moment. How blessed are all who take refuge in him!
Psalm 2:1-6, 10-12

When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to lead astray all the nations in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, and mobilize them for war, his armies being as many as the sands of the sea. They came swarming over the entire country and besieged the camp of the saints, which is the beloved City. But the fire rained down on them from heaven and consumed them.
Revelation 20:7-9

Chapters 38-39 presents the prophet's 7th Oracle that begins with the usual word acknowledgment formula announcement, "The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows..." Ezekiel 38:1-39:29 contains prophecies that take place in the future, after the return from exile when the forces of a great enemy threaten to destroy the covenant people. The oracle depicts a great war against Israel led by Gog the ruler/prince of Meshech and Tubal from the land of Magog. Gog of Magog symbolizes the wicked that make war on the chosen people of God. Yahweh will permit the great threat to fall upon His people, but when it appears that the chosen people are facing defeat, God Himself will intervene to destroy the enemy. God's destruction of Israel's enemy will bring the nations to acknowledge Yahweh's sovereignty and holiness (39:25-29); they will know that He is Yahweh.

Some scholars think the place-name Magog may be related to the Akkadian language. The Akkadian Empire was the first ancient Semitic-speaking Empire of Mesopotamia. Its capital was the city of Akkad (Accad), mentioned in ancient Mesopotamian texts. Others suggest there is a link to a Lydian king named Gyges, but while Lydia was a dominant power in western Anatolia, there is no suggestion in Scripture that Lydia was ever a threat to Judah or Israel. Magog may simply mean the "land of Gog" (see 38:2 and 39:6). The names of the ancestors of Magog and his allies appear in the Table of Nations in Genesis 10: Japheth's sons: Gomer, Magog, the Medes, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, Tiras. Gomer's sons: Ashkenaz, Riphath, Togarmah (Gen 10:2-3). And Ham's sons: Cush, Mizraim, Put, Canaan (Gen 10:6). Both names might be artificial creations intended to give an identity to the protagonists who come with Gentile armies from an area that extends from Asia Minor to the Black Sea and the Levant to Persia.

The oracle divides into seven parts:

  1. The enemy mobilizes to attack Israel (38:1-9).
  2. Gog's plans and motives (38:10-13)
  3. God's counterplan (38:14-16).
  4. God's response to the attack (38:17-23).
  5. God's victory over Gog (39:1-16).
  6. The sacrificial victory banquet (39:17-20).
  7. Israel and the nations acknowledge Yahweh and His final word (39:21-29).

Ezekiel 38:1-17 ~ Part 1: The Enemy Mobilizes to Attack Israel
1 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 2 "Son of man, turn towards Gog, to the country of Magog, towards the paramount [head] prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him. 3 Say, The Lord Yahweh says this: I am against you, Gog, paramount prince of Meshech and Tubal. 4 I shall turn you about, I shall fix hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your entire army, horses and horsemen, all perfectly equipped, a huge array armed with shields and bucklers, and all wielding swords. 5 Persia [Paras] and Cush and Put are with them, all with buckler and helmet; 6 Gomer and all its troops, Beth-Togarmah in the far north and all its troops, and many nations with you. 7 Be ready, be well prepared, you and all your troops and the others rallying to you, and hold yourself at my service. 8 Many days will pass before you are given orders; in the final years you will march on this country, whose inhabitants will have been living in confidence, remote from other peoples, since they escaped the sword and were gathered in from various nations, here in the long-deserted mountains of Israel. 9 Like a storm you will approach, you will advance and cover the country like a cloud, you, all your troops and many nations with you."

2 "Son of man, turn towards Gog, to the country of Magog, towards the paramount prince of Meshech and Tubal...
Paramount or chief prince suggests the highest status among a plurality of rulers in Gog's army (also see 39:1). In Hebrew, the word is rosh, chief or head. Some have mistranslated the text as "Gog, the prince of Rosh." "Rosh" sound something like the word "Russia," and therefore some have erroneously interpreted the passage to mean Gog is the ruler of what we call today the nation of Russia. "Rosh" simply means "chief" or "head," as used with that meaning 37 times in Ezekiel and over 600 times in the Old Testament (as in the designation of the Feast of Trumpets as Rosh Hashanah since it announced the "head" of the civil year), but it never refers to "Russia."1

3 Say, The Lord Yahweh says this: I am against you, Gog, paramount prince of Meshech and Tubal. 4 I shall turn you about, I shall fix hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your entire army, horses and horsemen, all perfectly equipped, a huge array armed with shields and bucklers, and all wielding swords.
God will bring out the army of Gog in a mass invasion. The Bible attributes the events God permits to Him since He controls all of human history (cf. Ex 4:21; 8:17; 9:3; etc.). According to verses 4-5, Gog's soldiers are a well-equipped force:

  1. They are mounted on horses.
  2. They are armed with the defensive weapons of shields, bucklers (small shields), and helmets, and they have swords for offensive weapons.

The majority Gog's army is from Meshech and Tubal (modern-day Turkey). These names appeared earlier in the trade list of Tyre (Ez 27:13 in reverse order) and among the slain in Sheol (Ez 32:26). Neo-Assyrian documents attest to both Meshech and Tubal. The association of Meshech as "a people who hate peace" is supported in Psalm 120:5-7. The Greek historian Herodotus identified Meshech as part of King Darius of Persia's nineteenth satrapy (Herodotus, Histories, 3.94). Tubal/Tabal was the designation of the interior Anatolian kingdom known to the Assyrians. The landlocked kingdom was bordered on the west by Meshech, on the south by Hilakku, on the east by Melidu and Til-garimmu or Beth-Togarmah (means "place of Togarmah"), and on the north by Kasku. The arrangement of Ezekiel's place-names reflects an awareness of geographic and political realities in Anatolia.2 The nations of Israel and Judah were probably aware of these peoples in Ezekiel's time, but their knowledge of them must have been limited.

The Army of Gog comes with allies. Gomer and Beth-Togarmah3 represent the northern extreme of the world known to Israel while Persia (literally Paras), Cush, and Put represent the southern extreme. This description of the enemy envisions a conspiracy against the covenant people that has drawn warriors from across the ancient Near East.

Verses 4-6 emphasize Yahweh's direct and deliberate manipulation of Gog by announcing Yahweh's control over Gog in three declarations:

  1. "I will turn you about"
  2. "I shall fix hooks in our jaws" (enforcing obedience)
  3. "and bring you out with your entire army

7 Be ready, be well prepared, you and all your troops and the others rallying to you, and hold yourself at my service. 8 Many days will pass before you are given orders in the final years you will march on this country, whose inhabitants will have been living in confidence, remote from other peoples, since they escaped the sword and were gathered in from various nations, here in the long-deserted mountains of Israel.
Verses 7-9 announce the military strategy He intends to pursue. God's plan is to use the threat of the great invasion to reveal Himself to the chosen people and to the other nations of the earth when He saves the elect from destruction. "Many days will pass" or "after many days" is a phrase often viewed as an eschatological formula that pertains to an end-time or future-time of judgment and transformation. The rest of verse 8 suggests this disaster will fall upon the covenant people who have returned from exile to the Promised Land of Israel.

However, the coming of this vast army against Israel is part of God's divine plan because He announces: 7 Be ready, be well prepared, you and all your troops and the others rallying to you, and hold yourself at my service. And God commands: 9 Like a storm you will approach, you will advance and cover the country like a cloud, you, all your troops and many nations with you. Also see verse 16b where God says: In the final days, I myself shall bring you to attack my country, so that the nations will know who I am, when I display my holiness to them, by means of you, Gog. The passage reveals three actions of God's divine plan:

  1. God plans Gog's invasion according to His timetable in the future after God's people have been regathered from exile and have resettled in their homeland.
  2. Gog's invasion occurs at the overt instigation of Yahweh and as His agent.
  3. Yahweh's purpose in bringing Gog's army is to convince the nations surrounding His people of His Divine Presence and protection over His people.

The question is what is meant by the "final years" in verse 8? Does it refer to the "final years" of man or the "final years" of Gog? The phrase "final days" is in verse 16.

Ezekiel 38:10-13 ~ Part 2: Gog's Plans and Motives
10 "The Lord Yahweh says this: That day, a thought will enter your mind and you will form a sinister plan. 11 You will think: I shall attack this undefended country and march on this peaceful nation living secure, all living in towns without walls or bars or gates. 12 You will come to plunder and loot and turn your might against the ruins they live in, against this people gathered back from the nations, these stock-breeders and traders who live at the Navel of the World. 13 Sheba and Dedan, the merchants and all the magnates of Tarshish will ask you: Have you come for plunder? Are you massing your troops with a view to looting? To make off with gold and silver, seize cattle and goods, and come away with unlimited spoil?"

Question: What is Gog's motive for marching against Israel?
Answer: Verses 10-13 reveal Gog's schemes for plundering the wealth of unprotected and vulnerable Israel.

who live at the Navel of the World.
This phrase refers to the holy city of Jerusalem and probably to Mount Moriah where the Temple of Yahweh that Solomon once stood and where the returning exile built the Second Temple. God defines Jerusalem as the center of the nations of the world: The Lord Yahweh says this, "This is Jerusalem, which I have placed in the middle of the nations ... (Ez 5:5; also see Judg 9:37).

13 Sheba and Dedan, the merchants and all the magnates of Tarshish will ask you: Have you come for plunder? Are you massing your troops with a view to looting? To make off with gold and silver, seize cattle and goods, and come away with unlimited spoil?'
The three nations are all mentioned in Ezekiel Chapter 27: Sheba and Dedan (Ez 27:22), and Tarshish (Ez 27:12).

Ezekiel 38:14-16 ~ Part 3: God's Counterplan
14 "So, son of man, prophesy. Say to Gog, The Lord Yahweh says this: Is it not true that you will set out at a time when my people Israel is living secure? 15 You will leave your home in the far north, you and many nations with you, a great army of countless troops all mounted. 16 You will invade Israel, my people. You will be like a cloud covering the country. In the final days, I myself shall bring you to attack my country, so that the nations will know who I am, when I display my holiness to them, by means of you, Gog.'"

"In the final days," in verse 16 is another eschatological formula. The direction from which the invading army comes is the north; it is the traditional direction from which destruction comes in Scripture (Is 41:25; Jer 1:14; 4:6; 6:1; 13:20; etc.). Verses 14-16 are like a summons to battle. It is as though the oracle envisions a duel between Yahweh and Gog.

Ezekiel 38:17-23 ~ Part 4: God's Response to the Attack
17 The Lord Yahweh says this: "It was of you that I spoke in the past through my servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those days, foretelling your invasion. 18 The day Gog attacks the land of Israel, declares the Lord Yahweh, my furious wrath will boil up. In my anger, 19 in my jealousy, in the heat of my fury I say it: That day, I swear, there will be such a huge earthquake in the land of Israel, 20 that the fish in the sea and the birds of heaven, the wild beasts, all the reptiles creeping along the ground, and all people on the surface of the earth will quake before me. Mountains will fall, cliffs crumble, all walls collapse, and 21 I shall summon every kind of sword against him, declares the Lord Yahweh, and each will turn his sword against his comrade. 22 I shall punish him with plague and bloodshed, and rain down torrential rain, hailstones, fire and brimstone on him, on his troops and on the many nations with him. 23 I shall display my greatness and holiness and bring the many nations to acknowledge me; and they will know that I am Yahweh."

17 The Lord Yahweh says this: "It was of you that I spoke in the past through my servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those days, foretelling your invasion.
Some translations render this verse as a question. The verse causes us to ask to which prophets and prophecies does God refer? Several clues to the answer are in the passage:

  1. Yahweh claims the prophets as His servants distinguishing them from false prophets. He affirms the authenticity of their message by referring to them as agents through whom He had spoken.
  2. That they are "prophets of Israel" and rules out any prophecies given in the land of Magog.
  3. They are prophets from the past which rules out Ezekiel.

It is possible, therefore, that the prophecies from the past refer to Isaiah's prophecies a century earlier. For example, Isaiah 10:24-25 and 14:24-27 didn't only refer to the Assyrians but had a double fulfillment; or it is also possible that other prophecies were lost to the Biblical record.

God will respond to Gog's invasion with a day of divine judgment. Verses 19-22 give a classic description of a theophany in which God's appearance brings havoc that causes an upheaval in the natural order.
Question: What signs will there be in nature to the intervention of God?
Answer:

  1. Earthquakes felt throughout the earth.
  2. Fear among the animal and human population.
  3. Mountains will fall and cliffs crumble.
  4. Man-made structures will collapse.
  5. There will be plagues.
  6. There will be unrelenting rain, hail, fire, and brimstone.

21 I shall summon every kind of sword against him, declares the Lord Yahweh, and each will turn his sword against his comrade.
Not only will God summon warriors to fight Gog's army, but Gog's warriors will turn on each other.

23 I shall display my greatness and holiness and bring the many nations to acknowledge me; and they will know that I am Yahweh.
Question: Why does God plan to bring an enemy against His people after the covenant relationship has been restored and they are resettled in peace? See verse 23.
Answer: It is because of an element in the Divine Plan: the universal recognition of His Person and His sovereignty over the nations remains unfulfilled.

This part of the oracle reaches a climax with Yahweh's powerful statement highlighting God's threefold revelatory purpose: to display His greatness, His holiness, and acknowledgement of His Divine Person. On that great and terrible day, the nations surrounding Israel/Judah will witness the greatness of Israel's and will acknowledge Him.

Ezekiel 39:1-16 ~ Part 5: God's Victory Over Gog
39:1 "So, son of man, prophesy against Gog. Say, The Lord Yahweh says this: Look, I am against you, Gog, paramount prince of Meshech and Tubal. 2 I shall turn you about, lead you on, and bring you from the farthest north against the mountains of Israel. 3 I shall break the bow in your left hand and dash the arrows out of your right. 4 You will fall on the mountains of Israel, you, all your troops and the nations with you. I shall make you food for every kind of bird of prey and wild animals. 5 You will fall in the wilds, for I have spoken, declares the Lord Yahweh. 6 I shall send down fire on Magog and on those living undisturbed in the islands, and they will know that I am Yahweh. 7 I shall see that my holy name is acknowledged by my people Israel, and no longer allow my holy name to be profaned; and the nations will know that I am Yahweh, holy in Israel. 8 All this is to happen, all this is to take place, declares the Lord Yahweh. This is the day I predicted. 9 The inhabitants of the towns of Israel will go out and set fire to and burn the weapons, the shields and bucklers, bows and arrows, javelins and spears. They will burn these for seven years 10 and not fetch wood from the countryside or cut it in the forests, since they will be burning the weapons. They will plunder those who plundered them, and despoil those who despoiled them-declares the Lord Yahweh. 11 That day, I shall give Gog a famous spot in Israel for his grave, the valley of the Obarim, east of the Sea-the valley that halts the traveler, and there Gog and his whole throng will be buried, and it will be called the Valley of Hamon-Gog. 12 The House of Israel will take seven months to bury them and cleanse the country. 13 All the people of the country will dig their graves, thus winning themselves renown, the day when I display my glory, declares the Lord Yahweh. 14 And men will be detailed to the permanent duty of going through the country and burying those left above ground and cleansing it. They will begin their search once the seven months are over, 15 and as they go through the country, if one of them sees any human bones, he will set up a marker beside them until the gravediggers have buried them in the valley of Hamon-Gog 16 (and Hamonah is also the name of a town) and have cleansed the country."

Yahweh describes His combat with Gog, depicted as an archer (verse 3). The challenge in 39:1b draws the lines in the conflict: Yahweh is in opposition to Gog! Yahweh outlines His strategy against Gog in seven declarations:

  1. I shall turn you about, lead you on
  2. bring you from the farthest north against the mountains of Israel
  3. I shall make you food for every kind of bird of prey and wild animals
  4. You will fall in the wilds, for I have spoken, declares the Lord Yahweh
  5. I shall send down fire on Magog and on those living undisturbed in the islands
  6. I shall see that my holy name is acknowledged by my people Israel, and no longer allow my holy name to be profaned
  7. the nations will know that I am Yahweh, holy in Israel

God's judgment includes no proper burial for Gog's warriors who are the food of birds and scavengers and destruction by fire (verses 5-6). In verse 6, God will send fire against the lands of Gog and his allies. In the Old Testament, fire is a frequent symbol of purification (Ps 66:12; Is 43:2; Jer 6:29; Ez 22:20; 24:12; Mal 3:2) and judgment (Gen 19:24; Lev 10:2; Num 11:1; Jer 5:14; 11:16; 17:27; 21:14; Ez 38:22; Amos 1:4; 2:5), as in this case.4

7 I shall see that my holy name is acknowledged by my people Israel, and no longer allow my holy name to be profaned; and the nations will know that I am Yahweh, holy in Israel.
Yahweh gives His reason for the invasion. He announces that for Israel to acknowledge His holy name and for the Gentile nations to no longer profane His name is the reason He sent the army of Gog against His covenant people and then intervened to save His elect.

8 All this is to happen, all this is to take place, declares the Lord Yahweh. This is the day I predicted.
The day God predicted is the day Israel and the nations will know that Yahweh is God.

In verses 9-10, the defeat of Gog's army results in the destruction of Gog's weapons. The "seven years" is an idealized number and not a literal number. It is a number based on the Sabbath and sabbatical cycle that was a covenant sign. The captured wooden weapons will provide fuel for the covenant people.

In verses 11-16, the valley of Obarim, east of the Sea, the valley that halts the traveler is where the victorious Israelites will bury the dead warriors of Gog. The burials will take place outside of the Holy Land in a valley of the Abraim range in Moab (Num 27:12), a deep, rocky gorge through which the River Arnon runs, located east of the Dead Sea in modern-day Jordan. The site is outside the Promised Land, avoiding contamination from corpse impurity (Num 19:11-13) and allowing for purification (Ez 39:12, 16). In 39:11 and 15, "the valley of Hamon-Gog" means "the multitude of Gog." Verse 16 records that Hamonah, "multitude" in Hebrew, is also the name of a town in the Valley of Hamon-Gog that remains unidentified.

In 39:14, a group of specially selected men are sent to search for bones for another seven months, while in 39:15 another group takes on the duties as the buriers.

Ezekiel 39:17-20 ~ Part 6: The Sacrificial Victory Banquet
17 Son of man, the Lord Yahweh says this, "Say to the birds of every kind and to all the wild animals: Muster, come, gather from everywhere around for the sacrifice I am making for you, a great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel, so that you can eat flesh and drink blood. 18 You will eat the flesh of heroes, you will drink the blood of the princes of the world. They are all rams and lambs, goats and fat bulls of Bashan. 19 You will glut yourselves on fat and drink yourselves drunk on blood at this sacrifice I am making for you. 20 You will glut yourselves at my table on horses and chargers, on heroes and every kind of warrior, declares the Lord Yahweh."

Verses 17-20 are a repeat of 39:4b and depicts an event in which all will acknowledge Yahweh's sovereignty as supreme. The scene is set in a vast sacrificial feast at which all living creatures will partake of the sacrificed victims. God commands Ezekiel to summon birds and animals the bizarre sacrificial feast at which all the animals will partake of the sacrificed victims, the flesh and blood of the enemies of God's covenant people, in Yahweh's honor (cf. Is 25:6-8). The text reveals the sacrificial character of the feast by comparing the dead warriors to animals acceptable for sacrifice (see Ps 22:12; Amos 4:1). The description of eating flesh and drinking blood only refers to the animals and since such practices were forbidden for humans (Gen 9:4; Lev 3:17; 7:26; 17:10-12, 14; 19:26; Dt 12:16, 23-28). According to the Law, blood and fat were not consumed by the members of the covenant family but reserved for God on His sacrificial altar (Lev 3:16-17).

The Book of Revelation uses similar imagery in the eschatological banquet of the Lamb and His Bride, the Church, at the end of time (Rev 19:17-18). However, that final feast celebrates the defeat of Satan and all of God's enemies and the recreation event of the new Heaven and new earth. It is the feast to which our Eucharistic banquet anticipates.

Ezekiel 39:21-29 ~ Part 7: Israel and the Nations Acknowledge Yahweh and His Final Word
21 I shall display my glory to the nations, and all nations will see my sentence when I inflict it and my hand when I strike them. 22 The House of Israel will know that I am Yahweh their God, from that day forward forever. 23 The nations too will know that the House of Israel were exiled for their guilt; because they were unfaithful to me, I hid my face from them and put them into the clutches of their enemies, so that they all fell by the sword. 24 I treated them as their loathsome acts of infidelity deserved and hid my face from them. 25 "So, the Lord Yahweh says this, Now I shall bring Jacob's captives back and take pity on the whole House of Israel and show myself jealous for my holy name. 26 They will forget their disgrace and all the acts of infidelity which they committed against me when they were living safely in their own country, with no one to disturb them. 27 When I bring them home from the peoples, when I gather them back from the countries of their enemies, when I display my holiness in them for many nations to see, 28 they will know that I am Yahweh their God who, having sent them into exile among the nations, have reunited them in their own country, not leaving a single one behind. 29 I shall never hide my face from them again, since I shall pour out my spirit on the House of Israel, declares the Lord Yahweh.'"

Verses 21-29 are the conclusion of the oracle and sums up the reason for Israel's restoration announced in Chapters 33-39 that is the glory and holiness of God. The nations and Israel will acknowledge God's mighty works in defeating the powers of evil. In verse 23, God declares that defeat and exile were God's just punishments when He "hid His face" (verse 29) from His people because of their unrepented sins (Num 6:24-26; Ps 13:1; 22:24; 27:9; 104:29; Is 54:8; 57:17; 59:2; 64:7). However, God promises to restore the fortunes of Israel and bring them back. Notice that the return to complete restoration to the land and their relationship with Yahweh is in the future tense, predicting a future event (verse 27).

I shall pour out my spirit on the House of Israel, declares the Lord Yahweh.
Vere 29 proclaims the greatest gift of the renewal of Israel that is the outpouring of God's Spirit. God will "pour out" His spirit in contrast to having previously poured out His wrath. To pour out His spirit upon His covenant people is to spiritually restore them to holiness in communion with their holy God.

Christians understand this verse as an announcement of the presence of the Holy Spirit who renews the New Covenant people of God, the Kingdom of Jesus' Church, with His many gifts: "The Church, which the Spirit guides in the way of all truth and which he unified in communion and in works of ministry, he both equips and directs with hierarchical and charismatic gifts and adorns with his fruits. By the power of the Gospel, he makes the Church keep the freshness of youth. Uninterruptedly he renews her and leads her to perfect union with her Spouse" (Vatican II, Lumen gentium, 4).

Where do the Events depicted in Chapters 38-39 stand in Salvation History?

We understand that the invasion of Gog's army and its defeat is a future event beyond Ezekiel's time, but is it a future event in our time? The Book of Revelation, the last Bible book, has ties to the Book of Ezekiel at many points, especially the last twelve chapters of Ezekiel and St. John's concluding chapters in the Book of Revelation. Gog and Magog are mentioned again in the Book of Revelation: When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to lead astray all the nations in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, and mobilize them for war, his armies being as many as the sands of the sea. They came swarming over the entire country and besieged the camp of the saints, which is the beloved City. But the fire rained down on them from heaven and consumed them (Rev 20:7-9).

St. John uses the same vivid imagery of Ezekiel 38-39, calling the ungodly forces Gog and Magog, but it cannot be the same enemy, and it cannot be synonymous with the eschatological (end time) Battle of Armageddon (Rev 16:16). There are significant differences between Gog and Magog in Revelation 20:7-9 and Ezekiel 38-39:

  1. The reason for Gog's invasion of Israel in the Ezekiel passage is to plunder her silver and gold and take her cattle (38:11-13).
  2. All of Gog's warriors are on horseback (38:15); there are no soldiers in motorized vehicles like trucks, jeeps, tanks, helicopters, or jets.
  3. All of Gog's warriors carry swords, wooden shields, and wooden bows (39:3, 9).
  4. The victorious Jews will burn their weapons for fuel for seven years (39:9-10).

None of these details point to events taking place in the modern age.

In addition, the war of Gog and Magog in Revelation cannot be identical to the Gog prophecy in Ezekiel for these reasons:

  1. In Ezekiel's account, the enemy is Gog from the land of Magog. In Revelation, Gog and Magog are one entity.
  2. Ezekiel's Gog is a prince or chief ruler (Ez 38:2). In Revelation, Gog and Magog are a confederation of nations across the face of the earth (Rev 20:7).
  3. In Ezekiel, God comes against Israel with people from various countries in the geographic region of Israel. In Revelation, Gog and Magog are nations beguiled by Satan from the four quarters of the earth and number as the sands of the sea.
  4. In Ezekiel, Gog's warriors come against the covenant people who have recently returned from captivity and are dwelling in towns without walls. In Revelation, Gog and Magog come to encompass the city of the saints from the breadth of the earth.
  5. In Ezekiel, when God' people defeat the army of Gog, they burn the enemy's wooden weapons. In Revelation, God destroys Gog and Magog with fire from Heaven, and nothing remains.

In Revelation, Gog and Magog (mentioned as one like the combination "Hitler and Germany") become a symbol for Gentile nations and their rulers who stand in opposition to God and His Divine Plan for Israel and mankind's universal salvation (see Ps 2). It is a symbol like the other symbols in Revelation used in the same way:

  1. The Jezebel of Revelation (Rev 2:20) is not the same woman as in the Book of Kings (1 Kng 16:29-31; 18:3-4, 19; 19:1-18; 21:5-16; 2 Kng 9:30-37).
  2. Sodom in Revelation (11:8) is not the same Sodom as in Genesis 19.
  3. Babylon in Revelation (Rev 11:8; 18:8-9, 24) is not the Babylon of the Old Testament books.
  4. The "new" Jerusalem in Revelation (Rev 3:12; 19:7-9; 21:1-22:5) cannot mean the old Jerusalem.

In each instance, the former serves as a Biblical type. Queen Jezebel had already died, the cities of Sodom and Babylon had already received God's judgment, and the battle of Ezekiel 38-39 had already met its fulfillment within the setting of the time before the Advent of the Christ.

Question: There is another significant difference. When God ordains the time is ready for the final defeat of Satan, what will happen to initiate the great battle in Revelation 20:7?
Answer: The release of Satan from the Abyss will initiate the final battle.

Satan was released earlier in Revelation Chapter 9 to lead the attack against the "Great City." That war was a prelude that foreshadows the final battle in the Book of Revelation.
Question: For what reason will he be released in addition to leading the nations astray? Hint: see Matthew 13:37-43. What is the outcome of Jesus parable of the wheat and the weeds?
Answer: When both the wheat (believers) and the weeds/tares (those who reject Christ) come to full maturity, Satan will be released for a short time to deceive the nations in one last attempt to overthrow the Kingdom of Christ.

Overthrowing the rule of Christ on earth has been Satan's goal from the beginning. Perhaps you recall the concentration of demonic activity during Jesus' ministry? Satan knew he was facing the ultimate fight. But God used Satan to fulfill His plan by allowing Satan to engineer his defeat at the Cross. This last and final battle described in the Book of Revelation will be the sequel to the last attempt to defeat God's plans for man's salvation. Satan will be released to bring about the last rebellion.

In this last battle sequence in the Book of Revelation, St. John uses vivid imagery from the book of the Prophet Ezekiel. In Ezekiel Chapters 38-39 the prophet predicts the victory over the evil army and the reestablishment of Israel as an independent nation. Ezekiel writes about Gog and Magog, but they are not the same Gog and Magog of Revelation chapter 20. In Ezekiel, Gog is a prince and in Revelation a nation. In Revelation, Gog and Magog become the standard expression for rebellious nations just as Jezebel (in Rev 2:20) is not the same woman as the harlot queen of Israel in the book of 1Kings. Instead the Jezebel of Revelation 2:20 is a "type" of the previous Jezebel just as Gog and Magog are a "type" of the rebellious nations under the influence of Satan in the Last Battle in salvation history.

The rebellious nations in the Book of Revelation, symbolized by Gog and Magog, are "from the four corners of the earth" "in other words, not centrally located. They are numbered "like the sands of the sea" which is hyperbolic imagery to express their great numbers (see Josh 11:4; Judg 7:12; 1 Sam 13:5; 2 Sam 17:11 1 Kng 4:20, 29; Job 6:3; Is 15:8; 33:22; Hos 1:10, etc.). It is the same hyperbole used by Joshua for the Canaanite nations in Joshua 11:4 and for the numbers of the Midianites defeated by Gideon in Judges 7:12. Joshua's defeat of the Canaanites and Gideon's defeat of the Midianites became two of the greatest victories in the history of the covenant people. The victory against the armies of Satan is going to be a repeat of those first victories to take possession of the Promised Land! And it is the real "Promised Land" that is at stake! Just as God brought judgment on the Jerusalem Temple in 587 BC and again in 70 AD, so too will He bring judgment on the Temple of the Cosmos in the final battle. And just as God brought judgment on Judea and Jerusalem who heard the Word and rejected Christ, so will He also bring the same judgment on the nations and great cities of the earth: on Rome, on Ephesus, and on Washington D.C., Paris, London, etc.

In Revelation 20:9-10, St. John writes again in the imagery of Ezekiel Chapters 38-39 where Ezekiel describes how the invaders advance until they reach the mountains of Judah, the location of the great city of Jerusalem. The reference to the "camp of Saints" recalls the kahal or "called out" sacred assembly "camp of God" of the Sinai Covenant Church. When David took Jerusalem in 1003 BC, the city which became known as "Yahweh will provide peace" in Hebrew, [yireh (jireh)-salem] became Jerusalem [in Hebrew, Yerusalem] the "holy camp of God."

Question: What is this beloved city? Hint: see Revelation 21:9; 22:5.
Answer: In this scene, Jerusalem has become the symbol of the "beloved city" of the New Covenant Church.

Like Ezekiel's vision, the overwhelming power of God suddenly halts the invasion as God destroys the unbelievers with fire and condemns the devil to Hell and eternal torment. Satan's release from the Abyss was a trap intended to draw the forces of evil out into the open to destroy them. Once again Scripture teaches the everlasting duration of divine punishment (also see Mt 18:8; 25:41, 46; Mk 4:43, 48). One point to note is that in the Premillennial view of a perfect Messianic kingdom before the Second Coming of Christ, how could Satan be successful in orchestrating such a defection and rebellion? However, if the Millennium rule is the Age of the Church, it is understandable that there would be those in the world who had either not yielded themselves to Christ or abandoned Christ and, therefore, yielded themselves to Satan.

Citation 677 in the Catechism concerns the passage relating to the Church and the final battle of Gog and Magog in the Book of Revelation 20:7-10: "The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection (Rev 19:1-9). The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven (Rev 13:8; 20:7-10; 21:2-4). God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world (Rev 20:12; 2 Pt 3:12-13)."

If Ezekiel's defeat of Gog of Magog is not the vision St. John describes in the Book of Revelation, what is it that Ezekiel predicts? Some Biblical scholars believe the events in Ezekiel Chapters 38 and 39 depict the Maccabees' defeat of the Syrian Greeks in the 2nd century BC (Ezekiel's ministry was in the 6th century BC). The Macedonian king, Alexander the Great (356-323 BC), was one of the most successful conquers in history. He conquered Greece, Asia Minor, Tyre, Gaza, Egypt, the kingdoms of Mesopotamia, Persia, parts of India, and the Levant that included Judah. After his death, four of his generals divided his empire.

Judah was first dominated by the Greek Ptolemaic Pharaohs of Egypt and then by the Greek Seleucid Empire. The Seleucid Greek Syrians (312 BC-63 BC), at the height of their empire, controlled the greater part of the division of Alexander's empire with domination over central Anatolia (Turkey), Persia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, and what is now Kuwait, Afghanistan, parts of Pakistan and Turkmenistan. These are the territories mentioned that composed the combined forces of the armies of Gog.

In 164 BC, Seleucid ruler Antiochus V decided to force the Jews of Judah to abandon worshipping Yahweh and to accept the Hellenistic culture and the worship of the Greek gods and goddesses (1 Mac 1:20-62; 2:1-48). His harsh policies resulted in the Maccabean revolt during which the Seleucids attempted to suppress the revolt by bringing down the power of the armies of their Empire. The victory of the Jewish cause was symbolized by the recapture of Jerusalem and rededication of the Temple in 162 BC when the Jews drove the much better equipped and professional army of their enemies out of Jerusalem and Judah. God did not abandon His people. The power of God was manifested in miraculous and supernatural deeds that proved His Divine Presence among His people (2 Mac 3:24-27; 5:2-3; 10:29-30). With that defeat, for the first time since the Babylonian exile, Judah became an independent nation under the leadership of the Jewish Hasmonean kings (descendants of the Maccabees).

Yahweh thwarts the plans of nations, frustrates the counsels of peoples; but Yahweh's own plan stands firm forever, his heart's counsel from age to age. How blessed the nation whose God is Yahweh, the people he has chosen as his heritage.
Psalm 33:10-12

Question for discussion or reflection:
How did the Syrian Greek Seleucid Kingdom try to force the Jews to adopt Hellenistic culture and religion? Read the books of First or Second Maccabees. How do those who embrace the "religion" of secularism try to subvert Christian beliefs and practices?

Endnotes:
1. Here is a list of the use of the Hebrew word "rosh," meaning "chief" or "head," in the Book of Ezekiel: 1:22, 25, 26; 5:1; 6:13; 7:18; 8:3; 9:10; 10:1, 11; 11:21; 13:18; 16:12, 25, 31, 43; 17:4, 19, 22; 21:19, 21; 22:31; 23:15, 42; 24:23; 27:22, 30; 29:18; 32:27; 33:4; 38:2-3; 39:1; 40:1; 42:12; 43:12; 44:18, 20 (Chilton, Days of Vengeance, page 522).

2. The westernmost protrusion of Asia is known as Anatolia, sometimes referred to as Asia Minor, Asian Turkey, the Anatolian peninsula, or the Anatolian plateau. Today this region makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region is bound by the Black Sea to the north and is the point where the continents of Asia and Europe meet.

3. Gomer was a brother of Meshech, Tubal, and Magog, and the father of Togarmah in Genesis 10:2-3. The people of Gomer are identified with tribes living in the region of the Black Sea, perhaps as far west as the Crimean Peninsula. Beth-Togarmah (place of Togarmah) is in the earlier list of Tyre's trading partners (Ez 27:14).

4. God also appeared at times accompanied by fire ( Gen 15:17; Ex 3:2; 13:21; 14:24; 19:18; Num 14:14). God's anger was like a fire (Ps 79:5; 89:47; Jer 4:4; Ez 21:36; 22:21). Fire can even be a sign of God's pleasure (Gen 15:7; Lev 9:24; Judg 6:21), and in the New Testament, fire is the symbol of the Holy Spirit (Mt 3:11; Lk 3:16; Acts 2:3)

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2018 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references for this lesson (* indicates Scripture is either quoted or paraphrased in the citation):
Rev 20:7-10 (CCC 677*)