YHWH’s “word” or message (“word of prophecy” [Targum]) came to Ezekiel (38:1; see the Notes section), a “son of man” or a mortal in the service of the eternal God, telling him to “set [his] face [or focus his attention] against Gog of the land of Magog, the chief prince [or chief of Rosh (ruler of Ros [LXX])] of Meshech [Mosoch (LXX)] and Tubal [Thobel (LXX)],” and to “prophesy against him.” It appears that “Gog of the land of Magog” designates a ruler who would exercise authority over people of other nations and, with them, initiate an all-out assault against God’s devoted people. Historically, in the second century BCE, the descendants of the Israelites who returned from Babylonian exile did face an assault from Antiochus Epiphanes who was determined to eradicate the worship of YHWH. The prophetic language, however, seems to point to a development that is still future and appears to relate to the one to whom the apostle Paul referred as the “man of sin” or the “man of lawlessness.” (See the comments on Daniel 8:12, 13; 11:31, 36; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, and the Notes section of chapter 2 of 2 Thessalonians.) Meshech has been linked to a region in western and central Asia Minor, and Tubal is thought to have been in eastern Asia Minor to the northeast of Cilicia. (38:2; see the Notes section.) The Lord YHWH declared that he was “against Gog, the chief prince [or chief of Rosh (ruler of Ros [LXX])] of Meshech [Mosoch (LXX)] and Tubal [Thobel (LXX)].” (38:3; see the Notes section.)
YHWH determined to turn Gog around from the direction of his planned attack and to put “hooks” in his jaws, dragging him away with all his military force. In this army, there would be horses and horsemen arrayed in full armor, all of the warriors forming a great host equipped with buckler and shield, and “all of them wielding swords.” (38:4; see the Notes section.) In the military force, there would be warriors from Persia, Cush (or Ethiopia) and Put (Libya [Libyans (LXX)]), “all of them with shield and helmet.” (38:5) There also would be “Gomer and all its armies” and, from the distant north, “Beth-togarmah (or house of Togarmah [house of Thergama (LXX); house of Eregrama (P967)]) “with all its armies.” Many peoples would be with Gog in the campaign against YHWH’s people. The people of Gomer have been linked to the Cimmerians who anciently are thought to have settled in an area north of the Black Sea but who later, after the Scythians drove them out, warred in Asia Minor. Togarmah has been associated with the Armenians who were anciently known for their horses and mules. (38:6)
The challenge directed to Gog is, “Be prepared and prepare yourself, you and all the host assembled around you, and be a guard for them.” The thought appears to be that Gog should ready himself for the assault on God’s people and assume the command of the assembled military force. (38:7) Gog would be mustered or mobilized for action “after many days” or long after Ezekiel’s time. At the concluding part of the years or in the distant future, Gog would come against the land that had been restored from having the sword of warfare wielded against it and against its inhabitants who had been gathered out from many peoples. The land is identified as the “mountains of Israel” that long had been in a state of devastation. That desolated condition had ended, and the inhabitants had been brought back to their own land from many peoples and enjoyed dwelling in security. (38:8) Gog would come up against this land, coming in like a fierce storm. With his hordes, he and many peoples would cover the land as with dark clouds. According to the Septuagint, Gog would “come up like rain and come like a cloud to cover [or to flood] the land.” (38:9) The Lord YHWH revealed that, “in that day” or at that time, matters would come into Gog’s “heart” or he would have evil thoughts in his inmost self and devise a wicked scheme. (38:10)
Gog is quoted as saying that he would go up against a land of unwalled villages (a “rejected land” [LXX]) against a people who are “quiet,” not being troubled by any disturbance, and who are “residing in security” or “peace” (LXX), “all of them residing without [any protective] wall” and having no bars and gates or doors to keep out intruders. From all appearances, the people would be vulnerable, having no defenses to protect them from an enemy military force. (38:11)
Gog’s objective would be “to seize spoil and to plunder extensively [literally, to plunder plunder], to turn [his] hand against the [formerly] devastated places” but which had become inhabited, and against the people who had been gathered “from the nations” and who had acquired livestock and property. The reference to YHWH’s people as residing at the “navel” or “center of the earth” may be because their residence is associated with the Jerusalem, the center for pure worship. This link to divinely approved worship would make their place of dwelling the most important one in the earth. (38:12)
Sheba (Saba [LXX]), Dedan, the merchants of Tarshish (Carthaginian merchants [LXX], in northeastern Africa [merchants of the sea (Targum)]) and all its “young lions” (“villages” [LXX]) are represented as asking Gog, “Are you coming to seize spoil? Have you assembled your hosts to plunder plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and property, to plunder great [or a large amount of] plunder?” Sheba is commonly associated with an area in the southwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula, and Dedan is considered to have been east of the northeastern coast of the Red Sea in the northwestern region of Arabia. Tarshish has been linked to the Iberian Peninsula. The Hebrew designation for “young lions” could refer to the kings, and this is the interpretation found in the Targum. (38:13)
“Therefore” (in view of Gog’s objective), Ezekiel, a “son of man” or a mortal in the service of the eternal God YHWH, was directed to prophesy, telling Gog, “Thus says the Lord YHWH, In that day [or at that time]) will you not know that my people Israel are dwelling in security?” According to the Septuagint, the wording of the question indicates that Gog would be aroused against God’s people Israel when they would be settled “in peace” or without any fear of attack. Gog would “know” or be fully aware of the seemingly vulnerable condition of God’s people and consider this to be the opportune time for launching an assault against them. (38:14) Gog would come from his place, from the most remote parts north of the land of God’s people. He and many peoples with him would be riding on horses and form a large company and a mighty army. (38:15)
Gog would come up against God’s people Israel, “like a cloud covering the earth” or like the cloudy sky that extends from horizon to horizon and thus appears to cover the entire visible land area. This would take place at the concluding part of the “days” or in the distant future. YHWH would permit this to happen and, therefore, he represented himself as bringing Gog against the land of his people and using this development to make people of the nations “know” or recognize him as the God who had taken action against Gog, sanctifying himself through Gog “before their eyes” or in the sight of people of the nations. YHWH would sanctify himself as the God who delivered his people and who overthrew Gog and his mighty host. (38:16)
The Lord YHWH is quoted as saying to Gog, “Are you not he of whom I spoke in former days by my servants, the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those days [for] years that I would be bringing you against them [the people of Israel]?” Apparently even before Ezekiel lived, prophets of Israel made known the message about the future assault on God’s people. None of their preserved prophecies contain specific references to Gog. One explanation for this could be that much about the service of the prophets is not included in the highly condensed accounts regarding their activity. Although not mentioning Gog, one prophet who appears to refer to his future attack is Joel (3:1, 2 [4:1, 2]). It is also possible that the words of other prophets about future enemy attacks may be understood as alluding to the final assault by Gog and his army. (38:17; see, for example, Micah 5:4, 5.)
“In that day,” or at the time, of Gog’s coming into the land of Israel, YHWH’s wrath would be aroused (literally, “my wrath will rise up in my nose [or nostrils]”). (38:18; see the Notes section.) In his “zeal” or ardor and the “fire of [his] wrath” or his blazing anger, YHWH would make known his purpose. At the time of Gog’s attack, a “great shaking” would occur in the land of Israel. This tremendous upheaval would come about from the action YHWH would be undertaking against Gog and his military force. (38:19) “Before the face” of YHWH, or at his presence that would become apparent from his activity, everything would be affected as though shaken by an earthquake — the “fish of the sea,” the “birds of the heavens,” the “beasts of the field,” all “creeping things on the ground,” including the smallest creatures, and all men or humans “on the face of the earth” or land. Mountains would be thrown down, cliffs would fall, and every wall would tumble to the “earth” or ground. The oldest Greek manuscript (P967) concludes with the thought that this would happen so that “all the nations” would “know” or come to recognize that God was with his people. (38:20)
YHWH would summon a “sword” (“fear” [LXX]) against Gog throughout “all [his] mountains” or the entire land of his people. In the attacking military force of Gog, the sword of every man would be wielded against his “brother” or fellow. (38:21; see the Notes section.) YHWH would then “enter into judgment” with Gog and his military force. The means for executing this judgment would be “pestilence” (“death” [LXX]) or infectious disease, “blood” or the shedding of the blood of the attackers. Torrential rain, hailstones, fire and sulfur would descend upon Gog and his hordes, and the “many people” with him. (38:22) Through this act in defense of his people, YHWH would magnify himself, sanctify himself, and make himself known before the eyes of many nations. As a consequence, the people of the nations would “know” or come to recognize YHWH as the God who delivers his people. His greatness would be revealed in his completely overthrowing Gog and his hordes, and he would sanctify himself in clearing his name from any previous reproach of people of the nations who did not believe that he could deliver those who were devoted to him. The Septuagint adds that God would be glorified. (38:23)
In the oldest extant Greek text (P967), the words of this chapter are found after the text of chapter 36.
Those who take the reference in verse 2 to be to Rosh (Ros [LXX]) link it to a region in Russia. “Magog” has not be identified with any known area.
In verse 3, the declaration of YHWH begins with a word that may be rendered “look.” This word apparently serves to focus attention on the statement that follows.
According to the Septuagint rendering of verse 4, God would assemble Gog and all his force. It indicates that the great assemblage would be equipped with “shields and helmets and swords.”
The Septuagint rendering of verse 18 continues the concluding phrase in the next verse (“my wrath will arise, also my zeal [or jealously]”).
In verse 21, the oldest extant Greek text (P967) includes the word for “sword” after the word for “fear” (“fear of a sword”).