YHWH directed Ezekiel, a “son of man” or a mortal in his service, to prophesy against Gog and say, “Thus says the Lord YHWH, Look, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince [or chief of Rosh (ruler of Ros [LXX])] of Meshech [Mosoch (LXX)] and Tubal [Thobel (LXX)].” The word rendered “look” serves to focus attention on the message. 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. (39:1; see the Notes section and the comments on 38:2.)
YHWH purposed to turn Gog around, lead him on, and bring him up from the remote parts of the north, and cause him to come against the “mountains of Israel” or the land of his people. Although YHWH is the one represented as taking the action, he would be allowing Gog to pursue his hostile objective. This would then serve to provide the occasion for YHWH to bring about the complete overthrow of Gog and all those with him. (39:2) YHWH represented himself as the one who would strike the “bow” from Gog’s left hand and make the “arrows” drop from his right hand. The Septuagint continues with the words, “and I will cast you down upon the mountains of Israel.” (39:3) According to the extant Hebrew text, Gog would “fall on the mountains of Israel” or on the land of God’s people. Along with him would fall all his hordes and the peoples with him. YHWH would give their corpses to every kind of “bird of prey” or carrion birds and to “beasts of the field” or wild animals to be devoured. (39:4)
Gog would “fall on the face of the field,” fully exposed. His end would be certain, for YHWH, through Ezekiel, had declared that this would happen. (39:5) On “Magog,” the territory of Gog’s domain, and on those residing securely on the islands or coastlands, YHWH determined to “send fire” or bring about their overthrow as by a lightning strike. Magog has not been identified with any known region. At the time of judgment, people would “know” or recognize YHWH as the God who had acted against Gog and all of his supporters. (39:6)
In the past, YHWH permitted his disobedient people to suffer conquest and exile. This brought reproach on his name or reputation, for people of other nations wrongly concluded that he could not help or protect his own people This would not happen again. YHWH would “make known” his “holy name” in the midst of his people, delivering them from all harm. Therefore, his “holy name” would not be profaned by any false conclusions or views regarding him. Instead, people of the nations would “know” or come to recognize YHWH as the “Holy One in Israel,” the God whose promises could be relied upon and who truly cared for his people. (39:7)
The introductory “look” focuses attention on what was certain to occur. “It is coming, and it will come to pass.” This declaration of the Lord YHWH apparently refers to the “day” of judgment against Gog and his military force. Through Ezekiel, YHWH had spoken regarding this “day.” (39:8; see the Notes section.)
After the destruction of Gog and his large army, the residents of the “cities of Israel” would be going out into the surrounding area to collect the military equipment of the killed warriors — bucklers, large shields, bows, arrows, hand rods or clubs, and spears. The weapons would serve as fuel. Apparently to indicate that the military force coming against them would be great, God’s people are represented as burning the military equipment for “seven years.” (39:9) They would not need to collect any wood from the “field” or open countryside or cut down any trees in the forests. The quantity of weapons would be ample for all the fuel they needed. The destruction of the enemy force would mean that God’s people could despoil those who had despoiled them and could plunder those who had plundered them. (39:10)
YHWH would give to Gog and his horde a burial place in a valley of Israel. This valley is described as one where people pass through on the “east of the sea.” According to the Targum, the location is “east of the sea of Gennesaret” (the Sea of Galilee) and near “two mountains” that are not named. Another interpretation identifies the “sea” as the Dead Sea. After the burial of Gog and his horde, the valley would be called “Hamon-Gog” or the valley of Gog’s multitude. (39:11; see the Notes section.) To cleanse the land from the defilement of many corpses or the bones of the dead, the “house [or people] of Israel” would be occupied “for seven months” in burying them. (39:12) “All the people of the land” would do the burying. To the people of Israel, this activity would be for a “name,” something noteworthy or to their credit, “on the day” that the Lord YHWH would be glorified, evidently for having taken action to deliver his people from Gog and his military force. (39:13)
A group of men (literally, “men of continuity” or men being in continual employment) would have the task of passing through the land to bury the dead that still remained on the “face of the earth” or land in order to cleanse the land from the defilement of corpses or bones. These men would make their search until the end of a seven-month period. Apparently their search would start after the people of Israel had spent seven months in burying the corpses of Gog’s slain warriors. (39:14) When seeing a human bone, one passing through the land would set up a marker by it. This marker would remain until the bone had been removed and then buried in the “Valley of Hamon-Gog” (“the Gai, the mass grave of Gog” [LXX]). (39:15; see the Notes section.) Possibly to memorialize the deliverance from the attack of Gog and his horde, there would be a city near the valley. That city would be called “Hamonah,” meaning “multitude.” According to the Septuagint, the name of the city would be “Mass Grave.” (39:16)
After Gog and his horde perish and before any remains would be buried, carrion birds and wild animals would feed on the corpses. Ezekiel, a “son of man” or a mortal in the service of YHWH, was directed to relate the word of the Lord YHWH to every kind of bird and “all beasts of the field,” saying, “Assemble and come. Gather yourselves from all sides to my sacrifice that I am sacrificing for you, a great sacrifice [or sacrificial feast] on the mountains [on all the mountains [P967]) of Israel. And you will eat flesh and drink blood.” (39:17) The birds and wild animals would feed on the flesh of mighty ones or valiant warriors (giants [LXX]) and drink the blood of princes or rulers of the earth. Apparently the dead, “all of them,” are likened to rams, male lambs, he-goats, bulls, “fatlings of Bashan” (fattened livestock from the region of Bashan on the east side of the Sea of Galilee). These are all animals that would commonly be slaughtered for an impressive feast. (39:18) The birds and wild animals would be eating “fat” until they were filled and would drink blood until they were drunk at the sacrifice (or sacrificial feast) that YHWH would be “sacrificing” or preparing for them. (39:19) They would be satisfied at YHWH’s “table,” at the feast he prepared for them. They would be feeding on “horse and chariot” (the one riding in the chariot [the charioteer]; rider [LXX]), mighty man (giant [LXX]) and “all kinds of warriors.” (39:20)
At the time of the overthrow of Gog and his horde, YHWH would be manifesting his “glory among the nations,” for people of the nations would recognize that he had brought about this overthrow. “All the nations” or the people of the nations would see the “judgment” that he had executed on Gog and the mighty army with him. They would see that YHWH had laid his “hand” upon Gog and his military force, directing his power to bring about their destruction. (39:21) In view of their deliverance from the attack of Gog and his troops, the “house of Israel” would “know” or recognize YHWH as their God “from that day” of deliverance “and beyond” or from that time onward. (39:22)
The “nations” or people of the nations would come to “know” or recognize that the “house of Israel” went into exile “for their iniquity,” because they acted treacherously toward YHWH. It was for this reason that he hid his face from the people of Israel, not coming to their aid, and “gave them into the hand of their adversaries.” The people, “all of them,” fell by the “sword” of warfare that was wielded against them. (39:23; see the Notes section.) YHWH dealt with his disobedient people in keeping with “their uncleanness,” their defilement from idolatry and other abominable actions, and their “transgressions” of his commands. He “hid [his] face from them,” refusing to grant them his favorable attention and help. According to the Septuagint rendering, he turned his face away. (39:24)
The Lord YHWH promised to restore the “captivity” or the fortunes of Jacob and to “have mercy on all the house of Israel.” YHWH would also be jealous or have zeal for his “holy name.” “Jacob” and “house of Israel” are parallel expressions that, in the basic sense, apply to the people who had descended from Jacob. In this context, the reference is to the people whom YHWH acknowledged as his own. They would cease to be in a captive state, enjoying security and freedom from all threats because of his protective care, and would continue to be recipients of his compassionate concern. YHWH’s being jealous or zealous for his name indicated that he would not allow it to be profaned as it had been in the past when people of other nations regarded the calamities that befell the disobedient Israelites as evidence that he could not help or protect them. (39:25; see the Notes section.)
The time would come when God’s people would once again reside in their own land in security, with no one making them tremble with fear. This may be understood as taking place after they had borne their shame, insult, or humiliation and the consequences for all their treachery in which they engaged toward YHWH. (39:26; see the Notes section.)
After he would bring the Israelites “from the peoples” and gather them “from the lands of their enemies,” YHWH would sanctify himself “among them before the eyes [or in the sight] of many nations.” Upon seeing the return from exile, people of the nations would recognize that YHWH had done this. He would thus be sanctified, indicating that he had helped his people. (39:27) The people of the nations would then “know” or come to recognize YHWH as the God who sent his people into exile (or let them be exiled) and then “gathered them [back] into their own land.” He would not leave anyone remaining behind in exile, making it possible for all who wanted to return to do so. (39:28; see the Notes section.) YHWH would not hide his face from his people (the “house of Israel”) upon his pouring out his spirit upon them. With his spirit upon them, they would be motivated to conduct themselves in a manner that he approved, and he would be attentive to them. The Septuagint rendering conveys a different meaning. It says that God “poured out [his] wrath upon the house of Israel.” (39:29)
Those who consider the reference in verse 1 to be to Rosh (Ros [LXX]) link it to a region in Russia.
The wording of verse 8 in the oldest extant Greek text (P967) corresponds to that of the Hebrew text. Other Greek manuscripts contain additional words. “Look, it is coming, and you will know that it will be [or come to pass].”
According to the Septuagint rendering of verse 11, God would give Gog a notable place, a “tomb in Israel,” the “mass grave of those coming, toward the sea [or of those coming to the sea],” and “they [the people of Israel] will enclose the opening of the ravine, and they will bury Gog and all his multitude there. And it will be called the Gai, the mass grave of Gog.” “Those coming” may refer to the ones who would be coming to launch an assault on God’s people. The words “toward the sea” could then be understood to mean that the burial place of Gog and his multitude would be near the sea.
The designation “Gai” in verses 11 and 15 of the Septuagint is a transliteration of the Hebrew word for “valley.”
It may be that, starting with the words of verse 23, the message about Gog ends, and a new subject respecting the people of Israel begins. If not already with the text of verse 23, the subject matter does more specifically appear to change in verse 25, focusing on the return from exile but also pointing forward to a restoration to divine favor on a greater scale than the Israelites experienced upon being permitted to return to their land.
In verse 26, the meaning of the words depends on the tense that is chosen to render the verbs and upon a diacritical mark on the initial letter of the first verb, a diacritical mark that changes a “sin” to a “shin.” When read as a “sin,” the meaning of the first verb is “bear,” but its meaning is “forget” when the “sin” is read as a “shin.” Modern translations vary in their renderings. “They will bear their shame and all their trespasses that they committed against Me, when they dwell in their land secure and untroubled.” (Tanakh, 1985 edition) “They will accept responsibility for their past shame and unfaithfulness after they come home to live in peace in their own land, with no one to bother them.” (NLT) “They will live safely in their own land, but will be ashamed when they remember their evil ways and how they disgraced me.” (CEV) “They will forget their shame and all their unfaithfulness to me, when they live once more in their homeland undisturbed and free from terror.” (REB) “When they are once more living in safety in their own land, with no one to threaten them, they will be able to forget how they were disgraced for having betrayed me.” (TEV) “They will forget their disgrace and all the acts of infidelity which they committed against me when they were living safely in their own country, with no one to disturb them.” (NJB) The Septuagint does not support the rendering “forget.” It says, “And they will receive their shame and the iniquity they committed when residing on their land in peace, and there will be no one to make them afraid.”
According to the Septuagint rendering of verse 28, the concluding words represent God as saying, “when I appear to them [his people] among the nations [the people of the nations].”