THE PROPHECY OF EZEKIEL
There are several major sections of biblical prophecy that refer to the times leading up to the final conflict. In this chapter we consider the prophetic writings of Ezekiel, who lived about the sixth century B.C.
The starting point of Ezekiel's forecast of the end of this age is found in Ezekiel 33:21: "And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity,* in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month, that one that had escaped out of Jerusalem came to me saying, The city is smitten." Concerning this, Dr. Henry A.Redpath says: "From the moment that the news of the final fall of Jerusalem reaches the captives, the prophet's tongue is set loose and he begins to speak of a resuscitation and resurrection" (The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, 1907, p. 181). 1
In Ezek. 34:2-10 we read of God's condemnation of the "shepherds," the religious leaders of the nation, for their negligence to duty which had caused such suffering to His flock. Verses 7 to 13 should be compared with the first eighteen verses of the tenth chapter of John's Gospel. (It appears that in this chapter of John, the Lord Jesus is quoting Ezekiel 34:11-16 concerning Himself.)
Verse 11 is instructive: "For thus saith the Lord God; Behold I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out." Note that the "good shepherd" of John 10:11 is "the Lord God" of Ezekiel 34:11. (The Lord's personal seeking of the individual sinner does not conflict with His regathering of the Nation of Israel.)
The time of these things is evidently the end of the age, for in verse 13 the Lord says: "And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country." Further, the picture of verse 23 indicates the continuance of these events into the coming age: "And I will set up one shepherd over them and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd." This declaration implies David's resurrection and thus the age to come.
Ezekiel's description of the final war of this age is mostly non-symbolic. We have the era of this conflict indicated first by the restoration of the land of Palestine (notice the emphasis on the land - "mountains, hills, water courses and valleys" - 36:1-15); second, the regathering of the people, (36:24ff); third, the resurrection of the nation of Israel, (37:1-14); and fourth its integration, (37:15-22).
This prophecy has been at least partly fulfilled during this 20th century, and the program of restoration foretold in these scriptures corresponds with the stages of renovation since World War I. Between World Wars I and II began the regathering of the people of Israel, (Ezek. 36:24).
At God's command, Ezekiel prophesies the "resurrection" of the nation of Israel, (37:1-14) and in his vision the long-dead bones come together. This, though, is not the literal resurrection of the deceased generation of Israel, but the reorganization of the nation.
The integration of the nation was foretold by the prophetic parable of the two sticks. Ezekiel is commanded to take two sticks and to write upon them the names of Judah and Joseph (the latter stands for the ten northern tribes of Israel). These two sticks he then joins together and they become one. This acted prediction was fulfilled in 1948.
In the debate as to what they would call the new nation David Ben Gurion, the founder and first premier of the new state, said finally, "Let's call it Israel." Thus when the formation of the state was announced the name borne by those returned from the "dispersion" among the Gentiles became "Israel".
The return of the Jews was not without opposition, and in view of this opposition and of the efforts of their enemies in the land to destroy them, it is amazing that Israel has taken root in that land. This is in accord with Ezekiel's prediction: "And I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited, and the waste places shall be builded; and I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and be fruitful..." (36:10,11 ASV).
This progressive restoration of the land and people will evidently be interrupted by the terrible conflict described in chapters 38 and 39 but which, by the overruling of God, continues Israel's restoration. Above all, the advent of Israel's King, Messiah (the Lord Jesus Christ), destroys Israel's enemies and gives the nation a widely extended homeland.
Through these two chapters there is the severest condemnation of Gog: "Set thy face against Gog... and say; Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Behold I am against thee, O Gog," (38:2 ASV). This is not merely a warning, for there is no hope of repentance (as a nation) suggested or conceivable. Gog is doomed, the sentence has been pronounced.
There is a terrible picture here of the wrath of God against Gog. "And it shall come to pass in that day, when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord Jehovah, that my wrath shall come up into my nostrils. For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken," (Ezek. 38:18, 19; ASV). In 1861 E.B. Elliott suggested that the great enemy of Israel "might well be Russia," (Horae Apocalypticae). This has been the conclusion of many evangelicals since Elliott's time.
(1) Gog is described as a prince (or chief prince). The word "Gog" means to be high (exalted) or to be gigantic in stature. He is of the land of Magog (Scythia) and he is described as the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, indicating his main sphere of authority. Twice it is indicated that he comes from "the uttermost parts of the North." There is only one great nation that can be so described at this time and that nation, Russia, since 1918 has officially adopted atheism, has threatened publicly to destroy Christianity and has shown a bitter hatred toward both Jews and Christians.
(2) "Rosh" was understood to be the Russians, who classical writers from the second century B.C. have found in the mixed people "Roxolanoi" dwelling between Tanais and the Dnieper and designated "Scythians". Gesenius observes that it can scarce be doubted that the first trace of the Russians is given here.
(3) By "Meshech" a northern people inhabiting the Moschian mountains bordering on Armenia is indicated.2 They were a people regarded as the ancestors of the Muscovites who built Moscow.
(4) Tubal and Meshech are named together as sons of Japheth in Genesis 10, and six times we find them associated in the Old Testament. In the Assyrian inscriptions of the eighth century B.C. they are "Muskai" and "Tuplai". It is quite commonly held that the cities, Moscow and Tobolsk, commemorate the names of these two ethnic groups.
(5) Next we find, in Ezek. 38:5, a group: "Persia, Cush and Put with them." In the Septuagint this is rendered "Persians, Ethiopians, and Libyans." This is not suprising of Persia, bordering as it does on southern Russia. Ethiopia would not be able to defend herself against any major power that controls the Arabian Sea. Libya is already linked with Israel's enemies, although only since 1970.
(6) Next we find "Gomer and his hordes." Here we must dissent emphatically from some commonly held views. Most of today's writers on this subject assume that Gomer is Germany, so we must take time to examine these words of Scripture. This commonly asserted view is not the verdict of ethnology. The resemblance between the words "Gomer" and "German" is superficial, and the testimony of the Jews is decisively against it. They hold that Ashkenaz is the progenitor of the Germans. Thus the Jewish "dispersion" among the Germans is called the "Ashkanazism."
Testimony to the identity of Gomer and his descendants is abundant and, I submit, is conclusive. This testimony first appears in the Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions of the 8th century B.C. which have been discovered and translated in recent times. Thus we read, "In defending and maintaining his northern boundary, Esarhaddon achieved a success not the least among the triumphs of his brilliant career. The enemy that threatened from the north were the far-famed Kimmerians (to name them according to the spelling of the Greek authors)" ( J.F. McCurdy, History, Prophecy and the Monuments, vol 2, p. 346).3
Late in the 8th century B.C. the Cimmerians descended, probably over the Caucasus, into Armenia. Thence they spread southeastward and westward and came within the Assyrian sphere of influence, where they were know as "Gimirre". Thus also they came to the knowledge of the Bible writers who have spoken of them as Gomer, (Gen.10:2; 1 Chron.1:5; Ezek.38:6). They were an Indoeuropean race, and were apparently aware of kinship with the Medians (Maidai), for in their southeastern division they allied themselves with the latter.
McCurdy's view of the descendants of Gomer agrees with that of Smith's Bible Dictionary (art. "Gomer"): "He is generally recognized as the progenitor of the early Cimmerians, of the later Combri and the other branches of the Celtic family and of the modern Gael and Cymry, the latter preserving with very slight deviation the original name." 4
Notice also A.R. Fausset's Bible Cyclopaedia (art. "Gomer"): "The Cimmerians warred in northwestern Asia from 670 to 570 B.C....They are the stock of the Cymry (as the Welsh call themselves...originally they occupied the whole of the British Isles, but were driven back by succeeding invaders to the northwestern extremities, which their two divisions, the Gael of Ireland and Scotland and the Cymry of Wales occupy)... The Galations were Celts and so sprung from Gomer." ( by A.R. Fausset, Bible Cyclopaedia, page 259 ).5
Much of interest and importance concerning this race will be found in The Passing of the Empires, 850 B.C. to 330 B.C., by G. Maspero (edited by A.H. Sayce). The first reference to the "Kimmerians" is on page vi of the Editor's Preface. The first in the body of the volume is in Chapter 3: "A new race had arisen in their rear, that of the Cimmerians and Scythians, which issuing in irresistible waves from the gorges of the Caucasus threatened to overwhelm the whole ancient world of the East." This would be about 720 B.C. during the reign of Sargon of Assyria. Chapter 4 of this book which begins with the last years of Sennacherib, the Assyrian king who threatened Israel in the time of Hezekiah, contains many references to these Cimmerians. (pp. 342-344, 350-53, 369, 370 and 391-93). 6
Both Smith's Bible Dictionary and Faussett's Cyclopaedia indicate that these Cimmerians are Celts, and Fausset further identifies the Galatians as Celts. This last identification is supported in The Passing of the Empires, where mention is made of "the Cimmerians who since their reverses in Lydia and on Mount Taurus had concentrated practically all their tribes in Cappadocia." 7 The map on p. 329 of the same volume shows the Cimmerians occupying a strip of northern Asia Minor more than two thirds of its total length from east to west. In this region Paul reached them with the Gospel and alter wrote to them the Epistle to the Galatians.
Thus these Galatians of Asia Minor were evangelized by Paul the Apostle midway through the first century of this era, and they were recognized as of the same race as that occupying Gaul in the western part of the Roman Empire. This race, then, called by the Assyrians Gimmere and by others Cimmerians, Celts and Gauls, with "all its hordes" will be among the enemies of Israel in that coming conflict foretold by Ezekiel.
It is scarcely necessary to state that the chief nation of this lineage is France. She is now one of the "Big Four" and was raised to here present eminence from near disaster by one who, judging by his name, was himself a descendant of Gauls: Gen. Charles de Gaulle.
The identity of the present-day "hordes" (or allies) of France I must leave to be decided by today's rapidly breaking events. One would expect them to ethnically related to the French.
The last mentioned of these final enemies of Israel is "the house of Togarmah," (Ezek. 38:6). It seems clear that "Togarmah" is the ancestor of the Armenians for to this day they call themselves the "house of Torgum." ( Lange's Commentary on Ezekiel, page 362.) 8 There are "hordes" related also to Togarmah which I suggest could be peoples of or near Asia Minor, possibly the Turks.
Now the reader is reminded that this chapter begins with the argument that the world has witnessed as a result of two world wars, the freeing of the Promised Land from the Turkish Moslem power and the restoration of over three million Jews who now constitute the nation of Israel. (Website Publisher's Note: Today Israel's Jewish population is closer to 4.5 million) This prophecy in chapters 36 and 37 of Ezekiel is essentially one with that in chapters 38 and 39 and the fulfilment of the former predictions indicates that the time is near for the fulfilment of the latter. That being so I suggest that chapter 38:8-12 deals with this very theme. "After many days...in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is restored [see margin of ARV]...upon the mountains of Israel, which have been a continual waste; but it is brought forth out of the peoples, and they shall dwell securely, all of them... and thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell securely... without walls, and having neither bars nor gates."
I suggest that in some not very distant crisis of the nations it will appear to the Russian leader (Gog) that there is no nation able and willing to oppose a Russian attack on Israel, just as no nation was willing to take such a risk when Hungary was invaded by Soviet tanks in 1956 or as Czechoslovakia was subdued in the same way in 1969. In such a case, would any of the nations go to the aid of Israel? Verse 13 of chapter 38 tells of "Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish with all the young lions thereof" uttering what might be a challenge to Gog.
Up to 1945 there were many who thought that parts of the British Empire might so protest or challenge the invasion of Israel. So this writer thought at that time, but today it seems unlikely. In today's psychological climate it seems doubtful that any nation would go to Israel's defence. Really, this seems to be implied by this prophecy. It is Israel's Messiah who defends His people and destroys their enemies, (Zech. 14:1-4) though Israel will continue its recent record of military competence and valour as predicted in Zechariah 12:6-9.
I do not mean to imply by the above that the nations will sit still in peace while this conflict rages in the Near East. Far from it. One of the earliest of the prophets to whom was given the long-range predictions of the Bible was Joel. His short volume concludes with chapter 3, in which God reveals that when He brings back the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem "He will gather all nations and bring them down into the valley of Jehosophat and will execute judgement upon them there." In verse 9 of this chapter we find the words: "Proclaim ye this among the nations; prepare war; stir up the mighty men; let all the men of war draw near." The conflict thus announced is plainly that which will be ended by the return of Christ. Other references to this final warfare we shall see as we proceed. The Lord Jehovah (as the Deity is named here in the ARV) asks the question, "When my people Israel dwelleth securely, shalt thou not know it?" (Ezek.38:14). God has made no secret of His purpose to regather His people Israel and to restore them to the land which He gave their fathers some 34 centuries ago. The Russian leaders, with those likeminded, are blind to this fact, because of their atheism. So in their wilful blindness they will rush to the destruction of Israel, but it will be to their own destruction. There is, though, another side to this: "It shall come to pass in the latter days, that I will bring thee against my land, that the nations may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes," (Ezek.38:16)
The wicked defiance of the Most High by Gog will bring upon him and his host a terrible destruction and its story will be told in the times that follow as the record of the Flood of Noah's day has been told in the generations that followed that terrible judgement.
The descriptions of these two chapters of Ezekiel are truly sobering. Notice that the earthquake foretold is not the usual shaking of the earth, though this can be awful. This will be far more so, for the fish in the sea will shake at God's presence, and the birds of the heavens. Verse 20 says that "all the men that are upon the face of the earth shall shake at my presence."
The last part of verse 23 means that the nations will know through these events (of chs. 38 and 39) that the Lord Jesus is Jehovah. Here we come to the greatest single event of the future-- the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven. "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him," (Rev.1:7).
The closing declaration of chapter 38 brings us to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are many Old Testament predictions of this event but of course in the Old Testament He is not mentioned by His New Testament designations, e.g., "the Lord Jesus Christ," etc. The word "LORD" thus in capital letters represents the Hebrew name "Jehovah" as in Psalm 23, which actually begins, "Jehovah is my shepherd..." Our Lord Jesus said "I am the good shepherd," identifying Himself as Jehovah, (John 10:11, 14, and 27-29). We find this truth declared also in Ezekiel 34:11-16, which is related through chapter 35 to chapters 36 and 37.
The judgement of chapters 38 and 39 falls upon Gog and his armies in the land of Israel and the wreckage of the enemies' equipment will be gathered and burned for seven years. Ezekiel 39:11-14 tells of a future area of graves in the land. God says that He will provide a vast graveyard for Gog and hi multitude. Krushchev was reported as saying, "We will bury you." How strange will be the event; Israel will bury the hosts of Russian and her allies, and it will take several months to complete the task.
The writer stood again at Vimy Ridge in 1970 after 53 years. (A brother was killed defending the Ridge after it was taken by our forces in 1917). The number of graves in that area is appalling -- those of the French who fell in earlier attempts to dislodge the Germans, those of the British and Canadians, as well as those of the German defenders. But the graves of Vimy will not compare in number with those in Palestine at the end of this age.
Ezekiel 38:21 tells of the turning of the various nations one against the other: "every man's sword shall be against his brother." This was often a means of God's deliverance of His people. The final objective of the elaborate political preparation of these nations is to destroy Israel, and through their destruction to destroy faith in the God Who has promised them His blessing.
Verse 22 predicts judgement by "pestilence and blood... an overflowing rain." A great rain was one of the means by which Sisera's chariots were put out of action in the famous battle of the Valley of Megiddo in the days of Deborah and Barak. It would do the same for tanks caught in that valley in these days. It mentions also "great hailstones, fire and brimstone." It may be that this is a prediction of nuclear missiles which may be by some means diverted from their intended targets to fall instead upon Israel's enemies.
Verse 6 of chapter 39 also mentions fire ("I will send a fire on Magog..."). Note that Gog, the great leader of the Russians, is "of the land of Magog," (Ezek.38:2, ARV).
This "fire," as I suggest of the "hailstones" of 38:22, may be from human weapons. ( I would expect that nuclear weapons would be used.) While Gog is striking at Israel, destruction falls upon his homeland. It predicts also such judgements upon the coasts (of the Mediterranean?). This may be a reference to the destruction of Babylon the Great (Rev.18). Note the foretold result of these judgements upon the nations and upon Israel.
Coming to the last verse (39:29) of this inspired predictive epic, we find one verse, only one, but one promising abundant (shall I say, limitless?) blessing to follow war, death and destruction. We come to the words: "I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord Jehovah," a promise that parallels that of Zechariah 12:10 concerning the pouring out of the spirit of grace and supplication as a result of which "they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him..." A greater Pentecostal outpouring than that which followed the Lord's resurrection will heal Israel's blindness.
We add to these two passages a third to prove that this is the true significance of this prediction. I refer to the second chapter of Joel, which speaks of the "Day of Jehovah" (ARV). At that time there will be a terrible assault upon Jerusalem, and verse 20 tells of its repulse and the destruction of Israel's enemies by Jehovah. In verse 20 there is predicted the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and not only on "your sons and daughters," but upon "all flesh." Verse 31 makes clear that these things are associated with the Day of Jehovah.
Then we shall understand the words: "For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" (Rom.11:15) I would say to those who are mystified by the charismatic movements of today that there is coming, certainly, a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit, indeed the manifestation of the Holy Spirit ten days after our Lord's ascension, was the type and the prophecy of this far greater event (Ezek.39:29; Joel 2:28-32; and Zech. 12:8 to 13:1), emphasizing again that they are not veiled in parable or symbolism. What could be clearer than Zechariah 12:9: "And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication, and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced." ?
* The twelfth year of the Captivity would be counted from 586 B.C., and thus be 574 B.C.