Ezekiel 38 & 39 (Part 19)

Dr. Thomas Ice

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"And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say,'Thus says the Lord God," Behold,I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal; and I shall turnyou around, drive you on, take you up from the remotest parts of the north, andbring you against the mountains of Israel. And I shall strike your bow from your left hand, and dashdown your arrows from your right hand."

—Ezekiel 39:1–3

AsI write this installment of the future campaign of Gog against Israel, we havejust seen Russia attack Georgia in order to gain control of South Ossetia, aprovince within Georgia. Russiahas also bombed a number of important cities throughout Georgia and sent hermechanized infantry in to occupy certain territories within Georgia. This is the first invasion of anothercountry by Russia since the Soviet Union went into Afghanistan in the1970s. Why did they do it now? Stratfor Intelligence Reportprovides the following analysis:

The war in Georgia,therefore, is Russia's public return to great power status. This is notsomething that just happened—it has been unfolding ever since Putin tookpower, and with growing intensity in the past five years. Part of it has to do with the increaseof Russian power, but a great deal of it has to do with the fact that theMiddle Eastern wars have left the United States off-balance and short onresources. As we have written, this conflict created a window ofopportunity. The Russian goal isto use that window to assert a new reality throughout the region while theAmericans are tied down elsewhere and dependent on the Russians. The war was far from a surprise; it hasbeen building for months. But the geopolitical foundations of the war have beenbuilding since 1992. Russia hasbeen an empire for centuries. Thelast 15 years or so were not the new reality, but simply an aberration thatwould be rectified. And now it isbeing rectified.[1]

Iam not saying that this recent event fits directly into the Gog invasion ofIsrael, but it does appear to be an important event indicating that the Russianbear is back on the prowl. Whenyou couple this invasion with the fact that Russia has resumed flying her Bearbombers along our border near Alaska[2]and the fact that Putin has threatened to put missiles in Cuba again,[3]it makes one realize that Russia is much more aggressive and anti-Western thanshe has been the last fifteen years. This could signal that Russia is interested in military aggression aftera period of dormancy.

Criticsof a future fulfillment of the Gog and Magog prophecy often mocked thepossibility of this because of the collapse ofthe Soviet Union. (I never saw theconnection between Russia having to head up the Soviet Union for this prophecyto be possible. The fact thatRussia continued to exist is all the prophecy requires.) Gary North said, "Russia was aprime candidate. But, after 1991,this has become difficult to defend, for obvious reasons. The collapse of the Soviet Union hascreated a major problem for dispensationalism's theologians and its popularauthors."[4] Clearly, Russia's current attempt athegemony over Georgia does not mean that Putin is trying to recreate the oldSoviet Empire. It does signal thatRussia, who has gained a lot of oil wealth in the last few years, is trying torearm itself so that she can be the greatest power in the region. Friedman explains:

Putindid not want to re-establish the Soviet Union, but he did want to re-establishthe Russian sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union region. To accomplish that, he had to do twothings. First, he had to re-establishthe credibility of the Russian army as a fighting force, at least in thecontext of its region. Second, hehad to establish that Western guarantees, including NATO membership, meantnothing in the face of Russian power. He did not want to confront NATO directly, but he did want to confrontand defeat a power that was closely aligned with the United States, had U.S.support, aid and advisers and was widely seen as being under Americanprotection. Georgia was the perfect choice.

Ezekiel 39

Having completedour commentary on Ezekiel 38, we now turn the page to chapter 39 of this greatprophecy. Arnold Fruchtenbaumnotes that the interpretative principle he calls The Law of Recurrence occurs inchapter 39.[5] Hedescribes it as follows:

This law describes the factthat in some passages of Scripture there exists the recording of an eventfollowed by a second recording of the same event giving more details to thefirst. Hence, it often involvestwo blocks of Scripture. The firstblock presents a description of an event as it transpires in chronologicalsequence. This is followed by asecond block of Scripture dealing with the same event and the same period oftime, but giving further details as to what transpires in the course of theevent.[6]

Fruchtenbaum saysthat Ezekiel 39 "repeats some of the account given in the first block and givessome added details regarding the destruction of the invading army."[7] Perhaps the reason the Lord repeats some prophesies is in order toreally drive home the importance of what He is saying. Thus, this would make the Gog prophecydoubly important because of this emphasis. The second giving of the Gog invasion prophecy is concludedin 39:16. Ezekiel 39:1–6 isthe first section in this chapter that reiterates the place of destruction.

SecondVerse, Same as the First

Ezekiel, who iscalled "son of man" in verse one is told to "prophesy against Gog, and say, 'Thus says the Lord God,"Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal." This passage is an exact repeat of whatwas spoken in 38:3, which I have already commented on in that section. Why is it repeated? I think the first verse is exactly thesame as that which is found in chapter 38 in order to show that it is aprophecy about the same entities and events already prophesied in the precedingsection. That is why, havingestablished their linkage to the previous chapter in 39:1, the Lord then beginsto expand upon this event in 39:3–6.

Versetwo says, "I shall turn you around, drive you on, take you up from the remotestparts of the north, and bring you against the mountains of Israel." This verse appears to be a summarystatement of 38:4, 6, 8, and 15, which I have already commented on. "The principle contents of ch. xxxviii.4–15," notes C. F. Keil, "are then briefly summed up in verse 2."[8] Charles Feinberg says, "The statementconcerning turning Gog about (v. 2) carries with it the idea of compulsion."[9] However, the phrase "drive you on" isnot used in the previous chapter. In fact, Ezekiel 39:2 is the only place in the entire Hebrew OldTestament that this verb is used.[10] It has the basic idea of "to walkalong,"[11] as one would walkalong side an animal, like leading a dog on leash. This verb is in the piel stem, which indicates the intensiveactive form of the word. So the picturebeing painted is that of the Lord leading Gog and his allies down to themountains of Israel like one would lead an animal on a leash. The clear point being made in thisverse is that the ultimate cause for this invasion, regardless of human action,is the sovereign will of God.


Versethree says, "And I shall strike your bow from your left hand, and dash downyour arrows from your right hand." Both of these phrases are Hebrew idioms that picture the Lord, notIsrael, disarming Gog by knocking out of his hand his bow, which refers toGog's weapons or weapons systems (whatever the case may be). The Lord will also take away theammunition used by Gog during this future invasion, when He will "dash downyour arrows from your right hand." Put simply, the Lord will disarm Gog on behalf of the nation ofIsrael. Keil explains, "In theland of Israel, God will strike his weapons out of his hands, i.e. make himincapable of fighting, . . . and give him up with all his army as a prey todeath."[12] Thus, chapter 39 begins with a shorteroverview and summary of many things that were already revealed in the previouschapter. The Lord drives home thepoint of His intense oversight of this future battle in which He will protectHis people. Further, we could bewitnessing today some of the positioning of the players who will participate inthis great invasion as Russia and Iran manifest their belligerence. Maranatha!

(ToBe Continued . . .)


[1] George Friedman, "The Russo-GeorgianWar and the Balance of Power," Stratfor Geopolitical Intelligence Report (Aug. 12, 2008), www.stratfor.com.

[2] "Russia's Bear bomber returns" (Sept. 10, 2007)www. news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6984320.stm.

[3] "Putin eyes renewed Russian ties with Cuba,"(Aug. 4, 2008) www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/08/04/russia.cuba.ap/.

[4] Gary North, "The Unannounced Reason BehindAmerican Fundamentalism's [& Virtually All Evangelicalism] Support for theState of Israel" (July 19, 2000), www.tks.org/GaryNorth.htm.

[5] Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps of the Messiah:A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events (Tustin, CA: Ariel Press, [1982] 2003), p. 6.

[6] Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps, p. 6. Fruchtenbaum classifies the following passages as examples of The Law ofRecurrence: Genesis 1 & 2; Isaiah 30 & 31; Ezekiel 38 & 39;Revelation 17 & 18.

[7] Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps, p. 6.

[8] C. F. Keil, Ezekiel, Daniel, Commentary on theOld Testament, trans. JamesMartin (Reprint; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), p. 171.

[9] Charles Lee Feinberg, The Prophecy of Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), p. 228.

[10] Based upon a search conducted by the computerprogram Accordance, 7.4.2.

[11] Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, TheHebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, electronic version (Leiden, The Netherlands:Koninklijke Brill, 2000).

[12] Keil, Ezekiel, p. 171.