Ezekiel 38–39. The Last Great Battle in Israel?
Key Notes: An alliance of nations die in a fight for Jerusalem. Previous battles for Jerusalem. Reconciling accounts in Ezekiel, Zechariah, Joel and Revelation.
There are several wars against Israel that are prophesied in Scripture. Starting with Ezekiel as a base, we will try to sort out the participants and the outcomes of one, or more likely, several battles for Israel at the end of the Age.
Ezek.38:1 An alliance of nations will be led by Gog, consisting of:
*Gog of the land of Magog, chief of Meshech and Tubal (part of Turkey near the Black Sea)
*Beth-Togarmah (a city in Turkey near Carchemish) and *Gomer (?Cimmerians of Armenia)
The alliance is composed of identifiable countries of the Middle East. These place-names were in the genealogy of Gen.10:2–5. [Ethiopia seems like an unlikely participant because of its affinity with Israel through Solomon.] They will be mustered out by God to advance on Israel, a land restored from war, a wasteland restored by the return of the exiled people. Meshech and Tubal are included among national armies slain and disgraced with Assyria, Elam, Edom, and Pharaoh of Egypt in Sheol, the place of the dishonored dead. (Ezek.32:26). That scene would appear to be dead armies from wars of that period.
Gog is a mysterious entity, with rare references in Scripture. Revelation 20:8 is the only other place where Gog is named in Scripture.
38:7–9 God speaks directly to Gog, prophesying his massive attack “in the latter years”.
38:10 Although God will draw this alliance together, Gog is motivated to plunder a prosperous people living in unwalled villages. In this event we see the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of humans side-by-side. It is a paradox and not a contradiction to say that both are true.
38:17 God spoke about him (Gog) in former days by the prophets. ?Isa.34:1–8
38:19 The war will be a Day of Wrath from God. The victory will evidently not depend on human weapons or strategy. A violent earthquake, pestilence, panic (one army against another), rains, hail, fire and brimstone are components of the battle.
39:1 Gog will fall on the mountains, and the open fields of Israel.
39:9 The weapons (?wooden ?carbon) will provide fuel for seven years.
39:12 Seven months will be required to bury the dead at Hamon-gog (“the valley of Gog”).
39:17 The carrion birds and beasts will be summoned to the kill.
39:22 The nations will understand God’s dealing with Israel and Israel will know the Lord.
39:29 The Spirit of God will be poured out on Israel.
A doomsday for all the nations is described in several other places, where Gog or Magog is not named. For example,
“In those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat ( Jehoshaphat means ”God has judged”) and I will enter into judgment with them there.” Joel 3:2
“Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon are darkened and the stars withdraw their shining. And the Lord roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth shake....” Joel 3:14
“Let the earth listen, and all that fills it; the world and all that comes from it. For the Lord is enraged against all the nations and furious against all their host. He has doomed them, has given them over for slaughter....” Isa. 34:1
In addition to Ezekiel, Joel and Isaiah, there are at least two other texts (Zechariah and Revelation) prophesying the last great battle. Iff we compare Zechariah 12, and Zechariah 14 it appears that we have two separate battles or two phases of one battle. Zechariah 12 describes a victory for Israel with Christ recognized in the process.
“All the nations of the earth will come together against it” (Jerusalem). Zech.12:3
“On that day the Lord will put a shield about the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” Zech.12:5–9
“They will look on Him whom they have pierced and mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child....” Zech. 12:10
Zechariah 14 describes a sack of Jerusalem followed by Christ's rescue.
“I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations as when He fights on a day of battle. On that day His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives.” Zech.14:2
“…and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. (The earthquake is also mentioned in Amos 1:1). Then the Lord your God will come and all the holy ones with Him.” Zech.14:5
The prophecy of Revelation is not as easily integrated.
Rev.16:14 describes demonic spirits that gather the kings of the whole world to battle at Armageddon.
Rev.19:11 has the conclusion of the affair with Christ coming with the host of Heaven, smashing the nations with a rod of iron.
Rev.19:19 Victory is given to Christ. The Beast (Antichrist) and the false prophet are doomed.
The texts differ in several respects. Ezekiel alone has a limited number of nations involved. In contrast, Revelation 20:8 says “the nations which are at the four corners of the earth, that is, Gog and Magog”, suggesting that Gog and Magog may be taken to represent all of mankind. Moreover, the battle in Revelation takes place after a thousand years of peace—the Millennium. It appears to be an entirely different from the battle in Ezekiel. Joel, Ezekiel and Revelation place the battle away from Jerusalem, probably in the north of Israel while Zechariah centers the battle in the City.
- Zechariah 12 has the Jews winning, at least in the first phase. The others have God winning the victory. That is not a contradiction.
- Ezekiel, Zechariah, Joel and Revelation all mention an earthquake.
- Both Ezekiel and Revelation mention hail, and the dead as food for carrion birds.
- Only Ezekiel mentions fire and brimstone.
- In Zechariah, there is continuous day. In Joel the celestial bodies are shaken.
Is there one “final” battle or more than one? We suspect more than one.
Jerusalem has fallen many times.
925 BC sacked by Shishak of Egypt. IK.14:25
586BC destroyed by Babylonians. Jer.39
167BC desecrated by Greeks (Antiochus Epiphanes)
70AD destroyed by Romans (Titus)
135AD desecrated by Romans (Hadrian)
614AD occupied by Persians
638AD “ “ Muslims
1099AD sacked by Crusaders
1532AD recaptured by Muslims (Suleiman)
1917AD occupied by British (Gen. Allenby)
1948AD taken by Israel
1967AD Six-day war with Egypt, Syria
God will vindicate His holiness through Gog. 38:16
God will make known His Name in Israel. 39:7
All the nations will see His hand at work and understand the history of Israel. 39:21,23
God will make known His glory among the nations. 39:21