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DRAFT: A Commentary on Ezekiel 38

Kuruvilla Thomas
Published on 1 September 2022


Ezekiel 38 details the second of the three "Gog and Magog" wars. This assault on the Israelites takes place some time early in Christ's Millennial Reign.

We will use the NIV translation for this commentary. Parts of the passage have been retranslated - see notes below the commentary.


1. A Commentary on Ezekiel 38

1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince leading [a[ Meshek and Tubal; prophesy against him 3 and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, Gog, chief prince of Meshek and Tubal.

Who is Gog? The earth is divided among powerful angels (Deuteronomy 32:8-9, Psalm 82) called "princes" (as in Daniel 10:20), and, unlike earthly kings, a "prince" may remain in charge of a region even if the people that occupy that region are replaced by other tribes (see 2 Kings 17:24-26). Here, Gog is the title of the "prince" of the Japhetic tribe of Magog; but Gog now leads the Japhetic tribes of Meshek and Tubal, because these tribes occupy land that was originally assigned to Magog (see also Eze. 39:1, see the tribal names in Gen. 10:2).

Who is Magog? Magog originally referred to the Mongols who had occupied parts of China - southern China was called Mangi, and both Mongol and Mangi are apparently derived from Magog (Magog refers to both the people and the land). The Chinese, who are the descendants of Meshek and Tubal (among other patriarchs listed in Genesis 10:2-5), inherited the Magog name when they took over this region.

The attacks on Israel by Gog and Magog - Satan's physical army at the time of the Millennial Reign or the "beast army" - are predicted to occur in 3 distinct periods and at 3 different locations:

Note that all three "Gog and Magog" wars occur on the "mountains of Israel", but "mountains" refers to a different aspect of the new Israel in each case.

4 I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army—your horses, your horsemen fully armed, and a great horde with large and small shields, all of them brandishing their swords.

As in the battle of Ezekiel 39, God incites Gog ("put hooks in your jaw") to stage this attack on the New Israel. We believe this chapter is mostly figurative - this is not a physical army with literal weapons - and we believe this for a few reasons:

5 Persia, Cush and Put will be with them, all with shields and helmets, 6 also Gomer with all its troops, and Beth Togarmah from the sides of the north [b] with all its troops—the many nations with you. 7 “‘Get ready; be prepared, you and all the hordes gathered about you, and take command of them.

This list of tribes (see Gen 10:1-20 for tribe names) and regions from around the world seems to represent an international alliance of wicked people who join forces for this assault.

We speculate below on which peoples, at the start of the Millennial Reign, are represented by the names in this passage:

This list that covers almost all the people of the earth outside the New Israel serves as a good top level categorization of modern races. This is a list of races and not nations, so this attack will not be led by the political leadership of the world.

8 After many days you will be called to arms. In future years you will invade a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate. They had been brought out from the nations, and now all of them live in safety.

This passage dates this war to some time early in Christ's Millennial Reign; the Israelites and faithful Christians from around the world have recovered from the suffering and turmoil of the reign of the Beast (Rev. 13), and they have settled down into a new life in the New Israel under God's protection. The "mountains of Israel" refers to all of Israel in this chapter, with the word "mountains" indicating that Israel is God's chosen nation. These "mountains" had been "desolate" when God had hardened the Israelites against himself, but now they are once again the blessed people of God.

9 You and all your troops and the many nations with you will go up, advancing like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land.

The mammoth Gog and Magog "army" of this Period will infiltrate and cover the entire land of Israel. We propose that this is a battle involving business or technology, or a combination.

10 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: On that day thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil scheme. 11 You will say, “I will invade a land of unwalled villages; I will attack a peaceful and unsuspecting people—all of them living without walls and without gates and bars. 12 I will plunder and loot and turn my hand against the resettled ruins and the people gathered from the nations, rich in livestock and goods, living at the center of the earth [c].”

The people of the New Israel have lax safeguards and security for their business/technology communities ("unwalled villages" without "gates and bars"), because they saw no threat ("unsuspecting people") to their prosperous operations ("rich with livestock and goods"). The Israelites of this time are unconcerned about attacks, because they live under the protection of God and Christ (see Zech 2:4-5) in the most powerful, prosperous nation on earth, the figurative the centre of the world.

13 Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish and all her magnates [d] will say to you, “Have you come to plunder? Have you gathered your hordes to loot, to carry off silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods and to seize much plunder?”’

Who are the merchants of Tarshish? We believe that, around the time of Solomon, Tarshish referred to a port city, a great centre of commerce, in the land of Ophir/Uphaz (see 1 Kings 22:48) on India's Malabar Coast (Tarshish later referred to Carthage - see details in appendix of [2]). We believe this based on the unique cargo manifest and the frequency of the trips as detailed in 2 Chronicles 9:21 and 1 Kings 10:22. In this passage, the "merchants of Tarshish and all her magnates" represent the business community of the New Israel.

Who are Sheba and Dedan? The Sheba and Dedan referenced here are the tribes listed in Gen 10:6-7 as descendants of Ham (we don't believe they are the Sheba and Dedan of Gen 25:3 - Arab descendants of Abraham). We infer that these tribes were the original residents of parts of India based on the list of generous gifts that the queen of Sheba brought to Solomon (see 1 Kings 10:2,10-12); it also appears that 1 Kings 10:10-13 connects the queen to Ophir in south India. In this passage, these two ancient tribes of India, Sheba and Dedan, represent the people of the New Israel.

So "Sheba and Dedan, the merchants of Tarshish and all her magnates" represent the people of the New Israel. They sense that something is afoot, but are unclear as to the intentions of this invading "army". One of the main reasons we believe this war is related to business is that it is the merchants and magnates that confront this "army" and not the political leadership. Also note that the goal of this attack is to plunder and loot and not to subjugate.

14 “Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say to Gog: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: In that day, when my people Israel are living in safety, will you not take notice of it? 15 You will come from your place in the sides of the north [e], you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army. 16 You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land. In days to come, Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.

This strong, covert army led by Magog from the north east ("sides of the north") infiltrates Israel, covering the whole land. God incites this army and allows them initial success (see vs 7) so that He may more thoroughly defeat them and deter any further attacks during the Millennial Reign.

17 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You are the one I spoke of in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel. At that time they prophesied for years that I would bring you against them.

God has predicted attacks from Gog and Magog in several other prophetic passages (see Joel 3:9-16 for example), but, at this time, we are not clear on where this particular attack is predicted.

18 This is what will happen in that day: When Gog attacks the land of Israel, my hot anger will be aroused, declares the Sovereign Lord. 19 In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. 20 The fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence. The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble and every wall will fall to the ground. 21 I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Sovereign Lord. Every man’s sword will be against his brother. 22 I will execute judgment on him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him. 23 And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.’

God supernaturally thwarts this assault from Gog and his "army", sows discord in his people ("every man’s sword will be against his brother"), and severely punishes them. The disasters inflicted on this "army" - earthquakes, overturned mountains, crumbling cliffs, fallen walls, plague, bloodshed, hailstone... - are clearly figurative; if they were literal, they would affect the Israelites as well as it occurs in Israel. They represent great upheaval in the business and technology world that affects everyone ("the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky,..."). With this defeat, the greatness of God is made manifest to the whole world.

Footnotes on the retranslation:
We have chosen alternative translations to some phrases in the NIV version as below:
a. "the prince leading" instead of "chief prince of" in verse 1.
b. "sides of the north" instead of "far north" in vs 6.
c. "earth" instead of "land" in vs 12.
d. "magnates" instead of "young lions" in vs 13 (from the JPS Tanakh).
e. "sides of the north" instead of "far north" in vs 15.


[1] A Commentary on Ezekiel 39 [2] A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of Isaiah 23