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The War of Gog and Magog

(A New Translation and Commentary)

by Richie Cooley

Licensed by:

Richie Cooley (2018)

Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International

Email: richieacooley@live.com

Some Old Testament Scripture is taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE® (NASB), copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

New Testament Scripture is taken from the Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament: Third Edition (ALT3). Copyright © 2007 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry. Previously copyrighted © 1999, 2001, 2005 by Gary Zeolla.

Table of Contents

I. A Detailed Description

II. Ezekiel 38:1-6

III. Ezekiel 38:7-9

IV. Ezekiel 38:10-13

V. Ezekiel 38:14-16

VI. Ezekiel 38:17-23

VII. Ezekiel 39:1-6

VIII. Ezekiel 39:7-10

IX. Ezekiel 39:11-16

X. Ezekiel 39:17-20

XI. Ezekiel 39:21-24

XII. Ezekiel 39:25-29

XIII. Just the Beginning

XIV. Citations

Before getting started, let’s review a few notes …

*This work mostly uses British spelling, except for the quoted material, which often employs U.S. spelling.

*Unless otherwise stated, the Old Testament quotes (apart from Ezekiel 38-39) are from the NASB and the New Testament quotes are from the ALT3.

*“LORD” or “Jehovah” signifies the personal name of God, more accurately rendered Y-h-w-h.

*The ALT3 distinguishes between singular and plural second-person pronouns by means of an asterisk (*).

*Divine pronouns are normally not capitalized, unless they appear that way in Bible versions or other quotes.

*Words that appear in brackets within quotes are not found in the original texts, and were added by the translators or are my personal comments, etc.

*When it comes to quotation marks within the text of Ezekiel 38-39, each paragraph is treated separately and is just provided for a point of reference.

*My translation seeks to be very literal, but not overly cumbersome. For one reason or another, participles and infinitives are probably the main points of departure from super-consistent strictness. As for finite verbs, I try to aim for uniformity with tenses, which leaves the renderings a bit underdone around the edges.

I. A Detailed Description

I invite you to join me as I go through a sizable portion of the book of Ezekiel. It details one of the most important eschatological events on the radar. We will be reviewing chapters 38 and 39, which describe a massive invasion of the nation of Israel towards the end of the age. It is popularly called, ‘The War of Gog and Magog.’

This Hebrew text was written over 2,500 years ago by a Jewish captive in the midst of Babylonian incursions. It is an extremely ancient prophecy, and even now it is amazingly accurate. Of course it is yet to be fulfilled, but when you read this passage, a few things leap out. First of all, the current geopolitical structure is exactly the way Ezekiel depicted it over two millennia ago. That in and of itself is amazing.

Yet also keep in mind the general hues and themes of what you’re reading. It all seems incredibly modern and incredibly plausible. Now imagine if you were tasked to sit down and write of a war that was to occur in the year AD 4600. What kind of job do you think you would do? Would you believe that the nation of Israel even existed? Would you not rather envisage a planetary system of George Jetsons? Could you possibly manage to describe a clean-up effort which would ring plausible in AD 4600?

As we go through these Scriptures do not lose sight of the antiquity of the book. Ezekiel didn’t have the internet. He didn’t know anything about Russia nor the Arab League nor the way the world would work in the twenty-first century. He was only a few decades old and his entire social structure had been crumbling throughout his lifetime. He was not some genius, ultra-educated game theorist. He was a prophet. The Holy Spirit of the Only True God spoke through him, as we will see…

II. Ezekiel 38:1-6

And the word of Jehovah was to me saying, “Son of man, set your face toward [or, “against”] Gog of the land of Magog, the chief head(A) of [or, “the chief of the head of” or “the chief of Rosh,”] Meshech and Tubal; and prophesy against him, and you are to say: ‘Thus said [the] Lord Jehovah, “Behold, I [am] against you [O] Gog, the chief head of [or, “the chief of the head of” or “the chief of Rosh,”] Meshech and Tubal. And I will turn you about and put hooks(B) in your jaws; and I will bring you out, and all your armyhorses and horsemen, all of them fully attired, a great assembly [with] large and small shields, wielding swords—all of them. Persia, Cush, and Put [are] among [or, “with”] them, all of them [with] shield and helmet; Gomer and all its [or, “her”] troops, Beth-togarmah [from] [the] remote parts of [the] north, and all its [or, “his”] troopsmany peoples [are] with you!”’”

Textual Notes:

(A) The “chief head” or the “chief of Rosh” is a fascinating title no matter what way you slice it. The major dividing line has to do with the meaning of rosh. This is a word that has been transliterated directly from the Hebrew. It normally means “head,” hence when it is combined with another word for a leader (nassi), many translators render it “chief prince” (cf. the English Standard Version; compared to my translation, they render “rosh/head” as “chief” and “chief” as “prince,” basically). However, it is slightly odd to have these two words denoting leadership crammed together, although it isn’t unheard of (cf. 1 Chronicles 7:40; albeit the order of the Hebrew words is reversed). Thus, many think that this is an actual futuristic-foreign-proper-noun, hence “Russia.” The Hebrew certainly lends credence to this view, as I think my rendering is slightly less natural. Because of the construction, the great Hebrew scholar Wilhem Gensenius believed rosh to be a proper name.

It really is a coin toss either way. I’ve searched through the Hebrew Old Testament, trying to find some smoking gun that would force the translation one way or the other. I didn’t come up with anything. In the end however, Ezekiel is fairly fond of the words rendered “chief” and “head,” and uses them consistently in normal ways. Rosh never appears anywhere else as a national proper noun—neither in the book of Ezekiel, nor anywhere else (although it is a name of someone in Genesis 46:21). Hence I lean towards “chief head,” although it may be slightly contrived.

Yet even “chief head” (or some close equivalent) is noteworthy. It is a description which combines rosh with nassi. The Hebrew word nassi is just a general term for a leader, being based upon the common Hebrew verb which means “to lift up.” It also is consistently used to describe princes, hence many lexicons and translations follow that path. However, I like William Holladay’s more broad definition of “chief” or “minor king” (pg. 247). So this “Gog” is the chief head. That certainly is a possible way to depict the modern political set-up, where many nations no longer have actual, potent kings, but have some sort of congressional or parliamentary system with an executive leader atop.

Yet more importantly, since “Meshech” and “Tubal” should probably be identified with Turkey, unless that nation fades into Russia one day, it wouldn’t make any sense to translate “rosh” as Russia. It would make sense if “chief head” simply is the designated person who is wielding control over Turkey’s army, which would fall to the head of the coalition, whomever that may be.

(B) The TWOT (see 620b) says this “refers to hooks or rings used to capture and control men, employing the methods normally used to handle animals. The warning against Sennacherib (II Kgs 19:28; Isa 37:29) may possibly be drawn from actual practice, as we have an Assyrian relief of captives with a ring through the lips…”

It speaks of God’s controlling hand in this matter. As a conquering ruler would subjugate people and lead them away through attaching an appendage to their face, so God is actually the one leading Gog and his army. Gog believes to be a bold, impetuous visionary; actually, all his actions are being ordained by heaven.

This expression could also imply that something will happen which causes Gog to feel overwhelmingly compelled to make this raid. There is an additional hint along these lines further down the text. Perhaps another skirmish precedes this one, or perhaps the War of Gog and Magog is going to take place soon after a major act of God, such as the Rapture of the Church.

It was popular a few years ago to make much over prophecies regarding Syria, and some speculated that a conflict involving this nation could precede Gog/Magog. I myself thought these were interesting ideas, but now I’m not so sure. I’m now slightly more inclined that the better explanation for the “hook” is the falling of Israel’s defences at the time of the Rapture.


So we have this massive war machine. There are many armies who are wearing full metal jackets, so to speak. This isn’t a ragtag group of wanderers, but proper military divisions are employed with the uniforms and equipment of national states.

Let’s take a step back and consider the full context of this passage. In the previous section of the book of Ezekiel, God promises to bring Israel back to its own land after the diaspora. Then we have these two chapters dealing with a massive invasion. Following this, there is the sketch of the Messianic Age which continues unto the end of the book (chapters 40-48).

Someone therefore could make the knee-jerk assumption that when this war concludes, then so does the age. That is not the case. This war will only help to usher in the tribulation period (see my other free writings for more about this era). Yet I believe that the enemies of the Lord will proclaim that the Kingdom of God has come at that time. Thus, the Antichrist is the real Christ, and the world must align itself under his rule. That’s probably why Paul put so much emphasis on not believing the Day of Jehovah had come (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4). This will probably be a popular lie.

I point that out now because as we go through these chapters, note how they greatly differ from the description of the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 19, 16:12-20, 14:17-20; Joel 3 [4 in the Hebrew]; Zechariah 12-14). These are obviously two completely different conflicts. The War of Gog and Magog happens at the beginning and features a few specific nations, whereas the Battle of Armageddon comes at the end and involves every nation. Just what nations are going to take part in the War of Gog and Magog?

“Persia” is modern Iran, and “Cush” is north-east Africa, south of Egypt (i.e., Sudan). The Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary says it is Sudan (pg. 669). According to the same source, “Put” is Libya (pg. 2363), “Gomer” is southern Russia (pg. 1181), “Beth-togarmah” is (perhaps) Armenia (pg. 355), and “Meshech” is (probably) Asia Minor/Turkey (pg. 1939), as is (probably) “Tubal” (pg. 2843). These locations (more or less) are also the ones given in other popular evangelical resources, such as John MacArthur’s Study Bible and Unger’s Bible Handbook.

So looking at a map, Israel is cornered by Iran to the east, Turkey to the north, Libya to the west, and Sudan to the south.

Just what is meant by “Magog” is a bit trickier. This probably does actually refer to Russia. Most commentators cite Josephus at this point, as does Ralph Alexander…

“Magog,” associated with the Japhetic line in the table of nations in Genesis 10, is referred to by Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, 1.6.1) as the Scythians who lived in an area around the Black and Caspian seas. This view is most generally accepted. (from chapter 4)

Mark Hitchcock also elaborates on the ancient quote…

Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian, says the ancient Scythians inhabited the land of Magog. The Scythians were ruthless northern nomadic tribes who inhabited a large swath of territory encompassing Central Asia and the southern steppes of modern Russia. Magog today includes five former Soviet republics: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan. Afghanistan could also be part of this territory. These nations, with a combined population of more than sixty million, are all Islamic.

Many believe ancient Magog also includes what today is Russia. The Nelson Study Bible describes Magog as “usually understood to be in the area near the Black Sea or the Caspian Sea. Magog is one of the sons of Japheth, whose descendants occupied lands from Spain to Asia Minor, the islands of the Mediterranean to southern Russia.”

Charles Ryrie says, “Magog was identified by Josephus as the land of the Scythians, the region N and NE of the Black Sea and E of the Caspian Sea (now occupied by three members of the Commonwealth of Independent States: Russia, the Ukraine, and Kazakhstan).” Referring to Magog, Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, Arnold Fruchtenbaum says, “These tribes of the ancient world occupied the areas of modern day Russia.” John MacArthur, referring to Ezekiel 38:2, says, “The names of ancient peoples are given who lived in northern Mesopotamia and the Caucasus region of modern Russia.”

Ancient Magog included land that today is in Russia. (pgs. 34-35)

Since Josephus proves that this was the common understanding in the first century and since every student of the Old Testament knew of the War of Gog and Magog, I’ve often wondered if this is why Paul singled out the Scythians at one point. It would be as if he was saying that even the hordes of Gog are not to be looked upon with hateful enmity…

Stop lying to one another, having put off the old [or, former] person with his practices, and having put on the new [person], the [one] being renewed in full [or, true] knowledge according to [the] image of the One having created him, where there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, foreigner, Scythian, slave, [or] free person, but Christ [is] all [things] and in all [things]. -- Colossians 3:9-11

So again, there is going to be a major invasion from the north, south, east and west, and it will be headed up by a chief leader towards the northern quarter. This interpretation is further confirmed by the description of another Gog/Magog war in the New Testament. John uses the phrase in the book of Revelation as being synonymous with an invasion from four directions…

And he [Satan] will go out to lead the nations astray [fig., to deceive the nations], the [ones] in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war, of whom the number [is] like the sand of the sea. -- Revelation 20:8

Contrary to the opinion of many, this is a completely different war from the one we’re discussing, as the context of these passages have absolutely nothing in common. Yet their great number (like the sand of the sea) and their general location (the four corners of the earth), earn this latter incursion the self-same title.

As for the meaning of “Gog,” nothing is known with any real certainty. John didn’t seem to attach any specific weight to it. There are a couple of interesting places where the title occurs in the Septuagint (cf. Numbers 24:7 and Amos 7:1), but the Hebrew doesn’t support these glosses. It was the actual name of an Israelite in 1 Chronicles 5:4. Thus, it’s best just to see it as a specific title or cognomen tied to this particular passage, as the NASB Exhaustive Concordance says it is simply a “leader of a northern nation” (pg. 1376). Feyerabend pretty much says the same thing (pg. 56). Perhaps the linguistic similarities to Magog, goyim (gentiles), Agag, and Og, played a part in Ezekiel’s usage, the latter two being famous enemy kings.

Although it would be disputed by many, according to Alfred Jones, it means “extension” or “roof” (pg. 132). That is a very attractive idea, as if the roof of the nations is falling upon the head of Israel.

III. Ezekiel 38:7-9

Be prepared and make yourself ready—you and all your assembly, the ones being assembled about you, and you will be to them for a guard. After many days you will be called up(A) [or, “visited”]; at the end of the years you will come in against a land [that is] restored from [the] sword, [having been] gathered from many peoples, unto [or, “upon,” “about”] the mountains of Israel which were for a site of perpetual ruins; and [or, “she;” i.e., the people of Israel] was brought out from [the] peoples, and they are dwelling unto security(B) [i.e., “they are dwelling securely”]—all of them. And you will go up; you will come in like the storm(C); you will be like the cloud-mass to cover the land [or, “earth”]—you and all your troops, and many peoples with you.

Textual Notes:

(A) For this meaning of the Niphal, see Holladay (pg. 296).

(B) It’s the practice of most translations to ignore the preposition and then to render the noun as an adverb, hence dwelling “securely.” That’s all fine and well, but I prefer to leave the text in the most au naturel state as possible, to preserve the authentic cadence and emphases. Regarding Hebrew syntax, there needs to be the understanding that with every trick of the trade employed, something flavoursome and genuine will be missing. Translations need less advanced grammar and more authenticity. This is always the goal, although it never can be fully reached.

While speaking of this phrase, as beforementioned (I beat this drum throughout), there are many commentators who take the view that Ezekiel 38-39 is really referring to the War of Gog and Magog as found in Revelation 20. That particular war takes place after the 1,000 year reign of Christ (i.e., the Messianic Age). One of the reasons why they take this view is because of the security that Israel is said to enjoy leading up to the incursion. Another errant view (in my opinion) is that the war takes place directly in the middle of the tribulation period. In this scheme, it is the Antichrist who has afforded Israel peace.

When it comes to this particular objection, the idea of general peace being equated to Messianic peace is far from the prophetic understanding of the concept. For example…

I saw at night, and behold, a man was riding on a red horse, and he was standing among the myrtle trees which were in the ravine, with red, sorrel and white horses behind him. Then I said, “My lord, what are these?” And the angel who was speaking with me said to me, “I will show you what these are.” And the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered and said, “These are those whom the LORD has sent to patrol [Lit walk about through] the earth.” So they answered the angel of the LORD who was standing among the myrtle trees and said, “We have patrolled [Lit walked about through] the earth, and behold, all the earth is peaceful [Lit sitting] and quiet.” -- Zechariah 1:8-11

Does all of heaven then rejoice because the Messiah has come? Of course not, for Israel is in a horrible state, as is much of the world at that time. Israel had been brought back from Babylon but faced opposition on every side. Continuing the quote…

Then the angel of the LORD said, “O LORD of hosts, how long will You have no compassion for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which You have been indignant these seventy years?” -- Zechariah 1:12

These horsemen are a precursor to the horsemen of the apocalypse which are found in Revelation 6. Those famous horsemen bring the first judgments of the apocalypse upon the planet. In Zechariah 6 similar horsemen (with chariots) are dispatched to shake the nations. Thus, the peace being spoken of has to do with the idea of incredible unrest, tumult, and agitation, especially the kind that will accompany the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments of the book of Revelation.

If you understand the whole panoramic scheme of eschatology (which few commentators care to believe in), then this idea of security fits perfectly well. Israel is as the city of Laish before the Danites came to destroy it (cf. Judges 18). Modern Israel is very comparable to ancient Laish. They have a very surprising amount of security given their isolation—and they are very isolated! Moreover, this isolation will be extremely magnified if the U.S. was to fall.

Imagine a nice home in the midst of a dangerous neighbourhood, owned by a man whom everyone feared. It might have problems, but it would know peace. What if word was to spread that the man whom everyone feared was dead, and the nice home was as spoil waiting to be devoured. I think that is what is meant by security here, and also what is meant by the hooks being put into the jaws of Gog. After all, Israel will never know Messianic security at any point from the Rapture until Armageddon. And as for the post-Millennium theory, I’ll elaborate more problems with that view later.

(C) This Hebrew word, shoah, means “devastation” or “ruin.” It is a term which modern Jewish people use to describe the Holocaust, when the Third Reich butchered six million Jews. I know modern usage doesn’t influence ancient etymology; still, the semblance here is chilling.


So the great northern nation will be the leader of this confederacy which surrounds Israel on every side. Obviously modern Russia has many allies in the Middle East and North Africa, so prophecy students see this as a major sign of the times. Calling it a “guard” is a tremendous description of modernity. Russia has consistently used proxies and have armed them to the teeth. They have invested very heavily into foreign militaries and helped build large offensive and defensive infrastructures. The most popular example is the Iranian nuclear program.

It is also amazing to realize what a clear prognostication we have of the return of the Jews to their homeland. This seemed impossible for most of world history, apart from the past hundred years or so. This is incredible foresight. This is divinity in action. How can this foretelling be explained, apart from declaring the Bible to be the product of an all-knowing God? The problem with the world is not that God is silent, but that people are deaf. They refuse to study in order to discover truth, but are rather willingly brainwashed by Orwellian newsfeeds from tech giants.

Finally, notice the emphasis which is placed upon the metaphor of the storm. The hordes of Gog and Magog are called “the storm” and “the cloud-mass.” That doesn’t read well in English, but I retained the definite articles to highlight the stress that is being placed upon the emblems. This is like Noah’s flood. The skies are growing dark and the Jews are about to be drowned in a sea of warriors. Will God be silent? Will he finally let Satan have his way? That one has been trying to exterminate the Jews since the time of Abraham. The tension will be very high, and a shaken world will be watching…

IV. Ezekiel 38:10-13

Thus said [the] Lord Jehovah, “And it will be on that day, words will come up upon your heart and you will plan a plan of evil. And you will say, I will go up against a land of open [or, “rural”] country(A). I will enter the undisturbed [or, “ones being quiet”]—all of them dwelling unto security [or, “securely inhabiting”], dwelling where [literally, “in,” “with”] there is not wall and bar, and there are no gates to them,’ to spoil a spoil and to plunder a plunder, to bring back(B) your hand against ruins being inhabited, and against a people gathered from [the] nations, producing livestock and property, dwelling at [or, “upon”] the navel(C) of the earth. Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish—and all its young lions—will say to you, ‘To spoil a spoil [are] you entering? To plunder a plunder have you assembled your assembly, to lift [away] silver and gold, to take [away] livestock and property, to spoil a great spoil?’”

Textual Notes:

(A) The Hebrew word behind the phrase “open, rural country” (Holladay; pg. 297), is difficult to fully discern, as it only appears thrice. One occurrence is in the book of Esther (9:19), where Jews who live in rural areas are contrasted with those who live in the royal city. It’s noteworthy that Esther is evoked here. That book is all about a great enemy of the Jews having his plans of annihilation turned against him. Something similar will happen with the War of Gog and Magog. Also, the enemy in Esther is called “Haman,” which is practically identical to the name of the place of Gog’s slain, as we’ll see. No one is going to say that “Haman” is a Hebrew name, but even just the phonetic similarity is fascinating.

Apart from Ezekiel itself, the only other time the term occurs is in the book of Zechariah…

And behold, the angel who was speaking with me was going out, and another angel was coming out to meet him, and said to him, “Run, speak to that young man, saying, ‘Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls [Lit like unwalled villages; or like open country] because of the multitude of men and cattle within it. For I,’ declares the LORD, ‘will be a wall of fire around her [Lit to her], and I will be the glory in her midst.’” -- 2:3-5

Ezekiel, Esther, and Zechariah are all latter books. They all were written in fairly close proximity to each other when it comes to time and when it comes to geopolitical situations. Therefore, they all help shed relevant light on what the term means. Many translations go with “unwalled village,” or something similar. As can be seen above, the NASB footnote says it either means “unwalled villages” or “open country.” Both ideas seem to be present in Ezekiel. Gog is going to go after this land whose inhabitants are spread out along the fertile countryside, as they seem to be sitting ducks. However, God will send fire down upon the enemies, and he will be glorified in her midst.

(B) The Hebrew verb shuv is employed, and it commonly means “to return.” It is in the (usually) causative stem here, and so I go with “bring back.” This again begs the question that this action of Gog seems to be in response to something. Remember, in the beginning of the passage God is said to put hooks into his jaws and to cause him to turn around. The entire War of Gog and Magog seems to be set in a broader context that we’re not privy to. Whenever the Danites went to conquer Laish it was after a small expeditionary band returned with a report. A report has come unto Gog, and Israel is a sitting duck. What has caused this? The Rapture? Another Middle Eastern war? The fall of the United States, or another important ally? I think these are all valid possibilities. Although I really like the Rapture idea, it is worth noting that the Danite expeditionary force consisted of five men (Judges 18:2), and there are five nations mentioned in Ezekiel 38:5-6. Perhaps Persia, Cush, Put, Gomer, and Beth-togarmah are the ones to put hooks in Gog’s jaw, which could lead one to believe in the pre-war skirmish concept.

(C) The Hebrew term behind this rendering only appears in one other place within the Old Testament…

Gaal spoke again and said, “Behold, people are coming down from the highest part [Or center] of the land, and one company [Lit head] comes by the way of the diviners’ oak [Or terebinth].” -- Judges 9:37

Ironically, in this scene the city of Shechem is being subjected to a surprise attack by a marauding force. The NASB renders the term in question as “highest part,” and then offers the alternative of “center.” Obviously this is based on context. The force that was attacking Shechem were coming down from a mountainous area. A mountainous region is spoken of quite a lot in the War of Gog and Magog. The force which comes down from the north will be encountering such geography. Therefore, it’s not clear if the passage is speaking of Israel’s central location in relation to the other nations, or simply of the part of the Holy Land that the warriors will be mainly encountering.


I covered most of the passage in the preceding notes, apart from the response of the other nations.

Most commentators see “Sheba and Dedan” as referring to Arabia (Longman; pgs. 2577 and 723). It’s noteworthy that modern [Saudi] Arabia is not in the Russian axis. It stands aloof from (and even opposes) the doings of its Mahdi-militant, Shia counterparts in Iran. Of course, many liberals in the West still hate the House of Saud because they believe in their religion, which is the great no-no. Sex and drugs are fine, just don’t actually believe in the God you pray to.

Think about how amazing this prophecy is. Ezekiel penned these words about a millennium before Mohammed was even born. After the growth of Islam there would be a split between Sunni and Shia sects, with different Middle Eastern nations belonging to these opposing groups. It is the Shia block that has the strongest ties to Russia. Ezekiel says that Iran (Persia) will be a part of the Gog and Magog conglomeration, whereas Arabia will not. How did he foresee this happening, apart from the Holy Spirit of the omniscient God?

The “merchants of Tarshish” probably is speaking of European/Mediterranean officials. So the people of Europe and the Middle East are scratching their heads at this surprising, bold, and overpowering invasion.

The five men of Dan also commented on the fat spoil that could belong to them…

When they came back to their brothers at Zorah and Eshtaol, their brothers said to them, “What [do] you [report?]They said, “Arise, and let us go up against them; for we have seen the land, and behold, it is very good. And will you sit still? Do not delay to go, to enter, to possess the land. When you enter, you will come to a secure people with a spacious land; for God has given it into your hand, a place where there is no lack of anything that is on the earth.” -- Judges 18:8-10

V. Ezekiel 38:14-16

Therefore prophesy, son of man, and you will say to Gog, Thus said [the] Lord Jehovah, ‘Will you not know on that day, in the dwelling of my people Israel unto security [or, “securely]? And you will come in from your place, from [the] remote parts of [the] north—you and many peoples with you, all of them riding [on] horses, a great assembly and a mighty [or, “numerous”] army. And you will come up against my people Israel like the cloud-mass to cover the land [or, “earth”]. In the end of the days(A) [or, “the latter days”] it will be, and I will bring you against my land, in order [for] the nations to know me, in my being sanctified(B) [or, “shown holy”] through you before [literally, “to”] their eyes, [O] Gog.’”

Textual Notes:

(A) The “end of the days” or “latter days” is an expression which obviously refers to the end times. This is similar to the “end of the years” which was featured above. Between these two designations the eschatological import of the conflict is undeniable. Here are a couple of other times that such an expression is used in an analogous context:

Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as [Lit on] the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. -- Isaiah 2:2

For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or [sacred] pillar and without ephod or household [Heb teraphim] idols. Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days. -- Hosea 3:4-5

(B) It’s hard to fully express the Hebrew word behind “sanctified.” It is a Niphal form (which often delineates the passive) of a root that means “holy.” The TWOT [1990] has this helpful snippet about the root…

A definitive use of the term occurs in Num 16:38 [H 17:3]. The censers of the Korahites were regarded as holy because they had been devoted to the Lord. They were thus regarded as having entered the sphere of the sacred by virtue of cultic ritual (v. 17 [H 16:18]) and were accorded a special place in the sanctuary. The devotion of the censers seems to have created a condition of inviolable holiness that could not allow for their being treated in a common way. It seems best to see the root qdsh as serving to delineate the sphere of the “holy.”

Then regarding the Niphal it says…

In the Niphal the verbmay connote the concept “to prove one’s holiness.” God proves his holiness by judging sin (Lev 10:3; cf. 1-2; Num 20:13; Ezk 28:2). His holiness is also demonstrated in his adherence to his promises (Ezk 20:41; 28:25; 39:27).

So God is going to cause the nations to regard him as holy. They are going to realize that there is something special about the God of Israel. He will judge the sins of Gog while keeping his promises to the patriarchs of the Jews.

This is an amazing statement. It’s not often that God predicts that the nations will regard him as holy. Normally the opposite is forecasted. Here we see one of the mega-themes of the War of Gog and Magog. Through this battle the world will perk up to the reality of the God of Israel. This is going to be a great sign, and many have asked for such. Many atheists have shouted at the heavens and shaken their fist, demanding such. Well, here it is. A river of soldiers comes crashing down upon a tiny Biblical nation, only for that nation to be delivered in breath-taking fashion.

This is good news and bad news. On the one hand, the awakening will allow for a great season of evangelism. As we shall see, this will be the beginning of a great revival that will burn brightly during the tribulation period. On the other hand, this is also the beginning of the hardening of the unregenerate. The reason why God has allowed the screams of the fist-wagging atheist to go unanswered is because he can only prove himself once. Whenever that threshold is crossed, the unregenerate will move on to another complaint, and that other complaint will be far worse.

It’s like a child who suffers from hunger, only to be fed and then to complain of boredom. The world complains of God’s silence now, but when that is no longer true, they’ll begin to question other things about him. There will be a false revival and then there will be strange, bizarre speculations as to who God really is.


So we have a restatement that God will be like a cloud to cover the land, but we also have the added information that this is all transpiring that the nations might know him. When God judged the Egyptian empire, he had a similar goal, just as it is tersely related in the famous passage concerning Pharaoh…

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For this time I will send all My plagues on you [Lit to your heart] and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth. For [if by] now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain [Lit stand], in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth.”’” -- Exodus 9:13-16

God could have cut off the entire army before they even put on a single boot. He could have broken the alliances months before. It is all a part of his plan however. He will allow the waters of the flood to rise to the neck before they are cut off.

As to the nature of this war, when it comes to literalness, the only thing I’m not sure about is the weaponry. As I’ve pointed out in the past, in the book of Revelation it is written that the Antichrist will be slain of the sword, although it is most likely that a gun will actually be used. It’s not a stretch to see a gun as a modern equivalent of a sword. So with all the talk of horses in these chapters, should this be taken literally or should we look for modern equivalents?

My guess is that modern equivalents should be expected. After all, much is made about the mountains of Israel, yet that’s the last place you would expect to find a massive influx of horses. Also, there is something peculiar about the geography. The nations that attack Israel are from very far away, and ones that are closer at hand are skipped. Turkey will play a big part, yet why not Syria which is closer? Iran will play a big part, yet why not Jordan which is closer? Libya and Sudan will play big parts, yet why not Egypt which is closer? It would seem that planes and such things are going to be used in a very heavy way.

And since I brought up the subject, as to the absence of Syria and Jordan and Egypt, there are fairly reasonable explanations. First of all, we know that in modern times Jordan is not a part of the Russia-Iran axis. It is very far from such things; moreover, prophetically, it seems as if this country will become even more noble in the future (Daniel 11:41; also, this verse speaks of the three ancient regions that comprise modern Jordan as if they are one, which is another fulfilled prophecy). But again, how did Ezekiel know this? How did he know that the nearer neighbours of [Saudi] Arabia and Jordan would be friendlier than Turkey and Iran?

For large sections of world history, Turkey (Asia Minor) and Iran (Persia) were very friendly places to the people of God. The New Testament church saw massive growth and impact in Turkey (i.e., the seven churches in Revelation were located there), and Persia reversed the Babylonian oppression that saw Judah demolished and subjugated. Yet through the Holy Spirit of God he was able to see what would befall these lands in our times (and as you can tell, I take it as a foregone conclusion that we are living in the latter days). This is amazing.

So that explains Jordan, yet what of Syria and Egypt? There are two possibilities. One is that they will take part, but simply aren’t described. In other words, Ezekiel was only laying out the farthest limits, with the understanding that everything within that sphere could also be involved. Although that’s probably true to a limited extent, I don’t really like this option in the macro however. Although Syria and Egypt might play some small part, I think there are real reasons they were left out. After all, Egypt will play a massive role in the end times (see Daniel 11:21-45, which we’ll discuss later), and the fact that they didn’t lose out in this war might have something to do with that.

We cannot be sure of the reasons for Syria and Egypt’s absence. If the Gog and Magog War was to happen in the extreme-immediate-future, it is very doubtful that Egypt would cast their lot in with them. The Gog and Magog conglomeration seems chock full of extremists, and Egypt hasn’t been so extreme in recent memory (to say nothing of Sunni versus Shia). As to Syria, it is fairly war-torn and fractured, and there may be more skirmishes with Israel that predate the War of Gog and Magog.

VI. Ezekiel 38:17-23

Thus said [the] Lord Jehovah, Are you he [of] whom I spoke in former days, by the hand of my servants, the prophets of Israel, the ones prophesying in those days [for] years(A), to bring you against them? And it will be in that day, in [the] day [when] Gog comes [more literally, “to come Gog”] against the ground of Israel, a declaration of [the] Lord Jehovah, “[that] my wrath will rise in my anger [or, “nostril”]. And in my passion(B), in the fire of my fury I [will] have spoken: on that day shall there not be a great earthquake(C) on the ground of Israel! And they will quake at my presence: the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and the animals of the field and all the creeping things creeping on the ground and all humankind [literally, “the man”] who are on the face [or, “surface”] of the ground. And the mountains will be thrown down and the steep places will fall and every wall will fall to the earth. And I will call [for] a sword against him on [literally, “to”] all my mountains, a declaration of [the] Lord Jehovah. [The] sword of each will be against his brother. And I will enter into judgment with him with plague [or, “pestilence”] and with blood; and I will rain upon him and upon his troops and upon [the] many peoples who are with him an overflowing rain and stones of hail—fire and sulphur. And I will magnify myself and sanctify myself and make myself known in [literally, “to”] [the] eyes of many nations; and they will know that I [am] Jehovah.

Textual Notes:

(A) Ezekiel is fully aware that this prophecy will not be fulfilled any time soon. The Holy Spirit clearly indicates that it will be something known of for “years” to come. Here we see yet another wonderful prediction. Can any author say that his or her writing will be known in another country, years after publication? Can any author really count on his or her words being taken as divine fact in general, never mind in a foreign land and in the distant future! Unexplainable prognostications are really starting to stack up!

(B) The word “jealousy” is used by some translations here, but I like Holladay’s primary definition of the term a lot better (pg. 320), which I have employed. However, we shouldn’t be afraid of the concept of a jealous God. Today’s culture has grown numb with a sterile selfishness. We’ve all grown so self-obsessed that in some quarters it seems strange to expect monogamy in a relationship or for criminals to be punished for a crime. “Just give us our kicks and leave us alone,” seems to be the prevailing sentiment. Yet, I always hear the grief of a family more clearly when they are seeking the punishment of a criminal, and I always hear the love of a spouse more clearly when they care about the fidelity of their partner. God expects faithfulness, and he will punish those who try to abuse his spouse, Israel.

(C) “Earthquake” is most probable, yet the term is broad enough to speak of a great shaking in general. In other words, there could be some other cause for a massive tumult in nature apart from tectonic plates.


So here we see the various ways that God will destroy the invaders. He will cause a great shaking (probably an earthquake) to happen, he will send burning rain (which could be a description of defensive fire from Israel or her allies), and he will cause some of the various armies to turn against each other.

It’s clear throughout Ezekiel that God speaks of third-party causation in a first-person way. For example, something is going to cause Gog to seek to invade, yet God says that rather he himself will put the hooks in his jaws. Thus, I don’t think that when it says God will “send fire,” that it must be referencing divine activity. The source could be from a third party, and likely will be.

We could surmise that it will be the great shaking which will cause many people to get a sense of the divine, as the other means of destruction may lack the necessity of springing from a supernatural source. What are the odds that such a mighty natural event would happen at such a time? The shaking seems to be extremely severe. “Every wall will fall to the earth” is a dire prediction. This cannot mean that every single building in the land of Israel will be demolished, for the rest of the prophecy would not be able to be fulfilled. The destruction will likely be confined to wherever the invading forces are located.

So again, let all this sink in. Think of how detailed all of this is. We’re told of specific nations that will invade and we are told in graphic detail just how they are going to be destroyed. God is giving this great sign that he might “magnify,” “sanctify,” and reveal himself to the world. This will only be partially effective however. Israel will soon after sign a covenant with the Antichrist, seemingly desiring protection from such strife (see Daniel 9:27 and Isaiah 28:15).

As we turn the corner from chapter 38 to chapter 39, I’d like to pause and consider again one of the hottest topics of debate: just when will this war happen? There are a couple of options that I think can be completely rejected; namely, that the war is synonymous with Armageddon or that the war takes place after the Messianic Age. The language doesn’t fit these interpretations at all. Why would God need to make himself known in the Messianic Age, when his presence will be continuously realized? And why would he be seeking to convict the nations as to his existence at the very end of the tribulation period? By that time he will have spent seven years proving such, and the opportunity for the nations to repent will be long gone.

So that leaves us with three options: either the war happens before the tribulation period begins, it happens in the middle, or what is depicted in these chapters speaks of both poles. I lean very strongly towards the pre-tribulation view, but I’m open to the other two options. For the rest of the booklet I will speak as if the pre-tribulation view is correct; for I think if you plug the war into that window of time it makes the most sense. However, I’m not trying to overstep and overreach, and I recognize that the mid-tribulation view is possible.

Before moving on, I encourage you to read Daniel 11:21-45. I believe that this entire section describes the future Antichrist, although I’ve never come across a commentator to agree with me. They normally say that at some point the Antichrist is in view, but don’t consider the whole passage to be an organic unit. I believe that it is. There are two places where the War of Gog and Magog could fit in. One occurs at the very beginning of the passage (which would line up with the pre-tribulation view) and another towards the end of it (which would line up with the mid-tribulation view)…

In his place a despicable person will arise, on whom the honor of kingship has not been conferred, but he will come in a time of tranquility and seize the kingdom by intrigue. The overflowing forces will be flooded away before him and shattered, and also the prince of the covenant. After an alliance is made with him he will practice deception, and he will go up and gain power with a small [force of] people. -- verses 21-23

At the end time the king of the South will collide with him, and the king of the North will storm against him with chariots, with horsemen and with many ships; and he will enter countries, overflow [them] and pass through…. -- verse 40

So the first passage speaks of the pre-tribulation period. The Antichrist will come along, and then the “overflowing forces” will be “shattered.” This would be the War of Gog and Magog. On a footnote, the term “overflowing forces” is literally, “the arms of the flood.” We have seen that this incursion is similar to the flood of Noah, being equated to a storm and a cloud-mass. After these forces are shattered, the small people (i.e., the nation of Israel) make an alliance with him. After all, the invading forces will be mostly Muslim, so it will be popular to oppose Islam with a sense of divine right at this time. Of course, all Christian crusaders are blasphemous heretics, and I think the Antichrist will pretend to be such for the sake of political manoeuvring.

As for verse 40, I just don’t see any detailed reason to believe the War of Gog and Magog is being referenced. There is no mention here of any particular nation that is spoken of in Ezekiel 38. Moreover, Egypt plays a major role here, which doesn’t seem to be the case in Ezekiel. Again, I’m not trying to overreach, but I’m just explaining the position I will take throughout the rest of the booklet. While commenting on the next chapter I want to build a more structured picture of the early parts of the end times.

VII. Ezekiel 39:1-6

And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog and you will say, Thus said [the] Lord Jehovah, Behold, I [am] against you, [O] Gog, chief head of [or, “the chief of the head of” or “the chief of Rosh,”] Meshech and Tubal. And I will turn you about and lead(A) you and bring you up from [the] remote parts of [the] north(B); and I will bring you in against [or, “upon”] the mountains of Israel. And I will strike your bow from your left hand and knock down [or, “cause to fall”] your arrows from your right hand. Upon the mountains of Israel you will fall—you and all your troops and [the] peoples who [are] with you. To [the] birds of prey(C) of every wing and the animals of the field I will give you as [more literally, “for”] food. Upon the face [i.e., “surface”] of the field you will fall, for I have spoken, a declaration of [the] Lord Jehovah. ‘And I will send fire on [or, “in”] Magog and on the ones inhabiting the coastlands unto security [or, “securely”]; and they will know that I [am] Jehovah.’”

Textual Notes:

(A) The Hebrew term behind the rendering “lead” is very rare. This is the only occurrence in the Old Testament. According to William Holladay, it means to lead as “a child learning to walk” (pg. 384). Here again we have the determinate activity of God. Gog thinks himself autonomous. He thinks he is crafty, savvy, and is catching the world by surprise. Yet in reality, God has led him down this path, just as an adult would lead a little child. Crafty is unable to exist in the presence of the All-Knowing and All-Powerful. The Devil has spent the fullness of time learning this fact the hard way.

(B) The north features prominently in the latter history of Israel. Russia has been the source of many of the modern inhabitants of the land. There’s something almost poetic about the same nation coming to try to destroy Israel. It’s as Pharaoh thinking better about releasing the Hebrew slaves, or of Laban being outraged over the fleeing of Jacob. Of course God cut Laban’s pursuit short upon the mountains of Israel, and Pharaoh likewise was unable to recover the fleeing nation, but instead was led into a divine trap.

(C) The word which signifies these as birds of prey is very rare. It only appears in five other verses. The first occurrence is back in Genesis 15:11. In that passage God is confirming the covenant with Abraham concerning the land. He tells the patriarch to cut up animals, and fire from Jehovah eventually passes through those pieces. While Abraham is waiting for this confirming sign, birds of prey try to devour the animals. It is up to the patriarch to keep them away. God has not forgotten his promises to the Jewish patriarchs, and now birds of prey are rather employed to be the confirming sign.


Here we have more about the fall of the invading force. More details are given, to include the location of mountains and the presence of devouring animals in the aftermath of the overthrow. God is giving description after description, prophecy after prophecy.

Although the overthrow of the invaders has already been related, there is some added information here. Apparently the “coastlands” are going to get involved in the war. This could perhaps be the sole reference to North America in Bible prophecy. It certainly seems to speak of some distant land in the West. As Holladay says while discussing this term, “The islands [and] coasts of the Mediterranean are for the OT the extremes of the western world” (pg. 12). Baker and Carpenter state, “Distant islands or shores were designated by this word” (pg. 41). So why would these far off places be involved? How could they be involved? If Magog and the coastlands trade fire (which is likely), then how could an ancient empire to the north of Israel lob fire at Greece or Spain or Britain, or across the Atlantic? This is an amazing prophecy. Think about it. How could Ezekiel know of ICBMs?

VIII. Ezekiel 39:7-10

“And the name of my holiness(A) I will make known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let the name of my holiness [to] yet be profaned. And the nations will know that I [am] Jehovah, [the] Holy One in Israel. Behold, [it is] entering and it will be done,” a declaration of [the] Lord Jehovah: “It [is] the day [of] which I have spoken!(B) And the inhabitants of the cities of Israel will go out and kindle [a fire] and burn with [the] armoury equipment(C)both small and large shield, with bow and with arrows, and with rod of a hand [NASB: “war clubs] and with spearand they will kindle a fire with them [for] seven years. And they will not lift up wood from the field; and they will not chop from the forests, for with the armoury equipment they will kindle a fire. And they will spoil their spoilers and they will plunder their plunderers,” a declaration of [the] Lord Jehovah.

Textual Notes:

(A) I’m sure you’ve noticed how the concept of being sanctified or holy looms so large in these two chapters. Holiness is often easiest to understand in the midst of judgment. When two sons of Aaron entered the tabernacle to offer incense contrary to the directives of God, they were consumed with fire…

And Moses saith unto Aaron, It [is] that which Jehovah hath spoken, saying, By those drawing near to Me I am sanctified, and in the face of all the people I am honoured;’” and Aaron is silent. -- Leviticus 10:3 (Young’s Literal Translation)

Jehovah is the Holy One in Israel. If you’re going to approach the apple of God’s eye, you better be sure that you’re clothed in holiness; otherwise, the righteousness of Jehovah is set to consume you.

(B) This sentence seems to me to be very direct and emphatic, hence I’ve tried to emphasize it. The statement may be simple, but there’s a lot to be learned from it. First of all it implies that the War of Gog and Magog is a popular topic that people know about. That is a true statement, as Judaism, Christianity, and even Islam hold the event in a very high regard. Again, how could Ezekiel foresee the popularity of his work while he was penning it?

Also, it’s clear that when the Gog and Magog War comes to pass, people will know it. False prophets rely on false fulfilments. If someone predicts the world will end after a hundred days, when that marker comes and goes, it will be obvious that their prediction has failed. But a false prophet never says die. Instead, it will be reinterpreted that the end happened in the spirit world and so we couldn’t see it, etc. That’s not how this war will work. You won’t have to squint in order to try to justify God’s Word. It will really be fulfilled, and there will be no need for some sort of abstract exegesis in order to make the prophecy fit.

(C) This term is much more broad than simply “weapons,” which is the unfortunate choice of many translations. It speaks of anything that could be considered military equipment. It is a pretty rare word, and only occurs in ten verses. In Nehemiah 3:19 it clearly speaks of an entire armoury.


There will obviously be a colossal amount of debris left over from this massive incursion. The passage focuses on the part of equipment that may be burned. Even in ancient times there was plenty of gear that couldn’t be burned. Therefore, I don’t see the necessity of viewing the future war as resorting to a rustic form of fighting. Of course we can’t be sure. Technology has made society so shaky, it wouldn’t take much to send us back to the dark ages. Yet, I don’t think the passage has to read that way. Swords and daggers and chariots and various other metallic devices were not on this ancient list, just as obviously guns and vehicles wouldn’t be on a current list. Likewise, there are plenty of things from a modern army that could be burned. Of course, technology may take a bit of a hit whenever the Rapture occurs, and that may compel the battle to be slightly more rustic than it otherwise would be.

The point to the declaration is the fact that the invading force will be incredibly large and they will make significant headway into the land of Israel. If these things were not so, then there would not be so much debris. Also, somehow all the leftover equipment is seen as spoil and plunder. The scene depicts a massive clean-up effort, salvaging what may be salvaged and burning what cannot be salvaged.

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