Ezekiel: Chapter 39
Ezekiel 39:1-29 is a continuation of Ezekiel 38:1-23, and provides more details of the invasion and of the aftermath. In all, this chapter demonstrates the Lord's sovereignty over mankind's activities, while at the same time preserving the right by every person to choose to follow the Lord or not.
Similar to the first two chapters of Genesis, Ezekiel 39:-29 restates, and builds upon the information presented in Ezekiel 38:1-23, but with the focus on Gog. As before, the Lord is declaring that He is against Gog, and again provides the context of Gog's geographic origin. The passages in these chapters illustrate a rapid deployment and insertion of forces to the point of leading to a paralysis of decision or response by other countries. In comparison to the months that lead up to the assembly of forces prior to the last two Gulf Wars of the United States and its confederation against Iraq, this developing battle will appear to establish a new bar for efficient execution of such operations. It is noteworthy that the list of nations that are part of Gog's confederacy are missing Israel's immediate neighbors, who may have been conquered earlier as noted in Psalms 83:1-18. Ezekiel 39:2 is of particular interest in that the Authorized King James Version (KJV) of the Bible is the only one to interpret the passage referencing a sixth part of Gog, in contrast to other modern translations and the New King James Version (NKJV). The Authorized KJV translates the section of verse as “…and leave but the sixth part of thee ….” The other translations do not even contain words that would suggest that a sixth part of Russia will escape and return to their land. On the surface it would be arguable prudent to follow the lead of the modern translations and ignore the interpretation of the Old KJV. However, there are two reasons to not take this path and at least keep this interpretation of the KJV in mind. First, the Hebrew word used for this passage was only used once in the entire Old Testament, so there is nothing to compare against with word usage in other passages. Second, the translators for the KJV were closer in time to the original writers and not influenced by modern biases or techniques in dynamic translations. This is not to be dismissive of the new translations, which have their strengths, but in this case it would not be prudent to ignore the KJV, particularly when it leads to the understanding in the magnitude of destruction to the invading countries. Dr. J Vernon McGee in his commentaries on this section suggest that another way to interpret this is the affirmation of the Lord’s six judgments or plagues presented in the previous chapter, as shown in the following table.
|The Plagues and Bloodshed (Ezekiel 38:19-22)|
|Plagues||Other Occurrences in Scripture|
|A great earthquake||Matthew 27:50-54 the death of Christ Matthew 28:1-2 the resurrection of Christ Revelation 11:13 The resurrection of the two witnesses|
|The sword of the Lord||Isaiah 34:1-5 judgment of the nations Jeremiah 25:27-29 judgment of the nations Revelation 19:11-15 the return of Christ|
|Fighting of the armies will be turned upon themselves||2Chronicles 20:22-23 the Lord against the invading armies against King Jehoshaphat|
|Torrents of rain||Deuteronomy 11:13-17 blessings and cursings Exodus 9:33-34 one of the plagues against Pharaoh|
|Hailstones||Joshua 10:9-11 battle between Joshua and Gibeon Revelation 16:17-21 the last bowl judgment|
|Burning sulfur||Genesis 19:21-28 the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah Revelation 9:13-18 the sixth horn of judgment|
It is quite clear from Ezekiel 38:19-22 that there are six plagues that will be visited upon the invading armies under Gog. However, another way to view Ezekiel 38:2 from reviewing the other translations is that the Lord is leading Gog on a divine appointment for his judgment by the Lord. In Ezekiel 39:2 the Lord is turning Gog around, as in Ezekiel 38:4, but in this chapter the Lord reveals that Gog has a divine appointment on the mountains of Israel and the Lord is making sure that he and his confederates arrive on time. A similar divine appointment is made with the 200,000,000 million man army during the seven years of tribulation. This is revealed with the blowing of the sixth trumpet when the release of the four angels from the river Euphrates occurs, Revelation 9:13-16, and with the drying of the Euphrates river to facilitate the crossing of the eastern army, so that they will be able to make their divine appointment with the Lord on their judgment, Revelation 16:12. Not only is the constitution of this assembled armies of Gog numerous, but the total numbers of combatants is overwhelming. It may be that the success of Israel over her neighboring countries as depicted in Psalms 83:1-18 would only further the hatred against Israel by the populations in all these invading countries into Israel, and increase their willingness to join this fight. The bottom line s that Israel is all alone in a human sense, to face this formable force assembled in the Northern part of her country. The force is so great Israel has no chance militarily to defend against or expel this great force. Only God is able to step in and preserve Israel since no other country is found to stand with Israel in her most desperate hour. God's intervention will likely be similar as His intervention in the days of King Jehosaphat, 2Chronicles 20:1. This battle was the Lord's and the entire invading armies were destroyed then.
Ezekiel 39:2 identifies the location of Gog, who is from the “FAR” north. This distance is emphasized since many of the invading armies through Israel’s history originated from the East of Israel, traveled around the crescent valley along the Euphrates River, eventually heading Southward toward Jerusalem to fight against them. Gog's origin, in contrast, is directly North. The destination of this vast army that Gog will be able to amass is the mountains of Israel as an assembly area. This scenario is also similar to the days of King Hezekiah and the invasion of King Sennacherib of Assyria. In Isaiah 36:13-15, the blasphemy of the Assyrian commander is recorded, and the Lord’s response the king's inquiry through Isaiah is provided in Isaiah 37:6-7. The Assyrian commander then abandoned the siege of Jerusalem to support the King of Assyria in his battle at Libnah, south of Jerusalem, Isaiah 37:8. In an attempt to keep fear upon the people within the walls of Jerusalem, the King of Assyria sent a letter to King Hezekiah saying for them not to depend on God, Isaiah 37:10. The king's attempt was a complete affront to the Lord, and the Lord did respond through Isaiah stating that He would put His hook in the nose of the king, and a bridle in his lips, and turn him back by the way that he came, Isaiah 37:28-35. Thereafter, the destruction of the Assyrian army by the Lord is given in Isaiah 37:36-37. The important point to capture here is that the army of Israel never engaged the Assyrian army, but the whole event was the Lord's. The argument is that this scenario will be repeated in our modern times for the purposes that the Lord reveals to Ezekiel and us, in the remainder of this chapter.
Continuing with the thought from the previous verse, in Ezekiel 39:3 the battle that will take place is the Lord’s. He will disarm the armies and make all of the weaponry ineffective, as shown in the descriptive language of the Lord knocking the bow out of their left hand, and causing the arrows to fall out of the hand of their strength. All of the weaponry that they had built, trained on over countless hours, and their munitions will come to nothing, and their ability to use them will suddenly evaporate. This scenario is similar to when the Egyptian chariots chased the Israelites into the Gulf of Aqaba after the Lord parted the waters for His people to cross safely on dry ground. Once on the other side of the gulf the Lord caused the waters to crash upon the Egyptians wiping out their entire force, never to hinder the Israelites on their exodus to their promised land, Exodus 14:1-31. The forces of Gog will not be able to strike at Jerusalem as they intended with their evil thought. Another example from the Old Testament is during the time of the Lord’s battle for Judah when they were invaded by Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir during the days of King Jehoshaphat. Their response to the report of a vast army attacking them was to seek the Lord, as King Hezekiah did a few generations later, 2Chronicles 20:1-4. The end of the prayer to God by King Jehoshaphat may be the same that is lifted by Israel when Gog's armies invade, with his coalition of Muslim countries, 2Chronicles 20:12. The Lord’s response and deliverance is given to King Jehoshaphat and the men and women of Judah, 2Chronicles 20:13-17, and 2Chronicles 20:21-25. Ezekiel 38:1-23 and Ezekiel 39:1-29 gives the Lord's response to His people in advance when Gog's invasion occurs.
In Ezekiel 39:4-5 the invading armies will not be able to ingress against Jerusalem, but remain in the open on mountains of northern Israel where they had assembled. This is where the assembled armies will be destroyed, as was done through Elijah, 2Kings 1:10-13. Their flesh will be given to the birds and animals, similar to the battle of Armageddon, Revelation 19:17-21. The carrion are needed to eliminate diseases from pervading across the land from the decay of so many bodies. This part of the chapter is repeated later in Ezekiel 39:17-20.
In Ezekiel 39:6, the subject shifts back to Gog and the country he rules, Magog. Not only will the assembled armies in northern Israel be destroyed, but the Lord will send his fire upon the country and upon the peoples under the rule of Gog, similar to Sodom and Gomorrah, Genesis 19:17-25. No mention is made of the other countries, but if they are judged there would be a significant impact on the world’s economy due to the destroyed oil infrastructure that exists in Russia and the Muslim countries. This may also setup the transition in the world's political scene that would enable the emergence of the Antichrist into the higher ranks in the European Union and accelerate their influence in world affairs, which is similar as in the days of King Hezekiah. At that time, when the Assyrian army began its retreat from surrounding Jerusalem, the Lord judged them and slew 185,000 fighting men from Sennacerib's army. This significant blow to his fighting force enabled the Babylonians to eventually become the new world ruler over the entire Near East region. As a result of this judgment on Gog, the nations will know that the God of Israel is Lord over all, though they may not act appropriately on that belief. This may be like the events described with the pouring out of the fifth bowl judgment, and the people recognized that the judgment came from God, but they would not repent, Revelation 16:10-11.
The purpose for all of this judgment is provided in Ezekiel 39:7-8. The Lord will make His name known to Israel and to the nations, and His name will no longer be profaned. The association between the Lord and Israel will be recognized by the world. The holiness of the Lord and His sovereignty over His creation will be evident to all who are alive at that time, and all of the events describe in Ezekiel 38:1-23 and Ezekiel 39:1-29 will happen, because the Lord has spoken it.
In Ezekiel 39:9-10 there is a list of weapons, armament, and fuel that are the spoils for Israel. The end result of this carnage upon the enemies of Israel is a testament of the Lord's greatness. The destruction upon the invaders will be so great that it will take seven years to burn the spoils. There will be so much to burn, they will not need to find other sources of fuel.
Ezekiel 39:11 provides further information concerning the location for the burial of the dead, which is on the east side of the Dead Sea. It is an interesting note that this is ground claimed by Jordan today, but this is God’s land and His to dispose of as He wills. This is also a reason to believe that the battle described in Psalms 83:1-18 will occur prior to this time in the Lord's battle with Gog. The area for burial will be renamed the Valley of Hamon Gog and a town there will be called Hamonah, Ezekiel 39:15-16.
Ezekiel 39:12 indicates that the numbers of the dead in the invading army is so significant that it will take seven months to locate the bodies who were buried in the debris and landslides during God's judgment against them. Their bodies will be buried in God’s designated area in order to cleanse the land of Israel. In Ezekiel 22:23-26, the Lord is concerned about the land being cleansed (showered in the NIV), and for the lack of that cleansing, the nation of Israel was judged during the three invasions of King Nebuchadnezzar. In Ezekiel 36:8-12, the purpose of the Lord concerning the land is for it to produce and supply the needs of the growing population of Israelites in the land. As a result, the mass burial site will be on the east side of the Dead Sea.
Ezekiel 39:13 shows that all the people of the land will help to bury the dead, which may include other peoples besides the Jews. The day of this battle will also become a memorial day or feast day in addition to the other Levitical feast days. These other feasts celebrating the important events in Israel’s history include Purim and the Feast of Lights.
In Ezekiel 39:14-16 the Lord reveals through Ezekiel that there will be continuous cleansing of the land. Men will be continually employed to go throughout the land and cleanse the land. They will travel through the land to locate and bury any remains of the invaders. After seven months of burying those that are on the ground, these men will begin their search for the remainder of the dead. It is interesting to note the details in this prophesy. A marker will be placed over the area where dead men’s bones are discovered so that they will be buried in the designated area, near the city called Hamonah. Again, this is the process God has instituted to cleanse the land.
In Ezekiel 39:17-20 demonstrates the complete futility of any rebellion against the Lord. The assembled armies of Gog were enemies of God and suffered severely for it. Every kind of bird and wild animal will eat their flesh (to control the spread of diseases from the rotting flesh). There will be no respect given to one’s political stature or rank, all will be treated the same. Again, the location of this great battle is on the mountains of Israel.
In Ezekiel 39:21-23, the Glory of the Lord over His enemies will be known and viewed by all nations. From that day forward, Israel will turn from being essentially a secular nation to one that once again believes in God. As a nation though, Israel will still not accept Jesus Christ as their Messiah. That will occur at the time of the mid tribulation when the false prophet erects a statue of the Antichrist in the tribulation temple, Matthew 24:15-19, Revelation 12:13-16, and Ezekiel 20:32-38.
Following the destruction of Gog and his confederates, all the nations will understand and know the history of Israel; this is a testament of God's dealing with Israel's iniquity, and that their captivity in the hands of their enemies and the sword going after them throughout the millennia under the Gentile era was not a result of Gentile efforts, but is God's judgment against the rebellion of Israel. During the modern era there has been a deliberate effort to rewrite history to weaken Israel's ancient claim to the land in favor of other peoples. It has been an effort with little to no scholastic integrity. The Lord's action in this battle with Gog and his confederates and the results of the war of Israel with her neighboring countries in Psalms 83:1-18 will bring into sharp focus to the nations God's involvement in world affairs and in particular His plans for Israel in the past, present, and future.
Ezekiel 39:24 continues to show that the Lord dealt with Israel according their uncleanness and their offenses. The Lord hid His face from them, Ezekiel 36:22-25, but the Lord returned Israel to their land for His holy names' sake. Even in judgment, Israel profaned His name in the nations where they were dispersed. But because of His name, the Lord will take His people from the nations, as is occurring today. The Lord will be hallowed before the nations, as in this event in Ezekiel 38:1-23 and Ezekiel 39:1-29, and the people will be cleansed.
The events in these remaining verses are arguably fulfilled during Israel's preservation in the last half of the tribulation, Revelation 12:13-16, and during the Millennial reign of Christ, Ezekiel 40:1-49 - Ezekiel 48:13-15. In Ezekiel 39:25-26 the Lord states that he will bring the captives of Jacob to the land and have mercy on the whole house of Israel. The association between Israel with the Lord is because He is jealous for His holy name. He made several covenants with Israel through their history, and He will be faithful to them. Once their time for shame has been fulfilled for their unfaithfulness to the Lord, they will again dwell safely in their own land, and no one will make them afraid again.
In Ezekiel 39:27 the Lord will show himself through Israel to the nations by His physical presence in the Holy temple in the city called “The Lord is there,” Ezekiel 48:35, formally named Jerusalem. This will occur during His millennial reign. In Ezekiel 39:28, the Lord will gather ALL His people from throughout the world to populate their land, Jeremiah 23:7-8 and they will know Him. This migration of the Jews back to their land will be so great that it will surpass the miracles the Lord displayed during Israel's exodus from Egypt. The Lord will put a new spirit in their heart, Ezekiel 36:26-27. Finally, in Ezekiel 39:29 the Lord describes the time of complete reparation with Israel. He will no longer hide His face from His people, but pour out His Spirit on the house of Israel, Zechariah 8:20-23.