The Gog & Magog Enigma Bill Wepfer Sep2017 Introduction Enigma – a person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand. During World War II, the Germans used an encryption device named Enigma to send & receive coded military messages. The Nazis considered the cipher unbreakable, but in fact it had been decrypted with great effort by the British Ultra project at Bletchley Park, & this was to prove decisive in the ultimate Allied victory. No matter how intricate a man-made code, with sufficient motivation or military intelligence it can usually be broken. But what about a code generated by God? Now THAT decoding effort would seem well nigh impossible. Then again, if the Scriptures reveal truth to men, what would be the Lord’s point in giving a whole section of apparently unbreakable Biblical code? But such seems to be the case for most Christians with Gog & Magog. Gog & Magog – just saying the words makes many Bible believers wince. Little doubt the fearful names of Ezk38-39 evoke both dread & fantasy among the faithful. “Just sit back & let me tell you about the future conflagration in the land of Is- rael!” a self-proclaimed prophecy expert may tell you, as you wince & seek to change the subject (“Oops, now I shouldn’t have brought THAT up! Note to self …”). On the other hand, most of us treat Ezk38-39 as fly-by territory in our annual treks through the Bible – “I’m confused & don’t get much out of Gog & Magog, so I’ll just breeze through it like I do the genealogies in Numbers & 1Chronicles.” Is this really all we’re to make out of this elaborate passage? Did the Lord just leave it to the seminarians to endlessly de- bate its contents, while the great unwashed masses of Christianity are left out in the wintery cold of ignorance, receiv- ing no warmth from two whole chapters of Scripture? People rightly make much of & base their whole lives on a verse or two of the Bible – the Great Commission (Mt28:19-20) readily comes to mind. Will we really ignore two whole Bibli- cal chapters because we find them confusing or uncomfortable? Some make arrogant prophetic assertions about cloudy matters (cf 1Tm1:6-7), while others steadfastly maintain that ignorance is bliss & next to godliness – the less you know about such things or talk about them in polite company, the better. As far as the application, some say Ezk38-39 con- cerns the distant past, such as events with the Scythians or Antiochus Epiphanes, while others contend that the text is about our own near future, impacting our view of ethnic Israel & the land of Palestine today. Which is it? Should we even care? Yes. Since the God of heaven has revealed (not concealed) Himself in the Scriptures, then what the prophets say is profita- ble. We do not have Scriptural license to declare certain passages or topics out of bounds because they engender bewil- derment or heated debate. Do you lay off speaking about Jesus to the unregenerate because it keeps the peace with them? Neither should we ignore certain Biblical passages because we find them prickly or distressing. Could not the bumpy ride of deliberation draw us closer to the knowledge of the Holy One, if done in a spirit of meekness & gentle- ness? More importantly, the Lord Himself makes clear that the events of Gog & Magog will exalt His Name. “I will magnify Myself, sanctify Myself, & make Myself known in the sight of many nations; & they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezk38:23). “My holy name I will make known in the midst of My people Israel; & I will not let My holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel” (Ezk39:7). “And I will set My glory among the nations; & all the nations will see My judgment which I have executed & My hand which I have laid on them” (Ezk39:21). Not once but thrice the Lord Himself states that the conclusion of the Gog & Magog affair will magnify His Name to the nations. Doesn’t this alone warrant further investigation? At the very least, it prohibits us from willfully ignoring its contents, enigmatic though they may be. Can we fathom the unfathomable BEFORE it comes to pass? The Biblical answer is, “Probably not.” However, we have Scriptural precedent for inscrutable passages that can be understood only AFTERWARDS. A good example is found in Zch11:4-13. The shepherd who pastures the flock doomed to slaughter was paid his wages of 30 silver pieces. “And the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver & threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter” (Zch11:13). Surely these verses were confusing prior to the Messi- ah’s coming, even to Zechariah – putting to the lie the non-Biblical notion that the HUMAN “authorial intent” is the key interpretive driver (cf Dan12:8). It is only after the fact that this text is understood aright. Judas was paid 30 pieces of silver for betraying Jesus; later, stricken of conscience, he attempted to return the money, but was rebuffed by the Jewish leaders, so he threw the coins into the Temple & hung himself in the Potter’s field. The Jews took the “blood money” & purchased the selfsame field for the burial of strangers, renaming it the Field of Blood (Akeldama). Could all of this have been deciphered beforehand from Zch11? No, probably not – not unless God granted someone unrecorded additional revelation. In Zch11 we see the Lord’s prophetic genius in showing He had ordained the events, but revealing it in such a way that doesn’t clue in the rebellious & unwitting actors taking part in the Messianic drama. If it was clear to all exactly what would come to pass before the fact, the Jews would have understood what was to take place & re- fused to play their respective parts. Instead, by making the revelation to Zechariah opaque, hundreds of years prior to the Messianic stage production, it becomes clear only after the fact what the Lord Himself had orchestrated. For Gog & Magog, we can surmise that if the events are future to our day, then no amount of literal or figurative speculation can untie the prophetic knot, lest the future participants be forewarned. If, on the other hand, these events are in our past (but future to Ezekiel), then we might expect that some careful examinations of Gog & Magog would unlock the mean- ing, as in the Zch11 example. In other words, Ezk38-39 may have been confusing to Ezekiel & his contemporaries, but, if the Gog & Magog affair is from a bygone era, then the Scripturally faithful should be able to comprehend it & rejoice in its contents. Rather than being a source of consternation, if Ezekiel chapters 38 & 39 are history to us, then this prophecy will exalt the Lord & bring joy to the hearts of genuine Christians today; but if they are future to us, then stamping them with a big question mark & setting them aside is likely for the best, though to be sure this is a dissatisfy- ing non-solution. .
This brings us to the general New Testament Messianic principle that bears on our analysis of Ezk38-39 – & what could be more important than things pertaining to our Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ?! Peter tells us, “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches & inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ & the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven – things into which angels long to look.” (1Pt1:10-12). If ever there were a passage that fits the description of being confusing to the prophets themselves, surely it must be that of Gog & Magog! No doubt Ezekiel puzzled at what was revealed to him, wondering about the Messianic future. If a prophetic passage is a thoroughgoing enigma, then maybe the New Testa- ment Messianic anchor of 1Pt1:10-12 will firmly establish us, keeping us away from the ship sinking rocks of crazy speculation. Yes indeed, we may rightly expect that Ezk38-39 not only glorifies God, but also exalts His Messiah. Doesn’t this alone make it worth a closer look?! Puzzle Pieces Expert puzzlers do not “cheat” by looking at the picture on the box, but they do follow the general rule of setting out the edge pieces to frame the puzzle. We’re not given the picture on the box with Gog & Magog, but Ezekiel chapters 38 & 39 give us plenty of edge pieces, criteria that need to all be simultaneously satisfied. We are not at liberty to emphasize some while glossing over others – all of the edge pieces should neatly frame the final picture. There’s to be no cheating or using scissors to “fix” certain pieces – if the Lord of heaven revealed things to us, then all of them must go together without “fudging” the answer. After laying out the edge pieces, we can then evaluate various suggestions to see what people & timeframe best fit the host of quite specific criteria, thereby enabling us to flesh out the center portion of the puzzle. Like a fairly simple child’s puzzle, we only have a handful of interlocking edge pieces. Let the enumeration of the criteria commence! (1) God Glorifying & Messianic As mentioned above, the Gog & Magog solution must bring glory to God among the nations; if a suggestion does not mag- nify God with the Gentiles, then it must be rejected out of hand. Also already discussed is that there is likely some Mes- sianic tie-in. Surely Ezk38-39 was inscrutable to Ezekiel, & thus fits the description given in 1Pt1:10-12 of a prophetic passage that would require “careful searches & inquiries” by the prophet himself as he sought “to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ & the glories to follow.” In the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, it would therefore seem best to look for a Messianic component in Gog & Magog's fulfillment. We will see much of Jesus as we consider the other conditions given in the text, more so than ever you would have anticipated with just a cursory Gog & Magog glance. (2) Frequently Foretold An often overlooked criterion is plainly stated in Ezk38:17: “‘Thus says the Lord God: ‘Are you he of whom I have spoken in FORMER DAYS by My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied FOR YEARS in those days that I would bring you against them?”’” Whoever Gog & Magog are, they must have been the subject of several previous prophecies, not merely one or two. By itself this condition excludes many suggestions as to the identity of Gog & Magog. For example, Greenhill (& much later, Rydelnik) suggests that the “Agag” of Num24:7 should rather be translated “Gog,” as in the LXX. While this translation may be acceptable, this does not really help solve the Ezk38-39 riddle. At best this is only one previous prophetic reference to Gog, & zero for Magog, while 38:17 implies several preceding Old Testament (OT) passages. The answer to the Gog & Magog enigma must entail numerous previous OT references to the same affair de- scribed in Ezk38-39, not just one or two scattered & debatable passages. (3) What’s In A Name? But who were / are / will be Gog & Magog? These names are essentially unknown outside of Gen10 (plus 1Chr1:5 & 5:4), but in itself that may provide the needed clue. In the Scriptures, the obscure names themselves often give the intended meaning. For instance, “Jeremiah said to him, ‘Pashhur is not the name the Lord has called you, but rather Magor- missabib’” (Jer20:3), which means, “terror on every side.” It is unlikely that Pashhur’s friends actually called him Magor-missabib – “Hey, Terror-on-every-side, how are the wife & kids?” Rather, the name itself gave a prediction of what the Lord would do to this rebel, that he would face terror from the Lord on every side. In a similar vein, the valley of Jehoshaphat (Jl3:2,12) is not an actual location; rather, Jehoshaphat means, “the Lord judges,” & God “will enter in- to judgment with them [the nations] there.” Note the proximity of the application – “Jehoshaphat,” or “the Lord judg- es,” is applied to the valley immediately prior to the Lord saying he would enter into judgment there with the nations. Such is often the case with descriptive names, wherein the immediate context gives the application of the moniker. An- other instance involves Solomon: “So she bore a son, & he called his name Solomon. Now the Lord loved him, & He sent word by the hand of Nathan the prophet: So he called his name Jedidiah [beloved of the Lord], because of the Lord” (2Sm12:24b-25). Again, there is no record that Solomon was routinely called Jedidiah; the name itself point- ed to God’s relationship with this crown prince. Scriptural examples could be quickly multiplied; but suffice it to say that when a name is not readily associated with a person or place in the Bible, the moniker itself may convey the in- tended meaning, & this will be supported by the immediate context. Let us first consider the Rosh, Meshech & Tubal listed in 38:2-3. Some contend that Rosh sounds like Russia (only in Eng- lish, mind you, NOT in Hebrew), & this prophesies the future envelopment of the land of Israel by the Russian bear’s great hordes, only to have them be miraculously repulsed & exterminated by God – all based on some fanciful English etymology! Using a similar linguistic approach, one could say that “heaven” is “hell” because they both start with the letters H & E! Surely there is a solution with more keel & ballast, something a bit more stable on the Scriptural ocean. Since the nations are obscure & debatable at best, maybe a better approach is to consider what the names themselves convey in Hebrew. To our satisfaction, we find that they mean “venom” (Rosh, Strong’s #7219), “to draw or drag” (mashak, Strong’s #4900, with altered vowel pointing), & “inhabited world” (tebel, Strong’s #8398, with altered vowel 2 .
pointing). It is therefore likely that venom, drag, & worldwide (or inhabited world) highlight aspects of the Gog & Magog drama. Now we need to look for proximal validation – are there venom, drag, & worldwide aspects nearby to the text of 38:2-3? Why, yes indeed! “Venom” comports well with the “evil plan” of 38:10, & also that the Lord was against Gog & Magog (“set your face … & prophesy AGAINST him,” 38:2); “drag” squares with hooks being required to bring out Gog & Magog (38:4); & “worldwide” is in keeping with the enormous involvement of many nations, as listed in 38:5-6. Here is yet another Scriptural example where the names themselves give the intended meaning, fleshed out in the nearby context. No particular ethnicities or nations are in view with these terms. God would oppose the evil plan (venom), Gog & Magog would be “dragged” out to destruction, & there would be “worldwide” participation in this affair – all of these are close at hand to Rosh, Mashak, & Tebel. But isn’t it “wrong” & well nigh sinful to alter the Hebrew vowels? Isn’t this varying some of the “jots & tittles,” contra Je- sus’ injunction of Mt5:18-19? In defense of the above vowel alterations, please note that the original Hebrew had only consonants, with vowels understood at the time of writing but possibly forgotten later, especially for obscure or rare words. The vowels are not part of the original inspired text. Our current Hebrew Old Testament, the Masoretic Text (MT), has the complete vowel pointing system (dots & such applied to the consonants), which were added over 2000 years after Moses’ day by the unregenerate Jewish Masoretes, the Christ-denying scribes from the 6th to 10th century AD. Usually the context dictates the vowel pointing & thus is accurate. However, with difficult, murky, or Christ- exalting passages, it may occasionally be “legal” to revisit the vowel pointing by the Masoretes, since these vowels were not part of the original Hebrew & therefore were not divinely communicated text (cf Rydelnik). We believe that such is the case here in Ezk38-39 – the ambiguous nature of Meshech & Tubal may have resulted in some Masoretic fishing for vowels to make sense of the consonants, & these vowels can be altered without doing violence to the inspired text. Returning to the concept that the names themselves provide the intended meaning, might this selfsame approach point us in the right direction with respect to the enigmatic & fearsome names of Gog & Magog? As ever, our skilful Lord weaves a prophecy such that the faithful will understand (usually afterwards), but the participants themselves are clueless. If the actual names of the leader & people were spelled out in this passage, then the affected parties could read & heed the warnings, & the frightful events might be averted & God’s plans thwarted. No, the prophecy is given in a crafty manner so as to avoid tipping off the actors in the divine drama. It could well be that the names Gog & Magog are similarly used so as not to alert the players of their impending demise. However, if the names are the point (as above), their sense in Hebrew is not at all obvious. The words “Gog” & “Magog” have no particular Hebrew meaning, nor do they signify any- thing by morphing their vowel pointing. Can we yet make heads or tails out of these words? Recall that the original Hebrew was only consonants with no vowels, the latter being added by the Masoretes centuries lat- er. Let us suppose that our heavenly Father used an uncomplicated cryptographic technique for Gog & Magog, such that a simple letter replacement unlocks the meaning. What might that cipher be? We propose the replacement of the last consonant (on the left – Hebrew is written right to left) with the consonant following the first letter. As an English example, suppose we only wrote consonants with vowels implied, like the Jews. We see a seemingly nonsensical word, JNL – what could it mean? Replace the last letter, L, with the one that follows the first letter. J is followed by K, so we swap out the L for K, & the word becomes JNK, or “junk” with an appropriate vowel. Though the example is silly, the code itself is quite simple. With English letters & our unpretentious cipher, MGG (Magog – Hebrew vowels are not in the original text) becomes MGN, or magan, with different vowel pointing. N (ן) is the letter that follows the leading M (מ), & therefore replaces the last letter in the proposed code. Written in Hebrew, גגמ becomes גןמ with our letter swapping cryptography. “Magan” means, “to deliver up, deliver” (Strong’s #4042). This is a delivery unto destruction, as in Gen14:20, where God deliv- ered (magan) the 5 kings into Abraham’s hand. In like manner, GG (גג, Gog) becomes GD (דג, gud, with different vowel pointing) – D (ד) being the letter subsequent to G (ג) in Hebrew. “Gud” means “to invade, attack” (Strong’s #1463), & just so happens to be the succeeding Strong’s entry to #1462, Gog. An example of the use of “gud” is given by Habak- kuk, where the prophet waited “quietly for the day of distress, for the people [Babylon] to arise who will invade [gud] us” (Hab3:16). With the proposed deciphering, then, “Gog & Magog” become “gud & magan,” or “invaded & delivered up.” Maybe this humble decoding mechanism is too pedestrian for the tastes of some; but it does give appropriate meanings to the en- igmatic names which appear to have no other particular Biblical or etymological significance. This easy letter replace- ment rule means that the leader Gog either invades or is invaded, while the nation Magog is delivered up to destruc- tion. That Ezk38-39 describes a massive invasion accompanied by a nation or nations being delivered over to oblitera- tion hardly requires verification – most can agree that these are detailed in the passage at hand. If this analysis is correct – that the names themselves contain the intended meanings, & that a simple cipher was em- ployed by Yahweh to mildly cloak the divinely intended target – then we would expect the answer to the Gog & Magog conundrum to contain an invasion (magan) & consequent devastation & ruin (gud, delivered up), with Rosh, Mashak, & Tebel pointing towards venom (God Himself being against their evil plan, 38:2,10), drag (hooks to bring them out, 38:4), & worldwide participation (38:5-6), respectively. All of the word meanings are verified by the immediate con- text, as we would expect if the words themselves are the point. We should not be looking for leaders & nations with the- se or similar monikers, despite the best efforts of our latter day end times prognosticators. (4) Location, Location, Location As to the location of these events, Ezk38:8 says, “… in the latter years you will come into the LAND that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the MOUTAINS OF ISRAEL which had been a continual waste .” Is it not clear that the Gog & Magog eruption will occur on the mountainous (OK, at least hilly) land of Israel? However, care should be taken about a definite positional conclusion, since “mountains” are often used pro- 3 .
phetically of earthly rulers & powers. A hint that Ezk38:8 might not be as literal as some suppose is given in, for exam- ple, the KJV “against the mountains of Israel, which have been ALWAYS waste.” Certainly it is a bit of a stretch to say that the physical mountains of Israel have always been a waste, with no let up whatsoever. There have been times of great prosperity, such as during the days of Solomon; so how can the prophet speak of unending ruin in Palestine? More likely a figurative component must accompany our explanation of the mountains in Ezk38:8. “What is grand in nature – mountains, heavenly bodies, stately trees – is used to express what is dignified & important among men – kingdoms, those in authority. Therefore, political changes are represented by earthquakes, tempests, eclipses, rivers to blood, etc.” (JS Russell, quoting Angus). We see, then, that the term “mountains” may be speaking figuratively as well as physically of the land of Israel. Indeed, in the passage under consideration, God says, “In My zeal & in My blazing wrath I declare that on that day there will surely be a great earthquake in the LAND OF ISRAEL. The fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all the creeping things that creep on the earth, & all the men who are on the face of the earth will shake at My presence; THE MOUNTAINS ALSO WILL BE THROWN DOWN, the steep pathways will collapse & every wall will fall to the ground.” (Ezk38:19–20). While the setting is clearly given as the land of Israel, there will also be mountain level- ing, walls disintegrating, & steep paths crumbling. Is this speaking of the physical mountains of Israel being flattened? Probably not. This is likely more akin to John the Baptist’s ministry, where John is said to fulfill Is40 by filling in every ravine, bringing every mountain low, & straightening every path before the Messiah’s coming (Lk3:4-6). Did John the Baptist organize public works with flashing signs, lowered speed limits, increased fines & orange barrels, plus a shovel wielding work crew, many standing around doing very little? Not hardly. His preparatory message cut through the mountainous piles of Jewish legal waste & pointed the nation towards the soon coming Messiah. In John the Baptist we have a fine Biblical example of the figurative use of natural obstacles to represent the then present (1st century AD) spiritual conditions; & at least some segment of Ezk38-39 is similarly figurative, what with mountains, walls, & path- ways all caving in. Ezk38:12 adds the intriguing geographic depiction that destruction & despoiling are “against the people who are gathered from the nations … who live at the CENTER of the world” (Amplified footnote “navel”). The KJV gives an alternate sense, “dwell in the midst of the land.” “The land” in the Bible, without further qualifications or descriptions, is almost invariably “the land” of Israel (Chilton). The literal Hebrew means on the “height” of the land, which goes well with the foregoing “mountain” metaphor. What “heights” or “navel” are being referenced in the Gog & Magog passage? It does seem that the Scriptural GPS (Global Positioning System) directs us towards Palestine, but again, a figure of speech is likely included as well. “And even the name of the city will be Hamonah [horde]” (39:16) – this is the gravesite. If time will be no more after the Gog & Magog affair, who cares what the city will be called? Again, Biblical place names often served as a reminder to later generations of the events that occurred at the named spot; but if Ezk38-39 is about the end of all time, then what generations will be around afterwards to remember & reflect on the hammer of God against the city? If God has in- stalled a new OS (computer Operating System), with a new heavens & new earth, isn’t it hard to believe that there will be much left of this “Hamonah” site for later generations to observe & learn, what with the earth scrubbed clean & re- newed? Then again, to date we have no city named Hamonah in Palestine, so how can this have been fulfilled in the past? Greenhill may help us untie the prophetic knot; he says that some, “say this city is Jerusalem, reading it, ‘The name of the city shall be from her multitude;’ that is, the city of Jerusalem.” Yes, but don’t we historically need an actu- al place named Hamonah to align with this passage, if it occurred in the past? Not necessarily. For example, in Is19:18 one of five cities is prophesied to be the City of Destruction – hardly an epithet likely to stick to a town for very long. “Hey, stranger, where are you from?” “The City of Destruction, over near the new mall.” Not a likely ancient inter- change. A place name may be prophetically given from the Lord that is simply symbolic of the events that will take place there, as shown above with the names Rosh, Meshech (Mashak) & Tubal (Tebel). Greenhill’s suggestion that the burials will be in Jerusalem may have significant merit after all, in which case the Gog & Magog episode may well be centered on Jerusalem & its environs, & this quite possibly in the past, even without a physical location named “Hamonah.” Ezk39:6 gives another important but often overlooked locational clue. “And I will send fire upon Magog & THOSE WHO INHABIT THE COASTLANDS in safety; & they will know that I am the LORD.” This verse indicates that the scene of turmoil was or is to be on the coast. This simultaneously gives us a hint, not only to the setting, but also to the identity of Magog. Of the other 4 uses of hāîyîm (םי֖יִּאִ הָ ) in the OT – Is66:19, Ezk26:15,18 & 27:35 – all indicate coastlands. Wherever Magog is to be found, it must be on the coast; & this fact alone obviates many suggestions concerning the identities of Gog & Magog. So then, one must locate Magog on a coast. Now, just like “land” in the Scriptures without further adjectives generally in- dicates God’s land (Chilton) – Palestine – so we might suppose that “coastland” without qualifier points to the shores of Palestine’s nearby Mediterranean. Backhanded support for this assertion is to be found in Is66:19, “the distant coastlands,” where the adjective “distant” accompanies “coastlands” to show that these shores are not close at hand to Israel. In contrast, when nearby Tyre is referenced by Ezekiel himself in 26:15,18, the translation is simply “coastlands,” its Palestinian proximity requiring no additional descriptors. The implication, then, is that Magog lives in the vicinity of Israel, on the coast of the Mediterranean. True, some have posited that Ezekiel is referencing the Dead Sea (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown; hereafter JFB); but there is little civilization or plant life on the Salt Sea shores, which are currently shrinking due to upstream Jordan River fed irrigation. Indeed, there is even less to the east of the Dead Sea (see the next point). No, we must deduce from the Biblical data that Magog is on the Mediterranean coast, close at hand to Israel. Any proposal for Ezk38-39 that puts Magog at some great distance in a land not known for its coastline must be rejected. 4 .
Further evidence for this geographical designation is given by 39:11, “On that day I will give Gog a burial ground there in Israel, the valley of those who pass by EAST OF THE SEA, & it will block off those who would pass by.” Gog & Magog will be interred east of the sea, resulting in potential travel disruptions – but which sea? On this we are on rather solid Biblical footing. The “sea,” as a body of water without further modifiers, is invariably the Mediterranean Sea. For ex- ample, Moses tells Israel that when the land is apportioned among the 12 tribes, “its termination shall be at the sea” (Num34:5) – in context, there is no question that this refers to the Mediterranean Sea. When other seas are indicated, an adjective is joined to the word, such as “Salt Sea” (Gen14:3; Num34:3,12; etc). This also shows that the “coastlands” are unlikely to be the shrinking coasts of the Dead Sea, else Ezekiel would’ve instead penned “Salt Sea.” We can safely conclude that travel east of the Mediterranean – again, in Palestine itself or in close proximity thereunto – is affected by the Gog & Magog troubles. Of course, the coastal route through Israel was a main trade artery between the heavily populated lands to the northeast (think Assryia, Babylon, & Persia) & Egypt to the southwest. If Ezk39:11 is about business traffic disruptions – & this is debatable (see point #15 below) – then the interruption to transit gives us a hint about the timeframe for Gog & Magog. If the Ezk38-39 events are in our own near future, not in the past, then helicopters & airplanes could easily bypass any armed conflict disturbances in Palestine. “We interrupt this eschatological program with a WETT travel forecast bulle- tin: The will be no travel disruptions today caused by turmoil in the land of Palestine; aircraft will ensure little disrup- tion of commerce.” A highly unlikely & unnecessary eschatological forecast for our day! Nothing much in our future would be “blocked off” as required by 39:11. If the phrase “it will block off those who would pass by” refers to future commercial traffic – & it might not – then this fact alone would point towards an historically past fulfillment of the Gog & Magog sequence, when overland trade routes could be effectively blocked by a land war. This could be one of several chronological indicators in Ezk38-39 showing that the Gog & Magog episode likely has already occurred. Without further Scriptural data, it appears that the Gog & Magog affair will take place in the land of Israel, though some non-literal component may be a part of the description. In other words, “the mountains of Israel” (38:8) could as easily apply to the spiritual & political state of Israel as it could to the land’s topographical features; & this ambiguity is likely purposeful by the Revealer of Truth. This dual meaning – physical plus metaphorical – must be accommodated in any proper understanding of Ezk38-39. (5) Time, Time, Time The timeframe indicated in the Gog & Magog passage is essential, giving us important clues as to what episode is being addressed by the prophet. One may say, “Oh, that’s easy – all of this happens ‘IN THE LAST DAYS’ (38:16), which means at the end of all time!” Ah, my friend, be not too hasty in concluding what seems “obvious.” For example, Heb9:26 says that, “… now, once at the END OF THE AGES, He [Jesus] has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” Does this mean that the cross will be at the end of all time? Of course not. Likewise, Heb1:2 says, “… in these LAST DAYS [God] has spoken to us in His Son …” Is God waiting until time’s end to speak to us through Jesus? Once again, evidently not. Examples could be quickly multiplied, such as that in Dan8:17,19, where the days of Antiochus Epiphanes (160s BC) are spoken of as “THE TIME OF THE END.” JS Russell quotes John Brown on the matter: “The period of the close of the one dispensation & the commencement of the other is spoken of as ‘the last days,’ & ‘the end of the world,’ & is described as such a shaking of the earth & heavens as should lead to the removal of the things which were shaken.” (Hag2:6; Heb12:26,27). (Discourses & Sayings of our Lord, vol1 pgs199,200). Clearly, then, such Biblical phrases as “the last days,” “the end of the ages,” & “the time of the end” are not necessarily prophetic code words for eschatology, the end of all time; it could rather be a reference to the end of the Old Covenant & the inauguration of the New. Indeed, there are sharp indications from Ezk38-39 that the Gog & Magog events do not actually occur at the world’s end. Firewood for heating & cooking is spoken of in 39:9-10, which points to a more archaic era. What type of weapons are used in the battle? Swords, spears, bucklers, shields – all of which pertain to combat up through about the 1600s AD. Also, walls (or the lack thereof) are a prominent defensive feature. Since protective walls for cities went the way of the dodo bird with the invention of modern artillery, these too must speak of warfare prior to the modern era. By the way, the invention of explosive shells completely obviated masonry defenses in the 19th century. Some with a futuristic bias may contend that ancient weapons & defenses are spoken of by Ezekiel to symbolize modern warfare, but this puts them in an awkward position, since they are then uncomfortably using a decidedly figurative (or non-literal) explana- tion to support a supposedly literal hermeneutic. No, unless one wants to resort to the gloss that ancient weapons & de- fenses will somehow be miraculously, yea, inexplicably reinstated in the future (which, surprisingly, some do), we must conclude that Gog & Magog took place prior to the modern era, & no later than about the 1600s AD. This bookends the back end of the time for Gog & Magog – before about 1600AD – but what about the front end? Ezekiel wrote chapters 38-39 no later than the 25th year of the exile (Ezk40:1), & Ezk38:8 says, “AFTER MANY DAYS you will be summoned; in THE LATTER YEARS you will come .” Both of these phrases, “after many days” & “the latter years,” involve some chronological distance from Ezekiel’s time. We are therefore justified in concluding that the events of Gog & Magog are not only post-exilic – after about 516BC, the standard date for the end of the captivity – but are likely a healthy span of time thereafter. In round numbers, then let’s suppose that the fulfillment of Gog & Magog cannot be prior to about 400BC, since earlier than this could hardly be considered “many days” after the return of the exiles. It is therefore safe to conclude that the Ezk38-39 episode occurred sometime after 400BC & but prior to 1600AD. It’s a broad time range – 2000 years! – but at least it’s a start in the right Gogging direction. But wait – there’s more! “The latter years” of Ezk38:8 must have some specific signification as well. “The latter years” of what? This phrase is used in Dan2:28: “However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, & He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in THE LATTER DAYS.” Since Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of the Co- lossus extended from his day to the Roman Empire (feet of clay & iron), “the latter days” implies the time of the Messi- 5 .
ah, when, “a stone was cut out without hands … struck the statue on its feet of iron & clay & crushed them” (Dan2:34). Indeed, the Messianic rock cut without hands was prophesied to become an earth-filling mountain (Dan2:44). In the case of Dan2, then, “the latter days” is the end of the Mosaic economy & the inauguration of the Messianic New Cove- nant. Could it be that “the latter days” spoken of in Ezk38:8 is the same era, when the Old Covenant passed away & the New was inaugurated by the cross of Christ? If so, this would square nicely with the above application of 1Pt1:10-12, that there is Messianic import to our enigmatic Gog & Magog passage. Isn’t it interesting that after the crushing of the Dan2 Colossus, no additional worldwide empires are prophesied to come? Only 1 kingdom remains standing, & it is of a completely alternate substance that those which preceded it. Truly it is said, “The kingdom of the world has be- come the kingdom of our Lord & of His Christ; & He will reign forever & ever” (Rev11:15). This, by the way, is the amillennialists’ “millennium.” Jesus’ kingdom is the focus of history after Rome, not the governments of man, & Jesus reigns until He has put all of His enemies under His feet, & the last enemy He will vanquish is death (1Co15:25-26). To summarize our timeframe discoveries thus far, the weapons & defenses in Ezk38-39 are obviously from a bygone era, before about 1600AD. “The latter years” & “[a]fter many days” point to a significant period of time after Ezekiel’s day, probably no earlier than 400BC. In addition, these phrases may well direct our attention towards the 1st Advent, “the latter days” of Dan2 when the Messiah came & set up a kingdom of an entirely dissimilar composition than the preced- ing world empires, one not of masonry but of widespread spiritual content. (6) Ezk37-39 Sequencing Note that if the chapters of Ezekiel are to be taken chronologically, then Ezk37 historically occurs prior to chapters 38 & 39. If so, then this helps us understand the era of Gog & Magog’s conclusion. Ezk37:24-28 says that AFTER the Baby- lonian exile (37:21), when Israel & Judah are reunited (37:22) & idolatry is permanently cast aside (37:23) – as hap- pened after the Babylonian exile – THEN “My servant David will be king over them.” When did God’s servant David ascend the throne? Well, Acts1:9-11 isn’t called “the Ascension” for nothing! If the chapters of Ezekiel are chronologi- cally sequential, then Jesus is established as king (Ezk37), which is followed by the Gog & Magog episode (Ezk38-39), subsequent to the cross & after Jesus was elevated to His heavenly throne (Heb1:3). It’s true, some insist that Jesus won’t become king until the end of all time, during their posited future earthly Millennium, thus making Jesus currently a king without much of a kingdom. Well, I might as well say that I’m a billionaire, awaiting the time when someone will give me a billion dollars – such is a king with no kingdom! Unfortunately for these futur- ists, Peter didn’t exactly agree with their Scriptural assessment. In no uncertain terms (Acts2:30-33), Peter asserted that Jesus had, in fact, been elevated to the Davidic throne – in heaven, not on earth – & this despite the virulent oppo- sition of the bloodthirsty Jews. Bypassing the system-driven bias against & denigration of King Jesus’ current heavenly reign, the rest of us are convinced that the Son now rules until He has put His enemies under His feet, with the last to fall subject to Jesus being death itself (1Co15:25-26). Christ’s kingdom is present now, & has been since the cross; those who ignore the Biblical evidence are likely blinded by the mask of a system that blocks out the Scriptural light. This is in accordance with Dan2, where the stone cut without hands – Jesus’ kingdom – crushed the Roman Empire (the statue’s feet of iron & clay) & became an earth-filling mountain; but it was of an entirely different composition, not be- ing based on the material of the statue (earthly kingdoms) that preceded it. Besides, the stance that the Messianic kingdom is entirely future makes Jesus an outright liar. In Jn18:36, Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is NOT of this world.” This is categorically false if, in fact, Jesus’ kingdom was to be earthly but future. If Christ had been honest, ac- cording to Dispensational principles, He should have told Pilate, “My kingdom is not YET of this world, Pilate. You & the Romans have nothing to fear; a few thousand years will elapse before my kingdom will be set up in Jerusalem.” This is a nearly insurmountable futurist obstacle; namely, if Jesus’ reign is entirely earthly & future to us, then He lied to Pilate. Moreover, the Jews attempted to make Jesus the very king that Dispensationalists forward, an earthly Jewish king, after the feeding of the 5000 (Jn6:15). If Jesus came to set up such a kingdom, why did He demur on such a plumb job offer? If the Jewish kingdom had been established at Jesus’ First Advent, would the cross never have hap- pened? Peter, Paul, & Jesus Himself all contend that Jesus’ kingdom was present in their day but of an entirely differ- ent composition, in keeping with the Dan2 stone cut without hands. Jesus said, ““The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Lk17:20,21). If further evidence is required, consider Lk9:2,6,11, where proclaiming the kingdom is used inter- changeably with preaching the gospel. The problems with the futurist kingdom postponement system are legion (cf Crenshaw & Gunn), & such denigration of Jesus’ mission & current rule deserves to be cast into the swine & drowned. Besides, if Jewish rejection postponed or undercut Jesus’ First Advent mission, couldn’t Jewish sinful rebellion delay or cancel the Second Coming? And this outlook is currently being asserted by some who declare their fealty to “Calvin- ism” or “The Doctrines of Grace,” calling themselves soteriologically “Reformed” – can you believe it?! Let us state in no uncertain terms what the Scriptures assert from beginning to end, that man’s sin does not thwart God’s plans! Jew- ish disobedience did not delay the kingdom & “stop the prophetic clock,” nor will it postpone Christ’s Second Advent. Fortunately, fueled by such passages as Rom14:17 & Col1:13, our latter day Progressive Dispensational friends – happily, today’s majority report – recognize that Jesus’ kingdom is both present & future. Instinctively, the faithful know that they “are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken” (Heb12:28), one not of brick & mortar, nor of earthly crowns & thrones – no, no, Jesus’ kingdom is far more than the Queen of England can offer! The rock cut without hands brought (past tense) a kingdom that became & ever increasingly is becoming an earth-filling mountain – the gospel goes to eve- ry corner (Rom10:18) without hindrance! Returning to the chronological point, if Ezekiel’s chapters present an historical timeline, then Jesus’ installation as king (ch37:24-28) precedes the Gog & Magog affair (ch38-39). Of course, this would imply that the Third or Ezekiel’s Tem- ple (ch40-48) comes thereafter; but that is the subject for another day. 6 .
(7) Civil War “EVERY man’s sword will be AGAINST HIS BROTHER” (Ezk38:21). Gog & Magog must include some form of civil war – of this we can be certain, & again this helps constrain the timeframe when these events were fulfilled. The use of swords guarantees that this took place in the past, when ancient weapons were the means of war. Who exactly fought one against another is not clearly specified. Could it be like the destruction of one nation’s army by another, as during the days of Jehoshaphat, when Ammon, Moab, & Edom each destroyed the other (2Chr20)? Perhaps, since many na- tions were summoned for this epic struggle (38:5-6). Such an explanation, however, does not actually describe 38:21, when “[e]very man’s sword will be against HIS BROTHER.” Persians & Ethiopians engaging in mortal combat against one another, the confederation having disintegrated, could hardly be described as brother against brother. The term “brother” is suggestive of personal relationships within a nation; & with no additional qualifiers, it is most likely speak- ing of Jewish internecine warfare – Jew against Jew. Note also that, “EVERY man’s sword will be against his brother.” This is no mere minor skirmish within Judaism; a nasty Jewish civil war is the best solution to 38:21. As a tantalizing precursor to Gog & Magog’s solution, we will note that while there has often been much infighting & intrigue amongst the Jews down through history – see, for example, the intertestamental period described by Josephus’ Antiquities – there really has been only one truly dreadful Jewish civil war after Ezekiel’s day, one so ghastly & shocking as to line up with, “EVERY man’s sword will be AGAINST HIS BROTHER” (38:21). Let us now take a step back & summarize points (5) to (7). Setting up our bookends, we chronologically conclude that the actions of Gog & Magog are likely after c. 400BC, since the “many days” elapsing after Ezekiel’s time has to entail more than just a few years consequent to the return of the exiles (516BC); but that these events are prior to c. 1600AD, when modern combat weapons (cannon, guns) became commonplace. In addition, walls for defense & firewood for heating & cooking all point toward a more archaic era, well before our time. A horrible Jewish civil war must also be a component of the Gog & Magog episode, with “every man’s sword … against his brother” (38:21). There are precious few post-exilic instances of engulfing Jewish civil wars – only one, really – so this criterion alone greatly reduces our timing choices. Dan2 has the Messianic rock cut without hands coming during the Roman Empire (feet of clay & iron) & smashing the whole visionary statue, with the rock then becoming an earth filling mountain; all of this took place in “the latter days” (Dan2:28). In like manner, the Gog & Magog episode is said to take place in the “latter years” (Ezk38:8) & “last days” (38:16), & this may well imply a completion during Messianic times (1st century AD). This also squares nicely with the assumption that Ezk37-39 are chronologically sequential. 37:24-28 says, “My servant David will be king over them,” & when was Jesus installed as king? Jesus ascended to His throne in heaven & presently rules, with no postponement to the future. The Ascension happened in Acts1, & Peter testified of Jesus’ Davidic rule in Acts2:30-33. Afterwards, as- suming Ezk37-39 gives us a timeline, the Gog & Magog events transpired, subsequent to the Ascension. Jesus is glori- fied & then great destruction occurs, along with a Jewish civil war. Hmmm … I think I see where this is heading. Of course, all of this ties in nicely with our expectation of a Messianic link to this enigmatic passage (per 1Pt1:10-12). Wouldn’t it make sense that – somehow, some way – Jesus is magnified in the difficult Gog & Magog passage? (8) Walls Following up on the issue of ancient city walls, Ezk38:11 says of Gog’s evil plan, “You will say, ‘I will go up against a land of UNWALLED villages; I will go to a peaceful people, who dwell safely, all of them dwelling WITHOUT WALLS, & hav- ing neither bars nor gates …’” This implies a time when defensive walls were a military imperative, but Israel had none. However, this appears to be in conflict with 38:20, when, “… the mountains also will be thrown down, the steep path- ways will collapse & EVERY WALL will fall to the ground.” How can every wall collapse when the cities have none? One may guess, “Well, these are other walls, not in Israel,” but this does not square with 38:21, which says, “‘I will call for a sword against him on all MY MOUNTAINS,’ declares the Lord God.” The location is “My mountains,” & it would be difficult to suppose that this is anywhere other than the land of Israel, the site for this whole drama (see above). No, the “unwalled” of Israel in 38:11 is in conflict with the Israeli walls falling in 38:20, & this must reconciled. Regarding the lack of walls described in 38:11, I suppose one could suggest a post-exilic timeframe, prior to the recon- struction of the walls by Nehemiah. Upon further investigation, this proposal cannot hold, for there is no record of a mass multi-national envelopment of Israel, followed by the violent extinguishing of this conflagration, in the space be- tween the exile & Nehemiah. Also, an exile follows the Gog & Magog events (see below), & there was no second exile prior to Nehemiah’s time. Also, we cannot say that this was the Babylonian exile, since Ezekiel penned this prophecy during said captivity, around or before the 25th year (40:1) of the exile. No, like a sieve, the idea that the Gog & Magog period is between the return from the Babylonian exile & Nehemiah can hold no Biblical water. Equally empty is the posited solution that the walls that fall in 38:20 are not defensive city walls, but simply buildings & such that collapse. Ezk38-39 is clearly speaking of combat; who cares about the walls of buildings? As with mountains, walls can have a metaphorical as well as a literal prophetic application, as demonstrated in Zch2: “Then I lifted up my eyes & looked, & behold, there was a man with a measuring line in his hand. So I said, ‘Where are you going?’ And he said to me, ‘To measure Jerusalem, to see how wide it is & how long it is.’ And behold, the angel who was speaking with me was going out, & another angel was coming out to meet him, & said to him, ‘Run, speak to that young man, saying, “Jerusalem will be inhabited WITHOUT WALLS because of the multitude of men & cattle within it. For I,” declares the Lord, “will be a WALL of fire around her, & I will be the glory in her midst.”’” (Zch2:1-5) Zechariah obviously uses “walls” in a spiritual sense for the Lord’s protection of Jerusalem, so we cannot out of hand reject such an application in Ezk38 to reconcile the unwalled land having every wall fall down. It could be that Israel of the time of Gog & Magog was unwalled because God’s protection was withdrawn, & this lack of divine defense would result in the destruction of Israel’s physical walls in which they foolishly trusted. On a personal note, I first encountered this “walls” explanation in Owen’s massive 7 volume commentary on Hebrews. Owen’s application of Gog & Magog in relation to Heb1:13 (3:234) was that the people of God appear feeble & unpro- 7 .
Now it is generally assumed that the listed nations are in confederation with Gog & Magog, but this may not be the case af- ter all. Ezk38:5, 6, 15, & 22 all have “many peoples WITH you,” but the most common translation for the Hebrew (ֽתָּאִ ittāḵ) is not with, but AGAINST. The translators appear to have predominantly assumed that these nations are joining with Gog & Magog, but the Hebrew can with greater certainty be translated that they have come AGAINST the leader (Gog) & land (Magog). Surely this casts some additional light on the identification of Gog & Magog, & must be account- ed for in the resolution of Ezk38-39. If the nations (or Gentiles) are against Gog & Magog, this would explain the apparent reluctance of the latter to fight, as given in 38:4 – “I will turn you about & put hooks into your jaws, & I will bring you out.” If hooks in the jaw are neces- sary to drag Gog & Magog into battle, does this not imply a certain degree of unwillingness to fight? Greenhill trans- lates 38:4, “& I will turn you back” (rather than “& I will bring you out”), then gives some additional alternatives: “Lavater & Œcolampadius read these words, ‘I will crush you;’ the Vulgate, ‘I will lead you about;’ some rabbis, ‘I will deceive you;’ others, ‘I will bring or turn you back. You think to have your pleasure on mine, but I will have my pleasure on you, & turn you which way seems good to me.’” However one translates the Hebrew, the point is clear – Gog & Magog will be dragged out by Yahweh to their demise. Some level of deception (per the rabbis) may also be included – Gog & Magog may think that they will succeed, but in fact they will suffer the opposite fate, a turn of events that surely sends shock waves throughout the nation of Magog. In connection with the above assertion that the GENTILES (the literal rendering of “nations”) fight against (rather than with) Magog, does this not imply a SEMITIC origin for the nation of Magog? Ah, this alluring suggestion will be ex- panded below when attempting to identify the shadowy figures of Gog & Magog, the goal of this study. Note also that the prophesied invasion cannot just be unpleasant or destructive. In God’s eyes, it must be evil (38:10). It cannot simply be, “Hey, Gog & Magog, you behave yourselves! Your incursion is upsetting my lunch plans! Could you please leave now?!” No, if the plan itself cannot be called wicked in the sight of God, then it does not fit the Biblical de- scription. Besides, the plan seems to have been ginned up by Gog & Magog, not the tabulated nations. This evil plan en- tails going up against “the unwalled … who live at the center of the world” to gain booty (38:11-12), but the Lord will oppose & overthrow their objectives, turning the tables on the attackers. How does all of this fit together? A victorious Gog & Magog interpretation will include an evil plan. Finally regarding the nations involved, how on earth does one explain Ezk38:7, “Be prepared, & prepare yourself, you & all your companies that are assembled about you, & BE A GUARD FOR THEM”?! An army this massive, how could it pos- sibly need a guard?! Fortunately, the Pulpit Commentary says that this translation is manifestly incorrect. Appropriate translational options (per Pulpit) are, “one who gives them law” (Michaelis & Hävernick); “one who is their authority” (Hengstenberg; Schröder says this is equivalent to, “they are obedient to you”); & “one who serves them as an ensign,” i.e., acts as a leader or commander (Ewald & Smend). Hävern (in Schröder ) offers, “And you are a law to them, as leader & commander-in-chief.” Interestingly, Jerome’s Vulgate translates 38:7, “show yourself to be an EMPEROR among them.” Well, surely an emperor had the power & resources to assemble such a vast horde of disparate peoples to achieve his purposes, & this is a much more reasonable translation than suggesting that a colossal army itself required its own (unspecified) guard. If one prefers the 38:7 translation “guard,” then his Gog & Magog solution must explain how this invading multitude itself required a guard. If guarded, then, pray tell, by whom? If rather one thinks that a leader is in mind, then who is or was it? Hmmm … when was the last time a real live emperor was associated with the events in Palestine? In summary, it appears from the Hebrew that the assembled Gentiles are likely coming against (not with) Gog & Magog. If the Gentiles are against them, then this implies a semitic origin for Gog & Magog. A colossal expenditure of time & treasure is necessary to pull off the invasion, with some unifying authority (not a guard) underwriting & directing the engagement. The booty that heads off to the distant nations includes difficult to transport & lower valued items like cattle. Meanwhile, Gog the leader & Magog the nation are reluctant battlefield participants, with hooks from Yahweh being required to bring them out. The plan itself, likely by Gog & Magog (not the nations), is evil in God’s sight, not just a low level nuisance to others. With such disparate criteria, it’s no wonder that some (e.g., Fairbairn) despair of an ade- quate resolution to the Ezk38-39 puzzle. (10) Trade Disrupted? “Out of left field” is USA slang meaning oddball or crazy. The expression may well have come from the Cook County asy- lum behind the left field wall where the Chicago Cubs played baseball in the early 1900s (Wiki). An “out of left field” aspect of the prophesied Gog & Magog sequence is its effect on trade, as given in 38:13 – “Sheba & Dedan & the MERCHANTS of Tarshish with all its villages will say to you, ‘Have you come to capture spoil? Have you assembled your company to seize plunder, to carry away silver & gold, to take away cattle & goods, to capture great spoil?’” This statement seemingly comes “out of left field,” with no apparent connection to the context. Then again, the preceding verses (38:11-12) & this one (38:13) both speak of spoil & plunder being taken, so it is likely that the merchants’ griping is tied to the pillaging done in connection with Gog & Magog. Maybe enough ransacking & robbery transpired in rela- tion to the invasion that prices were depressed, & thus those whose livelihood was tied to trade were adversely affected by their reduced income. A successful answer to the where & when of Gog & Magog must include some impact on trade, such that these trading nations grumble (at least figuratively) concerning the events of Ezk38-39. (11) Visitation By God Note also that Ezk38:8 says, “After many days you will be VISITED” (NKJV), which is more in accord with the Hebrew ( ד֒קֵ פָּ תִּ tippāqêḏ) than the NASB “you will be summoned.” A visitation by God upon Gog & Magog – such phraseology reminds us of passages like Num16:29, when a “visitation” by God upon Korah & his confederates resulted in the earth swallowing them up in judgment. The idea, according to Greenhill, is that Gog & Magog will not face a common judg- ment & death, but rather some extraordinary punishment. This sense of “visited” is in keeping with 38:18, when God 9 .
announces that His “fury shall come up in my face” (KJV). The Lord God Almighty is red-faced with anger against Gog & Magog, who will be visited with a divine punishment. Few debate this point; but still, one’s Ezk38-39 answer must include God’s anger against & visitation (in judgment) upon Gog & Magog. Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in the 1800s, Iraq threatening Iran, or something similar will probably not do. (12) 7 Years & Months We now turn to the rightly famous “sevens,” namely, the seven years of burning & seven months of burials described in Ezk39:9-16. Though an argument can be forwarded that these timeframes are figurative (Fairbairn), it seems that the chronological specificity cannot be wholly ignored, & it would be better to suppose that the resolution to the Gog & Magog quandary has some component that includes these timetables. There are, however, curious aspects in the de- scription that require further elucidation. Listed first for the flames are bucklers (small shields) & shields. These an- cient defensive battlefield accoutrements typically had a high metallic content, if not being made entirely of metal, & therefore they would not be especially flammable. “Can I get more lighter fluid for this pile of shields?” is not a likely request by the Ethiopians, for example. Of course there is also the problem of around 360 million corpses being interred in the land of Israel. What stench & dis- ease would accompany such carcass piles! This calculation by Fairbairn is quite simple. One million Israelite men bury- ing 2 cadavers per day for 7 months, excluding Sabbaths, gives 1 million men times 2 bodies per day times 182 days (7 x 30 minus 28 Sabbaths) equals 364 million burials. This would be a rock bottom minimum, especially if Palestine had more than a million men & some of the men were more active than others. This number of graves is difficult to fathom, especially given the pestilence on the land that would accompany so much decaying flesh. What kind of mortality rate does this imply? The most destructive & grisly of modern combat eras, the American Civil War (1861-1865), had a mor- tality rate of “only” about 15-20%. Let us suppose that we had twice that, an enormous & unheard of mortality rate of 36% for the Gog & Magog forces. This would mean that a billion man army had invaded Israel – 364 million corpses represents a 36.4% mortality rate for a billion man army. Note also that if Israel was a nation of a million men, then this would mean that the Gog & Magog invasion represents a nearly 1000 to 1 ratio of invaders to defenders – ridicu- lous numerical overkill, to be sure! Something seems utterly amiss in this whole equation, & this must be explained without resorting to waving the magic prophetic wand & muttering some incantations like, “It’s all just figurative,” or, “God will do something amazing at time’s end that we cannot now comprehend.” The exacting qualities of these proph- ecies, all of the particularized details – these must have some realistic grounding within the explanation of Gog & Magog. Yet another memorable & peculiar aspect of the burials is in 39:15. The passage says that the searchers will “set up a marker” by any bones discovered, but literally it reads, “build a monument” (NASB marg) or “build near it a pillar” (Pulpit). Wouldn’t it be easier to just bury the bone rather than building a silly monument? This bespeaks of something other than a physical fulfillment. Pointing in the same direction is the sequencing depicted in 39:17-20, where the birds & beasts are called upon to eat flesh AFTER the 7 years of carnage & 7 months of burials – now what could possibly be left for them to eat, once the men have traversed the land to mark for burial all of the residual bones, & the grave- diggers have followed behind & interred the remains?! Note also that though the birds & beasts are directed to eat the flesh & drink the blood of mighty men (39:20), yet rams, lambs, goats & bulls are enumerated in 39:18 – a feast more akin to the Temple sacrifices than to the slaughter of battle. Did some little black sheep take part in the Gog & Magog battle, wherein they naturally fought quite poorly & were slain? They then remained unburied for 7 months, though all the other bones were buried, & afterwards the birds & beasts are finally summoned to consume them?! A very unlikely scenario indeed! In accordance with a Temple application of this directive to the birds & beasts, God says that they will eat “of my sacrifice [יחִ֖ בְ ִזּמִ mizziḇḥî] which I have sacrificed [יתִּ חְ בַָ֥ז zāḇaḥtî] for you. Thus you shall be filled at My table [ יִ֙נחָ לְ שֻׁ šulḥānî]” (39:19-20 KJV) – the Hebrew words all pointing towards the Mosaic economy’s Temple sacrifices. Be- cause the feast prepared for the birds & beasts lists the Temple offerings & takes place after 7 months of mop-up buri- als, the solution to the Gog & Magog conundrum probably includes something to do with the Temple sacrifices; & it may include the cessation of these Mosaic offerings, since birds represent the judgment or even the termination of a nation (see below). Along the same lines, from the department of redundancy department, we find in 38:7, “Be prepared, & prepare yourself.” If one is prepared, has he not prepared himself? Ah, but once again, the Temple sacrifices rear their collective sacrifi- cial heads, for the “prepare” (Strong’s #3559) is the selfsame word used for preparing a sacrifice to the Lord, as in Num23:1 & 29. It is also used in the well-known Am4:12, “Prepare to meet your God.” Maybe the repetition of “pre- pare” points both towards Gog & Magog preparing to meet their God (therefore referencing Israel, not the Gentiles) & facing sacrificial slaughter in a judgment from Yahweh. There is an interesting correlation between the 7 years of burning & the famous “Christmas” passage of Is9:6-7. The cele- brated verses read, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; & the government will rest on His shoul- ders; & His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David & over his kingdom, to establish it & to up- hold it with justice & righteousness from then on & forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.” However, the preceding disjunctive verse presents a bit of a mystery. Is9:5 reads, “For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, & cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire.” Now why in the world would burning & blood come just before the glorious Messianic passage? Verses 3-4 speak of rejoicing & a broken yoke “as in the day of Midian,” no doubt referring to when the Lord used Gideon to defeat the Midianites (Jdg6-8); but there is no record of burning the warriors’ sandals & garments in the account of Gideon. How can the Is9:5 burning be explained in con- nection with a Messianic prediction, & how might this tie in with the burning of weapons described in Ezk39:9-10? Confusing though this may be, can we not at least surmise that the close connection of Is9:5 with Ezk39:9-10 indicates 10 .