Of all the “time of the end” wars we have discussed so far in this series of articles, the “War of Gog and Magog” is the better known. It is also called the “Ezekiel 38-39 War.” This huge conflict, like the other wars that Israel is about to face in our time, is not without controversy among Bible scholars. My purpose is not to convince the reader of my exegesis of the prophetic Scriptures, but rather to open the Scriptures up, share my understanding of them, why I see them being fulfilled as I do, and leave it to the reader to make up their own mind. I also pray that a greater desire to dig into the Word of God will be inspired.
A question that periodically is asked is, “Why should I care about Israel’s wars?” The short answer is that Jesus Himself instructed His followers to pray for the peace of Israel. In several passages He also instructed the believer to “watch and pray.” Watch what? Jesus explains it this way in the Book of Mark:
But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming–in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning–lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” Mark 13:32-37 (added emphasis, mine)
All Scriptures provided for us by the Holy Spirit, who is the real author of the Bible, are given for us to study and show ourselves approved and equipped. Why is so much of the Bible prophecy? It is so that we can recognize the time we are living in. What time in history did God choose to put you and me into? Scripture makes it very clear that this is the last generation before the second coming of the Messiah. Although the world around us is blind to what is about to happen, the people of God are instructed not to be caught by surprise. When we search the Scriptures, we find that God has provided an abundance of signs for our times.
We understand from the study of history and the study of God’s Word that we, the human race, have been in a struggle between good and evil; God’s plans and the plans of the Usurper, the god of this world, the fallen Lucifer. Because the fallen one knows that God’s ultimate plans for the human race are intertwined with the nation of Israel, he has tried throughout history to annihilate the Jewish people. His agenda has not changed, and neither has God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God will see the nation of Israel all the way through to the return of Jesus Christ Himself, the creator and descendant of King David, to rule on Earth from the one and only city with His Name on it…..Jerusalem.
After the Jewish people had been scattered around the world for nearly 2,000 years, God brought the nation of Israel back onto the world stage. The drive to destroy the Jewish people has only intensified since they again became sovereign over a small portion of their ancient lands on May 14, 1948. The closer we get to The Time of Jacob’s Trouble, or The Great Tribulation, the more intense the hatred for the Jewish people will become. After God oversees the defeat of Israel’s border enemies in the Psalm 83 conflict, the destruction of Damascus and surrounding area, and also ancient Elam, the next war will be the great Gog-Magog war of Ezekiel 38-39.
In the interest of clarity as we consider the War of Gog and Magog, there are a number of distinct contrasts between the Psalm 83 war and Ezekiel’s Gog-Magog war that are worth keeping in mind.
- The method of Israel’s enemies defeat is different. In the Psalm 83 conflict, God empowers Israel’s military to defeat the coalition that has come against them. In the Gog-Magog war, God Himself steps in and sovereignly defeats the enemies.
- The two wars have a different coalition of enemies. Psalm 83 details ten enemies located directly on or within the borders of Israel while Ezekiel lists nine specific enemies which are at a greater distance.
- The location of the two battlefields also differs. Israel’s Psalm 83 enemies appear to attack from all sides of the nation, whereas the Ezekiel 38-39 enemies come in directly from the north.
Israel’s extraordinary victory over their enemies, within the nation and those directly adjacent to their borders, will give them a greater ability to follow through on their own sovereign decisions—without the constant interference from other nations—especially when in conflict with the dictates of the United Nations. No matter how determined the world is to squeeze the Jewish State into its chosen mold, the overwhelming defeat of this vast confederated enemy will leave no doubt that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been resolved. Israel, at least for the moment, will find some semblance of peace through its own supernaturally backed military might. It is the same “exceedingly great army” of Israel that was prophesied in Ezekiel 37:10 which becomes the sledgehammer God will use to judge the surrounding Arab nations. The conquering Jewish nation will most likely once again gain more territory, along with the corresponding spoils of war, just as it has in every conflict since May 14, 1948.
A full ten chapters before the prophet Ezekiel foretells the Gog and Magog war, he has this to say about Israel’s victory over her enemies in the earlier Psalm 83 conflict:
Thus says the Lord GOD: “When I have gathered the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and am hallowed in them in the sight of the Gentiles, then they will dwell in their own land which I gave to My servant Jacob. And they will dwell safely there, build houses, and plant vineyards; yes, they will dwell securely, when I execute judgments on all those around them who despise them.Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God.” Ezekiel 28:25-26
I should make comment to the fact that although much has been said about the unbelief of the Gentiles in the God of Creation, Jehovah God as He is called in the Old Testament, the Jews themselves were guilty of abandoning Him as well. Part of the story of the Old Testament is the continual cycles of unbelief of the Children of Israel and the discipline God had to use in dealing with them. God’s discipline most often was characterized by allowing them to eventually be overrun by their enemies. But, God put a limit on the discipline and we will cover this in more detail in Part Nine of this series.
While the Jewish people have been gathering from around the world and are in fact, still flowing in by the thousands; and although ranked as having the world’s eighth most powerful military, they cannot be said to be dwelling safely. The attacks on the nation from within and without are nearly constant and the threats of extinction from her enemies are increasing by the day. Many are unaware of this, but Israel is today the most “walled” nation in the world. Israel has had to build walls between them and much of the borders between itself and the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza. Presently, Israel has a little over 700 km (440 miles) of protective wall, including 60 km (37 miles) between Israel and Gaza. Additionally, because of attacks from the sea by Gazan terrorist frogmen, Israel has even found it necessary to build a naval barricade 6 meter high and 200 meter into the Mediterranean Sea directly north of the Gaza Strip. Israel is today in the process of constructing a 130 km (80 miles) 9 meter (30 foot) concrete wall between Israel and Lebanon. These protective measures which have been taken, along with a long list of strategically located military checkpoints, will not be relaxed to any significant degree until Israel has defeated the enemies on her borders. This will be a major event, and this event is imminent.
God is preparing to make His great Name known around the world through His sovereign interventions on behalf of His chosen vessel, Israel. The fulfilling of judgments on the Arabs who have an intense and ancient hatred for the Jews will be thoroughly humbling and an event that the world will not be able to ignore. Gentiles will be forced to recognize the Jewish nation’s sovereignty, but more importantly, they will recognize Israel’s God!
There are a number of Biblical passages that describe the aftermath of the Psalm 83 war in graphic detail–details that have not been fulfilled as of the time of this writing. I have included two of them below:
Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, O Mount Seir, I am against you; I will stretch out My hand against you, and make you most desolate; I shall lay your cities waste, and you shall be desolate. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. Because you have had an ancient hatred, and have shed the blood of the children of Israel by the power of the sword at the time of their calamity, when their iniquity came to an end, therefore, as I live,” says the Lord GOD, “I will prepare you for blood, and blood shall pursue you; since you have not hated blood, therefore blood shall pursue you. Thus I will make Mount Seir most desolate, and cut off from it the one who leaves and the one who returns. And I will fill its mountains with the slain; on your hills and in your valleys and in all your ravines those who are slain by the sword shall fall. I will make you perpetually desolate, and your cities shall be uninhabited; then you shall know that I am the LORD. Because you have said, ‘These two nations and these two countries shall be mine, and we will possess them,’ although the LORD was there…” Ezekiel 35:3-10
“I will lay My vengeance on Edom by the hand of My people Israel, that they may do in Edom according to My anger and according to My fury; and they shall know My vengeance,” says the Lord GOD. Ezekiel 25:14
The description of the aftermath of this war found in these passages cannot be passed off as already having come to pass. Yes, the ancient hatred has been a constant for millennia, and it continues today. The blood of the Jews has been shed again and again, but the prophecy of the destruction of Mount Seir (southern Jordan), and Edom (which is speaking of the Edomites, the Tents of Edom, or the Palestinians) has not happened yet. It is, however, timed to be an event before the outbreak of the War of Gog and Magog. A surprising fact is that the world seems to be relieved and pleased when this is over; this, in spite of the fact that the world today sees Israel as the “illegal occupier” of Arab lands. It is hard to imagine the world being pleased with an outcome in which there is such a massive slaughter of Arabs at the hands of Israel’s military! Yet, this is precisely what Ezekiel predicts. Possibly it has less to do with the world hating Arabs and more to do with the world needing a resolution of 70 years of unending chaos in the Middle East
It may very well be that Israel will feel a bit more at ease after the dust clears from this great regional Middle East war, but I doubt it will last very long. Even though the world may express relief that the immediate conflict between Israel and her surrounding Arab nations is finally resolved, the condemnation of the world will erupt as well. The response from the Muslim world will be absolute shock that Allah’s power will have been so humiliated. And, the fury that will arise from the nations of the world is prophesied by many Old Testament prophets.The prophet Zechariah prophesied these words spoken by Israel’s Protector, Jehovah God:
“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples, all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it…” Zechariah 12: 2-3
Another motivator driving an outer ring of enemies to again try to destroy the Jewish nation is the competition for ultimate control of the Mideast and its vast riches in oil, gas, and of course in the modern age, Israel’s technology. Ezekiel begins his description of this upcoming war with these words:
Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, and say: ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. Ezekiel 38:1-3
In these first few verses, God identifies several entities, the first being “Gog.” There is some discrepancy between scholars on whether this a descriptor of a nation of a person. Since the passage says that Gog is a “prince” and a “him’, Gog has to be a man. My understanding of the Scripture though is that the name Gog is probably more of a title like Czar, Caesar, Kaiser or Emperor, rather than the name of a man.
Our passage at the beginning of Ezekiel then tells us that Gog is of the land of Magog, and the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. History shows that the connection between Magog and Russia to a degree is through the ancient Scythians. The Scythians, historically known as the Scoloti, a nomadic race–or collection of races, dwelt mostly on the north of the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, stretching into inner Asia. They were known as fierce barbarians with no regard for human life or suffering. Jewish historian, Josephus, called them an “invading horde from the north.” During Ezekiel’s time, Magog existed near where the Federation of Russia is today. But the name Russia dates back only to about the eleventh century AD, so the Magog-Russia connection is a bit difficult for some scholars who suggest that the war of Gog and Magog mainly involves a dictator ruling from modern-day Turkey. Ezekiel’s specific wording, “…you will come from your place out of the far north…,” makes this unlikely.
As we look at a map of the modern world overlaid with the ancient world (Note: Map is only approximate), we find that Magog comprises the approximate territories of modern-day Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Rosh is represented by modern-day Russia. Ancient Meshech is the area between the Black and Caspian Seas where modern maps show the nations of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia. Ancient Tubal was located in part of what is today, the nation of Turkey.
As we look back at the last part of Ezekiel 38:3, God makes a point of saying that He was against Gog, the leader of this coalition, and was here in effect, challenging him. Let’s read a bit farther into what Ezekiel prophesied:
“I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords. Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet, Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops—many peoples are with you. Prepare yourself and be ready, you and all your companies that are gathered about you, and be a guard for them.
“After many days you will be visited. In the latter years you will come into the land of those brought back from the sword and gathered from many people on the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate; they were brought out of the nations, and now all of them dwell safely. You will ascend, coming like a storm, covering the land like a cloud, you and all your troops and many peoples with you.” verses 4-9
Here we are given the additional members of the nine-member coalition. They are Persia, Ethiopia, Libya, Gomer, and Togarmah. Persia is of course modern-day Iran. Ancient Ethiopia however would include the approximate territories of both modern-day Ethiopia and North/South Sudan. Ancient Libya would include the territories of modern-day Libya, Algeria, and possibly Morocco. The House of Togarmah would be referring to much of the modern nation of Turkey and overlapping some into the lands between the Black and Caspian Seas. (Note: It must be remembered that national boundaries have changed or been erased many times through the millennia). The ninth member mentioned in the passage above is Gomer. Most believe that ancient Gomer is represented within modern-day Turkey. There are however a number of scholars that would place ancient Gomer within Eastern Europe, including Germany. In light of Germany’s aligning itself more and more with the interests of Russia currently, this is at least worthy of consideration.
Before unpacking Ezekiel’s explanation of the Gog and Magog war further, it would be good to take a look at what is going on behind the scenes in the spiritual world. As we see in verses 7-8 above, God gives His reason for personally stepping in and defeating this massive attack against Israel. God decides that it is time to make His holy name known in the midst of His people and stop their profaning Him. God intends for the nations to know that He is the LORD, the one and only ALMIGHTY. God promised it will come about, and it cannot fail.
A quote from author Bill Salus’ excellent book, Nuclear Showdown in Iran, provides a great reminder of God’s covenant relationship with Israel and the fact that He will always see it through, no matter what.
Abraham was promised to father a great nation in Genesis 12:2. A great nation requires both a (promised) land for the people, and a (chosen) people for the land. The parameters of the Promised Land are described in Genesis 15:18, Joshua 1:4 and Ezekiel 47:13-21. The promises to provide a Chosen People are located in Genesis 15:13, Exodus 32:13 and 2 Chronicles 20:7.
World War I prepared the Promised Land for the Chosen People, and World War II prepared the Chosen People for the Promised Land. With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the four hundred year reign of the Turks from 1517-1917 over the Middle East ended. This prepared the way for the Promised Land to be made available to the Jews scattered worldwide.
World War II was characterized by the genocidal attempt of the Jews by the Nazis. In fulfillment of another Ezekiel prophecy, the Jews found themselves residing in a desperate, helpless and hopeless holocaust condition. Ezekiel predicted that when this condition occurred, the regathering of the Jews back into Israel would follow.”
In Ezekiel 37 we find God showing the prophet a valley full of dry bones. He was told in verse 11 that these bones were representative of the House of Israel. Ezekiel was then asked if he thought these bones could live. God then commanded him to begin prophesying over them, speaking life into them. This is how verses 11-14 read:
“Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from our graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it,” says the LORD’”
There is a spiritual significance to the prophecies that will be fulfilled. God is going to inform the world that He, the God of the Jews, is going to uphold His Name at the time of the end through His nation Israel. He is also confirming to the entire world that He, the LORD, keeps His covenants! The fallen Lucifer has used innumerable forces to try and annihilate the Jewish people but God promised the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that this is impossible. God will not allow it to happen. The surety of God’s promise concerning Israel is confirmed through words given to the prophet Jeremiah.
Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His Name). If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the LORD, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.” Thus says the LORD: “If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also case off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done,” says the LORD. Jeremiah 31:35-37
As we can see, God is not afraid to put His own reputation on the line. He never fails! He is rarely early in the fulfillment of His promises, but He is never late. His timing is always perfect, and His good pleasure is always brought about in full.
To Be Continued in Part Nine…